* * *
Hawksworth found Kent and Thornburgh not very receptive to his idea. Kent told him the whole idea was ridiculous, an idealistic silliness.
â€œYou donâ€™t want the marionettes either, Kent!â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œNo, no,â€ Kent said. â€œBut itâ€™s one play. And once it fails, weâ€™ll never have to do it again.â€
â€œHalf the crewâ€™s going mad!â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œBut did you know I smashed one to bits?â€ Stubb said. â€œI smashed one to bits. They saw me.â€
â€œHe did!â€ Massingberd said.
â€œStubb, you just need to just get more sleep, I think,â€ Kent told the older man.
â€œHe might be right about that,â€ Massingberd said.
â€œYouâ€™ll be all right,â€ Kent said.
â€œBut it wasnâ€™t just me,â€ Stubb said. â€œThem two saw me smash it to bits. The bits are gone and nowâ”€â€
â€œYou smashed what to bits again?â€ Kent said.
â€œThe new one!â€ Stubb said.
â€œThe marionette!â€ Massingberd said.
â€œOh, that ugly, awful thing?â€ Kent said.
â€œThe faceless one,â€ Stubb said.
â€œI buried it,â€ Massingberd said.
â€œWell, maybe they brought two,â€ Kent said.
â€œNo, the bits are gone,â€ Stubb said.
They told him the entire story.
â€œSo, you left the bits for how long?â€ he asked. â€œQuarter of an hour?â€
â€œIn mud!â€ Stubb said. â€œIn mud!â€
â€œThereâ€™s no one in the world who saw you do this who wouldnâ€™t have walked over and possibly stolen them?â€ Kent said.
â€œEvery single timeâ”€â€ Stubb said.
â€œThis is London!â€ Kent went on. â€œEveryone steals everything!â€
â€œThen why arenâ€™t they mad thereâ€™s one missing?â€ Stubb said.
â€œWe didnâ€™t know about it,â€ Kent said. â€œPerhaps the marionettist made two or three.â€
â€œLetâ€™s talk to the marionettist,â€ Massingberd said. â€œLetâ€™s ask how many he made.â€
â€œNo,â€ Stubb said. â€œI think theyâ€™re in on it.â€
â€œBarnaby,â€ Kent said to Stubb. â€œCome here. Have a beer.â€
Someone poured him a beer.
â€œNow calm down,â€ Kent said. â€œI know that witches are real and magic is a terrible thing, but weâ€™re living in a progressive time. You canâ€™t let superstition rule your life.â€
â€œItâ€™s not just me,â€ Stubb said. â€œThey saw it happen.â€
He told them about stealing the marionette the night before and throwing it in the Thames.
â€œHow much had you had to drink, Barnaby?â€ Kent asked him calmly.
â€œHe had one,â€ Massingberd said. â€œThat I saw.â€
â€œHow much before?â€ Kent said. â€œI donâ€™t know. I canâ€™t explain it. But obviously someone found the thing in the Thames, recognized it as something that would belong to the theatre, and returned it.â€
â€œIt was in a coffin,â€ Stubb said. â€œI tied two belts around it. Looked like a box of some beggar, probably.â€
Kent remained unconvinced.
Massingberd suggested Kent take the marionette home that night and go with him. Kent refused, saying he had better things to do. Massingberd pressed him but he refused.
â€œMusicians,â€ he said.
In the end, Hawksworth told Massingberd it didnâ€™t matter. If they couldnâ€™t get Kent behind it, it couldnâ€™t be done. Stubb noted they just had to convince the marionette to talk to Kent.
â€œIâ€™ve changed my mind,â€ Hawksworth said. â€œI think Kentâ€™s right. We just get to Friday and then be done with it. And stop coming here at night!â€
Stubb suggested they lock up the marionettes at night.
â€œWhat goodâ€™s that going to do?â€ Massingberd said. â€œYou threw it in the river!â€
â€œWhat if we take out the eyeballs?â€ Stubb said.
Hawksworth walked away.
â€œTonight Iâ€™m taking out the eyeballs and Iâ€™m throwing them in the Thames,â€ Stubb said. â€œAnd tomorrow theyâ€™re gonna be back in there.â€
â€œWell, what does it matter if Iâ€™m the only one that knows about it?â€ Massingberd said.
â€œWell no one else will listen to me,â€ Stubb said.
â€œIâ€™m sorry Stubbs, letâ€™s just let it go for tonight,â€ Massingberd said.
â€œI threw up today,â€ Stubb said.
â€œI know,â€ Massingberd said. â€œI saw it.â€
â€œI havenâ€™t done that since I was a lad,â€ Stubb said.
â€œYou sure youâ€™re not still drunk from last night?â€ Massingberd said. â€œI say we drop it, Stubbs.â€
Stubb merely walked away. Before they left for the evening, Hawksworth approached the two.
â€œNow, donâ€™t come here at night,â€ he told them. â€œDonâ€™t take one of â€˜em home. Letâ€™s just â€¦ we got three days. Wednesday, Thursday, and then we do Friday and weâ€™re done. Take the marionettes back. Weâ€™re done.â€
â€œThereâ€™s a darkness here,â€ Stubb said.
â€œWe already got kids missing,â€ Hawksworth said. â€œThatâ€™s the biggest problem here.â€
â€œLetâ€™s search for the kids!â€ Massingberd said.
â€œAnd where do you suppose we start?â€ Stubb said.
â€œYou two promise me youâ€™re not going to do something stupid tonight,â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œI got the eyes,â€ Stubb said, pulling the two large glass eyes out of his belt pouch.
He had pried the eyes out of the Skin-Takerâ€™s Impâ€™s skull, damaging it badly in the process.
â€œBloody hell Stubbs!â€ Massingberd said.
â€œStubbs, Iâ€™m just gonna â€¦ Iâ€™m just gonna â€¦ turn my head away from whatever it is youâ€™ve done here,â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œJust go for a walk with me,â€ Stubb said.
He led them away from the theater and down to the Thames.
â€œWhere are we going?â€ Hawksworth asked.
â€œThe Thames,â€ Stubb said.
He flung one of the eyes out as far as he could over the water. Hawksworth ran towards the river instinctually, but stopped before he got to the filthy water.
â€œStubbs!â€ Massingberd said. â€œWhy donâ€™t you sell the other one?â€
â€œI thought about it, but â€¦â€ Stubb said.
â€œHow can you be so cold, you just threw the eye!â€ Hawksworth shouted.
â€œRight, so we donâ€™t need the other,â€ Massingberd said.
â€œThe thing is, itâ€™s gonna be back tomorrow,â€ Stubb said. â€œIt doesnâ€™t matter.â€
â€œBut!â€ Massingberd said. â€œHereâ€™s the trick. You sell the other one. See if the moneyâ€™s still there tomorrow.â€
â€œIt will be,â€ Stubb said without feeling. â€œThe moneyâ€™s not got the devil in it. Except that it does, but you know â€¦â€
â€œYou two used to be normal!â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œSell the eye,â€ Massingberd said. â€œGive me half.â€
â€œThe wench has never been normal!â€ Stubb said.
â€œWench?â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œHawksworth, donâ€™t listen to him,â€ Massingberd said. â€œI swear â€¦ I swear itâ€™s purely platonic love I have for you. Itâ€™s respect for the greatest acting talent.â€
â€œWanting feelings in the lower regions,â€ Stubb said.
â€œUm â€¦â€ Hawksworth said. â€œAll right â€¦â€
â€œYou take this one home,â€ Stubb said. â€œKeep it locked up.â€
â€œWhy would I do that!?!â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œLock it up and youâ€™ll see.â€
â€œI live with another actor boy! Heâ€™ll see me with it!â€
â€œUm â€¦ you have a chest. Keep it locked up.â€
â€œI donâ€™t want this! I donâ€™t!â€
â€œItâ€™s all right. Itâ€™ll be gone by the morning.â€
â€œI donâ€™t â€¦ no! I donâ€™t want to see that! Fridayâ€™s so close!â€
â€œItâ€™s not though.â€
â€œJust â€¦ just â€¦ just â€¦â€
Stubb tried to push the glass eye into Hawksworthâ€™s hands but the boy refused to take it.
â€œI canâ€™t,â€ Hawksworth said. â€œI canâ€™t! Iâ€™m sorry.â€
He backed away slowly and Stubb followed him, keeping pace.
â€œTake it,â€ Stubb said. â€œPlease.â€
â€œStubbs, no,â€ Hawksworth said. â€œStubbs. Please.â€
â€œI know where you stay,â€ Stubb said. â€œI can put this in your bed.â€
â€œGodâ€™s blood, Iâ€™ll take it!â€ Massingberd finally said, grabbing it from Stubb.
He tucked it into his pouch.
â€œHe took it,â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œWell, he likes balls,â€ Stubb said.
â€œWith that, good night,â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œGood night Hawksworth!â€ Massingberd said. â€œIâ€™ll see you tomorrow, Hawksworth! Good night!â€
â€œGood night,â€ Hawksworth said before disappearing into the gloom.
* * *
Massingberd returned to the tiny room he rented at the house full of musicians. Music played somewhere in the house, as it often did. His tiny room was barely big enough for a narrow bed and a chest but had a window. It was on the ground floor. It was very hot.
He sat on the bed and stared at the eye. It seemed to stare back at him.
Then he heard a rattling outside his window. Looking nervously at it and then put the eye into his chest with his belongings. The rattling continued outside, followed by a scratching noise. He crept to the window to look outside but stopped when he heard the scratching noise again.
He stuck his head out of the window and looked. Something small and white lay on the ground below. It rattled and he screamed, pulled the shutters closed and bolted them and then leapt onto his bed and cowered there in fear. A moment later, a knock came from his door.
â€œWho is it?â€ he said.
â€œMassingberd, you all right?â€ a voice came.
He recognized it as one of the other musicians of the house: a viola player by the name of Godsgift Atkinson.
â€œNo,â€ Massingberd called.
â€œWell, whatâ€™s the matter with you, man?â€ Atkinson said.
â€œWill you come in please?â€ Massingberd said, leaping from the bed, unbolting the door, and flinging it open.
â€œYouâ€™re being loud over here,â€ Atkinson said. â€œYouâ€™re screaming.â€
â€œOh, I didnâ€™t know,â€ Massingberd said. â€œIâ€™m sorry. Will you stay with me tonight?â€
â€œWhat?â€ Atkinson said. â€œNo. Iâ€™m gonna go get a bird. Wanna come?â€
â€œLook at this thing!â€ Massingberd said.
He threw open his chest and showed the man the glass eye.
â€œGod, thatâ€™s hideous,â€ Atkinson said. â€œWhat the hell is that?â€
â€œWill you take it?â€ Massingberd said.
â€œWhat?â€ Atkinson said.
â€œSell it, I donâ€™t care what you do,â€ Massingberd said. â€œJust take it.â€
â€œIâ€™m not spending the night!â€
â€œAll right. You can have it anyway.â€
â€œAll right. All right.â€
â€œJust donâ€™t ever bring it back here.â€
â€œWell, Iâ€™m gonna sell it, arenâ€™t I?â€
â€œWhy would I bring it back? Itâ€™s mine.â€
â€œAll right. Good night Godsgift.â€
Atkinson left and Massingberd closed the bolted the door behind him. He covered his head with the covers and tried to sleep.
* * *
Massingberd woke with a start in the middle of the night to a scream of terror. He heard people start to move about the house and soon found several other musicians gathered around Atkinsonâ€™s door. They were calling to him and putting their shoulders to the door to try to break it down. They called to Massingberd to help.
â€œOh God,â€ he said. â€œItâ€™s my fault!â€
He ran to his room and retrieved his axe.
â€œOh!â€ one of them said. â€œGood idea!â€
Massingberd chopped at the door until they could get to the bolt and pull it free. One of them had a candle and when they brought it into to the room, they found Atkinson on the floor in the corner, his legs pulled up to his chest, his arms around them. He was staring at nothing and drooling.
â€œHe was here,â€ he kept saying. â€œHe was here. He wanted his eye. He wanted his eye. And he wouldnâ€™t leave without it. He wanted his eye. The things he told me. The things he told me. God. God help me. God help us all.â€
He looked like heâ€™d gone completely mad. The other musicians looked on the man with terror and disbelief.
His chest was open and there was a hollow spot where something large and round had lain.
* * *
On the morning of Wednesday, June 25, 1600, some of Massingberdâ€™s housemates took Atkinson away to the madhouse of Mary of Bethlehem. There had been no change in his condition.
When Massingberd got to the theater, he was immediately confronted by Stubb.
â€œWhere is it?â€ Stubb asked.
â€œWhat?â€ Massingberd said.
â€œDid you really take it home?â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œWhat are you talking about?â€ Massingberd asked.
â€œThe eye,â€ Hawksworth said.
Massingberd stared at him for a moment.
â€œWhat eye?â€ he finally said.
â€œThe eye!â€ Hawksworth said. â€œThe â€¦ are you two really that mad? Forgot about the eye?â€
â€œLook â€¦ I lost it,â€ Massingberd said. â€œI lost it. Iâ€™m sorry.â€
â€œYou lost it,â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œI lost it,â€ Massingberd repeated.
â€œSo, what youâ€™re saying is, it came for it,â€ Stubb said. â€œAnd it took it back.â€
â€œI lost it,â€ Massingberd said again.
â€œHe said he lost it!â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œI didnâ€™t even make it home with it,â€ Massingberd said. â€œIt fell out of my pouch.â€
â€œIt fell out your pouch,â€ Hawksworth said. â€œYou didnâ€™t hear it hit the ground, big as it is?â€
â€œReally, because I heard that someone was taken away,â€ Stubb said.
Heâ€™d seem them take Atkinson when he walked to the theater that morning.
â€œWhy donâ€™t you mind your own business!?!â€ Massingberd said.
â€œBecause he was saying â€˜It came for his eye! He came for his eye! It told me things! Oh my God!â€™â€ Stubb said.
â€œYou got someone else involved?â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œYouâ€™re paraphrasing!â€ Massingberd said to Stubb.
â€œYes, I am!â€ Stubb said. â€œBecause I donâ€™t remember exactly what he was saying!â€
He stared at the musician.
â€œSo â€¦ you lost it, huh?â€ he said.
â€œItâ€™s gone,â€ Massingberd said. â€œItâ€™s gone, it is.â€
â€œYeah,â€ Stubb said. â€œâ€˜Cause you gave it away?â€
â€œEy!â€ Massingberd said.
â€œAnd now heâ€™s insane?â€ Stubb said.
â€œHe was already insane!â€ Massingberd said.
Stubb scratched his beard.
â€œDo you need a salve?â€ Massingberd said. â€œYouâ€™re so itchy.â€
The other two looked at him.
â€œI donâ€™t want to talk about it,â€ Massingberd said.
â€œSomeone went mad?â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œWhy are you trying to lie to us?â€ Stubb asked Massingberd.
â€œWait - no! Someone went mad?â€ Hawksworth asked again.
â€œAll right, all right, all right,â€ Massingberd said. â€œHe came to my room. He said I was screaming. I donâ€™t think I was. I donâ€™t remember that. But I gave him the eye, because it was a littleâ”€â€
â€œYou gave him the eye!?!â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œYou didnâ€™t want it!â€ Massingberd said.
â€œOf course I didnâ€™t want it!â€ Hawksworth said. â€œWhy would you give itâ”€?â€
â€œThe otherâ€™s in the Thames!â€ Massingberd said.
â€œIs it though?â€ Stubb said quietly.
â€œI gave him the eye and then a couple hours later he did start screaming a bit,â€ Massingberd said. â€œWe broke down the door. I used my trusty axe, which you told me was a bad purchase.â€ He glared at Stubb. â€œAnd he was crying and dribbling a little bit and they came and got him. Theyâ€™re going to take care of him and heâ€™s going to be fine.â€
â€œSo, the puppet came and got his eye?â€ Stubb said.
â€œI donâ€™t think thereâ€™s any reason to think that,â€ Massingberd said.
They looked at him.
â€œWhat happened to wait until Friday?â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œThen why was he saying â€˜It came and it told me these horrible things and it wanted its eye and it wouldnâ€™t leave without it?â€™â€ Stubb said.
â€œWhy does anybody say anything?â€ Massingberd said. â€œWhy do we learn these lines?â€
Stubb grabbed a mug of beer from George Rontâ€™s hand and splashed it into Massingberdâ€™s face.
â€œWhat the bloody hell!?!â€ Ront said.
â€œWake the bloody hell up!â€ Stubb said to Massingberd. â€œAnd get your head out of your arse and donâ€™t be daft!â€
â€œYou donâ€™t mind filling that up for me again, do you â€¦ Stubb?â€ Ront muttered to Stubb.
â€œNo, youâ€™re right,â€ Stubb said. â€œI donâ€™t mind. Here you are!â€
He handed Ront the empty mug. He stomped away, cursing the man.
â€œCollect yourself!â€ Stubb said.
â€œIâ€™m sorry,â€ Massingberd said.
â€œWhat about Friday?â€ Hawksworth moaned.
â€œHawksworth, if weâ€™re with you, we can make it â€˜til Friday,â€ Massingberd said.
â€œWhy canâ€™t we just get to Friday?â€ Hawksworth moaned.
â€œI donâ€™t think anyone can go that long,â€ Stubb quipped. â€œâ€˜Making it â€˜til Friday.â€™â€
No one laughed.
â€œStubbs â€¦â€ Massingberd said quietly. â€œStubbs â€¦ Stubbs, itâ€™ll be okay.â€
â€œIâ€™m funny, damn it!â€ Stubb said. â€œNo one gets my jokes.â€
â€œWell, youâ€™re stupid,â€ Massingberd said matter-of-factly.
â€œStubb, we get them,â€ Kent, who was walking by when Stubb complained, said. â€œTrust me.â€
â€œIâ€™m just ahead of my time, is all,â€ Stubb said.
â€œNo, you arenâ€™t,â€ Kent said, walking away. â€œTrust me.â€
Stubb made an obscene gesture to the manâ€™s back.
Rehearsals went normally enough that morning. A Prince of Wallachia by Andrew Hurst did not do very well. It was a poorly written history about Prince Vlad III Dracula of the 15th century. The house was full, as usual, but the crowds were not enthusiastic about the play.
The marionette of the Skin-Takerâ€™s Imp was found that afternoon when they started rehearsal for The Pirates of Candle Cove. It was in excellent shape and had both of its glass eyes. That put off Hawksworth, Stubb, and Massingberd.
That same afternoon, a seamstress was hired to help with the costumes suddenly started screaming and ran through the theater, avoiding everyone who tried to talk to her or stop her.
â€œThe cloth is alive!â€ she screamed. â€œThe skin is alive!â€
Stubb and Massingberd looked at each other and when the woman ran between them, they grabbed her by the arms. She shrieked incoherently about the cloth and skin being alive. He was able to calm her down for a moment.
â€œWe believe you!â€ Stubb said.
â€œItâ€™s alive!â€ she screamed. â€œItâ€™s alive! Itâ€™s alive! Itâ€™s walking around! The skin is alive!â€
â€œWas it the bones one or the no-face?â€ Stubb asked.
â€œItâ€™s the skin!â€ the woman screamed. â€œItâ€™s the skin! The skin is alive!â€
â€œWas it a costume?â€ Stubb said.
â€œItâ€™s cape is longer than it was the day before!â€ the woman hissed into his ear.
She started screaming incoherently into Stubbâ€™s face.
â€œStubbs, whatâ€™d you do!?!â€ Hawksworth said.
Someone ordered Stubb and another stagehand to take the woman to the Madhouse of St. Mary of Bethlehem. As they dragged the woman to Bedlam, Stubb continued to tell her he believed her and she was not crazy. The woman continued screaming about the skin being alive.
Highgate brought in another marionettist for the Horace Imp that day. The lines added for the imp, which appeared for the first time in the third act, seemed stilted and rushed. There was some experimentation with having the marionettist in the Heavens above the stage, using very long strings, but it didnâ€™t work very well. In the end, it was decided the marionettes would always appear upstage under the gallery and the two marionettists would work from there.
George Ront stormed off stage, refusing to be part of the rehearsal that day. As his part was fairly small, it was not a great inconvenience. Stubb went backstage to talk to the man and found him drinking beer.
â€œWhat?â€ Ront said to him.
â€œSo, George â€¦ thereâ€™s something weird going on here,â€ Stubb said.
â€œYes, thereâ€™s something strange going on here,â€ Ront said.
â€œAnd itâ€™s not what you think,â€ Stubb said.
â€œIt is what I think!â€
â€œNo itâ€™s not!â€
â€œI think I need a bigger part because Iâ€™m an amazing actor!â€
â€œThere are demons among us right now.â€
â€œOf course there are. The church tells us all about them.â€
â€œGeorge, have you not noticed these puppets moving and multiplying and coming back from the dead?â€
â€œThose marionettes are garbage. Just because no one can keep their hands off them and they donâ€™t sit still for a little time.â€
â€œIâ€™m just saying if I donâ€™t get killed this week from what Iâ€™ve done to those puppets, and theyâ€™re mad at me â€¦ I sound insane â€¦â€
â€œYes, you do. You can take it somewhere else. Talk to your flutist.â€
â€œGeorge, just donâ€™t do anything stupid.â€
â€œSomething is wrong here! Thereâ€™s dark magic!â€
Ront wasnâ€™t listening.
That afternoon, a gentleman in black clothing with a tall black hat entered the theater. He had a boyish face and red hair. He was clean shaven and looked very young. He carried a cane. Highgate wave when he saw the man and the two conferred for a moment.
During one of the breaks, Highgate stopped the rehearsal and introduced them all to him.
â€œOur benefactor,â€ he said. â€œThis is Artur Machel, our benefactor.â€
â€œI bet he sucks the youth out of all of us,â€ Stubb muttered to himself.
â€œThank ye for yer help,â€ Machel said. He sounded Irish. â€œThereâ€™ll be somethinâ€™ extra for all of ye after thâ€™ show is done.â€
â€œAll right!â€ Massingberd said.
â€œWeâ€™ll also, weâ€™ll have Act V finished for ye by tomorrow,â€ Machel went on.
â€œThat would be nice,â€ Massingberd said.
â€œIs that another marionette of yours?â€ Stubb asked.
â€œNo, I think the two are enough,â€ Machel said.
â€œWe also have a problem with George Ront,â€ Highgate said to Machel. â€œIf you could talk to him.â€
â€œIâ€™m sure the money will help,â€ Machel said.
â€œWhat do we have to do?â€ Stubb muttered to himself. â€œIâ€™m not going to kill no children.â€
â€œStubbs,â€ Hawksworth said. â€œStop it.â€
â€œIâ€™m not happy,â€ Stubb said.
Ront and Machel ended up going upstairs to one of the rooms used by the sharers.
â€œHeâ€™s gonna die,â€ Stubb said.
â€œStubbs!â€ Hawksworth said.
Raised voices were soon heard throughout the theater. The yelling continued between the two men for a few minutes.
â€œYou câ€™n be damned for all I care!â€ Machelâ€™s voice finally yelled. â€œThe play will be shown as itâ€™s written! If ye cannoâ€™ have thaâ€™ way, you will be excused from the production! It is your choice!â€
A door slammed against a wall and both Machel and Ront stormed out of the theater.
â€œAt least Georgieâ€™s safe,â€ Stubb muttered.
â€œWeâ€™ll continue without him for today,â€ Highgate told them.
They finished the rehearsal and Stubb caught Highgate before he could leave the theater.
â€œHighgate!â€ Stubb called.
â€œYeah?â€ Highgate said.
â€œA moment, if you will,â€ Stubb said.
â€œUh â€¦ Stubb?â€ Highgate said.
â€œIâ€™ve a question about these puppets.â€
â€œYeah. Why are they evil and why are you bringing them into this when thereâ€™s walking around and being alive and I know you know, I see it in your eyes!â€
Highgate looked around nervously, blinking furiously.
â€œListen, thereâ€™s nothing to be done,â€ he said. â€œI didnâ€™t realize what this was all about. We just have to do it and itâ€™ll be over. Right?â€
â€œWeâ€™re all going to die,â€ Stubb said. â€œTheyâ€™re evil.â€
â€œNo! No!â€ Highgate said. â€œWeâ€™re not. Not if we just do the show.â€
â€œI may have tried to kill the puppets a couple of times,â€ Stubb said. â€œWill they be mad at me? I threw one in the river and it came back, and then I stole its eyes. And they got them back.â€
â€œJust â€¦ just do the show.â€
â€œI pummeled one into dust. The Horace one and now itâ€™s fine again.â€
Highgate looked towards the stage.
â€œJust stay away from them and do the show,â€ Highgate said again, nervously.
â€œBut who is this youâ€™re talking to?â€ Stubb said. â€œWhat devil worshipper is making you do this?â€
â€œMachel!â€ Highgate said. â€œItâ€™s Machel! But we have to see it through! We have to see it through!â€
â€œWhat will happen if we donâ€™t?â€ Stubb said.
â€œI donâ€™t know. I donâ€™t want to.â€
â€œWell, I donâ€™t want to see what happens when we do because weâ€™re all gonna die. Heâ€™s gonna â€¦ he looks unsightly young - heâ€™s sucking the youth out of all of us through the puppets. I donâ€™t know, that might be a little off.â€
â€œStubbs. Just do the show and once itâ€™s done, heâ€™ll be satisfied. And weâ€™ll get some money and then weâ€™re done with this.â€
â€œOr is that a lie? No matter what, we get dead.â€
â€œStubbs, we have to. We have to. We have to.â€
He turned away from the stagehand, drawing out his leather flask and drinking deeply from it as he left the theater.
â€œDonâ€™t drink that too much,â€ Stubbs called after him. â€œYouâ€™ll get sick off that.â€
He found Massingberd and Hawksworth.
â€œHighgate knows that the puppets are evil and alive,â€ he told them.
â€œWhat do you mean, Highgate knows?â€ Massingberd said.
â€œHe knows,â€ Stubb said.
â€œKnows what?â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œHe said this?â€ Massingberd said.
â€œYep,â€ Stubb said. â€œHe said that Machel is the devil-worshipper and, as long as we do this for him, heâ€™ll be satisfied for a while and I said â€˜I donâ€™t believe it,â€™ but apparently â€¦ Iâ€™m old anyway.â€
â€œThatâ€™s true,â€ Massingberd said.
â€œIâ€™m surprised I made it this far,â€ Stubb said. â€œProbably because of my strong stomach.â€
Massingberd followed Hawksworth around. Stubb had come to accept that the play would be the worst thing that ever happened to him.
â€œFriday!â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œHawksworth, I notice that the more to you I talk, the less insane I feel, so Iâ€™m just going to keep talking to you as long as youâ€™ll let me,â€ Massingberd said. â€œAnd please donâ€™t hit me.â€
â€œNo!â€ Hawksworth said. â€œLet me go!â€
* * *
After rehearsals that day, Stubb found a prostitute and paid her a couple of shillings for an hour of pleasure. He went home that night to his tiny, stuffy attic home. He was sure it was the end of the world and he would not see Saturday morning.
* * *
When they all arrived at the Globe on Thursday, June 26, 1600, there was no sign of George Ront. Highgate pushed the rehearsal back and sent out the actors to find the man. Soon word came to everyone that Ront was dead. His body was pulled out of the Thames, where it was found floating in the early morning hours. Someone identified it. The strange thing was the man was both mauled and drowned. Water poured out of his mouth when he was pulled to the surface, but it looked like a shark or some other animal had already been at him. There were also strange, round sucker-marks on his body. Another strange thing was the man was wearing two belts wrapped around himself in addition to his own.
They would have to recast the part of Joseph Threelegs. After a short while, Highgate told them that Stubb would play the part.
â€œIâ€™m gonna die,â€ Stubb muttered.
â€œWelcome to the crew, Stubb,â€ Hawksworth said.
Highgate got him a script and noted if he didnâ€™t learn the lines it would be fine. They had prompters.
â€œCanâ€™t we get anyone else?â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œNo,â€ Highgate said. â€œStubb will be perfect.â€
He also had the write-ups for Act V. Several parts were left blank as they were still in the midst of rewrites. Highgate assured them he would have the final rewrites the following day.
In Act V, the Laughingstock reached England and Isaac put off to start his life anew. As the ship set off, however, it was intercepted by the unnamed ship of the Skin-Taker. The battle that followed was devastating for Laughingstock and the pirate ship was boarded. Despite the piratesâ€™ best efforts, the crew was massacred by the Skin-Taker and his crew, though only the Spanish pirate survived, alone on the two wrecked ships with no easy way home. In the end, he was trapped on the wreckage with the imp from Hell that led him to that end.
Stubb found a time to speak to Highgate after the rehearsal. Hawksworth was also there.
â€œIs there no one else we can get?â€ Hawksworth asked Highgate. â€œIs there no one else?â€
â€œNo, I think Stubb, heâ€™s the one whoâ€™s available at the time,â€ Highgate said. â€œI think itâ€™ll work best.â€
â€œWhat if he has one of his fits again with the mace?â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œStubb, youâ€™re not going to have one of your fits, right?â€ Highgate said.
â€œI do have a question,â€ Stubb said.
â€œWhat?â€ Highgate said.
â€œAre the puppets going to kill me?â€ Stubb said.
â€œNo, the Sea Witch takes you away - look in your script,â€ Highgate said. â€œThe Sea Witch takes you awayâ”€â€
â€œNo, am I going to die tomorrow?â€ Stubb said.
â€œWhat?â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œNo,â€ Highgate replied. â€œThe Sea Witch takes you awayâ”€â€
â€œWhat about George?â€ Stubb asked.
â€œGeorge was quitting the show,â€ Highgate said very carefully. â€œHe left the play. And thatâ€™sâ”€â€
â€œIâ€™m going to die,â€ Stubb said.
â€œNo, youâ€™re not going to die,â€ Highgate said. â€œThe Sea Witch takes you away, you scream offstage. Youâ€™ve got to make it a great scream, and we donâ€™t ever find out what happens to Joseph Threelegs.â€
â€œNo oneâ€™s going to find out what happens to me,â€ Stubb said quietly.
â€œNothing is going to happen to you,â€ Highgate said.
â€œThe Sea Witch is going to come,â€ Stubb said. â€œI smelled her.â€
â€œYou see what Iâ€™m saying?â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œStubb,â€ Highgate said. â€œStubb.â€
â€œYou see?â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œNo, I smelled her,â€ Stubb said vaguely.
â€œHeâ€™ll be fine,â€ Highgate said to Hawksworth.
â€œA poor choice,â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œWe could get someone else â€¦â€ Highgate said. â€œIf we can find someone else. Right now we donâ€™t have anyone else whoâ€™s really good.â€
There was a yell from onstage. Oke dropped the marionette.
â€œDamned thing felt like it moved in my hand,â€ he called.
He headed down to pick up the control. Highgate pursed his lips and immediately pulled out his flask.
â€œYouâ€™ll be fine, Stubb,â€ Highgate said as he drank his gin. â€œYouâ€™ll be fine. Youâ€™ll be fine.â€
â€œHeâ€™s not gonna make it,â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œWe donâ€™t have anyone else whoâ€™s not in the scene!â€ Highgate said.
â€œIâ€™m going to be taken to sea by the Sea Witch,â€ Stubb said.
â€œThat one!â€ Hawksworth said, pointing to Massingberd. â€œAnyone!â€
â€œBut heâ€™s playing,â€ Highgate said. â€œHeâ€™s playing during the scene.â€
â€œWell, no oneâ€™s going to know!â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œAll right, you can play Joseph Threelegs!â€ Highgate called to Massingberd.
Massingberd just stared at the man. He had been practicing for another show on his lute.
â€œCan you play it?â€ Highgate said. â€œYou any good?â€
Massingberd hit a sour note on the instrument.
â€œAnyone,â€ Hawksworth said. â€œAnyone but Stubbs.â€
â€œCan you act?â€ Highgate asked Massingberd.
The man sputtered a reply.
â€œItâ€™s better than Stubbs!â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œAre you saying Iâ€™m notâ”€?â€ Stubb said.
â€œStubb will be fine,â€ Highgate said.
â€œAw,â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œSee, heâ€™s good,â€ Highgate said of Stubb. â€œHeâ€™ll be fine. All you have to do is, you say your lines, you stand there and then â€¦ Percival! Percival! He sings a song.â€
â€œTake care of the wench, will you?â€ Stubb said to Hawksworth.
â€œThe play wonâ€™t be the same without the â€¦â€ Massingberd said.
Hawksworth made some strange noises in the back of his throat.
The rehearsal continued after that without incident and everyone was released around dinnertime.
â€œCâ€™mon Hawksworth, letâ€™s go see a bunch of bulldogs get murdered by a bear!â€ Massingberd said.
He wanted to go to the nearby bear baiting. Hawksworth made some more intelligible sounds.
â€œWhy not?â€ he finally said. â€œWhy not?â€
The three of them went to the nearby Paris Gardens, where they heard rumors that a woman went mad at the Globe Theatre.
â€œThey say itâ€™s that new play!â€ one man said.
â€œIâ€™ma go see it,â€ his friend replied.
They heard nothing about any children disappearing. They did hear that, regarding the new play, the woman was not the first one to end up in Bedlam who was associated with it. Stubbs started singing about devils in puppets.
â€œStubbs, shut it!â€ Massingberd said. â€œHawksworth!â€
â€œWhat?â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œIâ€™m really worried that this play is going to be a smashing success because of all the rumors going round,â€ Massingberd said. â€œWeâ€™re going to have to do it every week!â€
â€œOh no,â€ Hawksworth said. â€œThereâ€™s no way anyone would want to see this play a second time.â€
â€œWhat if we have somebody go mad every week? What if it makes the audience mad and they want to see it every week?â€
â€œOi, they wonâ€™t. Naw.â€
â€œYou sure sound confident.â€
â€œLetâ€™s just get to Friday. Just Friday.â€
â€œWeâ€™re almost there.â€
Stubb and Massingberd went to a tavern and purchased the thickest venison steak each of them could afford, mostly emptying their already meager coffers to pay for it.
* * *