66:  My Little Niece

Gib, a cat with blue dapples, looking startled.My lord has gone to London.  I can call my house mine own.

This morning, as I passed through the kitchen, a boy gave me a fish head.  It was not to my liking, so I took it to my sister’s barn.

The kitlings there (my little niece, and two birthed by a niece full-grown) nibbled it most happy.

My sister and I sat a while together, peaceful.  We marvelled at how far we’ve come since we were kits in the old Earl’s stable.

I’m a poet and cat of the young Earl’s bedchamber.  My sister is a barn queen with many kin-cats most respective to her.

“In truth, Queen Puss [Bess] herself should envie you,” sayt I.  “Now she’s old, all who know her hate her.  She has no kit to take her place when she goes from this world.  That may bring us to strife, as in the old time.  Hers is a place many will fight for.  Or the Spanish may come at us, for their king thinks hisself our king too.”

I saw my little niece was listening prick-eared.  When I left for home she followed me.

“I wish to see your house,” sayt she.  “I wish to see the book room where you find your tales.  Will you show me how to find a tale?”

“I find my tales in books, not rooms.”

“What’s a book? I wish to see one.”

I walked fast.

“I have newes,” she called.  “I wish to give it at the Cats’ Field.  When shall we all meet again?”

I sayt, “If wishes were fishes, no cat would starve.”

"If wishes were fishes..." A still life by Pieter Claesz (c1597-1660)
“If wishes were fishes…”
A still life by Pieter Claesz (c1597-1660)

Then I added, “We shall not meet before the spring, unless any has great matter to report.  And kits may not give newes at our Field.  What do kits know that all would hear?”

“I know of the murder you spake of,” she sayt.

“Stale newes,” sayt I.  “Our stable cats saw seven horses go out at night.  Four returned, and now they’re in London with my lord.  All know the Daffers [Danvers] brothers and their servant are over the sea.”

She sayt, “My newes is not from these parts.  I heared it from a stranger cat who came by our barn.  He had it from another cat, who had it from another, and so across this country [county] and the next.”

“Gossips’ talk,” sayt I, but had patience.  I know what it is to be a kitling most curious.

She sayt, “The stranger cat told me that the gentleman who was slain is named Harry Long.  He came from a household where all are scoundrels.  Their servants murdered one of the Daffers’ men, and gave many insults and injuries besides.

“Then Harry Long writ unto the elder of the Daffers brothers, offering to whip his bare arse.  This brother set forth and gave him a beating.  As he turned to go, Harry drew his sword and wounded him.  The younger brother had no choice but to shoot the villain.”

Sayt I, “This report came from a cat in the Daffers household, most like.  Poets may tell lies, but we must also seek the truth.”

A small black, white, and orange kitten
Gib’s Little Niece

My little niece sayt, “I told the stranger cat that if he could swear to the truth of it, then come spring I would hoist my tail and let him put a kit in my belly.  And so he swore.”

“Well,” sayt I, “he would, wouldn’t he.”  

She gave me a pert look.  “Come spring, I will have as many sworn reports as I choose and a bellyful of kits.  But you will know no more than I, and have no kits at all.”

Then she ran off.

Oh, I pray those kits will settle her, else she may prove more rebellous than ever her mother and I were.