“I’m reading your fortune,” she said, studying his palm. “I can see in an instant whether your true heart’s desire lies within your grasp, or whether you’re deceiving yourself . . . you see, the palm is called the table because your destiny has been set and all things rest upon it and – oh, yes. I see. It’s partly what you’ve said, but not exactly what I expected to see.”
“What do you see? Is it my death?”
“Yes,” she smiled, “but not yours alone, for we’ll all die someday, sooner or later. I do see that you have a heroic purpose ahead of you, receiving great fame and fortune for creating illusions. And from the looks of it, you’re not alone in that either.”
“Then the playhouses truly are in my future.”
“Indeed they are, but there’s a darker side – pretense, I’d say. Fame and Fortune are written on your palm, but I also see an old man burdened by a terrible secret.”
“What old man? Is it me?”
“That’s a mystery, too,” she said, as Shaxper gently slid his hand away from hers. “There’s only so much we poor mortals can see, but it would be a shame for you to condemn yourself to a player’s life when there’s no glory in it. That’s what Pinch would say.”
“But by reputation, he was funnier than Will Somers, King Henry VIII’s fool. Pinch must have found some glory in that fame.”
“Aye, he did – and Lady Margery destroyed it.” Shaxper raised a curious eyebrow.
“You see,” Meg continued, “no other jester in England at that time ever commanded a cry of players. Most noblemen were entertained by dolts or dwarfs that were mocked for their imbecilities and deformities, a practice that I find most cruel.”
“But noblemen also maintained musicians as their servants.”
“Aye, but they didn’t maintain resident companies of actors - men who were literate, able to understand and learn their lines. Lord John was different from other noblemen. His castle had a chapel and a theater in it. It was that very thing that captured his son’s attention.”
“By his son, you must mean Edward, Earl of Oxford, patron of the London theaters,” Shaxper said, delighted at this turn in the conversation. “Aye, that’s him,” Meg nodded.
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