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The Cat That Walked By Himself

by Rudyard Kipling

Chapter    1     2     3     4     5

     When the Man and the Dog came back from hunting, the Man said, "What is Wild Horse doing here?" And the Woman said, "His name is not Wild Horse any more, but the First Servant because he will carry us from place to place for always and always and always. Take him with you when you go hunting."

     Next day, holding her wild head high that her wild horns should not catch in the wild trees, Wild Cow came up to the cave, and the Cat followed and hid himself just the same as before; and everything happened just the same as before; and the Cat said the same things as before, and when Wild Cow had promised to give her milk to the Woman every day in exchange for the wonderful grass, the Cat went back through the wet wild woods walking by his lone just the same as before.
     And when the Man and the Horse and the Dog came home from hunting and asked the same questions, same as before, the Woman said, "Her name is not Wild Cow anymore, but the Giver of Good Things. She will give us the warm white milk for always and always and always, and I will take care of her while you three go hunting."
     Next day the Cat waited to see if any other wild thing would go up to the cave, but no one moved, so the Cat walked there by himself, and he saw the Woman milking the Cow, and he saw the light of the fire in the cave, and he smelled the smell of the warm white milk.
     Cat said, "O, my enemy and wife of my enemy, where did Wild Cow go?"
     The Woman laughed and said, "Wild thing out of the wild woods, go back to the woods again, for I have braided up my hair and I have put away the magic blade bone, and we have no more need of either friends or servants in our cave."
     Cat said, "I am not a friend, and I am not a servant. I am the Cat who walks by himself and I wish to come into your cave."
     The Woman said, "Then why did you not come with First Friend on the first night?"
     Cat grew very angry and said, "Has Wild Dog told tales of me?"
     Then the Woman laughed and said, "You are the Cat who walks by himself, and all places are alike to you. You are neither a friend nor a servant. You have said it yourself. Go away and walk by yourself in all places alike."
     Then Cat pretended to be sorry and said, "Must I never come into the cave? Must I never sit by the warm fire? Must I never drink the warm white milk? You are very wise and very beautiful. You should not be cruel even to a Cat."
     Then the Woman said, "I knew I was wise, but I did not know I was beautiful. So I will make a bargain with you. If ever I say one word in your praise you may come into the cave."
     "And if you say two words in my praise?" said the Cat.
     "I never shall," said the Woman, "but if I say two words in your praise you may sit by the fire in the cave."
     "And if you say three words?" said the Cat.
     "I never shall," said the Woman, "but if I do you may drink the warm white milk three times a day for always and always and always."
     Then the Cat arched his back and said, "Now let the curtain at the mouth of the cave, and the fire at the back of the cave, and the milk pots that stand beside the fire remember what my enemy and the wife of my enemy has said." And he went away through the wet wild woods waving his wild tail and walking by his wild lone.
     That night when the Man and the Horse and the Dog came home from hunting, the Woman did not tell them of the bargain that she had made because she was afraid that they might not like it.

Chapter    1     2     3     4     5

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