BtC 20/22. Back to Mr Streamer and Human Society

Previously on Beware the Cat: Mr Streamer has gained superhuman hearing. He found a place where he can spy on the cats that meet on the roof of Aldersgate and listened to a series of stories from Mouseslayer the cat.

Layer 1: framing narrative spoken by Baldwin

Layer 2: main narrative spoken by Streamer

Layer 3: The council of cats

The story is nearly over. Mr Streamer wraps up some loose ends and eventually recovers his normal hearing. There is one more (and concluding) part after this.

Mouseslayer’s testimony from earlier nights is recounted as an overheard conversation by two cats in a garden. Here we hear briefly of a knight who spends too much time reading books that he neglects to sleep with his wife. Mouseslayer steals his breath, almost killing him – which is an interesting brief tale for a publisher to include in his book. A sly dig at himself?

This short section also significantly increases the range of people included in the book. Aside from the cats, the main characters have been priests (including Mr Streamer), servants, middle class men of unknown occupation and women running a household, and an Irish brigand.

The cast is centred around the Tudor urban middle-class and they people that they associate with. Aside from Patrick Apore, lower class characters are household servants. Upper-class people only appear in passing (such as the anecdote about Henry Tudor) or as objects of criticism (specifically the Pope). Priests, printers and merchants and their wives – the one woman who manages her own affairs runs a brothel of some sort but apparently moves in respectable circles.

Mr Streamer Concludes his Adventure

“When Grisard, Isegrim, and Poilnoes, the commissioners, had heard this declamation and requests of Mouseslayer, they prayed her much, and after they had commanded her with all the cats there to be on St. Catherine’s day next ensuing at Caithness, were (as she said) Cammoloch would hold his court, they departed.

And I glad to have heard what I heard, and sorry that I had not understood what was said the other two nights before, got me to my bed and slept.

The next morning when I went out into the garden, I heard a strange cat ask of our cat what Mouseslayer had done before the commissioners those three nights, to whom my cat answered that she had purged herself of a crime that was laid to her by Catchrat, and declared her whole life for six years space, whereof in the first two years she had five masters,—a priest, a baker, a lawyer, a broker, and a butcher, all whose privy deceits which she had seen she declared the first night ; in the two years after she had seven masters,—a bishop, a knight, an apothecary, a goldsmith, a usurer, an alchemist, and a lord, whose cruelty, study, craft, cunning, niggardness, folly, want, and oppression, she declared The second night wherein, their doing was notable ; because the knight, having a fair lady to his wife, gave his mind so much to his book that he seldom lay with her, this cat, pitying her mistress, and minding to scare him from lying alone, on a night when her master lay from her got to his mouth and drew to his breath, that she almost stifled him. A like part she played with the usurer, who being rich and yet living miserably, and faining him poor, she got one day while his treasure chest stood open and hid her there in, where of he, not knowing, locked her in it, and when at night he came thither again and heard one stirring there, and thinking it had been the devil, he called the priest and many other persons to come and help him to conjure, and when in their sight he opened his chest out leapt she, and they saw what riches he had, and shunned him thereafter. As for what was done and said yesternight, both of my lord Grisard’s hard adventure and Mouseslayer bestowing of her other two last years, which is nothing in comparison of any of the other twos years before, I need not tell you for you were present and heard it yourself.”

This told, lo I heard between these two cats, and though I went inside and broke my fast with bread and butter, and dined at noon with common meat, which so repaired my head again, and my other powers from the first digestion that by night time they were as normal as ever they were before; for I harked at night to other two cats, which, as I perceived by their gesture spoke of the same matter, I understood not a word.

So here have I told you all, chiefly you, my lord, a wonderful matter, and yet as incredible as it is wonderful; notwithstanding, when I may have convenient time I will tell you other things which these eyes of mine have seen, and these ears of mine have heard, and that of mysteries so far passing this that all which I have said now shall in comparison thereof be nothing at all to be believed. In the meantime while I will pray you to help to get me some money to convey me on my journey to Caithness, for I have been going thither these five years and never was able to perform my journey.”

When Master Ferries perceived that he would every man shut up his shop windows, which the aforesaid talk kept open two hours longer than they would have been.