Alas, ’tis true I’ve let my thoughts run wild, and been a stranger to the truth. I’ve slandered my lord and his mother, and made my soul as spotted as my coat. (I’ve writ of my remorses before, so will say no more.)
Now my lord’s mother, the Countess, has a new husband. He’s old, and sickly, so I went to the Field tonight to give newes of it.
The queen cats sayt the Countess was fool. If he’s sickly, so will their kits be.
The queens have breeding on their minds at this time of year.
My sister (who already has this summer’s kits in her belly) remembered that all wished our young Earl to wed Lord Purrlie’s grand-daughter. She arrkst, “Did the Countess marry to show him how it’s done?”
Then she sayt that all learn by observing their mothers. And she wisht she had a lick of cream for every time a kit of hers ran up a tree and was afeared to come down. She must clamb up and down herself to show how.
I sayt that my lord will be of full age this fall, and he will not marry that lady.
The queens were curious.
“Could he not fancie her as a wife?” arrkst one.
“Was she not hot enough for him?” arrkst another.
“Perhaps she was not hot at all,” sayt a third. “And told him if he came at her one more time he’d feel her teeth and claws.”
The Mad Cat rose up then. “My mistress says that to marry boys and girls where they cannot love is an enticement to addle-tree.”
“Addle-tree!” came a call. “Is that the tree the wicked woman you told of picked an addle from?”
The Mad Cat called them Know-Nowts.
Many stone-cats bristled up then, hoping for a fight so they could show their valour to the queens.
Linkin the Law-Cat (and Know-All) sayt, “Peace! Adultery is for men and women only. We cats, who do not marry, know nowt of it. My friend meant no offence.”
“Yes I did,” sayt the Mad Cat.
There’s an addle-head for you.
I sayt, “Were we not speaking of our young Earl’s marriage? I know the truth of it. First he sayt he would think on it. Then, being young, he begged more time. Now he says he has no objection to the lady, but he does not wish to marry at all. He’s been suttle, and in that he took his lesson from us cats.”
“Took his lesson from you, more like,” cried a stone-cat. “Our Earl is but a gib.”
I kept my fur flat, and turned my head aside. What that civilitie cost me, you may guess.
I arrkst, “What else could our Earl say? I like not the lady? I do not fancie having her father, the Earl of Ox-Foot, as my father too? Or old Lord Purrlie as a grandfather? Our Earl has been courteous, and offended none, say what you will of him.”
They were not assuaged. One called, “You claim to mix with great folks, but all your tales are of monsters and faeries. We want a true tale of lords and ladies.”
Linkin sayt, “You will find that tale tedious, for truth and entertainment do not lie well together.”
Some screeched, “We do not want a tedious tale. Give us a tale of blood and scruffing!”
I lost patience.
“I’ll give you blood,” I sayt. “I’ll give you scruffing. And whether it be true or no, your learned selves may judge.”
All sat prick-eared then, which was not what I’d foreseen. I had nothing ready.
My sister saved me. She gave a great call. There’s not a cat in this world that does not know its meaning, but I’ll put words to it: “I yearn, I burn, I am a-fire this night! Where’s the lusty lad to do me sweet delight?”
And away she flew, with every stone-cat after her.
Nero, who had not spake a word, ran with them. Whether he hoped to try his luck with my sister (as some gib cats will), or have at the stone-cat who used those ill words “but a gib”, I neither know nor care.
Thus it was I broke my vow that I would make no more tales for the lackwits here, and prepared to loose the demon in my soul.