66:  My Little Niece

Gib, a cat with blue dapples, looking startled.My lord has gone to London.  I can call my house mine own.

This morning, as I passed through the kitchen, a boy gave me a fish head.  It was not to my liking, so I took it to my sister’s barn.

The kitlings there (my little niece, and two birthed by a niece full-grown) nibbled it most happy.

My sister and I sat a while together, peaceful.  We marvelled at how far we’ve come since we were kits in the old Earl’s stable.

I’m a poet and cat of the young Earl’s bedchamber.  My sister is a barn queen with many kin-cats most respective to her.

“In truth, Queen Puss [Bess] herself should envie you,” sayt I.  “Now she’s old, all who know her hate her.  She has no kit to take her place when she goes from this world.  That may bring us to strife, as in the old time.  Hers is a place many will fight for.  Or the Spanish may come at us, for their king thinks hisself our king too.”

I saw my little niece was listening prick-eared.  When I left for home she followed me.

“I wish to see your house,” sayt she.  “I wish to see the book room where you find your tales.  Will you show me how to find a tale?”

“I find my tales in books, not rooms.”

“What’s a book? I wish to see one.”

I walked fast.

“I have newes,” she called.  “I wish to give it at the Cats’ Field.  When shall we all meet again?”

I sayt, “If wishes were fishes, no cat would starve.”

"If wishes were fishes..." A still life by Pieter Claesz (c1597-1660)
“If wishes were fishes…”
A still life by Pieter Claesz (c1597-1660)

Then I added, “We shall not meet before the spring, unless any has great matter to report.  And kits may not give newes at our Field.  What do kits know that all would hear?”

“I know of the murder you spake of,” she sayt.

“Stale newes,” sayt I.  “Our stable cats saw seven horses go out at night.  Four returned, and now they’re in London with my lord.  All know the Daffers [Danvers] brothers and their servant are over the sea.”

She sayt, “My newes is not from these parts.  I heared it from a stranger cat who came by our barn.  He had it from another cat, who had it from another, and so across this country [county] and the next.”

“Gossips’ talk,” sayt I, but had patience.  I know what it is to be a kitling most curious.

She sayt, “The stranger cat told me that the gentleman who was slain is named Harry Long.  He came from a household where all are scoundrels.  Their servants murdered one of the Daffers’ men, and gave many insults and injuries besides.

“Then Harry Long writ unto the elder of the Daffers brothers, offering to whip his bare arse.  This brother set forth and gave him a beating.  As he turned to go, Harry drew his sword and wounded him.  The younger brother had no choice but to shoot the villain.”

Sayt I, “This report came from a cat in the Daffers household, most like.  Poets may tell lies, but we must also seek the truth.”

A small black, white, and orange kitten
Gib’s Little Niece

My little niece sayt, “I told the stranger cat that if he could swear to the truth of it, then come spring I would hoist my tail and let him put a kit in my belly.  And so he swore.”

“Well,” sayt I, “he would, wouldn’t he.”  

She gave me a pert look.  “Come spring, I will have as many sworn reports as I choose and a bellyful of kits.  But you will know no more than I, and have no kits at all.”

Then she ran off.

Oh, I pray those kits will settle her, else she may prove more rebellous than ever her mother and I were.


23 thoughts on “66:  My Little Niece

  1. southamptonoldlady August 11, 2016 / 11:13 am

    Ha Ha – And I thought it was “While the cats are away…. That’s a wonderful painting too.

    Liked by 2 people

    • toutparmoi August 11, 2016 / 11:43 am

      The proverb I grew up with was, “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.” The painting looks like an example of “When the cook’s away…”

      Liked by 1 person

  2. April Munday August 12, 2016 / 12:24 am

    I don’t know why, but this made me a bit melancholy. Perhaps it’s the implication of a new generation replacing Gib and his sister, and the uncertainty about what will happen when the old queen dies.

    Liked by 2 people

    • toutparmoi August 12, 2016 / 1:07 am

      Yes – I had that sense of melancholy, too. Gib and his sister are getting old – nearly 15, by my calculation. And, as always, the rising generation responds to the here and now. Gib’s been listening to the young Earl and his friends. When Elizabeth was crowned in 1559, the Spanish ambassador observed that England was now ruled by youngsters and heretics. By late 1594 it was facing tough times – an ageing Queen with no acknowledged successor (and several potential claimants), hostilities dragging on with Spain, high unemployment, inflation, a poor harvest…

      Liked by 1 person

    • April Munday August 12, 2016 / 5:16 am

      It’s easy to look back now and wonder why anyone worried, but it must have been terrifying at the time. Having said that, the 17th century was fairly anarchic and extremely bloody. It was worse, in many ways, than the two preceding centuries.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi August 12, 2016 / 11:33 am

      Yes! I think the 17th century was when all the tensions – religious, political, economic, social – came to a head. (Oh dear, an unfortunate word choice there. Now I’m thinking of one head in particular).

      Liked by 1 person

    • Rachel McAlpine August 12, 2016 / 9:19 am

      Yes indeed, we can feel the story taking an entirely new turn here. Time for Gib to let go, and in his little old feline heart he knows it well. But the rising star is seriously cute. You capture old and young so perfectly.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. colonialist August 12, 2016 / 7:13 am

    ‘Out of the mouths of …’ kittens, recently suckling!
    It was a fraught era – but then, aren’t they all?


  4. Val August 25, 2016 / 11:49 pm

    What a perky kitling gib’s niece is. I suspect she’ll go far (with a lot of olde toms following.)

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Claremary P. Sweeney September 11, 2016 / 2:24 pm

    Ah, if wishes were fishes! This little niece is quite a handful, I have to say, I’m looking forward to following her in further chapters. And she must be one of the kittlings that decided to improv during the play. I think we’ll keep her away from little ZuZu although Roxie could teach her a few things.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi September 11, 2016 / 6:53 pm

      Yes – I think Gib’s niece may have more in common with Roxie than with Zuzu.

      Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.