My late uncle told me many winters past that we cats do not have such wills.
I believed him. When I was young I thought that there was little he did not know. But he did not know his letters.
So now I think he spake of common cats. Not an Earl’s cat and poet.
I stepped out to seek advice from Linkin our law cat. A long walk on a dull day, but the chill air bore sweet tastes of spring.
Then, after I had rested and warmed myself, I writ as follows.
I, Gib alias Bevis of this household, being weak in body but of perfect memory for which I offer thanks, do make this my last Will and Testament in manner and form following. Viz.
First I commend my soul unto the Queen Cat of Heaven and my body unto I care not where, save it were great pitie if it be cast upon the dunghill or cut up for eel bait.
Item: I bequeath unto my loving niece the pens I have put by. And all my little books wherein I have writ the true relation of my life, my tales, my sonnets, and my play. And my basket with the cushion thereunto appertaining.
Item: I bequeath unto my fellow poet Nero alias Blackie Sea-Cat a swan’s quill to remember me. He cannot write, so it need not be a cut one.
Item: I bequeath unto the Right Honourable my Lord of Southampton all the ribands, ear-strings and jewels I have took from his chamber and hid in divers places.
My aforesayt niece is to see all is done as I have writ.
And she is to give unto Linkin Law-Cat for his fee a rat of her own killing that he may offer his mistress and win prayse thereby.
Writ this day by me, Gib.
Witness hereof: Our Kitchen Cat her mark.
I gave the paper to my niece and arrkst her to make a fair copie while I rested.
“Willingly,” sayt she.
I believe I have been a good cat, though when I was a kitling I was much given to impudencie and worse.
I tormented my little lord (before he was an Earl). I hid myself beneath his bed and leapt out to grip him by the ankle with my sharp claws as he clamb in. I made him yowl, and took joy in it.
And when I lay abed with him I would prick mine ears and show my head against the light from our window. He (seeing little by night, as I well knew) feared a horned devil had come from hell to carry off his soul. He was too affrighted to yowl. He could scarce draw breath.
But I know he has forgiven me.
I took a drink, but I have not broke my fast.
I was birthed in the old Earl’s stable about this time of year. I should like to take the sounds and scents of a stable again. And to think upon my dear sister, and my friend Smokie who had employment in a shop where horses are shod.
My niece, scrit-scratching with her pen, sayt that walking out would make my joynts to ake. I would do better to bide here in my basket by the fire. And that when the stable cats saw me they were like to beg a tale.
I told her that they could have one, but it will be short.
They are good cats, and always most respective.
When I say I wish to be private, they will not trouble me.
If Gib’s niece also made an inventory of his belongings to accompany the fair copy of his will, it hasn’t survived. A pity, because an inventory might have given the number of his literary works. There were almost certainly more than I’ve seen.