And I told him this was not the night when they come from their holes and walk. I had met a wicked night-walking cat that called hisself Grey and made threats against my very life.
I swear my lord took my meaning, for he sayt. “What? Is that true?” and, “Say you so?” and “Oh, poor Bevis.”
He took me in his arms, but then called me a stinkard and told a fellow to take and cleanse me. The rogue received me most courteous, but once away he held me out at arm’s length by my scruff.
And he sowsed me beneath the pump while others helped hold me, or stood by to laugh. Some dogs watched, too.
Then the man who gibbed [neutered] me came from the buttery where he’d been drinking with the cooks. He told the rogues to leave off, and to think shame for tormenting a poor cat that never did them no harm.
I was never so shamed in all my life.
As I ran off I bethought me of Grey’s words about keeping close to the young lady. So it was not to my lord’s chamber but to my lady Moll’s that I went to warm and dry myself.
I sat by her fire, where it come to me that the old Earl had showed a lack of sutiltie in using his Countess so ill, her being kin to the Lord Lecher. Lester [Leicester], I should say.
It also come to me that it was true my lord was in need of correction. And that my sowsing, in part, might have been meant for him. For he had been of late what the common sort (and his lady sister) do call a little shit.
He sayt that now he’s an Earl none may tell him what to do. And he would go to live in another of his fine houses without us.
Or, that he wished to go to Lord Purrlie’s house, because there he would have other Earls for his school fellows. Not fools such as we.
The next day, my lord was most loving to me. Then I watched from a window as he and his attendants rode away.
I kept close to my young lady. There came the day when one brought my crate new-lined with straw to her chamber. My basket was put in and I with it. The lid was tied down. I saw there was a cup in one corner of my crate so I could take a drink along the way.
I was put on a cart with a great many boxes and chests. Two of the little house dogs were lifted on to ride with me.
Then a cover was flung over all, the horses heared the word, and the cart lurched forward.
A tedious voyage with poor company that yapped mightily of nothing.
My drink spilled, and I had nowt to eat save a piece of pie-crust with no gravy at one place where we rested, and a few morsels of cheese at another. (I saw no wits in the cheese.)
And I had no choice but to ease myself in the straw of my crate. An horrible thing for a cat, for we are nicer in this matter than most I could name.
Thus I came to this strange house, and here endeth the True Relation of my life so far.
P.S. One last thing. The cats did marvel that the old Earl was not yet buried.
So I called to my sister and the few gathered to see me leave that his funeral was delayed because of the maggots. “Thrift, friends, thrift. The more they maggots eat of him, the smaller the fine house they must build to lodge him in may be.”
An embellishment for them to remember me by.
Gib’s indifference to the human calendar is frustrating, but it’s likely he started writing his True Relation in December 1581 (after being banned from the library at Cowdray House), and probably spent two or three months scratching away at it. Writing with a quill pen held between your toes would not be easy.
The old Earl of Southampton died at Itchel Manor in Hampshire on 4 October 1581, two days before his son’s 8th birthday.
In mid-October the Countess wrote to Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, seeking his help in limiting Thomas Dymock’s power over the administration of the will, and therefore over her children’s inheritances. See my note to 10: About the Old Earl’s Will. From her letters (as printed in C.C. Stopes’ biography of the Earl of Southampton) it looks as if the young Earl was taken to another household around this time or shortly after.
His sister Mary (Gib’s Lady Moll) was delivered to her mother at Cowdray House in Sussex towards the end of November. The old Earl’s funeral took place at Titchfield in Hampshire a couple of days later.