78:  The Wondrous Night

A figure in a shroud, standing in a churchyard.We are nigh unto the time when dead folks come out of their holes in the ground and creep about the houses.

Such wan and woeful things they are, we cats fear them not.  We help them in their hauntings.

I’ve writ of this before, when I was a young cat.

I’ve learnt much since.

All Hallow Even is the night when men and women are most afeared, though they’re none too bold on any night. 

Cover page of The Terrors of the Night, or, A Discourse of Apparitions, by Thomas Nashe, printed 1594.This is not to be wondered at, for they have eyes ill-made for seeing, and ears too small for hearing.  Their whiskers (if they have any) lie too close to their mouths to be of use.

Certes, by night they are great fools.  They trip and drop their silly lights, and knock into things that any cat could see.  All the while swearing and blaspheming most horrible.

They believe darkness is the kingdom of the devil.

And if the poor dog they have with them for their safety do but let a fart, they believe it a whiff of brimstone. 

I believe that what they see and hear by night are the fruits of their foul fancies, their mad and melancholick imaginings, the corruptions of their consciences.

A stained cover page of Lewes Lavater's book on Ghosts and Spirits, Walking by Night. 1596 edition.
A literate cat seems to have marked this book for future reference.

Few are cute [sharp] enough to glimpse a ghost, but on Hallow Even most hide theirselves in their houses for fear of what may befall them.

Last night we assembled at our Field, and told of all the merry tricks we know to strike terror in their timorous souls.

Night is our queendom, where none observes us but the Queen Cat of Heaven.

And on this wondrous night everywhere is ours.  We slip about soft-foot, and hear and see all.

I made a verse that I gave out:

First, let’s knock down all the trenchers!

T’will affright the kitchen wenches

whisp’ring spells within their bed,

seeking dreams of dolts they’ll wed.

Next, beneath the windows lie,

wail and waul till babes do cry!

Then across the rooves we’ll leap;

none below will dare to sleep.

On to churchyard dank and drear,

climb the yew tree, there to hear

boastful braggarts, bold with booze,

walk for wager – which they’ll lose.

Drop behind them, claw their breeches!

See them flee, and hark their screeches!

The cats liked my verse so well they called for Nero to lead all in singing it.

A black cat with narrow yellow eyes, looking thoughtful.
Nero, contemplating the joys of All Hallow Even

He has a fine voice.

Then they arrkst me if I would tell of horrid monsters when next we met.

I could scarce believe mine ears.  I feigned unwillingness.

Not long since, they scorned my poetick fictions, and wished to hear me slander great folks.

But now many young cats say they’ve never heard my famous Teasel Puss and the Man-Bull.  Or Purrsa, Purrsie and the Petrifying Witch.

It seems my tales may be in fashion again.

Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorAnd here we’ll leave Gib for a while, looking forward to Hallowe’en and a new audience at the Cats’ Field.

His humble editor is taking a break, so there’ll be no posts for a month or so.  I’ll try to keep up with your blogs, but may not be able to leave comments, or reply to comments on this one.


12: I Am Followed

A spirit from the grave, a detail from a picture of John Dee raising a spiritI set off home full of good cheer.  We was not far from that wondrous night of the year when dead men and women come out of their holes in the churchyard and go about the land.

We cats do not acknowledge them, because they are but sprites.

They make no noise, they have no warmth, and they give you nowt to eat.  Though I hear tell that some folk leave out meat and drink for them, and we may take that.

What we love most is to help the sprites affright folk.

Viz.  Give a wail beneath a window and then hide yourself.  Or, reach up to rattle a door latch and run off.

Or sit wide-eyed in the house and turn your head very slow, like you are watching a sprite glide across the room.  And listen to the lackwits say:  Ooh, what do that cat see?  What is it that he sees?

And whilst I was thinking of such merry sport, it come to me that I was followed.

There was a wanton little wind that night – sometimes it turned this way, sometimes that – and so did my ears, you may believe me.

And I heared a pad, pad, pad behind me.

I walked faster, and so did the follower.  Pad, pad, pad, pad.  The wind lay still, but even so I knowed this was no filthie stinking fox.  And when the wind did stir itself, it brought no whiff of stone-cat.  (Some are such hastie fools they mistake me for a queen cat.)

I wished to run, but slowed my pace.  The follower slowed his.  My heart began to beat so fierce it dulled my ears, so I opened my mouth a little, the better to take his smell.

A drawing of a Lion Rampant
Hungrie Lion Rampant

Beneath all the luscious scents of leaf fall I got a taste of ink.

My heart all but failed me then, for I believed that hungrie Lion Rampant with his great teeth and claws had come out of my lord’s coat to devour me.

A drawing of the Earl of Southampton's Coat of Arms.
My Lord’s Coat

Then came a note of wood ash, and another of smoke.  Not the smoke of the hearth; the smoke of a tobacco pipe. 

Next a hint of broiled herring (oh, the follower ate well before he set out after me).  That gave way to ale, stale ale he had trod through, not warm ale on his breath.  

And under all, the slow stroke of a rich man’s perfumed glove.

This was no hungrie Lion, but a big gib cat from a good household who’d took pains to hide his own smell so none would know him.

I knew he meant to do me ill.  When the wind did not shift from behind me, he did.  All they smells disappeared.

And I heared him alongside and then before me, hastening through the grass.

I could go no further.  I hid me in a heap of leaves where four stone-cats had left their marks.  I prayed their stinks would mask my lordly scent, and besought the Queen Cat of Heaven to still the breeze so this cat could not turn back and nose me out.

She answered, for of a sudden all lay quiet.  So quiet I could hear nothing other than the rattle of my own teeth.

How long I crouched there I know not.  At last I peeked out.

A big paw come down on my head, not hard, but very heavy, and pushed my chin into the earth.

And a soft voice, not much more than a kitling’s, sayt, “So, my young teller of tales, here we are together.”