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 and along a wall.  Thence to another tree or convenient high place.  

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 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 to kill vermin.

“Many boats bring viands,” sayt he.  “Others carry people who go where’er 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.  I accustomed myself to going along the rooves.  The belling of the churches had ceased to trouble me, and I’d learnt to know one’s din from another’s.

At night I saw wicked eyes watching me, and oft 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.  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 knew themselves, they would die of shame.

I wearied myself chasing about the house with Wattie, and I cleansed his head and ears when we rested.  Most tedious, but he told me of 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 dull (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?” I arrkst.

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

First on the road when we came into 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.”

So 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.

Now it seemed I must forever 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’s 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)