THE RIVER’S SONG cat
THE blue kitten curled his blue tail respectfully around him and sat facing the river. It had been dusk when he left the comfort of the familiar haycock and set forth. But it was almost dark when he came through the reeds and by the wild duck’s nest to the edge of the river. He heard the heavy flapping of wings as the startled duck whirred upward. He heard the hoot owl on a dead limb, and the lonely call of the whippoorwill. He wiggled the toes of his front paws wistfully. He did so want to turn about and go home.
But he didn’t. He only made his homesick toes be still, sat a little straighter, curled his tail a little closer, and waited.
Both his ears were bent forward to listen. But the river was paying no attention whatever to the blue kitten. It gurgled and hissed and splattered along over the stones – splattered and hissed and gurgled. Not until the blue moon began to peer over the mountain did the river hush gradually into quiet. Only when – like a great cat’s-eye – the moon was clear of the mountain and its light reflected all along the water, the river began to sing – a song the kitten had never heard.
And the kitten, a little dark shadow in the moonlight, felt the song slipping into his ears, along his backbone, and tingling even the tips of his four paws and the end of his tail.
Yet this was strange. For the song itself was as simple and wonderful as life in a meadow. Beauty and peace and content were there. And a glory flooding over – like the light of the blue moon shining around the blue kitten.
“Sing your own song, said the river
But as he finished it, the blue kitten suddenly felt afraid. So he began to bargain with the river. Being a blue kitten, he was wiser than most.
“Before you teach me the rest of the song, river,” he begged, “help me a little. There must be many people in Castle Town. Tell me about them so I shall know whom to choose.”
The river gurgled before answering. No one had ever questioned the river in this manner, and therefore it was a little uncertain as to how much even a blue kitten should know. Finally, however, the river began, slowly and soothingly.
“Well, there is a pewterer in Castle Town. His name is Southmayd. Ebenezer is the first name. Once he sang the song. But of late he has forgotten. Still he has ears which should recognize the song when he hears it again. And it is possible there is yet a tune in his throat. And magic in his hands. Though whether he has time enough to fashion beauty, being only a river, I cannot say.”
“Um!” said the kitten, nodding his head. “Southmayd, Ebenezer.”
“There is a weaver in Castle Town,” went on the river, “who came from Ireland. He has never sung the song, but once he dreamed of singing it. If you could only get him started, who knows? The hearth you are seeking might be there. The name
Gil – roy,” said the kitten sleepily. “John. Ho – ho – hum!” He opened his mouth so wide and tipped his head so far back one would have thought he expected to swallow the stars.
“Ho – ho – hum!” After all the kitten had never before been long away from the warm nest of dried clover, Queen Anne’s lace and chickory. Nor tried to stay awake all night for that matter. While naturally the light of a blue moon is soothing.
He meant to listen very carefully. But the voice of the river was gentle and slow. The cat settled down and closed his eyes so the light of the blue moon on the waters should not distract him. And almost at once he began to sink deeper and deeper into the dark velvet softness of a kitten s sleep.
But the river was too busy telling its secrets to notice. Or perhaps it did notice and thought – Well, after all, I am keeping my part of the bargain.
“Beware of Arunah Hyde,” it whispered. “Beware! Never sing your song to him. Take heed of what I say, blue kitten. For you and Arunah work different spells. Arunah loves gold very much. And the dark spell he is fashioning has him in its clutches. He seeks after something and knows not what, so he seeks the more desperately. His hands are full and spilling over with gold. But his heart is empty of beauty and peace. He has never known content.
There is Bright Enchantment and man is its master.
And there is dark seeking forever, and that masters the man.“_
So sang the river. “Forever and ever, and ever.”
By this time the kitten’s nose was buried deep in his paws, and he sighed a little in his sleep. While the wind swept through the valley in a long, dreary moan.
The river spoke a little louder. “And in trying to rid himself of the dark spell, Arunah is but spreading it. Arunah is planning now to make Castle Town the center of the Vermont Universe.”
The blue kitten opened his eyes and shook the river spray from his whiskers.
“Vermont? Universe?” he asked sharply.
“It is all the same,” declared the river. “Any Vermonter will tell you so.”
“Ah,” said the kitten. And he curled down once more and drew the dark, soft sleep back over him like a shawl. But this time the tip of his left ear stuck out, and it did hear a little. Though the kitten was not to remember for a long, long while what the left ear heard.
The river took up its murmuring. “So, whatever you do, blue kitten, beware of Arunah Hyde. Never, I warn you, sing your song to him. Arunah, too, has a song. And that spreads his dark enchantment. One of you will win in the end, for on your two songs does the future of Castle Town depend. And in the end, too, one of you will be overpowered by his own song.”
Had the kitten been awake – really awake, he would have cried out like his mother that such words were nonsense.
“Now, remember, the name is Arunah Hyde,” repeated the river. Then, with a sharp swish, it flung a dash of cold water over the small form curled by the reeds. “Did you hear what I said, blue kitten?”
“Of course,” sniffed the kitten with a shiver, sitting up now very straight. “His name is Arunah Hyde.”
“Mm!” came from the river. “Beware too of the man who wants office because he thinks the office will make him important.”
“Of course,” yawned the kitten.
“And of the loud talker, the one who wants to show off and have things better than his neighbors.”
The kitten yawned again. This time as his head tipped back he saw the blue moon. It was climbing fast. It was right above him.
“Have you told me all I should know?” he asked the river.
“All, blue kitten? Why, I am just beginning.”
The kitten did not like the tone. He lifted his head and stared across the river as though much interested in the bushes on the other side. “After all,” he said loftily, “I am the blue kitten. And I can learn some things for myself!”
But the river went on as though it had not been interrupted.
There is a carpenter in Castle Town, a simple man, and no one knows him well. Yet he, like yourself, was born to the sound of the river’s singing. His father was a silversmith. And he sang the song well. But when he wanted to teach his son to work with silver, the son would not listen. Yet the sound of the river’s song is forever in the son’s ears. Perhaps you will meet this man.”
“The name?” demanded the blue kitten, who was getting very weary. Besides the blue moon was moving toward the west. And when the moon should disappear, he understood – for his mother had warned him – he must have learned the river’s song. Blue moons come seldom in a kitten’s life. Or in anyone else’s for that matter.
“The name is Thomas Royal Dake. His mother gave him the name Thomas. But his father insisted on Royal. That,” explained the river, “is a term applied to kings.”
“But this man is only a carpenter.”
“Only a carpenter,” agreed the river. It lingered over the syllables, as though it loved them.
“Dake,” said the blue kitten. “Thomas.”
“Royal,” added the river.
“Umph,” sniffed the kitten. “Is there anyone else in Castle Town whom I should know?”
“Well, there is a girl in Castle Town, who is not anything at all. She is not rich and she is not pretty. And she has an ugly name. She is lonely, for her mother is dead. I know nothing about her voice, but she has an ear for sounds. She listens to the wind, and to the gurgle of the brook, or so I am told. So, she might listen to you. She…”
“We had better get on with the song,” said the blue kitten, not bothering to learn the girl
’s name. For the moon had passed its zenith.
“Oh, well,” groaned the river, “there are some things, small kitten, which as you say, you must learn for yourself. Most certainly you will have a hard time. But it is not my fault – not really!”
Now, the blue kitten of Castle Town was smarter than most. Of course being blue had something to do with it. So by the time the blue moon took its last look across the valley before slipping out of sight, the blue kitten had learned all the river’s song, that song as old as the world itself. For the Creator of All Things was the first to sing it.
Only as he was leaving, the river said a trifle contemptuously, “After all, you may turn out to be only an ordinary cat.”
“An ordinary cat!” Sniff, went the blue kitten who had learned the river’s song. “An ordinary cat!” The very idea!
In the dawn his mother was waiting for him by the haycock. She washed his face for the last time, taking good care that his ears were clean. Pink ears are so becoming to a blue cat. She looked thoughtfully at his fine, long, white whiskers and at the eyebrows which sprouted up like two small fountains above his amber eyes. She approved of the softness and whiteness of his waistcoat. That was the result of a good diet. The very last thing she did was to count the black hairs on the end of his tail.
“After all,” she said then thoughtfully, “you may turn out to be an ordinary cat.”
Then the blue kitten, who didn’t for an instant believe these words, walked proudly out of the meadow. Even before the sun rose he was on his way to Castle Town to find a mortal who would listen to his singing and would learn the river’s song.
And he was, the blue kitten assured himself, he was the blue kitten. And some day he would be the blue cat. That was not an ordinary thing. Not by any manner of means! Pssst! The idea!
You will find as the touchmark of this pewterer the initials E.S. below a full-rigged ship.
– From a book about pewter and pewter makers in America