The Fisherman and the Cat
There was once a cat as solitary and free as only a cat can be. He liked to spend his days sleeping under the chestnut tree. At night he chased mice around the village, if the mice were foolish enough to come out. If not he chased the shadows. When it was cold he went to the miller’s house where he was welcome because he played with the children. They had the biggest fire. When he was hungry he went to the old man’s shack on the beach, where there was always good fish to eat. The old man was lonely and liked the company. But the cat needed no one.
One night it came on to rain in a fierce gale and the cat was drenched and cold down to his pink skin. So he went off to the miller’s house and there he found a bright fire in the grate. But as he lay himself beside it to dry his fur the miller’s wife swept him up and out the door with her broom, shouting, “My children have got flea bites from you, you lousy, mangy creature. Clear out, get out and stay out.”
The cat found himself a nearly dry spot under the chestnut tree and had a cold and sleepless night.
The following morning after the sun had dried him out he was very hungry. So he went down to the beach to the old man’s shack and slipping through the open window went looking for some fish. The old man, sitting on the bed called out, “Come on in puss, I’m sorry there is no fish today, I’ve not been well enough to go out in the boat, but come and keep me company.” But there was no fish so the cat turned and left.
He spent the day hunting but caught only one shrew which didn’t do much to fill his belly and later he found some ancient porridge in a bin, which he ate. After all, he was the cat who needed no one.
The next day however, he was very sick from the porridge. He didn’t feel like chasing mice or catching food to eat. He lay all day under the chestnut, looking proud but feeling ill. By evening he was very hungry and cold so he went to the miller’s house to sit by the fire and maybe get a bowl of milk. But the miller’s wife still wouldn’t let him in. He tried the old man’s shack but it was empty. He went and lay on the beach for a while feeling very sad and sorry for himself until it started to rain again. He got up and walked along the shore watching the seagulls swooping for fish and wondered if they might drop one for him, or even if he might be able to leap up and catch a gull for his supper. But he had no energy for it. Suddenly he came upon something on the beach. It was the old man lying on the sand. Feeling wet and cold again, he crept into the crook of the old man’s neck and shoulder. There was little warmth but some shelter from the rain. The old man spoke feebly, “Ah puss, you have come to keep me company”. The cat purred once and then they spoke no more.
The miller’s children found them both in the morning, cold and still.