62: Quarrels

Gib looking up, thoughtfully.My lord will soon be of full age.  We cats see no need to celebrate the day of our birth, but my lord’s birth day will bring baked meats with rich sauces and gravies.

I have no quarrel with that.

My lord’s sister (Lady Moll) and her husband are come, bringing their cook.  He trod on my tail, and showed no remorse.

When I presented myself at supper, Lady Moll cried, “Here’s old Bevis!”  (Me.)

She offered me a morsel from her plate.  I was civil and accepted it, but did not stay to be called “old” twice.

And I was troubled by the strange folk in the house.

At dawn I went to see my sister at her barn.  I hoped to rid myself of my ill humours by quarrelling with her.

My visit started well.  My sister was placing her night’s rats by the barn door.  She sets forth crepusculine [in twilight] to catch a rabbit for supper.  Then she dispatches rats.  She says it’s best to watch for them with a full belly; that gives her patience enough to match their cunning.

“Touch not they rats,” she snarled at me.  “I’ve counted them.  As will my master, before he gives me a dish of milk for my pains.”

“I’ve no need to steal your rats,” sayt I.

“Oh, have you not?  With our Earl here, you’re like to want a gift for him.  An offering for his table.”

I must confess I hadn’t thought of that.  I was wondering if I should snap one and run off when I saw Nero and Linkin coming to us.

They sayt we should have a meeting of our Company to talk of our play, and if we should make another.

My sister was against it.  She sayt all the kitlings have been froward [naughty] since our performance.

“They fight and swear most horrible.  They should be heeding their mothers and learning to hunt. Winter is coming, and the harvest is poor.  Who to protect it but we?”

Two kittens play-fighting on a plank of wood.

“What?” arrkst Nero.  “The kits have learnt the words that you, as our Queen, gave out?”

“I spake the words I was told.  His Gibship here wrote them.”

“Her Majestie swears most horrible,” sayt I.  “That much was true.  But before we make another play I should like to see this one imprinted.”

“Ah,” sayt Linkin, judicious.  “First, a seller of books must buy it from us.  And none will, because it has not been enacted in London.  Nor could it be.”

I sayt, “I could write that it was enacted by the Earl of Southampton’s servants in divers places.”

“You could,” sayt Linkin. “But it would never be licensed.  It slanders the Earl of Ox-Foot [Oxford], our Earl’s mother the Countess, and old Lord Purrlie [Burghley].  And worst, the Queen’s Majestie.  That’s treason.  No printer would touch it for fear of his life.”

I knew he spake true.  But, being ill-humoured, I was of a mind to take him down a peg.

I sayt to Nero, “Lawyers always tell you what you may not do.  Never what you may.”

“You sought my advice,” sayt Linkin.  “I gave it.”

I sayt, “I shall change the play so it slanders none.  I shall lay the scene in some papistical country like Spain or Portugal where they know not how to conduct theirselves.”

“Nor sue for slander,” sayt Nero.

“I shall make the Queen a Duchess,” sayt I.  “And change all the names to foreign ones.”

“Lay it in Italy,” sayt Linkin.  “All love to hear of Italy.  Call the Queen the Duchess of Milan.”

“With Ox-Foot set upon by pirates while he sailed from Fence [Venice] to Milan?” arrkst Nero, wide-eyed.

(Linkin should have kept that suggestion to hisself.  He’s a law cat, not a sea cat.)

“I composed a fine speech on Ox-Foot’s fight with pirates,” sayt Nero.  “It would weary my brain to make another on brigands.”

A close-up of a black cat
Nero, a vexatious sea cat.

I was vexed with Nero then.

I made the entire play save for Ox-Foot’s words and the lewd song at the end.  Yet now was Nero speaking as if his speeches were all!

“It would weary my brain,” sayt I, “to change my play entire.”

Yes.  My play.  We are a Company, but mine was the invention.

“Our play was ever fool,” sayt my sister.  “But all begged my brother for a tale of blood and scruffing, and so he brought it forth.  We joyed ourselves by mocking the great folks that he’s heard tell of.  But why make his tale even more fool to have it imprinted?”

“True,” sayt I.  “It will not serve.”

“Then I’ll take my fee,” sayt Linkin, law cat to the last.  He seized one of my sister’s rats and fled.

Certes, his mistress will praise him when she receives it.


Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorI was doubtful about posting this account of petty feline squabbles, because it adds little to our understanding of Elizabethan literature or history.  However, I’m aware of what veterinarians refer to as transferred (or redirected) aggression in cats, so I thought a cat’s perception of such behaviour might be interesting.

Gib, upset by the birthday preparations, goes to quarrel with his sister.  (The Earl of Southampton turned 21 on 6 October 1594.  This entry in Gib’s journal must have been written not long before then.)

When Linkin and Nero arrive, Gib decides to annoy Linkin instead.  He looks to Nero for support, but then Nero annoys him.

Linkin, offended by Gib and Nero, takes it out on Gib’s sister by stealing one of her rats.

I’m glad that we humans, when miffed, don’t carry on like this.

61:  Strange Thoughts

Gib reclining on a cushion, looking thoughtful.I passed some days after our performance in sleeping.

My back pained me.  This was from walking on my legs and clawing at the air, as Lion Rampant do.

I grow too old for such frolicks.

Then, when I stepped out to take the sun in my lord’s garden, many were working there.

I fear believe this means my lord may come, with his robustious friends.  My house will be in disarray.

I went to find a private place.  And as I walked it come to me that I should write our play out fair, with all our speeches, so it can be made into a proper book.

When I saw Nero, I told him this.

“Why?” he arrkst.

I sayt, “I wish to see it imprinted handsome.  But I don’t know how this might be done.”

Title Page to Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay by Robert Greene, printed 1594
A play imprinted handsome.

Nero cannot read, and I feared he would make mock of me.

But he sayt we should ask Linkin, who lived in London once.

He led me to Linkin’s house, but we saw none but the Mad Cat there.  He was seated on their doorstep.

“Here’s sport,” sayt Nero to me.  He cried, “What, friend?  Have you forgot your way home?”

The Mad Cat looked at us, lunatick.  “One spake a word to me,” he sayt.

“True,” sayt Nero. “’Twas I.”

“Not you,” the Mad Cat replied.

“Then it was the Queen Cat of Heaven,” sayt Nero.  “Though why she speaks to you and never me I cannot guess.”

“There is no Queen Cat of Heaven,” sayt the Mad Cat.

That wiped the mirth from Nero’s face.  He sayt, “No, friend, that be wicked atheistical talk.  You talk like that, they’ll accuse you of treason and all kind of evil.”

“And hang you,” sayt I. “After they’ve stretched you to learn who your friends are.  And then they’ll hang us.”

“It is the sun,” sayt the Mad Cat.

“The sun spake to you?” I arrkst.

 “The sun will punish all who do not love Creation.  As I have told.”

“Well,” sayt Nero, recovering hisself. “He’s in no haste.  We’ve scarce seen him this summer past.”

“The harvest will be poor,” sayt I.  “We must offer thanks that we have places in households where none will starve.”  (I sought to cheer the Mad Cat with a goodly thought.)

“The sun has all the time remaining to this world,” sayt he, as if I had not spoke.  “I will not see his vengeance in my life, you will not see it in yours.  But it will come, believe me.  I know what I know.”

“If there’s no Queen Cat of Heaven,” I sayt, “who’s been talking to you all these years?”

“Mine own prophetic soul,” sayt he.

 “I always believed the moon possessed his brains,” whispered Nero to me.  “Now it seems the sun has chased her out.”

Photo of a cat standing on a wall looking up at the sky
The Mad Cat, in his younger days.

Then a gentlewoman oped the door, and called him in.  I believe she thought we meant to attack him.  We ran off.

At our next Field Day Linkin gave newes that the Mad Cat was gone from this world.

“My mistress,” he sayt, “is most grieved.  She says she brought Sugar (her name for the Mad Cat) from Cambridge when her son was but a boy in college.  Now her son’s a lawyer in London and does not come to visit her as oft as he should.”

Now here’s a thing.  Linkin sayt: My mistress.  He used to say: My master.  That’s her lawyer boy, even though Linkin has lodged with her since he was a young cat.

This means Linkin has taken the Mad Cat’s place in her household.  Will he bring us preachings from the goodly books she reads?

I looked up at the sky, and saw the Queen Cat of Heaven’s myriet [myriad] eyes watching all.

Starry sky over the wood during a summer evening.

I wondered if the Mad Cat spake true when he sayt there was no Queen Cat of Heaven.  And I arrkst myself if her eyes were nowt but sparks flown off the sun.  A strange thought.

Then it come to me that one day another cat will call our Earl: My lord.  Not in courtesy, but because that cat has taken my place in this household.

The strangest thought of all.

And yet I do not know how I may have our play printed.