99:  I Hatch a Venturous Plan

First, I watched how other cats went about the citie.

Across the rooves.  Down a tree that grew by a house.  Into a yard or lane, and up onto a wall.  Thence to another tree or convenient place.  

But at times I saw them slip along streets that were throng and people-pestered.  A thing I feared to do.

I turned to the river.  In truth, it seemed more like unto a haven [harbour] where great waters rise and fall.

There were more boats that I could number.  How joyed I was to glimpse a cat in one!

But Linkin told me that boat had brought meats [food] to the citie, and the cat was employed thereon to kill vermin.

“Many boats bring viands,” sayt he.  “Others carry people who go where’re they wish.”

He told me great folks oft had their own boats.  The middling sort (like the master and our mistress) paid a waterman to carry them.

No boat for me, then.

And so I went forth upon the rooves.  The belling of the churches had ceased to trouble me, and I learnt to know one’s din from another’s.

At night I oft saw wicked eyes watching me, and heared lewd whispers as I passed.  But none offered to fight me.

A cat's eyes glinting from a moonlit roof.

I made my way westward, venturing across narrow lanes and pleasant gardens until I came to the citie’s great wall.

And beyond that?  A smaller river I’d seen from our roof.  And then the house of the Earl of Essex?  I hoped little dog Wattie could tell me.

Dogs are more apt for action than they are for knowledge.  Which is well for them, for if they could but know themselves, they would die of shame.

How I wearied myself, chasing about the house with Wattie.  And how oft I cleansed his head and ears while we rested.  But he told me what lay beyond the wall.

He’d been thither from Paws church [St Paul’s], where our mistress went to nose the books and greet her friends.  That were most tedious (he sayt) but the way westward from Paws ran through the wall, and over a river of wondrous stinks.

“Stinks,” sayt I, “will poyson you.  Tell me of fairer places.”

A small brown and white spaniel, with a carved wooden chair back as background,Wattie babbled of fields and rabbits.

“Know you the house of the most noble and heroick Earl of Essex, whom all love?” I arrkst.

He bragged of how many times he’d been by it.

First on the road, when we came to the citie and he heard the mistress speak of it.  And also by water, when he accompanied the mistress and the master in a boat.  He sayt it lay beside a house for skollers of the law.

“I care nowt for water,” sayt I.  “When next you go by road, fail not to leave good marks by both those houses.  Or ’twill be the worse for you.”

And stretching myself most affable, I showed him all my claws.

He swore he would.

Then I told Linkin I was of a mind to pass through the wall by night, and see where skollers of the law lodged.

“Which lodging do you mean?” he arrkst. “There are many.”

I arrkst him, a Law Cat, to accompany me.

He sayt he would not.  “And you cannot go by night.  I believe the gates are shut when men and women are abed.  You must whip through before the sun has quit the sky.  How shall you do that?”

I hid my head in my paws and cursed the morn I’d been discovered atop the herbs.   For had I remained in that loose-lid basket, I could have sprung forth before we entered the citie.  And sought a place in Essex’ house.

Now it seemed I must dwell among dogs, puritans, and children who made paper ruffs to pin about my neck.

Then Linkin sayt, “If you go, ’twere best you sit in some high place until the day fades.  Those that are in the citie will be hasting to go out, and those that are out will be hasting to come in.  Who will remark a cat creeping by?”

Linkin may be old, but he’s cunning.


Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorThe route Tricks plans to take is less than a mile, but it’s a long and venturesome one for a cat.

Through the old Ludgate, which was a couple of blocks west of St Pauls.  Over the River Fleet (now underground).  Then along Fleet Street to the Strand.  The Earl of Essex’ riverside mansion was adjacent to Middle Temple (one of the Inns of Court) which has a beautiful Elizabethan hall.

A section of Braun & Hogenberg’s 1572 map of London.  St Paul’s is at the far right of the picture.  Essex House, marked with red, is at the far left.  The River Fleet is marked with blue where it runs into the Thames.  (J. Hoefnagel engraving – Wikimedia Commons)

 

96:  A Lesson for Wattie before Our Going

After I had done with Linkin, I remained in the stable.  I did not conceal myself, but sat bold-arst in the straw.

’Twas not long before little dog Wattie frisked in, and saw me.

A head and shoulders portrait of a soulful looking young brown and white spaniel against a carved wooden chair back.
Little Dog Wattie.

I lay on my side and stretched myself to show my belly.

He sprang towards me.  I did not move.  The nearer he drew, the shorter and higher he leapt, because he did not wish to fall on me.

Next he gambolled around me.  I gazed at the roof-beams.

He grew bold and nosed my belly.  This familiarity troubled me, and I was tempted to strike him a blow, but I forbore.

That set him about.  He ceased snorting and snuffling in my fur, and crept behind me.

I lay fast, but my tail twitched of itself.  The young imp took its tip between his teeth and pulled.

The horses were joyed to see me so discomforted.  “Say, do we not think that cat is fool?” arrkst one.

“Yea,” came the answer.  “That cat is fool.”

Then Wattie tugged my tail so fierce he shifted me in the straw.  Twice.

The horses marvelled at my forbearance.

“Were that dog to use us in like manner,” sayt one, “would we not kick him?”

“In sooth, we would,” came the reply.

But Wattie understood the lesson.  Viz, I would run from him only when I chose.

So he returned to my belly, thrust his nose deep into my fur, and spake a word that was full of sound and fury but signified nothing.  Then he went in search of better sport.

Why did I not spare myself this strange usage by telling Wattie I hoped to travel with him?

No dog can keep a secret.  They blab others’ secrets with their noses, and their own with their eyes and tails.  All I desired from Wattie was his silence.

That evening I went forth and caught a rabbit.  I ate all for my supper, because I knew I might not eat for many days.

The servants came before dawn, and set down their bundles, bags, and baskets in the yard.  I walked among them in broad view.

The horses were brought forth.

Linkin sat in a large basket, lamenting aloud.  The lid had been made fast.  He could do no more than thrust out a paw.

“Be of good cheer,” sayt I, and continued my inspections.  

Other baskets held favourite hens, lest London eggs prove unwholesome.  And bottles of wine, and choice pasties.  Gifts for the friends Linkin’s mistress would lodge with on the way.

Then I nosed a basket scented with fresh soil.  Its lid was loose, and I raised it.  This basket was lined with damp mosses, and held many little plants in pots packed close together.

I guessed these were the herbs that Linkin’s mistress brewed to make her broths and oyntments.

Her servants were busy with saddles, or the harness for the pair of horses that were to bear the baggage.  None was watching me.

I slipped in, and settled myself on the pots.  Some plants were tied to little sticks that shifted readily.  Others were no more than slips or twigs that broke beneath my weight.

I alone heard that.  The servants were loud in their talk of balancing the loads, bring me that bundle, truss these two together, hang that from here, etcetera.

The boy who lifted my basket sayt, “That’s heavier than I thought ’twould be.”

A man came to help him, saying, “The pots are full of good soil, and all have been well-watered.”

None looked in on me.

Then came Linkin’s mistress with Wattie, too intoxicate with his own excitations to pay me any heed.

The mistress was handed to her horse.  A man helped her maidservant onto his, and she held the leading rein of the horse that bore me.  Another manservant was mounted with the boy.  They led the other horse.

As we crossed the bridge I looked back through my basket at our Earl’s great house, and glimpsed Nero lying low atop a wall, watching all.

A rusty black cat lying on top of a wall.

He did not seem grieved to see us go, but I’d known him since I learnt one cat’s scent from another’s.  I could not believe I might never see him more.

Wattie had wished to run behind us until his legs tired.  Then I guessed he would ride with the mistress or on the luggage.

I prayed the horses would not think he meant to seize their tails, and take pleasure in kicking him.  I was sure I could find a use for Wattie.

I well recall how sweet the air smelled that spring morn.  And the herbs that lay crushed beneath me.

I could scarce believe what I had done.

Bluebells