Saturday, 25 December 2021

If you have not yet met the Cathedral Cats

then I will need to explain. They are a small group of cats who live in an unnamed Church of England cathedral somewhere in the United Kingdom. They are working cats who, along with the church mice, keep the cathedral and surrounding areas in pristine condition. Bach is the eldest cat. He is responsible for seeing that the work gets done. His partner is Cadenza who always seems to be busy caring for a new litter of kittens. Matins and Vespers are always up to mischief. Purrgolesi lives with the organist. The two cats who tell me the most are Cantori and Decani. It is Decani who is probably the most important of the cats. He should be very sure of his abilities and his importance in the scheme of things because he is the only cat who can read but he is rather unsure of everything. This is what happened to him just recently.

Decani was reading the pew bulletin again. He was doing it rather slowly. There was something there which was worrying him.  The slowness annoyed Cantori.
"Come on!" he gave a little yowl of frustration.
"Why? I have to think. It says they want an assistant for Father Mark."

"Matins and Vespers are going on a Prowl. They asked us to come. Why don't you think about that instead? You wouldn't have to work - or you could help me instead."

Cantori  was inclined to be lazy sometimes. He couldn't understand why Decani seemed to like working so hard.

Decani was the Cathedral's Library Cat. He was very proud of being the Library Cat. He loved to be in among all the very old and very valuable books. He liked the smell of their leather bindings. He liked the soft creaking sound of the vellum they had been written on. He liked the smooth feel of the new paper books and the smell of their printing ink. He loved working for Father Mark the Librarian. Father Mark actually made him work very hard but Decani was quite happy about that because Father Mark taught him about all sorts of very useful things and he often gave Decani a thank you pat or a gentle rub between the ears.   He had made a special little box for Decani to keep his collection of whiskers in. (Any cat who dropped a whisker knew to give Decani the whisker. He had a large collection of whiskers for cleaning all the smallest places where dust might gather on the old leather bindings. For the newest books he used dental picks and dental floss. The librarian bought those for Decani to use too.)

Every working day the librarian would put out the books which needed to be dusted or cleaned. Decani would work at them very, very carefully. If there were loose pages or other repairs were needed Decani would alert Father Mark by giving him a paw pat and then showing him the problem. Even though he never made much noise about it Decani knew it was a very important job.

But what if Father Mark no longer needed him? An assistant librarian might do all his work! Decani was worried, very worried. He did not feel in the least bit like going off on a Prowl, especially with Matins and Vespers. They were always getting into strife. Decani didn't mind a bit of harmless mischief but that was all he wanted.
"No. It's cold out there.  I want to read this again. I want to think, " he told Cantori.
Cantori did not want to listen. He tried to pull it away and tore it with a claw.
"Stop it!"
A moment later they were fighting each other. 
Bach came down the aisle like a meteor hurling through space at greater than the speed of light. He pulled the two young cats apart.
"Out!" he growled.
"He started it," Decani said crossly.
"I don't care who started it," Bach's look told him, "You're litter brothers. Behave!"
The two young cats went off, one out the west cat flap and one out the east cat flap. It was snowing outside. Decani shivered. Bother Cantori! He went around to the side door of the cathedral to see if he could sneak back in. He sat there shivering in the cold until a human appeared.
       "Hello little one."
It was the cathedral organist.
Decani gave him the most pitiful miaou he could muster. The organist picked him up. Decani snuggled in. That was better!

"Come and curl up."

Ooh yes, that was even better. Decani curled up next to Purrgolesi on the little stool in the organ loft and let what he thought of as "sleepy" music  give him a comforting pat. 

But he was still worried. What were these "applications" they were talking about? How would Father Mark decide about an assistant? Decani could not sleep even when he curled up tightly with his paw over his nose and put the tip of his tail between his whiskers.

"Don't worry," Bach told him later although he was feeling rather anxious as well. He knew just how much Decani liked working for Father Mark.

"Don't worry," Cadenza told him as he helped her with the new kittens. She thought Decani was very useful.

"Don't worry, there's plenty of other work to do," Cantori told him.

"You mean he might actually have to do some work," said Matins and Vespers with the sort of smirking purrs that really upset Decani. They made Cantori feel unhappy too. He was feeling just a little bit ashamed of himself.  Decani worked much harder than he did.

But Decani went into the library on Thursday morning and found there were no books on the table where he worked. Father Mark always put the books there! He sat there staring at the table. Did this mean he was no use any more? Did it mean he was no longer than Library Cat? Did it mean he would not be able to learn more about all the amazing things in the books? 

Father Mark came in just as Decani flopped down miserably. Now he would be told he wasn't wanted. He just knew he would be told he wasn't wanted!

"We need the table this morning for the interviews," Father Mark told him. "You can have the morning off." It didn't even occur to him that Decani might be worried.

"Miaou," Decani told him miserably although he didn't think Father Mark would understand why he was so worried. Father Mark rubbed Decani's left ear in an absent minded sort of way. He might have said something then but the Bishop came in with Father Andrew.

"All three short-listed candidates are here," Father Andrew told Father Mark. "I've asked them to wait in the Map room."

And that was when Decani knew what he had to do. He could find out who these candidates were if he went to look in the other room. It was the room where they kept the maps and the drawings and all the music. There were three people there. He looked at them. Two of them were sitting down. One of them was standing up.

One of the people sitting down was very round. Decani thought about this.  No, he would not do at all. His stomach would get in the way of a lot of things. Decani could smell the bacon and eggs and sausage this round person had eaten for breakfast. A human might not smell it but a cat could. The round person  was talking to one who was about the same size as a lot of other people Decani knew. They were being very polite to each other but they were not really being very friendly with each other. It was probably because they both wanted the job.  They had not noticed Decani.

 The third person was very tall and very, very thin. The other two people were not even looking at him. Decani thought they did not like this person but he was looking at the carvings on the doorway.

The carvings were old of course. Decani had often cleaned them, cleaned them oh so carefully. He wondered if the cats and the rabbits and the mice had once been real. He didn't think there had been dragons but he knew about those that were there as well. He watched the tall thin man.

None of them seemed to have noticed Decani. He sat there watching them. Then Father Andrew looked out and the short round person went in to talk to them. He went past without even looking at Decani. Decani gave a tiny purr to himself. Father Mark would not choose anyone who did not notice a cat would he? The ordinary size person went on ignoring the very thin person but he saw Decani and tried to shoo him away. Decani sat just far enough under the table to watch him and not get caught. Father Mark would not choose someone who did not like cats would he? The Cathedral was famous for its cats!

"I didn't think they would let those blasted cats near the library," the ordinary size person told the tall thin person.

Decani flicked his tail just a little at  that comment. The tall thin person stopped looking at the carvings on the doorway. He looked around and smiled at Decani. 

"There's a cat which looks just like you here. I think they must have had cats in the library for a very long time."

The ordinary person made a funny sort of noise but Decani purred to himself. The ordinary person went to talk to Father Mark next. Decani came out from under the table and looked at the tall thin person. The tall thin person looked back at him and said, "Hello." Decani padded over to him with his tail held high and his whiskers out at just the right and polite angle. The tall thin person did not try to shoo him away.  They just looked at one another. Decani knew exactly what he needed to do.

And when the tall thin person was called in to the library Decani went in too. When the tall thin person sat down Decani jumped up into his lap. He just knew this was going to be the right human for the job. The lap might be thin and bony but the tall thin person put his own  strong, comforting sort of paw around Decani to hold him there.

"If you will have me then I hope this is the Library Cat," he told the Bishop and Father Mark and Father Andrew...and all of them knew what Decani was purring about.   


jeanfromcornwall said...

Thank you Cat! This was the first thing I turned to this Christmas morning, and you had not let me down.
I hope you have a good Christmas for Senoir Cat's sake. We are having a strange one. Dear OH and I have both been in hospital with the virus, and are still weak and wobbly. We are being nursed by our very own daughter/cat who is, by the way a library cat. She works at the Bodleian.

Judy B said...

Not the first thing I looked for, but I have been waiting for the Cathedral Cats to appear. Thank you.
Hope you and yours had a lovely day, and I wish you a happy new year.