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 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, little more than a kitling’s, sayt, “So, my young teller of tales, here we are together.”