MEETING SHAKESPEARE ©
The bricks were still wet from last night's rain. I mounted them cautiously, remembering the electrifying dance of the fairies in the northern skies during the rain. Up the brick steps, one flight, then another, still another, finally, around the bend, the house appeared. It took all the courage I had to lift the large door knocker, which slipped from my hand with a loud clang.
My heart jumped into my throat as the door opened slowly, and an elderly gentleman stood before me. His gray hair was thinning and pulled back tight against his head. His mouth was pursed in disapproval as he turned and without a word motioned for me to follow. He led me through the length of the main flour of this old house. It felt cool and somewhat damp and smelled like mildew. He stopped in front of a closed door, nearly as large as the outside one. After twice thumping, he opened it to admit me. "My Lord, the wench is here," he said, and hurriedly made his exit leaving me standing in the dark wondering what a wench was.
As my eyes were becoming accustomed to the dimness, I felt as if I were being carefully observed from the shadows. The darkness was overwhelming at first, but slowly I began to faintly make out a large room, several pieces of furniture, and finally, an outline of a man.
"You are kindly met, goodwoman," he said. "Please thee to draw near."
Walking across the room, I asked, "How can you see to work in here?" I drew back the curtain, letting in a world of brightly flowered shrubs and a manicured lawn.
"I had it closed against last even's winter brush. I watched the night against the fretful elements."
"It was frightfully awesome— breathtaking." As I turned to survey the room I had just crossed, his world came alive for me.
He rose from his chair and started toward me. "I, being awaked by great occasion, cherish my brother's for-vouched offer to you. Even so, I received good words from him."
"Your brother likes the way I make my letters," I said. "He suggested you had need of such, someone who could write round and plain. I'm also a good organizer."
Perhaps I speak too frankly, I thought to myself, as I evaluated the massive collection of papers strewn about his desk.
"You may fall to't on the present."
"Does that mean you want me to start right now?"
"How shall I understand you? You seem such a rough draft. What needs to wait? If I hope well, these can be charactered presently."
It was apparent to the both of us that we were speaking past one another. However, even with the difficulty I had understanding him, I felt we could reach out and touch almost immediately.
Over the next few days, I read pages and pages, with much difficulty for the most part, sorting from one story to another. Again and again I would stop and pull together my bearings, and marvel at the way his words came to life on the printed page. These pages sometimes seemed a continuous story, a story of a man and his love for words.
Feeling an urgency on his part, the transcribing of a completed work greeted him not many days after, which triggered a marked response in him. On this last day, a certain restlessness and excitement overtook him and I was soon to find our why.
"Give me leave, goodwoman, and hinder not my course, I pray." Which I took to mean he was to be gone for a time. Over the past few days, I had gotten to know him just well enough to know, this would not be the end of it. This friendship would surely flourish, which I think he confirmed.
"Gramercies. Secure thy heart. By good hap I will repair and inquire you forth." And after this, forgetting his manners, left by the postern, I think he called it.
The frail gray haired man was nowhere to be seen, so, buttoned against the wind, I let myself out.
"Sweet William," I said to myself, as I bounced down the flights of bricks. "Dear Sweet William. Where have you been all these years?" I began singing aloud. "Oh, where have you been, Billy Boy, Billy Boy? Oh, where have you been, Charming Billy?"
Sheryl Hamilton Chaney