86: The Fates of Nero

Our ships came safe home.  The Spanish rogues were coming to attack Fowl Mouth, but (as we hoped) the immortal wrath of the Queen Cat of Heaven wrought against them.  She would not suffer the rascals near our fowl.

A delicately coloured drawing of a small harbour with several ships, but only a small human settlement.
A section from a map of Fowl Mouth (better known as Falmouth, on the coast of Cornwall). Via Wikimedia Commons.

Our heroick Essicks has also fled.  He went to the country to scape the mortal wrath of Queen Puss [Bess].

The voyage yielded small profit for her, and she blames him for it.  But Siffrans Fear [Sir Francis Vere] found her taking the air in her garden at White Hall, and spake so loud in defence of Essicks that many standing by heared all.

A black and white drawing of a palce in semi-rural surrounds, fronting on to the river.
A 16th century sketch of the palace of Whitehall from the Thames, by Antony van den Wyngaerde. Via Wikimedia Commons.

I do not know if my lord is condoling with Essicks, or in London.  I dare say the Queen’s young Pusses think him heroick.

Some here say he sunk one of the King of Spain’s ships.  I know not the truth of that.

But, in the matter of truth, I reproved my niece for telling the stable cats that Linkin had murdered Nero.

“That was no lie,” sayt she.  “It was a poetick fiction.  Is it my fault they believed me?”

She told me her tale.  Too tedious to set down here, save that a cat named Lankin sought revenge on one called Miro, who had seemed his friend.

Then Lankin nosed Miro’s scents in his mistress’ bed.  So he waited in a secret place where none could witness what he did.  When Miro came by, Lankin leapt out and seized him by the throat, and made an end to him.

Next, Lankin took revenge on his false mistress.  He caught a mouse and dropped it by her petticoats.  The mouse ran under them.  Lankin did the like and, feigning hot pursuit of the mouse, he gave his mistress’ legs and bum a mighty clawing.

“Now, uncle,” sayt my niece, “if there were none to witness Lankin’s wicked murder, how could my report of it be true?”

A close-up of the nose and squinting eyes of Gib's niece - a blacl, white, and orange cat.She gave me the look direct.

I struck her on her saucie face, and she crept off.

Then I made my way to Linkin’s house, for I feared word of her slanders may have reached him.

But Linkin had his own tale to tell.

He sayt that a friend of Nero’s late master, knowing the Spanish were coming, went to Portsmouth to give what aid he could.  When all danger was passed, he lingered there rejoicing.

Then (sayt this man) what did he see but a black cat eating a crust in the gutter.  This cat was so thin, scabbed, and rusted, he knew him only by his lack of tail. 

He offered the cat a morsel of cheese, and captured him.  Once aboard the boat, the cat started whurring.  (The man shared this boat with Nero’s old master.)

And the man told Linkin’s mistress he believes that when last he went to Portsmouth, poor old Blackie (as he called him) lay hidden on the boat.  And slipt ashore, perchance to seek his master, then but recently deceased.

And he (the man), not knowing Blackie had been aboard, returned without him.

This cat now lies at Linkin’s house, where his mistress tends him.  Then he’ll go to lodge with the man who found him.

“So all’s well that ends well,” sayt I to Linkin.

Linkin knew not what to think.  He feared an imposture.  “He may well gull my poor mistress and that old pirate,” he sayt. “He shall not trump me.”

But whene’er Linkin goes to nose him and take what scents might lie beneath the stinks of gutter, this cat swears at him most horrible.

Linkin led me to the impostor, who lay resting in a scrap of winter sun.

A rusty-furred black cat. lying on his side.

I troubled not to nose him.  I arrkst, poetickal, “How now, you secret, black, and midnight cat?”

And he replied:

I held the Fates clamped tight betwixt my teeth,

And with my paw turned Fortune’s wheel about.

“What mean you by that, you clown?” arrkst Linkin.

“I mean my luck held,” sayt Nero.  “And with it the Garland’s.  But none heeded my advice, so we lost the King of Spain’s treasure by a whisker.  I will say no more.”

Certes, he’ll have much to say when he’s made his verses.  I hope I may live to hear them, true or false.

When I was private in my house again, I counted the winters I’ve seen.  I believe this to be my seventeenth.

I am of sound mind and in good heart, though my joints ake.  I have not lost my personal attractions.  Unlike Queen Puss who has few teeth remaining.  Or Nero, who Linkin’s mistress sayt should be new-named Rustie.

But sometimes I’m troubled by sharp pains in my loins, the like of which I never felt before.  Ask for me in spring, and you may find me a grave cat.


Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorA few quick points:

The Spanish hadn’t mustered the 30,000 men King Philip of Spain deemed necessary for an invasion, but they hoped to use Falmouth Harbour as a base from which to destroy the English navy.

The Earl of Essex, having little to show for his voyage, withdrew to his house at Wanstead.  A bad move, because it gave his enemies at Court a chance to work against him.

Sir Francis Vere seems to have been an honourable man.  He left a brief and business-like account of the Islands Voyage in his Commentaries, where he mentions his argument with the Queen.  Despite his annoyance with Essex over the level of command he was given, he didn’t want to see him unfairly blamed for the failure.

Gib’s niece has a lighter taste in her reading than her uncle does.  The ‘mouse under the petticoats’ incident is a steal from Beware the Cat.

21: I Tell My Tale of Teasel Puss

I’ve been so brisk about my business as a poet, I’ve had no time to pen my diurnal [journal].

And I have a new friend.  Smokie, he sayt they call him.  But I go too fast.

Our Hero Teasel Puss
Our Hero Teasel Puss

First, my tale.  I was most careful in my preparation.  For it come to me that I must start when things are about to change.  And tell of Teasel sooner than I did in my diurnal, because he’s our hero.

I broke my tale into five parts, and told it over five of our assemblies.

And I oped with a prowlook [prologue], so that they cats who never before heared a good tale could have an inkling of what was to come.  I sayt:

My tale’s of Teasel Puss, courageous cat,

In far off Krete where I do lay my scene,

A spinster’s joy, though scarce worth looking at,

He’s of a brownie hue and somewhat lean.

But here’s a green-eyed milkmaid whose chaste smile,

Did make men long to break their marriage vows,

Till from her fatal loins sprang one so vile,

All knew she’d set her hands on more than cows.

And what became of all the fair young cats,

Who left their mothers thinking they had places

In households where they’d keep down mice and rats,

Yet none e’er saw again their lovely faces?

I’ve puzzles here, enough to leave you dazed,

So prick your ears; prepare to be amazed!

Then I told of the woman who came offering places, and the alehouse talk about a monster with a taste for flesh.  And Teasel saying he’ll seek the truth of it.  The second part was about the wicked milkmaid and her son the Man-Bull in the laprint [labyrinth].  Yet Teasel says he’ll go there.

Oh, when I spake of how ’twas sayt that the Man-Bull seized young cats with his hands and bit their little heads off, some did scream aloud.

And many sayt they were afeared to go home, because their ways lay through fields with beasts in them, and who knew what those beasts might do?

A Field with a white, horned cow and calves in it.
A Field with Beasts in it.

But all ran off most merry, saying they would not fail our next assembly because they longed to hear what happened next.

They know I’m lying.  And I know that I’m lying.  But when I tell and they listen, we all think I speak true.  And that do maze me more than any laprint could.

Thirdly, I told of the bold cats that join Teasel and of their fearful walk to the Man-Bull’s lair, which Teasel enters first.  The fourth part was Teasel’s game with the Man-Bull, and the fight where all help slay him.  And fifth, I ended with their flight from the laprint to come safe home.

The cats here loved the tale so well they arrkst for it again.  I fear I’ll tire of it afore they do.

I was walking home thinking on this when it come to me that I was followed.   I bethought me of that spy cat Master Grey who’d so affrighted me when I was young, but all I saw when I looked back was a cat most courteous, with his ears forward and his tail held high.

He came on a little, then sat hisself down a proper distance from me.  I sat too.  True, I did wonder if he served Master Grey and wished to know if I had any newes, so I readied myself to be most suttle.

But I have not space enough on this paper for what sayt I to him and he to me, so I’ll tell more when next I write.


Toutparmoi - Editor's Note.Gib’s alarming encounter with the spymaster Grey, and his “recruitment” as a member of Grey’s spy ring, begins in 12:  I Am Followed and goes through to 14:  I Am Turned.