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Chapter 9


Cats do not know any more about death, and what might or might not come afterwards, than human beings do. The only difference is that most men and women work themselves into believing that they have an opinion concerning this mysterious matter, while cats generally do not bother their glossy heads about it at all. Maybe a few particularly wise felines do have some sort of hazy intuition of a link between now and tomorrow and some vague feeling concerning their souls, in other words, concerning themselves beyond their last breath. It is difficult for us to assert whether they have or not, as they cannot speak, and as we can neither detect nor even conceive such feelings apart from their expression through speech.

At any rate, it would seem that Sandy was one of those privileged cats, if such there be. For he retained to the very end that one burning desire and that one hope against all hope which had sustained him, in doubtless comfort but actual dreariness, throughout the ten long years that now stretched between him and the great event of his life. And, strange as this may seem, the yearning, instead of continuing to grow vaguer and feebler, became at once more precise and more intense, as death drew nigh. As the cat felt his convulsive paws growing colder and heavier every second, nothing more existed for him but one longing which, translated into human speech, could have been summed up: “Oh, to see her again, be it only once! And to die in her arms!” (As he had already died, nearly twelve years before.) And as he experienced the ice and inertia of death gradually gaining his whole body, and as he struggled until his heart grew cold and still and until his head fell back upon the cushion like a block of stone, he hung on to the memory of the far-gone rapturous hour, now — for a fraction of a second, — more vivid than ever: “Oh, . . . Her. Her once more! I want Her: the everlasting Great Feline Mother in human disguise; the Two-legged goddess!” This desperate yearning expressed the last spark of consciousness in the poor dying beast; the last glaring ray of light that crossed his hardening brain, even though his heart had ceased beating.


And as the subtler, interpenetrating, invisible selves left the stone-like body, they retained that active spark, and it kept them together, and it guided their wandering aggregate — what one would call Sandy’s soul — along the way of its destiny; for desire is the ferment which maintains that differentiation that is at the root of individual life and causes birth and rebirth (even some of the Two-legged ones know that).

* * *

Precisely because of that yearning after her whom he too called “the Two-legged goddess,” it had, to the very end, seemed to Sandy as though he could not really die; as though the mysterious link between moment and morrow had to remain unbroken, be it only to allow him to fulfill that overwhelming, unconditional total longing. And so did it remain. And Sandy — or what had worn the flesh and bones and splendid yellow stripy fur that people called “Sandy” — knew that “life continued.”

It was, to begin with, a strange experience for him to feel himself outside his own body, floating above it, looking down upon it, as though it had not been “his.” It was not the first time, of course, but perhaps the millionth or perhaps the billionth. But, as creatures’ memories are extremely short — confined to one birth only, — it seemed to him strange, utterly strange, as though it had been the first time.

The new state of existence had its advantages, one of which consisted in being able to move with extraordinary speed, without being hampered by such obstacles as walls and closed doors, so that one could go straight wherever one wanted to. Sandy wanted to see the “Two-legged goddess” again; and, curiously enough, in the wink of an eye, there he was, above her bed, gazing at her asleep. He had travelled all the way from London to Germany — where she was — without even noticing it, as light (and thought) travel. He was there, with her, on her pillow, while the yellow, furry body, that had up till then been his, still lay motionless and heavy, in the same place, in Elsie Harrington’s room. He would have liked to rub his head against Heliodora’s sleeping face, and nestle comfortably at her side, and have her stroke him, — as on that night. But he had forgotten that he no longer had any head to rub; nor any body to curl up as a ball of fur, upon the sleeper’s arm. The new state of existence had also its inconveniences, one of which was that it allowed no further contact with such gross matter as physical bodies are made of.


Sandy, or rather the subtle creature that had been Sandy and Long-whiskers, and many thousands of cats before them, longed to make the woman feel his presence; he longed to, with all his might; he tried to purr — and did, in fact; but it was a subtle, unearthly, dreamlike purr that he produced; a purr that no cat and no human being could hear, unless he or she were tuned to the finer Realm. And yet Heliodora heard it distinctly, and even felt upon her cheek like the touch of a thick, warm, cat’s fur. And she woke up at the familiar sensation, and got up to see whether the beautiful black and white cat she then possessed had not come in from his nightly wandering, and greeted her in his own fashion, as he often used to do. But no: there was no cat to be seen anywhere. The black and white one had come in, but was fast asleep in the depth of the eiderdown. It was not he that had touched her face with his furry head and purred so lovingly. Which cat could it be?

The disincarnated feline saw the large dark eyes that had poured their love into his, on that night. He saw them glance from place to place in search of him, without being able to give further signs of his presence. He knew that, had he but been endowed with a visible body, the woman would have pulled him to her breast, and coddled him, and stroked him, and put her lips to his silky forehead. And he longed for a body of flesh and bones, and fur; a body that other material bodies could touch, — for the abyss between subtler matter and gross matter (he had just found out, for the millionth time) is practically unbridgeable.

And as time passed, the longing became more and more intense. It was bound to lead to Sandy’s rebirth as another cat. But where? And under which circumstances? And with what a destiny?

* * *

“I want to feel myself once more lying in her arms — nothing else!”

“And you are prepared to suffer for that privilege? — For nothing is for nothing, and suffering is the price.”

“I am ready to suffer, — to suffer anything — provided I can lie in her arms for five minutes . . .”

Is such a dialogue but the expression, in human speech, of a struggle within the cat-soul that had been Sandy’s and Long-whiskers’ and that of many more cats? Or did it actually take place, — as some saintly cats would doubtless maintain, if they could speak — between that same cat-soul and He-and-She: the Great Tom Cat and the Great


Feline Mother, two and yet One; Lord and Lady of all beings, Master and Mistress of the Spark of Life? This question is too deep and difficult for Two-legged creatures to answer. But one thing is certain, and that is that, on the twenty-first of January 1957, while Heliodora was admiring an exceptional, blood-red aurora borealis in the sky above her little house in Oberricklingen, near Hanover, Sandy — Long-whiskers — was reborn as a tabby kitten, in a miserable back-yard in Teheran.

The invisible Powers of Life had answered his yearning.