155:  A Horrid Tale

A fluffy black, white and ginger cat against the night sky.My rebel days were ended.  I had little to do but raise kits in one household, and cheer myself by holding revels at the other.

That were not the life I’d wisht for, but one does what one can in this wicked world.

For our All Hallow Eve revel, I instructed Luvvie in the performance of my uncle’s verses that all cats love.

And I bethought me of a horrid tale my friend Nero used to tell.  He had it from a cat of the west country who swore all was true.  Here it is, with mine own embellishments.Quill PenThere was once a cat who loved his mistress well.  She was rich, and many lords came calling at her door.  She chose the one most pleasing to her.

In winter they lived in her house in the town, and in summer they went to his house in the country.

Her cat, a black and handsome fellow, went with them.  He followed on their country walks and liked all he saw.

Alas, the lady’s husband soon tired of her.  He grew mad with thinking of how well he loved her money but how little he loved her.

One day they walked beside a stream.  The cat watched the flies that danced above, and the lady picked flowers growing by its side.

Her lord held her hand as she leaned over the water to pluck a gelder rose.  Then he feigned to stumble, and pushed her in!

She called to him for help, but he was deaf to her pleas. 

Instead, he ran to his house, his face all bedewed with tears scooped from the stream.  “Alas, oh woe, my lady’s drowning!”

His servants came with implements to pull her out.  The cat was waiting by the dam where her body lay.  Some feared ill doings then.  They spake of witchcraft, and the constable.

The lord seized the cat in his arms and cried, “No evil here.  My dear lady loved this cat.  ’Tis all of her that’s left to me.  I shall love him for her sake.”

Though he planned to be rid of that cat as soon as he could.

The cat sayt, “I know what you did, and you shall have no peace in this world or the next.”

But none took his meaning.

His poor mistress was laid in a fine tomb.  There was room enough for the lord as well, and he swore to join her for eternity.

“And I swear you will not rest there,” sayt the cat, but the lord did not hear him.

When the lord returned to town he took the cat, but would not have him in the house.

The cat was not troubled.  He’d lived long in that house, and knew that below the leads was a broad-sill window with a broken latch.

So he began his haunting.  What cat does not know how?

An array of wilted flowers on a table.

Flowers pulled from a vase, lying in spilled water.  A curtain stirring where none was seen to pass.  Lute strings plucked in an empty chamber; a riband left in a pool of moonlight.  Cries in the night, like unto a woman’s when heard through sleep.

The lord grew afeared of creaks and shadows.  His servants wearied of bringing lights, more lights, while he sat late, drinking wine, his sword beside his chair.  

A woman's hands on the keys of a spinet.A note was struck on an instrument that once his lady played.

Seizing his sword he ran into the room, but found onlie a puddle on the chair and her glove dropped on the floor.

He fell down beside it and saw the cat in a dark corner.  He tried to speak, but could not.

The cat sayt, “You swore to join my murdered mistress in her tomb.  Now she’s come for you.”

This time the lord heard his speech as clear as he’d heard the church bell toll for his lady.

The cat heard the last beat of his stricken heart.

“My work is half done,” sayt the cat.

A surgeon came to make the lord’s body fit for travel to the country.  Three boxes were readie – a long one of wood, and two of lead for his inners and his heart.

The surgeon put the heart on a platter, and went out to drink a cup of ale.  He left his ’prentice to embalm the body with salt and spices.

The cat crept from his corner, begging the Queen Cat of Heaven’s forgiveness for what he meant to do.  It amounted to self-murder, but he knew his cause was just. 

He hooked the heart and ate it.  Then sat bold-arst, a-cleansing of his whiskers.

A black cat in darkness - only the eyes are clearly visible.The ’prentice, turning from his task, saw first the cat and then the empty platter.  He feared blame and a beating from his master.  So he took a poker from the hearth and struck the cat dead.

Then he hid him in the corpse and wrapped all tight in cerecloth.  He put a lump of coal in the box made ready for the heart, and sealed it shut.

When his master returned he praised his ’prentice for swift work.

Thus was the cat laid with the lord in the tomb that housed his mistress.  Did his ghost bide quiet there?  No.

By day he gave that lord no peace.  He lay upon his face.  He bit his toes.  He sharped his ghostly claws upon their winding sheet.  He wauled and clawed at the coffin lid before he issued out at night, and clawed and wauled again before he slipped back in.

By night he kept his mistress company.  And any cat from those parts will tell you that their spirits may be seen dancing on the tomb to this very day.

Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorThis tale of a heart-eating cat might have originated among cats, but is now established in human lore.  The version I heard is a macabre anecdote about the novelist Thomas Hardy’s heart, well told in this article. 


24 thoughts on “155:  A Horrid Tale

  1. larrypaulbrown November 1, 2018 / 1:06 am

    Wooooo, now there’s a spooky tale. Max ran to hide behind a chair as I read it to him. 🐱‍

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi November 1, 2018 / 1:28 am

      Let’s hope his fear was genuine. Otherwise, he might have got a few ideas about how to be scarey.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. April Munday November 1, 2018 / 4:33 am

    I went to read the page about Hardy. What a great story, although I assume that Emma and the cat didn’t dance on his grave.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi November 1, 2018 / 10:14 am

      They may have been tempted to. A friend and I visited Max Gate earlier this year and were impressed by its pet cemetery. Then we learned that Hardy’s second wife Florence made away with Emma’s remaining cats so perhaps the heart-eater was also on a mission of revenge?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. dornahainds November 1, 2018 / 8:05 am

    Yikes! That is some Crazy-Twisted tale. 😎🥀

    Ghostly mist
    Rises in flowering field
    Gazing at the blue moon 😎

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Rachel McAlpine November 1, 2018 / 9:59 am

    That’s the best Hallowe’en story I’ve heard this year. I quickly hid it from Ursula, a cat with an unnatural interest in the written word.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi November 1, 2018 / 10:33 am

      A wise move, Rachel. Ursula could conceal herself among the shadows easily, and set about affrighting your guests.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Mick Canning November 1, 2018 / 10:06 pm

    I’ll certainly keep this from our two, they get up to enough mischief as it is.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Dave Ply November 2, 2018 / 4:33 pm

    I’ll never trust a cat that’s giving me a dirty look again. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  7. mitchteemley November 7, 2018 / 1:11 am

    I was, at first, saddened, to witness the loyal cat’s passing, but it’s eternal haunting of the wicked master joyed me most heartily. A happy belated Halloween!

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi November 7, 2018 / 7:37 am

      Thanks, Mitch. I hope your Halloween was monstrous.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. colonialist November 7, 2018 / 8:30 am

    The title is spot-on, but the story has a macabre fascination nonetheless.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi November 7, 2018 / 9:02 am

      As does the tale of Hardy’s heart! Macabre is the word.


  9. Judith November 8, 2018 / 2:55 pm

    A good gothic tale – or should I say tale?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Robyn Haynes December 2, 2018 / 3:39 pm

    Great story! ‘Bold arst’? I must find a way to slip that phrase into conversation – love it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi December 2, 2018 / 5:27 pm

      It’s more vivid than describing someone as sitting ‘defiantly’. Cats can be quite obsessive about who sits where.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Robyn Haynes December 2, 2018 / 5:28 pm

      The descriptions are great and so is the imagery. I vow to sit like that in future. Maybe on the train or waiting for the dentist 🤩

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi December 2, 2018 / 5:34 pm

      It’s the only way to sit if you’ve just taken a seat someone else was making for.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Robyn Haynes December 2, 2018 / 5:46 pm

      Haha! The quick and the dead. I’m a master. Or is that mistress??

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi December 2, 2018 / 5:50 pm

      I think you’d better stick with master. If you start telling people you’re a mistress, they might wonder whose.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Robyn Haynes December 2, 2018 / 5:55 pm

      You get funnier by the minute. No chance of that scenario.

      Liked by 1 person

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