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Hobblantern.png Yet, if only they knew what was truly awakening, deep within the medieval forests...
This article has been distinguished as part of the real world and thus should not be taken as part of the fictional universe of the Deptford Mice books.

Many past events had been mentioned in the original trilogy of "The Deptford Mice" which I wanted to go back to and explore. This was the obvious one to begin with. Jupiter's origins were intriguing, how did he learn the magic? How did he get to live so long down in the darkness?
Robin Jarvis


The Alchymist's Cat is the first book in The Deptford Histories trilogy by Robin Jarvis. It serves as an origin story for Jupiter, the main antagonist of The Deptford Mice trilogy.

The book was released in the United States as The Alchemist's Cat.

Summary[]

In London in 1664, an orange tabby cat named Imelza encounters a black cat she comes to call Master Midnight. When asked his real name, he identifies himself only as Imp. Imelza is seduced by him and he impregnates her that night.

Shortly after his entire family dies of smallpox, young Will Godwin of Adcombe is invited to London by an uncle he has never met. He asks his neighbour, John Balker the miller, to accompany him there. Despite the older man's misgivings and concerns for Will's safety, he agrees to do so.

Will's first night in London is disastrous. He and Mr. Balker are told that Will's uncle will meet them at a seedy tavern called the Sickle Moon, but he fails to show up. The miller becomes drunk and as Will is leading him from the establishment, the two are attacked by a pair of ruffians. They murder Mr. Balker, but before they can turn their attention to Will, a man appears and scares them away by a show of what seems to be magic.

The man introduces himself to Will as an apothecary named Elias Theophrastus Spittle. He hides Will in his shop before convincing the gathering crowd outside that it was the lad who killed Mr. Balker. Will tries to protest, but Spittle says that it would be wiser for him to remain silent, lest he incur the wrath of the mob.

Now a fugitive, Will has no choice but to become the apothecary's servant to ensure his silence. Partly for disguise and partly to demean him, Spittle cuts the boy's hair short. When Will attempts to climb the stairs to the apothecary's private quarters, he is immediately shooed away and told never to go there again. Still he is intrigued by the crimson-painted door.

While Spittle is away, Will takes the opportunity to explore the upper floor, and finds a room filled with the paraphernalia of a wizard. The apothecary catches him and is about to severely punish him when Will offers his assistance in gathering whatever magical ingredients the man might need. Spittle is pacified, and when Will asks if he is a wizard, he says that though he has studied the black arts, he is an alchemist rather than any sort of magician. It is his goal to find the Philosopher's Stone.

One night, Spittle sends Will out to fetch the hair of a hanged man. He is successful, but gets the attention of the night watchman. Forced to flee, he takes refuge in the graveyard of the church of St. Anne. Suddenly, a series of howls pierce the night, frightening off the pursuing night watchman. Will follows the source of the sound and finds Imelza, having given birth to a litter of kittens. She and her small family are half-dead with cold and starvation. Taking pity on them, Will carries them back to Spittle's apothecary shop.

Spittle is at first outraged to see the cats, but when Will suggests that one could make a good familiar for him, he lets them stay in his attic. Examining the three kittens, Spittle has no interest in the tortoiseshell female, and absolutely despises the ugly, sickly black runt whom he spitefully dubs Leech. Spittle chooses the orange tabby male as his familiar, giving him the name Jupiter after the Roman king of the gods. Will names the tortoiseshell Dab because of the dabs of colour in her coat. Due to Spittle favouring his brother, Leech becomes murderously envious of him.

Spittle takes Will and his new familiar to St. Anne's cemetery to call forth the spirit of a wizard from the previous century, Magnus Augustus Zachaire, to aid him in his search for the Philosopher's Stone. Zachaire's spirit does appear, but is angry at being disturbed and wishes to return to his grave. Spittle, however, traps him in a bottle which he carries back to the shop. Unwilling to help Spittle before, the furious Zachaire now absolutely refuses to do so, but Spittle says he will not release him until he finds the Stone. The Bubonic plague begins and spreads throughout London. Although Imelza and Dab escape from Spittle, Imelza is beaten to death by a frightened mob blaming animals for the spread of the plague. Will's friend Molly, working as a plague doctor, saves Dab from near death. When Dab returns home, Spittle takes her away and murders her in the night for an anatomical experiment. Leech is the only witness to Dab's abduction, but refuses to help her due to her having called specifically for Jupiter's help rather than his. Jupiter and Leech battle over who is heir to the black arts. When Zachaire reveals to Spittle that he lengthened his life through a magic potion called the Elixir of Life, Spittle puts his quest for the Philosopher's Stone on hold in favour of recreating it instead. Later, when Spittle succumbs to the plague and dies, Jupiter reveals his ability to talk to Will and the two finish the alchemist's work on the Elixir of Life to resurrect him. It is at this point that Will learns that Spittle is in fact his uncle, who lured him to London to take his inheritance.

Spittle tries to murder Will, and Jupiter is at first hesitant to stop him as he doesn't want to betray his master. But when he discovers his sister Dab's preserved corpse, he is filled with rage and drinks the potion himself, turning on Spittle. He has a magical duel with Spittle and a fire breaks out. Using the power of the Elixir of Life, Zachaire summons his skeleton from the grave and becomes human again. He and Spittle put aside their differences and are about to escape the burning shop when Zachaire suddenly changes his mind. Wanting to die once more, he drags Spittle into the fire with him. Leech betrays Jupiter and leaves him to burn to death, inheriting his brother's magic powers. Leech then falls into the fire himself. Will escapes the burning capitol city with Molly, who turns out to have been John Balker's estranged daughter. The two of them make plans to return to Adcombe. Will reveals that he has rescued one of the cats, so terribly burned that it is impossible to tell which it is. Later, the cat is revealed to be Leech. Having drunk the Elixir of Life as well as a hair tonic that changes his sable fur to ginger, Leech convinces a rat once kept by Spittle to take him to the sewers. Leech takes his brother's name and title as his own: "Jupiter, Lord of All".

Plot[]

Prologue: The Beginning[]

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Chapter 1: Childhood Forsaken[]

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Chapter 2: "Where Dreams and Nightmares Mingle"[]

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Chapter 3: The Apothecary[]

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Chapter 4: A Hideous Task[]

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Chapter 5: A Dragon in the Rags[]

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Chapter 6: Necromancy[]

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Chapter 7: Playing with Fire[]

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Chapter 8: Adieu[]

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Chapter 9: "Lord Have Mercy on Us"[]

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Chapter 10: The Plague Doctor[]

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Chapter 11: At the Southwarke Mission[]

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Chapter 12: The Fall of Adonis[]

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Chapter 13: The Depths of His Black Heart[]

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Chapter 14: Of Reckoning and Destiny[]

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Epilogue: The Blackened Beast[]

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Character listing[]

  • Imelza: A beautiful ginger cat who gives birth to three kittens. She is a hunter and hates being trapped in the apothecary's attic.
  • Dab: The gentle daughter of Imelza who tries to mediate between her brothers and is mortally afraid of the brutal outside world.
  • Leech: Spiteful runt of Imelza's offspring. Leech is jealous of his brother's skill and learning and will let nothing stand in his way to claw his way to power.
  • Jupiter: The strongest of Imelza's children, he is hungry for knowledge and learns more than his master ever realizes.
  • William Godwin: A yeoman's son who is tricked into slaving for Doctor Spittle in his apothecary shop.Will is too good hearted to let the cats he finds in a lonely churchyard perish in the cold and so sets in motion a chain of terrible events.
  • Elias Theophrastus Spittle: Wicked old apothecary and secret alchemist whose main ambition is to find the Philosopher's Stone and live the pampered, wealthy life he believes he truly deserves.
  • Sir Francis Lingley: One of Doctor Spittle's most regular customers. He is a dandy who is ambitious to impress the King but makes the mistake of underestimating the malicious apothecary.
  • Peggy Blister: Vulgar, lonely woman who paints her face like a doll but whose tongue is as sharp as a viper.
  • Widow Mogs: Horrible feline midwife who mutters to her long dead husband and intimidates first time mothers.
  • Molly: Lovely young woman who seems to know a great deal about medicines and never speaks of her background.
  • The Gobtrots: Slightly deranged couple who live and run the raghouse but are utterly devoted to one another.
  • Magnus Zachaire: A learned alchemist from the previous century whose spirit is called from beyond the grave and imprisoned in a bottle by Doctor Spittle.
  • Becket: A gormless brown rat who has been captured by Doctor Spittle and lives in a cage in the attic.
  • Heliodorus: Foreign black rat who is not afraid of 'the tigers' who pace below his cage in the apothecary's attic and is rude to them as often as possible.
  • John Balker: The kindly miller who takes Will Godwin on an ill fated trip to London after the boy's family are wiped out by the smallpox.

Editions[]

Illustration gallery[]

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Scrapped film adaptation[]

In 2004, Robin Jarvis announced on his website that The Alchymist's Cat was to be made into a movie the following year. The script would be written by Richard Carpenter.[1][2] However, no further news was ever heard about the project, and it can be assumed that it was ultimately scrapped for reasons unknown. Carpenter passed away in 2012.

Notes and references[]

  1. Greetings! robinjarvis.com
  2. A Conversation with Robin Jarvis chroniclebooks.com
Robin Jarvis' Deptford Mice books
The Deptford Mice:
The Dark Portal | The Crystal Prison | The Final Reckoning
The Deptford Histories:
The Alchymist's Cat | The Oaken Throne | Thomas
The Deptford Mouselets:
Fleabee's Fortune | Whortle's Hope | Ogmund's Gift (unreleased) | Twit's Progress (unreleased)
The Deptford Mice Almanack