JUST SO STORIES
THE CAT THAT WALKED BY HIMSELF (Part 2)
Next night the Woman cut great green armfuls of fresh grass from the water-meadows, and dried it before the fire, so that it smelt like new-mown hay, and she sat at the mouth of the Cave and plaited a halter out of horse-hide, and she looked at the shoulder of mutton-bone—at the big broad blade-bone—and she made a Magic. She made the Second Singing Magic in the world.
Out in the Wild Woods all the wild animals wondered what had happened to Wild Dog, and at last Wild Horse stamped with his foot and said, ‘I will go and see and say why Wild Dog has not returned. Cat, come with me.’
‘Nenni!’ said the Cat. ‘I am the Cat who walks by himself, and all places are alike to me. I will not come.’ But all the same he followed Wild Horse softly, very softly, and hid himself where he could hear everything.
When the Woman heard Wild Horse tripping and stumbling on his long mane, she laughed and said, ‘Here comes the second. Wild Thing out of the Wild Woods, what do you want?’
Wild Horse said, ‘O my Enemy and Wife of my Enemy, where is Wild Dog?’
The Woman laughed, and picked up the blade-bone and looked at it, and said, ‘Wild Thing out of the Wild Woods, you did not come here for Wild Dog, but for the sake of this good grass.’
And Wild Horse, tripping and stumbling on his long mane, said, ‘That is true; give it me to eat.’
The Woman said, ‘Wild Thing out of the Wild Woods, bend your wild head and wear what I give you, and you shall eat the wonderful grass three times a day.’
‘Ah,’ said the Cat, listening, ‘this is a clever Woman, but she is not so clever as I am.’
Wild Horse bent his wild head, and the Woman slipped the plaited hide halter over it,
This is the picture of the Cat that Walked by Himself, walking by his wild lone through the Wet Wild Woods and waving his wild tail. There is nothing else in the picture except some toadstools. They had to grow there because the woods were so wet. The lumpy thing on the low branch isn’t a bird. It is moss that grew there because the Wild Woods were so wet.
Underneath the truly picture is a picture of the cozy Cave that the Man and the Woman went to after the Baby came. It was their summer Cave, and they planted wheat in front of it. The Man is riding on the Horse to find the Cow and bring her back to the Cave to be milked. He is holding up his hand to call the Dog, who has swum across to the other side of the river, looking for rabbits.
and Wild Horse breathed on the Woman’s feet and said, ‘O my Mistress, and Wife of my Master, I will be your servant for the sake of the wonderful grass.’
‘Ah,’ said the Cat, listening, ‘that is a very foolish Horse.’ And he went back through the Wet Wild Woods, waving his wild tail and walking by his wild lone. But he never told anybody.
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. Ride on his back 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 waving his wild tail and walking by his wild lone, just the same as before. But he never told anybody. 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 any more, but the Giver of Good Food. She will give us the warm white milk for always and always and always, and I will take care of her while you and the First Friend and the First Servant go hunting.’
Next day the Cat waited to see if any other Wild thing would go up to the Cave, but no one moved in the Wet Wild Woods, 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 smelt 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.’
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.’
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 say three words in your praise, 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 with the Cat, because she was afraid that they might not like it.