94:  Linkin Gives Strange Newes

Head and shoulders portrait of a ginger and white cat.
Linkin, a lover of politicks.

At our next assembly Linkin sayt, “You may have heard me speak of the London lawyer that was my master before I joined his mother’s household.”

(T’were a marvel if any of us had not.)

“Well,” sayt Linkin, “his wife has died, sudden.”

“What of her motherless kits?” called an old queen cat. “Who will nourish them?”

“More of those little yowlers later,” sayt Linkin. “First, I’ve newes from Sir Rabbit’s ambassage to France.”

I’d guessed that Mr Secretary would gain nowt there, but kept my thoughts well-hid.

A thin-faced, bearded man in dark clothes, with papers and an official red, embroidered, dispatch bag beside him.
Sir Rabbit, better known as Mr Secretary or Sir Robert Cecil, leader of the English delegation. Via Wikimedia Commons.

All pricked their ears most courteous, though few love politicks as Linkin does.

He sayt, “Sir Robert and his company made landfall at Dieppe. When they reached Paris, the French King was gone to Brittany to correct a wicked Duke who fancies hisself a Prince.”

“Where’s Brittany?” arrkst a young cat, curious.

“In France,” sayt Nero.  “I’ve viewed it from the sea, but ne’er set foot there.  Nor would I.”

Linkin sayt:  “They travelled many wearisome miles to find the King.  He received them most courteous, and expressed his love for Queen Puss.  Sir Rabbit presented our Earl, saying he’d come to France to serve the King, and the King embraced him.”

“I hear tell the French King is much given to scruffing,” came a call.  “Did Sir Rabbit say owt of that?”

Linkin (deaf) sayt, “The King was not so amiable when it came to talk of Spain, our common enemie.  He believes we English scorn him.  Sir Rabbit assured him that Queen Puss did not seek to disswade him from his plans, nor was she opposed to a general peace.  She merely wished to know what the offers were.

A sketch of a grave-faced but attractive woman with bouffant hair.
Madame – Henri IV’s sister, Catherine de Bourbon (1559-1604). Via Wikimedia Commons.

“The King sent all to meet Madame his sister.  Sir Rabbit gave her a letter from our Queen.  Madame is a good Protestant, and has a seat on the King’s Council.

“Sir Rabbit sayt she was well-painted, ill-dressed, and strangely jewelled, but accompanied by many great ladies.

“The next morning the King was indisposed, but after dinner he entreated our ambassadors to visit his son, and the lady the King wishes to marry.

“Sir Rabbit writ that she’s very fair, well-spoken and courteous, and has another kit in her belly.  He had no letter for her (though I believe she would have liked one) so did not spend much time there.”

“Was any French lady so courteous as to hoist her tail and permit one of our gentlemen to seize her by the scruff?” arrkst a lusty young cat.

“Did Sir Rabbit make a report of what was ate at dinner?” arrkst another, hopeful.  “Does the French King keep a good table?”

Linkin, tiring of their foolerie, turned rhetorickal.

“Who would not prefer a war of righteousness to a peace of peril?  Will the Spanish keep that peace?  What of our Dutch friends, who wish to drive them from the Low Countries?  They’ll not countenance a truce, much less a treaty.

“And once the Spanish cease fighting with the French, they’ll come at us again.  They have all the gold and silver of the Indies in their claws, and will make a new Armada.”

Henri IV (1553-1610).  Also known as Henri of Navarre, he was raised as a Protestant, but converted to Catholicism to ensure his acceptance as King of France. Via Wikimedia Commons.

Hot words.  But the more Linkin spake against peace, the better I liked that French King.

If he could not get what he wanted from purse-moanious [parsimonious?] Puss of England, he would have it from Philip of Spain.

“With France lost to our cause, will Queen Puss friend the Spanish too?” called Linkin, carried away.  “’Tis not I alone who fears so.  I believe the most noble and heroick Earl of Essex is of like mind.  I hope to hear more of this in London soon.”

“What?” came a saucie call.  “Lord Essex has offered you a place in his household?  Or is it Sir Rabbit that craves your wise counsel?”

That set all a-screeching.

“My mistress will go to lodge with her son,” sayt Linkin.  “And have care of his motherless kits.  I shall accompany her.”

“I may join you,” sayt Nero.  “Your mistress was ever kind to cats.  Once in London, I’ll friend a Turkey merchant and take ship to Constantinople.”

“Last I heard,” sayt Linkin, “you was bound for Fence [Venice].”

“I go wherever the winds command me,” sayt Nero.  “And cats eat well in Constantinople.”

Many called for Nero to tell us more of that citie.  And some young cats sayt they’d never heared his famous Turkey tale.

Nero promised to give it out when next we met.

That’s one assembly I did not trouble to attend.  I’ve heard those lies so oft I could give them out myself.

As I walked home, I feared I may have been too hasty in my dealings with Linkin.  I vowed to say sorry for my unkind words.  And offer him a rat. 

And discover when his mistress would set forth for London.

Editor's Note. Small image of a quill pen.Henri IV’s negotiations for peace with Spain were well down the track by the time the English legation arrived.

Henri faced a massive task in trying to unite France under his rule, impoverished as it was by war, and divided by bitter religious differences and the ambitions of powerful nobles.

Brittany was a pro-Spanish stronghold, and Henri had to bring its “governor” the Duke of Mercœur to heel.  From there he went to Angers, where the English met him in late March/early April 1598.

Henri’s domestic arrangements must have made Queen Elizabeth’s court seem very straitlaced.  Estranged from his wife, Marguerite de Valois, Henri had no legitimate heirs and was hoping to marry his long-term mistress, Gabrielle d’Estrées (c1573-1599).

However, Henri’s sister Catherine de Bourbon (1559-1604) was probably the most powerful woman in France.  So no surprise that her make-up and dress sense were subject to close scrutiny, just as Elizabeth I’s were.  Some things never change.

93:  I Take Up My Pen Again

A miniature portrait of a black, white and orange cat against a background of flames.It was ever the way of little kitlings to believe that their mother knows all things.

Yet when they are of an age to creep out of their lodgings and jet it about the streets – why, then their poor mother knows nothing.

No, not even how those same young cats came to be in this world.

And so I think it befits me to do as my uncle did, and set down a true account of my life thus far.

My pretty kits will find it instructive, and learn what evils may befall them if they stray from the ways of the righteous.

Quill Pen

Fine words.  And fit ones for a skoller such as I.  For should not she-skollers write seriously of sober matters? But, having writ these words, I laid my pen aside.

Here’s the rub.  I could think of nowt else to say.

I never trod the paths of righteousness until I grew too old to tread any path save the one that leads from our yard to my supper and thence to my hearth.

There I spend my time dreaming of the days when I kept wild company, and flew fire-hot across the rooves of this town in search of mischief.  I see no need to feign penitence, as some do when they write of their younger selves.

I shall therefore keep my account well-hid from the eyes of my kits.

Though, now I think on it, few ever learnt to read, and they that did lack the wit to read anything save a lewd ballad left lying in Paul’s Yard, or a libel they found in the gutter.

How is it that kits can be as fool as their sires even though they never knew them?

To begin.  I was born, as all know, in the country.  My mother was a barn queen, and her brother was in the service of the Earl of Southampton.  It was my uncle who found me a place in the Earl’s household and taught me my letters.  He took delight in my skollership.

Once my uncle was gone from this world I wished to do as our Earl had done, and set forth on my travels.

First, I had business to effect.  My uncle had made bequests to his friends: Nero, an ancient sea cat turned poet, and Linkin, who fancied hisself a lawyer.

I was plain in my dealings with them.

A black cat seated before a painting of Venice.
Nero dreams of Venice.

I told Nero, “My uncle left you a swan’s quill.  He sayt it need not be a cut one, because you cannot write.  So best you wait until the swans molt.  I’ll find you a fit one before I leave this place to further my education.”

“I hope to quit this place myself, come summer,” sayt Nero.  “I’m of a mind to see Fence [Venice] once more.”

“Have you found a ship to carry you?” I arrkst.

“I shall make enquiries when my master and I are next in Portsmouth,” sayt he, very grand.

No invitation for me to accompany him.

Let him find his own quill, thought I, and went next to Linkin’s house.  My uncle had willed that I give Linkin a rat of my own killing, and I meant to ask when he wished to receive it.

Linkin sayt, “If you’ve come to know how Mr Secretary and our Earl fare on their ambassage to France, you must wait till I give it out at our next assembly.”

He took pride in being first with the London talk.  He heard it from his mistress, whose son had it from Mr Secretary hisself.  Or paid one of Mr Secretary’s servants for it, more like.

Sayt I, “I came to give you thanks for your help to my uncle in the making of his last Will and Testament.  I am the executor – .”

Linkin cut in quick.  “ExecuTRICKS,” he sayt, hawtie.  “That’s Latin for a she-executor.”

He narrowed his eyes and looked right pleased with hisself.

I out-hawtied him.  I continued, “ And I marvel that my poor uncle had to step out for your advice on so chill a day.  Why came you not to him?  He the Cat of our Earl’s Bedchamber, and you but the bedfellow of a puritan shrew.”

“My mistress oped our door to him,” sayt Linkin. “He sat at my hearth.”

“Worse,” sayt I.  “For I believe my uncle took cold on his walk home, and died of it.”

“It was his choice to come to me,” sayt Linkin.  “How could I know that visit were his last?”

“Ignorance is no defense,” sayt I.  “The fault is yours.”

“I arrkst no fee from him,” lied Linkin, bristling.

“Scant consolation.”  I stalked off slow and stately, rejoycing that my mother’s wit and my uncle’s learning were so well met in me.  Tricks by name and tricksie by nature.

Let him catch his own rat, thought I.

But after I heard Linkin’s newes at the Cats’ Field, I had to change my tune.

Editor's Note. Small image of a quill pen.Like her uncle, Gib’s niece – or Tricks, as she seems to have started calling herself – doesn’t add dates or place names to her writing.

This was obviously written some years after Sir Robert Cecil’s visit to France in early 1598, when the English were concerned that Henri IV would make peace with Spain and disadvantage England.  Tricks’ casual reference to Paul’s Yard, i.e. St Paul’s churchyard where many booksellers had their stalls, indicates that she’s in London.