Folk say that Fortune is fickle. When first I heared of her, I thought she was a haughty queen cat. (I was but a kitling.)
Then I believed her to be what men and women call a goddess. For they seek her favour, catlicks and error-ticks alike, when they play at cards or dice.
But there is more.
One time I saw in a book that she has a great wheel on which she do raise men and women up and cast them down, with no thought for their joys or sorrows.
And now I fear she will cast me down too.
First, my friend Smokie gave newes that his young mistress is to marry and go to a new place.
He sayt he too may be welcome there, because her sweet-heart is most affable.
This sweet-heart is a carrier who drives the roads hereabouts, carting goods and gear.
He brought a horse to Smokie’s shop [the smithy] for a shoe, and had his first sight of the young mistress.
She was drawing water from the well. Her sweet-heart came by often after that. The master sayt he never knowed horses to want for so many shoes.
Next, Smokie told me that the young mistress arrkst if she might take him with her when she wed. The master and the mistress laughed, and sayt all should have a new son and a daughter such as theirs, who desire no greater marriage portion than a cat.
“But they will give her more than me,” sayt Smokie, “for they love her dearlie.”
I sayt, “They could give nothing to compare with you, for all love you dearlie.”
But I kept my countenance. And, lest Smokie should think I was not so well-esteemed as he, I added that my young lady Moll was also to be married (this much is true), and I was like to go with her.
Or mayhap I would go with my lord to a college in Cambridge (a place of learning) and continue my education.
“Nor I you,” I sayt.
We agreed we never could forget, for we have passed so many days together I have his scents and he has mine. And we have but one soul in our two bodies, as true friends do. Or so the flossers [philosophers] say.
I know little of our soul, but oh, my heart is heavie.
My house is quiet, for my lady Moll and all are gone hence again.
Smokie’s household is a-buzz. He heared the master and the mistress talking of him in their bed.
The mistress sayt she were sorrie to lose him. The master sayt he was a good cat in the shop for he kept hisself from underfoot, and was not affrighted by the noise nor the dogs that come in with their masters.
And the boy has been saying to his sister: Smokie is my cat, not yours. So now Smokie believes he will remain here.
I arrkst him which would please him better, and he sayt it did not trouble him. He would be content wherever he may dwell. And I believe he spake true.
Smokie has the gift of happiness.
I do not.
This night a dog barked far off and I near leapt out of my skin, then made haste to conceal myself. I know not why. I’m not afeared of dogs.
But I fear what Fortune and the morrow may bring.
This is one of the few pieces of Gib’s writing that can be dated. Lady Mary Wriothesley married in June 1585 in London. Later that year her brother the young Earl (he turned 12 in October) went to St John’s College in Cambridge. So this must have been written mid-1585.