196:  I Prove I Am Not Fool

Head of Harry, a startled-looking black and white cat
Harry – our narrator

When Stealer arrkst me if there was owt in Snakes-Purr’s inky scribblings that he might be hanged for, I was clean cast down.

Then came a flash of cunning.

I sayt, “The fellow writes so ill I can scarce make out a word.  For that, all praise to your ladyships.  Sure, you wrought such harm on him when he sought to murder you, the paw with which he holds his pen is readie to drop off.”

Well pleased, Picker and Stealer fell to cleansing their own paws.

Before they could arks me more, I sayt, “I shall pluck out the verses among these papers.  I care nowt for any pieces that may be from a play.”

And I showed them how I knew the difference.  I sayt, “Here, at the side of this page, there’s a scattering of little marks like mouse turds.  That means a play, showing the names of they that speak the words.”

Shakespeare’s inky scribblings? Three lines scanned from a script about Sir Thomas More, a play in which several writers had a hand.  The British Library presents some pages from the draft play as an example of Shakespeare’s handwriting.  Others are not so sure.

Picker and Stealer pricked their ears and gazed most earnest on the papers.

Picker arrkst, “Is Luvvie’s name writ anywhere?”

“No,” sayt I.  “Luvvie quit the Glob long since.  There’ll be nowt writ for him here.”

The Globe Theatre on the south bank of the Thames
The Glob, better known as the Globe.

“Nor could there be,” sayt Stealer.  “For he can’t read neither.”

I liked not that word “neither”.  I feared she meant me, not herself and her sister.

“True,” I sayt, mild. “Luvvie listens for his kew.”

I began to thrust the play pages aside.  Picker and Stealer watched me most suspicious.

Then they sayt that they would keep the pages I had no use for.  I guessed they would to take them to their sleeping place.

I sat at my task until I’d pulled out all the verses.  What a heap they made!  And what could I do with them?

“Well?” arrkst Picker, sly.  “Have you heard your kew yet?”

Of a sudden, I felt cold.  By night Paw’s church is chill, and I hoped that were the onlie reason my fur began to prick me.

I feigned merriment.  “I have,” I cried.  “A kew from the Queen Cat of Heaven herself.  She bids me publish them.”

I had never before seen Picker and Stealer seem ’mazed.  I knew I was not like to see so rare a sight again.

“Pray hear me,” I begged (though as yet they had not offered to still my tongue).  “There are more verses here than ever my poet uncle could have writ.  These are proofs that Snakes-Purr stole from more than him.”

I hasted on.  “My mother had not lived long in this citie before she came upon a little book.  What was printed therein?  Two of Uncle Gib’s sonnets.”

“Sonnets?” arrkst Picker and Stealer, frowning.

“Sonnets are verses,” sayt I, “that some write to seem intellective, and others read to seem the same.  My mother read enuff to know this Snakes-Purr for a thief, and vowed revenge.  Her friends swore to aid her.  Your ladyships have done more than any other.  My mother blesses the day she first made your akwayntance.”

Whether they believed those last words, I neither knew nor cared.  I sayt, “If we make a book, other poets will see their verses printed bold and take revenge too.”

“Well and good,” sayt Stealer.  “But how can we make this book?”

Oh, that were the question.

My wits did not fail me.


I sayt, “Did not my mother have a friend, one Kettie a Turkey cat, who keeps a print shop hereabouts?  I shall seek his advices.”

They sayt nowt to that, so I guessed Kettie still lived and was well.

We conveyed the verses back to their hiding place.  I returned to mine and awaited the morn and the opening of Paws’ doors.

Sure, the Queen Cat of Heaven looked kindly on me that night.

Toutparmoi - Note from the Editor If I were alone in a cathedral with a couple of crime bosses who’d presented me with stolen papers I didn’t know what to do with, and then began to act as if they suspected me of lying to them I’d think fast too.   Though after contemplating this picture of a printers’ workshop I fear Harry may have promised more than he can perform.

– From P L Jacob, ‘The Arts in the Middle Ages and at the period of the Renaissance’ via Project Gutenberg.  In the foreground one man is inking plates, while the other is taking a freshly printed page from the frame.  The typesetters are working in the background.



5 thoughts on “196:  I Prove I Am Not Fool

  1. April Munday November 29, 2019 / 1:30 am

    Harry is definitely not a fool. I think Picker and Stealer would do well to be careful around him.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi November 29, 2019 / 7:23 am

      I’m not sure I’d go that far, but Harry did once say that he’d learnt wickedness while he was in the Tower.

      Liked by 1 person

    • April Munday November 29, 2019 / 7:28 am

      He does have life experience that they lack – and vice versa.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi November 29, 2019 / 8:06 am

      He also lays on the flattery with a trowel. A proper little courtier.

      Liked by 1 person

    • April Munday November 29, 2019 / 8:34 am

      He is. It’s probably a good skill to have given the time he lives in,

      Liked by 1 person

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