I wish we could reach this brown eyed boy, and say ‘It is all going to be fine. You got plenty of writing done.’
The Bricklayer’s Boy
I got up to answer the door. The rapping sounded brisk and certain. I came with a scowl ready, barefoot, torn from my ale and the capture of the first pure words that come with morning. Well. They were gone now; blown away into the ragged fog and the steaming streets. I was quite ready to argue that I owed no man money. Nor had I seen anyone do anything curious. Not recently, not ever.
I opened the door with a jerk.
I had expected a man. The creature on the doorstep lacked ten years for that. He lacked a good foot in height as well. An unremarkable boy, brown hair, stuck down with rain, a jerkin of boiled dogskin, big enough to grow into.
“Master Kyd?” he blinked up at me through the rain,
“What is it?”
“Message from Master Alleyn, and he sits today with Master Henslowe and they ask you come to the Rose and he—”
“I’ll come. Step in from the rain boy, while I get dressed.”
The child nodded, and his cap was proper in his hand when he crossed into the room. I scrambled about, looking for my hat and my purse. The floor was littered with waste paper, Kit and I cast it to the floor as we worked and thought little of it. It was ankle deep in places. We had had a busy week. I lifted a stack of books from the chair, and found both purse and hat. Both were flatter than I wished.
The child had moved to the hearth, he was a well trained example of his kind, and was trying not to track the street mud everywhere.
I was rummaging for my ink-horn and my common-place book. Pup had come from under the joint stool to fawn at the boys feet. They were fast friends already crouched there by the fire.
“Sir, may I ask—” His hands were kneading the cap.
“What is it?”
“Is that the table where you wrote the Spanish Tragedy?”
“Aye, so it is.” Perhaps he expected more. Perhaps he had expected gold leaf, or choirs of angels. He looked torn between awe and disappointment.
“I have heard the play -- twice.” His hand stilled on the pup’s belly. “My friends and I, we play at it— ‘Heronimo, Revenge!’” He gave a passable imitation of Ned Alleyn’s attitude, the cadence correct but treble.
“Not bad,” I said. “You might make a player. Would that please you?” He was young enough for girls parts, But he would not do for them long. He was thin now, as boys will be. But he had the promise of broad manhood.
“A player? No sir. I think I would like to write.” His voice went soft at the end, holding the secret wish close even as he spoke it. “I would like to write plays, like you.”
“Hmm. How is your schooling?”
“It was well, until this year, Sir. I have Latin and Greek. I was to go on, to Cambridge. At least my mother said, and we hoped. But she remarried this year. And he wants me with him.”
“Ah. And what is his trade?”
“He is a bricklayer.”
The boy had been looking down, woeful. But he glanced up at me now, to see how I liked that. He had stood up again, ready to leave with me. I have no son, and likely never will have. But I remember those aching years. I took a deep breath. It gave me time to think.
“And they are re-pointing today at The Rose.”
“Yes Sir. My stepfather sent me for Mr Henslowe. ”
And you jumped at the chance to leave, I thought. But you came straight. You did not dawdle or hesitate. A good boy, a steady boy. We walked through the rain toward the tavern; the boy at my side, quiet company.
“Steady money there, at least,” I said. “Nothing wrong with that. Watch the city as you work,” I said. “Talk to everyone you can. In six months come show me what you have written, if you like. What is your name?”
“Oh yes.” His eyes were shining now. “Thank you, yes. I will. Thank you.—”
He never did tell me his name. But we had reached the Rose now. And here was a man with a hard face and leather apron. He pulled the boy aside, gave him a smart cuff in the face. “What took so long? Lazy—”
I did not stay to hear more. But I did catch the boy’s name, he had not had time to tell me. He was called Ben.