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August 2, 2017

The Entailed Cat and Silas Mariner

Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – I had spent 10 years on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. This does not count the three years I had spent taking take of my parents after moving to Frederick, Maryland USA.


These 10 years were one of the best segments of my life where I wrote, taught and spent hours selling books in my bookstore.


The bookstore wasn't an open shop. Rather, it was an Internet store at the very beginning of the Internet craze. There were few book dealers then, and I made a fortune selling books that later would become quite common as more and more people delved into the used book business. Of course, nobody knew that then.


Everybody, it seemed, had to "major" in one type or another. My specialty was Maryland books. It seem nobody else was concentrating in that major, and I jumped to the chance.


Not knowing a thing about the field, I had to learn quickly about the many tomes that populated the field. I could buy the books low at auctions and sell high on the Internet.


One book that escaped my addle-brained mind was The Entailed Hat, by George Alfred (Gath) Townsend. This is a tale of the Eastern Shore of Maryland and the first 150 pages are quite good. It was a great seller, if one could only find copies.


As for Townsend, there is a memorial to him, an arch if I recall correctly, somewhere around South Mountain. He also wrote Katy of Catoctin. He penned many newspaper columns that syndicated across the United States.


I had never read any of his books and had brought his Entailed Cat, I mean Entailed Hat book here to Malaysia eight years ago. I was a bit homesick for the Eastern Shore, so II finally pulled the Entailed Cat, I meant the Entailed Hat off the shelf for a read. I don't know why my mind does that. Cats and tails just seem to go together where hats and tails simply do not.


The book says that the character inherited the hat from his father. It still didn't make any sense to me until I looked up "entailed" in the dictionary. Finally, it all made sense. No cats or tails, just big words from a big author. I still call it the Entailed Cat and I guess I always will.


Some words from the Entailed Cat that I had to look up – upas, mantua, miasmatic, nankeen, hautboy, epithalamic, lather cup, hone and bilious. How about you?


While I was teaching here in Kuching, I had to teach an English Literature course to what in the States would be called seniors. As a biology major, I had no idea on how to cover the literature which included Shakespeare.


I stayed a chapter ahead of the students. One book, Silas Marner, which I had mis-read as Silas Mariner. A sea shanty, I thought, a marvelous tale about the ocean, boats and sails. The book was actually about a weaver, who is from Raveloe (I called it Ravioli but that didn't matter given all my students were Chinese).


I kept telling the kids he would get on the boat and weave sails for the long ocean journey. He never did get on the boat, indeed, there never was a boat in the whole story. We managed to finish the study of the Silas Marner when I finally caught on, about midway through it, that it was Marner and not mariner. I didn't mention the sea voyage again and, I guess, the students forgot about it.


I will remember my experiences with the Entailed Cat and Silas Mariner and look fondly back at these mistakes as a humorous antidotes to my book selling and English literature careers.


...Life is good. . . . .


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