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and intended when the appointed day arrived
to bring the fiction to a happy termination
by declaring that the supposed insolvent was
a mere phantom of her own invention, and
that her heart belonged exclusively to his
(the phantom's) generous benefactor.
Unhappily, however, the only disinterested
creature in the world filled up his time by
going to the wars, and his death on the
battle-field prevented him from keeping his
appointment. News of the sad event was
brought to the lady, who, in an agony of
contrition, flung the money given to her by
the deceased into a deep well, declaring that
it should never be the property of mortal
man. However, as death approached, she
changed her mind, and informing her cat of
the place where the treasure was concealed,
told him there was one case in which it might
be lawfully used. Should he find a perfectly
beautiful and penniless maiden, whom a
perfectly honest man was inclined to wed, in
spite of her poverty, thenand then only
should he employ the contents of the well as
a marriage-portion. So the lady died, and
left the cat sole executor. The torments of
Tom's conscience were now easily explained.
He feared to die, leaving his trust unfulfilled.

We grieve to say that this charming tale,
so replete with delicate sentiment, so wholesome
in its moral tendency, was neither more
nor less than a wiredrawn falsehood devised
by the cat for the express purpose of deceiving
the arch-wizard. There was indeed the sum
of ten thousand florins at the bottom of the
well in question, but it had come into the
possession of the old lady's family by some
unrighteous means, and she, being a person
of superstitious integrity, had flung it into
the well that it might bring her no ill-luck,
uttering, as she did so, an imprecation on the
head of any one who might remove it. As
for the story of the young gentleman, she had
never had an admirer in her life.

The wizard nibbled at the bait, but before
he proceeded further in the business, he said
he would have a peep into the well to ascertain
if the treasure was actually in existence.
Accordingly he made the cat, whom he
secured with a strong cord, guide him to the
garden of the deceased lady, when, with the
help of a lantern, he saw the coin glittering
at the bottom of the well. Being thus certain
of the main fact, he began to inquire after
particulars, asking the cat whether he was
quite sure that the shining treasure amounted
precisely to ten thousand florins. Tom
replied drily, that he really could not tell,
that he had never been down into the well
himself, and that, for all he knew to the
contrary, the lady might have dropped a few
pieces by the way when, in an agony of
contrition, she rushed with the sum of money to
its present place of concealment.

All this sounded so honest that the wizard
declared himself perfectly satisfied, professing
at the same time his anxiety to become the
disinterested bridegroom of a portionless
damsel, if such a being could be found. Tom
averred that a specimen of virtuous poverty
was already in his eye, and that he would be
most happy to render his services to the
wizard if he found himself in an unembarrassed
condition. But how could any mortal,
whether human or feline, go a-wooing by
proxy with any degree of spirit, while aware
that there was a contract in existence by
which his life might be demanded at a
minute's notice?

Cat's-grease was valuable, but the yield of
a single cat, however plump, was not worth
ten thousand florins; so, the wizard, grumbling
not a little, slowly drew from his pocket the
treasured contract, which Tom no sooner
perceived than he pounced upon it, and
swallowed it whole, making at the same time
the two several reflections that he had never
tasted so delicious a morsel in his life, and
that an arch-wizard is as likely to prove an
arch-dupe as a less sagacious individual.

Now, directly opposite to the wizard's residence,
was a remarkably clean-looking house,
inhabited by an old lady, who was equally
renowned lor her ugliness and her piety.
Her dress was scrupulously neat, and she
went to church three times every day, but
this did not prevent the children from
scampering away, whenever she came in sight,
and even grown-up folks, who extolled her
as a model of feminine goodness, did not
much care to meet her in the shade of the
evening. Moreover, it was said, that the
back of her house was as grim and unclean,
as the front was bright and spotless, though
the circumstance that this part of the edifice
was concealed by a high wall, rendered any
opinion on the subject exceedingly doubtful.
Still more serious was the report, that a witch
with black dishevelled hair, might sometimes
be seen at midnight issuing from the chimney
on a broom. Had not the old lady's character
stood exceedingly high, through her conduct
in the day-time, this report might have
damaged it not a little.

To the roof of the house, thus respectably
inhabited, did the liberated Tom betake
himself. Close to the chimney, solemnly musing,
sat a venerable owl, whom he accosted as an
old friend, and to whom he presented a fat
mouse, that he had caught by the way. The
owl was delighted with the mouse, and pleased
to see Tom, whom she invited to partake of a
choice bird, and to the recital of whose
adventures she lent a willing ear.

Being a bird of somewhat lax principles,
the owl when she heard Tom's narrative
throughout, was not a little surprised to find
that he really meant to fulfil his contract
towards the wizard by providing him with a
wife, and giving him the money at the
bottom of the well. However, when she heard
further that the chosen bride was to be the
old lady of the house; and, moreover, was
reminded that her own liberation would be a