10 November, in the year of our Lord 2021
Up, and by the Messenger from Mr. M. Jones that all around is a Chaos, with a great crowd of people all about his house, and one shouting through the device of a great horn, hailing others and saying they must stand here, or speak now, all with a cry of ‘Action!’; and there also are many horsemen, prepared to douse a fire with water in such a quantity of buckets that the well hath run dry, more than he hath seen since the Great Fire; and standing by there also are men with severall carts, upon which are stretchers, and many vain actors, bewigged and in their costumes, loungeing idly till their turn to say their lines. He hath gone out.
By and by, took a walk along the Lane, where found the owner of Gerard Small ~ Ladys Fashions in an old frock and over all, on his knees scrubbing at his window pains, a scarf tight upon his head like Mrs. Ogden.
‘I see you are branching out,’ say I, observing a curious pair of mens undergarments on display, of a fabrick with a carefree artistic patterning upon it.
‘Needs must, to put food upon the table. I have doublets and breeches inside, should they interest you, and worsted stockings against the cold,’ says he, climbing to his feet.
‘And these short linen trousers with the strange loops and splatter-paint design?’
‘Ah, the drawers,’ says he, peering alongside me into his own window. ‘The loops are positioned beneath the foot to prevent ride-up, but the gusset is narrow for draught-free winter comfort.’
‘1s. 4d. seems very reasonable.’
‘They are second hand,’ says he, affabubblie, ‘from a man dead of the bloody flux. But they are a worthy purchase, Snugjunk being a fashionable brand.’
But before I could decline came the sound from a distance of an enormous Explosion, a detonacion sufficient to rattle the window and startle all around, who turned their heads to see a great plughme of smoke arise behind the roofs.
‘What?’ cries my companion, a hand to his open mouth. ‘Is White Hall up in smoke? Or the Doutch upon our fleet?’
‘I believe not,’ say I. ‘I believe it more likely a controlled detonacion of gunpowder in the vicinity of Mr. Jones’ house, devised as a spectacle in a scene of a Play being acted there.’
‘Well, I hope it hath not brought the house down,’ says my companion, shooting me a droll look. And then gazes he dreamly into the middle distance. ‘I have always wanted to act. To tread the boards. To be a player upon the stage. To make them weep with a gesture, laugh with a glance. To hold the hearts of men in my hands!’ He bites his lower lip and his shoulders slump. ‘We did a little theatrickle at school, Mr. Pipes. We had to pretend to be things like the sky, or a lonely autumn leaf.’ He gazes at me as if regretting a life lost. ‘I was once in Waiting for Godot.’
‘As the tree. Do you think they might give me a speaking role?’
‘Well, it is a play in which, if I may vouchsafe it without conceit — ’ (and here cough I modestly into my fist) ‘ — I am to have a line or two.’
‘A line or two! Oh, how you make me enviose! Of what nature is the narrative?’
‘Well,’ say I, growing into my new role of accomplished thespian, ‘a ne’er-do-well is to lock himself in Mr. Jones’s garderobe, purposing there to secret illicit substances, in the form of unlawful potions and addictive Narcotiques, that he conspires to sell furtively throughout the City, a crime so heinose that should it be found by the Constabulary he will surely be condemned to an agonising death! So to evade apprehension, by full employment of his innate devioseness he arrives upon the expedient of using an Impliment to wrest a panel from the bathside, that the cavity so revealed may conceal his stash, and then seals all intact!’
Gerard Small is wide-eyed at the complexity of the plot. ‘Will Mr. Jones permit such damage to his home?’
‘Aha!’ say I. ‘Therein lies the Illusion of theatre! For they have erected a false panel for the very purpose, Mr. Jones’ bath being a very cheap one, basic with neither plinth nor cladding, and have strewn around all manner of towles and littered the place with such jetsam as used wet Wypes, plug hole hair, worn dental floss, toenail clippings and half-used toilet rolls, so that Mr. Jones can barely recognise it as his own, for he doth not use wet Wypes owing to ezcemma, and they have aged his wash basin by smearing coffee over it.’
All of which is too much for my shop-keeper friend to hear without action.
‘I may yet conspire a role in this entertaynement! I shall approach them this very day!’
‘I fear the speaking roles are filled,’ say I, letting him down gently. ‘But perchance you could be Best Boy, or Best…whatever.’
But the conversacion is closed of a sudden, for he spies movement further up the street and whips off his headscarf.
‘That is one of my latest clients!’ says he, struggling to look his best. ‘The lady emerging from the tea rooms is Mrs. Hyphen-Holmes. She is there every day.’ He sighs in envy. ‘What it must be like, never to have to eat at home.’