As the doctor solicitously examined him, Shaxper fell from his stupor into a dream.
A smiling Countess Elizabeth summoned him into an old churchyard, where she showed him two stone effigies. He leaned over and read the epitaphs closely, since it had once been his line of work to write them. One effigy was sacred to the memory of Lady Elizabeth Trentham, Countess of Oxford. The other was inscribed to the Honorable Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, Viscount Bulbec, Lord of Sandford, of Escales and of Badlesmere, Lord Great Chamberlain of England, also known as the great bard Shake-speare, the appellation he loved best.
The Countess kissed Shaxper on the forehead and told him how well he had served her husband, and suddenly, a ferocious storm blew up. A hundred horsemen galloped in and smashed the effigies to pieces. The Countess wept and a marble obelisk grew from her tears. He marveled that it was decorated with flights of angels after the line in Hamlet. But the angels instantly turned into devils and set the obelisk on fire. All of the graves opened up and spread their contagion in the world, and Lord Oxford’s bones were scattered in the churchyard, crumbling into dust.
“For Jesus sake, forebear!” Shaxper screamed. “He’s awake,” Mrs. Shaxper said.
“Father-in-law, what is it?” Dr. Hall asked.“What’s the matter?” “What will they do to my bones after I die? I don’t want them scattered in the churchyard. If they think I’m Shakespeare, they’ll dig me up to dance on my grave.”
“What’s he talking about?”
“I don’t know,” Mrs. Shaxper cried. “He’s not in his right mind.” “Fetch me my quills and paper, John. I’ll write my epitaph now.”
The scribe took up his pen and began writing. His eyes could barely focus on his work.
“‘Good friend for Jesus’ sake forebear’— that’ll scare ‘em off. No one will dig me up if I mention Jesus. ‘To dig the dust enclosed here.’ — if I describe my remains as dust, they won’t see any point in digging me up, will they? — ‘Blest be the man that spares these stones,’ - they’ll be rewarded for leaving my grave in one piece. ‘And curst be he that moves my bones.’”
Jonson and Drayton set the trunk down in the front room. Shaxper reached out his bony arms towards them.
“Ben! Michael! Please help me!” Shaxper cried. “I don’t want my bones thrown around the churchyard! Don’t let them desecrate my grave. I heard you talking about how they dug up Lord Oxford. If they think I’m the playwright, they’ll do the same to me. Please help me. You’ve got to tell my story.”
He waved the paper frantically in the air and suddenly began gasping for breath. He fell back onto the couch and his breathing became shallow until at last, it stopped.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish