The King of the Cats
by Ernest Rhys
Once upon a time there were two brothers
lived in a lonely house in a very lonely part of
Scotland. An old woman used to do the cooking,
and there was no one else, unless we count her
cat and their own dogs, within miles of them.
One autumn afternoon the elder of the two,
whom we will call Elshender, said he would not
go out - so the younger one, Fergus, went alone to
follow the path where they had been shooting the
day before, far across the mountains.
He meant to return home before the
early sunset - however, he did not do so, and Elshender
became very uneasy as he watched and waited
in vain till long after their usual suppertime.
At last Fergus returned, wet and exhausted, nor
did he explain why he was so late.
But after supper when the two brothers were
seated before the fire, on which the peat crackled
cheerfully, the dogs lying at their feet, and the old
woman's black cat sitting gravely with half-shut
eyes on the hearth between them, Fergus recovered
himself and began to tell his adventures.
"You must be wondering," said
he, "what made me so late. I have had a very, very strange
adventure to-day. I hardly know what to say
about it. I went, as I told you I should, along our
yesterday's track. A mountain fog came on just
as I was about to turn homewards, and I completely
lost my way. I wandered about for a long
time not knowing where I was, till at last I saw a
light, and made for it, hoping to get help.
"As I came near it, it disappeared,
and I found myself close to an old oak tree. I climbed
into the branches the better to look for the light, and,
behold! there it was right beneath me, inside the
hollow trunk of the tree. I seemed to be looking
down into a church, where a funeral was taking
place. I heard singing, and saw a coffin
surrounded by torches, all carried by--But I know
you won't believe me, Elshender, if I tell you!"
His brother eagerly begged him to go on, and
threw a dry peat on the fire to encourage him.
The dogs were sleeping quietly, but the cat was
sitting up, and seemed to be listening just as
carefully and cannily as Elshender himself. Both
brothers, indeed, turned their eyes on the cat as
Fergus took up his story.
"Yes," he continued, "it is as
true as I sit here. The coffin and the torches were both
carried by CATS, and upon the coffin were marked a crown
and a scepter!"
He got no farther, for the black cat started up,
"My stars! old Peter's dead,
and I'm the King o' the Cats!"--Then rushed up the chimney,
and was seen no more.