The First Purr
In a little town far away there was an inn. Like many others it was a welcome place for travellers who sought a warm meal and a place to safely rest from the weary day's travelling. The food was good and wholesome and the beds clean if not particularly soft.
In those days people travelled by walking or by riding a donkey or a camel. As with their owners these animals needed a place to rest and eat before carrying on. To accommodate this, the innkeeper built a shelter on the back of the inn, which formed a stable. Each animal had its own manger in which to eat its own hay and grain.
Now such a place also attracted other animals such as mice and even birds that perched in the rafters. They fed on the spilled and leftover grain. But unfortunately they sometimes got too bold and also broke open the bags that the grain was stored in. This often spoiled it for the other animals and upset the innkeeper greatly. Because the stable was dry and warm in the colder night it also sometimes attracted desert asps, a very poisonous snake, which upset everybody greatly.
Then one day the innkeeper noticed a new visitor. Out of the desert came a cat. Cats were much wilder in those days and often lived in the desert itself. This cat however moved into the stable and very quickly brought order amongst the mice and birds. They restricted themselves to the left over grain and stayed carefully away from the bags as the cat curled itself on top of them. Amazingly the asps disappeared completely after a few of them were done in by the cat's sharp claws.
The innkeeper took note of all this with great pleasure and he smiled happily at his new cat. He began to talk to it and bring it treats from the inn itself. Then one day the cat walked over and hopped up in his lap. The innkeeper stroked the soft fur and the cat settled down in comfort.
After that day the innkeeper made it a point to spend some time every day with his new friend. Then one evening he said to the cat, "Since you have decided to remain and become part of my household it is only fitting that you have a name. We must give this some thought you and I". Since he had discovered that the cat was a female he knew it should be a woman's name, but which one? It is an important thing to choose the proper name for a new member of the household, something not to be taken lightly.
Such a sleek and beautiful cat, gentle and soft but with great power in those teeth and claws. Her eyes were aglow with life and wisdom. So majestic in her pose but he had seen her frisking in play with a feather or a sunbeam. But too, he had seen her sitting still as a statue in the moonlight, gazing up at the heavens as though she were communing with God himself.
Then in a flash it came to him and he snapped his fingers and laughed with glee. " I have it, I have it, the perfect name. Years ago in my travels I met a woman who was very wise and good. All the people loved and respected her. I have never since met her like. It is her name you shall bear and I think she would approve completely. Henceforth my little friend you shall be known as Lady Sabrina. What say you to that now?"
The cat tilted her head and considered for a moment then blinked slowly and gave a polite meow. So that is how the cat became Lady Sabrina of the Inn. But she allowed her friends to call her Sabrina.
Now after a time Sabrina noticed that more and more people were travelling. The inn and the stable were often so full that not even a very skinny camel could be crammed in. But as busy as it was her friend the innkeeper still made time to come visit her, even if it were only a few minutes. "Lady Sabrina", he told her one night, "the mighty king has ordered that all the people of this vast land shall return to the towns where they were born. There they will be counted and their name entered into a list. The people are widely scattered but they must obey their king. That is why so many people are moving. It is a good trade for my inn and many others but it is much work." That explained it then and Sabrina vowed she would do even better at her job so as not to make things harder for her good friend.
Then one night Sabrina woke from a brief nap to find a very strange feeling in the stable. All the other animals sensed it too and were very still. Sabrina prowled around but nothing was disturbed. Still the feeling grew that something was happening. There was no fear in the feeling, but the very air in the stable seemed to crackle with power. At last Sabrina wandered out into the moonlight and sat looking around.
Suddenly a great light appeared before her and she turned to run. Then a voice spoke to her and stopped her in her tracks. The voice was like nothing she had ever heard before. It flowed like music and had a warmth, which spread over her like the morning sun. She turned and beheld a being that was totally unlike any other her eyes had beheld. A soft white glow surrounded him and were those wings?
The figure kneeled down and stretched out his hand. "Do not be afraid little one, no harm will come to you." He touched her and her entire being tingled. A great sense of peace and joy flooded through her soul. "Oh my", Sabrina thought to herself, "how wondrous this is."
"Indeed it is little one", replied the glowing man. "You, you can hear me? You can understand me?" cried Sabrina and her mouth opened in amazement. "Oh yes", replied the figure. "I am a messenger from God himself, what mankind calls an angel. I bring a message to you." "To me?", gasped Sabrina. "But I am just a cat. Why would God bother sending messages to such as me?" The angel smiled, "He is the God of all creation. None are below his notice and his love. He has sent me to give you a task for Him."
Sabrina's eyes widened in amazement. "A task? What could a lowly cat do to please such a one?" The angel lifted her up in his hands. "Tomorrow night, this place shall be the center of great things. A man and a woman will come here to seek shelter. The woman will give birth here in this stable to an infant. Such an infant has never been seen before and the whole world will be changed by his coming. But there is a great evil afoot too. Satan himself knows of this child and will seek to harm him. It will be your task to protect the child from this evil."
"Me?, cried Sabrina, "how can a simple cat do such a thing?" "You have been given all the gifts you need. You must have faith that God would not set you this task if it were beyond you." "But, but what is the evil? What shall I do?" "You will know, you will know", the angel said and he started to fade away. "Listen to your heart little one, you will know what to do." Then he was gone and Sabrina stood alone in stable yard.
For the rest of that night she lay awake, going over and over in her mind what the angel had told her. "A baby, a baby born here in the stable. It makes no sense. Such an important child would surely be born in a great palace or at least in the inn. And surely he would have soldiers to protect him, not a mere cat! This makes no sense. Still, the angel said, a child born here? With only me to save him? Oh my, oh my, whatever shall I do?"
At last, wearied from all the thinking, Sabrina sighed and fell asleep. All the next day Sabrina wandered aimlessly around the courtyard. Her mind was still abuzz. At times she thought that the events of the night before were just a dream. But in her heart she knew they were real and she shivered.
As the day passed there were more people at the inn then ever before. Sabrina watched each of the women closely, but none came near the stable. Finally she trod her way back to her perch on the feed bags and dozed wearily.
Suddenly a voice awoke her. It was her friend the innkeeper and he was talking to someone right here in the stable. Sabrina scurried quickly to the rafters. The innkeeper's voice was soft and low. "I'm sorry my friends. This is the only place available anywhere in this town. At least you will be protected from the night winds and have clean hay to lie on. I wish I could do more, but you understand how it is?" Sabrina could see that the man and woman were very weary, but the woman's face had a soft glow as she smiled at the innkeeper. She said, "Don't worry, it will be all right".
With a start Sabrina realized that this was what she had been waiting for. She watched as the couple spread their blankets on the hay and settled down with a sigh. As she listened to their murmurs Sabrina stared around the stable. Nothing moved, all was still. Listening to their soft breathing as they slept, her eyes began to close and finally Sabrina fell fast asleep.
A faint cry brought her awake with a shock. Another cry and yet another. It was a baby! Sabrina's heart beat wildly and her mind reeled. She had slept and the baby was here. She must get to him before it was too late.
But just as she prepared to leap from the rafter she felt a deep chill from the courtyard behind her. She spun around and stared. The yard was glittering like silver as if a light was being shone upon the cobblestones. A long, dark shadow moved into the yard from the desert beyond. Sabrina launched herself to the ground in front of it. The shadow raised up before her. It was a huge snake, a cobra. Up and up it went and it spread its hood in warning. Its eyes glittered red as it swayed there above her head.
Sabrina's heart trembled in terror before this monster but she stood firm. "You shall not pass," she cried at him. "Begone fool," the snake hissed, "you have not the power to stop such as me." "No", cried Sabrina, "God has set me to stop you. You will not harm the child." "Then you die with him," spat the cobra and lunged. Sabrina jumped aside from those deadly fangs and then attacked. Her claws bit deep and her fangs struck in. The battle was on. And oh, what a fight it was. The snake struck and coiled, Sabrina leaped and ripped at it. But even the best cat cannot avoid those fangs forever. Again and again she felt them stab but battled on.
Finally the snake lay stretched before her. It gave one last despairing hiss, shivered and died. Sabrina staggered. Blood ran thickly down her fur and her veins were afire with the poison. She looked up at the heavens and saw a bright star, bigger then any other star, shining down. "My Lord, I have done what you asked," she cried, "but now I must die and never even having seen the child I give my life for." She stumbled a step towards the stable and she fell.
Then she heard a footstep and a gasp. Strong hands gathered her torn body up and she was carried off. The voice said, "Look Mary, look. This brave cat has killed a cobra that was coming here. She has saved us but she is dying." "Place her here," said the soft woman's voice. Sabrina felt herself being put gently down on the hay and her eyes crept open. There beside her lay a beautiful child. His eyes turned to her and a man's soft voice spoke in her head. "You have done more than you know. I am the Son of the One True God and you have laid down your life in my service. You have been true to my Father and to Me." With that the child reached out to touch her and instantly all the pain disappeared. "I will give you a reward and a reminder of this night," the voice said again, "something that will remain with you and all your kind from this day forth."
The child reached out and touched her once again. His fingers brushed her silken throat and a tingle started there. It built and built into a low rumble deep in her chest. "This sound will mark your kind as God's good servants. It will come whenever you encounter kindness and love and will forever remind all your kin of the great sacrifice made here tonight."
As Sabrina lay there looking at Him there was a movement around them. Men were quietly entering the stable and kneeling to stare in awe. Three mighty kings entered and lay gifts on the rough floor. The other animals gathered around. Sabrina gazed around at them and at the smiling faces of the child and his parents. Her eyes looked up and the angel hovered there. "Well done little one," the angel whispered. Sabrina looked back at the laughing eyes of the child before her. The rumbling in her chest got even louder.
So that was how the purr was born. Ever since then the cats of the world purr when they are contented and at peace. When they purr they are remembering Sabrina and that wonderful night, and on Christmas Eve they purr the best.
By Wayne Pond
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