My pen flies along so speedy it makes my foot to ache.
I made a fine speech for Lion, heralding the return of the Earl of Ox-Foot, and praising the blood of cooks most high. I never knowed the joy of lapping a cook’s blood before I writ of it.
Small wonder that my quill should aid my flights of wicked fancie, for whence come quills? From cunning crows and ill-humoured swans. Birds most dangerous.
Nero came by. He, readying hisself to play Ox-Foot and devise his speeches, wisht to know more of his evil doings. He seemed most apt to learn, then arrkst, “What of my tail?”
His tail? Then I remembered that in every tale Nero tells he has a different explication for why he does not have one. They who see our play will expect to hear another.
I sayt, “Ox-Foot loves all that is Italian. Could you say tails are out of fashion in Italy, and you had yours cut off?”
“I’ll think on it,” sayt Nero.
Next, several kitlings came to us, saying they’d heared there was to be a performance. They hoped they could take part.
Kitlings are wearisome. They know all they should not, and nowt that they should. But we spake of them at the next meeting of our Company.
Linkin sayt, “Be not hastie. My master says the best players in the city are boys, not men.”
“But,” sayt my sister, “can our little asses carry it off?”
“We need not give them great speeches,” sayt Linkin. “They could play attendants and the like.”
Nero sayt, “Ox-Foot must be accompanied by a pretty kit or two, if all you tell of him is true.”
I let that pass. I sayt, “We’ll need a little maggot to accompany our Ghost.”
“What?” cried my sister. “We have the Ghost?”
“We have,” sayt I. “Hear this. Actus Secundus.”
They pricked their ears.
“The Earl of Hamton is on the leads [roof] of his house, taking the air. Then what do he see but the Ghost of his father, wailing: Hamton, Revenge.
“The Ghost says his wife (the Countess) was hot for Ox-Foot, so they hatched a plot against him. While he lay inebriate, Ox-Foot dropped a maggot in his ear that ate his brains. Now he (poor Ghost) is in hell.”
“Was this,” arrkst my sister, “before or after Ox-Foot farted at the Queen and fled to Italy?”
“Before,” sayt I. “Now Ox-Foot has returned, and the Ghost seeks his death. The Ghost vanishes, but a little maggot stays to tell young Hamton that Ox-Foot, not the Ghost, is his father.”
“You was ever fond of maggots,” sayt my sister. “I well recall when we were young – ”
Nero brake in. He arrkst, “Why is Ox-Foot not in this Act?”
I sayt, “He’s there in his infamy. All hear how he killed the old Earl of Hamton. But he’s elsewhere with the Queen when the Ghost speaks to young Hamton.”
Nero sayt, “Ox-Foot could be shown in the shadows, gripping the Queen by her scruff. Then all would know that.”
“That will not serve,” sayt my sister. “For I’m to play both Ghost and Queen.”
“Who’ll play Hamton?” arrkst Linkin.
I sayt, “Our kitchen cat.”
“Better that she plays the Ghost,” sayt my sister. “For she left us not long since.”
True. The kitchen cat that friended me when first I came here is gone from this world.
“Her daughter has taken her place,” I sayt. “And yesternight, when I went to the book-room to read plays, what did I see?”
“Play books?” arrkst my saucie sister.
“That same daughter. Seated bold-arst upon a carpet that some knave had took from the table and left on a chair. I was about to bid her go the way of all flesh, that’s to say to the kitchen, when it come to me that she could play the young Earl of Hamton. She was willing.”
Linkin arrkst, “When does Lord Purrlie enter our play?” (Linkin is to play old Purrlie.)
“Actus Tertius,” sayt I. “Which, in English, means the Third Act.”
“I know that,” sayt Linkin.