182:  Horrid Thoughts and Fears

An alert-looking black and white cat
Harry – our narrator

The night being warm, I lingered at the Cats’ Field.  Many wished to friend me, and my mother pressed me for word of citie cats she knew.

Alas, I could tell her only of Onix.  She spake of two more, a Turkey cat named Kettie that kept a print shop, and Luvvie a player cat.

“Oh!” I cried.  “I’ve heard of him.  ’Twas Luvvie that led Picker and Stealer to where Snakes-Purr  could be found.  I have yet to friend him, but I swear I will.”

“Do so,” sayt she.  “And never turn your back to him.  He’s treacherous, but he will lead you to Snakes-Purr if he thinks he’ll gain by it.”

“What gain has he from Picker and Stealer?” arrkst I.

My mother snorted.  “The freedom of Black-Fryes [Blackfriars] and parts thereabout.  If Luvvie’s their creature, no cat will molest him.”

Luvvie. Harry’s mother Tricks once made the mistake of turning her back on him.

I sayt, “A preacher was speaking at Paws’ Cross [Paul’s Cross] not long since.  A cuckoo came and flew about his head crying out against him. Think you that bird was another of their creatures?”

“Belike the sermon was too long, and the bird was out of patience,” sayt my mother.

I should have heeded those words “out of patience” but I did not.  My head was too full of witches.

I sayt, “Picker and Stealer might have the power to make great winds.  Else, what meant Picker when she sayt the King, Queen, our Earl and all may be raised so high before this year is out they’ll never come to earth again?”

“Enuff of your fool questions!” my mother cried.  “Great winds are sent by the Queen Cat of Heaven, none other.  Now I must to my town house, else Wattie our dog will have my breakfast.”  And away she ran.

I passed the morn resting in my lord’s chamber.  My lord had much business to attend to.  Indeed, so desirous was he of my company that I was not permit to leave, e’en though his other servants came and went.  

I was not troubled, for I had much to think on.  I believed we would not return to the citie before leaf fall, and I knew the cats here would beg more tales from me.

Could I tell of the lions in the Tower?  I’d feared them when I was emprisoned, but had learnt much of them since.  The King loved them right well.

And should I have ready a tale for All Hallow E’en?  King James hisself had sayt that some folk in Scotland – those with the sight – had seen a bloodie head floating in the air well before his mother had hers cut off.  Could I make a tale of that?

An imagined portrait of the young James (b.1566) with his mother, Mary Queen of Scots, who was executed in England in 1587.
In reality, she was forced to abdicate in favour of James when he was only a year old. They never met again.

As I lay dreaming, my thoughts turned again to witchery.

King James had writ that three passions are met with in witches: curiousity, thirst for revenge, and greediness.

All cats are curious and greedy, but my mother was the only one I knew with a thirst for revenge.

Was she a witch?  Were that why she warned us kits to let none know we could read and write?

Worser, was I?  Could one be a witch, all unknowing?

I was so ’mazed by this strange and horrid thought, I started from my bed and gazed about me.

My lord was ending a letter to Sir Rabbit – the Earl of Sauce-Berrie, I should say – but my mother always called him Sir Rabbit, and so did I.  I did not think rabbit would taste well with a berrie sauce.

Then I heard my lord say that after dinner we would go to sea!

To sea?  Yes, but not in sieves.  We was removing to our island, where I hoped there would be no witches.  Only naughty Catlicks and the like.

There we would dwell until we returned to London for the King’s parlement.

Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorThe removal to the Isle of Wight is one of the few events in Harry’s life that we can put an exact date to: 29 June 1605.  That day the Earl wrote to Robert Cecil, now Earl of Salisbury, updating him on the investigations he was making into unauthorised attempts to raise troops in the city of Southampton and the island for Spanish service.  Dinner was eaten early.  The Earl must have been planning to leave that afternoon from Titchfield Harbour (now gone and replaced by a Nature Reserve). 

Harry doesn’t say how he came to hear of the severed head apparition that King James spoke of, but Sir John Harington left a lively account of a meeting with the King. 

James – always on the lookout for fellow intellectuals – grilled Sir John about his learning, and made such a show of his own “as made me remember my examiner at Cambridge” says Sir JohnThe King also told Sir John that his mother’s death had been visible in Scotland before it happened, and was spoken of in secret by those “whose power of sight presented to them a bloodie head dancing in the air.

The cuckoo at the open air pulpit of Paul’s Cross who “very lewdly called and cried out with open mouth” must have excited any cat lurking about.  It amused letter-writer John Chamberlain, who mentioned it in a letter of April 30, 1605.


14 thoughts on “182:  Horrid Thoughts and Fears

  1. April Munday August 22, 2019 / 7:30 pm

    Poor Harry, cast out to the Island. I hope no evil befalls him there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi August 22, 2019 / 8:40 pm

      I’m sure he’ll enjoy himself. He’ll have a castle to explore.

      Liked by 1 person

    • April Munday August 23, 2019 / 12:05 am

      I must go over one day and have a look at Carisbrooke Castle. I’ve never been there.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi August 23, 2019 / 9:12 am

      I haven’t either! My travelling companion and I have the island on our ‘to visit’ list next time we’re in the UK.

      Liked by 1 person

    • April Munday August 23, 2019 / 6:17 pm

      I hope you have a good time. I’ve been there twice and don’t have fond memories.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. colonialist August 23, 2019 / 7:29 am

    I’m sure Harry will be all Wight with an insular base!

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi August 23, 2019 / 9:37 am

      Well-insulated against harm, definitely. But maybe he should be giving a little more thought to naughty Catlicks?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Claudio LeChat August 25, 2019 / 1:53 am

    I hope that Harry gets to meet a red squirrel while he’s on the Island.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi August 25, 2019 / 9:29 am

      It came as something of a surprise to me to think that the only squirrels around in Harry’s day would be red.


  4. Claudio LeChat August 25, 2019 / 8:55 pm

    I only hope that Harry doesn’t mistake any red squirrel he meets as an encounter with a spy or evil spirit. The colour is very distinctive albeit that there are no grey squirrels with which to compare as yet. It seems that we have the 11th Duke of Bedford to thank for the parlous state of affairs these days: see https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-beds-bucks-herts-35417747

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Dave Ply August 26, 2019 / 4:20 am

    I wonder what Gibb would have made of all this kings and witches stuff.

    I saw that painting of the “portrait” of Mary and James at Blair Castle about a year ago. I don’t know if the earl would have made it there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi August 26, 2019 / 4:58 pm

      I wonder if he would have been tempted to write a play about it?

      I’ve never visited Blair Castle; it looks great. I don’t know if the earl ever got that far. Once James was in England he doesn’t seem to have been keen on returning to Scotland, but he did make one lengthy trip back with his courtiers in about 1617. The earl was part of that, but although James travelled well beyond Edinburgh I think the earl returned to England before that.

      Liked by 1 person

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