The Fourth Princess of Bengal: Chapter 12

Chapter 12 : The Princesses and Their Cats

Each day, Snow would release Masha from his cage, and they would walk through the menagerie. Some days, dreaming as she walked, Snow would pass through the palace grounds, through the gates, and wander the forests or fields for hours at a time, returning only when Masha nudged her and she realized she hadn’t worn shoes and it was probably lunch time. Adventuring in her mind, the young princess climbed trees and cliffs, swam lakes and waterfalls, chased squirrels and elephants, all with the great cat at her side. He was her best friend, closest companion, and softest pillow.

Snow could simply not understand why Tigra did not want this relationship with the tiger cub.

“Objection number one and foremost,” Tigra declared: “He’s a boy.”

“Does that matter?” Snow wondered, running her fingers through the fur on Masha’s head.

“It’s undignified!”

“He’s a cat. Besides, am I not your friend?”

“You’re a girl!”

“Thus you have girl companions. Doesn’t Father always say that wisdom comes through new experiences? That clarity of thought comes from what we learn from all manner of beings? You must have a male companion.”

“I’m not like you, Snow. Every day I am surrounded by men, in the training yard.”

“This is different.”

Tigra could not see why Snow argued about the trivial things, and ignored her.

“You must name him!” Snow cried.

“His name will be Striped Pants. I don’t care.”

Left alone with Masha to watch the cub, Snow regarded him. “Poor little warrior. I shall give you a name with more dignity. You will be Paws.” She smiled to herself and left the tigers alone.

Over time, Paws responded to his name, and when Tigra saw this, she grew jealous. “He’s my cat. You have your own,” she said, and Snow smiled at her. From that moment on, Tigra went nowhere without her cat.

Lynx could not understand what all the fuss was about.

“It’s a cat. It’s foolish.”

“Cats are wise,” Snow insisted.

“My meaning was not — it’s ridiculous that I should have to wander about with a cat.”

“You only say so because Father wants you to.”

“That is a good reason enough!”

“Why do you object to all Father wishes? Is he not wise?”

“He is not wise, he’s fooled everyone into thinking he is because he’s king.”

“But… how did he become such a great king if he was not wise?”

“By bullying people and letting his Ministers do the real work.”

A glint came into the eye of the second princess. “You mean, talking loudly to intimidate others into thinking he is strong?”

“Yes.”

“You mean, choosing wise servants to conduct his affairs?”

“Yes.”

“Like you?”

Lynx knocked her older sister onto the ground and stomped away in a huff, because nothing is more infuriating than being compared to the one most despised!

Snow was much distressed that her sister treated her so, and retreated into the menagerie, and would not come out for anything.

“Your favorite cake!” enticed the cook.

“I’ll not come out.”

“We shall put on a play!” chanted the troupers.

“I’ll not come out.”

“Let us brush your hair and dress you in your new gown,” begged her maids.

“I’ll not come out.”

“You will be confined to your rooms for a week!” threatened her father.

“I’ll not come out.”

“You will eat no sweets for a month!” he continued.

“I’ll not come out.”

“We will cut your hair and you will be in shame until it grows back!”

“Father, why, then, would I come out?”

“I shall give you anything you wish,” he tried, but the princess would not move, and Masha would let no one pass. Face forming a thunderous calm, the king turned to his third daughter. “This is your doing. Fix it.” So saying, he left, with Lynx yelling curses after him.

“I’ll never speak to you again!” she yelled at Snow, and Snow began to cry, but she would not come out.

At a loss, with her eldest sister refusing to help (for was it not more amusing to see Lynx struggle?), Lynx turned to the only thing she could think of, and brought out the newly-born female lynx. She held it in her arms, a little distastefully, as it mewled for its mother, and called out to Snow, “Sister, as you have wished.”

“What is her name?”

“Turla.”

“She is beautiful.” Lynx did not particularly think so, but she agreed. “Will you come out now?” Lynx asked, struggling to keep the cub in her hold.

“No.”

“Fine! May we come in?”

Snow suppressed a smile at her sister’s grumpy face, and gave permission. The two sisters and two cats spent the night in the menagerie together, and from then on, all were better friends, and Lynx admitted the cat was rather nice to have around so she could play with her ears when she was bored.


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