The Alchymist’s Cat | Chapter 4

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘He that walks in darkness’ – that terrible presence which waits in the shadows and whom every cat knows it will meet one day.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: Imelza smiles wearily, at one with every proud mythological queen who has at last produced the longed-for heir. Widow Mogs, the honoured midwife, holds up an orange ball of fluff, presenting it with suitable pomp to the glittering heavens. The stars wince in foreboding, but the comet passes in a graceful arc overhead, bathing the scene in a nimbus of celestial fire. The bats take flight from the nearby church, muttering about how they bliddy knew it n’ thank the Lady we won’t live to see how this pans out. All over London, rats get the inexplicable urge to bow down. Somewhere in the depths of Deptford, a Hobber ritual goes awry with fatal consequences for everyone involved.

I think Jupiter’s arrival into the story deserves some sort of award for sheer grandiosity. Born in an unhallowed graveyard, encircled by the coils of a fearsome stone dragon as winter grips all London in its deathly embrace, murmured of by the farseeing bats and heralded by an honest-to-goodness comet? I mean we know he’s going to grow up big and strong and all that, but talk about OTT.  Simba ain’t got nothing on this guy.

While I was rereading this chapter I couldn’t help but laugh imagining a descendant of Widow Mogs being present during the events of The Final Reckoning. All the other cats are cowering or frozen to death or whatever, and she’s there with her knitting, watching it all unfold from a safe distance, nodding sagely. “My great great great great great great granny delivered that’un, y’know. Strangest call she ever had. ‘Watch out fer Imelza’s sprogs,’ me ol’ mum used to say. ‘One of ’em is still around, pox on ‘im! He’ll make trouble for us all eventually.'”

 

Matt’s Thoughts: Two words: cat midwives. For me, this is the most genius thing in the whole chapter, if not the book so far. You could have easily dropped the midwife on the cutting room floor. Imelza could have just wandered into the graveyard and had three kittens by herself.

But, no, there are apparently two cat midwives in London. And that just makes this chapter awesome.

There are also tantalising bits of mythology that I wonder about here. First of all, the mention of ‘he that walks in darkness’, which I put in the quote above. I love that one. But the one that I’d never noticed before is in the opening of the chapter. When describing St Anne’s Blackfriars (the graveyard still exists, by the way), the chapter reads: ‘Inside St Anne’s the gospels were preached but beyond its walls the dangerous realm of the old goddess flourished.’

Maybe this is explained elsewhere, but I’d be fascinated to know which goddess is being referred to and what this dangerous realm is. Is it a feline realm? Or a human realm? We’re familiar with mice and rat beliefs, but cats are a whole new level.

Anyway, it’s a cracking concept and that moment where we first see Jupiter can’t but help send a thrill down the spine of all Deptford Mice lovers.

 

 

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4 thoughts on “The Alchymist’s Cat | Chapter 4

  1. As weird as it may sound, I find the runty black kitten who will come to be known as Leech (and later by another title) kind of cute in this chapter. He’s such a pitiful, scrawny thing, with a face that literally only a mother could love. At this point he is innocent (or at least it appears that way), born into a world that immediately despises him – even the midwife who delivered him would have killed him on the spot were it not for his mother coming to his rescue. It actually melts my heart when he bleats up at Imelza with his thin voice.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s not weird, I totally feel you, and I think at this point we’re sort of meant to feel sorry for him. Leech is so pathetic it’s almost too much, and I certainly go all mushy and maternal over him, even though I know what’s in store.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The fact that these cats have midwives is a pretty damn funny thought, and for me harks back to the scores of more whimsical stories of talking cats living in grotty urban environments (Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats which still persists in the form of a certain musical). Not sure may of them involved demonic cats being born though.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hmm…so Spittle makes a point of spitefully referring to Will as a dog and yet it’s Will who comes to the rescue of a cat and her shivering brood, snatching them from the claws of the midwinter death and taking them to warmth and safety? Mr Jarvis sure does have a sense of humor. Come on, that masterstroke of irony had to have been deliberate.

    Will’s morbid quest provides us with two disheartening insights into British society in the year 1664. Firstly, the guard who pursues Will calls him a little devil for the crime of pillaging from the body of a hanged criminal. Which is a terrible thing to do and all but what we must keep in mind is that the prison authorities had no moral qualms about leaving a corpse swinging from the end of a rope in public rather than burying the poor soul. Secondly, Spittle does not even glance at the female kitten when he tries to make up his mind who gets the…umm…honor of becoming his familiar. Hmph…

    I love how the chapter begin with the bats thinking about what they’ve foreseen of this night’s events. Oh Will…you have no idea who you just slipped into your pocket in that murky graveyard. No idea at all. Heh, heh, heh…

    Like

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