The cat stood on its four legs, stretched its body and made a circle in preparation for sleep. First of all he looked around to see that his world was in order. Half way up on the bookshelves between the books History of India and History of Battles he felt secure. He preferred the ancient books, those bound in leather with yellowing pages. They had a good, safe smell, accumulated by the dust of ages gone past. Although he never actually looked inside the books, he knew he was in a safe place. Protected by the wall and the thick volumes surrounding him, with a bird’s eye view of all angles in the room he was satisfied. Before falling into a complete sleep he glanced upwards to the opposite corner between the ceiling and the top books. He was just making sure that the spider was there.
The spider had always lived there since the cat had made its favourite place between the books. The cat did not realise that it was not always the same spider. How many generations of this spider had lived in the top corner of the book shelves, not even the spider knew. There was just always a replacement when the spider’s life came to an end. The cat did not even wonder what the spider ate. There were no flies in this particular room of the book shop, nothing that would keep a spider alive. Of course if the cat had been interested, he might have noticed the spider scattering through a crack in the wall from time to time. That was when she made her way up to the roof to find something to eat.
What did the cat eat? Although the cat would not want to admit it, he did have a human that made sure his needs were attended to. Charles Worthington, the owner of the bookshop, took care of the cat’s life. Every morning and evening he would put a bowl of food on the ground. In the evening the cat would climb down from his perch and roam the book shop on its own, sniffing with its nose between the nooks and crannies. Sometimes he was surprised by smell, when a new delivery of books arrived. A hint of other humans, not those he saw from day to day in the shop, but from other places he did not know.
Charles Worthington would visit book auctions and bought those objects that might be a gem in the seekers’ eye. His shop was something special, clothed in old, solid wooden book shelves and situated in the older part of the town amongst the buildings ,where each one was built differently to the next; a curious shop in a curious corner of the town.
The cat even had a name. Charles’s wife brought the kitten home one day, and they called it Montgomery. No-one really knew why, it might have been a name from the war that was raging at the time. When his wife died Montgomery did not feel so much at home in the living quarters above the shop and he eventually found his favourite shelf in the shop and remained.
One day Montgomery the cat was having a cat snooze on the shelf, with one eye open of course. Nothing particular was happening, but he did sense a sort of tension in the air. As he looked down he saw a human, actually a potential customer, delving amongst the books. Although it was a warm, sunny day he was wearing a gabardine raincoat which seemed at least two sizes too big. Charles Worthington appeared and asked the man in the raincoat if he was searching for something in particular.
“Well, yes and no. I heard that you have some books from the Carrington estate. They were auctioned after Lord Carrington’s death.”
“Yes, I did buy a couple” answered Charles Worthington “you will have to search on the book case over there.”
At that moment the bell rang at the entrance door and Charles excused himself.
“I have another customer, but will leave you to have a look around” he said.
“No problem” was the stranger’s answer.
As soon as Charles left the room the stranger began studying the books from the Carrington estate and suddenly pounced on three of the books, hiding them under his raincoat where he had pouches prepared for the task.
Montgomery was not used to sudden movements and noise in his place of rest, and neither was the spider. The spider decided to have a look, perhaps there was something edible at last in the room and she would not have to go out to find her food. She lowered herself on a strong, silky thread and decided to stop just before the thief’s nose.
It might have been that the book thief did not like spiders. He may have even suffered from arachnophobia. He was startled. It was then that Montgomery decided to explore the disturbance in his sleeping quarters and leaped down from his perch between the history books, pulling two or three with him. Unfortunately these books landed on the thief’s head, knocking him out. Disturbed by the noise Charles Worthington rushed into the room to see what was happening. He was confronted by a stranger lying on the floor, unconscious, his raincoat open showing the books stacked away inside. Montgomery had already taken his position on the stranger’s body, sniffing at him to see what this was for a new smell in his room and there was a glimpse of a retreating spider climbing up his thread back to the safety of the corner between the ceiling and the two walls.
What more is there to explain? The thief was the disowned son of Lord Carrington who knew that his father had some very valuable books in his possession, first editions, and had decided to take what was not rightly his. He had discovered that Charles Worthington had auctioned the books. The attempt to steal them was now thwarted by the spider and Montgomery.
Montgomery received an extra ration of salmon for his meal that evening, but was not really impressed. It was just cat’s curiosity that made him descend from his comfortable, warm perch to see what the spider was doing.
And so life continued in Charles Worthington’s book shop. The wooden bookshelves remained with the old books. Montgomery the cat still slept between the history books and another new generation of the spider arrived.