Supped Full with Horrors Part 3 - A Strange Meal and a Ruined Church
* * *
Jaimes found Dr. Whitewood and Huddleston a short time later.
“I hope you set her right, Jaimes,” Dr. Whitewood said.
“Yes,” the other man replied. “And luckily I did not have to show her my violin.”
Dr. Whitewood’s eyebrows rose up.
“Despite her earlier demeanor, I sensed something off,” Jaimes said. “As you know, I went and spoke with her. She doesn’t seem to like it here. And a curious thing. She isn’t seen in the painting. But she told me that she didn’t want to sit for it because she calls her family here, she thinks of them as the same as pigs. Not that I wouldn’t blame her. She also relayed to me, and like I said I’m not very fond of her earlier demeanor, but she has let me know to not consume the meat.”
“Okay,” Huddleston said. “Did she tell you anything about anything else?”
“She didn’t. She did not seem to want to talk anymore. Make of that what you will but something isn’t right.”
“Well,” Dr. Whitewood said. “That much is obvious.”
“Well,” Huddleston said. “She’s part of a noble family that appears to be dying. Maybe she’s just upset that the family fortune is being lost.”
“I’m not sure she’s after the money,” Jaimes said. “I’m not sure she really cares.”
“I think we should find our other companions,” Dr. Whitewood said.
* * *
Lady Susan Loddington soon arrived at the kitchen door where Hawksworth and Godfrey waited. She seemed a little taken aback to see people there, stopping for just a moment before she continued towards the doorway.
“More friends of my husband, I see,” she said.
“Yes ma’am,” Godfrey said. “I see you have met our companions already.”
“Yes, I do apologize for their behavior. Their manners are lacking at times.”
“I would hope I─”
“Our servants have left us as we have fallen upon hard times. My husband says … Mr. Godfrey?”
“Yes. I am forced to do the cooking. How lovely for me.”
“Well, ma’am, might I offer the services of my servant here. He can assist you.”
“He appears to be an incompetent oaf.”
“I do not need the assistance of an incompetent oaf. So … no thank you Mr. Godfrey.”
He tried to persuade the woman his servant could help with the work she didn’t need to do because she was a lady and deserved better than that. It was a very good and accomplished speech, actually. The woman looked at Hawksworth and then looked Godfrey.
“No, thank you,” she said very coldly.
It was a completely unexpected answer to his persuasive argument. It just didn’t make any sense that she would turn down the offer of help.
She moved to the door, removed a key from her person, unlocked the door and entered, stopping in the doorway to look back at them.
“I will enjoy your company at dinner,” she said to Godfrey.
She closed the door as Hawksworth tried to get a glimpse into the kitchen. He saw a cutting table covered with meat and blood. There was a strong smell of blood in the air as well.
She closed the door and they heard it lock behind her.
“I tried,” Godfrey said to Hawksworth.
“If a lady of nobility turns down a servant offered to her by another person of nobility, is that not strange?” Hawksworth said.
“Quite strange. Quite strange.”
“I wasn’t sure. But I really thought she would let her help me in the kitchen. If nothing else to do the dirty work, which to be fair is probably good because a servant is supposed to know how to cook for their master and I do not know how to cook.”
* * *
Dr. Whitewood and his companions came across Lord Loddington setting a table in the large dining chamber upstairs. He was putting down China plates, silver knives, fine crystal goblets, and a large silver salt cellar, which he placed towards the top of the table, probably near his place. They saw the knives were tarnished.
“Who are you?” Lord Loddington said. “Oh, you’re friends of Mr. Godfrey’s?”
“Yes,” Dr. Whitewood said. “Good friends. These are my servants. Pay them no mind.”
Dr. Whitewood introduced himself.
“It’ll be about an hour until dinner,” Lord Loddington said.
“Oh, sounds lovely,” Dr. Whitewood said.
“We’ll meet here upon the hour. Our servants have abandoned us. We’ve fallen on hard times.”
“We ran into Miss Ellen and your lovely wife, of course.”
“My daughter, yes. My lovely wife, yes. My wife is preparing your meal. My daughter should be helping her. We shall see if that is true.”
“Well, the last I saw her, she was in her chambers.”
“Of course. In any case, you are welcome here, Doctor …?”
“Whitewood. Very well. Yes. A physician?”
Lord Loddington walked out of the room.
* * *
Hawksworth and Godfrey, thinking they should find the others, found a set of stairs.
“Just this once,” Hawksworth said. “Stairs.”
He knew of the man’s 10-year-long fear of stairs. Godfrey stepped onto the first step but then stepped back down. That seemed to satisfy Hawksworth.
Dr. Whitewood and the others came down shortly after that and they all exchanged the information they had on the strange house. Hawksworth seemed interested when he learned Ellen had a promiscuous demeanor.
“Did she say why not to eat the meat?” Godfrey asked Jaimes.
“She didn’t,” the man admitted.
“Is it the only thing they’re going to serve though?” Dr. Whitewood said.
They all expected there would be more than just meat. They hoped so.
Hawksworth headed back upstairs alone, Jaimes whispering “Good luck” to him when he saw him leaving.
From what the others had told him, he found the door to Ellen Loddington’s room. He knocked. He heard movement from within and the door opened. There stood Ellen. She looked disappointed when she saw the man.
“Yes?” she said. “Who are you?”
“A servant of Lord Godfrey,” Hawksworth said.
The woman looked around him and seemed more disappointed when no one else was in the hall.
“Who?” she finally said. “Godfrey? Who’s Lord Godfrey?”
“You haven’t met him yet but I’m sure you will at dinner,” Hawksworth said.
“I await with bated breath,” she muttered.
“May I come in?” Hawksworth said.
She shrugged and left the door open as she went back into the room. Hawksworth entered and shut the door.
“I was told that something needed to be moved in here,” he said.
She looked him up and down and then frowned. Her eyes narrowed.
“Do you know Mr. Whitewood’s servant?” she finally said. “The one with the red hair?”
“Yes, he sleeps with men,” Hawksworth lied convincingly.
Her face fell.
“I’m sorry,” Hawksworth went on. “That was not befitting of me to tell a woman. It’s between men, of course.”
Ellen turned away from him, closing her eyes.
“Did he deny you?” Hawksworth said. “Well, now you know why.”
“Get. Out,” she simply said.
“Before I leave, have you ever been to the Globe?” he asked.
Ellen walked over to her nightstand. She picked up a dagger.
“No,” she growled, glaring at him. “Get out.”
The phrases “flames in her eyes” and “ready to cut the manhood from my body” and “bearer of bad news” jumped into Hawksworth’s head from various things he had read. He reached out to the latch with his left hand.
“I can take you there,” he said. “To the Globe. To perform. To see me. I’m an actor. Vincent Hawksworth. Pleasure to meet you.”
She strode towards him.
“Get! Out!” she said.
“I sure hope dinner is lovely,” he said with a smile.
He fled the room, pulling the door closed behind him. He heard a click as the key was turned in the lock.
He found Jaimes in the dining hall, waiting for dinner.
“She told me she thinks you lay with men,” he told the musician.
Jaimes glared at him.
“I was … she thinks she’s so attractive there’s no way a man that favors woman would turn her down,” Hawksworth went on. “And I, unfortunately, even with my flower talk, was not able to seduce her. Such a vixen. I digress. If she had seen me perform …”
“How riveting,” Jaimes said sarcastically.
“Indeed,” Hawksworth said.
* * *
Godfrey took a while to get up the stairs, fighting his phobia, while Dr. Whitewood helped him as best he could. It took some time but they got to the dining hall before dinner.
* * *
Dinner was just after dark. Lord Loddington entered the dining hall and took his place at the head of the table near the salt cellar. Two young boys entered and Lord Loddington introduced his sons: Thomas and Richard. Thomas appeared to be about 12 years old with dark hair and features like his father. He was about four and a half feet tall. Richard was about eight years old and a fat little fellow who looked like he got far too much to eat. Standing about four feet tall, he seemed almost as wide.
The smell of cooked pork filled the house as Susan Loddington entered with a tray of meat.
They all sat down, Ellen taking a seat next to Jaimes without looking at him. She glared at Hawksworth. Susan Loddington took her place to the right of Lord Loddington.
In addition to the meat there was bread and cheese on the table, as well as two crystal decanters of wine. Susan Loddington filled all of their goblets before taking her seat. Lord Loddington then used his own knife to fill everyone’s plates with pork, also adding a little cheese and bread. There was no grace before the meal. Both Dr. Whitewood and Godfrey wondered that the meal only had one course.
Richard dug into his food with gusto as soon as the overflowing plate was sitting in front of him. He used both hands to shove it into his mouth as if he was starving. Jaimes, looking at Richard, gagged slightly. Susan Loddington scolded the boy on more than one occasion during the meal. He didn’t touch his bread or his cheese. Once he had finished with his meat, he actually picked up the plate and licked it clean.
“That boy eats like he’s starving,” Huddleston whispered to Jaimes.
Thomas was somewhat more polite with his food though he was obviously enjoying it. Ellen, sitting next to Jaimes, picked at her food without eating much. Jaimes was startled when he felt her hand on the leg. Huddleston and Hawksworth noticed it. Hawksworth nodded at Jaimes who rolled his eyes and looked away, picking up his goblet and sipping the wine.
Hawksworth, Dr. Whitewood, and Godfrey all noticed Thomas leering at his sister Ellen during the meal.
Jaimes patted Ellen’s hand awkwardly, trying to comfort her. She gave him a glance and seemed confused. She didn’t seem to know what to make of the man. Dr. Whitewood and Huddleston noticed.
Lord and Lady Loddington ate heartily and made some small talk with their guests about the hot, dry weather and Dr. Whitewood’s and Godfrey’s professions as physician and banker. Dr. Whitewood continued to push about Clancy Bottom but was continually rebuffed with the subject changed until the end of the meal.
None of the guests ate any of the meat but, instead, picked at their bread and cheese and drank their wine. Hawksworth had eaten his bread and drank a glass of wine. A piece of pork was on his knife and he was staring at his plate, wanting to eat the meat but worried by the warning Jaimes had given them. Godfrey, likewise, had eaten his bread and cheese and drank several goblets of wine, trying to pretend he was deep in his cups. Likewise, Dr. Whitewood, though he fiddled with the meat, only ate the bread, cheese, and wine.
Eventually, Lord Loddington replied to Dr. Whitewood’s pressing on the subject of Clancy Bottom.
“As I told you before, I did, indeed, meet Clancy Bottom at the Mermaid Inne some nights ago,” Lord Loddington said. “It was Monday, I believe. I frequent the place often, enjoying the sometimes ribald and sometimes poetic natures of those within. Ah, the nights spent there in contemplation of the unfathomable.
“T’was on Monday evening that I entered that place and was accosted by Clancy Bottom, who was in search of answers to some strange markings on a piece of paper and thought my help might be useful. He noted the strange symbols were some kind of astrological markings, something I, myself, am a bit of an expert in. I offered to chart the man’s horoscope if he wanted but he was more interested in the signs and sigils upon the parchment and what they might mean.
“Well, those sigils were nothing more than symbols of the stars and moons, the skies and planets, the heavens in a word. They meant nothing outside of that. But, being charmed by the man’s innocence, and lacking company of one who is interested in astrology for some time, I invited him back to Loddington Hall to sup with my family and perhaps entertain us with his company.
“And so we did. Returning here, I prepared a late-night repast of cold meat and cheese and we did talk late into the evening. He was still convinced those sigils had some hidden meaning but I assured him they did not.”
He paused, looking them all over.
“Upon waking the next morning, I was surprised to see he had skulked out of the house at some time that night before, and taken with him some small but valuable items that belonged to me and my family,” he went on. “He is a thief and I would like to know, if you so know it, his whereabouts that I might have him arrested and jailed for theft from a nobleman. I took the man into my trust and he has betrayed me so he must pay the price. If you know his whereabouts, you are obligated by law to tell me!”
During his story, Ellen Loddington had squeezed Jaimes’ leg on several occasions. It was not of a sexual nature but seemed to be more of a warning. Jaimes and Hawksworth noticed that Thomas had rolled his eyes several times during the story as well.
“What items did he steal?” Dr. Whitewood asked.
“They were some trinkets but of high value,” Lord Loddington said. “Jewelry of my wife’s.”
He gestured towards Susan Loddington and she looked down at the table.
“Where is he?” Lord Loddington said. “I must know.”
“That’s why we’re here, sir,” Dr. Whitewood said. “We’re looking for him.”
Lord Loddington slapped his hand down on the table.
“You are his friends!” he insisted. “You must know his haunts. You must know the places that he goes.”
“Well, frankly sir, he owes me money too,” Jaimes spoke up. “Sixpence, in fact.”
“You see!” Lord Loddington said. “A thief! This man has declared it!”
“I’m sorry?” Jaimes said. “I loaned it to him!”
“We didn’t say he was a friend,” Dr. Whitewood said. “I didn’t say it.”
“Nor did I,” Godfrey said.
“He just owes us money,” Dr. Whitewood said.
Lord Loddington glared at all of them.
“What about the ruined church, father?” Richard suddenly piped up. “You said he probably went to the ruined church.”
“What?” Lord Loddington said. “Oh, shut up, you stupid child. You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
He looked them over again.
“I searched the church,” he said. “I went out to the ruined church and he’s not there. Where is he?”
“Why would you think he went to the ruined church?” Dr. Whitewood asked.
“It is unimportant!” Lord Loddington said. “It was mentioned in our conversation. It was mentioned in passing that there’s a ruined church. It doesn’t matter.”
Jaimes leaned over to Ellen.
“Are you … quite all right?” he whispered to her.
He got another squeeze on his leg and a stern look from the woman. Huddleston, Hawksworth, and Dr. Whitewood overheard him. Godfrey merely stared at his empty goblet.
Richard slammed his plate down on the table.
“I’m hungry!” he yelled. “I want more! Can’t we just kill them and eat them!”
Lord Loddington went pale. Hawksworth leapt up from the table and fled.
“Oh, that’s not necessary,” Dr. Whitewood said. “You can have mine.”
“What a little fool,” Lord Loddington said. “Ignore my child. He doesn’t know what he’s saying.”
He raised his voice and shouted at Hawksworth.
“You, boy!” he cried out. “Where are you going!?!”
Hawksworth ignored him and ran out of the door to the dining hall.
“Curb your servant, Mr. Godfrey!” Lord Loddington said to Godfrey.
“In might be an imbalance of the humors,” Dr. Whitewood said, standing. “I’ll go after him.”
He ran towards the door as well. Godfrey also got up and ran after the man.
“I … I think I need to go assist Mr. Whitewood,” Huddleston said.
He got up as well.
“Stay in your seat, boy!” Lord Loddington said to him.
“I need my servants,” Dr. Whitewood, stopping near the door, said. “They are my assistants.”
Godfrey, huffing and puffing already, ran by the man and fled the room.
“We will fetch the pudding!” Lord Loddington growled.
“I really should assist Mr. Whitewood,” Huddleston said.
He dashed towards the door.
“Coming Mr. Whitewood!” he called.
Only Jaimes was still at the table. Susan Loddington stood, looked down her nose at him, and then left the room, heading towards the kitchen. Jaimes said he needed to use the privy and stood. Lord Loddington crossed to him and faced him.
“Bring your masters back,” he growled at the man. “Desert is an important part of any meal.”
Jaimes headed out the room at a jog, Lord Loddington following him more slowly.
* * *
Hawksworth fled down the stairs and through the downstairs hall, crashing out the front doors and running down the dirt lane that led to the gate. Godfrey, surprisingly, was able to keep up with the man but was not able to catch him.
“Hawksworth, stop!” Godfrey called. “If you come back and help you solve this, I will pay your tab at the Mermaid and pay for drinks for the next year!”
It obviously wasn’t enough as Hawksworth kept running.
* * *
Dr. Whitewood had waited outside the door to the dining room.
“Mr. Whitewood,” Huddleston said. “I’m too young to die. I’m getting out of here.”
“Well, where’s young Jaimes?” Dr. Whitewood said.
Jaimes came through the door just as he said that.
“Let’s follow them,” Dr. Whitewood said.
“That’s a great idea,” Huddleston said. “Let’s follow them.”
“Yeah,” Jaimes said. “Okay.”
They went down the stairs and into the main hall. They found the front door open and spotted, in the growing gloom, Hawksworth sprinting towards the gatehouse. Godfrey stood near the front door, leaning on the wall and breathing heavily.
“I feel like we lost our advantage here,” Dr. Whitewood said.
“If we’re continuing our goal of finding Mr. Bottom, we should probably search the ruined church that little … that child mentioned,” Huddleston said.
“I think we’re past the point of negotiation now.”
“After we made that scene, that’s probably true.”
They had lost sight of Hawksworth. He had run around the side of the gatehouse and disappeared behind the wall.
They all quickly walked down the lane to the road, finding Hawksworth just around the side of the wall on the road to Islington, catching his breath.
“Well, that went over well,” Dr. Whitewood said.
“I just want to say that Bottom’s not worth this,” Hawksworth said. “I’m sorry. He’s a damned stagehand. It’s not worth this. Not my life. Not your life. Not your life. Bottom’s a damned stagehand. To hell with his wife, to hell with his two kids. I’m done. I’m done. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I am.”
“How can you just say that!?!” Huddleston said.
“Don’t you think that’s a bit of an overreaction?” Jaimes said.
“Listen, I respect the common people,” Hawksworth went on. “I perform for the common people.”
“You are one of the common people!” Huddleston said.
“I don’t want to hear that,” Hawksworth said. “I don’t want to hear that, okay? Maybe I am, maybe I’m not. For some people, yes. For some people, not. But Bottom’s a common person. Regardless of who you are, regardless of what you are, he is. And I’m sorry, it’s not worth the lives of five damned people. All right? It’s not! We do not deserve to die for a man we’ve not even seen. I want to go back to performing plays. I want to go back to my normal life! I want to stop this damned shite of trying to help people from evil things of the world. I do! I want to just live a life where I pretend to be something I’m not and just be that. All right? That’s it. That’s all I want. If you want to go back into that damned mansion and fight a damned eight-year-old that wants to eat your damned intestines, go ahead. I don’t care. I’m done.”
“Ellen said that Clancy ran away,” Dr. Whitewood said.
“I don’t give a damn what that woman said!” Hawksworth said. “She’s crazy. She’s a lunatic. All right. I don’t care.”
“What about the ruined church that the lord mentioned?” Huddleston said.
“Go to the ruined church and get eaten by Richard,” Hawksworth said. “I don’t care.”
“Well, you’ll feel better in the morning, Hawksworth,” Dr. Whitewood said.
“Possibly. And you’ll all be dead in the morning.”
“We’re not going back in there. We’re going home. We’re going to solve this in the morning.”
“Yes, exactly. Wait. No. We’re not going to solve this!”
“We’re going to solve this in the morning!”
“I don’t know about that part. I know about going home. I know about that. It’s not worth it. It’s honestly not. If you feel some moral compass pulling you towards this then I support you in your God-given right to try to try find this Clancy Bottom but, you must at least, in the back of your minds, regardless of God-given moral, think to yourself ‘Is my life worth somebody I don’t even know?’”
All of them but Huddleston heard the crunch of footsteps walking quickly down the lane from the house.
“Let’s keep walking,” Dr. Whitewood said quietly.
Hawksworth turned and ran away. Dr. Whitewood and Godfrey moved to the corner and peeked around, seeing a figure walking briskly from the house. Huddleston looked around, unsure of what was happening even as Dr. Whitewood pressed against the wall, Godfrey behind him. Jaimes crouched down and Huddleston moved to the wall as well. The figure came around the corner and stopped when he obviously saw them.
“I daresay, you should come back to the hall,” Lord Loddington said. “What’s wrong with you people?”
“We’re trying to look for Hawksworth,” Dr. Whitewood said. “He ran off somewhere.”
“Well, I’m sure he’ll be fine. Come back to the hall.”
“It is late of the hour─”
“Of course. You should spend the night.”
“Well, my darling wife─”
There was a loud click as Lord Loddington produced a pistol from behind his back and cocked it. He pointed it at them.
“You should come back to the hall now,” he said menacingly.
Jaimes, behind the others, opened his violin case.
“Come along!” Lord Loddington said again. “Come along. Don’t dawdle.”
Dr. Whitewood reached into his medical bag and there was a flash and a loud report as Lord Loddington shot at the man. Dr. Whitewood was already in motion, leaping aside, the bullet narrowly missing him. It struck Godfrey in the side of the head, the bullet grazing him. The man fell to the ground with a crash.
Huddleston immediately turned and fled down the road to Islington.
Dr. Whitewood drew his own pistol and fired it at Lord Loddington, who ducked to one side with a shriek. He turned and ran around the corner. Jaimes pulled his blunderbuss out of his violin case and cocked the weapon, aiming it at the corner of the gatehouse where Lord Loddington had just disappeared. Dr. Whitewood turned to Godfrey and bound the head wound with bandages. The man’s eyes fluttered open.
“Did we get him?” he muttered, his head pounding.
“Unfortunately no,” Dr. Whitewood said.
They heard Lord Loddington running away. Jaimes looked away from Godfrey, guessing there was a great deal of blood. He was not good with blood.
“Let’s get you back to my house,” Dr. Whitewood said.
“I gotta get out of here,” Godfrey said.
Jaimes helped Dr. Whitewood with Godfrey and they headed down the road.
* * *
Hawksworth had run down the road, picking up the pace when he heard the gunshots behind him. He eventually slowed to a stop and waited. Then he heard someone running down the road towards him. He could just make out the figure in the waning moonlight and knelt down in the road with his knife out.
“Who’s there!?!” Huddleston’s voice suddenly called out.
“Vincent Hawksworth of the Globe Theater!” Hawksworth called out.
“Oh. It’s you.”
“It’s me? What do you mean by that?”
“Nothing. I was worried that you were someone else.”
“I’m having a crisis.”
“I think we all are at this point.”
“My inner being says ‘Run. Live your life. To hell with others.’ But also my inner being says ‘What are you if you can’t pretend to be a hero?’ And I feel like I should go back and help them. I don’t know what to do.”
“Uh … well, I haven’t heard any more gunshots. I hope that means they’re okay.”
“So, they’re dead then?”
“What? I never said that they were …”
Hawksworth heard a small group of people walking down the road towards them. The largest of the figures moaned. Hawksworth guessed who it was.
“Never mind, Huddleston,” Hawksworth said. “They’re alive.”
Dr. Whitewood and Jaimes, helping the injured Godfrey, approached.
“It’s a damned stage hand!” Hawksworth said, pushing his point again. “It’s a damned stage hand. I’m sorry. His wife’s sad. He has two children who survive without their father. I’m sorry. We’ll all support them with money, but I’m not going to risk my damned life for a stage hand. I’m sorry.”
“We’ll come back to this in the morning,” Dr. Whitewood said.
“I can’t think about this right now,” Godfrey groaned.
“You know what?” Huddleston said. “We’re all tired. We’re all scared by … whatever that was that happened. I think we might be able to look into this ruined church and not even run into the Loddingtons again and so … if you don’t want to join us, fine. But I’m going to keep looking. Whoever’s with me …”
“Huddleston, your position makes sense,” Hawksworth said. “You are a friend to Clancy and I respect that. You try to help your friends, if he is still alive. And if he is not, you try to at least bring retribution for his death. But, the other four of us are not related to Clancy at all and I don’t see the point. Sixpence, I understand, but just get sixpence from somewhere else. The rest of us, we should just consider Clancy gone. I’m sorry. He’s a stage hand. He’s a stage hand.”
“You fell down the stairs,” Dr. Whitewood told Godfrey. “Look at me. You tell Abigail you fell down the stairs.”
He took Godfrey to his house for the night in case any other complication set in from the injury.
* * *
Sunday, June 27, 1613, saw the Globe performing Visiting the River by Theophilus Peel. The play was comedy visiting several people who went to the Thames in the time of the Romans in order to speak to the various gods and fairies that lived there to ask favors that inevitably backfired in their faces. Crass and lowbrow, it was more like a series of short plays all connected by the Thames than a single play.
There were more rehearsals at the Globe after the play that afternoon. Huddleston talked to Jaimes about going to the ruined church in Islington in search of Clancy Bottom.
“Are you with me, Jaimes?” Huddleston asked.
“I’m not going back to Loddington Hall,” Jaimes said.
“I wasn’t planning on going back to Loddington Hall.”
“Good. I’ve not given up on this yet.”
They agreed to find the other gentlemen who were helping with the investigation.
Huddleston also approached Hawksworth.
“Mr. Hawksworth,” he said.
“Yes?” Hawksworth replied.
“We’re going to the abandoned church to see if we can find Clancy there.”
“We really want you to come with us.”
“Because he is a member of our theater troupe. However you feel about him personally, he’s part of our family. Do you really want to leave him behind? I know he’s just a stage hand, and I know that you think he doesn’t matter, but he does - to a lot of people here. How would you feel if it was one of the actors who was in trouble like this? Would you just stand by and leave their fate unknown? If you don’t want to come, fine, but … please. Help us.”
“Huddleston, if you don’t mind me asking: If Clancy Bottom is such a family member of our theater troupe, why isn’t anyone else looking for him?”
“You know, Hawksworth, you seem to be pretty good at playing the hero. And part of being the hero is caring about things that not everyone cares about, just because it feels like you should. Is this all that much different?”
“I have no feelings. But when I play a character, I can pretend I do. And that, in a sense, gives me humanity in which I do not have in real life. So, in a sense, if I was to pretend that Clancy Bottom was a damsel in distress in a roll that I might play, then maybe I would jump to the chance to save him. But I know what reality is, regardless, and I know who Vincent Hawksworth is outside this fantasy that you all want to play in saving some stage hand that has absolutely no value to human society other than his family. And what that says to me is that there is no point in me risking my own life trying to save him.”
“Okay Hawksworth, how about this? If we never find Clancy Bottom, you will never hear the end of it from his wife. Do you really want her on you for the rest of your life? Do you really want her coming here every single day, while we’re trying to rehearse, pestering you about ‘Oh, where’s Clancy? Where’s my Clancy? You have to find him, please.’ Do you really want that?”
“Her voice is like nails …”
Hawksworth thought upon that but he still couldn’t get past the fact that Bottom was just a stage hand.
“If it was another actor or someone of nobility, then maybe,” Hawksworth said. “But a stage hand? Even one that I know and I have worked with for years, I cannot.”
“Well, if he’s dead than he’s dead and I’ll accept that and I’ll just have to break it to his wife,” Huddleston said. “Gosh, she scares me so much. And I understand your stubbornness in wanting to help him. You’re scared. You don’t know him very well. That’s fine. If Jaimes and I survive this, we will surely tell you all about the adventure.”
“I look forward to hearing about it and possibly even making a play.”
“So, I suppose we will be on our way then. I wish you good luck in whatever it is you’re doing today.”
“I hope that I see you all in a couple of days. And not hear that you have died.”
“Well, thank you.”
After rehearsal, Huddleston and Jaimes went into London proper around dinnertime to Dr. Whitewood’s house. Hawksworth went to the Mermaid Inne.
* * *
Dr. Whitewood had put Godfrey in the guest bedroom. When Abigail found the man there, she was not pleased.
“Why is this man in our house?” she asked her husband. “Why is this … why is he upstairs? Put him downstairs.”
“We’ll talk about this─” Dr. Whitewood said.
“Put him downstairs!”
“We’ll talk about this later.”
She was willing to prepare food for the man but did not want to go in the room as she didn’t care for Godfrey.
Huddleston and Jaimes arrived and the four men set off for Islington once again. There, they asked about a ruined church. It was some time before they learned a mile or so northeast of Loddington Hall on a road that saw little traffic was a long-abandoned church and churchyard. It was abandoned by the Catholics a hundred years before, Anabaptists took it over in the mid-16th century for about a year before they were dragged from the building and tried for heresy. Some of them were burned at the stake and others killed in various and terrible ways. The church was partially burned in the process. It had been in ruins ever since.
They found the place. Little remained of the church or the churchyard, the latter of which was filled with stone tombstones and markers. The church itself was little more than the stone walls and the squat bell tower.
Godfrey walked right into the ruined church in the waning light. There was still an upper floor to the tower but the ladder was long gone. Dr. Whitewood noticed dust coming down from the room above.
“Somebody’s up there,” he said.
Huddleston tried to climb up to the hole in the ceiling where the ladder used to be. He made it up about seven feet before he slipped and fell, crashing to the stone floor. It was quite painful. They all noticed more dust falling down from the ceiling and saw a darkened face peep down through the hole.
“Who … who’s there?” a voice called down.
“We could ask you the same question,” Jaimes said.
“Clancy, is that you?” Dr. Whitewood asked.
“Wait, is that Jaimes?” the voice called down.
“Yes!” Jaimes said.
The face came closer to the hole and they recognized it as Clancy Bottom. The man was very handsome and had a full beard and mustache.
“Wait!” Huddleston said. “Clancy!”
“Clancy?” Jaimes said.
“It’s Huddleston!” Bottom said.
“My God man!” Jaimes cried out.
“What are you doing here?” Bottom said.
“We …” Huddleston said.
“Wait!” Bottom said. “Is that Lord Loddington bloke with you?”
“No, he’s not,” Huddleston said.
“He keeps coming around, looking for me,” Bottom said.
“No, I assure you he’s not,” Jaimes said.
“All right,” Bottom said. “All right. All right. Hang about. Hold on. Hold on.”
The man climbed down like a monkey, looking around carefully.
“Why are you here?” Jaimes asked.
“Hiding,” Bottom said. “I’m hiding.”
He moved to the entrance of the tower and he looked outside carefully. He grabbed both Huddleston and Jaimes, hugging them to his bosom with joy.
“Tis a long story, tis,” he said. “I’ve not left this place for I don’t know, rightly, where I am. I’ve heard of Islington but did not know which way to walk to return to London. I’m lost.
“But there is more. There’s much more.”
“How long have you been here?” Jaimes said.
“What happened?” Huddleston said.
“I’ve been here for days,” Bottom said. “Listen to my story.
“I have found strange signs and sigils all about the Globe for the last week or more. I could not fathom what they might be though, for truth, thought at first they were simply carvings made by presumptuous youths or other ne’er do wells. In this I soon learned I was mistaken as they are everywhere! The carvings … there must be hundreds of them, all hidden in unlooked upon places in the globe - under railings or in dark corners, under steps and on top of beams and rafters. As I found more and more, I realized something was terrible wrong. I wrote down some of them on a piece of parchment but there were simply too many and too varied to put down on paper.
“I finally talked to Dennis Isley about this as it weighed heavily on my head and, after some debate and some thought, he suggested I go to the Mermaid Inne, where all of the most prolific and learned men spend their time. He pointed out many of the poets and playwrights who sup there know many things and that was the place to go.
“On Sunday night did I go to that place, and found not help nor succor for it. On Isley’s advice, I returned on Monday evening, when I ran into that terrible man, Lord Loddington, who did so tell me they were some signs of astrology, though I now do doubt all he said to me. He took me back to his house in Islington, plying me with wine in the carriage until I was unsure where were. Then he fed me and told me the most horrible things before locking me away in a room.
“But I escaped. I’ve always been somewhat of a climber, as you may well know, getting to places in the Globe other men shudder to think about. I found a way down that wall and fled. I remembered him mentioning a ruined church, and so went in search of it, soon finding this place as the tower is in sight of the windows of the room Lord Loddington locked me up within.
“But here is where my story does go strange and terrible, even more so than it has been before.
“I hid in the tower, fearful of the churchyard, but then saw movement here. Fearful of some spirit or sprite sent after me or perhaps simply stumbling upon me, but more fearful of being lost, I climbed down the tower again to see what might be in the place.
“The things are hideous to the eye, dog-like of appearance and with the hooves and legs of Beelzebub himself. They stank of the grave and their filthy flesh defies description. They gnawed at bones and ate dead flesh.
“One of them saw me and they chased me for sport, but they could not climb as I could and I was away to the tower once again. But then they called to me in strange, meeping voices, sometimes high-pitched, sometimes growling like the dogs they were. They bid me talk to them and tell them a story so I told them the tale I’m now telling you. That seemed to amuse them to no end and they claimed they knew of this Lord Loddington as he had visited them before, but was not a man of his word and didn’t bring them the things they wanted and needed.
“We talked through the night and I hid that next day and saw Lord Loddington’s coach come to the churchyard. He searched all about but didn’t enter the tower as he cannot climb like Clancy Bottom.
“When he was once again away, I climbed down to forage for food and drink and found the rotten carcass of a dead rabbit. Remembering the habits of the things in the churchyard, I returned with it, leaving it at the base of the tower.
“The things returned that night, they did indeed. They seemed pleased with the swollen and rotten rabbit and eventually bid me come down as they meant me no harm. Fool I, I trusted them, and should have stayed away, but they were, in truth, without malice towards me. They asked me again to tell the story and I did so. They examined the parchment and that night and the nights following, as I bring them some rotten gift, they have told me things about the signs upon it.
“They believe it is some kind of terrible spell, meant to bring something back into the world that has died. Or someone who has died. All without the aid of the corpse itself. They say my foolish scribbling is incomplete but they took the parchment away and are to return tonight to talk to me of it once again.
“I know not what to do friends. I fear the things, but some deviltry is about the Globe, I’m afraid. Lord Loddington has returned almost every day as well, obviously in search of me. What do I do? Help me.”
“Dogs with goats’ hooves?” Huddleston said.
“Yes,” Bottom replied. “I swear on my troth, it is true. They are unlike anything I have ever seen before or read about or seen in a play. They are horrors beyond imagining.”
“That sounds like some sort of demon.”
“I know not. They kept their word. They did not kill me and they took the parchment. I’m hoping tonight they can tell me anything, something, anything about it but what they have already told me. They are to return here. Probably only in a few hours hence. Once the darkness has some and the moon rises. What do I do?”
“We can’t just let you stay here alone,” Jaimes said.
“I don’t know where I am,” Bottom said. “I’m so lost.”
“We know the way back,” Huddleston said. “We can get you home. I suggest you just get out of here.”
“But they want to tell me what the writing means. I need to be here so that I might know. Something is wrong. Those sigils are all about the Globe.”
“I know something’s wrong. But getting too involved in this, you could be accused of witchcraft.”
“Fie upon that! Something is wrong at the Globe. They say it’s going to bring something back. I don’t know what. I need to find out. If something terrible is going to happen at the Globe … I heard tales. I heard the actors talk. Bad things have happened there before. Terrible things. Things that … that … I tried to talk to Hawksworth about it. You know Hawksworth? The actor?”
“He refused to speak so did some of the others. There’s something … there’s stories that something happened there years ago but he won’t tell me about it. None of them will talk about it. I didn’t want to press. I’m just a stage hand. I’m no one of any importance. But if something’s happening at the Globe, I don’t what I can do about it, but something needs to be done.”
“If something bad’s going to happen to the Globe, that could hurt …”
“That could hurt all of us,” Jaimes said.
“I know,” Huddleston said.
“That’s what we have to find out,” Bottom said. “We’ve got to find out what─”
“And we can’t just tell these people that something bad is going to happen. No one would ever believe us. And even if they did, they would just think we were crazy.”
“Then we have to find out. We have to talk to these things. These horrors.”
“I don’t want to. But …”
“I’ll do it. I’ve done it before.”
“But if it saves the Globe, then I’m willing to hear you out on this.”
Huddleston was unsure what to do. He didn’t feel they could leave Clancy Bottom but he also confessed he was not much of a fighter. If the things attacked Bottom, he was unsure what he might be able to do. Bottom told them they couldn’t climb and he’d been safe in the tower. Jaimes noted he could climb fairly well. Huddleston was of the opinion they could wait in the tower. Jaimes pointed out he had his blunderbuss.
Godfrey was not willing to try to climb up into the tower but he told them to come by his home and fetch him after they talked to the demon things. He left them, heading back to London.
Whitewood thought of fetching Hawksworth but realized he did not know where the actor lived. Hawksworth actually never told anyone but a few of the more important actors, in his opinion, where he lived. Not even Huddleston or Jaimes knew. He decided to return to London to try to locate Hawksworth’s home.
The other three stayed at the ruined church. Bottom suggested they search about for some rotten meat to give to the things. After an hour or two, Bottom found a big, dead rat. It was bloated and stank.
Huddleston and Jaimes climbed up into the ruined tower with the aid of Bottom. He warned them to stay quiet and hidden. He told them he felt the things might be immune to any harm caused by mere men.
Some hours later, as the moon rose, a half-dozen of the things came skulking into the churchyard. Bottom waited at the base of the tower for them and greeted them, wincing. Jaimes was very disturbed by the sight of the horrible things. One of them spoke to Bottom and then handed him something. He handed over the rotten meat and they left. Bottom returned to the tower and climbed up to the others. He had the piece of parchment in his hand.
He told them the things had said the spell was for summoning. It was also mixed up with some spell to bring the dead back to life and they had guessed it was some means of bringing a dead person back to life without the need of “essential saltes” whatever that meant, if it worked. The things had been unsure, however, and Bottom noted it might be something to raise hundreds of people at once.
“It sounds a little bit like some sort of alchemy,” Huddleston said.
“It’s witchcraft, I think,” Bottom said. “But they said they don’t believe what’s brought back will be human anymore, but something controlled by creatures of the outside, though they didn’t specify what they meant by that.”
“Why on Earth?” Jaimes said.
“I don’t know,” Bottom said. “I don’t know.”
He handed Huddleston the parchment and the man looked at it as best he could in the moonlight. It was covered in strange symbols unlike anything he’d ever seen before.
“So, it’s some sort of witchcraft,” Huddleston muttered.
Bottom was ready to go home and the three climbed down out of the tower and returned to London. He said he’d show them where he found the sigils and signs at the Globe the next day.
* * *