by, Jo Carol Hebert
I was born wild in the streets of London town in Old England. As a kitten, my home was a pile of dirty straw in the horse stables near the river.
I was the runt of the litter. Because I was so small, my brothers and sisters stepped on me to get to mother’s milk first. But mother always saved some milk for me so I grew as much as I could.
During daylight, the streets were dangerous with people yelling and selling their wares. But when the curfew bell rang at night, the people went home. Then my mother went into the city to hunt for mice.
While I was young, I practiced play-fighting with my brothers and sisters, dreaming of the day when I would be a great hunter like my mother.
Finally, one foggy night, we followed mother out into the streets. We learned where the cooks threw out their rotten food. We learned to wait and pounce on mice, birds, and lizards.
But most of all, mother taught us how to fear people. People hated cats. We learned to run through the long skirts of women with brooms. One of the people yelled,
“Get away, ye ugly squashed-face Cobble cats!”
And so, I was named Cobby.
I was a very good hunter. The round eyes, little sharp ears and short legs of Cobble cats are good for creeping up low on birds. When I caught a pigeon, I always brought it to my mother.
Soon, my brothers and sisters left the straw pile. But I stayed with my mother. We were often cold and afraid. Angry people kicked at us and hit us with long switches. I got a hurt leg when a man threw a bottle at me.
But I was happy with my mother. After hunting we returned to the stable and snuggled into the straw to go to sleep. The horses did not mind.
One night, Mother did not go out hunting with me. When I came home, I found six new kittens. I knew it was time for me to leave. Mother licked my fur and reminded me to never trust people.
I was all alone. I chewed on the soup bones people threw in the streets from the upper windows of the tall houses. My gray fur became rough, scraggly, dirty and full of bugs. Mostly, I crouched in corners and hid from people.
After a while, I found friends. We would dare to go hunting during the day. The streets were full of mice to share. But when we snagged a fish from a seller’s basket on Fish Street Hill, we would fight over that. We went to Milk Street to lap up the dirty milk that spilled into the gutters on the street. Many pigs ran in the streets but they were too big to catch and eat.
I became the leader of the cats in London near the river. My jaws were strong and my teeth and claws were sharp. I was clever and the people never caught me.
One day, I was thirsty and ventured to the edge of London near the Castle area. On the doorstep of a whitewashed house was a bucket of water left in case of a fire. I dropped low to my stomach and crept up to drink. Then I saw a white cat looking out the window.
The cat was beautiful, fat and fluffy with a silver collar around his neck. A little person held the cat in his arms. The cat rubbed his face against the boy’s cheek. The little person smiled at me. Then, a scullery maid chased me away, waving her broom in the air.
I wondered about cats that lived in houses with people. My friends hissed and growled and made fun of me wanting to be a housecat. They warned me that the King of the Castle area kept people in dark dungeons in the tall towers of the castle.
But I went off alone to live in the Castle area. I hid behind bushes and saw people in the houses. I found plenty of fat brown pigeons. But I never saw the white cat in the window.
One night, a fat pigeon roosted high on a wall near a very small window in one of the Castle towers. I climbed quietly up the wall. Suddenly, the pigeon flew away. Curious, as cats are, I crawled on up to look in the window. Inside was a man.
I was frightened and froze as if to be invisible. But the moonlight was on the man’s face. He was very quiet. The man was dirty like me and hungry too for he was chewing on a piece of straw. Then the man saw me. I scurried away to hide in a hole at the bottom of the stone wall.
The next night, I climbed up the tower wall and easily caught one of the fat pigeons that rested there for the night. The man inside the window stretched out his hands. I remembered when mother brought me food. I dropped the pigeon inside the bars on the window and ran away.
After that, I brought a pigeon every night and dropped it quickly inside the window. After a long time, I sat outside the window and let the man touch my fur.
One very cold night I slipped through the bars and dropped the pigeon on the dirt floor of the dark and smelly room. I remembered the little person that held the cat in his arms. I let the man hold me and we were warm and fell asleep. I was happy like when I was with my mother.
I stayed with the man for many days. Then one morning, the man washed and dressed himself in fine clothes. The King had set him free from his prison in the Castle Tower. I thought my happiness was over. But the man, whose name was Sir Henry Wyatt, took me with him to his castle in the country.
Now I have a silver collar and sit in the window looking out at a meadow of flowers. I nap, curled up in Sir Henry’s arms.
Some people wonder why Sir Henry Wyatt loves a cat more than the hunting dogs of all his other gentlemen friends. But we know, don’t we?
In 1460, Henry Tudor was dethroned by Richard III. Henry Tudor and Sir Henry Wyatt (father of the famous poet. Sir Thomas Wyatt) were very good friends and the new king wanted to kill Sir Henry, but instead tossed him in the dungeon to eventually starve to death.
The story tells of a tradition in the Wyatt family history that a cat came to him in his prison cell, bringing pigeons that sustained him until Henry Tudor was released and regained the throne.
There are even paintings of Sir Henry showing him with a cat.