A discourse of the adventures passed by Master F. J.

12 - "And if I did, what then?"

Thus they departed, and how all parties took rest that night I know not. But in the morning, F. J. began to consider with himself that he might lie long enough in his bed before his mistress would be appeased in her peevish conceits. Wherefore he arose &, being apparelled in his nightgown, took occasion to walk in the gallery near adjoining unto his Mistress chamber: but there might he walk long enough ere his mistress would come to walk with him.

When dinner time came, he went into the great chamber, whereas the Lord of the castle saluted him, being joyful of his recovery. F. J., giving due thanks, declared that his friendly entertainment together with the great courtesy of the gentlewomen was such as might revive a man although he were half dead.

"I would be loath," quoth the host, "that any gentleman coming to me for good will should want any courtesy of entertainment that lieth in my power."

When the meat was served to the table, the gentlewomen came in; all but Dame Eleanor & mistress Pergo, the which F. J. marked very well, & it did somewhat abate his appetite.

After dinner, his Hope came unto him and demanded of him how he would pass the day for his recreation? To whom he answered, even as it best pleased her.

She devised to walk into the park & so by little & little to acquaint himself with the air. He agreed & they walked together, being accompanied with one or two other gentlewomen.

Here (lest you should grow in some wrong conceit of F. J.), I must put you out of doubt that although there were now more cause that he should mistrust his mistress than ever he had before received, yet the vehement passions which he saw in her when she first came to visit him &, moreover, the earnest words which she pronounced in his extremity, were such a refreshing to his mind as that he determined no more to trouble himself with like conceits: concluding further that if his mistress were not faulty, then had he committed a foul offence in needless jealousy, & that if she were faulty (especially with the Secretary), then no persuasion could amend her nor any passion help him: and this was the cause that enabled him, after such passing pangs, to abide the doubtful conclusion thus manfully, and valiantly to repress faintness of his mind: nothing doubting but that he should have won his Mistress to pardon his presumption & lovingly to embrace his service in wonted manner. But he was far deceived, for she was now in another tune; the which Mistress Frances began partly to discover unto him as they walked together: for she burdened him that his malady proceeded only of a disquiet mind.

"And if it did so, my gentle Hope," quoth he, "what remedy?

"My good Trust," quoth she, "none other but to plant quiet where disquiet began to grow."

"I have determined so," quoth he, "but I must crave the help of your assured friendship."

"Thereof you may make account," quoth she, "but wherein?"

F. J., walking apart with her, began to declare that there was some contention happened between his mistress & him. The Lady told him that she was not ignorant thereof. Then he desired her to treat so much in that cause as they might eftsoons come to Parley.

"Thereof I dare assure you," quoth Mistress Frances, & at their return, she led F. J. into his Mistress' chamber, whom they found lying on her bed, whether galded with any grief, or weary of the thing which you wot of I know not, but there she lay, unto who F. J. gave two or three salutations before she seemed to mark him.

At last said the Lady Frances unto her, "Your servant hearing of your sickness hath adventured thus far into the air to see you."

"I thank him," quoth Dame Eleanor, & so lay still, refusing to give him any countenance.

Whereat F. J., perceiving all the other gentlewomen fall to whispering, thought good boldly to plead his own case, &, approaching the bed, began to enforce his unwilling mistress unto courtesy, wherein he used such vehemence as she could not well by any means refuse to talk with him. But what their talk was, I may not take upon me to tell you unless you would have me fill up a whole volume only with his matters, and I have dilated them over largely already. Sufficeth this to be known, that in the end she pretended to pass over all old grudges & thenceforth to pleasure him as occasion might serve.

The which occasion was so long in happening that in the end F. J., being now eftsoons troubled with unquiet fantasies, & forced to use his pen again as an Ambassador between them, one day amongst the rest found opportunity to thrust a letter into her bosom, wherein he had earnestly requested another moonshine banquet or Friday's breakfast to recomfort his dulled spirits. Whereunto the Dame yielded this answer in writing, but of whose enditing judge you.

I can but smile at your simplicity, who burden your friends with an impossibility. The case so stood as I could not though I would. Wherefore from henceforth either learn to frame your request more reasonably, or else stand content with a flat repulse.


F. J. liked this letter but a little: and being thereby droven into his accustomed vein, he compiled in verse this answer following, upon these words contained in her letter, "I could not though I would."

I could not though I would: Good Lady, say not so,
Since one good word of your good will might soon redress my woe.
would is free before, there could can never fail:
For proof, you see how galleys pass where ships can bear no sail.
The weary mariner when skies are overcast
By ready will doth guide his skill and wins the haven at last.
The pretty bird that sings with prick against her breast
Doth make a virtue of her need to watch when others rest.
And true the proverb is, which you have laid apart,
There is no hap can seem too hard unto a willing heart.
Then, lovely Lady mine, you say not as you should,
In doubtful terms to answer thus:
I could not though I would.
Yes, yes, full well you know your
can is quick and good,
And willful
will is eke too swift to shed my guiltless blood.
But if good
will were bent as press'd as power is,
will would quickly find the skill to mend that is amiss.
Wherefore if you desire to see my true love spilt,
Command and I will slay myself, that yours may be the guilt.
But if you have no power to say your servant nay,
Write thus:
I may not as I would, yet must I as I may.

F. J.

Thus F. J. replied upon his Mistress answer, hoping thereby to recover some favor at her hands, but it would not be.

So that now he had been as likely (as at the first) to have fretted in fantasies, had not the Lady Frances continually comforted him: and by little & little, she drove such reason into his mind that now he began to subdue his humors with discretion, and to determine that if he might espy evident proof of his Mistress frailty, he would then stand content with patience perforce, & give his Mistress the Bezo las manos.

And it happened one day amongst others that he resorted to his Mistress' chamber & found her (allo solito) lying upon her bed, & the secretary with Dame Pergo & her handmaid keeping of her company. Whereat F. J. somewhat repining, came to her and fell to dalliance, as one that had now rather adventure to be thought presumptuous than yield to be accounted bashful. He cast his arm over his Mistress and began to accuse her of sluggishness, using some other bold parts as well to provoke her as also to grieve the other. The Lady seemed little to delight in his dallying, but cast a glance at her secretary and therewith smiled, when as the Secretary & dame Pergo burst out into open laughter.

The which F. J. perceiving, and disdaining her ingratitude, was forced to depart, and in that fantasy compiled this Sonnet.

With her in arms that had my heart in hold,
I stood of late to plead for pity so.
And as I did her lovely looks behold,
She cast a glance upon my rival foe.
His fleering face provoked her to smile
When my salt tears were drowned in disdain:
He glad, I sad, he laugh'd; alas the while,
I wept for woe, I pin'd for deadly pain.
And when I saw none other boot prevail
But reason's rule must guide my skilful mind:
Why then, quoth I, old proverbs never fail,
For yet was never good Cat out of kind:
Nor woman true, but even as stories tell,
Won with an egg, and lost again with shell.

F. J.

This Sonnet declareth that he began now to account of her as she deserved, for it hath a sharp conclusion, and it is somewhat too general. Well, as it is he lost it where his Mistress found it, and she immediately imparted the same unto Dame Pergo, and Dame Pergo unto others: so that it quickly became common in the house.

Amongst others, Mistress Frances, having recovered a copy of it, did seem to pardon the generality and to be well pleased with the particularity thereof. The which she bewrayed one day unto F. J. in this wise: "Of all the joys that ever I had, my good Trust," quoth she, "there is none wherein I take more comfort than in your conformity. And although your present rage is such that you can be content to condemn a number unknown for the transgression of one too well known, yet I do rather rejoice that you should judge your pleasure over many than to be abused by any."

"My good Hope," quoth he, "it were not reason that, after such manifold proofs of your exceeding courtesies, I should use strange or contentious speech with so dear a friend, and indeed I must confess that the opinion which I have conceived of my Mistress hath stirred my pen to write very hardly against all the feminine gender, but I pray you pardon me," quoth he, "& if it please you I will recant it, as also (percase) I was but cloyed with Surquedry and presumed to think more than may be proved."

"Yea, but how if it were proved?" quoth Dame Frances.

"If it were so (which God forbid)," quoth he, "then could you not blame me to conceive that opinion."

"Howsoever I might blame you," quoth she, "I mean not to blame you. But I demand further, if it be as I think & you suspect, what will you then do?"

"Surely," quoth F. J., "I have determined to drink up mine own sorrow secretly, and to bid them both Adieu."

"I like your farewell better than your fantasy," quoth she, "and whensoever you can be content to take so much pains as the Knight which had a nightgown guarded with naked swords did take, I think you may put yourself out of doubt of all these things."

By these words and other speech which she uttered unto him, F. J. smelt how the world went about, and therefore did one day in the grey morning adventure to pass through the gallery towards his Mistress' chamber, hoping to have found the door open, but he found the contrary, and there attending in good devotion, heard the parting of his Mistress and her Secretary with many kind words: whereby it appeared that the one was very loath to depart from the other.

F. J. was enforced to bear this burden, and after he had attended there as long as the light would give him leave, he departed also to his chamber, and, appareling himself, could not be quiet until he had spoken with his Mistress, whom he burdened flatly with this despiteful treachery: and she as fast denied it, until at last being still urged with such evident tokens as he alleged, she gave him this bone to gnaw upon: "And if I did so," quoth she, "what then?"

Whereunto F. J. made none answer, but departed with this farewell: "My loss is mine own, and your gain is none of yours, and sooner can I recover my loss than you enjoy the gain which you gape after."

And when he was in place solitary, he compiled these following for a final end of the matter.

And if I did, what then?
Are you aggriev'd therefore?
The Sea hath fish for every man,
And what would you have more?

Thus did my Mistress once
Amaze my mind with doubt
And popp'd a question for the nonce
To beat my brains about.

Whereto I thus replied:
Each fisherman can wish
That all the Sea at every tide
Were his alone to fish.

And so did I, in vain,
But since it may not be,
Let such fish there as find the gain,
And leave the loss for me.

And with such luck and loss
I will content myself
Till tides of turning time may toss
Such fishers on the shelf.

And when they stick on sands,
That every man may see:
Then will I laugh and clap my hands
As they do now at me.

F. J.

It is time now to make an end of this thriftless History, wherein although I could wade much further, as to declare his departure, what thanks he gave to his Hope, &c., yet I will cease, as one that had rather leave it unperfect than make it too plain. I have past it over with quoth he and quoth she, after my homely manner of writing, using sundry names for one person, as the Dame, the Lady, Mistress, &c., The Lord of the Castle, the Master of the house, and the host. Nevertheless ,for that I have seen good authors term every gentlewoman a Lady and every gentleman domine, I have thought it no greater fault then petty treason thus to intermingle them, nothing doubting but you will easily understand my meaning, and that is as much as I desire.

Now henceforwards I will trouble you no more with such a barbarous style in prose, but will only recite unto you sundry verses written by sundry gentlemen, adding nothing of mine own but only a title to every Poem, whereby the cause of writing the same may the more evidently appear. Neither can I declare unto you who wrote the greatest part of them, for they are unto me but a posy presented out of sundry gardens, neither have I any other names of the flowers but such short notes as the authors themselves have delivered thereby. If you can guess them, it shall no way offend me. I will begin with this translation as followeth....

G. T.


The Adventures of Master F. J. by George Gascoigne, 1573