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The End Of The World

 

The End Of The World [Folk Tales Of Flanders]

The End Of The World [Folk Tales Of Flanders]

Once upon a time an old woman sat spinning in a room at the top of a high tower. Beneath her chair Chaton, her cat, lay peacefully sleeping. All of a sudden the spinning-wheel jarred and made a loud creaking sound. Startled out of his sleep, Chaton the Cat rushed out of the room and bolted down the stairs as though a thousand demons were at his heels.

In the yard he passed the house-dog who was sitting in front of his kennel. “Hallo, Chaton!” cried the dog. “Where are you going to in such a hurry?”

“I am fleeing the country,” answered Chaton. “I have just heard the sounding of the last trump! The end of the world is at hand!”

“If that is so,” said the dog, “I would like to run away too. May I come with you?”

“Certainly,” answered Chaton. “Seat yourself on my beautiful curly tail.” So the dog perched himself on the cat’s tail, and off they went together.

A little farther on they came to the farm-gate, and there, perched on the topmost rail, was the cock.

“Whither away, Chaton?” asked the cock. “You seem to be in haste.”

“Yes,” said Chaton. “I have heard the last trump, which proves that the world is coming to an end, and I want to get safely away before that happens.”

“Take me with you, Chaton dear,” said the cock.

“By all means,” answered the cat. “Jump on to my beautiful curly tail beside the dog.” So the cock perched himself on Chaton’s tail, and now there were two passengers.

Away went the cat even faster than before, so as to make up for lost time, and presently they passed a rabbit who was nibbling the grass in a field.

“Chaton, Chaton,” cried the rabbit, “why are you running so quickly?”

“Don’t stop me!” answered the cat. “I’ve heard the last trump! The end of the world is coming!”

“Oh, dear me!” cried the rabbit. “What an unfortunate thing! Don’t leave me here, Chaton, for I am afraid to face the end of the world.”

“Very well,” said Chaton. “Jump on to my beautiful curly tail with the dog and the cock, and I’ll take you with me.” So the rabbit also perched himself on the cat’s tail, and now there were three of them riding there.

Off went the cat again, but not so quickly this time, because of the weight on his tail, and before very long he came to a pond by the side of which a goose was standing.

“Now then, now then, what’s the hurry?” asked the goose. “If you run so fast you’ll overheat your blood and die of a fever.”

“It’s all very well to scoff,” answered the cat, “but you must know that the end of the world is coming. I have heard the last trump  sound!”

The End Of The World [Folk Tales Of Flanders]

“My goodness!” said the goose. “This is dreadful! Take me with you, Chaton, and I’ll be grateful for ever.”

“Very well,” said the cat. “Jump on to my beautiful curly tail with the dog and the fox and the rabbit.” So the goose also perched herself on the cat’s tail, so now there were four passengers, and that made five altogether who were running away to escape the end of the world.  

The End Of The World [Folk Tales Of Flanders]

All that day the cat kept on running, and towards dusk they came to a forest.

“This seems a good place to rest,” said Chaton. “Now then, master cock, fly to the top of a tree and see if you can espy a house in which we can take shelter.”

The cock flew to the top of a high tree and from there he saw a number of lights twinkling in the distance. The five fugitives thereupon set off in the direction from which the lights shone, and before long they came to a little village. All the people of the village had left their houses and were gathered together in the square, round a man dressed all in red, with a big red feather in his cap, who was addressing them.

Chaton and his companions pressed close to the edge of the crowd and were just in time to hear these words: “Whoever finds the ring,” said the man with the red feather, “and places it on the table in my palace to-morrow before dawn, shall have the five bags of gold which hang on my saddle bow.” Having said this, the man in red mounted his horse and rode away.

The End Of The World [Folk Tales Of Flanders]

Chaton went up to a little peasant who was standing in the crowd. “Tell me, gossip,” said he, “who is the man with the red feather, and what’s all this about a ring and five bags of gold?”

“Why,” said the peasant, “the man in red is the King of this country. He had a valuable ring which was kept in a tiny wooden case on the table by his bed. This afternoon a magpie flew in through the window, snatched up the case, and bore it away to its nest in the topmost boughs of the walnut tree on the village green. The King wants his ring back again, and will give the five bags of gold to anybody who will recover it for him.”

“I see,” said Chaton; “and why don’t you climb the walnut-tree and get the ring?”

“Because I have too much respect for my neck,” answered the peasant, “and so has everybody else here. The boughs at the top of the tree where the nest is are so thin and slender that they would not bear the weight of a child, let alone a grown man. Gold is good, but whole limbs are better, that’s what I say!”

“And I!” “And I!” echoed other villagers who had been listening to this conversation.

“In my belief you are quite right,” said Chaton seriously. “Let the King risk his own life if he is so anxious to recover his ring.” But afterwards, when he had withdrawn with his companions to the shelter of the wood, he sang a different tune.

“My friends,” said he, “our fortunes are made! As soon as all is quiet I will climb the tree and get the ring; then you shall sit on my tail again and we’ll all go off together to the King’s palace and get the bags of gold!” He danced for joy, and the dog and the cock and the goose and the rabbit danced with him.

An hour afterwards the cat climbed the tree and came down safely with the little wooden box. The rabbit gnawed it open with his teeth, and sure enough there was the ring inside it.

“Now,” said Chaton, “we will all go to the King’s palace, but I am very tired with running all day. I propose that the dog takes a turn at carrying us.” This was agreed. The other four got on to the dog’s back  and clung there while he ambled off as fast as he could along the road towards the palace.  

The End Of The World [Folk Tales Of Flanders]

Just before dawn they came to a wide river. Now it was the turn of the goose to work for the common good. She was quite used to the water, and one by one she took the other animals across on her back. Shortly afterwards they arrived at the King’s palace, and the cock flew up through the open window of the King’s room with the ring in his beak, and placed it on the table by the bed. Then he awoke the King with a loud crow and claimed the reward, which was willingly given.

In great glee at their good fortune the animals went on their way, each with his bag of gold, and every one of them had by this time quite forgotten his fear about the coming of the end of the world. They went on and on until they came to a place where five ways met. Then Chaton said: “Here we are at the parting of the ways. Let us each choose a road, and part good friends.”

At this moment there came along a pig with a knife and fork stuck in his back. In his right ear was salt; in his left ear pepper, and mustard was on his tail, so that everybody who was hungry had only to cut themselves a slice of meat and sit down to feast.

Our friends gladly availed themselves of this good chance, and I who tell you this story would willingly have done the same, but as soon as I went up to the pig, he ran at me with his head down and sent me flying through the air, and through the window of my house,  where I fell into the chair in which I am now sitting, finishing this story of the wonderful adventures of Chaton, the Dog, the Cock, the Rabbit, and the Goose.


The End Of The World [Folk Tales Of Flanders]



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