Now I have writ of my birth and bringing up, and of how I came to be a poet and a spy, I will tell how I pass my days.
There is a brinded cat here that did nowt but torment me.
He did not bristle up when he saw me, but contented hisself with persecuting me most sly and suttle. For wherever I found a pleasing place to sit, when next I went there he were in it.
And when I found another, he would claim that too. This happened many times.
And he crept up to my young lady’s chamber, and left his mark on the door. I over-marked him, but his misfeasances [ill doings] left me mopish.
Then it come to me that mayhap he too served that spy cat Master Grey. So I sayt to him, most civil, “By night all cats are grey.” (I thought that might be our watchword.)
He glared at me.
Today the sun came forth, so I stepped out to take the air upon the garden wall. This brinded cat came and sat not far from me, with his paws folded under his breast and his tail wrapped neat about him. Most peaceable.
I believed we might be friends.
Then he bent his head to sniff the wall beneath his nose, gave me an evil look, and sniffed the wall again. Like the very stone whereon I’d trod was foul to him.
I never knowed such insolencie in all my life.
I puffed up, laid back my ears, and stepped most prideful along the wall.
A cat of honour (which I am) will advance slow and sideways so our enemie may see us well, reckon our strength, and yield if he so chooses.
Advancing in this wise was not easie, for though the wall is broad I am a long cat. (And I never done this in earnest before, but had watched my uncle at it many times.)
The rascal rose to meet me. His fur rose with him.
He gave me the look direct, and I returned it.
“Give way, sir!” I cried. “I will have this wall.”
“The wall is mine, sir,” cried he. “Make of that what thou wilt.”
He lashed his tail.
I had at him then, and knocked him flying. We fell to the ground, righted ourselves, and went hard at it. I gave him many good kicks in the belly, and he gave me some too. Oh, how our fur did fly!
But I triumphed. It was he who first cried, “Hold! Enough!”
I kept him down and whispered that if he did not tell me where in that house the cheese-wits [Jesuit priests] were hid, I would bite his head off.
He swore on his life that he knew nowt of cheese-wits, and I believed him. (I know nowt of them myself, but am here to spy them out.)
I let the rascal rise, and stood firm while he walked away. He stepped very slow, like one who went because he wished to, not because I beat him.
When he was at a distance, he turned and sayt, “The only cheese-wits I know of are those you have beneath your ears.”
“No, friend,” I sayt, “What I have beneath my ears is a most conceitful maggot. But you will never know of such a treasure.”
For it come to me that my maggot was not an evil worm like the one that turned the old Earl’s wits and consumed him with wild fancies. My maggot was like to a pretty bee that lent its honey to my tongue and its wings to my words.
But even as I spoke, I grew mopish again. For that spy Master Grey had called me a country clown, and sayt my tales were fool. I fear his unkind words have driven my maggot out.
And without my sweet maggot, how can I be the young Earl’s poet?