114:  Mistress of the Revels

A fluffy black, white and ginger cat against the night sky.
Tricks – Mistress of the Revels.

What a motley clowder showed theirselves on our roof at the next fat moon!

I counted nine, a fortunate number for cats. 

My nose told me others were mitching [lurking] in the shadows.

I guessed they were Linkin’s law-cat friends, unwilling to be seen too soon lest our Spring Revel should prove fool, and they be thought more fool for attending.

Picker and Stealer were there.  Onix was much troubled by that.

I told him he could not be blamed for it. ’Twas I who arrkst him to tell of a Revel for our private friends, so small wonder that they should think they were invited.

Another who came was that scarred and scabbed villain who chased Onix and me from the wall when I first saw where Essex House lay.

Onix swore he’d not told him of our Revel.  Then he confessed that when last he walked along the wall by Essex House the wretch came at him.

“So I lingered long enough to tell that Scabface,” sayt Onix, “we was having a Revel, and he was not invited.”

Sometimes I doubted what Onix had beneath his ears.

Scabface held the westward wall, and Onix thought we should not friend him?  If any knew a way into Essex House, it were he.

I twitched my fine plume of a tail as I passed Scabface by, and he took my meaning.

An engraving of Essex House viewed from the Thames, showing the river wall and gate to the landing stairs.
A cat could probably have made its way from London to Westminster along the river wall.

There also came a stranger [foreign] cat I’d not seen before.  He sayt all called him Kettie, and assured me of his love for Onix.  This was because he came from a citie where all were as fragrant as he.

“Save for the rude and barbarous strangers that come for trade or ambassage,” sayt Kettie.  “Though some learn the custom of the baths and go every day, as is writ.”

“What citie is this?” I arrkst.

“The greatest in all the world,” sayt he.  “Constantinople.”

“What?” I cried.  “I oft heard an ancient sea-cat, Nero by name, tell of how he walked in triumph through Constantinople.  He sayt the Turks are a nation most civil to cats.”

“Your sea friend spake true,” sayt Kettie.  “All cats walk in triumph there.”  And he began to tell me what it were to be a Turkey cat.

I begged him hold, for it was time for me to bid all welcome.  But I sayt I would take it kindly if he were to give out his tale at our Revel.

Then I offered my greeting.  Not words of mine own, but some I remembered – as best I could – from my uncle Gib.

All the world’s a roof, set ’twixt night and day,
Where we cats come and go, willy-nilly.
True, each has their on-way and their off-way,
But we all, in our time, tread many paths,
Which I shall number nine.

Our first path’s in the dark, as we lie snug
Within our mothers’ bellies, untried as yet
By this wicked world.

Then we thrust forth.  Blind breathless wrigglers all,
Sucking at the air, mewling for the milk,
That makes true cats of us.

We’re tender kitlings soon, with visages
More starry than the Queen of Heaven’s eyes,
All hope and whiskers.

Then comes the capering kit most curious,
Fire-hot to find a place to call our own,
With Fortune’s favour.

A cat carrying a rat in its mouth - a tiny detail from Hieronymous Bosch painting of The Garden of Earthly Delights.Next the queen, stone-cat, or gentle gib,
Keeping safe our kitchens, shops, and granaries
From vile predations.

Then we’re cats full-grown, with eyes like lanthorns
Whose beams shine forth our wisdom and our worth.
Disdain us if you dare!

Now comes the cat senior, full of warnings
And lessons on behaviour all should heed,
Or take their punishment.

So to the aged cat, of fading fur,
Sharp bones, long claws, and rheumy eyes, who holds
The best seat by the hearth.

Comes the last path, when our bodies return
To the mother of all, which is the earth,
While our souls fly forth rejoycing
That our labours here are ended.

And our revels are begun!

“Friends, I bid you welcome, and call first upon a stranger here to tell of a strange land.”

Kettie came forward to great applauds, and began his tale.


Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorAnybody who’s seen Kedi, that delightful documentary about Istanbul and its cats, may already have an inkling of what it was to be a cat in Constantinople.

Even so, I’m looking forward to transcribing Kettie’s tale, as recorded by Tricks, for a first-hand (or paw) 16th century perspective.