Yet when they are of an age to creep out of their lodgings and jet it about the streets – why, then their poor mother knows nothing.
No, not even how those same young cats came to be in this world.
And so I think it befits me to do as my uncle did, and set down a true account of my life thus far.
My pretty kits will find it instructive, and learn what evils may befall them if they stray from the ways of the righteous.
Fine words. And fit ones for a skoller such as I. For should not she-skollers write seriously of sober matters?
But I, having writ these words, laid my pen aside.
Here’s the rub. I could think of nowt else to say.
I never trod the paths of righteousness until I grew too old to tread any path save the one that leads from our yard to my supper and thence to my hearth.
There I spend my time dreaming of the days when I kept wild company, and flew fire-hot across the rooves of the citie in search of mischief. I see no need to feign penitence, as some do when they write of their younger selves.
I shall therefore keep my account well-hid from the eyes of my kits.
Though, now I think on it, few ever learnt to read, and they that did lacked the wit to read anything other than a lewd ballad left lying in Paws Yard, or a libel they found in the gutter.
How is it that kits can be as fool as their sires even though they never know them?
To begin. I was born, as all know, in Titchfield.
My mother was a barn queen of good report among her neighbours. Her brother (my uncle) was in the service of the Earl of Southampton. It was he who found me a place in our Earl’s household and taught me my letters. He took delight in my skollership.
After my uncle was gone from this world I wished to do as our Earl had done, and set forth on my travels.
First, I had business to effect. My uncle had made bequests to his friends: Nero, an ancient sea cat turned poet, and Linkin, who fancied hisself a lawyer.
I was plain in my dealings with them.
I told Nero, “My uncle left you a swan’s quill. He sayt it need not be a cut one, because you cannot write. So best you wait until the swans molt. I’ll find you a fit one before I leave this place to further my education.”
“I hope to quit this place myself, come summer,” sayt Nero. “I’m of a mind to see Fence [Venice] once more.”
“Have you found a ship to carry you?” I arrkst.
“I shall make enkwiries when my master and I are next in Portsmouth,” sayt he, very grand.
No invitation for me to accompany him.
Let him find his own quill, thought I, and went next to Linkin’s house.
My uncle had willed that I give Linkin a rat of my own killing. I swear I meant to arks when he wished to receive it.
Linkin sayt, “If you’ve come to know how Mr Secretary and our Earl fare on their ambassage to France, you must wait till I give it out at our next assembly.”
Linkin took pride in being first with the London talk. He heard it from his mistress, whose son had it from Mr Secretary hisself. Or paid one of Mr Secretary’s servants for it, more like.
Sayt I, “I came to give you thanks for your help to my uncle in the making of his last Will and Testament. I am the executor – .”
Linkin cut in quick. “ExecuTRICKS,” he sayt, hawtie. “That’s Latin for a she-executor.”
He narrowed his eyes and looked right pleased with hisself.
I out-hawtied him. I continued, “ And I marvel that my poor uncle had to step out for your advice on so chill a day. Why came you not to him? He the Cat of our Earl’s Bedchamber, and you the bedfellow of a puritan shrew.”
“My mistress oped our door to him,” sayt Linkin. “He sat at my hearth.”
“Worse,” sayt I. “For I believe my uncle took cold on his way home and died of it.”
“It was his choice to come to me,” sayt Linkin. “How could I know that visit were his last?”
“Ignorance is no defense,” sayt I. “The fault is yours.”
“I arrkst no fee from him,” lied Linkin, bristling.
“Scant consolation.” I stalked off slow and stately, rejoycing that my mother’s wit and my uncle’s learning were so well met in me. Tricks by name and tricksie by nature.
Let him catch his own rat, thought I.
But after I heard Linkin’s newes at the Cats’ Field, I had to change my tune.
Sir Robert Cecil’s “ambassage” to France was in early 1598, when the English were concerned that Henri IV would make peace with Spain and disadvantage England.
Tricks obviously wrote this many years later. Her casual reference to Paws Yard, i.e. St Paul’s churchyard where many booksellers had their stalls, indicates that she’s very familiar with London.