It grieves me now that I never kept a diurnal as my uncle did. I’ve forgot much that I saw and did in those glorious days of discontent.
But I well recall how sour Linkin was the winter Essex was kept captive.
One evening he arrkst me how many names I had.
I, suspecting nowt, sayt, “I was first called Pretty Puss for my stella beauty. To that I added Tricks for my tricksie nature.”
“Then may I propose another?” arrkst he. “Wen-eye.”
(Or so I thought he sayt.)
Wen-eye? Mine eyes are very fine. Our Earl hisself praised them as he toyed with me, saying, “In colour black why wraps she beams so bright?”
Fair words, though all know a cat’s black eyes mean mischief. He kept his swift fingers well clear of my swift claws.
So I paid Linkin no heed. Instead, I sayt, “When I was last in Essex House – ”
He looked smug, and ’twas then I took his meaning.
But I continued smooth, “– a merry gentleman, fresh from Ireland, visited. This gentleman (his name is Jack) had dined with the arch-rebel Tire-Own [Tyrone].”
That made Linkin prick his ears.
“’Tis a wonder this Jack’s at liberty,” sayt I. “When he went to see Queen Puss she threatened to imprison him. Saucie Jack sayt he’d just come from her land-service, and hoped not to serve in her fleet. [I.e. the Fleet Prison]. She bade him begone to the country.
“Tire-Own had received Jack most courteous. He sayt he was sorry he didn’t recall meeting him years past in London, but the troubles had made him forget almost all his friends.”
“Tire-Own spake a true word there,” sayt Linkin.
“Jack talked with Tire-Own’s sons. Goodly boys both, with freckled faces. Very cheerful. They were dressed in velvet and gold lace like the sons of an English lord.
“Jack gave a book he’d writ to the boys’ tutors. They showed it to Tire-Own, who commanded Jack to read a little of it. And he liked what he heard so well he swore he’d have his sons read it to him entire.
“Jack sayt nowt of what meats were served forth at dinner. Onlie that Tyrone drank to the health of Lord Essex. They sat ’neath the sky on fern forms and ate off fern tables, like unto the picture I saw.”
“Tire-Own was attended by boys who had neither shirts nor whiskers. Jack sayt they ran hither and yon in the frost to do his bidding, wading through water like willing spannels [spaniels].”
Little dog Wattie, who was earing my talk, beat his tail on the floor at these words.
So I sayt to him, “The day I see you cast yourself into chill waters I’ll know the world’s run mad.”
To Linkin I sayt, “Then Jack bade us all farewell and fled away. To his house in the country, where his beloved wife, his dear kits, his old jerkin and his galoshes all await him.”
Linkin sayt, “A pretty tale. But I’ve heard that Tire-Own took to calling hisself Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Then he claimed he trusted Essex alone, now locked up for no good cause. So he brake the truce.”
Suttle. I believe Tire-Own to be an Irish cat who used witchery to become a rebel Earl.
Fortunately, Queen Puss had a soft spot for Sir John Harington (1561-1612), who got away with a lot by being funny.
This time he’d doubly offended her. Not only had he fraternised with Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone, he’d accepted a knighthood from the Earl of Essex. One London gossip referred to him as Sir Ajax Harington, from the title of his book – not the one he presented to the Earl of Tyrone, but the one that so amused the cats of Titchfield – about the merits and design of a water-closet.
Sir John seems to have had the knack of making the most of any situation. He’d gone to Ireland as commander of a troop of horse, initially under the short-lived Generalship of the Earl of Southampton.
Fortune favoured him. He wasn’t wounded and didn’t get sick, unlike people all around him. He said all he’d learnt in Ireland justified more than half of what he’d spent getting there: he could now use military jargon with the best of them. Knowing words like “counterscarp” and “casemate” always comes in handy.
He liked the Irish (mostly) though he commented that Irish soldiers he saw – those serving with the Queen’s army – were much given to whoredom with ill-favoured women.
After the Earl of Essex dashed back to England, ongoing discussions regarding the truce were conducted by the diplomat Sir William Warren.
Sir John, unable to get a passage home because the ships were full of sick soldiers and the Earl of Essex’s horses, accompanied Sir William to a meeting with the Earl of Tyrone. He took with him a copy of his English translation of Ludovico Ariosto’s entertaining epic romance Orlando Furioso.
I’ve only got Tricks’ word for Sir John’s visit to Essex House after his interview with the Queen and before he went home to Kelston (not far from the city of Bath), but I’m happy to believe her. I think he’d have found it impossible not to look in.