168:  I Go Upon the Roof

Head of a startled-looking black and white catMy lord and his friends oft spent time telling each other how they could escape.  And in talking of two men who had done so not long since.

One dark night those men crept up onto the roof of the chamber wherein they were lodged.

Then they clamb down a rope that was stretched from the roof across the moat to the outside wall of the Tower.  And so into a boat on the river and away.  (The moat, I learnt, was a body of water that lay all around our prison.)

At first such talk troubled me.  Our mother had taught us nowt of climbing ropes, and I feared I might be left behind.  Then it came to me that I could cling to my lord’s back while he clamb down, and I grew to love that tale of the two bold men so well I have it by heart.  I will set it down when next I write.

My lord and his friends loved to hear newes of Queen Puss.  Newes of her health, I mean.  We would all be free when she died.  We might have no need to escape. 

At Christmastide (my first) we heard she’d was very low.

A bowl of nuts and dried fruit, with a mouse concealed under its rim beside walnuts and sugar-candies.We made merry with choice meats, and with the comforts my lord’s lady had brought us.

But next we heard that the Queen was well again and of good cheer.  That were a blow. 

What if the good King [James] that loved us so well and would set us free died afore she did?  Who would free us then?

As spring drew on my lord spent much time walking on the leads [roof].  I was permitted to accompany him.  I rode upon his shoulder and I saw the moat.  I believed I could swim it if I fell from the rope whiles we were making an escape.

Later I began to creep along the roof and walls on my own feet, careful of my safetie.  I feared the Whisperers might attack me, but by day they kept theirselves well hid.

I did not doubt they were watching me.  There were watchers everywhere.

Now here’s a strange thing.

My lord would stop in his pacings to gaze about him, and I would spring upon his shoulder to see what he saw.  He oft looked beyond the wall to where the city lay.  And at a piece of high ground [Tower Hill] where he came nigh to having his head cut off.

I never saw owt to remark there but a lank grey cat that came and went most swift, pausing only to glance up at our prison.   One time a wicked dog had at that cat.  Then another cat, most like unto the first, sprang forth, ran beside that dog and leapt to cling its belly!

All three fled together, the dog screeching most woeful.

After that I sometimes glimpsed those cats on the rooves of houses that lay nigh.  Why were they watching from beyond the wall?  Had they been sent by my mother to know if I lived and did well?

Oh, I hoped so, but they were too far off for me to take their thoughts.  Nor could they have taken mine, even if they’d seen me.

But I believed they were my friends, and was grieved when they came no more.

Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorWho else could these lank grey cats be but Picker and Stealer?  Harry’s not-so-loving mother Tricks had given them a completely false impression of him, but I doubt they were deceived for long.  They had good sources in the city’s prison network.   

Well before Picker and Stealer set off on their Lenten progress in early 1602, they’d informed Tricks of the talk of escape and other mischief in the Earl of Southampton’s prison apartment. 

Sir Robert Cecil knew of it, too.  He’d advised the troublemakers (old enemies of both Essex and Southampton) who wanted to tell Queen Elizabeth of Southampton’s misdeeds that they’d do better to earn his gratitude by warning him and the Tower’s governor to be more careful.

By the time poor Harry learnt he too might have friends outside the Tower, his mother was probably on her way back to the country.


16 thoughts on “168:  I Go Upon the Roof

    • toutparmoi March 21, 2019 / 10:42 pm

      What, indeed? Picker and Stealer are an unpredictable pair.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. April Munday March 21, 2019 / 7:56 pm

    I’m glad Harry’s getting some air, but not glad that there’s talk of an escape attempt. The young earl doesn’t seem to have grown any wiser or to have learned from the past.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi March 21, 2019 / 10:40 pm

      Anybody in prison would spend some of their time figuring out how they could escape, and enjoying escape stories. Sir Robert doesn’t seem to have taken the Earl’s behaviour seriously, so I suspect young Harry of being overly impressionable.

      Liked by 1 person

    • April Munday March 22, 2019 / 1:10 am

      Did anyone manage to escape in Elizabeth’s reign. I know Roger Mortimer escaped in the time of Edward II, but he had many supporters inside and ouside the tower to help him.

      I suspect Sir Robert thought the young earl didn’t have the wit to organise an escape attempt.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi March 22, 2019 / 9:00 am

      Yes! One of English history’s Great Escapes was pulled off in 1597. We only have Harry’s word for it that the Earl and his friends discussed that escape in particular, but it seems very likely to me. Harry will say more to write about it next week.

      Sir Robert thought the Earl wasn’t up to it – “a man half-dead” and escape was a “forlorn hope in extremity”. Or so wrote the devious Lord Henry Howard (still a friend to Cecil at that stage) to a Scottish ambassador and therefore to King James.

      Liked by 1 person

    • April Munday March 22, 2019 / 7:42 pm

      ‘Half dead’ is a bit worrying, unless he meant that the earl was still likely to get himself executed. The earl never seems to learn from his mistakes.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi March 23, 2019 / 9:51 am

      I wondered if “half dead” might refer to the fact that as a convicted traitor the Earl was dead in law – though he had been seriously ill a few months earlier. By the end of 1601 everybody who was anybody was trying to ingratiate themselves with King James. James knew that Essex had wanted to see him named as Elizabeth’s successor.
      Such ingratiation included being very nice to Southampton.

      Liked by 2 people

    • toutparmoi March 24, 2019 / 2:32 am

      Yep. Except James (despite being what we would call an animal lover, very fond of keeping pets) was also very fond of hunting. He’d recently had a fall, presumably off his horse. He was unhurt, but even so… The succession was far from secure, though it now seems like a done deal to us.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. JOY journal March 22, 2019 / 1:49 am

    Seeing this little cat face in my in box always makes me smile. I know I have a treat in store, like a bit of dark chocolate sneaked into my day. Thank you for creating this delightful respite. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi March 22, 2019 / 9:06 am

      Thank you for your kind words! They dark-chocolated my day.


  3. Timi Townsend March 23, 2019 / 2:22 pm

    Harry seems to get bolder and bolder the longer he is in the Tower…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Timi Townsend March 25, 2019 / 10:58 am

    But I don’t think much of Harry climbing down the rope, whether or not he clung to his human’s back!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi March 25, 2019 / 2:57 pm

      I think he’d find it pretty tricky, too.


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