The Dame (whether it were by sudden change, or of wonted custom) fell one day into a great bleeding at the nose. For which accident, the said F. J., amongst other pretty conceits, hath a present remedy, whereby he took occasion (when they of the house had all in vain sought many ways to stop her bleeding) to work his feat in this wise:
First, he pleaded ignorance, as though he knew not her name, and therefore demanded the same of one other Gentlewoman in the house (whose name was Mistress Frances), who when she had to him declared that her name was Eleanor, he said these words or very like in effect: "If I thought I should not offend Mistress Eleanor, I would not doubt to stop her bleeding without either pain or difficulty."
This gentlewoman, somewhat tickled with his words, did incontinent make relation thereof to the said Mistress Eleanor, who immediately (declaring that F. J. was her late received servant) returned the said messenger unto him with especial charge that he should employ his devoir towards the recovery of her health, with whom the same F. J. repaired to the chamber of his desired: and, finding her set in a chair leaning on the one side over a silver basin, after his due reverence, he laid his hand on her temples and, privily rounding her in her ear, desired her to command a Hazel stick and a knife. The which being brought, he delivered unto her, saying on this wise.
"Mistress, I will speak certain words in secret to myself and do require no more but when you hear me say openly this word Amen, that you with this knife will make a nick upon this hazel stick. And when you have made five nicks, command me also to cease."
The Dame, partly of good will to the knight and partly to be stanched of her bleeding, commanded her maid and required the other gentils somewhat to stand aside. Which done, he began his orisons, wherein he had not long muttered before he pronounced Amen, wherewith the Lady made a nick on the stick with her knife. The said F. J. continued to another Amen, when the Lady having made another nick felt her bleeding began to stanch: and so by the third Amen thoroughly stanched.
F. J. then changing his prayers into private talk, said softly unto her, "Mistress, I am glad that I am hereby enabled to do you some service, and as the stanching of your own blood may some way recomfort you, so if the shedding of my blood may any way content you, I beseech you command it, for it shall be evermore readily employed in your service," and therewithal with a loud voice pronounced Amen.
Wherewith the good Lady making a nick did secretly answer thus: "Good servant," quoth she, "I must needs think myself right happy to have gained your service and good will, and be you sure that although there be in me no such desert as may draw you into this depth of affection, yet such as I am, I shall be always glad to show myself thankful unto you, and now, if you think yourself assured that I shall bleed no more, do then pronounce your fifth Amen," the which pronounced, she made also her fifth nick, and held up her head, calling the company unto her and declaring unto them that her bleeding was thoroughly stanched.
Well, it were long to tell what sundry opinions were pronounced upon this act, and I do dwell overlong in the discourses of this F. J., especially having taken in hand only to copy out his verses, but for the circumstance doth better declare the effect, I will return to my former tale.
F. J., tarrying a while in the chamber, found opportunity to lose his sequence near to his desired Mistress: and after congé taken, departed. After whose departure, the Lady arose out of her chair, & her maid, going about to remove the same, espied & took up the writing. The which her mistress perceiving, gan suddenly conjecture that the same had in it some like matter to the verses once before left in like manner, & made semblant to mistrust that the same should be some words of conjuration: and taking it from her maid, did peruse it & immediately said to the company that she would not forgo the same for a great treasure. But to be plain, I think that (F. J. excepted) she was glad to be rid of all company until she had with sufficient leisure turned over & retossed every card in this sequence.
And not long after, being now tickled thorough all the veins with an unknown humor, adventured of herself to commit unto a like Ambassador the deciphering of that which hitherto she had kept more secret, & thereupon wrote with her own hand & head in this wise:
|Good servant, I am out of all doubt much beholding unto you, and I have great comfort by your means in the stanching of my blood, and I take great comfort to read your letters, and I have found in my chamber divers songs which I think to be of your making, and I promise you, they are excellently made, and I assure you that I will be ready to do for you any pleasure that I can during my life: wherefore I pray you come to my chamber once in a day till I come abroad again, and I will be glad of your company, and for because that you have promised to be my HE: I will take upon me this name, your SHE.|
This letter I have seen of her own handwriting. And as therein the Reader may find great difference of Style from her former letter, so may you now understand the cause. She had in the same house a friend, a servant, a Secretary: what should I name him? such one as she esteemed in time past more than was cause in time present, and to make my tale good, I will (by report of my very good friend F. J.) describe him unto you. He was in height the proportion of two Pigmies, in breadth the thickness of two bacon hogs, of presumption a Giant, of power a Gnat, Apishly witted, Knavishly manner'd, & crabbedly favored. What was there in him then to draw a fair Lady's liking? Marry sir, even all in all, a well lined purse, wherewith he could at every call provide such pretty conceits as pleased her peevish fantasy, and by that means he had thoroughly (long before) insinuated himself with this amorous dame.
This manling, this minion, this slave, this secretary, was now by occasion ridden to London forsooth: and though his absence were unto her a disfurnishing of eloquence, it was yet unto F. J. an opportunity of good advantage, for when he perceived the change of her style, and thereby grew in some suspicion that the same proceeded by absence of her chief Chancellor, he thought good now to smite while the iron was hot and to lend his Mistress such a pen in her Secretaries absence as he should never be able at his return to amend the well writing thereof. Wherefore according to her command he repaired once every day to her chamber at the least, whereas he guided himself so well and could devise such store of sundry pleasures and pastimes that he grew in favor not only with his desired but also with the rest of the gentlewomen.
And one day passing the time amongst them, their play grew to this end, that his Mistress, being Queen, demanded of him these three questions. "Servant," quoth she, "I charge you, as well upon your allegiance being now my subject, as also upon your fidelity having vowed your service unto me, that you answer me these three questions by the very truth of your secret thought. First, what thing in this universal world doth most rejoice and comfort you?"
F. J., abasing his eyes towards the ground, took good advisement in his answer, when a fair gentlewoman of the company clapped him on the shoulder, saying, "How now sir, is your hand on your halfpenny?"
To whom he answered, "No, fair Lady, my hand is on my heart, and yet my heart is not in mine own hands": wherewithal abashed, turning towards dame Eleanor he said, "My sovereign & Mistress, according to the charge of your command and the duty that I owe you, my tongue shall bewray unto you the truth of mine intent. At this present, a reward given me without desert doth so rejoice me with continual remembrance thereof, that though my mind be so occupied to think thereon as that day nor night I can be quiet from that thought, yet the joy and pleasure which I conceive in the same is such that I can neither be cloyed with continuance thereof, nor yet afraid that any mishap can countervail so great a treasure. This is to me such a heaven to dwell in as that I feed by day and repose by night upon the fresh record of this reward." (This, as he sayeth. he meant by the kiss that she lent him in the Gallery, and by the profession of her last letters and words.)
Well, though this answer be somewhat misty, yet let my friend's excuse be that taken upon the sudden he thought better to answer darkly than to be mistrusted openly.
Her second question was, what thing in this life did most grieve his heart and disquiet his mind, whereunto he answered that although his late rehearsed joy were incomparable, yet the greatest enemy that disturbed the same was the privy worm of his own guilty conscience, which accused him evermore with great unworthiness: and that this was his greatest grief.
The Lady, biting upon the bit at his cunning answers made unto these two questions, gan thus reply. "Servant, I had thought to have touched you yet nearer with my third question, but I will refrain to attempt your patience. And now for my third demand, answer me directly: in what manner this passion doth handle you? and how these contraries may hang together by any possibility of concord? For your words are strange."
F. J., now rousing himself boldly, took occasion thus to handle his answer. "Mistress," quoth he, "my words indeed are strange, but yet my passion is much stranger, and thereupon this other day to content mine own fantasy I devised a Sonnet, which although it be a piece of Cockerels music and such as I might be ashamed to publish in this company, yet because my truth in this answer may the better appear unto you, I pray you vouchsafe to receive the same in writing," and drawing a paper out of his packet presented it unto her, wherein was written this Sonnet.
Love, hope, and death do stir in me such strife,
As never man but I led such a life.
First, burning love doth wound my heart to death,
And when death comes at call of inward grief,
Cold lingering hope doth feed my fainting breath
Against my will, and yields my wound relief:
So that I live, but yet my life is such,
As death would never grieve me half so much.
No comfort then but only this I taste,
To salve such sore, such hope will never want,
And with such hope, such life will ever last,
And with such life, such sorrows are not scant.
Oh strange desire, O life with torments toss'd:
Through too much hope, mine only hope is lost.
even HE. F. J.
This Sonnet was highly commended, and in my judgment it deserveth no less. I have heard F. J. say that he borrowed th'invention of an Italian: but, were it a translation or invention, (if I be judge) it is both pretty and pithy.
His duty thus performed, their pastimes ended; and, at their departure, for a watchword he counseled his Mistress by little and little to walk abroad, saying that the Gallery near adjoining was so pleasant, as if he were half dead he thought that by walking therein he might be half and more revived.
"Think you so, servant?" quoth she. "And the last time that I walked there I suppose I took the cause of my malady, but by your advice, and for you have so clerkly stanched my bleeding, I will assay to walk there tomorrow."
"Mistress," quoth he, "and in more full accomplishment of my duty towards you and in sure hope that you will use the same only to your own private commodity, will there await upon you, & between you & me will teach you the full order how to stanch the bleeding of any creature, whereby you shall be as cunning as myself."
"Gramercy, good servant," quoth she, "I think you lost the same in writing here yesterday, but I cannot understand it, and therefore tomorrow (if I feel myself any thing amended) I will send for you thither to instruct me thoroughly." Thus they departed.
The Adventures of Master F. J. by George Gascoigne, 1573