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As the magician lay asleep, a great serpent came softly from the thicket. It lifted high its shining crest and saw the man at the foot of the tree. "I will kill him!" it hissed. "I could have eaten that cat last night if he had not called, 'Watch, little cat, watch!' I will kill him, I will kill him!"
Closer and closer the deadly serpent moved. The magician stirred in his sleep. "Watch, little cat, watch!" he said softly. The serpent drew back, but the magician's eyes were shut, and it went closer. It hissed its war-cry. The sleeping magician did not move. The serpent was upon him--no, far up in the high branches of the tree above his head the little cat lay hidden. She had seen the serpent when it came from the thicket. She watched it as it went closer and closer to the sleeping man, and she heard it hiss its war-cry. The little cat's body quivered with anger and with fear, for she was so little and the serpent was so big. "The magician was very good to me," she thought, and she leaped down upon the serpent.
Oh, how angry the serpent was! It hissed, and the flames shot from its eyes. It struck wildly at the brave little cat, but now the cat had no fear. Again and again she leaped upon the serpent's head, and at last the creature lay dead beside the sleeping man whom it had wished to kill.
When the magician awoke, the little cat lay
on the earth, and not far away was the dead serpent. He knew at once what
the cat had done, and he said, "Little cat, what can I do to show you honor
for your brave fight? Your eyes are quick to see, and your ears are quick
to hear. You can run very swiftly. I know what I can do for you. You shall
be known over the earth as the friend of man, and you shall always have
a home in the home of man. And one thing more, little cat: you leaped from
the high tree to kill the deadly serpent, and now as long as you live,
you shall leap where you will, and you shall always fall upon your feet."