If you’re new to my on-line novel, you can catch up with the first eleven chapters right here. If you’re enjoying the story, can you do me a favor and pimp me out? Invite a friend or pop the link up on your favorite social media platform.
I was early to the theater next morning, my bed being no place of rest, for alone I did full confront again such demons as I had well earned. I could and did invent such arguments by which to make seem less certain my own guilt, but also could see plain through each attempt to the stark fact that the girl be dead – dead, and if the teachings of such churches as were to my knowing be true, beyond hope of redemption, so that I did puzzle some considerable how I, as the agent of all evil in her regard, could still hope forgiveness if she be somehow beyond the grasp of mercy. I never did intend her ill, this I did true feel in my heart, but in sooth, how could I claim I intended her good or ill when I tended her not at all, having been such bewitched by her beauty that I credited her hardly human, but instead simply such vessel as I could use for mine own pleasure, and recognizing here even such words as bewitched, as if to excuse what choice I did in full conscience make by the agency of some magic. She was as full precious as are we each, and is now as full gone as we each will be, but well before her time and absent such chance at hope or wonder or love or the comfort of a husband or the blessing of a child as she may have been due, and I could by no word or thought or action make it other.
The cast of such thinking must have been plain on my arrival.
“Will,” said Burbage, “think no more on that pamphlet, for there can be no good end to such pondering. Make what confession you must even to some priest if that be your need and then be so humble as to know yourself human, as are we each, even in our failings. You used that child ill, true, but you can no more own her later sin than she can own yours. To attempt to hold as does God all such evils as even by our own hands we create instead of surrendering them to his fair mercies, that invites madness.”
I was choked for a short moment at his kindness, and renew aggrieved that I had not been true with him and my other fellows as to the nature of my affairs these past days. And I drew Burbage and Heminges aside so as to right at least the sin of my secrecy. Heminges face stayed flat and beyond my intuiting while I made bare Carey’s secret charge and that same night’s attack, my discussions with his family and the apothecary, that swollen-nosed shadow that I still did from time to time encounter, and such news as I had from Heaton concerning Miller’s ploy. But Burbage’s face showed red, and his jaw clenched as if in labor to still itself until I finished my discourse, at which time he clouted me on the shoulder, and not in jest and with unfriendly intent such that I near fell.
“I would have stuck thy face if we did not need it pretty for our next play,” he said. “If you have forgot we are your friends, and have much proven so, then did you too forget that we ar e a Company, and you but one shareholder? It is not your place to make this league with Carey not only absent our assent, but even our knowing.”
I could only nod. “This I do know, and I am both shamed and sorry to have done so.”
“You make too much a habit of shame of late, methinks,” said Heminges, his words cutting the deeper being said with more measure and some sadness.
“So our standing as the Lord Chamberlain’s Men depends now not on our common art, but instead on this uncommon mission?” Burbage said, his anger still plain, but as was his nature, quick abating.
“He did not say so plain,” I said, “but he did make it much clear that my response to his request be either yes or yes, if I held his patronage dear. I do hope you know I value your company above our Company, and do hold you friends and dear, and have been much troubled to have held this news alone. It was, in fact, your fair love to me last evening at such time that I did so little deserve it but so much require it that made me know I could be false to you no more. And I do now, must humble, beg both your forgiveness and your console.”
Heminges made a long sigh, seemed as if to speak, then not, and then finally did. “Will, I can this forgive, if only because you have been true to us in such time as you could still have been false, and clear out of the misgivings of your own heart. But be warned that I will not such insult forgive again, for if we cannot have confidence in the fellowship of our own company, and our own Company, then where can we place it?”
“And I,” said Burbage. “And enough. But on to console. What plan do you make?’
“I am to meet Carey tonight, on pretense to share with him such news regarding his father’s poisoning, for I am now confident it was such, and to gain his leave to question such attendants as were witness at his father’s death. But also, under guise of such abuse as his name has taken both from Miller and from his own brother, to see clear his actual standing and perhaps to learn if he be bequeathed of such debts that we might should question such value as his patronage may still hold.”
“As would be good to know,” said Heminges, “that we might balance the cost of our risk against the reward of our service.”
“Just so,” I said. “And let me also ask you this and you tell me if my thinking be too much vain. Inside some few days, I have alone confronted an unsuccessful killer and a successful pamphleteer, and we have in company been subject to the loss of our quarters. Do we count such events separate or should we in there sum consider that there may be some larger conspiracy to see our Company failed?”
“If we count them separate and they be one, then we aid through our foolishness such plot as we may confront,” said Burbage. “If we hold them one, and they in fact prove coincidence, then we lose nothing but some care.”
“To which effect,” said Heminges, “I already have a thought.” He spread a copy of the pamphlet on the stage. “What do you see in its printing?”
“Much truth,” I said, “and my own shame.”
Heminges made face to me as if to a child that had too longed whined at some hurt. “Whether to Carey’s end or to this possible conspiracy, what we need now, Will, is the gift of your considerable wits and not your public penance. And so I would ask that you indulge your own sorrows in private and do us the favor of attending full to those dangers we face.”
I could not contradict his console. Such ills as the Company did now face they did partly at the cost of my own failings, and so I could best serve them now with successes and not with penance. And then I understood his point.
“By what do I see, you mean what do we see in its type and not in its meaning,” I said.
Heminges nodded. “As we do have much truck with printers, we well know that you can oft discern the press of some document solely from those imperfections of form some letters hold, or from some curious habit of spacing, or from much else, and so I ask what we see in this that might tell us its printer so that we might there gentle inquire, as we have considerable custom with their kind, and I would think they would weigh the cost of our goodwill more dear that that of some Puritan friend who may never have their need again.”
And so we laid out what copies of our own plays we had, being made on various presses, and examined such clues as they held, principal being a gap in the larger W at the start of my name, and also, in a faint fading of the type from the left to the right, sign that the pressure of this press was not full even.
“Dear God,” said Burbage holding the page of a handbill promoting a recent production that showed both same errors plain. “That pamphlet is from Jaggard’s press sure.”