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Pants on Fire

by on April 7, 2015

William Rathley was in a foul mood. Cecily South had snubbed him most coldly at the masquerade the day before, and the whole of Rathley’s social circle buzzed with the talk of it. William had hoped to make some progress with her; he was only a minor aristocrat while she and her family stood high in the court. It seemed now, however, that Lady Cecily would not have him. Thus William’s foul mood.

In a desperate attempt at some sort of retaliation, he had abruptly approached Abigail Winslow and asked if she would accompany him to the play that evening. Abigail, to put it kindly, stood not highly in anyone’s social circle. William hardly noticed how pleased Abigail was at his invitation. He only made sure that the word would get back to Lady Cecily.

They arrived at the theatre, and the play proceeded. Abigail lost herself in the action and the rapid dialogue; she had heard much about the skill of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, and now she believed every word. Then, just as a main character swept on stage, an actual cannon went off, shaking the theater with its loud boom. Abigail started in alarm, and looked to William to see if he had been as surprised. He appeared to have hardly noticed. Rathley was glaring off down the rows of wooden seats towards a far corner, where a brightly-dressed woman was exclaiming over the cannon fire with her companion. Abigail recognized Lady Cecily, and knew a bit of social gossip. She swiftly put two and two together, and came up with a most distressing four.

Just as she did, smoke began to sting her eyes. Shouts of “Fire!” rapidly displaced the gasps of astonishment over the cannon. The audience surged towards the main exit from the theater. William went with them, without even looking back to make sure Abigail was accompanying him. She pushed her way frantically along in his wake as the flames ran through the beams and rafters of the theater as swiftly as a rushing train. William shoved his way out into the night, coughing hard, but relieved to be alive. Then he felt a sharp stinging pain lower down. He yelped in terror. Flames were darting up his breeches. Before he could do anything else, a sudden splash of cold ale doused the fire most thoroughly. “Ah,” said William. “Lady Abigail. I am most grateful for-”

Abigail cut him off stormily. “Sir,” she said, “You are a rogue and a scoundrel, and Cecily is most welcome to you!”  William was left with gaping mouth and soaking breeches, as the Globe Theater burned merrily behind him.

This is my first stab at real historical fiction, as opposed to Titanic fanfic involving space hamsters, or Catrina saving Franz Ferdinand and thus averting World War One. I had heard about the famous fire at the Globe Theater (mostly from the Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego computer game, but until now I hadn’t heard about the anonymous man with his breeches on fire. He deserves a backstory. If the real Fire Breeches Guy was a nicer gentleman than I have portrayed him, I apologize to his descendants. Also, for those of you wanting to know the fate of Mr. Stamper, I will return to his adventures next week. For obvious reasons, I couldn’t do a Stamper story and real historical fiction in the same response.

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13 Comments
  1. Thorough and inventive work 🙂

  2. Jennifer G. Knoblock permalink

    I’m happy to read a little Globe-burning historical fiction while I wait for the next episode of Mr. Stamper. 🙂

    • I was almost tempted to insert Mr. Stamper as the cause of the Globe’s burning, but one has to stick to established facts in historical fiction, sadly.

  3. I feel like there might be a few comparisons drawn between William Rathley and Mr. Stamper.

    • I envision Mr. Stamper as being a bit more chivalrous. He’s an honorable sort of otter, he is, and wouldn’t do something as underhanded as taking up with someone to use them as a pawn to retaliate against someone else.

      • But he’s always in the center of some sort of mischief, which was the comparison I meant. But, yes, you’re right. Mr. Stamper has more class than William.

  4. Michael, I must admit, I kept expecting Stamper to materialize in the theatre. That said, this is a wonderful story and fascinating, especially considering the back story you provided!

    • Maybe in the next installment, Stamper might travel back in time. You never know what can happen with a warp core breach and space things and all.

      • That’s what I love about your writing; the endless possibilities, all of which seem perfectly plausible!

  5. Nice 🙂 is there anything you can’t do I wonder…?

    • Literature-wise? I don’t do romance, that’s for sure. Especially the more, shall we say, explicit kind. I just couldn’t take it seriously. I’d be giggling all the way through, and it would sound horrible and unlike anything remotely romantic. So. There is that.

      • Hmmm… I can’t imagine it would be worse than me, I’d probably get so fed up with my characters that they would wind up in a deep dark hole where no-one (not even the story) will find them and get eaten alive by some evil monster with ant mouths. (You know, as opposed to the the non-evil monsters with ant mouths…)

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