This Japanese story is a hidden gem from The Pink Fairy Book of Andrew Lang (1901). The tale came to Lang via a German collection of stories. It is not only terribly romantic, but contains some exciting fights between cat and dog, and cat and serpent.
Read by Natasha Lee Lewis. Duration 12 minutes.
Proofread by Claire Deakin & Jana Elizabeth.
The Cat’s Elopement -
In the Pond Life introduction, we discover what Bertie the Frog learnt at school when he was a handsome prince.
Once upon a time there lived a cat of marvellous beauty, with a skin as soft and shining as silk, and wise green eyes, that could see even in the dark. His name was Gon, and he belonged to a music teacher, who was so fond and proud of him that he would not have parted with him for anything in the world.
Now, not far from the music master’s house there dwelled a lady who possessed a most lovely little pussy cat called Koma. She was such a little dear altogether, who blinked her eyes so daintily, and ate her supper so tidily – and when she had finished, she licked her pink nose so delicately with her little tongue, that her mistress was never tired of saying: “Koma, Koma, what should I do without you?”
Well, it happened one day that these two, when out for an evening stroll, met under a cherry tree, and in one moment fell madly in love with each other. Gon had long felt that it was time for him to find a wife, for all the ladies in the neighbourhood paid him so much attention that it made him quite shy. But he was not easy to please, and did not care about any of them. Now, before he had time to think, Cupid had entangled him in his net, and he was filled with love towards Koma. She fully returned his passion, but, like a woman, she saw the difficulties in the way, and consulted sadly with Gon as to the means of overcoming them. Gon entreated his master to set matters right by buying Koma, but her mistress would not part from her. Then the music master was asked to sell Gon to the lady, but he declined to listen to any such suggestion, so everything remained as before.
At length the love of the couple grew to such a pitch that they determined to please themselves, and to seek their fortunes together. So one moonlit night they stole away, and ventured out into an unknown world. All day long they marched bravely on through the sunshine, until they had left their homes far behind them. Towards evening they found themselves in a large park. The wanderers by this time were very hot and tired, and the grass looked very soft and inviting, The trees cast cool deep shadows, when suddenly an ogre appeared in this paradise, in the shape of a big, big dog! He came springing towards them showing all his teeth. Koma shrieked, and rushed up a cherry tree. Gon, however, stood his ground boldly, and prepared to give battle – for he felt that Koma’s eyes were upon him, and that he must not run away.
Alas! His courage would have availed him nothing had his enemy once touched him, for he was large and powerful, and very fierce. From her perch in the tree, Koma saw it all, and screamed with all her might, hoping that someone would hear and come to help. Luckily a servant of the princess to whom the park belonged to was walking by. He drove off the dog, and picking up the trembling Gon in his arms, carried him to his mistress.
So poor little Koma was left alone, while Gon was borne away, full of trouble, and not in the least knowing what to do. Even the attention paid him by the princess, who was delighted with his beauty and pretty ways, did not console him. There was no use in fighting against fate, and he could only wait and see what would turn up.
The princess, Gon’s new mistress, was so good and kind that everybody loved her, and she would have led a happy life, had it not been for a serpent who had fallen in love with her, and was constantly annoying her by his presence. Her servants had orders to drive him away as often as he appeared, but as they were careless, and the serpent very sly, it sometimes happened that he was able to slip past them, and frightened the princess by appearing before her. One day she was seated in her room, playing on her favourite musical instrument, when she felt something gliding up her sash, and saw her enemy making his way up to kiss her cheek. She shrieked and threw herself backwards, and Gon, who had been curled up on a stool at her feet, understood her terror – and with one bound, seized the snake by his neck.
He gave him one bite and one shake, and flung him on the ground, where he lay, never to worry the princess any more. Then the princess took Gon in her arms, and praised and caressed him. She saw that he had the nicest bits to eat, and the softest mats to lie on; and he would have had nothing in the world to wish for if only he could have seen Koma again.
Time passed on, and one morning Gon lay before the house door, basking in the sun. He looked lazily at the world stretched out before him, and saw in the distance a big ruffian of a cat teasing and ill-treating quite a little one. He jumped up, full of rage, and chased away the big cat, and then he turned to comfort the little one, when his heart nearly burst with joy to find that it was Koma. At first Koma did not know him again, he had grown so large and stately. But when it dawned upon her who it was, her happiness knew no bounds. They rubbed their heads and their noses again and again, while their purring might have been heard a mile off.
Paw in paw they appeared before the princess, and told her the story of their life and its sorrows. The princess wept for sympathy, and promised that they should never more be parted, but should live with her to the end of their days. By-and-by, the princess herself got married, and brought a prince to dwell in the palace in the park. She told him all about her two cats, and how brave Gon had been, and how he had delivered her from her enemy the serpent. When the prince heard this, he swore they should never leave them, but should go with the princess wherever she went. So it all fell out as the princess wished and Gon and Koma had many children, and so had the princess. They all played together, and were friends to the end of their lives.