The Enchanted Kitten

Once upon a time a young man married a young woman, and together they built a house near a forest and raised their three sons. The man and the woman loved their sons, but in another corner of her heart the woman always wished that she had daughter. "Because," she said, "my sons work in the fields with their father, and before long they will marry and build houses of their own. My daughter would marry, just the same, but until then she would be at home with me."

Sure enough, the oldest son married a wife and built his own home far beyond the forest; in time, the second son did the same. Only the youngest son remained at home to help his father with their farm.

The woman worked hard, keeping her house and feeding her family. One day as she was outside beating the carpets, she heard a mewing sound. Behind the well she found a white kitten. She took it home and made it a bed on the warm floor near the fireplace.

That night, after the man and the woman and their sons were asleep, the kitten waited for the clock to strike midnight. As the last stroke died, the kitten stood up and slowly grew taller and taller, and as it grew it changed into a girl in a white dress. She went upstairs to the bedroom where the man and the woman were sleeping, and spoke into the woman's ear so that although she heard, she thought it was only a dream.

"My name is Eleanor," the girl said. "Many years ago, I was enchanted so that I can only take my own shape while everyone in the house is sleeping. I will never be free until my true love finds me. Please help me." The woman stirred in her sleep. "Do not forget me," Eleanor said, and went back downstairs and out the door. For an hour she walked through the fields in the moonlight, singing as she went.

In the morning, the man and the woman and the youngest son came downstairs and found the kitten asleep. "I had the strangest dream about our kitten," the woman said. "I dreamed that it was a girl under a spell."

"I had a dream too," said the youngest son. "Someone was singing in our field."

"I wonder if it means something," said the man. "Dreams have magic. Do you still have that book of spells your great-aunt left you?"

"I believe I do," the woman said. "I will look."

When the day's work was over, the woman lit a candle and went into the library. On a high, dusty shelf, she found a book whose title was Magic. It too long to read all of in one night; the woman learned nothing about dreams, although she learned how to find hidden water. After hours of reading, she blew out the candle and went upstairs to bed. When midnight came, the kitten turned into a girl, and went upstairs after her.

"Thank-you," she told the woman. "You will find what you are looking for." As she walked away, she said, "Do not forget me." Then Eleanor went into the field and sang until her hour was up.

In the morning, the woman and the youngest son remembered their dreams again, but said nothing and began their work as usual. When the man and the youngest son went to water their cows, however, they found that their old well had dried up. They had a little water in the house, but only as much as they needed for themselves. "We need a new well," the man said.

"I can find the place to dig it," the woman said, and she found the spell that would find hidden water and spoke it over the ground. "The grass is wet here," she said, and when they dug, they quickly found sweet, clear water for the animals to drink. They went back about their work.

After the day's work, the woman took down the book again and read further. She learned how to put out a fire, but still found nothing about dreams or enchantments. At midnight, Eleanor went to her. "Thankyou," she said. "Do not give up; you will find what you are looking for. Do not forget me." And she sang in the fields by the light of the waning moon.

The next day, the oldest son saw smoke coming from the roof of the barn. "Fire!" he shouted, and they all left their work and ran to get buckets of water from the new well. From inside of the house, the woman heard the shouting, and when she saw the flames, she opened the magic book again and found the spell that would put out a fire. She read the it over their new well, and when the first bucket of water hit the flames, the whole fire was quenched. They went back about their work.

That night, the woman read still further in the book of spells. She learned how to mend a broken bone, but not how to understand dreams or undo enchantments, and she went to bed tired and discouraged. At midnight Eleanor again thanked her, and promised her that she would find what she was looking for. "But do not give up," she said, "and please, do not forget me." She sang in the fields, and the moon was only a sliver.

The next day, the man slipped on a ladder in the barn and fell. He tried to stand, but only hurt himself more: his ribs were broken. The youngest son found the woman, and she brought the magic book to use the spell that would mend a broken bone. She put her hands on her husband's chest and read the spell. The bones joined together, but he still moaned.

"It helped," he said. "But I think the hurt is deeper. Can you help me?"

The woman looked, but she could not find a spell to heal her husband. The youngest son carried him inside and laid him in his bed. He did not rest easily. Before night came, he had died. The woman closed his eyes and went downstairs and wept until morning came.

For many nights, the woman did not sleep, and the magic book stayed on the shelf. She forgot her dream, and she forgot what she had been trying to find. As long as the woman was awake, Eleanor could not take her true shape. She slept in her bed, still a kitten, until one night, the woman finally fell again.

At midnight, Eleanor found her. "Please, do not forget me," she said, and sang in the fields under the light of the waxing moon.

In the morning, the youngest son told his mother that he had heard the singing again. "I'm certain it was not a dream," he said. "Tonight, I will watch for her." He worked all day, and after his mother went to bed, he went outside and waited.

At midnight, Eleanor took her human shape and went upstairs. "I know you no longer want to dream or to remember, but please remember me," she told the woman. "By giving me a home, you have done more than you know. Thankyou. You will find what you have looked for, and so will I." She went downstairs and out the front door, and began to sing.

The moon was full that night, and its light shone on her dress and in her golden hair. There was no wind in the trees. The night was silent except for her voice, and she sang words that he did not understand, sadder and sweeter than the youngest son knew how to bear.

"You are not a dream," he said.

"No," she said. "You have seen me before."

"Why do you only come at night?"

Then Eleanor told him her story. "Many years ago, I was enchanted by a witch who envied my voice," she said. "She made me into a kitten and took my voice for herself. I can only take my own shape for one hour of the night, when everyone in the house is asleep, and then I can sing again. I have been waiting for my true love to hear me and find me."

"When I heard you in my dreams, I knew you were beautiful," the youngest son said. "Now that I see you here, I know that I love you. Will you marry me?"

"Yes," said Eleanor, and they walked together in the moonlight until the morning came. They were married, and stayed in the house to raise a family of their own. They had finally found what they were looking for. Eleanor had found her true love, and the woman had found a daughter, and they lived happily ever after.

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