“My master was ever a friend to cats,” sayt he. “Certes, the Queen Cat of Heaven will let him slip through her door. And grant him a place near her fire, and the leavings from her table.”
Nero sayt that the time of his master’s life was four score years.
“How many winters is that?” arrkst my niece.
“More than four cats can number on their claws,” sayt I.
“How many winters have you seen?” Nero arrkst me.
“I’ve forgot,” sayt I, knowing where such talk with Nero leads. “But many more than our friend Linkin has. He was a young cat when I came hither.”
Nero is suttle. He took my meaning.
Linkin brought hot newes to our Field.
“My mistress’ son came from London on a visit,” sayt he. “They spake together when there was none to hear but me. The most noble and heroick Earl of Essicks has hatcht a plan. Sir Rabbit [Robert Cecil] and Sir Water Rawly [Walter Ralegh] love it.”
“That’s an unholesome trinity,” sayt Nero. “How long can they stay friends?”
Linkin sayt, “Our blow at Spain shall be the best we ever struck. Queen Puss may not like it, but she’s agreed it. Essicks will take only choice men with him. Not the rogues and vagabonds that ’tis the custom to send oversea because they disturb our peace here.
“First, Essicks will destroy the King of Spain’s ships where they lie at Furrol [Ferrol]. Then he’ll take a Spanish port, like to Cadiz, and hold it for Queen Puss. There our fleet may safely lodge, and hinder all ships from entering Spanish ports. Yes, and take their King’s treasure ships too.”
“What newes of our own Earl?” called some.
I sayt, “Our Earl will have command of a fine ship called the Garland.” (I believe this ship is named in mine honour, for I wore a garland once.)
Then I spake large. I sayt, “When my lord last came hither he begged me to join the expedition so I could make a true account of it.”
Nero gave me evil looks.
“But I pleaded my age,” sayt I, “as I hear the Lord Admiral did.”
“Or perchance,” sayt Nero, “others pleaded the Lord Admiral’s age for him.”
“The Earl of Essicks is to have command of all,” sayt Linkin. “On land and sea.”
“Folly,” sayt Nero. “What knows Essicks of the sea? I do not doubt his courage, but he’s a soldier, not a mariner.”
“Sir Water Rawly and Lord Thoms Howit [Thomas Howard] go as Admirals,” sayt Linkin. “But who would trust a Howit?”
“Lord Thoms Howit knows his trade,” sayt Nero. “And he knows the length of his foot [i.e. what’s what]. Unlike some I could name.”
Then Nero walked off, slow and statelie. I was weary and wished to take a drink, so also came away.
Linkin was ever a Nose-All-Knows-All. But it come to me that now I grow old and Nero melancollie, Linkin seeks to rule our Field.
We shall see.
If you’re wondering how the Earl of Southampton (age 23) came to have command of a warship, I assume his command was strategic and military. The Garland’s captain was John Troughton. I suspect that experienced sea captains must have found it wearing to have eager young noblemen with them, but they would never have complained.
Admiral Lord Thomas Howard (1561-1626) was a son of the 4th Duke of Norfolk who was executed in 1572. However, he was well-regarded by Queen Elizabeth. He owed the start of his naval career to his cousin the Lord Admiral (Charles Howard, Lord Howard of Effingham), but by the time of this venture he was a veteran of several battles including the seeing-off of the 1588 Armada, and the 1596 capture of Cadiz.
Perhaps the Lord Admiral himself was glad to stay at home. He’d just turned 60 and, despite the recriminations after Cadiz over his failure to attack the Spanish treasure fleet, was enjoying Queen Elizabeth’s goodwill. He’d been happily married for nearly 35 years to one of her most trusted and longest-serving ladies, Kate Carey (c1546-1603). Besides, he bred spaniels. A far more pleasurable pastime than trying to manage both the Earl of Essex and Sir Walter Ralegh.