105:  Scandal and the Citie

When I first met Onix, he sayt he was so necessary in his employment he had scant leisure.  I think the truth of it was, he had few friends.  His scents were so uncatly.

Once he knew Linkin and I did not distain him, he came to visit us by day.

We three were sat peaceable in our yard when I saw two lean shadows creep along the wall.

“Greetings, friends,” they called.  “We thought it time we was better akwaynted with the new stars in our fundament.”

A lean grey tabby with an intense green stare licks her nose.
Picker, a wicked cat.
– from Shubhankar Sharma via Unsplash.

Linkin and I let that pass.

“I call myself Picker,” sayt one.

And the other, “All know me as Stealer.”

Picker sayt, “We bring newes of your lord, the Right Honourable Earl of Southampton, Baron of Itch-Filled.”

“Titchfield,” sayt I.

“Cry you mercy!” sayt Stealer.  “We meant no offence.  You’re spoke of here as the Itch-Filled queen.”

Oh, I itched.  I itched to have at the saucie sluts.

But I narrowed mine eyes most courteous, and sayt, “Titchfield is a hard word for they that have no education.”

A lean grey tabby cat with an intense green stare and the tip of one ear missing.
Stealer, an equally wicked cat.
– from Shubhankar Sharma via Unsplash.

Stealer sayt, “Not so hard as the thought of your new Countess lying in prison at the pleasure of Her Majestie and the expense of her cousin, the Earl of Essex.”

“That’s not newes,” sayt I.  “All know Her Majestie hates any fair lady loved by a young lord.”

“Has Lady Essex a place at Court?” arrkst Linkin, rhetorickal.  “Will old Lady Lester [Leicester] ever be forgiven?”

“Or Mistress Rawly [Ralegh]?” sayt Onix. “First she was in the Tower, now she molders in the country.”

“Who trod on your tail?” arrkst Stealer.

Picker continued, “We also hear your Earl makes as great of a fool of hisself in Paris as he did here.  He does nowt but play [gamble] at games he rarely wins.”

“Surely, all know that lords love to play?” I arrkst.  “I once did battle with a great rat in the court [courtyard] at Titchfield, while my lord and his friends hung from the windows and laid wagers on us.  I earned my lord three hundred crowns.”

“Praise the day!” cried Stealer.  “But he’s lost three thousand since.”

“Doing battle at tennis and ballon with French lords,” added Picker.

“My lord is suttle,” sayt I. “The more money he loses in France, the better their King will love him.”

They fell silent then.  One clawed at her fleas, while the other cleansed her filthie paws.

Truth to tell, I enjoyed that bout of wits.

’Twas not long ere they came me again.

“Haply, you can answer this,” sayt Stealer.  “A cat in the household of a learned doctor tells of another fair lady who’s hot for your Earl.  How stands she in his affections now he’s wed?”

“Old newes,” sayt I.  “Nigh on a year has passed since I heard she was pursuing him.  Is one husband not enough for her?”

“Perchance she hoped her husband dead,” sayt Stealer.  “And herself a widow rich enough to hook any Earl.”

Picker arrkst, “Did your lord tell of the letter she sent him before he went to France?”

Linkin cut in quick.  “He did, and he chose not to answer her.  You may guess why.”

“We can,” they sayt.  “We do.  Your lord is Essex’ creature to the core.”

And away they flew.

“When heared you of that letter?” I arrkst Linkin.

“Never,” swore he.  “But if Picker and Stealer knew more than we, they would have put a different question to us.”

Then he rose and walked about our yard, setting his mark here and there to rid us of their presence.

I sayt to Onix, “I marvel that Paws, so sober and statelie, admits those dawkins to her parlement.”

“Did you not know?” he cried.  “They’re her daughters, and her spies.  Many fear them.”

Fear them?  Not I.  Like His Harryship, I loved to play.

When I was scarce more than a kit, I oft leapt into the yard where his hunting dogs lodged.  Most were in their house.  One or two might be free for exercise.  I watched them from afar ere I entered.

Oh, the joy when I cleared the wall again with their hubbubs and hot breaths behind me!

I guessed my love of excitations would serve me well in this citie.

A drawing of the Earl’s house – The Place – at Titchfield.
The dog yard Tricks found so exciting is shown upper right.

Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorTricks and Linkin defended the Earl of Southampton well.

He certainly didn’t seem to be doing much to help himself – apart from maintaining that he’d done nothing dishonourable, and his only error was to marry without Queen Elizabeth’s consent.

However, lingering in Paris and pleading poverty while losing huge sums of money wasn’t a good look.  In late September 1598 Sir Robert Cecil had word from France that the Earl was making wagers of 1,000, 2,000, and even 4,000 crowns.

And what of Mrs Prannell (nee Frances Howard), whom Tricks last heard of in 1597? She had consulted astrologer Simon Forman again in early February 1598, when the Earl first left for France.  She asked: Would the Earl like her any better?  Did he tell of the letter she’d sent him?  When would he return?

By October 1598 many people must have been asking that last question.

A late Elizabethan grey stone house, surrounded by parkland.
A view of Sir Walter Ralegh’s Sherborne Castle today.
Completed in 1594, and not so large then, it was where his wife Elizabeth  “Mistress Rawly” lived.  There are worse places to “molder”!  Anyway, she would have been kept busy.

 

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103:  We Go To Paws Yard

There came a sweet night with a fat moon.  Linkin and I knew leaf fall was nigh, and we sat upon our roof tasting the air.

Many cats were a-stir.  We watched them making their ways across the rooves to Paws [St Paul’s], and guessed this was the night for an assembly.

Another view of St Paul’s. The silhouette of the resident cat can just be seen on the roof.

I caught a waft of cinnamon, and saw Onix.  He checked hisself when he saw Linkin, but then (Linkin showing no objection to his presence) he joined us.

He abased hisself so low in friendship he near rolled off our roof.  Then he righted hisself, addressing Linkin as Your Excellencie.  Thinking (most like) that Linkin also served our Earl.

Linkin sayt nowt to correct him.

Onix told us his mistress was fetched out so sudden that her maid, running behind her with her stool, had no time to chase him back into their shop.

“Her stool?” I arrkst, in a maze.  “Are citie cows milked so late?”

That made Onix and Linkin merry.

Onix sayt, “When next my mistress tells me I must bide in at night, I’ll tell her so should she, for all good cows are a-bed.”

A midwife seated on her stool – in this case a small chair. The mother is on a birthing chair, supported by a friend or relative. An early 16th century German illustration, via Wikimedia.

Then he sayt his mistress was no milkmaid but a midwife sworn, and of good report among all.

I was shamed that I’d not guessed this, even though there was no call for midwives in my mother’s barn, nor in my uncle’s bookroom.

Onix sayt he was going to Paws, and invited us to go with him.

I thought Linkin would not come, but he followed us slow and statelie.

Then Onix turned instructive.  Viz:

“First, all must do the bidding of Paws herself, for she keeps both church and yard and no cat may be received there without she say so.”

And, “None may speak unless they’re called upon by Paws, else there’ll be nowt but wauls and brawls and we shall go away no wiser than we came.”

And, “You may be arrkst to give an account of yourselves, so all may know you’re not from strange lands.  There are some in this citie who hate strangers.”

And, “Say nothing against Her Majestie.”

In truth, my heart sank when I heared all this, but Linkin gave me the look that sayt: You’re not in Titchfield now.  So I kept my thoughts well hid.

We leapt up the wall and down to the yard, where cats were gathering in a circle.  A grey queen sat watching all.

Being new, Linkin and I took places at the back, as is courteous.

Before Onix left us, he arrkst if it were true that Her Majestie had sent Mistress Fur-None – her ladyship, as all must now call her – to the prison nigh unto the Stink River [the Fleet].

“For,” he sayt, “a woman in kit should not look on ugly things nor dwell in noisome places, lest the babe takes some hurt thereby.  Or come ugly and stinkish into this world.”

Was ever the babe born that was not an ugly little stinkard?  But I sayt nowt.

Linkin told Onix that we’d heard that newes, but could not swear to it.

Then near me one whispered, “Sister, I could have sworn we was at Paws, but have we strayed among the fields?  Can you not nose a country coney?”

There came the reply, “In truth, sister, I nosed nowt but a passing grocer’s fart that near struck me dead.”

That were Picker and Stealer – the cats that insulted me when first we met.

Onix looked back, hissing, “My master is no mere grocer, as you well know, and my mistress carries with her nowt that is not healthful.”

Then the grey queen cat, who I guessed was Paws herself, stepped forward and called all to order.

A young man (probably an apprentice) is serving a female customer, and a woman (the apothecary's wife or daughter?) is preparing a mixture. Two men are at a desk - one, seated, is writing down what they are discussing.
An apothecary’s shop:  this is a Flemish one, which would explain the un-English looking headgear worn by the two men – one of whom is probably the apothecary, and the other his assistant.  From F. Kitchener’s ‘Illustrated History of Furniture’ (1903) via the Internet Archive.

Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorEven an Earl’s cat has to learn what it’s like to be a small member of a very large community.

And no surprise that Tricks finds Onix too prim and proper.  Cats share the preoccupations of their households, and midwives were pillars of their communities.

Midwives were supposed to be licensed by the local ecclesiastical authority – though this didn’t always happen, particularly in country districts.  There’s an example of an Elizabethan midwife’s oath printed in John Strype’s Annals of the Reformation… Vol 1 Part 2 (1824 ed).

In summary, Eleonor Pead swears to exercise her office according to her God-given knowledge and skill, help both poor and rich women, endeavour to ensure that only the true father of the child is named as such, permit no baby to be substituted at birth, use no sorcery or incantation, not destroy or dismember any child, and use only proper words and pure water when performing an emergency baptism (i.e. if the child is not likely to survive).

Onix’ announcement that his master was no mere grocer explains his master’s occupation.

Apothecaries (the equivalent of our pharmacists) both used and sold spices, which were considered to have medicinal value.  At the end of the 16th century apothecaries were still members of the Grocers Company, but in 1617 The Worshipful Society of Apothecaries of London was incorporated.