55:  I Break My Vow

A miniature painting of Gib, the Earl's cat. Gib is white with blue-grey dapples, and green eyes - enhanced by the green background of the painting.I’ve shunned the Cat’s Field of late, even though it’s summer.  I vowed to tell no more tales, because all the lackwits want from me is scandal.  Not poesie.

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.

Head and shoulders of the young Earl, wearing a black doublet and flat white lace collar.
The Earl of Southampton at 21, by Nicholas Hilliard (1594).

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.

Elizabeth de Vere (1575 – 1627), daughter of the 17th Earl of Oxford and grand-daughter of William Cecil, Lord Burghley. Artist unknown.
Elizabeth de Vere (1575 – 1627), daughter of the 17th Earl of Oxford and grand-daughter of William Cecil, Lord Burghley. Artist unknown.

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.

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23 thoughts on “55:  I Break My Vow

  1. April Munday May 25, 2016 / 11:28 pm

    If the portrait’s accurate, you can see why the young earl might not have wanted to marry her. He is certainly a lot prettier than she is. Looks aren’t everything, but the young earl does seem to think that they are.

    Liked by 3 people

    • toutparmoi May 25, 2016 / 11:36 pm

      You’re so unkind to him! I think he looks rather like Prince Harry, when he was younger and chubbier-cheeked. Or maybe it’s just the hair?

      Liked by 2 people

    • April Munday May 25, 2016 / 11:48 pm

      I just think he’s shallow and easily led, but he’s young. He should grow out of it.

      Liked by 2 people

    • toutparmoi May 25, 2016 / 11:55 pm

      I think that if he were all that easily led, he’d have married Elizabeth de Vere and then seen as little of her as possible!

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi May 26, 2016 / 9:39 am

      It’s not screening yet in NZ, but we’re sure to see it soon.

      Liked by 1 person

    • April Munday May 27, 2016 / 12:47 am

      It’s good. Catch it when it arrives. This week made mention of ‘Lord Southampton’s naughty prancings’ which seemed to be some kind of party, although we never saw it. Nor did we get to see the young earl.

      Liked by 2 people

    • toutparmoi May 26, 2016 / 1:20 pm

      Yes – if my hair curled like that, I’d wear it long too.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. larrypaulbrown May 26, 2016 / 10:16 pm

    I only wish I had hair, curly, straight, short or long. Were I a cat , I would be a ‘hairless cat’. LOL

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Robyn Haynes May 28, 2016 / 4:37 pm

    I like these portraits better than the others. The one of the young Earl of Southhampton by Nic Hilliard lacks the effete expression of others on your posts.

    Not much changes in feline/human nature does it? We’re still captivated by scandal over truth.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi May 28, 2016 / 8:37 pm

      Fashions in portraiture are strange. And Elizabethan England wasn’t gifted with many talented portrait painters (unlike Italy and the Low Countries) so different people often look pretty much alike in their portraits!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Robyn Haynes May 28, 2016 / 8:47 pm

      Interesting. I see what you mean. There seems little difference between men and women besides their clothes.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi May 28, 2016 / 9:03 pm

      And between men and men and women and women. Not even hair and skin tones are a reliable indicator. There’s not much resemblance between the two portraits of the Earl of Southampton (other than the length of his hair) even though they would have been painted within 3 or 4 years of each other. Hilliard was probably the best portrait painter at the time. His Earl looks like a teenager – that reinforces my “late developer” theory! Or so I like to think.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Robyn Haynes May 28, 2016 / 9:07 pm

      It seems the art of an era holds so many clues – to attitudes, social mores, fashion etc.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi May 28, 2016 / 9:20 pm

      It does! What fascinates me is that in the 16th & 17th centuries little girls and boys were dressed identically until they were about 6 or 7. Both wore “coats” – which look like gowns or skirts & tops to us. In family portraits there are clues as to the sex of the children: the girls might wear a string of beads around their necks, while the boys have a more masculine cut to their jackets. But that’s for a portrait. On a day-to-day basis, it must have been very hard for anyone not acquainted with the family to tell them apart. I wonder how comfortable we’d be with that?

      Liked by 2 people

    • Robyn Haynes May 28, 2016 / 9:28 pm

      Yes good point. It would be easy to forget these portraits were ‘produced versions of society’ in much the same way formal photos are today. No selfies in that era so not the same ‘truth’ in the images. Mind you we’ve been subjected to androgynous fashions when I’ve not been sure of the wearer’s gender.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Rachel McAlpine June 1, 2016 / 4:11 pm

    It’s Gib’s sister who catches my attention in this week’s romp. Family feeling or fizzy hormones, she was mighty quick off the mark.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi June 1, 2016 / 5:54 pm

      Family feeling! Gib has let on that she’s already pregnant. She’s one smart cat. But alas, like far too many of her sex in Elizabethan times, she’s left few historical footprints.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. mitchteemley August 12, 2016 / 11:03 am

    Would that I had a lick of cream for every time I’ve laughed aloud at your–pardon me, Gib’s–turns of phrase.

    Liked by 1 person

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