Previously on Beware the Cat: Mr Streamer has been secretly watching the cats on the roof of Aldersgate. He is determined to discover what they are talking about and so intends to make a magic potion that will allow him to understand the speech of animals.
Layer 1: framing narrative spoken by Baldwin
Layer 2: main narrative spoken by Streamer
Albertus Magnus was a medieval scholar and Aristotlean who was later canonised (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albertus_Magnus ). Yes, of course, Aristotle was going to come into this story at some point! For those playing the Aristotle drinking game, you may now have a drink. Notably, he was the teacher and mentor of Thomas Aquinas but while Aquinas is more famous for his application of Aristotle’s ideas to Catholic theology, Magnus followed more directly in Aristotle’s footsteps.
Magnus wrote on a wide range of subjects (just as Aristotle did) encompassing areas that we would now regard as the natural sciences. As such his posthumous reputation was as a man of great knowledge and hence also a man of great magical or alchemical knowledge. Consequently, later works were often attributed to him in the hope of raising their prestige.
As far as I know, he couldn’t talk to cats or understand their speech.
One of my favourite bits is in this next section. Mr Streamer goes hunting for a hedgehog, persuades a couple of hunters to give him a dead fox and rabbit but then angers them for saying the word “hedgehog”. He also get’s attacked by a random hawk on the way home via Islington. I’ve always had my suspicions about Islington.
The Next Morning Mr Streamer Goes Looking for a Hedgehog
As soon as restless Phoebus had come up out of the smoking sea and had shaken his golden coloured beams which had been all the night long in Tethis’s moist bosom, had dropped off his silver sweat into lap, and kissing fair Aurora with glowing mouth, had driven from her the adououtese Lucifer, and was mounted so high to look upon Europe that all the height of Mile End steeple he espied me through the glass window, laying upon my bed ; up I arose, and got me abroad to seek for such things as might serve for the earnest business.
Because you are all my friends here, I will hide nothing from you, but declare point by point how I went about both making and taking my potion.
“If thou wilt understand,” says Albertus Magnus, “the ways of birds or of beasts, take two in thy company, and upon Simon and Jude’s day, early in the morning, get thee with hounds into a certain wood, and the first beast that thou meetest take and prepare with the heart of a fox, and thou shalt have thy purpose; and whosoever thou kissed shall understand them as well as thyself.”
Because his writing here is doubtful, because he says, “quiddam nemus, a certain wood,” and because I know three men (not many years past) who when they went about this hunting were so afraid, whether with an evil spirit or with their own imagination I cannot tell, but home they came with their hair standing on end, and some have been the worse ever since (and their hounds likewise). Seeing also that it was so long until St. Judes day, therefore I determined not to hunt at all; but decided that the beast that I should take was a hedgehog which at that time of the year is easily found. Knowing that the flesh of the hedgehog is by nature full of natural heat, and therefore that the parts being eaten must expel gross matters and subtle the brain, by the like power it engendered fine blood and helped much both against gout and the cramp, I got me forth to St. Johns Wood. Not two days before I had seen a hedgehog there.
By the way, as I went I met with some hunters who had that morning killed a fox and three hares, who gave me a hare and the fox’s whole body but also six smart lashes with a slip! I had asked them, you see, if they had seen anywhere a hedgehog that morning. Although my tale is otherwise long, I would speak my mind of the wicked reaction of these foolish hunters, for they are like the papists, which for speaking good and true words punish good and honest men! Are not apes, owls, and cuckoos, bears, and urchins God’s good creatures? Why then is it not lawful to name them? If they say it brings ill luck in the game, then are they unlucky, idolatrous, miscreant infidels, and have no true belief in Gods providence! I reject their superstitious hearts, for my buttocks did bear the burden of their misbelief, but yet I thank them again for the fox and the hare which they gave me.
With the two hounds at my girdle, I went a hunting till, indeed, under a hedge, in a hole of the earth, by the root of a hollow tree, I found a hedgehog with a bundle of crabs about him, whom I killed straight with my knife, saying, “Shanse swashmelt gorgona fifcud!” With my other beasts, I hung him at my girdle and came home as fast as I could. But when I came close to Islington, in the place commonly called St. Johns field, a kite, presumably very hungry, spied at my back the skinless fox, and thinking to have had a morsel, flew at it so eagerly that one of his claws was entered so deep that before he could loosen it I drew out my knife and killed him, saying, “Samot sheley slutsthoon fiscud!” To make up the mess I brought the kite home with the rest.