Saturday, August 13, 2011

Samedi: Wait Till Louis Comes

It's storytelling time again at HQ, and this is one of my favorites.  My Aunt Bette told me this one when I was just into my teens, and she told it every time I went down to her house on Bayou Rigolets thereafter.  Usually on a night when the power went out and we all sat on the porch sweating, fanning ourselves, and watching the moths dance around the kerosene lantern.

As I understand now, after doing a lot of research, it is a scary story common to many different immigrant groups in the U.S., Canada and Central America.  The name and the species of the creature in question changes from story to story, but the protagonist is usually a priest or preacher and the old, rundown house is always part of the tale.

One time long ago Father Jean was walking across the swamp to attend at a funeral.  He was so busy reading his prayer book as he walked that he didn’t notice darkness descending upon him.  When he did, he found himself caught in a lonely place and wondering where he might spend the night for the sky looked threatening. 

As rain started to fall, Father noticed an old plantation house.  It was obviously abandoned but it was the only shelter he could see, and so he went in. 

The wind was blowing fiercely by now and it howled through the trees near the house and blew into the broken windows.  Father found a grand fireplace in the downstairs parlor, and he started to pick up sticks and pieces of broken furniture to make a fire with.  Soon he had a crackling blaze going and, pulling up a still in tact cane backed chair, he settled down to warm up.

Before long, Father Jean heard something rustling just outside the firelight.  He looked but he didn’t see anything so he went back to reading his prayer book.  Soon enough, he felt something brush against his leg.  Looking down he saw the biggest, blackest cat he’d ever seen.  As he watched, the cat walked right into the fire, turned around three times, and then came back out as if he had simply walked into an empty closet.

Astounded, Father watched while the cat sat down and, ignoring him completely, began to clean its fur.  “That is strange indeed,” Father said to himself.  “But there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in my imagination.”  And then he went back to his prayer book.

The time went by and before long Father Jean heard another sound.  This time it was more of a stomp than a rustle.  When Father looked up he was amazed to see another black cat, but this one was even bigger and blacker than the one sitting near the fire.  It looked to be the size of a wolf and its eyes glowed red as hot coals.  Father was feeling very uneasy until he watched this huge cat turn around three times in the fire just like the other had done.  It joined the first cat and, before it turned to cleaning itself it said in a human voice: “Are we ready?”

Now Father Jean was more scared than uneasy.  But it got worse.

The smaller cat looked up from his paw and said: “We better wait till Louis comes.”  And then both cats went about washing themselves like Father wasn’t even there.

Father crossed himself.  “All right,” he said.  “That is a curiosity.  But there are more things in heaven and earth that are dreamt of in my imagination.”  He gripped the crucifix that dangled from his neck, and tried to return to his prayer book.

The rain poured down, the wind blew, the fire crackled and the cats licked themselves.  Father turned a page in his book and then he heard a growl so loud it made his blood run cold. 

He turned to see a black cat the size of a panther walking toward the fire.  Just as before, this one turned around three times in the blaze and then joined the others.  Father had to move his chair back to get away from this infernal beast and, to his dismay, the cane seat broke trapping his butt in the chair. 

As Father Jean struggled to get free, the panther-sized cat looked right at him with shining, cobalt eyes.  “Are we ready?” it asked.

“We better wait till Louis comes,” said the wolf-sized cat while all three stared at Father as if he were a gutted fish.

Father Jean had no desire to meet Louis in this life or the next.  With a tremendous push and a great force of will, he freed himself from the broken chair.  He tucked his prayer book under his arm and bowed to the hellcats where they sat in a row.  “Messieurs,” he said in a shaky voice.  “Do you tell Louis I was here but I could not wait upon him.  Your pardon.”

With that, Father Jean ran out into the rain and straight home where he packed his bags and was never heard from in that county again.

Bon Samedi, mes amis!

Header:  French priest with servant and slave, artist unknown


Timmy! said...

Would that be Louis... Cypher, Pauline?

Pauline said...

Who can say, after all?