Once upon a time there lived a woodman and his wife in a cosy little cottage just outside a big wood. They had no children, but they had a cat to whom they were quite devoted. One day the woodman, Gaffer Clinch, went off to his work after his breakfast, his dame having reminded him to be sure not to forget to bring her a bundle of firewood.
So off he started trudge, trudge, trudge, till he got to the wood where he worked all day, chop, chop, chop, chop. At last he knew by the sun that it was time to go home, so he picked up his axe, threw his faggot over his shoulder and started off – trudge, trudge, trudge.
Suddenly he heard a cry: “Gaffer Clinch! Gaffer Clinch!” He looked all round and could see no one, so off he set again, trudge, trudge, trudge, trudge, but again the voice called “Gaffer Clinch! Gaffer Clinch!” and looking up he saw a huge black cat sitting on the branch of an oak tree, and he said “Hullo, Pussy! And what may you want?” And the cat said “Tell your cat when you get home that Howsey Bowsey Barton’s Bairn’s dead,” and then it disappeared. “Well! That’s a queer message,” said Gaffer Clinch; but he trudged on till he got home.
Then he put his faggot down and came in to have his supper, and sat down at the table by the fire. His wife spread a white cloth over it and put on plates and knives and forks and an empty dish. Then she went to the fire and plunged a fork into the pot that was boiling and brought out a beautiful piece of bacon, which she put on the dish; then she plunged the fork in again and brought out some greens which she put on the dish, put cheese and a loaf of bread on the table, and then they sat down to supper.
While they were having supper their cat came and rubbed against Gaffer Clinch’s knee, and he gave her a bit of bacon. When she had eaten it she came again Miaou! Miaou! Miaou! and he gave her a rind of cheese. When she had done she came again Miaou! Miaou! Miaou! But Gaffer Clinch said “No! No, Puss, you have had quite enough. No more to-night.” And she walked away.
Then he remembered and called her back, and said “here, Puss! I quite forgot. I’ve got a message for you. I was to tell you that Howsey Bowsey Barton’s Bairn’s dead.” At that the cat stood up on her hind legs and made a low bow, and said “Good-bye to ye, master”; and then she made another bow and said “Good-bye to ye, dame.” She took a brand from the fire and put it on her tail and ran up the chimney and was never heard of before or since.