"Are you so well acquainted with the disposition of his body?" quoth the Lord of the house.
"By his own saying," quoth she, "& not otherwise."
"Fair Lady," quoth F. J., "you either mistook me or overheard me then, for I told of a comfortable humor which so fed me with continual remembrance of joy as that my stomach being full thereof doth desire in manner none other victuals."
"Why sir," quoth the host, "do you then live by love?"
"God forbid, Sir," quoth F. J., "for then my cheeks would be much thinner then they be, but there are divers other greater causes of joy then the doubtful lots of love, and for mine own part, to be plain, I cannot love and I dare not hate."
"I would I thought so," quoth the gentlewoman.
And thus with pretty nips they passed over their supper: which ended, the Lord of the house required F. J. to dance and pass the time with the gentlewomen, which he refused not to do. But suddenly, before the music was well tuned, came out Dame Eleanor in her night attire and said to the Lord that (supposing the solitariness of her chamber had increased her malady) she came out for her better recreation to see them dance.
"Well done, daughter," quoth the Lord.
"And I, Mistress," quoth F. J., "would gladly bestow the leading of you about this great chamber, to drive away the faintness of your fever."
"No, good servant," quoth the Lady, "but in my stead I pray you dance with this fair Gentlewoman," pointing him to the Lady that had so taken him up at supper. F. J. to avoid mistrust, did agree to her request without further entreaty. The dance begun, this Knight marched on with the Image of St. Frances in his hand, and St. Eleanor in his heart.
The violins at end of the pavan stayed a while, in which time this Dame said to F. J. on this wise: "I am right sorry for you in two respects, although the familiarity have hitherto had no great continuance between us, and as I do lament your case, so do I rejoice (for mine own contentation) that I shall now see a due trial of the experiment which I have long desired."
This said, she kept silence. When F. J. (somewhat astonied with her strange speech) thus answered: "Mistress, although I cannot conceive the meaning of your words, yet by courtesy I am constrained to yield you thanks for your good will, the which appeareth no less in lamenting of mishaps than in rejoicing at good fortune. What experiment you mean to try by me, I know not, but I dare assure you that my skill in experiments is very simple."
Herewith the Instruments sounded a new Measure, and they passed forthwards, leaving to talk until the noise ceased: which done, the gentlewoman replied. "I am sorry sir, that you did erewhile deny love and all his laws, and that in so open audience."
"Not so," quoth F. J., "but as the word was roundly taken, so can I readily answer it by good reason."
"Well," quoth she, "how if the hearers will admit no reasonable answer?"
"My reason shall yet be nevertheless," quoth he, "in reasonable judgment." Herewith she smiled, and he cast a glance towards dame Eleanor askance, as who sayeth art thou pleased?
Again the viols called them forthwards, and again at the end of the braule said F. J. to this gentlewoman: "I pray you, Mistress, and what may be the second cause of your sorrow sustained in my behalf?"
"Nay, soft," quoth she, "percase I have not yet told you the first. But content yourself, for the second cause you shall never know at my hands until I see due trial of the experiment which I have long desired."
"Why then," quoth he, "I can but wish a present occasion to bring the same to effect, to the end that I might also understand the mystery of your meaning."
"And so might you fail of your purpose," quoth she, "for I mean to be better assured of him that shall know the depth of mine intent in such a secret than I do suppose that any creature (one except) may be of you."
"Gentlewoman," quoth he, "you speak Greek, the which I have now forgotten, and mine instructors are too far from me at this present to expound your words."
"Or else too near," quoth she, and so, smiling, stayed her talk when the music called them to another dance.
Which ended, F. J. half afraid of false suspect, and more amazed at this strange talk, gave over, and bringing Mistress Frances to her place was thus saluted by his Mistress. "Servant," quoth she, "I had done you great wrong to have danced with you, considering that this gentlewoman and you had former occasion of so weighty conference."
"Mistress," said F. J., "you had done me great pleasure, for by our conference I have but brought my brains in a busy conjecture."
"I doubt not," said his Mistress, "but you will end that business easily."
"It is hard," said F. J., "to end the thing whereof yet I have found no beginning."
His Mistress with change of countenance kept silence, whereat dame Frances, rejoicing, cast out this bone to gnaw on. "I perceive," quoth she,"it is evil to halt before a Cripple."
F. J. perceiving now that his Mistress waxed angry, thought good on her behalf thus to answer: "And it is evil to hop before them that run for the Bell."
His Mistress replied, "And it is evil to hang the Bell at their heels which are always running."
The Lord of the Castle, overhearing these proper quips, rose out of his chair, and coming towards F. J. required him to dance a Galliard.
"Sir," said F. J., "I have hitherto at your appointment but walked about the house. Now, if you be desirous to see one tumble a turn or twain, it is like enough that I might provoke you to laugh at me. But in good faith, my dancing days are almost done, and therefore, sir," quoth he, "I pray you speak to them that are more nimble at tripping on the toe."
Whilst he was thus saying, dame Eleanor had made her Congé and was now entering the door of her chamber, when F. J., all amazed at her sudden departure, followed to take leave of his Mistress: but she, more then angry, refused to hear his good night, and entering her chamber caused her maid to clap the door.
F. J. with heavy cheer returned to his company, and Mistress Frances, to touch his sore with a corrosive, said to him softly in this wise. "Sir, you may now perceive that this our country cannot allow the French manner of dancing, for they (as I have heard tell) do more commonly dance to talk then entreat to dance."
F. J. hoping to drive out one nail with another, and thinking this a mean most convenient to suppress all jealous supposes, took Mistress Frances by the hand and with a heavy smile answered, "Mistress, and I (because I have seen the French manner of dancing) will eftsoons entreat you to dance a Barginet."
"What mean you by this?" quoth Mistress Frances.
"If it please you to follow," quoth he, "you shall see that I can jest without joy, and laugh without lust," and calling the musicians, caused them softly to sound the Tinternell, when he clearing his voice did Alla Napolitana apply these verses following unto the measure:
In prime of lusty years, when Cupid caught me in,
And nature taught the way to love, how I might best begin:
To please my wand'ring eye in beauties tickle trade,
To gaze on each that passed by, a careless sport I made.
With sweet enticing bait, I fish'd for many a dame,
And smiling yet full oft, I have beheld that face,
What will you more? So oft my gazing eyes did seek
Then, all too late aghast, I did my foot retire,
Or as the feeble sight would search the sunny beam,
And since none other joy I had but her to see,
Yet hope my comfort stay'd, that she would have regard
The fairest Wolf will choose the foulest for her make,
When floods of flowing tears had wash'd my weeping eyes,
And when she saw by proof the pith of my good will,
These verses are more in number than do stand with contentation of some judgments, and yet, the occasion thoroughly considered, I can commend them with the rest, for it is (as may be well termed) continua oratio, declaring a full discourse of his first love: wherein (over and besides that the Epithets are aptly applied & the verse of itself pleasant enough) I note that by it he meant in clouds to decipher unto Mistress Frances such matter as she would snatch at, and yet could take no good hold of the same. Furthermore, it answered very aptly to the note which the music sounded, as the skilful reader by due trial may approve.
This singing dance or dancing song ended, Mistress Frances, giving due thanks, seemed weary also of the company, and proffering to depart, gave yet this farewell to F. J., not vexed by choler, but pleased with contentation, and called away by heavy sleep: "I am constrained," quoth she, "to bid you good night," and so turning to the rest of the company, took her leave.
The Adventures of Master F. J. by George Gascoigne, 1573