This morning I found new friends, though not of the kind that would love a deep-brained sonnet. I was on the path, watching some birds at their nest-building (though the trees scarce have leaves) when three children came to me.
They were of the common sort, and I know not whether they were girls or boys. All were dressed in coats, and all had the same scents.
One fetched a little cart that the gardeners use, and they sat me in it so I might ride about the walks. Most pleasant.
A man who was at his work laughed and called, “That’s our Earl’s old Gib. You have a care with him! Else his lordship will cut your hands off.”
He spake in jest, but they swore they would be careful.
When I tired of my new playfellows, I returned to my house and counted the winters I’ve seen. They came to eleven, I think. That means I am past the noon-tide of my life, for I never knowed a cat that saw more winters than he had claws. Small wonder that some think I’m old.
The Mad Cat has seen more winters than I, though he’s forgot how many. He forgets many things.
But he has not forgot the goodly book his mistress read to her household this winter, because at our first assembly this year he rose up to preach against the wickedness in this world.
He spake against the baiting of bears. He sayt it was a filthie stinking game.
None of us had seen a bear. Some arrkst where they were baited.
Nero leapt up to say that a bear was a monstrous hairy beast with great teeth and claws. They were baited with dogs as bulls are. Except a bear can do great hurt to a dog.
“Good,” came a call. “I would friend a bear.”
That set the Mad Cat off. He sayt that some men (gentlemen, they call theirselves) keep a dozen or a score of mastiff-dogs to fight with bears. “They bet twenty, forty, or even an hundred pounds on such devil’s work. Who can take pleasure in seeing poor creatures hurt each other?”
“Us cats,” came a call.
(Oh, how some love to bait the Mad Cat.)
“No, friends,” sayt he. “Bears and dogs may be evil to us, yet they are good creatures in theirselves, and they was made to set forth the glory of our Creator. None should abuse them. Love me, love my dog is a common saying.”
(I believe the Mad Cat’s mistress keeps a dog, who has no malice in him.)
“Who loves dogs?” called a stone-cat. “Not I. Let bears kill them all.”
Some sayt there was dogs in their households who were their friends. Others sayt they hated dogs, and the words should be: Love me, love my cat.
“Be that as it may,” sayt Linkin, most judicious, “any who abuses the creatures of this earth abuses our Creator.”
“The Queen Cat of Heaven!” came a call. “Is she offended?”
“She is much offended,” sayt the Mad Cat. And he told of wicked folks watching a bloodie spectacle of this sort. The scaffoldings they sat upon all fell down, and many were killed or hurt. That was her judgement upon them.
Next, he spake against hunting.
“How do we live, if we may not hunt?” called my sister. “How will I feed my kits?”
“Friend,” sayt the Mad Cat, “there’s no sin in hunting for your food, or to keep your household free of vermin. But there are men and women who hunt for the joy of shedding blood.”
He told us to remember the garden where all dwelt most peaceable when this world was new made.
Then the first man and the first woman were disobedient, and we was cast out of the garden with them.
We suffered for their sin. Therefore they should pity us, not kill us for mere pleasure. That was not lawful.
“So I believe,” sayt Linkin. “But I know of no law writ by man that says so.”
“I know what I know,” sayt the Mad Cat. “The day is nigh when men and women who care nowt for Creation will be judged. I may not see it in my lifetime, you may not see it in yours. But it will come, believe me.”
And a bloodie spectacle. And wicked folks all squashed when their seats fell down.
From a place of safety, where none could do us harm.
The Mad Cat’s mistress has been reading Philip Stubbes’ Anatomie of Abuses to her household. It consists of lively diatribes against Elizabethans behaving badly, the customs and pastimes that led to bad behaviour, and an attack on extravagant fashions. The fact that much bad behaviour took place on the Sabbath made it even worse.
First published in 1583, the Anatomie was a bestseller. Stubbes followed up with a second volume revealing the “corruptions” in various Elizabethan trades and professions. The Mad Cat’s mistress probably read that to her household as well, but she’s sure to have skipped his attacks on lawyers. Her son (and Linkin’s master) was one.