That which inspires us by night oft vanishes at break of day.
Did Picker and Stealer truly believe I could have Snakes-Purr’s verses printed?
I durst not think on that.
I had spake large. Now I must match my actions to my words.
When next I set forth to the citie, I went to the garden where Onix and I were accustomed to meet. By good fortune he was there.
I told him what I meant to do. His eyes grew large and fearful.
I bade him remember the vow he’d made my mother.
“A vow?” arrkst Onix. “No, not I. Picker and Stealer vowed vengeance on Snakes-Purr, but not for love of your mother. They did not want Snakes-Purr on their manor. Then he sought to murder them. That’s why they hate him now.”
“True,” sayt I, seeming sorrowful.
“Luvvie swore vengeance too,” sayt Onix. “But what’s a player’s word worth? He knows not which words are his own and which another’s.”
“True again,” sayt I, and heaved a sigh worthy of any player. “And most true of Snakes-Purr.”
So Onix, taking pitie on me, offered to lead me to Kettie’s shop.
“But,” sayt he, “you’ll get no help from him. He’s ever afeared of being took for a forrein troubler. The best we may hope is that he’ll keep watch while we go about the business.”
I liked that word “we”. Onix was timorous, but he was loyal.
Or perhaps he feared Picker and Stealer more than he pitied me.
Kettie was resting on his roof. He rose and greeted Onix nose-to-nose. I waited, low and courteous, taking care not to eye him. I tasted soot and oil in the air; scents of inks and books.
Onix told him that we had something we hoped he would imprint for us.
“Imprint? How?” sayt Kettie. “The little types require nowt but clever claws. But who can spread the ink? And work the press? Not I. ’Tis heavy.”
Onix turned to me.
I arrkst humble, “Then could we bring the papers here for your master to make a book of?”
“What is’t you have?” arrkst Kettie. “A libel? This is an honest shop. We print nowt seditious.”
“Verses,” sayt I.
“Whose?” arrkst Kettie. “Yours?”
“My poet uncle’s. And those of other poets, most like. All stole by Snakes-Purr the player.”
“Stolen work?” cried Kettie. “No. There are some who care not what they print. My master and my mistress are not among them.”
’Twas time to smooth him.
I sayt, “My lady mother loves you well. When I was last in the countrie, she begged me for newes of you. I, not being akwaynt with you, could tell her nowt but that I believed you lived and did well.”
I paused to let him think on that.
“Your mother was ever a friend to me,” sayt Kettie. “She never made mock of us Turks.”
I sayt, “Should my lord require me to accompany him to the countrie this summer, what am I to tell her? That you would not help me, her dutiful son, to print my late uncle’s verses?”
“Kettie did not say he would not,” sayt Onix. “He cannot.”
Words from one of my uncle’s tedious sonnets that our mother made us kitlings learn came to me. “Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove. Oh no, it is an ever-fixed mark…”
“That’s good,” sayt Onix. “Ever-fixed mark is good.”
“Were my uncle’s marks printed,” sayt I. “They would be ever-fixed too.”
Kettie sayt, “I meant that I could not help you in my shop. There are many others hereabouts. I’ll make enkwiries.”
I thanked him and Onix too, and came away.
As I turned westward I saw one of the minions from Paws’ yard sat watchful on the river wall. That set my fur a-prickle.
“Does all go well?” she arrkst me.
“All goes well,” I answered, and walked on.
However, knowing how Gib valued marks (both written and sprayed) the words “ever-fixed mark” are a dead giveaway. He could offer love no higher praise. The original sonnet was probably written as a reflection on Gib’s friendship with his soulmate Smokie, with whom he lost touch after he removed from Cowdray House at Midhurst to Place House at Titchfield.