by Maria Savina
Translated from the Russian by Yaroslava Lazareva
(see the original text here)
(читать рассказ в оригинале здесь)
Once upon a time there lived a king. And his name was... Well, I’ll begin from the beginning. There lived a king. His name was King. Yes, yes, that’s what they called him—King. He was stupid. He had a beard and a mustache and (like all kings, of course) he wore a crown.
He had a cat. An extraordinary, magic cat. There lived a young man in the kingdom. The young man was a cattery keeper. That’s right, not a kennel keeper. That was because the King had a cattery. Out of all the cats the king loved the cat Vengeria the most. She was special and not like the others. And for some reason she spent all her time with the young cattery keeper. By the way, his name was Pierre. Pierre could understand animals. And the king knew that only Pierre could discover the cat’s secret.
One day Pierre heard the cook’s assistants talking about a secret that Vengeria kept. And he decided to ask her about it.
One time, finding himself alone with her, he asked,
“I heard that you have a special secret. Is that true?”
”Yes, it is. The king wants to know what it is. And he knows that he can learn it from you.”
“What is the secret?”
“Actually, I have two. The first is that I can read the minds of people and animals. The second is...”
“I know... I learned it from you.”
“You have given me the gift. And I have a secret, too. But first...”
Suddenly he turned into a cat. A cat just like Vengeria.
“That is my secret. Now we can talk. I know that there is another person in the castle who knows the animals’ languages. I’m afraid he is here now.”
“When I turn into an animal he can’t understand the animal I talk with. Neither can the others. So the cats won’t understand what we talk about. Unless I want them to.”
“But still!” continued Pierre, “what I understand is that your secret is that you can turn into a girl. But I don’t know when you will.”
“I know when. When someone falls in love with me. But, as you can see, no one has.”
At this point their conversation ended.
More and more often the servants saw Pierre and Vengeria together (as cats, naturally). More and more they spent time together. It was clear that Vengeria was soon going to be a girl, and a cat no longer. Pierre had fallen in love with her.
By that time the king had decided he would marry. He had fallen in love with a beautiful woman from the Orient. But he hadn’t forgotten about Vengeria.
Having learned one day that his bookkeeper knew the animals’ languages, the king sent him to see Vengeria. He wanted him to learn her secret. But Vengeria had been warned by Pierre and she was already waiting for the unasked guest when Pierre appeared.
He said, “I’m going to turn into a cat and hide. He’ll forget your language right away.”
And that’s exactly what happened. The bookkeeper went away empty-handed.
During one of their many strolls Pierre asked Vengeria, “Why are you a cat and not a human being?”
“Well...when I was a little girl...an evil sorcerer cast a spell on me...and...”
“I know, I know, at first he gave you the eternal gift like he gave me. And also he said, ‘Until someone like you falls in love with you, you will remain a cat.’ But I was told something else. ‘If you don’t fall in love with someone like you before you turn 20, you will never know love. If you love, you will share your gift with your beloved as she will with you if she loves you.’
Vengeria’s could be seen to blush even through her fur. Their conversation ended with Pierre confessing his love to Vengeria and her becoming a human being. But, as the sorcerer had said, she could turn into any animal at any time. So she turned back into a cat.
In the meantime, the king, having learned that there was nobody except Pierre who knew the animals’ languages, sent servants to look for him. But he hadn’t been seen in the castle for a long time. They didn’t find him. The king was not very upset. He had fallen in love with the beautiful woman from the Orient. And he went away with her to become the sultan of her kingdom. Pierre learned from the cats that the kingdom was searching for a new king. They decided (after long argument) that Vengeria would choose the new king. Suddenly and unexpectedly (for everyone except Vengeria), Pierre appeared. She rubbed up against legs and everyone understood that she had chosen Pierre as the new king. Then she turned into a princess and she and Pierre were married. And they lived happily ever after.