Yesternight a cat came calling, “Newes, newes,” very soft beneath the windows.
This evening, I saw three cats come from divers parts of the house, cross the big courtyard, and go through the gate. The brinded rascal that I fought was one.
I followed them. We went over the bridge and into a field where others were gathered. Being new, I sat myself a small way off, most respective.
First a stone-cat who’d ranged wide in search of hot queens gave newes of all the horrid murders of us poor cats he’d learned of on his travels.
Nowt to cheer me there.
But another told him not to lend his ears to such talk, for we cats know nowt of the devil. Nor he of us, despite those fools who say we are his creatures. His business is with men and women. And most with women, who do nowt but lure men to mischief.
I thought, what a gloomie crew I am come amongst.
Then a little queen cat sayt she was troubled by a fox who did not know his place but came about hers, leaving his marks and his excrements. Right nastie.
She feared for her life and that of her tender little kitling who, she made haste to tell us, was left that evening in the good care of her mistress. And she called upon all well-grown cats to be so kind as to chase off any fox that they might see.
Several cats rose up to say they would. I stood too, for I had seen my uncle chase foxes many a time, and I knowed there was no great art to it.
She thanked us all most courteous. Then she sayt to me, “Sir, you are new here, and I bid you welcome. Will you not tell us something of yourself?”
I spake a little large, I do confess. I sayt I was poet to my lord the young Earl of Southampton, but did serve his sister here while he was schooled in the house of the great Lord Purrlie [William Cecil, Lord Burghley].
I sayt Lord Purrlie also wished to have me, but were I to take a place in his household another cat might lose his. And that I could not countenance.
The little queen thanked me again, then begged me for a pretty tale.
That set me about. I could not tell my Bevis tale hereabouts, for it slandered our Countess. And with my witty maggot gone and the door of the book room closed to me, what else had I to say?
Then I bethought me of a schoolroom tale about a fool dog that carried off a choice piece of meat, onlie to lose it in a pond when he oped his mouth to seize the meat that he saw in his image in the water.
I had told this tale out of courtesie to the two little house dogs that accompanied me hither after they came to my aid when a dog here had at me. (Though truly, it was I who made the ruffian squeal with a blow to his nose. They did but nip his legs as he ran away.)
And even as all the cats pricked their ears and turned to me, I saw a way to make this dog tale most pleasing to them. I will set it down when next I write my diurnal account [journal].