My lord is of full age tomorrow, and all should be merry with feasting and gaming and dancing.
But no. There’s scandal. They who speak of it do so in soft voices, but I heard enough to make me curious.
I believe some knave has been killed. And they that did it are hid hereabouts.
In my house? I think not, though strange men come and go.
There’s none more fit than I to make an examination of this matter. I was born in a stable (as I have writ) and sucked scandal with my mother’s milk.
Horses go hither and yon, and are the first to know of trouble. You may hear them tell of it, if you’ve patience enough.
And the men and boys who tend the horses talk among theirselves, so when I found doors closed in this house and none willing to admit me, I hastened to the stable.
The cats who have employment there are always most respective [respectful]. I will now set down what I have learnt.
Item: They cats knew nowt of a killing, but told of having seen a gentleman’s velvet saddle, very fine, with blood on it. They sayt this saddle belonged to a friend of our Earl. They had seen it before, when he came to visit.
Item: There had been a quarrel between their master and another gentleman over who should have this saddle now.
“So what befell the gentleman whose saddle it was?” I arrkst. “Is he dead?”
They sayt they heard he was with his friends at a house not far off. There had been a falling out among these men, and one was hurt and bloodie.
Item: They told of strange horses that were lodged not in the stable, but in our great park.
“Why there?” I arrkst.
“For concealment?” arrkst one. “But all here know of them. Some say they was there several days ago, then they went, now they’re here again.”
I sayt, “When my lord comes, strange horses are oft about. They may not signify.”
But all this mazes me, I confess.
A whisper of a killing. A gentleman hurt in a fight. A bloodie saddle. But why was the saddle here and the gentleman elsewhere, if he’s alive and a friend of my lord?
I thanked they cats most courteous, and sayt that when I discovered more I would bring newes of it. They told me they too would keep their ears pricked.
I returned to my house and hied me to the kitchen, an excellent place for gossips’ talk.
The kitchen cat told me my lord’s cook was gone. “He went with Master Timmik,” sayt she.
“Timmik?” I cried. I’d not heard such a name since I was a young cat, when one Tommick was a breeder of discord in the old Earl’s household.
“Think now,” I sayt to the kitchen cat. “Timmik or Tommik?”
“One or the other,” sayt she. “That’s what I heared.”
I could scarce believe mine ears.
My uncle (who was an intelligencer, and gathered newes where’re he went) told me Tommik slandered my lord’s mother our Countess, saying she hoist her tail for a common fellow.
Then Tommik took her place in the household, and got his claws so deep into the old Earl he was made rich by his will.
This Tommik was given the use of a good house, and money for living in it. He could keep his cows and sheep, take hay, and cut his wood at no cost to hisself. And he got the old Earl’s horse, a right fool that did not kill him as I hoped.
I believe the old Earl hoped this Tommik would get his claws as tight on my lord as they’d been on him, but Lord Purrlie [Burghley] took my lord into his own household. For which I daily give thanks.
I would lay a choice cut of beef that Tommik was the one in the stable that wished to claim the velvet saddle from the master there. He desires all that he can have.
But now I know where the gentlemen are hid. At Tommik’s house where my lord’s cook has gone.
I shall keep close to my lord this night, but if I hear no more I will visit my sister at her barn. She may have newes.
However, he did write of the old Earl’s will and his own hostility to the man he calls Tommik (Thomas Dymock). Gib saw him as a threat to his own interests.
Along with considerable amounts of money, the old Earl left Thomas Dymock the use of Whitley (Whiteley) House and Park not far from Place House until the young Earl turned 21, after which he or his children were to be given the lease of a farm.