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Thus they proceeded, bantering and laughing at one another, and indulging their humours with perfect satisfaction to themselves, when a knock was heard at the door, and admittance being granted, there entered a man of a pleasant aspect, and of spare figure, not so gaily garmented as Master Burbage, yet having much of the outward appearance of respectability.
“ Welcome, good Lazarus Fletcher. Welcome!” cried Master Shakspeare.
“ Hail to thee, Lazarus !” added Master Burbage, in his usual jocose manner. “ Hast thou come to the rich man's table, Lazarus? Look for the crumbs, man! Look for the crumbs! and thou art not like to get anything else; for the table hath nothing better than a bare trencher and an empty tankard. Catch the crumbs that have fallen then, for, in truth, thou lookest woefully like a right hungry Lazarus."
6 If I look as hungry as Lazarus, thou lookest as fine as Dives," retorted Master Fletcher.
“ What, be there no dogs to lick this Lazarus, that he seemeth so woundily sore ?” said the other. “ But I tell thee what, Lazarus, an' thou ever liest in Abraham's bosom, thou hadst best tuck up thine ancles, for thou must needs find there a plentiful lack of bedroom.”
66 Mind not the reprobate, worthy Fletcher,," ob
served Master Shakspeare-yet unable to refrain from laughing
“ Marry, why should I mind him,” replied the other, “he only showeth that he hath a spice of the ability of Sampson: for he maketh a goodly use of the jawbone of an ass.”
“Ha, ha!” shouted Master Shakspeare, chafing his hands in the intensity of his delight.“ Spare him not, good Lazarus; an' thou loveth me, spare him not.” Then looking towards his friend, he added, “ I'faith, Dick, thou hast found thy match.”
“ Match !” exclaimed Master Burbage, turning sharp round from the casement out of which he had that moment been leaning, “ ay, marry! and like other matches—all the good lieth in the brimstone. But tell us thy news, Master Fletcher; for that there is something in the book is evident in the index—thou lookest as important as a tailor's wife threading her husband's needle."
“ O’my troth, I have something worth the telling,” replied he.
5 Disburthen thyself then, and quickly, good Lazarus," observed Master Shakspeare.
66 There hath a message come from the Master of the Revels, worthy Master Edmond Tilney," said Master Fletcher, “to the intent that it be the design of the queen's majesty, with divers of her honourable court, to honour her poor players with
a visit; and leaving Hemings and Condell and the rest to prepare for her reception, I posted off here, as Master Burbage had left word that he would be found at Master Shakspeare's lodgings.”
“ Hurrah !” shouted Master Burbage, snatching up his hat and waving it over his head, “ we'll have a right worshipful audience. Heaven preserve her majesty, and enrich her servants, say I. Come along, good Lazarus !” he added, as he caught his brother actor by the arm, we must to the playhouse.”
“ I will be with thee anon, Dick," said Master Shakspeare, as his visitors were proceeding to the door. “ But I have a letter to write to my Lord Southampton, to thank him for yonder exquisite present of flowers he hath sent me from his own garden, and to acquaint him with our proceedings with the court of aldermen, touching our threatened liberties, at the Blackfriars.”
“ Success attend thee, Will, in all thy doings, exclaimed his friend, and putting on his hat he led his companion out of the chamber.
Master Shakspeare being left alone, did presently draw up his chair closer to the table on which he had been writing, and did recommence his labours with an admirable diligence. Mayhap he was engaged in the inditing of one of those right famous plays which did bring so much honour to his name;
but know I not this for a surety; and as a trusty chronicler, I will only subscribe to that of which I have perfect knowledge. However, it be certain that he had not been long so engaged, when a third knock was heard at the door, so gentle it was scarcely audible; and although he seemed at first somewhat impatient of interruption, (for no man liketh to be much disturbed in his privacy,) when, upon his giving permission to the person to enter, he observed his visitor, he gave him most courteous welcome. He was a youth, aged seventeen, or thereabouts, tall, slim, and elegant, and though clad in homely russet, there was that in his graceful carriage, and in his mild yet thoughtful countenance, that did signify something of a far higher quality than such poor apparel did denote. But most remarkable was the exceeding modesty of his deportment. He opened and closed the door almost tremblingly, and respectfully taking off his hat, advanced into the room with downcast eyes, to the great marvel of our illustrious poet.
- I took the boldness, Master Shakspeare,” said the youth falteringly, as he kept smoothing his hat with his hand where he stood in the middle of the chamber_" I took the boldness some short time since to send you a tragedy of my poor contrivance; hoping, from what I had heard of your worthy disposition, that you would honour that humble
66 But you
attempt to such an extent as to give it your perusal; and peradventure if such an obscure individual be not thought altogether unworthy of attention from one so excellently gifted as yourself, you
will favour me so far as to grant me your opinion of its matter and management.”
“ That will I, worthy sir, without fail,” replied Master Shakspeare, regarding his young visitor with a more than ordinary interest. must first acquaint me with your name, and the title of the play you entrusted to my custody; for my reputation, however little deserved it may be, and my influence at the playhouse, which is thought to be greater than it is, are the causes of my being continually applied to for a similar
purpose.' “ The tragedy was called · Hero and Leander,' and I signed my name • Francis,'” murmured the youth.
“Let me beg of you to be seated, worthy Master Francis,” exclaimed the other, as he hastily handed him a chair. “ I remember it well,” he added, as he searched among his papers on the table, “ by the token that it did contain many passages that exhibited no mean ability.”
The melancholy aspect of the young stranger did brighten up marvellously at the hearing of this commendation, and his eyes looked abundance of thanks. He argued the most favourable conclusion