My ears are big and sit high, my eyes are goose-turd green, and my coat (I mean my fur) is white with blue dapples, very handsome.
I am cleanlie in my person. When I lay in my lord’s chamber I was combed for lice and picked for fleas, though none now performs that service for me.
I was born in the stable where my mother had employment. She told us that to be born in a stable is a sign of great distinction.
My brother, who was her darling and lay against her neck, arrkst what distinction was.
I sayt it was being able to know one horse’s fart from another’s.
That made my sister merry, but my mother struck me on my nose for my impudencie and would tell us nothing more.
One day, strange horses came among us. We guessed they brought some scandal, for all the horses spake very low, questioning each other and answering Yea or Nay.
“What newes?” I arrkst the Earl’s favourite, but he sayt, “I cannot tell it afore we know it.”
A fool’s answer. Then, as we sat swivel-eared in the straw, we heard voices and a sorry yowling near the stable door. My sister and my brother hid theirselves but I, being given to impudencie, peeked out.
And so I was taken. A great hand seized me, hoisted me high, upended me, tweaked my tail aside to lay bare my privities, then righted me again.
And I heard one say, very low, “Give him to His Bratship. That’ll stop his mouth.”
I was thrust into the hands of what I now know to be a boy, though it is hard to tell little girls and boys apart. Unless you lay bare their privities, which no cat would ever do.
The boy gazed on me with great watery blue eyes, and I thought he meant to eat me. What with my sudden fear and his hands so tight about me, my bowels loosed and I marked his coat.
I yowled then, which brought my mother to the stable door in great dismay. Even so, the boy did not release me. We were hustled away, he to have a new coat and I to be cleansed.
In my next book I shall tell more of him and of how I learnt my letters.
Writ this day by me, Gib, in my lady Moll’s chamber where I am close confined.
Gib may have been what John Aubrey (1626-1697) remembered as “the common English Catt…white, with some blewish piednesse…a gallipot blew. The race or breed of them are now almost lost.” Aubrey attributed this to the introduction of “Cyprus-catts, i.e. our Tabby-catts which were sold at first for 5 pounds a piece: this was about 1637, or 1638.”
Gallipots were small earthenware vessels with a grey-blue glaze. Nowadays, blue cats and silver spotted shorthairs display that colouring.
The stable where Gib was born was probably that of Itchel Manor, belonging to Henry Wriothesley, 2nd Earl of Southampton. Gib’s “little lord” is the Earl’s son Henry, Lord Wriothesley, later the 3rd Earl of Southampton, and “lady Moll” is his sister, Mary Wriothesley.