Our Earl soon became more civil to me. He paid good coin for straw to be laid in a corner so that I might have a cleanlie privy.
Of a morn, he offered me a little of his pottage with a morsel of fish or fowl. I ate of his dinner, and of his supper too.
We had many visitors. His lady Puss [Bess] always greeted us most loving and oft brought choice vittles with her.
Gentlemen came too, by day and night. I guessed they were prisoners like us.
Why could they range about the Tower while we was pent up in our lodging? Was it because they were not Earls?
Or because they were not as wicked as he? I did not know.
Our Earl spent much time in reading and writing. I watched him close, though I durst not try his ink and paper. I’d found no place to hide my scribblings.
When I was not required to leap and dance for him, I sat at the window and wished to venture forth. None troubled me there.
“We know what you done. One of your complices has confessed all.”
“Tell us who hid you before you was appended [apprehended].”
“Do not make us stretch you. That would grieve us.”
When one sought to ope the door by hooking his paw under it, I could bear no more.
I thought, I must speak or die.
I whispered, “I’m an honest cat, sent here to serve my lord.”
“Good! That answer cost you nowt,” sayt he. Then all was still.
The next night they came again. “Your master’s no lord,” one sayt. “He’s plain Mr Rissole [Wriothesley]. A traitor.”
“What do he call you?” arrkst another.
My lord called me by many names, not all of them courteous. Greediguts was the newest.
So I sayt, “My name is Harry.”
“Good! So now we have Mr Harry Rissole and Mr Rissole’s Harry. Very good.”
Whene’er the Whisperers came after that, they hissed “Rissole” at my door. I knew it was me they sought, not my lord.
“Right toothsome, rissoles are,” sayt one. “Know you of the lions that are imprisoned here?”
“They shall have a taste of you, if you do not tell us who your friends are.”
Of a sudden I was inspired by fear. I sayt, “Snakes-Purr is my friend.”
“Be he cat or man?”
“Man,” sayt I. “A player. Much in need of stretching.”
“A player? They’re for the common prisons. We want none here.”
Then one sayt, “If you won’t tell us more, perchance you’ll speak with Mr Secretary Cecil. Shall we send to him?”
I knowed that name!
I bethought me of the libel our mother had taught us: Little Cecil goes up and down, he rules both Court and Crown…
I hoped he might also rule the Tower. I sayt, “Mr Secretary is my friend. My sister has employment in his household.”
Henceforth my nights were calm. Then a new Whisperer came and hissed, “Rissole?”
When I went to the door she sayt, “Warn your lord. His rebellous talk with his friends here is known.”
I trusted none, so gave that cat no thanks. Instead, I resolved to pass less time at my window wishing to be free, and more in listening to the whisperings of my lord and his friends.
Oh, the Tower was a place of great wickedness.
And I, being young and apt to learn, learnt wickedness there.
There can’t have been many of the Earl of Essex’s supporters in the Tower at the end of 1601. After the February rebellion most had been spread around the public prisons or held in the houses of reliable citizens. Once the interrogations, trials, and executions were over, some were fined and many released.
However, the Earl of Southampton’s Tower apartment seems to have become the headquarters for the remaining few.
There was plenty of wicked whispering going outside the Tower, as well. Now Sir Robert Cecil ruled “both Court and Crown”, his former allies Sir Walter Ralegh and Lord Cobham had grown restive. Their headquarters were in Ralegh’s Durham House. Lord Admiral Charles Howard, who’d commanded the siege of Essex House, is said to have remarked he wouldn’t mind taking cannon there.