9: I Become an Earl’s Cat

True, the old Earl died as the Bevis book foretold.  But the villain did not kill him, or if he did I heared no talk of it.

A Cat looking upwards_copyright_Fotolia 13455661I think it was the Earl’s maggot that killed him.  It bred more maggots in his brains.

As he lay dying I accompanied my lord and young lady to his bedchamber, but I was not permitted to go in.  Instead, I listened at the door.

My little lord and my lady Moll came out most lachrimable [tearful].  Some sayt it was for grief.  But I thought they were affrighted by the maggots.  And they may have feared that their mother the Countess would kill them, or sell them to the error-ticks [heretics].

Such newes could not wait.  I paced all about the house and yard and thence to the kitchen door, calling very softly, “Newes, newes, now.”

I heared some lackwit say, “Listen, even the young Earl’s Gib is mourning.”  Which shows how little they knowed me, because nothing in my life has joyed me so much as the words “the young Earl’s Gib”.

So great had my reputation grown among the cats of that household, many came running.  None complained of having to quit their business so sudden, or of kitlings left unfed.

To my shame, all I could tell them was that the old Earl was dead, and I had heared it with my own ears.  My uncle was there, and I durst not say that I had told them not long since that this would come to pass, or give them a single word of what was festering in my head.

My uncle bade me go back into the house and see what more I could learn there.

Now here’s a strange thing.  While the old Earl lay cooling, I began to hear mutterings against that Tommik.

And there was talk of the old Earl’s will.  I arrkst, first myself and then my uncle, how can one have a will when he is dead?

Gib's Uncle - A Crouching Cat from a painting by Jacob Victors.My uncle did not know his letters, but when the cook’s friends joined him for a drink in the buttery my uncle lapped up his ale as well as they did theirs, and he learnt much from their idle talk.

He told me there be many sorts of wills, and he had not the time to explain every will to me.

But chiefly, there is the will we all have and that cannot be denied, because what we will is what we must have.  That is to say, our own way.

And there’s another will, which is writ before you die.  That will says who is to have your goods and gear when you are dead.  My uncle sayt that cats do not have such wills.  Only men and women do.

Such a will may be denied, because once you are dead you cannot fight for your own way.  Others fight over all you leave behind you.

My uncle wished for newes of the old Earl’s written will, because he had heard there was a great fight to come.  And my uncle loved a fight above all things.

Back I went among the old Earl’s gentlemen, and what I learnt there I shall tell in my next little book.

Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorThe old Earl of Southampton died at Itchel Manor in Hampshire on 4 October 1581, two days before his son’s 8th birthday.

Gib would have been about 18 months old.



2 thoughts on “9: I Become an Earl’s Cat

  1. Rachel McAlpine July 7, 2015 / 5:25 pm

    Gib is a scallywag if ever there was one. But he has explained the different kinds of wills very nicely, and has become an expert at ending his books with a hook.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi July 9, 2015 / 6:23 pm

      I can’t work out if Gib is ending his “books” on a hook intentionally, or if he stops when he has filled his piece of paper. Both might apply, but I haven’t transcribed enough of his writing to know if he’s an undiscovered Elizabethan talent, or just another opportunist hanger-on in a noble household.

      Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.