143:  An Army Against Us

A black, white and orange cat against a background of flames.I left Onix and ran up the stairs.  What scenes met mine eyes!

There were great fires in every hearth I passed.  Essex and the Pretty Penny were burning papers.  One was a story he’d writ of his woes.  (Tedious, most like).

A servant brought forth a box that none could find the key of, and Essex commanded that it be broke open.  He did not want his letters to tell tales on his friends.

I slipped into the book chamber.  There, men were flinging books down from the shelves.  Others took them to set against the windows.

His Harryship, as Tricks calls the Earl of Southhampton when she’s being disrespectful.

When I leapt upon a sill to see more, my Earl threw me down.

He used wicked words to me.

I fled, calling back, “Do you speak so to your other Puss?”

I don’t think His Harryship took my meaning.

Below us in the hall I could hear men moving benches and tables, and wondered how Onix fared.

A black and white photo of a portrait of a sweet-faced Elizabethan woman
The Earl of Southampton’s other Puss – his wife Bess Vernon

And where was Puss Fur-None?  I hadn’t seen her among the women.

Then came fearful noises.  Cries, shots, and a sound that were new to me.

The men by the windows cast theirselves upon the floor.  I could stay no longer.  Some women were in an inner room for their safety, but I did not join them. 

When a man ran by me, going to the roof, I followed.

What I saw there mazed me.  We was besieged by an army!

There were horses and soldiers in the street, and more soldiers in the court [courtyard].  They’d broken down the gate.

Not the little gate Onix came through with the old gentlemen, but the great gate that had been barred to all.

The knaves were shooting at the house.  There came that strange sound again.  It were windows braking.  Sure, the books behind the glass saved most within from hurt.

A few men in the house returned fire.  (I should say smoke; its stink was all about me.)  Then I glimpsed, in the tower of our church across the way, a villain with a muskett. 

I feared he’d see my white ruff and shoot at me.  I sought shelter by a chimney, and crept to the side of the roof that looked upon the river.

The garden below was also throng with armed men.  I hid by another chimney, sat low, and waited for the dark.

Then the shooting stopped.  A Captain in the garden wished to parley.

His Harryship hisself came up beside me.  The Captain called on us to yield.  He were a man most courteous.

His Harryship answered, “To whom should we yield?  Our enemies?”

“No,” sayt the Captain. “To Her Majestie.”

“And we would,” sayt His Harryship, “if, by so doing, we weren’t declaring ourselves guilty before we’ve offended.”

Oh, that were suttle.

His Harryship arrkst if we might have hostages for a safe return to this house.  “Then we would willingly go before Her Majestie and declare our minds to her.”

He praysed her royal disposition, and how she would pardon us and blame them that were most blameworthy.  They that wished to deprive us of our lives.

I marvelled that he trusted in her disposition.  She hadn’t pardoned him for marrying his Puss.

Whitehall Palace, where Queen Elizabeth is said to have been unwilling to go to bed until she heard the ‘rebellion’ was over.

His Harryship arrkst, rhetorickal, “Why would men who’ve risked their lives so oft in defense of Her Majestie and the Realm turn traitors?  No, cousin, we detest that name and all traitorous actions.”

The Captain sayt that the Lord Admiral would not give them hostages.  Word of the Lord Admiral made me prick mine ears.

I came away from the chimney and looked towards the river to see if they’d also sent a ship against us.

No.  But the chill wind carried sounds His Harryship could not hear.  The wheels of heavy carts in the citie, and the grumblings of the horses that drew them.

They was bringing cannon from the Tower.

Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorThe little army sent to Essex House at around 4.30pm was commanded by Lord Admiral Charles Howard, Earl of Nottingham.  The same Charles Howard who commanded the navy that met the Spanish Armada of 1588, and was afterwards distressed by the government’s lack of concern for the welfare of his sick and injured mariners.

Sir Robert Cecil’s elder brother Thomas, Lord Burghley, whom Tricks had seen in the city earlier that day, was Colonel-General of Foot.

The Earl of Southampton’s arch-enemy, Lord Grey, achieved his ambition to be a General of Horse – even if there were only about 50 or 60 of them.  An odd choice, considering his vicious attack on the Earl a month or so earlier.

The “Captain” in the garden was Sir Robert Sidney, an old friend of Essex and Southampton, and kin by marriage.  He was home on leave from his position as Governor of Flushing (Vlissengen).  Both Essex and his sister Penelope had lobbied for years to get him a suitable position in London, to no avail.  (There’s more about Sir Robert in the note beneath Gib’s post Shameless Doings.)

He was a good choice of negotiator on the Lord Admiral’s part, but I doubt he enjoyed it.