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Early, early, next day the King of Ireland's Son rode out in search of the blue falcon, but although he rode from the ring of day to the gathering of the dark clouds he saw no sign of it on rock or tree or in the air. Very wearily he rode back, and after his horse was stabled he stood with Art in the meadows watching the cattle being driven by. And Art, the King's Steward, said: "The Coming of the King of the Cats into King Connal's dominion is a story still to be told. "To your father's Son in all truth be it told"--Quick-to-Grab, in consultation with the Seven Elders of the Cat-Kin decided that the Blacksmith's forge would be a fit residence for the King of the Cats. It was clean and commodious. But the best reason of all for his going there was this: people and beasts from all parts came into the forge and the King of the Cats might learn from their discussions where the Eagle-Emperor was and how he might be destroyed.

His Majesty found that the Forge was not a bad residence for a King living unbeknownst. It was dry and warm. He liked the look of the flames that mounted up with the blowing of the bellows. He used to sit on a heap of old saddles on the floor and watch the horses being shod or waiting to be shod. He listened to the talk of the men. The people in the Forge treated him respectfully and often referred to his size, his appearance and his fine manners.

Every night he went out to a feast that the cats had prepared for him. Quick-to-Grab always walked back to the Forge with him to give a Prime Minister's advice. He warned His Majesty not to let the human beings know that he understood and could converse in their language--(all cats know men's language, but men do not know that the cats know). He told him not to be too haughty (as a King might be inclined to be) to any creature in the Forge.

The King of the Cats took this advice. He used even to twitch his ears as a mark of respect to Mahon, the hound whose kennel was just outside the forge, and to the hounds that Mahon had to visit him. He even made advances to the Cock who walked up and down outside.

This Cock made himself very annoying to the King of the Cats. He used to strut up and down saying to himself over and over again, "I'm Cock-o'-the-Walk, I'm Cock-o'-the-Walk." Sometimes he would come into the Forge and say it to the horses. The King of the Cats wondered how the human beings could put up with a creature who was so stupid and so vain. He had a red comb that fell over one eye. He had purple feathers on his tail. He had great spurs on his heels. He used to put his head on one side and yawn when the King of the Cats appeared.

Cock-o'-the-Walk used to come into the Forge at night and sleep on the bellows. And when the King of the Cats came back from the feasts he used to waken up and say to himself," I'm Cock-o'-the-Walk, I'm Cock-o'-the-Walk. The Cats are not a respectable people."

One noonday there were men in the Forge. They were talking to the Smith. Said one, "Could you tell us, Smith, where iron came from?" The King of the Cats knew but he said nothing. Cock-o'-the-Walk came to the door and held his head as if he were listening.

"I can't tell where iron came from," said the Smith, "but if that Cock could talk he could tell you. The world knows that the Cock is the wisest and the most ancient of creatures."

"I'm Cock-o'-the-Walk," said the Cock to a rusty ass's shoe.

"Yes, the Cock is a wonderful creature," said the man who had asked the question.

"Not wonderful at all," said the King of the Cats, "and if you had asked me I could have told you where iron came from."

"And where did iron come from?" said the Smith.

"From the Mountains of the Moon," said the King of the Cats.

The men in the Forge put their hands on their knees and looked down at him. Mahon the hound came into the Forge with other hounds at his tail, and seeing the men looking at the King of the Cats, Mahon put his nose to him. Cock-o'-the-Walk flapped his wings insolently. The King of the Cats struck at the red hanging comb with his paw. The Cock flew up in the air. The King of the Cats sprang out of the window, and as he did, Mahon and the other hounds sprang after him--

Next: Part IV