La disparition du Roi

Louis Catorze had a visitor to Le Château yesterday. As is customary when Sa Maj receives his subjects I ensured that his fur was brushed, the house was tidy and that there was ample tea at hand. I even made sure I knew where Catorze was and, when I saw him asleep in his favourite spot in the flower bed (where the unholy devil-plant used to be), I was pretty confident that he would remain there until his guest arrived.

Naturellement, when she did, he was nowhere to be found. His disappearing acts are very common, but I don’t want them happening when people have come a long way to see him, laden with gifts for both of us: in this case, Châteauneuf du Pape (which, coincidentally, was the wine that Cat Daddy and I had on our first date), a huge bag of knitting yarn, and jambon de Bayonne for Sa Maj.

I searched in all the usual, and some more unusual, hiding places. I peered over the fence into the playground at The Back where, worryingly, I had seen a fox sunbathing that morning. I even checked The Front in case he had teleported there, all to no avail. We then decided to have our tea outside, during which time we heard barking next door.

Our guest: “I guess that must be Oscar?”

Good grief, even the nemesis made the effort to show himself. I then started to panic that, for the first time ever, a pilgrim would have to leave without seeing Catorze or signing the guest book. That simply would not do.

I searched again upstairs, and over the fence at The Back. I then decided to check more thoroughly among the ferns and the thicker shrubs, but was beaten back by cobwebs, spiders and – shudder – the excruciating thought that I might be stepping in cat shit.

I turned to our guest and said, “I’m going to have to poke him out. If, indeed, he’s even there. I honestly have no idea.”

So there I was, poking the various bits of shrubbery with a broom, calling Catorze’s name (minus the royal title) and hoping beyond hope that the neighbours couldn’t see or hear me. I didn’t see the little sod shimmy out, but when I heard our guest exclaim, “Awww! Louis!” I was très relieved. And not only did he shower her with nuzzles and chirps, but he even treated her to one of his very rare squeaks. (Well, I say “rare” when, in actual fact, they are quite abundant, but of course they NEVER happen when we are trying to show them to others, or when we are filming.)

So, despite the initial consternation and the indignity of la personne royale being poked out of his sleeping place with a broom, the morning was a success. Jambon de Bayonne was consumed (apart from that one bit that we left out for too long and ended up too dry for the discerning royal tongue), the book was signed and the accompanying photograph was taken, so all was well.

Sa Maj is now taking bookings for autumn. And there are still a few blank pages in his book, waiting to be filled with photos of smiling pilgrims.

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