103:  We Go To Paws Yard

There came a sweet night with a fat moon.  Linkin and I knew leaf fall was nigh, and we sat upon our roof tasting the air.

Many cats were a-stir.  We watched them making their ways across the rooves to Paws [St Paul’s], and guessed this was the night for an assembly.

Another view of St Paul’s. The silhouette of the resident cat can just be seen on the roof.

I caught a waft of cinnamon, and saw Onix.  He checked hisself when he saw Linkin, but then (Linkin showing no objection to his presence) he joined us.

He abased hisself so low in friendship he near rolled off our roof.  Then he righted hisself, addressing Linkin as Your Excellencie.  Thinking (most like) that Linkin also served our Earl.

Linkin sayt nowt to correct him.

Onix told us his mistress was fetched out so sudden that her maid, running behind her with her stool, had no time to chase him back into their shop.

“Her stool?” I arrkst, in a maze.  “Are citie cows milked so late?”

That made Onix and Linkin merry.

Onix sayt, “When next my mistress tells me I must bide in at night, I’ll tell her so should she, for the cows are all a-bed.”

A midwife seated on her stool – in this case a small chair. The mother is on a birthing chair, supported by a friend or relative. An early 16th century German illustration, via Wikimedia.

Then he sayt his mistress was no milkmaid but a midwife sworn, of good report among all.

I was shamed that I’d not guessed this, even though there was no call for midwives in my mother’s barn, nor in my uncle’s bookroom.

Onix was going to Paws, and invited us to go with him.

I thought Linkin would not come, but he followed slow and statelie.

Then Onix turned instructive.  Viz:

“First, all must do the bidding of Paws herself, for she keeps both church and yard and no cat may be received there without she say so.”

And, “None may speak unless they’re called upon by Paws, else there’ll be nowt but wauls and brawls and we shall go away no wiser than we came.”

And, “You may be arrkst to give an account of yourselves, so all may know you’re not from strange lands.  There are some in this citie who hate strangers.”

And, “Say nothing against Her Majestie.”

In truth, my heart sank when I heared all this, but Linkin gave me the look that sayt: You’re not in Titchfield now.  So I kept my thoughts well hid.

We leapt up the wall and down to the yard, where cats were gathering in a circle.  A grey queen sat watching all.

Being new, Linkin and I took places at the back, as is courteous.

Before Onix left us, he arrkst if it were true that Her Majestie had sent Mistress Fur-None – her ladyship, as all must now call her – to the prison nigh unto the Stink River [the Fleet].

“For,” he sayt, “a woman in kit should not look on ugly things nor dwell in noisome places, lest the babe takes some hurt thereby.  Or comes ugly and stinkish into this world.”

(Was ever a babe born that was not ugly and stinkish?)

Linkin told Onix that we’d heard that newes, but could not swear to it.

Then near me one whispered, “Sister, I could have sworn we was at Paws, but have we strayed among the fields?  Can you not nose a country coney?”

There came the reply, “In truth, sister, I nosed nowt but a passing grocer’s fart that near struck me dead.”

That were Picker and Stealer, the cats that insulted me when first we met.

Onix looked back, hissing, “My master is no mere grocer, as you well know, and my mistress carries with her nowt that is not healthful.”

Then the grey queen cat, who I guessed was Paws herself, stepped forward and called all to order.

A young man (probably an apprentice) is serving a female customer, and a woman (the apothecary's wife or daughter?) is preparing a mixture. Two men are at a desk - one, seated, is writing down what they are discussing.
An apothecary’s shop:  this is a Flemish one, which would explain the un-English looking headgear worn by the two men – one of whom is probably the apothecary, and the other his assistant.  From F. Kitchener’s ‘Illustrated History of Furniture’ (1903) via the Internet Archive.

Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorEven an Earl’s cat has to learn what it’s like to be a small member of a large community.

And no surprise that Tricks finds Onix prim and proper.  Cats share the preoccupations of their households, and midwives were pillars of their communities.

Midwives were supposed to be licensed by the local ecclesiastical authority – though this didn’t always happen, particularly in country districts.  There’s an example of an Elizabethan midwife’s oath printed in John Strype’s Annals of the Reformation… Vol 1 Part 2 (1824 ed).

In summary, Eleonor Pead swears to exercise her office according to her God-given knowledge and skill, help both poor and rich women, endeavour to ensure that only the true father of the child is named as such, permit no baby to be substituted at birth, use no sorcery or incantation, not destroy or dismember any child, and use only proper words and pure water when performing an emergency baptism (i.e. if the child is not likely to survive).

Onix’ announcement that his master was no mere grocer explains his master’s occupation.

Apothecaries (the equivalent of our pharmacists) both used and sold spices, which were considered to have medicinal value.  At the end of the 16th century apothecaries were still members of the Grocers Company, but in 1617 The Worshipful Society of Apothecaries of London was incorporated.


11 thoughts on “103:  We Go To Paws Yard

    • toutparmoi September 7, 2017 / 2:33 pm

      The cat was sure to have been on the roof, but I’m not sure that the original artist spotted it 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. April Munday September 7, 2017 / 6:31 pm

    I hope Tricks is going to follow the advice she’s been given. She’s got a lot to learn about life in London.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. claudiothecat September 9, 2017 / 11:53 am

    Interesting to read about the link between grocers and apothecaries. Modern day pharmacists seem to be reverting back, judging by the diversity of goods on offer in chemist shops these days.
    .Looking forward to reading about what takes place at the assembly at Paws. I wonder if the cats get to sneak inside and leap over the “furniture”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi September 9, 2017 / 12:09 pm

      Pharmacists also seem to give more medical advice and guidance (just like their apothecary ancestors) than they did when I was younger. You might like to show your mistress the link to this garden – http://chelseaphysicgarden.co.uk/ – originally founded by the Society of Apothecaries. It looks well worth a visit.


  3. claudiothecat September 9, 2017 / 12:27 pm

    Thank you. The garden looks intriguing – worth a visit by the looks.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Robyn Haynes September 11, 2017 / 2:55 pm

    I was fascinated by this post Denise. Especially the ebb and flow of status among grocers and Pharmacists/apothecaries, then and now. I was most intrigued with the picture of the midwife assisting with the birth. How on earth could the mother deliver a baby sitting down like that? Must have been illustrated by a man unfamiliar with anatomy or am I misinformed?

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi September 11, 2017 / 7:57 pm

      As far as I know, mothers gave birth sitting, standing, or kneeling – whichever they found most comfortable – and then rested in bed afterwards. Birthing chairs didn’t have much of a seat on them, just a horseshoe-shaped rim to support the mother’s hips and thighs. I wonder if the mother had footrests, or was able to put her feet on the midwife’s seat? But yes – the book the illustration’s from was written by a man, a German physician, though at the time childbirth was very much women’s work.

      Liked by 1 person

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