I set forth alone to Essex House, but had not gone far across the rooves before I saw Kettie, the Turkey cat.
He, being curious, followed me. Though when he heard I hoped to espy Puss Fur-None [Elizabeth Vernon] and the Pretty Penny [Penelope Rich], he was troubled.
He sayt that if we were seen looking upon great ladies in their private garden, we might be put to death.
“Oh,” sayt I, “that’s what they do in Constantinople, is it?”
“In Constantinople,” sayt Kettie, “we cats may look upon whomsoever we choose. Even the ladies of the Sultan’s household. But this is no citie for cats. The ladies here love filthie toys.” (He meant little dogs.)
E’en so, he followed me and I never saw a cat climb and leap better. This served me in good stead, as I will tell.
When we came to the wall by the river, we saw children in the garden.
These kits were striking a strange object to and fro. Not a ball, but a thing trimmed with feathers to resemble a bird.
Then one kit, doubtless hoping to affright us, struck this bird-thing at the wall whereon we sat. As it flew high above us, the other kits cried that it would be lost in the river.
Kettie stopped it. He rose into the air with his paws high above his head, arched his back like a bow, and struck it down.
I swear he hung clean above the water before he straighted hisself and his feet found the wall again.
I myself have plucked fat pigeons from the air, but that was from good ground. I would not have leapt so high above the river to strike a false bird for my verie life.
Kettie later swore that he was in the air before he knew what he’d done. He sayt that was how he caught the meats people threw to him when he sat upon the walls in Constantinople, and he had not lost the art.
The brats below, who’d wished to affright us, were now loud in their praise of him.
I was not pleased to hear it.
As all cats know, any who wishes to enter a house unmolested must first make an impression.
A poor housewife (so I heard tell) will be most grateful for a bird she can put in the broth. A housewife of the middling sort likes to see us bring a thieving mouse or rat.
Among the better sort, ’tis wise to win the brats first.
This time it was I who did not hesitate. I sprang down, seized it in my mouth, and brought it to her.
A man – the children’s tutor, I guessed – came to say they’d had their play, and must return to their lessons. The children begged he stay to see what we cats could do.
Then two fine ladies came forth, one in white and one in the hue the mistress of our household called russet. I call it brown.
And I knew in my soul that they were Puss Fur-None and the Pretty Penny, though which was which I could not tell.
Kettie fled, but I stayed cool. I caught and ran and fetched to great applauds. One of the ladies sayt I was a pretty little thing.
Then the kits were sent inside, and I came away, well pleased with my doings.
On the morrow, when I entered my own house, I guessed the master and the mistress had left in haste on some urgent matter.
The book-box was not locked. The kits had taken out some books and were looking for lewd tales in them.
And what I discovered in one of those books left me mazed beyond all measure.