My uncle dealt me such a blow I feel his claws to this day.
He sayt, “I told you to keep your nose out of the matter betwixt the Earl and the Countess.”
“No, you told me to keep my nose clean, and I do.”
But when I lifted my head to show him, my eyes chanced to meet his. So then I get another blow for insolencie.
That set me yowling, I confess. “But I’ve learnt my letters,” I wailed. “And I read of Bevis in a book. How can I not seek truth in books when I wish to know it? You never tell me nothing.”
“Well,” he sayt, “I can tell you this, for it is gossips’ talk. The Countess believes the gentleman that carried lies to the Earl is Master Tommik. He is always at the Earl’s elbow. You must be most loving to him, for the Countess says there is no place in the Earl’s house for any that does not think this Tommik is a god.”
Then my uncle told me that the fellow some say the Countess hoist her tail for is called Donesame.
That was near to what my sister had said. Doon or Dunn. “Yes,” I sayt, keeping my head down. “Donesame must be his name, for he done same as the villain in the Bevis book.”
“Only fools comb old books like they was hair and words were lice and truth lay hid in everie louse’s belly,” sayt my uncle. “Books tell lies that none should spread.”
“I spread nothing,” I sayt. “All knew the Bevis tale. It was my embellishments they liked.”
“Your embellishments,” he sayt, “slandered our Countess.”
It come to me that my uncle always spake most respective [respectfully] of the Countess. So what had turned him from the Earl to her?
Then he sayt, “Your newes may be worth the telling, but it must be what you hear with your own ears and has not festered in your head. If you tell another fantastical tale, I will bite your head clean off.”
“But fantastical tales are what the others wish to hear,” I whispered. “And I’ve read of a lady who hoist her tail for a bull.”
“You will tell no tales of ladies. Swear it on your life.”
I so swore. Then I sayt, “I can make her a milkmaid. Oh, I see her now, she has a big straw hat, and her eyes are green as grass. Her face is smooth as cream, and her yellow hair do flow like custard.”
Indeed, I could see her, and hear her too. Oh, the buttered words she was dropping into that poor bull’s ear as he waited (so he thought) for the cow.
No need to tell me twice.
But I arrkst myself, did the Bevis book put a maggot in the Earl’s head? Or did some gentleman who knowed this book drop his own maggot in the Earl’s ear?
I besought the Queen Cat of Heaven to protect my little lord. And I thanked her that cats do not have fathers. A gib uncle is trouble enough. Or so I thought, but there was more trouble to come.
For a little more about the rift between the Earl and the Countess, see Domestic Difficulties. The man Gib’s uncle refers to as “Tommik” would be Thomas Dymock, one of the Earl’s gentlemen. The Earl seems to have been extraordinarily reliant on him.
By “maggot” Gib’s uncle means a weird idea.