160:  Signs and Portents

A wine glass and a sprig of rosemary, with heart-shaped decorated pastry and some candies on a platter. A ring with a pink stone lies by the platter's rim.That winter our household came, of a sudden, quiet.

When bags and boxes were first brought forth, I took it for a sign our mistress was returning to her own house in the countrie.

I hid myself, for I did not wish to go with her. 

Then Linkin told me the master’s sweetheart had invited him to make merrie at her house.  The master’s kits, our mistress, and Wattie our dog would accompany him.

Her house was not many ways from the citie, but the weather was so foul Linkin feared they would not have an easie going, and may be delayed in their return.

We were content to remain.  Linkin kept by the fire in the hall, and I oft joined him on the hearth.

I arrkst if the master and his sweetheart would marry at her house.

“No,” sayt Linkin.  “This is no season for marrying.  They’ll wed before the Fasting Time, and our mistress will return to the countrie come spring.”

“What of you?” I arrkst.

“I shall not go with her,” sayt he.  “I’m too old for so hazardous a journey.  I told her this, and she took my meaning.  My master agreed ’twere best I bide here.”

I did not vex Linkin by arksing what hazards he’d met with on our journey hither, though I well remember his foolish fears as he waited while the baskets were made ready.

In truth, it was I who was fearful when we entered the citie, so mazed was I by all its stinks and sounds.  What things I’d learnt and done since then!

“Wattie our dog will go with the mistress,” sayt Linkin.

I arrkst, “Did she say owt of me?”

“She sayt she’ll take you if she can find you.  If she can’t, she’ll take Luvvie.  ’Tis of no consequence.”

I was much offended then.  I sayt, “I an Earl’s cat, yet of no consequence to a mere gentlewoman?”

“That’s not her reason,” sayt Linkin.  “She brought two cats hither, and she’ll take one hence.  I believe she’d sooner take you, because you’re fitter for the countrie than the town.  You vanish for days or even weeks, then return when all believe you lost.  She says that you’re no house cat,”

“No house cat?” I cried.  “I have many houses.  Finer ones than she knows.  Before I came to London the book chamber at Place House was mine.  I’ve reared kits in the Savoy, and all have better places now than her son ever will.”

A small, roud-eyed black and white kitten“Her son’s not imprisoned,” sayt Linkin. “Yours is.”

“Puss Fur-None took him to attend upon my Earl,” sayt I.  “As I attended on him in Essex House and Drury House.  Southampton House could also have been mine, but I never dwelt there because my Earl did not.” 

That I – Rebel, Instrument, Miscreant, and Revenger – should be so distained!  ’Twere too much to bear.  “Your mistress is a Know-Nowt,” I cried.

Then came something horrid.  A sound, deep beneath me.  Like a growl from the earth’s belly.

Linkin heared it too.

Our house trembled, with manie creaks and groans.  Fine glasses on the cupboard clinked together.  Luvvie came leaping down the stairs, and a maid in the chamber above cried out in fright.

Then all was still.

The boy, coming in with baked meats from the cookshop, had heard the maid’s cry, though it seemed he’d heard nowt else.  He called to her, “What’s the matter?”

Linkin and I agreed it were a sign from the Queen Cat of Heaven.  But what did it portend?

Southampton House (upper right) – the Earl of Southampton’s town house in Holborn. The Earl doesn’t seem to have used it himself in the late 1590s.  All its apartments were probably leased out.


Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorThe little earthquake Tricks describes was felt in London and eastern England on 24 December 1601.

Linkin’s right about Christmas not being a fit season for marrying.  According to historian David Cressy in Birth, Marriage & Death: Ritual, Religion and the Life Cycle in Tudor and Stuart England, there were 144 days in the year which the Church of England regarded as unsuitable for marriage, including Advent and Christmas-tide up until 13 January.  Lent (and the 3 weeks prior) was also considered unsuitable.

Marriage wasn’t actually forbidden, but it required a special licence.

In keeping with the custom of her times Tricks has written very little about her offspring, so I’m pleased to see they all found homes, even if one’s in the Tower of London.