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The King of the Cats

An old Lancashire Folktale

It's well known that the cats are the Kings of Freehold.  What's unknown is... who is the King of the Cats?

One sunny Lancashire morning, an old man strolled down Rydal Road. Sometimes he would turn into Windermere and wander down Borrowdale. Other days, he'd go by Derwent and zig-zag along each street in Freehold until he arrived home. Today, he chose Grassmere. It was quieter and there were more cats.

After a lifetime of hard graft, of sweat and toil, he'd earned a retirement strolling the quiet streets and scratching the head of any cat lounging on a low stone wall.

On a particular rough stone wall, by an overgrown hedge, he spotted two black cats. The old man gently bent forward to stroke the closest cat and then froze. There was something mighty peculiar about these cats. Not the cats themselves. They were ordinary, sleek and black with an air of natural superiority. It was how they sat. He'd never seen two cats share a wall so graciously, as if chatting... or even plotting. He shook his head and chuckled at himself. Giving he cat a quick scratch, he continued homewards and thought no more of it. 

Later that night, he sat smoking his pipe by the fireplace in his little house on Ullswater Road. Cats and pipes and roaring fires were all he'd dreamed of for his retirement. Suddenly,  there was a loud scratching noise and a screech and a cloud of soot burst from the chimney. Pulling himself out of his chair, he saw a spritely tabby cat land smartly on the hearth rug. With surprising power it leapt at his chest and pushed him straight back down into his old armchair. It stared into his cloudy eyes as its claws sunk through his shirt.

Then, with great urgency, the cat spoke.

It said, "Tell Dildrum that Doldrum is dead." 

The old man could only stare wordlessly as the cat darted across the room and disappeared up the chimney.

After a few minutes, the man's wife appeared at the door and their own cat slipped into the room.

"What was all that ruckus?"

He hesitated, not daring to put into words what he'd seen in front of his eyes just moments before. "Well, there was this cat," he began, "A big old tabby that came out the fireplace. And he told me to.... Tell Dildrum that Doldrum is dead."

The wife glanced around the room for empty bottles of strong beer. A tut of disbelief formed in her mouth but before she could make a sound, their own cat leapt onto the table and spoke!

He said, "If Doldrum is dead... then I'm the King of the Cats."

And without another moment's pause, the cat turned and bolted up the chimney.


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