"Mistress," quoth F. J., "I have assayed my feet since your departure, but I find them yet unable to support my heavy body, and therefore am constrained as you see to acquaint myself with these pillows."
"Servant," said she, "I am right sorry thereof, but since it is of necessity to bear sickness, I will employ my devoir to allay some part of your pains and to refresh your weary limbs with some comfortable matter."
And therewithal, calling her handmaid, delivered unto her a bunch of pretty little keys, and whispering in her ear dispatched her towards her chamber. The maid tarried not long but returned with a little Casket, the which her Mistress took, opened, and drew out of the same much fine linen, amongst the which she took a pillowbere very fine and sweet, which although it were of itself as sweet as might be, being of long time kept in that odoriferous chest, yet did she with damask water (and that the best that might be, I warrant you) all to sprinkle it with her own hands, which in my conceit might much amend the matter. Then, calling for a fresh pillow, sent her maid to air the same, and at her return put on this thus perfumed pillowbere. In mean time also she had with her own hands attired her servant's head in a fair wrought kerchief taken out of the same Casket, then laid him down upon this fresh and pleasant place, and prettily as it were in sport, bedewed his temples with sweet water which she had ready in a casting bottle of Gold, kissing his cheek and saying: "Good servant be whole, for I might not long endure thus to attend thee, and yet the love that I bear towards thee cannot be content to see thee languish."
"Mistress," said F. J. (and that with a trembling voice), "assure yourself that if there remain in me any spark of life or possibility of recovery, then may this excellent bounty of yours be sufficient to revive me without any further travail or pain unto your person, for whom I am highly to blame in that I do not spare to put you unto this trouble: and better it were that such a wretch as I had died unknown than that by your exceeding courtesy you should fall into any malady, either by resorting unto me or by these your pains taken about me."
"Servant," quoth she, "all pleasures seem painful to them that take no delight therein, and likewise all toil seemeth pleasant to such as set their felicity in the same, but for me, be you sure, I do it with so good a will that I can take no hurt thereby unless I shall perceive that it be rejected or neglected as unprofitable or uncomfortable unto you."
"To me, Mistress," quoth F. J., "it is such pleasure as neither my feeble tongue can express nor my troubled mind conceive."
"Why? are you troubled in mind then, servant?" quoth dame Eleanor.
F. J., now blushing, answered, "But even as all sick men be, Mistress."
Herewith they stayed their talk a while, and the first that brake silence was the Lady Frances, who said: "And to drive away the troubles of your mind, good Trust, I would be glad if we could devise some pastime amongst us to keep you company, for I remember that with such devices you did greatly recomfort this fair Lady when she languished in like sort."
"She languished indeed, gentle Hope," quoth F. J., "but God forbid that she had languished in like sort."
"Every body thinketh their grief greatest," quoth dame Eleanor, "but indeed whether my grief were the more or the less, I am right sorry that yours is such as it is. And to assay whither our passions proceeded of like cause or not, I would we could (according to this Lady's saying) devise some like pastimes to try if your malady would be cured with like medicines."
A gentlewoman of the company whom I have not hitherto named, and that for good respects, lest her name might altogether disclose the rest, gan thus propound. "We have accustomed," quoth she, "heretofore in most of our games to choose a King or Queen, and he or she during their government have charged every of us either with commandments or questions as best seemed to their majesty: wherein to speak mine opinion we have given over large a scope, neither seemeth it reasonable that one should have the power to discover the thoughts, or at least to bridle the affects, of all the rest. And though indeed in questioning (which doth of the twain more nearly touch the mind), everyone is at free liberty to answer what they list: yet oft have I heard a question demanded in such sort and upon such sudden that it hath been hardly answered without moving matter of contention. And in commands also sometimes it happeneth one to be commanded unto such service as either they are unfit to accomplish (and then the party's weakness is thereby detected) or else to do something that they would not, whereof ensueth more grouch then game. Wherefore, in mine opinion, we shall do well to choose by lot amongst us a governor who, for that it shall be sufficient preeminence to use the chair of majesty, shall be bound to give sentence upon all such arguments and questions as we shall orderly propound unto them, and from him or her (as from an oracle) we will receive answer, and deciding of our litigious causes." This dame had stuff in her, an old courtier, and a wily wench, whom for this discourse I will name Pergo, lest her name natural were to broad before, and might not drink of all waters.
Well, this proportion of Pergo pleased them well, and by lot it happened that F. J. must be moderator of these matters and collector of these causes. The which being so constituted, the Lady Eleanor said unto this dame Pergo, "You have devised this pastime," quoth she, "& because we think you to be most expert in the handling thereof, do you propound the first question, & we shall be both the more ready and able to follow your example."
The Lady Pergo refused not, but began on this wise.
"Noble governor," quoth she, "amongst the adventures that have befallen me I remember especially this one, that in youth it was my chance to be beloved of a very courtlike young gentleman who abode near the place wherein my parents had their resiance. This gentleman, whether it were for beauty or for any other respect that he saw in me, I know not, but he was enamored of me, & that with an exceeding vehement passion. & of such force were his affects that, notwithstanding many repulses which he had received at my hands, he seemed daily to grow in the renewing of his desires.
"I on the other side, although I could by no means mislike of him by any good reason, considering that he was of birth no way inferior unto me, of possessions not to be disdained, of person right comely, of behavior Courtly, of manners modest, of mind liberal, and of virtuous disposition: yet such was the gaiety of my mind as that I could not be content to lend him over large thongs of my love, but always dangerously behaved myself towards him, and in such sort as he could neither take comfort of mine answers nor yet once find himself requited with one good look for all his travail. This notwithstanding, the worthy Knight continued his suit with no less vehement affection than erst he had begun it, even by the space of seven years.
"At the last, whether discomfited by my dealings, or tired by long travail, or that he had percase lit upon the lake that is in the forest of Ardennes and so in haste and all thirsty had drunk some drops of disdain whereby his hot flames were quenched, or that he had undertaken to serve no longer but his just term of apprenticehood, or that the teeth of time had gnawn and tired his dulled spirits in such sort as that all benumbed he was constrained to use some other artificial balm for the quickening of his senses, or by what cause moved I know not, he did not only leave his long continued suit, but (as I have since perceived) grew to hate me more deadly than before I had disdained him.
"At the first beginning of his retire, I perceived not his hatred, but imagined that being overwearied he had withdrawn himself for a time. And considering his worthiness, therewithal his constancy of long time proved, I thought that I could not in the whole world find out a fitter match to bestow myself than on so worthy a person, wherefore I did by all possible means procure that he might eftsoons use his accustomed repair unto my parents. And further, in all places where I happened to meet him I used all the courtesies towards him that might be contained within the bonds of modesty. But all was in vain, for he was now become more dangerous to be won than the haggard Falcon.
"Our lots being thus unluckily changed, I grew to burn in desire, and the more dangerous that he showed himself unto me, the more earnest I was by all means to procure his consent of love. At the last, I might perceive that not only he disdained me but, as me thought, boiled in hatred against me. And the time that I thus continued tormented with these thoughts was also just the space of seven years.
"Finally, when I perceived no remedy for my perplexities, I assayed by absence to wear away this malady, and therefore utterly refused to come in his presence, yea, or almost in any other company. Whereby I have consumed in lost time the flower of my youth and am become, as you see, (what with years and what with the tormenting passions of love) pale, wan, and full of wrinkles. Nevertheless, I have thereby gained thus much: that at last I have wound myself clear out of Cupid's chains and remain careless at liberty.
"Now mark to what end I tell you this: First, vii. years passed in the which I could never be content to yield unto his just desires. Next, other vii. years I spent in seeking to recover his lost love. And sithens both those vii. years, there are even now on Saint Valentines day last other vii. years passed, in the which neither I have desired to see him, nor he hath coveted to hear of me.
"My parents now perceiving how the crowsfoot is crept under mine eye and remembering the long suit that this gentleman had in youth spent on me, considering therewithal that green youth is well mellowed in us both, have of late sought to persuade a marriage between us, the which the Knight hath not refused to hear of, and I have not disdained to think on. By their mediation we have bin eftsoons brought to Parley, wherein over and besides the ripping up of many old griefs, this hath been chiefly rehearsed & objected between us: what wrong and injury each of us hath done to other. And hereabouts we have fallen to sharp contention: he alleged that much greater is the wrong which I have done unto him than that repulse which he hath sithens used to me: and I have affirmed the contrary. The matter yet hangeth in variance.
"Now, of you worthy Governor, I would be most glad to hear this question decided, remembering that there was no difference in the times between us: and surely, unless your judgment help me, I am afraid my marriage will be marred, and I may go lead Apes in hell."
F. J. answered, "Good Pergo, I am sorry to hear so lamentable a discourse of your luckless love, and much the sorrier in that I must needs give sentence against you. For surely great was the wrong that either of you have done to other, and greater was the needless grief which causeless each of you hath conceived in this long time, but greatest in my judgment hath been both the wrong and the grief of the Knight, in that notwithstanding his deserts (which yourself confess) he never enjoyed any guerdon of love at your hands. And you (as you allege) did enjoy his love of long time together. So that by the reckoning it will fall out (although being blinded in your own conceit you see it not) that of the one & twenty years, you enjoyed his love vii. at the least, but that ever he enjoyed yours we cannot perceive. And much greater is the wrong that rewardeth evil for good than that which requireth tip for tap. Further, it seemeth that where as you went about in time to try him, you did altogether lose time which can never be recovered: and not only lost your own time, whereof you would seem now to lament, but also compelled him to lose his time, which he might (be it spoken without offence to you) have bestowed in some other worthy place. And therefore, as that grief is much greater which hath no kind of comfort to allay it, so much more is that wrong which altogether without cause is offered."
"And I," said Pergo, "must needs think that much easier is it for them to endure grief which never tasted of joy, and much less is that wrong which is so willingly proffered to be by recompense restored: for if this Knight will confess that he never had cause to rejoice in all the time of his service, then with better contentation might he abide grief than I who, having tasted of the delight which I did secretly conceive of his deserts, do think each grief a present death by the remembrance of those forepassed thoughts: & less wrong seemeth it to be destitute of the thing which was never obtained than to be deprived of a jewel whereof we have been already possessed. So that, under your correction, I might conclude that greater hath been my grief & injury sustained than that of the Knight."
To whom F. J. replied, "As touching delight, it may not be denied but that every lover doth take delight in the inward contemplation of his mind to think of the worthiness of his beloved, & therefore you may not allege that the Knight had never cause to rejoice unless you will altogether condemn yourself of unworthiness. Marry, if you will say that he tasted not the delights that lovers seek, then mark, who was the cause but yourself? And if you would accuse him of like ingratitude, for that he disdained you in the latter vii. years when as he might by accepting your love have recompensed himself of all former wrongs, you must remember therewithal that the cruelty by you showed towards him was such that could by no means perceive that your change proceeded of good will, but rather eftsoons to hold him enchained in unknown links of subtle dealings, & therefore not without cause he doubted you: & yet without cause you rejected him. He had often sought occasion, but by your refusals he could never find him: you having occasion fast by the foretop did dally with him so long, till at last he slipped his head from you. & then catching at the bald noddle, you found yourself the cause, & yet you would accuse another. To conclude, greater is the grief that is sustained without desert and much more is the wrong that is offered without cause."
Thus F. J. decided the question propounded by Pergo & expected that some other Dame should propound another: but his mistress (having her hand on another halfpenny) gan thus say unto him. "Servant, this pastime is good, and such as I must needs like of, to drive away your pensive thoughts: but sleeping time approacheth & I fear we disquiet you, wherefore the rest of this time we will (if so like you) bestow in trimming up your bed, and tomorrow we shall meet here and renew this new begun game with Madame Pergo."
"Mistress," quoth F. J., "I must obey your will, and most humbly thank you of your great goodness and all these Ladies for their courtesy: even so, requiring you that you will no further trouble yourselves about me, but let my servant alone with conducting me to bed."
"Yes, servant," quoth she, "I will see if you can sleep any better in my sheets," and therewith commanded her handmaid to fetch a pair of clean sheets. The which being brought (marvelous fine and sweet), the Ladies Frances and Eleanor did courteously unfold them and laid them on the bed, which done, they also entreated F. J. to unclothe him and go to bed.
Being laid, his Mistress dressed and couched the clothes about him, sithens moistened his temples with rosewater, gave him handkerchiefs and other fresh linen about him, in doing whereof, she whispered in his ear, saying: "Servant, this night I will be with thee," and after with the rest of the Dames gave him good night and departed, leaving F. J. in a trance between hope and despair, trust and mistrust. Thus he lay ravished, commanding his servant to go to bed, and feigning that himself would assay if he could sleep.
The Adventures of Master F. J. by George Gascoigne, 1573