There were about the long table, beside Master Shakspere himself, who sat at the head of the board, Masters Richard and Cuthbert Burbage, Henry Condell, and Peter Hemynge, Master Shakspere's partners; Master Ben Jonson, his dearest friend; Thomas Pope, who played his finest parts; John Lowin, Samuel Gilburne, Robert Nash, and William Kemp, players of the Lord Chamberlain's company; Edmund Shakspere, the actor, who was Master William Shakspere's younger brother, and Master John Shakspere, his father; Michael Drayton, the Midland bard; Burgess Robert Getley, Alderman Henry Walker, and William Hart, the Stratford hatter, brother-in-law to Master Shakspere.
But as the third day rolled around, about the middle of the afternoon the tanner himself sneaked out at the back door of his tannery in Southam's lane, and went up into the town. "Robin Getley," he asked at the guildschool door, "was my son wi' thee overnight?" "Nay, Master Attwood. Has he not come back?" "Come back? From where?" Robin hung his head. "From, where?" demanded the tanner.
George and the Dragon, Guy of Warwick, and the great dun cow, all rolled up in one!" "Robin Getley, is this the very truth, or art thou cozening me?" "Upon my word, it is the truth," said Robin. "And that's not all.
"Oh, Nick, such goings on!" called Robin Getley, whose father was a burgess, as Nick Attwood came slowly up the street, saying his sentences for the day over and over to himself in hopeless desperation, having had no time to learn them at home. "Stratford Council has had a quarrel, and there's to be no stage-play after all." "What?" cried Nick, in amazement. "No stage-play? And why not?"
On one side of the table, between Master Jonson and Master Richard Burbage, Cicely was seated upon a high chair, with a wreath of early crimson roses in her hair, attired in the gown in which Nick saw her first a year before. On the other side of the table Nick had a place between Master Drayton and Robert Getley, father of his friend Robin. Half-way down there was an empty chair.
Then up to his feet sprang Robin Getley, upon the saddle-backed coping-stones, his hand upon Nick Attwood's head to steady himself, and looked away where the rippling Stour ran like a thread of silver beside the dust-buff London road, and the little church of Atherstone stood blue against the rolling Cotswold Hills.
I'll not be birched four times a week for merely tripping on a word, and have nothing to show for it but stripes. If I must take a threshing, I'll have my good day's game out first." "But wilt thou truly go to Coventry, Nick?" asked Robin Getley, earnestly, for he liked Nick more than all the rest.
"They're coming, Robin hark 'e to the trampling!" Robin Getley held his breath and turned his ear toward the south. The far-off murmur was a mutter now, defined and positive, and, as the two friends listened, grew into a drumming roll, and all at once above it came a shrill, high sound like the buzzing of a gnat close by the ear.