Act III, Scene ii and iii
‘A walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more’ – William Shakespeare
Algernon, James, Frank, Severus and Remus were arrayed around a great feasting table, laden with the remains of food; most of them were merry and had plainly been drinking. Remus was sat slightly away from the others, brooding into the cup he was nursing; his friends kept glancing at him in open amusement. Occasionally he would reach up and scratch his beardless chin.
“I do but stay till your marriage be consummate, and then I go toward Aragon,” said Algernon, draining his cup.
“I’ll bring you thither, my lord,” said James, cheerily. “If you’ll vouchsafe me.”
“Nay, that would be as great a soil in the new gloss of your marriage as to show a child his new coat and forbid him to wear it,” said Algernon. “I will only be bold with Benedick for his company,” he glanced at his friend and, noticing his inattention, continued more loudly: “For, from the crown of his head to the sole of his foot, he is all mirth. He hath twice or thrice cut Cupid’s bowstring and the little hangman dare not shoot at him.” He winked at James and Frank. “He hath a heart as sound as a bell; and his tongue is the clapper, for what his heart thinks, his tongue speaks.”
James pushed the back of Remus’s stool with his boot, rocking his friend out of his contemplation.
He looked up, startled, and seeing that everyone was looking at him in amusement; he cleared his throat.
“Gallants,” he said, sombrely. “I am not as I have been.”
“So say I,” declared Frank, merrily. “Methinks you are sadder.”
They all laughed, along with the audience; Remus looked a little miffed.
“I hope he be in love,” teased James; Remus shot him a look as their companions made a sort of collective, cajoling ‘oooh’ noise.
“Hang him truant?” exclaimed Algernon, laughing. “There’s no true drop of blood in him to be truly touched with love. If he be sad, he wants money.”
“I have the toothache,” said Remus, shortly.
“Draw it,” suggested Algernon, abruptly.
“Hang it!” Remus shot back, with barely a thought.
“You must hang it first and draw it afterwards,” observed James, waggling his cup at Remus.
“What? Sigh for the toothache?” asked Algernon, teasing his friend.
“Where is but a humour or a worm,” said Frank, over his brother’s guffaws.
“Well, everyone can master a grief but he that has it,” Remus grumbled, refilling his cup.
“Yet I say he is in love,” James insisted, with a wink at Algernon; Severus and Frank met each others’ eyes and burst out laughing. Remus scowled at them all.
“There is no appearance of fancy in him, unless it be a fancy he hath to strange disguises,” Algernon observed, with a sly grin. “As to be a Dutchman today, a Frenchman tomorrow; or in the shape of two countries at once, as a German from the waist downward, all slops, and a Spaniard from the hip upward, no doublet. Unless he have a fancy to this foolery, as it appear he hath, he is no fool for fancy, as you would have it appear he is,” Algernon concluded, to much mirth on the audience’s part.
“If he be not in love with some woman, there is no believing old signs,” James scoffed. “’a brushes his hat o’ mornings. What should that bode?”
Algernon conceded his point with a nod.
“Hath any man seen him at the barber’s?” he asked.
“No,” cried James, gleefully. “But the barber’s man hath been seen with him, and the old ornament of his cheek hath already stuffed tennis balls.”
“Indeed he looks younger than he did, by the loss of a beard,” remarked Frank.
Remus ignored them, choosing instead to concentrate on his drink.
“Nay, ‘a rubs himself with civet,” said Algernon, grinning. “Can you smell him out by that?”
“That’s as much to say, the sweet youth’s in love,” teased James.
“The greatest note of it is his melancholy,” agreed Algernon, nodding.
“And when was he wont to wash his face?” asked James, prodding Remus in the shoulder; Remus ignored him.
“Yea, or to paint himself?” asked Algernon, laughing. “For the which I hear what they say of him.”
“Nay, but his jesting spirit, which is now crept into a lutestring,” chortled James. “And now governed by stops.”
“Indeed, that tells a heavy tale for him,” said Algernon, winking at Frank and Severus. “Conclude, conclude, he is in love.”
“Nay, but I know who loves him,” said James slyly, and Remus frowned into his cup.
“That would I know too,” said Algernon, eagerly. “I warrant, one that knows him not.”
“Yes, and his ill conditions,” said James. “And in despite of all, dies for him.”
“She will be buried with her face upwards,” joked Algernon.
Remus glowered at him.
“Yet this is no charm for the toothache,” he said, shortly, and rose. “Old signior, walk aside with me,” he said, to Frank. “I have studied eight or nine wise word to speak to you, which these hobby-horses must not hear.”
He stalked out, and Frank and Severus made to follow him, pausing for a moment to share a comically sombre expression with James and Algernon; all four burst out laughing and the older gentlemen left, supporting one another.
“For my life,” cried Algernon, wiping tears of mirth from his eyes. “To break with him about Beatrice!”
“‘Tis even so,” laughed James. “Hero and Margaret have by this played their parts with Beatrice, and then the two bears will not bite one another when they meet.”
The two men shook hands in recognition of a job well done.
“My lord and brother, God save you,” said Sirius, striding in; both James and Algernon straightened slightly, smiles faltering a little.
“Good den, brother,” said Algernon, civilly.
“If your leisure served, I would speak with you,” said Sirius.
“In private?” asked Algernon, with a slight frown; James made to leave, but Sirius stopped him.
“If it please you,” he said, earnestly. “Yet Count Claudio may hear, for what I would speak of concerns him.”
Algernon and James shared a look.
“What’s the matter?” Algernon asked, all levity gone.
Sirius turned to James with a sober look.
“Means your lordship to be married tomorrow?” he asked.
“You know he does,” said Algernon, frowning.
“I know not that, when he knows what I know,” said Sirius, darkly.
“If there be any impediment, I pray you discover it,” said James, suddenly tense.
“You may think I love you not,” said Sirius, earnestly, and the audience scoffed. “Let that appear hereafter, and aim better at me by that I will now manifest. For my brother (I think he holds you well, and in dearness of heart) hath holp to effect your ensuing marriage – surely suit ill spent and labour ill bestowed!”
The two young lords were staring at Sirius with some mixture of anger and confusion now, and not a little suspicion.
“Why, what’s the matter?” Algernon demanded.
“I came hither to tell you, and circumstances short’ned (for she has been too long a-talking of), the lady is disloyal,” Sirius exclaimed, to gasps from the audience.
“Who?” asked James. “Hero?”
“Even she,” said Sirius, sombrely. “Leonato’s Hero, your Hero, every man’s Hero.”
“Disloyal?” asked James, visibly staggered.
“The word is too good to paint out her wickedness,” said Sirius, with a scowl. “I could say she were worse. Think you of a worse title and I will fit her to it. Wonder not till further warrant.” He paused, relishing their rapt attention. “Go but with me tonight, you shall see her chamber window ent’red, even the night before her wedding day. But it would better fit your honour to change your mind.”
“May this be so?” asked James, appalled.
“I will not think it,” said Algernon firmly.
“If you dare not trust that you see, confess not that you know,” said Sirius, reasonably. “If you will follow me, I will show you enough; and when you have seen more and heard more, proceed accordingly.”
“If I see anything tonight why I should not marry her tomorrow,” said James, angrily. “In the congregation where I should wed, there will I shame her.”
“And, as I wooed for thee to obtain her, I will join thee to disgrace her,” Algernon growled.
“I will disparage her no farther till you are my witnesses,” said Sirius. “Bear it coldly but till midnight, and let the issue show itself.”
“O day untowardly turned!” cried Algernon.
“O mischief strangely thwarting!” lamented James.
“O plague right well prevented!” exclaimed Sirius. “So will you say when you have seen the sequel.”
James and Algernon left, Algernon pausing to clasp his brother’s shoulder before he passed him.
Sirius looked out into the audience and allowed an evil grin to develop on his features, very slowly. Turning, he filched an apple from their abandoned feast; he laughed evilly and with satisfaction before following them.
“Remind me not to annoy you,” someone whispered to Sirius as he dove backstage; turning, he found Dorothy Cottingley watching him with amusement, leaning against one of the supports of the stage. He managed to grin despite the butterflies that were swarming in his stomach.
“But you’re so good at it,” he hissed back.
She gave him an odd look and walked off.
He shook his head to try to clear it. With any other girl (and some guys) he was cool, calm and collected; he could, he knew, charm the pants off anyone.
He looked around: James was helping Lily with her nightgown for one of the next scenes, the two of them laughing and joking; Frank and Alice were watching the next scene unfold from the wings, arm in arm; Claire and Peter were going through a song they were due to sing later on in the play. He couldn’t see Severus anywhere, he realised, but he wasn’t particularly worried.
Probably nipped out to the bathroom, he thought.
His eyes came to rest on Remus and Eleanor, who were off to one side, quietly leaning into one another; their eyes were closed, but they were clearly paying attention to the dialogue on stage – periodically one or the other of them would smile. They were simply enjoying one another’s proximity.
Well, it was about time.
He smiled, wryly, equally glad for them and sorry for himself.
Sighing, he pulled himself together. It was a sad state of affairs if Peter and Remus could get girlfriends and Hogwarts’ resident Casanova couldn’t; it was time to remedy this (or at least end it).
He walked over to Dorothy, who was idly toying with her programme; she put it down as he approached.
“Alright?” he asked, mentally kicking himself. Smooth, Sirius. Smooth, he thought.
“Alright…” she said suspiciously. Then: “Ok, I know I’m not on stage now until the wedding, but please don’t turn my hair green or anything.”
“I wasn’t going to,” said Sirius, hurriedly. “Although now that you mention it…”
“Oh shut up,” she huffed, crossing her arms.
He took her in, cheeks a little pink from arguing with him; strands of her silvery hair were escaping from their tie. Her brown eyes flashed.
This wasn’t going well. Sirius swallowed.
“I won’t turn your hair green,” he said, quietly.
“I like it the colour it is,” he admitted, staring at his feet.
“You do?” asked Dorothy, after a pause, sounding quite surprised.
“Oh… well, thanks,” she said, uncertainly.
He risked a glance at her: she was watching him with open curiosity now.
“You’re welcome,” he managed, weakly.
“Are you feeling alright?” she asked. “You’re not yourself.”
“I’m fine,” he said, quickly.
“Are you sure?” she asked, and made room for him on the bench beside her; he sat, fingering the hem of his jacket.
“Kind of,” he said. “I’m thinking of doing something really stupid,” he said, and laughed at himself. “Not that that’s anything new…”
“What kind of stupid?” she asked, laying a hand on his arm; he gulped.
“Oh, er… the heart-breaking, soul-crushing, bloody foolish kind of stupid,” he mumbled, and to his surprise, she laughed.
“I don’t believe it!” she giggled. “You’re in love! Ha! Oh, I – I’m sorry,” she managed, at his mortified and gaping expression. “It’s just – well, you’ve never struck me as a fall-in-love kind of person.”
“I’m not… well, I wasn’t,” he conceded.
“How long have you been… well,” she sniggered. “Incapacitated?”
Despite himself, he stuck his tongue out and laughed.
“About a year,” he admitted, and it was her turn to gape.
“A year? Wow… you must really like her…” she said, and Sirius thought he could detect a slight note of disappointment in her voice.
“Yeah… and I’m not good enough for her.”
“Have you spoken to her about it?” she asked, more quietly. “I mean, with you and Trixie being so far apart it can’t be easy…”
“Trixie?” he asked, perplexed.
“Well, yes,” she said, surprised. “I thought – so it’s not Trixie?”
“No,” he said, carefully.
“Oh…” she said in a small voice. “Well then, who?” she asked, frowning, and Sirius had to shake himself to stop being distracted by the incredibly cute way she wrinkled up her nose.
“You don’t have to tell me,” she said, hurriedly. “But if you ever, you know, want to talk or whatever, I’ll be here…”
He couldn’t for the life of him work out why she was babbling like that, but it gave him a little bit of hope that she wanted to be such a good friend to him. Gingerly, he reached out and tucked the errant strands of hair behind her ear.
Dorothy stared at him.
“Dorothy,” he asked, biting his lip. “Would you go to Hogsmeade with me next weekend?”
And he leaned in, and kissed her lightly on the cheek.
She looked, for about thirty seconds, like she were about to slap him (and she later admitted that she had definitely considered it), but she caught his hand instead.
“You want to go to Hogsmeade with me?” she asked, with quiet urgency.
“Well,” he began, letting out the breath he hadn’t realised he’d been holding. “Because you’re kind, and pretty, and smart, and lovely, and just a little bit evil, and I… I really like you,” he finished, lamely.
“Oh…” she said. “Really?”
“Oh…” Dorothy frowned. “All this time?” she asked.
“Yes,” he breathed, so quietly that she nearly missed it.
There was a pause, and in it Sirius remembered the millions of reasons why she was absolutely going to turn him down. Any second now.
“Ok,” she said, equally quietly.
“It’s ok, it’s fine if you don’t want t-” he paused as his internal universe rearranged itself. “What?”
“I said: ‘ok’,” she said, and smiled.
Sirius’s mouth formed a perfect ‘o’ and Dorothy laughed.
“I can’t promise to be any of those wonderful things you appear to think I am, but I would very much like to go with you to Hogsmeade,” she paused, and gripped his hand a little tighter. “And I absolutely don’t believe you when you say you aren’t good enough for me. I mean – look at me,” she said, gesturing at herself. “I’m short and dumpy, and have the fashion sense of a niffler, and –”
“I think you’re beautiful,” said Sirius, truthfully, and kissed her hand.
“You do?” she asked, weakly. “Oh.”
“I don’t want you to feel threatened or anything,” he said, hurriedly. “Merlin knows my reputation would scare anyone, but –”
“We’ll worry about all that on Saturday,” she said firmly. “When we have time to talk properly. Until then, we can both pretend that the other isn’t about to see reason and change their minds.”
“Ravenclaw logic to the rescue, as ever,” said Sirius, grinning.
“Well, I wouldn’t need it if a certain Gryffindor’s courage hadn’t held up,” she teased.
They beamed at one another.
The stage was now a dark street, lit with lanterns.
Wilbur Crabbe, Crispin Spinnet and Helbert Boxley were stood talking in one corner, all three dressed in a strange conglomeration of hand-me-down armour. They quickly stood to attention as Dane Abercrombie and Simon Underhill strode in; Dane and Simon had made themselves appear so greasy and untidy that the three watchmen shared a look of disdain before maintaining their station.
“Are you good men and true?” asked Dane, inspecting his troops.
“Yea, or else it were pity but they should suffer salvation, body and soul,” cried Simon; the audience chuckled.
“Nay, that were a punishment too good for them if they should have any allegiance in them, being chosen for the Prince’s watch,” said Dane, sombrely.
“Well, give them their charge, neighbour Dogberry.”
“First,” said Dane. “Who think you the most desartless man to be constable?”
“Hugh Oatcake, sir,” said Wilbur, smartly. “Or George Seacole, for they can write and read.”
“Come hither, neighbour Seacole,” beckoned Dane, slicking his brown hair back over his head in a way that made people on the front row cringe. “God hath blessed you with a good name. To be a well-favoured man is the gift of fortune, but to write and read comes by nature.”
There was that strange feeling in the air of quite a few people desperately trying to figure out what in blazes the man had just said; Dane and Simon had become experts at eliciting such a response.
“Both which, Master Constable –” Crispin began, but he was cut off.
“You have,” said Dane, nodding sagely. “I knew it would be your answer. Well, for your favour, sir, why, give God thanks and make no boast of it; and for your writing and reading, let that appear when there is no need of such vanity.” He patted him absently on the shoulder, and Crisipin looked like he were fighting the urge to brush down his coat. “You are thought here to be the most senseless and fit man for the constable of the watch. Therefore bear you the lanthorn. This is your charge,” he announced, proudly. “You shall comprehend all vagrom men; you are to bid any man stand, in the Prince’s name.”
“How if ‘a will not stand?” asked Crispin, staring up at the taller man.
“Why then,” said Dane, slowly, as if he were thinking about this. “Take no note of him, but let him go, and presently call the rest of the watch together and thank God you are rid of a knave.”
“If he will not stand when he is bidden, he is none of the Prince’s subjects,” added Simon, with a flash of sudden inspiration.
“True,” Dane mused. “And they are to meddle with none but the Prince’s subjects.”
He walked along the row and back again, enjoying his power.
“You shall also make no noise in the streets,” he instructed. “For, for the watch to babble and to talk is most tolerable, and not to be endured.”
(Alice, watching from the sidelines, glimpsed more than a few people’s eyes crossing as they tried to follow the dialogue; Dogberry and Verges had that sort of effect on people.)
“We will rather sleep than talk,” said Helbert, a stout, red-faced boy. The audience snickered. “We know what belongs to a watch.”
“Why, you speak like an ancient and most quiet watchman, for I cannot see how sleeping should offend,” declared Dane, not inaccurately; the sniggers increased in volume. “Only, have a care that your bills be not stol’n.” He clapped Helbert on the back, making him stagger slightly. “Well, you are to call at all the ale-houses and bid those that are drunk get them to bed,” he told them.”
“How if they will not?” asked Wilbur, uncertainly.
“Why then, let them alone till they are sober,” cried Dogberry, cheerily, to a burble of mirth from the audience. “If they make you not then the better answer, you may say they are not then men you took them for.”
“Well, sir,” the watchmen chorused, obediently.
“If you meet a thief, you may suspect him, by virtue of your office, to be no true man,” said Dane, brushing very real dirt from his lapel. “And for such kind of men, the less you meddle or make with them, why, the more is for your honesty.”
“If we know him to be a thief, shall we not lay hands on him?” asked Wilbur, his forehead creased.
“Truly, by your office you may,” Dane conceded. “But I think they that touch pitch will be defiled. The more peaceable way for you, if you do take a thief, is to let him show himself what he is, and steal out of your company.”
“You have been always called a merciful man, partner,” said Simon, ingratiatingly.
The audience laughed; there was a weird kind of logic to the approach.
“Truly, I would not hang a dog by my will,” said Dane, humbly; he steepled his fingers in what he obviously thought was a pious manner. “Much more a man who hath any honesty in him.”
“If you hear a child cry in the night, you must call to the nurse and bid her still it,” said Simon, enthusiastically.
“How if the nurse be asleep and will not hear us?” asked Crispin.
“Why then,” began Dane, who appeared to have an answer for every eventuality. “Depart in peace and let the child wake her with crying; for the ewe that will not hear her lamb when it baes will never answer a calf when he bleats.
“‘Tis very true,” nodded Simon.
“This is the end of the charge,” said Dane, clearly getting to a bit he liked. “You, constable, are to present the Prince’s own person. If you meet the Prince in the night, you may stay him.”
“Nay, b’yr lady, that I think ‘a cannot,” Simon hissed, urgently.
The men of the watch shared a look that spoke volumes about their opinion of Dogberry’s sanity.
“Five shillings to the one on’t, with any man that knows the statutes, he may stay him!” the man barked. “Marry, not without the Prince be willing; for indeed the watch ought to offend no man, and it is an offence to stay a man against his will.”
“B’yr lady, I think it be so!” exclaimed Simon, happily.
Dane gave a great shout of laughter that made the men of the watch jump nearly a foot in the air.
“Well, masters, good night,” he cried. “And there be any matter of weight chances, call up me. Keep your fellows’ counsels and your own, and good night. Come, neighbour,” he said, taking Simon roughly by the shoulder and marching him offstage.
As one man, the watch relaxed.
“Well, masters,” said Crispin. “We hear our charge. Let us go sit here upon the church bench till two, and then all to bed.”
They straightened up abruptly as Dogberry and Verges marched back in, the latter massaging his arm.
“One word more, honest neighbours,” said Dane, imperiously. “I pray you to watch about Signior Leonato’s door; for the wedding being there tomorrow, there is a great coil tonight. Adieu,” he said, with a great flourish. “Be vigilant, I beseech you.”
He marched offstage, Simon scurrying after him like a kicked puppy.
The watch shared a look, before shaking their heads. They were beginning to slouch their way offstage when a shout went up in the wings.
“Peace! Stir not!” hissed Crispin, and pulled his two companions into the cover of a shadowy doorway.
“Conrade, I say!” bellowed Nathan, weaving drunkenly onstage; Thomas followed him, with a rather pained expression.
“Here, man,” he said, exasperated. “I am at your elbow.”
“Mass,” Nathan swore. “And my elbow itched; I thought there would a scab follow.” He cackled and spat on the floor; Thomas gave him a look that suggested he’d seen more civilised things crawling out from beneath a stone.
“I will owe thee an answer for that,” he said, in clipped tones. “And now forward with thy tale.”
“Some treason, masters,” hissed Helbert. “Yet stand close.”
“Therefore know I have eared of Don John a thousand ducats,” laughed Nathan, flopping down onto a bench.
“Is it possible that any villainy should be so dear?” asked Thomas, surprised. He sat beside his ally.
“Thou shouldst rather ask if it were possible any villainy should be so rich,” said Nathan taking a swig of his jug. “For when rich villains have need of poor ones, poor ones may make what price they will.”
“I wonder at it,” said Conrade, refusing the proffered receptacle.
“That show thou art unconfirmed,” Nathan scoffed, and Thomas glared at him. “Thou knowest that the fashion of a doublet, or a hat, or a cloak is nothing to a man.”
“Yes, it is apparel.”
“I mean the fashion.”
“Yes, the fashion is the fashion.”
“Tush! I may as well say the fool’s the fool,” Nathan cried. “But seest thou not what a deformed thief this fashion is?”
“I know that Deformed,” hissed Wilbur, insistently. “‘a has been a vile thief this seven year; ‘a goes up and down like a gentleman. I remember his name.”
“Didst thou not hear somebody?” asked Nathan, frowning and looking up.
“No,” said Thomas. “‘Twas the vane on the house.”
Nathan shrugged and took another drink of whatever was in the jug.
“Seest thou not, I say, what a deformed thief this fashion is? How giddily ‘a turns about all the hotbloods between fourteen and five-and-thirty?”
“All this I see,” said Thomas, tartly. “And I see that the fashion wears out more apparel than the man. But art thou not thou thyself giddy with the fashion too, that thou hast shifted out of thy tale into telling me of the fashion?”
“Not so, neither,” said Nathan. “But know that I have tonight wooed Margeret, the Lady Hero’s gentlewoman, by the name of Hero.” He gave a dirty snigger as Thomas grinned. “She leans me out at her mistress’ chamber window, bids me a thousand times good night. I tell this tale vilely – I should first tell thee how the Prince, Claudio, and my master, planted and possessed by my master Don John, saw afar off in the orchard this… amiable encounter.”
“And thought they Margaret was Hero?” asked Thomas, amazed.
“Two of them did, the Prince and Claudio,” Nathan chuckled, drunkenly. “But the devil my master knew she was Margaret; and partly by his oaths, which first possessed them, partly by the dark night, which did deceive them, but chiefly by my villainy,” he boasted. “Which did confirm any slander that Don John had made, away went Claudio enraged; swore he would meet her, as he was appointed, next morning at the temple, and there, before the whole congregation, shame her with what he saw o’ernight and send her home again without a husband.”
The two of them roared with laughter; the watch decided that this was their time to act.
“We charge you in the Prince’s name stand!” bellowed Wilbur, leaping forth from his hiding place like a raging bull. Nathan and Thomas scrambled to their feet in surprise; drunk as he was, Nathan stumbled, grabbing at Thomas to keep himself upright, and the two of them fell, in a tangle, on the floor.
“Call up the right Master Constable!” shouted Helbert. “We have here recovered the most dangerous piece of lechery that ever was known in the commonwealth!”
Crispin ran offstage, presumably to find Dane.
“And one Deformed is one of them,” said Wilbur gruffly. “I know ‘im; ’a wears a lock.”
“Master, masters –” said Thomas, hands out in a placating manner.
“You’ll be made bring the Deformed forth, I warrant you,” said Helbert.
Nathan and Thomas shared a look and took off, shooting offstage.
With identical cries of rage, Wilbur and Helbert rattled after them, waving their pikes and shouting.