The husband of the Lady Eleanor, being all this while absent from her, gan now return, & kept Cut at home, with whom F. J. found means so to insinuate himself that familiarity took deep root between them and seldom but by stealth you could find the one out of the other's company. On a time, the knight riding on hunting, desired F. J. to accompany him, the which he could not refuse to do, but like a lusty younker, ready at all assays, apparelled himself in green, and about his neck a Bugle, pricking & galloping amongst the foremost according to the manner of that country. And it chanced that the married Knight thus galloping lost his horn, which some divines might have interpreted to be but molting, & that by Gods grace, he might have a new come up again shortly in stead of that. Well, he came to F. J., requiring him to lend him his Bugle, for (said the Knight) "I heard you not blow this day, and I would fain encourage the hounds, if I had a horn."
Quoth F. J., "Although I have not been over lavish of my coming hitherto, I would you should not doubt but that I can tell how to use a horn well enough, and yet I may little do if I may not lend you a horn," and therewithal took his Bugle from his neck and lent it to the Knight, who making in unto the hounds, gan assay to rechat: but the horn was too hard for him to wind, whereat F. J. took pleasure and said to himself, "Blow till thou break that: I made thee one within these few days that thou wilt never crack whiles thou livest." And hereupon (before the fall of the Buck) devised this Sonnet following, which at his homecoming he presented unto his Mistress.
As some men say there is a kind of seed
Will grow to horns if it be sowed thick,
Wherewith I thought to try if I could breed
A brood of buds well sharped on the prick:
And by good proof of learned skill I found,
As on some special soil all seeds best frame,
So jealous brains do breed the battleground,
That best of all might serve to bear the same.
Then sought I forth to find such supple soil,
And call'd to mind thy husband had a brain,
So that percase by travail and by toil
His fruitful front might turn my seed to gain:
And as I groped in that ground to sow it,
Start up a horn, thy husband could not blow it.
This Sonnet treateth of a strange seed, but it tasteth most of Rye, which is more common amongst men nowadays. Well, let it pass amongst the rest, & he that liketh it not, turn over the leaf to another; I doubt not but in this register he may find some to content him, unless he be too curious.And here I will surcease to rehearse any more of his verses until I have expressed how that his joys, being now exalted to the highest degree, began to bend towards declination.
For now the unhappy Secretary, whom I have before remembered, was returned from London, on who F. J. had no sooner cast his eyes but immediately he fell into a great passion of mind which might be compared unto a fever. This fruit grew of the good instructions that his Hope had planted in his mind, whereby I might take just occasion to forewarn every lover how they suffer this venomous serpent jealousy to creep into their conceits: for surely, of all other diseases in love, I suppose that to be uncurable, and would hold longer discourse therein, were it not that both this tale and the verses of F. J. himself hereafter to be recited shall be sufficient to speak for me in this behalf.
The lover (as I say, upon the sudden) was droven into such a malady as no meat might nourish his body, no delights please his mind, no remembrance of joys forepassed content him, nor any hope of the like to come might recomfort him: hereat, some unto whom I have imparted this tale have take occasion to discommend his fainting heart. Yet surely, the cause inwardly & deeply considered, I cannot so lightly condemn him, for an old saying is that every man can give counsel better than follow it: and needs must the conflicts of his thoughts be strange, between the remembrance of his forepassed pleasure and the present sight of this monster whom before (for lack of like instruction) he had not so thoroughly marked and beheld.
Well, such was the grief unto him that he became sickly and kept his chamber. The Ladies having received the news thereof, gan all at once lament his misfortune, and of common consent agreed to visit him. They marched thither in good equipage, I warrant you, and found F. J. lying upon his bed languishing, who they all saluted generally, and sought to recomfort, but especially his Mistress, having in her hand a branch of willow wherewith she defended her from the hot air, gan thus say unto him: "Servant," quoth she, "for that I suppose your malady to proceed of none other cause but only slothfulness, I have brought this pretty rod to beat you a little; nothing doubting but when you feel the smart of a twig or twain, you will like a tractable young scholar pluck up your quickened spirits & cast this drowsiness apart."
F. J. with a great sigh answered: "Alas, good Mistress," quoth he, "if any like chastisement might quicken me, how much more might the presence of all you lovely Dames recomfort my dulled mind? whom to behold were sufficient to revive an eye now dazzled with the dread of death, and that not only for the heavenly aspects which you represent, but also much the more for your exceeding courtesy in that you have deigned to visit me so unworthy a servant. But good Mistress," quoth he, "as it were shame for me to confess that ever my heart could yield for fear, so I assure you that my mind cannot be content to induce infirmity by sluggish conceit. But in truth, Mistress, I am sick," quoth he, and therewithal the trembling of his heart had sent up such throbbing into his throat as that his voice (now deprived of breath) commanded the tongue to be still.
When Dame Eleanor, for compassion, distilled into tears and drew towards the window, leaving the other Gentlewomen about his bed, who being no less sorry for his grief, yet for that they were none of them so touched in their secret thoughts, they had bolder sprits and freer speech to recomfort him. Amongst the rest, the Lady Frances (who indeed loved him deeply and could best conjecture the cause of his conceits) said unto him: "Good Trust," quoth she, "if any help of Physic may cure your malady, I would not have you hurt yourself with these doubts which you seem to retain. If choice of Diet may help, behold us here (your cooks) ready to minister all things needful. If company may drive away your annoy, we mean not to leave you solitary. If grief of mind be cause of your infirmity, we all here will offer our devoir to turn it into joy. If mishap have given you cause to fear or dread any thing, remember Hope, which never faileth to recomfort an afflicted mind. And good Trust," quoth she, distraining his hand right heartily, "let this simple proof of our poor good wills be so accepted of you as that it may work thereby the effect of our desires."
F. J. (as one in a trance) had marked very little of her courteous talk, and yet gave her thanks, and so held his peace. Whereat the Ladies being all amazed, there became a silence in the chamber on all sides. Dame Eleanor, fearing thereby that she might the more easily be espied, and having now dried up her tears, returned to F. J., recomforting him by all possible means of common courtesy, promising that since in her sickness he had not only stanched her bleeding, but also by his gentle company and sundry devices of honest pastime had driven away the pensiveness of her mind, she thought herself bound with like willingness to do her best in any thing that might restore his health; and taking him by the hand, said further: "Good servant, if thou bear indeed any true affection to thy poor Mistress, start upon thy feet again and let her enjoy thine accustomed service to her comfort; for sure," quoth she, "I will never leave to visit this chamber once in a day until I may have thee down with me."
F. J., hearing the hearty words of his Mistress and perceiving the earnest manner of her pronunciation, began to receive unspeakable comfort in the same, and said, "Mistress, your exceeding courtesy were able to revive a man half dead, and to me it is both great comfort and it doth also gald my remembrance with a continual smart of mine own unworthiness: but as I would desire no longer life than till I might be able to deserve some part of your bounty, so I will endeavor myself to live, were it but only unto that end that I might merit some part of your favor with acceptable service, and requite some deal the courtesy of all these other fair Ladies, who have so far above my deserts deigned to do me good."
Thus said, the Ladies tarried not long before they were called to Evensong, when his Mistress taking his hand, kissed it saying: "Farewell, good servant, and I pray thee suffer not the malice of thy sickness to overcome the gentleness of thy good heart."
F. J., ravished with joy, suffered them all to depart and was not able to pronounce one word. After their departure, he gan cast in his mind the exceeding courtesy used towards him by them all: but above all other the bounty of his Mistress, and therewithal took a sound and firm opinion that it was not possible for her to counterfeit so deeply (as indeed I believe that she then did not). Whereby he suddenly felt his heart greatly eased, and began in himself thus to reason: "Was ever man of so wretched a heart? I am the most bounden to love," quoth he, "of all them that ever professed his service, I enjoy one the fairest that ever was found, and I find her the kindest that ever was heard of: yet in mine own wicked heart I could villainously conceive that of her, which being compared with the rest of her virtues is not possible to harbor in so noble a mind. Hereby I have brought my self without cause into this feebleness, and good reason that for so high an offence I should be punished with great infirmity. What shall I then do? yield to the same? No, but according to my late protestation I will recomfort this languishing mind of mine, to the end I may live but only to do penance for this so notable a crime so rashly committed."
And thus saying, he start from his bed, and gan to walk towards the window: but the venomous serpent which (as before I rehearsed) had stung him could not be content that these medicines applied by the mouth of his gentle Mistress should so soon restore him to guerison. And although in deed they were such Mithridate to F. J. as that they had now expelled the rancor of the poison, yet that ugly hellish monster had left behind her in the most secret of his bosom (even between the mind and the man) one of her familiars named Suspect, which gan work in the weak spirits of F. J. effects of no less peril than before he had conceived: his head swelling with these troublesome toys and his heart swimming in the tempests of tossing fantasy: he felt his legs so feeble, that he was constrained to lie down on his bed again, and repeating in his own remembrance every word that his Mistress had spoken unto him, he gan to dread that she had brought the willow branch to beat him with in token that he was of her forsaken: for so lovers do most commonly expound the willow garland. And this to think, did cut his heart in twain.
The Adventures of Master F. J. by George Gascoigne, 1573