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The Play's the Thing: The Pirates of Candle Cove - Part 3 - Massingberd's Dilemma

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* * *

 

Hawksworth found Kent and Thornburgh not very receptive to his idea. Kent told him the whole idea was ridiculous, an idealistic silliness.

 

“You don’t want the marionettes either, Kent!†Hawksworth said.

 

“No, no,†Kent said. “But it’s one play. And once it fails, we’ll never have to do it again.â€

 

“Half the crew’s going mad!†Hawksworth said.

 

“But did you know I smashed one to bits?†Stubb said. “I smashed one to bits. They saw me.â€

 

“He did!†Massingberd said.

 

“Stubb, you just need to just get more sleep, I think,†Kent told the older man.

 

“He might be right about that,†Massingberd said.

 

“You’ll be all right,†Kent said.

 

“But it wasn’t just me,†Stubb said. “Them two saw me smash it to bits. The bits are gone and now─â€

 

“You smashed what to bits again?†Kent said.

 

“The new one!†Stubb said.

 

“The marionette!†Massingberd said.

 

“Oh, that ugly, awful thing?†Kent said.

 

“The faceless one,†Stubb said.

 

“I buried it,†Massingberd said.

 

“Well, maybe they brought two,†Kent said.

 

“No, the bits are gone,†Stubb said.

 

They told him the entire story.

 

“So, you left the bits for how long?†he asked. “Quarter of an hour?â€

 

“In mud!†Stubb said. “In mud!â€

 

“There’s no one in the world who saw you do this who wouldn’t have walked over and possibly stolen them?†Kent said.

 

“Every single time─†Stubb said.

 

“This is London!†Kent went on. “Everyone steals everything!â€

 

“Then why aren’t they mad there’s one missing?†Stubb said.

 

“We didn’t know about it,†Kent said. “Perhaps the marionettist made two or three.â€

 

“Let’s talk to the marionettist,†Massingberd said. “Let’s ask how many he made.â€

 

“No,†Stubb said. “I think they’re in on it.â€

 

“Barnaby,†Kent said to Stubb. “Come here. Have a beer.â€

 

Someone poured him a beer.

 

“Now calm down,†Kent said. “I know that witches are real and magic is a terrible thing, but we’re living in a progressive time. You can’t let superstition rule your life.â€

 

“It’s not just me,†Stubb said. “They saw it happen.â€

 

He told them about stealing the marionette the night before and throwing it in the Thames.

 

“How much had you had to drink, Barnaby?†Kent asked him calmly.

 

“He had one,†Massingberd said. “That I saw.â€

 

“How much before?†Kent said. “I don’t know. I can’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€

 

“It was in a coffin,†Stubb said. “I 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.

 

“Musicians,†he said.

 

In the end, Hawksworth told Massingberd it didn’t matter. If they couldn’t get Kent behind it, it couldn’t be done. Stubb noted they just had to convince the marionette to talk to Kent.

 

“I’ve changed my mind,†Hawksworth said. “I think Kent’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.

 

“What good’s that going to do?†Massingberd said. “You threw it in the river!â€

 

“What if we take out the eyeballs?†Stubb said.

 

Hawksworth walked away.

 

“Tonight I’m taking out the eyeballs and I’m throwing them in the Thames,†Stubb said. “And tomorrow they’re gonna be back in there.â€

 

“Well, what does it matter if I’m the only one that knows about it?†Massingberd said.

 

“Well no one else will listen to me,†Stubb said.

 

“I’m sorry Stubbs, let’s just let it go for tonight,†Massingberd said.

 

“I threw up today,†Stubb said.

 

“I know,†Massingberd said. “I saw it.â€

 

“I haven’t done that since I was a lad,†Stubb said.

 

“You sure you’re not still drunk from last night?†Massingberd said. “I say we drop it, Stubbs.â€

 

Stubb merely walked away. Before they left for the evening, Hawksworth approached the two.

 

“Now, don’t come here at night,†he told them. “Don’t take one of ‘em home. Let’s just … we got three days. Wednesday, Thursday, and then we do Friday and we’re done. Take the marionettes back. We’re done.â€

 

“There’s a darkness here,†Stubb said.

 

“We already got kids missing,†Hawksworth said. “That’s the biggest problem here.â€

 

“Let’s search for the kids!†Massingberd said.

 

“And where do you suppose we start?†Stubb said.

 

“You two promise me you’re not going to do something stupid tonight,†Hawksworth said.

 

“I got the eyes,†Stubb said, pulling the two large glass eyes out of his belt pouch.

 

He had pried the eyes out of the Skin-Taker’s Imp’s skull, damaging it badly in the process.

 

“Bloody hell Stubbs!†Massingberd said.

 

“Stubbs, I’m just gonna … I’m just gonna … turn my head away from whatever it is you’ve done here,†Hawksworth said.

 

“Just go for a walk with me,†Stubb said.

 

He led them away from the theater and down to the Thames.

 

“Where are we going?†Hawksworth asked.

 

“The Thames,†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.

 

“Stubbs!†Massingberd said. “Why don’t you sell the other one?â€

 

“I thought about it, but …†Stubb said.

 

“How can you be so cold, you just threw the eye!†Hawksworth shouted.

 

“Right, so we don’t need the other,†Massingberd said.

 

“The thing is, it’s gonna be back tomorrow,†Stubb said. “It doesn’t matter.â€

 

“But!†Massingberd said. “Here’s the trick. You sell the other one. See if the money’s still there tomorrow.â€

 

“It will be,†Stubb said without feeling. “The money’s not got the devil in it. Except that it does, but you know …â€

 

“You two used to be normal!†Hawksworth said.

 

“Sell the eye,†Massingberd said. “Give me half.â€

 

“The wench has never been normal!†Stubb said.

 

“Wench?†Hawksworth said.

 

“Hawksworth, don’t listen to him,†Massingberd said. “I swear … I swear it’s purely platonic love I have for you. It’s respect for the greatest acting talent.â€

 

“Wanting feelings in the lower regions,†Stubb said.

 

“Um …†Hawksworth said. “All right …â€

 

“You take this one home,†Stubb said. “Keep it locked up.â€

 

“Why would I do that!?!†Hawksworth said.

 

“Lock it up and you’ll see.â€

 

“I live with another actor boy! He’ll see me with it!â€

 

“Um … you have a chest. Keep it locked up.â€

 

“I don’t want this! I don’t!â€

 

“It’s all right. It’ll be gone by the morning.â€

 

“I don’t … no! I don’t want to see that! Friday’s so close!â€

 

“It’s not though.â€

 

“Just … just … just …â€

 

Stubb tried to push the glass eye into Hawksworth’s hands but the boy refused to take it.

 

“I can’t,†Hawksworth said. “I can’t! I’m sorry.â€

 

He backed away slowly and Stubb followed him, keeping pace.

 

“Take it,†Stubb said. “Please.â€

 

“Stubbs, no,†Hawksworth said. “Stubbs. Please.â€

 

“I know where you stay,†Stubb said. “I can put this in your bed.â€

 

“God’s blood, I’ll take it!†Massingberd finally said, grabbing it from Stubb.

 

He tucked it into his pouch.

 

“He took it,†Hawksworth said.

 

“Well, he likes balls,†Stubb said.

 

“With that, good night,†Hawksworth said.

 

“Good night Hawksworth!†Massingberd said. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Hawksworth! Good night!â€

 

“Good night,†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.

 

“Who is it?†he said.

 

“Massingberd, you all right?†a voice came.

 

He recognized it as one of the other musicians of the house: a viola player by the name of Godsgift Atkinson.

 

“No,†Massingberd called.

 

“Well, what’s the matter with you, man?†Atkinson said.

 

“Will you come in please?†Massingberd said, leaping from the bed, unbolting the door, and flinging it open.

 

“You’re being loud over here,†Atkinson said. “You’re screaming.â€

 

“Oh, I didn’t know,†Massingberd said. “I’m sorry. Will you stay with me tonight?â€

 

“What?†Atkinson said. “No. I’m gonna go get a bird. Wanna come?â€

 

“Look at this thing!†Massingberd said.

 

He threw open his chest and showed the man the glass eye.

 

“God, that’s hideous,†Atkinson said. “What the hell is that?â€

 

“Will you take it?†Massingberd said.

 

“What?†Atkinson said.

 

“Sell it, I don’t care what you do,†Massingberd said. “Just take it.â€

 

“I’m not spending the night!â€

 

“All right. You can have it anyway.â€

 

“All right. All right.â€

 

“Just don’t ever bring it back here.â€

 

“Well, I’m gonna sell it, aren’t I?â€

 

“Yeah!â€

 

“Why would I bring it back? It’s mine.â€

 

“All right. Good night Godsgift.â€

 

“Good night.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 Atkinson’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.

 

“Oh God,†he said. “It’s my fault!â€

 

He ran to his room and retrieved his axe.

 

“Oh!†one of them said. “Good 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.

 

“He was here,†he kept saying. “He was here. He wanted his eye. He wanted his eye. And he wouldn’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 he’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 Massingberd’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.

 

“Where is it?†Stubb asked.

 

“What?†Massingberd said.

 

“Did you really take it home?†Hawksworth said.

 

“What are you talking about?†Massingberd asked.

 

“The eye,†Hawksworth said.

 

Massingberd stared at him for a moment.

 

“What eye?†he finally said.

 

“The eye!†Hawksworth said. “The … are you two really that mad? Forgot about the eye?â€

 

“Look … I lost it,†Massingberd said. “I lost it. I’m sorry.â€

 

“You lost it,†Hawksworth said.

 

“I lost it,†Massingberd repeated.

 

“So, what you’re saying is, it came for it,†Stubb said. “And it took it back.â€

 

“I lost it,†Massingberd said again.

 

“He said he lost it!†Hawksworth said.

 

“I didn’t even make it home with it,†Massingberd said. “It fell out of my pouch.â€

 

“It fell out your pouch,†Hawksworth said. “You didn’t hear it hit the ground, big as it is?â€

 

“Really, because I heard that someone was taken away,†Stubb said.

 

He’d seem them take Atkinson when he walked to the theater that morning.

 

“Why don’t you mind your own business!?!†Massingberd said.

 

“Because he was saying ‘It came for his eye! He came for his eye! It told me things! Oh my God!’†Stubb said.

 

“You got someone else involved?†Hawksworth said.

 

“You’re paraphrasing!†Massingberd said to Stubb.

 

“Yes, I am!†Stubb said. “Because I don’t remember exactly what he was saying!â€

 

He stared at the musician.

 

“So … you lost it, huh?†he said.

 

“It’s gone,†Massingberd said. “It’s gone, it is.â€

 

“Yeah,†Stubb said. “‘Cause you gave it away?â€

 

“Ey!†Massingberd said.

 

“And now he’s insane?†Stubb said.

 

“He was already insane!†Massingberd said.

 

Stubb scratched his beard.

 

“Do you need a salve?†Massingberd said. “You’re so itchy.â€

 

The other two looked at him.

 

“I don’t want to talk about it,†Massingberd said.

 

“Someone went mad?†Hawksworth said.

 

“Why are you trying to lie to us?†Stubb asked Massingberd.

 

“Wait - no! Someone went mad?†Hawksworth asked again.

 

“All right, all right, all right,†Massingberd said. “He came to my room. He said I was screaming. I don’t think I was. I don’t remember that. But I gave him the eye, because it was a little─â€

 

“You gave him the eye!?!†Hawksworth said.

 

“You didn’t want it!†Massingberd said.

 

“Of course I didn’t want it!†Hawksworth said. “Why would you give it─?â€

 

“The other’s in the Thames!†Massingberd said.

 

“Is it though?†Stubb said quietly.

 

“I gave him the eye and then a couple hours later he did start screaming a bit,†Massingberd said. “We broke down the door. I used my trusty axe, which you told me was a bad purchase.†He glared at Stubb. “And he was crying and dribbling a little bit and they came and got him. They’re going to take care of him and he’s going to be fine.â€

 

“So, the puppet came and got his eye?†Stubb said.

 

“I don’t think there’s any reason to think that,†Massingberd said.

 

They looked at him.

 

“What happened to wait until Friday?†Hawksworth said.

 

“Then why was he saying ‘It came and it told me these horrible things and it wanted its eye and it wouldn’t leave without it?’†Stubb said.

 

“Why does anybody say anything?†Massingberd said. “Why do we learn these lines?â€

 

Stubb grabbed a mug of beer from George Ront’s hand and splashed it into Massingberd’s face.

 

“What the bloody hell!?!†Ront said.

 

“Wake the bloody hell up!†Stubb said to Massingberd. “And get your head out of your arse and don’t be daft!â€

 

“You don’t mind filling that up for me again, do you … Stubb?†Ront muttered to Stubb.

 

“No, you’re right,†Stubb said. “I don’t mind. Here you are!â€

 

He handed Ront the empty mug. He stomped away, cursing the man.

 

“Collect yourself!†Stubb said.

 

“I’m sorry,†Massingberd said.

 

“What about Friday?†Hawksworth moaned.

 

“Hawksworth, if we’re with you, we can make it ‘til Friday,†Massingberd said.

 

“Why can’t we just get to Friday?†Hawksworth moaned.

 

“I don’t think anyone can go that long,†Stubb quipped. “‘Making it ‘til Friday.’â€

 

No one laughed.

 

“Stubbs …†Massingberd said quietly. “Stubbs … Stubbs, it’ll be okay.â€

 

“I’m funny, damn it!†Stubb said. “No one gets my jokes.â€

 

“Well, you’re stupid,†Massingberd said matter-of-factly.

 

“Stubb, we get them,†Kent, who was walking by when Stubb complained, said. “Trust me.â€

 

“I’m just ahead of my time, is all,†Stubb said.

 

“No, you aren’t,†Kent said, walking away. “Trust me.â€

 

Stubb made an obscene gesture to the man’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-Taker’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.

 

“The cloth is alive!†she screamed. “The 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.

 

“We believe you!†Stubb said.

 

“It’s alive!†she screamed. “It’s alive! It’s alive! It’s walking around! The skin is alive!â€

 

“Was it the bones one or the no-face?†Stubb asked.

 

“It’s the skin!†the woman screamed. “It’s the skin! The skin is alive!â€

 

“Was it a costume?†Stubb said.

 

“It’s cape is longer than it was the day before!†the woman hissed into his ear.

 

She started screaming incoherently into Stubb’s face.

 

“Stubbs, what’d you do!?!†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 didn’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.

 

“What?†Ront said to him.

 

“So, George … there’s something weird going on here,†Stubb said.

 

“Yes, there’s something strange going on here,†Ront said.

 

“And it’s not what you think,†Stubb said.

 

“It is what I think!â€

 

“No it’s not!â€

 

“I think I need a bigger part because I’m an amazing actor!â€

 

“There are demons among us right now.â€

 

“Of course there are. The church tells us all about them.â€

 

“George, have you not noticed these puppets moving and multiplying and coming back from the dead?â€

 

“Those marionettes are garbage. Just because no one can keep their hands off them and they don’t sit still for a little time.â€

 

“I’m just saying if I don’t get killed this week from what I’ve done to those puppets, and they’re mad at me … I sound insane …â€

 

“Yes, you do. You can take it somewhere else. Talk to your flutist.â€

 

“George, just don’t do anything stupid.â€

 

“Pshaw!â€

 

“George!â€

 

“Pshaw!â€

 

“Something is wrong here! There’s dark magic!â€

 

Ront wasn’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.

 

“Our benefactor,†he said. “This is Artur Machel, our benefactor.â€

 

“I bet he sucks the youth out of all of us,†Stubb muttered to himself.

 

“Thank ye for yer help,†Machel said. He sounded Irish. “There’ll be somethin’ extra for all of ye after th’ show is done.â€

 

“All right!†Massingberd said.

 

“We’ll also, we’ll have Act V finished for ye by tomorrow,†Machel went on.

 

“That would be nice,†Massingberd said.

 

“Is that another marionette of yours?†Stubb asked.

 

“No, I think the two are enough,†Machel said.

 

“We also have a problem with George Ront,†Highgate said to Machel. “If you could talk to him.â€

 

“I’m sure the money will help,†Machel said.

 

“What do we have to do?†Stubb muttered to himself. “I’m not going to kill no children.â€

 

“Stubbs,†Hawksworth said. “Stop it.â€

 

“I’m not happy,†Stubb said.

 

Ront and Machel ended up going upstairs to one of the rooms used by the sharers.

 

“He’s gonna die,†Stubb said.

 

“Stubbs!†Hawksworth said.

 

Raised voices were soon heard throughout the theater. The yelling continued between the two men for a few minutes.

 

“You c’n be damned for all I care!†Machel’s voice finally yelled. “The play will be shown as it’s written! If ye canno’ have tha’ 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.

 

“At least Georgie’s safe,†Stubb muttered.

 

“We’ll continue without him for today,†Highgate told them.

 

They finished the rehearsal and Stubb caught Highgate before he could leave the theater.

 

“Highgate!†Stubb called.

 

“Yeah?†Highgate said.

 

“A moment, if you will,†Stubb said.

 

“Uh … Stubb?†Highgate said.

 

“Yeah.â€

 

“Stubb.â€

 

“I’ve a question about these puppets.â€

 

“Marionettes, yeah.â€

 

“Yeah. Why are they evil and why are you bringing them into this when there’s walking around and being alive and I know you know, I see it in your eyes!â€

 

Highgate looked around nervously, blinking furiously.

 

“Listen, there’s nothing to be done,†he said. “I didn’t realize what this was all about. We just have to do it and it’ll be over. Right?â€

 

“We’re all going to die,†Stubb said. “They’re evil.â€

 

“No! No!†Highgate said. “We’re not. Not if we just do the show.â€

 

“I may have tried to kill the puppets a couple of times,†Stubb said. “Will 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€

 

“Just … just do the show.â€

 

“I pummeled one into dust. The Horace one and now it’s fine again.â€

 

Highgate looked towards the stage.

 

“Just stay away from them and do the show,†Highgate said again, nervously.

 

“But who is this you’re talking to?†Stubb said. “What devil worshipper is making you do this?â€

 

“Machel!†Highgate said. “It’s Machel! But we have to see it through! We have to see it through!â€

 

“What will happen if we don’t?†Stubb said.

 

“I don’t know. I don’t want to.â€

 

“Well, I don’t want to see what happens when we do because we’re all gonna die. He’s gonna … he looks unsightly young - he’s sucking the youth out of all of us through the puppets. I don’t know, that might be a little off.â€

 

“Stubbs. Just do the show and once it’s done, he’ll be satisfied. And we’ll get some money and then we’re done with this.â€

 

“Or is that a lie? No matter what, we get dead.â€

 

“Stubbs, 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.

 

“Don’t drink that too much,†Stubbs called after him. “You’ll get sick off that.â€

 

He found Massingberd and Hawksworth.

 

“Highgate knows that the puppets are evil and alive,†he told them.

 

“What do you mean, Highgate knows?†Massingberd said.

 

“He knows,†Stubb said.

 

“Knows what?†Hawksworth said.

 

“He said this?†Massingberd said.

 

“Yep,†Stubb said. “He said that Machel is the devil-worshipper and, as long as we do this for him, he’ll be satisfied for a while and I said ‘I don’t believe it,’ but apparently … I’m old anyway.â€

 

“That’s true,†Massingberd said.

 

“I’m surprised I made it this far,†Stubb said. “Probably 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.

 

“Friday!†Hawksworth said.

 

“Hawksworth, I notice that the more to you I talk, the less insane I feel, so I’m just going to keep talking to you as long as you’ll let me,†Massingberd said. “And please don’t hit me.â€

 

“No!†Hawksworth said. “Let 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.

 

“I’m gonna die,†Stubb muttered.

 

“Welcome to the crew, Stubb,†Hawksworth said.

 

Highgate got him a script and noted if he didn’t learn the lines it would be fine. They had prompters.

 

“Can’t we get anyone else?†Hawksworth said.

 

“No,†Highgate said. “Stubb 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 pirates’ 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.

 

“Is there no one else we can get?†Hawksworth asked Highgate. “Is there no one else?â€

 

“No, I think Stubb, he’s the one who’s available at the time,†Highgate said. “I think it’ll work best.â€

 

“What if he has one of his fits again with the mace?†Hawksworth said.

 

“Stubb, you’re not going to have one of your fits, right?†Highgate said.

 

“I do have a question,†Stubb said.

 

“What?†Highgate said.

 

“Are the puppets going to kill me?†Stubb said.

 

“No, the Sea Witch takes you away - look in your script,†Highgate said. “The Sea Witch takes you away─â€

 

“No, am I going to die tomorrow?†Stubb said.

 

“What?†Hawksworth said.

 

“No,†Highgate replied. “The Sea Witch takes you away─â€

 

“What about George?†Stubb asked.

 

“George was quitting the show,†Highgate said very carefully. “He left the play. And that’s─â€

 

“I’m going to die,†Stubb said.

 

“No, you’re not going to die,†Highgate said. “The Sea Witch takes you away, you scream offstage. You’ve got to make it a great scream, and we don’t ever find out what happens to Joseph Threelegs.â€

 

“No one’s going to find out what happens to me,†Stubb said quietly.

 

“Nothing is going to happen to you,†Highgate said.

 

“The Sea Witch is going to come,†Stubb said. “I smelled her.â€

 

“You see what I’m saying?†Hawksworth said.

 

“Stubb,†Highgate said. “Stubb.â€

 

“You see?†Hawksworth said.

 

“No, I smelled her,†Stubb said vaguely.

 

“He’ll be fine,†Highgate said to Hawksworth.

 

“A poor choice,†Hawksworth said.

 

“We could get someone else …†Highgate said. “If we can find someone else. Right now we don’t have anyone else who’s really good.â€

 

There was a yell from onstage. Oke dropped the marionette.

 

“Damned thing felt like it moved in my hand,†he called.

 

He headed down to pick up the control. Highgate pursed his lips and immediately pulled out his flask.

 

“You’ll be fine, Stubb,†Highgate said as he drank his gin. “You’ll be fine. You’ll be fine.â€

 

“He’s not gonna make it,†Hawksworth said.

 

“We don’t have anyone else who’s not in the scene!†Highgate said.

 

“I’m going to be taken to sea by the Sea Witch,†Stubb said.

 

“That one!†Hawksworth said, pointing to Massingberd. “Anyone!â€

 

“But he’s playing,†Highgate said. “He’s playing during the scene.â€

 

“Well, no one’s going to know!†Hawksworth said.

 

“All right, you can play Joseph Threelegs!†Highgate called to Massingberd.

 

Massingberd just stared at the man. He had been practicing for another show on his lute.

 

“Can you play it?†Highgate said. “You any good?â€

 

Massingberd hit a sour note on the instrument.

 

“Anyone,†Hawksworth said. “Anyone but Stubbs.â€

 

“Can you act?†Highgate asked Massingberd.

 

The man sputtered a reply.

 

“It’s better than Stubbs!†Hawksworth said.

 

“Are you saying I’m not─?†Stubb said.

 

“Stubb will be fine,†Highgate said.

 

“Aw,†Hawksworth said.

 

“See, he’s good,†Highgate said of Stubb. “He’ll be fine. All you have to do is, you say your lines, you stand there and then … Percival! Percival! He sings a song.â€

 

“Take care of the wench, will you?†Stubb said to Hawksworth.

 

“The play won’t be the same without the …†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.

 

“C’mon Hawksworth, let’s go see a bunch of bulldogs get murdered by a bear!†Massingberd said.

 

He wanted to go to the nearby bear baiting. Hawksworth made some more intelligible sounds.

 

“Why not?†he finally said. “Why 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.

 

“They say it’s that new play!†one man said.

 

“I’ma go see it,†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.

 

“Stubbs, shut it!†Massingberd said. “Hawksworth!â€

 

“What?†Hawksworth said.

 

“I’m really worried that this play is going to be a smashing success because of all the rumors going round,†Massingberd said. “We’re going to have to do it every week!â€

 

“Oh no,†Hawksworth said. “There’s no way anyone would want to see this play a second time.â€

 

“What if we have somebody go mad every week? What if it makes the audience mad and they want to see it every week?â€

 

“Oi, they won’t. Naw.â€

 

“You sure sound confident.â€

 

“Let’s just get to Friday. Just Friday.â€

 

“We’re almost there.â€

 

“It’s tomorrow.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.

 

* * *


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