He swooned under her arm: the which when she perceived, it were hard to tell what fears did most affright her. But I have heard my friend F. J. confess that he was in a happy trance, and thought himself for divers causes unhappily revived. For surely I have heard him affirm that to die in such a passion had been rather pleasant than like to pangs of death. It were hard now to rehearse how he was revived, since there were none present but he dying, who could not declare, & she living, who would not disclose so much as I mean to bewray. For my friend F. J. hath to me imported that, returning to life, the first thing which he felt was that his good mistress lay pressing his breast with the whole weight of her body and biting his lips with her friendly teeth: and peradventure she refrained (either of courtesy towards him, or for womanish fear to hurt her tender hand) to strike him on the cheeks in such sort as they do that strive to call again a dying creature: and therefore thought this the aptest mean to reduce him unto remembrance.
F. J., now awaked, could no less do than of his courteous nature receive his Mistress into his bed. Who, as one that knew that way better than how to help his swooning, gan gently strip off her clothes, and lovingly embracing him gan demand of him in this sort. "Alas, good Servant," quoth she, "what kind of malady is this that so extremely doth torment thee?"
F. J. with fainting speech answered: "Mistress, as for my malady, it hath been easily cured by your bountiful medicines applied. But I must confess that in receiving that guerison at your hands I have been constrained to fall into an Ecstasy through the galding remembrance of mine own unworthiness. Nevertheless, good Mistress, since I perceive such fidelity remaining between us as that few words will persuade such trust as lovers ought to embrace, let these few words suffice to crave your pardon, and do eftsoons pour upon me, your unworthy servant, the abundant waves of your accustomed clemency: for I must confess that I have so highly offended you as, but your goodness surpass the malice of my conceits, I must remain (and that right worthily) to the severe punishment of my deserts: and so should you but lose him who hath cast away himself and neither can accuse you nor dare excuse himself of the crime."
Dame Eleanor, who had rather have found her servant perfectly revived than thus with strange conceits encumbered, and musing much at his dark speech, became importunate to know the certainty of his thoughts.
And F. J., as one not master of himself, gan at the last plainly confess how he had mistrusted the change of her vowed affections. Yea, and that more was, he plainly expressed with whom, of whom, by whom, and to whom she bent her better liking.
Now, here I would demand of you and such other as are expert: Is there any greater impediment to the fruition of a lover's delights than to be mistrusted? or rather, is it not the ready way to erase all love and former good will out of remembrance to tell a guilty mind that you do mistrust it?
It should seem yes by Dame Eleanor, who began now to take the matter hotly. And of such vehemency were her fancies that she now fell into flat defiance with F. J., who although he sought by many fair words to temper her choleric passions, and by yielding himself to get the conquest of another, yet could he by no means determine the quarrel. The soft pillows, being present at all these hot words, put forth themselves as mediators for a truce between these enemies and desired that (if they would needs fight) it might be in their presence but only one push of the pike, and so from thenceforth to become friends again forever.
But the Dame denied flatly, alleging that she found no cause at all to use such courtesy unto such a recreant, adding further many words of great reproach. The which did so enrage F. J. as that, having now forgotten all former courtesies, he drew upon his new professed enemy and bare her up with such a violence against the bolster, that before she could prepare the ward, he thrust her through both hands, and &c., whereby the Dame, swooning for fear, was constrained (for a time) to abandon her body to the enemy's courtesy.
At last when she came to herself, she rose suddenly and determined to save her self by flight, leaving F. J. with many despiteful words and swearing that he should never (eftsoons) take her at the like advantage, the which oath she kept better than her former professed good will.
And having now recovered her chamber, because she found her hurt to be nothing dangerous, I doubt not but she slept quietly the rest of the night. As F. J. also, persuading himself that he should with convenient leisure recover her from this haggard conceit, took some better rest towards the morning than he had done in many nights forepast.
So let them both sleep whiles I turn my pen unto the before named Secretary, who being (as I said) come lately from London, had made many proffers to renew his accustomed consultations: but the sorrow which his Mistress had conceived in F. J. his sickness, together with her continual repair to him during the same, had been such lets unto his attempts as it was long time before he could obtain audience. At the last, these new accidents fell so favorably for the furtherance of his cause that he came to his Mistress presence, and there pleaded for himself.
Now, if I should at large write his allegations together with her subtle answers, I should but cumber your ears with unpleasant rehearsal of feminine frailty. To be short, the late disdainful mode which she had conceived against F. J., together with a scruple which lay in her conscience touching the xi. article of her belief, moved her presently with better will to consult with this Secretary, as well upon a speedy revenge of her late received wrongs as also upon the reformation of her religion. And in very deed, it fell out that the Secretary having been of long time absent, & thereby his quills & pens not worn so near as they were wont to be, did now prick such fair large notes that his Mistress liked better to sing fa-burden under him than to descant any longer upon F. J. plainsong.
And thus they continued in good accord until it fortuned that Dame Frances came into her chamber upon such sudden as she had like to have marred all the music. Well, they conveyed their clefs as closely as they could, but yet not altogether without some suspicion given to the said dame Frances, who although she could have been content to take any pain in F. J.'s behalf, yet otherwise she would never have bestowed the watching about so worthless a prise.
After womanly salutations, they fell into sundry discourses, the Secretary still abiding in the chamber with them. At last, two or three other gentlewomen of the Castle came into Madam Eleanor's chamber, who after their Bon jour did all una voce seem to lament the sickness of F. J. and called upon the Dames Eleanor and Frances to go visit him again. The Lady Frances courteously consented, but Madame Eleanor first alleged that she herself was also sickly, the which she attributed to her late pains taken about F. J., and said that only for that cause she was constrained to keep her bed longer than her accustomed hour.
The Dames (but especially the Lady Frances) gan straight ways conjecture some great cause of sudden change, and so leaving dame Eleanor, walked altogether into the park to take the air of the morning. And as they thus walked it chanced that Dame Pergo heard a Cuckoo chant, who (because the pride of the spring was now past) cried "Cuck cuck Cuckoo" in her stammering voice.
"Aha," quoth Pergo, "this foul bird begins to fly the country, and yet before her departure see how spitefully she can devise to salute us."
"Not us," quoth Dame Frances, "but some other whom she hath espied."
Wherewith Dame Pergo, looking round about her and espying none other company, said, "Why, here is nobody but we few women," quoth she.
"Thanks be to God the house is not far from us," quoth Dame Frances.
Hereat the wily Pergo, partly perceiving Dame Frances meaning, replied on this sort: "I understand you not," quoth she, "but to leap out of this matter, shall we go visit Master F. J. and see how he doth this morning?"
"Why," quoth dame Frances, "do you suppose that the Cuckoo called unto him?"
"Nay, marry," quoth Pergo, for (as far as I know) he is not married."
"As who should say," quoth Dame Frances, "that the Cuckoo envieth none but married folks."
"I take it so," said Pergo.
The Lady Frances answered, "Yes, sure I have noted as evil luck in love after the cuckoos call to have happened unto divers unmarried folks as ever I did unto the married: but I can be well content that we go unto Master J., for I promised on the behalf of us all that we would use our best devoir to recomfort him until he had recovered health, and I do much marvel that the Lady Eleanor is now become so unwilling to take any travail in his behalf, especially remembering that but yesternight she was so diligent to bring him to bed. But I perceive that all earthly things are subject unto change."
"Even so they be," quoth Pergo, "for you may behold the trees which but even this other day were clad in gladsome green, and now their leaves begin to fade and change color."
Thus they passed talking and walking until they returned unto the Castle, whereas they went straight unto F. J.'s chamber & found him in bed. "Why how now, Trust," quoth Dame Frances, "will it be no better?"
"Yes, shortly, I hope," quoth F. J..
The Ladies all saluted him & he gave them the gramercy. At the last, Pergo popped this question unto him: "And how have you slept in your Mistress' sheets, Master F. J.?" quoth she. "Reasonable well," quoth F. J., "but I pray you, where is my Mistress this morning?"
"Marry," said Pergo, "we left her in bed scarce well at ease."
"I am the more sorry," quoth F. J..
"Why, Trust," said Mistress Frances, "be of good comfort, and assure yourself that here are others who would be as glad of your well doing as your Mistress in any respect."
"I ought not to doubt thereof," quoth F. J., "having the proof that I have had of your great courtesies, but I thought it my duty to ask for my Mistress being absent."
Thus they passed some time with him until they were called away unto prayers, and that being finished they went to dinner, where they met Dame Eleanor attired in a night kerchief after the sullenest (the solemnest fashion I should have said), who looked very drowsily upon all folks unless it were her secretary, unto whom she deigned sometime to lend a friendly glance.
The Lord of the Castle demanded of her how F. J. did this morning. She answered that she knew not, for she had not seen him that day.
"You may do well then, daughter," quoth the Lord, "to go now unto him & to assay if he will eat any thing, & if here be no meats that like him, I pray you command for him any thing that is in my house."
"You must pardon me sir," quoth she, "I am sickly disposed, and would be loath to take the air."
"Why then, go you, Mistress Frances," quoth he, "and take somebody with you: and I charge you see that he lack nothing."
Mistress Frances was glad of the ambassade, & arising from the table with one other gentlewoman, took with her a dish of chickens boiled in white broth, saying to her father, "I think this meat meetest for Master J. of any that is here."
"It is so," quoth he, "daughter, and if he like not that cause somewhat else to be dressed for him according to his appetite."
Thus she departed and came to F. J. who, being plunged in sundry woes and thrilled with restless thoughts, was now beginning to arise: but, seeing the Dames, couched down again and said unto them, "Alas, fair Ladies, you put yourselves to more pains than either I do desire or can deserve."
"Good Trust," quoth Dame Frances, "our pains are no greater than duty requireth nor yet so great as we could vouchsafe in your behalf, and presently my father hath sent us unto you," quoth she, "with this pittance, and if your appetite desire any one thing more than other, we are to desire likewise that you will not refrain to call for it."
"Oh, my good Hope," quoth he, "I perceive that I shall not die as long as you may make me live." And being now some deal recomforted with the remembrance of his Mistress' words which she had used over night at her first coming, and also thinking that although she parted in choler, it was but justly provoked by himself, and that at leisure he should find some salve for that sore also, he determined to take the comfort of his assured Hope and so to expel all venoms of mistrust before received. Wherefore, raising himself in his bed, he cast a nightgown about his shoulders, saying: "It shall never be said that my fainting heart can reject the comfortable Cordials of so friendly physicians."
"Now by my troth, well said, gentle Trust," quoth Dame Frances, "and in so doing assure yourself of guerison with speed." This thus said, the courteous Dame became his carver, & he with a bold spirit gan taste of her cookery, but the late conflicts of his conceits had so disacquainted his stomach from repasts that he could not well away with meat: and yet nevertheless by little & little received some nurture.
When his Hope had crammed him as long as she could make him feed, they delivered the rest to the other gentlewoman, who, having not dined, fell to her provender. In which meanwhile the Lady Frances had much comfortable speech with F. J. and declared that she perceived very well the cause of his malady. "But, my Trust," quoth she, "be all whole, and remember what I foretold you in the beginning. Nevertheless you must think that there are remedies for all mischiefs, and if you will be ruled by mine advise, we will soon find the mean to ease you of this mishap."
F. J. took comfort in her discretion, and, friendly kissing her hand, gave her a cartload of thanks for her great good will, promising to put to his uttermost force and evermore to be ruled by her advise. Thus they passed the dinner while, the Lady Frances always refusing to declare her conceit of the late change which she perceived in his Mistress, for she thought best first to win his will unto conformity by little and little, and then in the end to persuade him with necessity.
When the other gentlewoman had victualed her, they departed, requiring F. J. to arise and boldly to resist the faintness of his fever, the which he promised and so bade them a Dio.
The Ladies at their return found the court in Dame Eleanor's chamber, who had there assembled her secretary, Dam Pergo, and the rest. There they passed an hour or twain in sundry discourses, wherein Dame Pergo did always cast out some bone for Mistress Frances to gnaw upon, for that indeed she perceived her hearty affection towards F. J., whereat Mistress Frances changed no countenance but reserved her revenge until a better opportunity.
At last quoth Dame Frances unto Mistress Eleanor, "And when will you go unto your servant, fair Lady?"
"When he is sick and I am whole," quoth Dame Eleanor.
"That is even now," quoth the other, "for how sick he is yourself can witness: and how well you are, we must bear record."
"You may as well be deceived in my disposition," quoth Dame Eleanor, "as I was overseen in his sudden alteration. And if he be sick you are meetest to be his physician: for you saw yesterday that my pains did little profit towards his recomfort."
"Yes, surely," said the other, "not only I but all the rest had occasion to judge that your courtesy was his chief comfort."
"Well," quoth Dame Eleanor, "you know not what I know."
"Nor you what I think," quoth Dame Frances.
"Think what you list," quoth Eleanor.
"Indeed," quoth Frances, "I may not think that you care, neither will I die for your displeasure." And so half angry she departed.
At supper they met again, and the Master of the house demanded of his daughter Frances how F. J. did?
"Sir," quoth she, "he did eat somewhat at dinner, and sithens I saw him not."
"The more to blame," quoth he, "and now I would have all you gentlewomen take of the best meats and go sup with him, for company driveth away carefulness; and leave you me here with your leavings alone."
"Nay, sir," quoth Mistress Eleanor, "I pray you give me leave to bear you company, for I dare not adventure thither."
The Lord of the Castle was contented & dispatched away the rest: who taking with them such viands as they thought meetest, went unto F. J.'s chamber, finding him up and walking about to recover strength, whereat Dame Frances rejoiced and declared how her father had sent that company to attend him at supper.
The Adventures of Master F. J. by George Gascoigne, 1573