"And you shall feel me well within you
Softly presence felt
As of shadows lacking substance
But defined in shape and name."
Carolin sat waiting for the ripple of the wave. Small waves on an almost still sea. Waves of white noise creating rhythmic sound. A few moments of silence, then the sliding breaking wave pulsing air into quietly hissing scales.
Rover sat beside her, content to be part of this quietly ending day. Carolin was pleased within herself for she had received the results of her tests. Jim ,or Dr. McCarthy as he was known professionally , had brought the news himself. He was staying for the next two days at Marlenes Carqueirane villa. Carolin was pleased to see him but it had taken her some time to adjust. As a patient Carolin had seen Dr McCarthy as a very serious, very tall, bespectacled professional upon whom her future seemed to depend. Now she was aware he was not really so old; he had a strong sense of humour and although he remained tall he did not seem so overpowering. She suspected that Marlene and he had been very close at one time. She also felt that they were quite happy to have Carolins auras as an excuse to meet again.
It was time to go. Rover and Carolin had lain in the pleasant sun for almost an hour but it was now setting. There was a bright star visible just south of west and slightly above the horizon. This had caused Carolin to look upwards and because there was still reasonable light there were only two others visible. They were close together, high in the sky to the south- west.
Carolin gathered her things and with Rover obediently at her side began the short walk back to the villa. They passed the small cliffs that marked the entry to the beach and entered the closely packed streets beyond. They were interesting streets with houses and shops intermixed. Some shopkeepers even dared to have goods such as fruit and vegetables on display. This was a tourist town where the residents held little fear of the desperate unemployed.
They turned down the side alley leading to the villa and about a quarter of the way along its narrow path Carolin noticed Rover was no longer by her side. She turned and saw a familiar sight, Rover at the commencement of chaos.
And Rover, suburban dog that he was, knew not where he was but in Dresden he was not. Now with pointed nose and paw held high he waited at full attention. Here stood dog, renowned in Dresden, the famous Dresden ratter. A visiting dog in foreign land eager to show his well travelled skills. A chance to show this provincial town the art of renowned hound. Poor rat. To face a local terror is enough but in this foe there was extra zeal. And now with sudden charge the chase was on. The rat, alert to danger, rushing to his doom. The dog a turning, yelping, cornering ball of fury; relentless in his chase. Until at last with snap of jaw this rat chase had no further purpose. A standing, triumphant dog holding limp, lifeless black-brown rat. A quiet lane disturbed by sudden burst of chaos settled back to silence.
Carolin had some small difficulty in parting dog from rat and then disposing of the lifeless form in an unfilled bin. Once this was accomplished she and Rover continued the last few metres to Marlenes villa. Carolin immediately went to the bathroom to thoroughly clean her hands. As she did so she explained to Marlene and Jim what had happened.
"Rover saw a rat and killed it. It looked like a black rat and I had to get it off Rover and put it in a bin." She then aimed a question at Jim "Wasnt it black rats that carried the plague?"
Jim responded "Yes, it was but they have mainly been driven out by brown rats. Black rats spread the disease more easily because they remained inside houses. The one you touched was most probably a brown rat with a darker coat."
When Carolin had finished drying her hands she came into the dining room and joined the others who had already started eating. She said as she sat down, " I saw a very bright star just before I came in. It was low over the horizon and to the south and high up I saw two others that were close together."
Carolin knew she did not have to ask a question to be told what she had seen. Dr James McCarthy was a very keen amateur astronomer and responded quickly. " That was Venus on the horizon and Mars and Jupiter high in the sky."
He continued " Its odd that your conversation started with black rats and stars because it fits in with what I was just telling Marlene.
"I have spent the day getting hold of an ancient book that was owned by a local astronomy historian. Luckily I was able to swap a book I had on Scaligers work on the calendar. Scaliger was the son of Jules Scaliger of Agen, a man who was famous as a philosopher in the sixteenth century. Jules Scaliger was for a time a friend of Nostradamus but that was before the son was born. Scaligers son, Joseph-Juste, developed the numbering system of the modern astronomical calendar and named it after his father. Fortunately the man I visited specialises in French material so he valued it highly.
Marlene said "We met a woman who was keen on Nostradamuswork. We had a long conversation with her on the train journey down here."
"Yes" , said Carolin ,"And next week we are visiting her in St Remy. She talked a bit about Nostradamus and Scaliger but I didnt know his son was famous."
Jim continued "Yes, but to me he is of less interest than the man whose works I now have. The book, which Ill show you after dinner, is the product not of the son of a famous man but of the grandson."
"Ulugh Beg was the authors name. He was a grandson of Tamerlane, a Tartar prince and ruler of Turkestan. I have a book at home that tells his story. It was first published a few years ago and is called Tamerlane: the Earth Shaker by Harold Lamb. If you are interested Ill lend it to you.Tamerlane was born in about the same year that the plague emerged out of Asia and was one of the agents that helped to maintain its spread over the next seventy years. Rats were the carriers but it was men that transported the disease. Sailors, traders and invaders all played their part."
Carolin cheekily rejoined "Then it wasnt one of his rats I just handled."
Marlene added "No, but why is a book by the grandson of a Tartar prince of interest to you? Surely they werent into scientific astronomy?"
Jim said "These people were not as you might imagine. Ulugh Beg was the son of a Timurid king Shah Rukh and was born in 1393 at Sultaniyya in Central Asia. He was a Hafiz, someone who can recite the Qur'an by heart.
"Ulug was an exceptional astronomer and mathematician. He established well-equipped observatories and promoted astronomic science in Asia. In 1437 he wrote the first edition of the book thats in my case."
Marlene then enquired "So why is it of historical interest? Wouldnt there have been Europeans or Arabs with more knowledge than him?"
To which Jim responded "No. I think you are underestimating how advanced such people were. His book was a new catalogue of stars entitled 'Zidj-i Djadid Sultani.' In it, he revised the positions and magnitudes of stars observed by Ptolemy. He found many errors in Ptolemys computations. This book includes a lot on the position of the fixed stars, the course of the stars, and the knowledge of time. It is possible that Jules Scaliger had a copy of this work and that both Nostradamus and Scaligers son read it.
"In addition, Ulugh Beg prepared Tables of Planetary Motions which were very popular and in demand throughout the astronomical community including France. He studied the yearly movements of the five bright planets: Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, and Mercury.
"So thats why I am interested in the man and why I went to such trouble to get his book.
"And when Carolin mentioned stars, planets and rats it seemed she was drawn into this inter-weaving of history."