A rich man in a certain town once owned a dog and a cat, both of
which were very useful to him. The dog had served his master for many
years and had become so old that he had lost his teeth and was unable
to fight any more, but he was a good guide and companion to the cat
who was strong and cunning.
The master had a daughter who was attending school at a convent some
distance from home, and very often he sent the dog and the cat with
presents to the girl.
One day he called the faithful animals and bade them carry a magic
ring to his daughter.
"You are strong and brave," he said to the cat "You may carry the ring,
but you must be careful not to drop it"
And to the dog he said: "You must accompany the cat to guide her and
keep her from harm."
They promised to do their best, and started out. All went well until
they came to a river. As there was neither bridge nor boat, there
was no way to cross but to swim.
"Let me take the magic ring," said the dog as they were about to
plunge into the water.
"Oh, no," replied the cat, "the master gave it to me to carry."
"But you cannot swim well," argued the dog. "I am strong and can take
good care of it."
But the cat refused to give up the ring until finally the dog
threatened to kill her, and then she reluctantly gave it to him.
The river was wide and the water so swift that they grew very tired,
and just before they reached the opposite bank the dog dropped
the ring. They searched carefully, but could not find it anywhere,
and after a while they turned back to tell their master of the sad
loss. Just before reaching the house, however, the dog was so overcome
with fear that he turned and ran away and never was seen again.
The cat went on alone, and when the master saw her coming he called
out to know why she had returned so soon and what had become of her
companion. The poor cat was frightened, but as well as she could she
explained how the ring had been lost and how the dog had run away.
On hearing her story the master was very angry, and commanded that all
his people should search for the dog, and that it should be punished
by having its tail cut off.
He also ordered that all the dogs in the world should join in the
search, and ever since when one dog meets another he says: "Are you
the old dog that lost the magic ring? If so, your tail must be cut
off." Then immediately each shows his teeth and wags his tail to
prove that he is not the guilty one.
Since then, too, cats have been afraid of water and will not swim
across a river if they can avoid it.