BtC 4/22. Down another layer: The Servant’s Story

Previously on Beware the Cat: Mr Streamer is lodging at a printer’s house next to a gate in the city walls of Tudor London. The gate has the remains of executed people hanging from it and at night cats gather on the roof. Mr Streamer has struck conversation with the people of the house and a servant has volunteered to tell a story about cats.

Layer 1: framing narrative spoken by Baldwin

Layer 2: main narrative spoken by Streamer

Layer 3: individual story told by another character

This first story is short and I’ve included the discussion that follows. It is primarily a lead in to the longer story by Thomas (aka the man who had been in Ireland) that I’ll cover in part 5.

After Mr Streamer’s tangents calmed down, we get a decent horror-style set up. The printer’s house next to the ancient city gate where the bodies of executed people are on display.*

The more general point here is superstition and dubious stories. Remember that this is intended as anti-Catholic satire but the thrust of the anti-catholicism is aimed at superstition and baseless tradition.

*[One of the more sympathetic aspects of Mr Streamer is his objection to the public display of executed criminals. I’m assuming it is meant to be a sympathetic aspect rather than a way of Baldwin implying (as he does elsewhere) that Mr Streamer has Catholic sympathies. It is not improbable that executed people were Catholics.]

The Servant’s Story and Discussion

“There was in my country,” said the servant, (the fellow was from Staffordshire,) “a man that had a young cat which he had brought up. He would nightly dally and play with it. One time as he rode through Kankwood, about certain business, a cat (as he thought) leaped out of a bush before him and called him twice or thrice by his name. The man made no answer nor could he speak for he was so frighten that he could not. She spoke to him plainly twice or these words:

’Commend me to Titten Tatten and to puss thy cat, and tell her that Grimalkin is dead.’

This done she went her way, and the man went about his business. And after that he returned home. In the evening sitting by the fire with his wife and his household, he told of his adventure in the wood. When he had told them all the cat’s message, his cat, which had listened to the tale, looked upon him sadly, and at last said: ‘And is Grimalkin dead ? then farewell dame!’ And then promptly went on her way and was never seen after.”

When this tale was done, another of the company who had been in Ireland asked this fellow when this tale told had happened? The servant answered that he could not say exactly, but he conjectured, not passing eleven years, for his mother knew both the man and the woman who owned the cat that the message was for.

“Sure,” said the other man, “it may well be, for about that same time I heard a similar thing happened in Ireland. If I remember rightly, Grimalkin (of whom you speak) was slain.”

“Yes, sir,” said I, “I pray you how so?”

“I will tell you, Mr Streamer,” said he, “that which was told me in Ireland, and which I have (till now) so little credited that I was ashamed to report it, but hearing what I hear now, and calling to mind my own experience when it was (I do so little misdoubt it), that I think I never told, nor you heard, ever a more likely tale

“While I was in Ireland in the time that MacMurrough and all the rest of the wild lords were the kings enemies. There was conflict between the Fitzhoneys and the Abbey of Tintern de Voto, who counted them as the kings friends and subjects. Their neighbour was Cayn MacOrt, a wild Irish man, then the kings enemy, and one who daily made inroads into the county of Wexford, and burned towns and carried away cattle. All the country from Climin to Ross, became a waste wilderness, and it has scarce recovered until this day.

“In this time, I say, as I was on a night at Cosbery with one of Fitzburys churls, we fell in talk, as we have done now, of strange adventures, and of cats ; and there, among other things, the churl (for so they call all farmers and husband men) told me as ye shall hear…



  1. Mark

    “She spoke to him plainly twice or these words”

    Is there an error in this sentence? The “or” seems wrong.

    I’m liking the “teaser” approach. Who is this mysterious Grimalkin and how do the stories go together?