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cure. The firm hopes that Helena had of succeeding, if she might be
permitted to make the trial, seemed more than even her father's skill
warranted, though he was the most famous physician of his time; for she
felt a strong faith that this good medicine was sanctified by all the
luckiest stars in heaven to be the legacy that should advance her
fortune, even to the high dignity of being count Rousillon's wife.

Bertram had not been long gone, when the countess was informed by her
steward, that he had overheard Helena talking to herself, and that he
understood from some words she uttered, she was in love with Bertram,
and thought of following him to Paris. The countess dismissed the
steward with thanks, and desired him to tell Helena she wished to speak
with her. What she had just heard of Helena brought the remembrance of
days long past into the mind of the countess; those days probably when
her love for Bertram's father first began; and she said to herself:
'Even so it was with me when I was young. Love is a thorn that belongs
to the rose of youth; for in the season of youth, if ever we are
nature's children, these faults are ours, though then we think not they
are faults.' While the countess was thus meditating on the loving
errors of her own youth, Helena entered, and she said to her: 'Helena,
you know I am a mother to you.' Helena replied: 'You are my honourable
mistress.' 'You are my daughter,' said the countess again: 'I say I am
your mother. Why do you start and look pale at my words?' With looks of
alarm and confused thoughts, fearing the countess suspected her love,
Helena still replied: 'Pardon me, madam, you are not my mother; the
count Rousillon cannot be my brother, nor I your daughter.' 'Yet,
Helena,' said the countess, 'you might be my daughter-in-law; and I am
afraid that is what you mean to be, the words mother and daughter so
disturb you. Helena, do you love my son?' 'Good madam, pardon me,' said
the affrighted Helena. Again the countess repeated her question. 'Do
you love my son?' 'Do not you love him, madam?' said Helena. The
countess replied: 'Give me not this evasive answer, Helena. Come, come,
disclose the state of your affections, for your love has to the full
appeared.' Helena on her knees now owned her love, and with shame and
terror implored the pardon of her noble mistress; and with words
expressive of the sense she had of the inequality between their
fortunes, she protested Bertram did not know she loved him, comparing
her humble unaspiring love to a poor Indian, who adores the sun that
looks upon his worshipper, but knows of him no more. The countess asked
Helena if she had not lately an intent to go to Paris? Helena owned the
design she had formed in her mind, when she heard Lafeu speak of the
king's illness. 'This was your motive for wishing to go to Paris,' said
the countess, 'was it? Speak truly.' Helena honestly answered: 'My lord
your son made me to think of this; else Paris, and the medicine, and
the king, had from the conversation of my thoughts been absent then.'
The countess heard the whole of this confession without saying a word
either of approval or of blame, but she strictly questioned Helena as
to the probability of the medicine being useful to the king. She found
that it was the most prized by Gerard de Narbon of all he possessed,
and that he had given it to his daughter on his deathbed; and
remembering the solemn promise she had made at that awful hour in
regard to this young maid, whose destiny, and the life of the king
himself, seemed to depend on the execution of a project (which though
conceived by the fond, suggestions of a loving maiden's thoughts, the
countess knew not but it might be the unseen workings of Providence to
bring to pass the recovery of the king, and to lay the foundation of
the future fortunes of Gerard de Narbon's daughter), free leave she
gave to Helena to pursue her own way, and generously furnished her with
ample means and suitable attendants; and Helena set out for Paris with
the blessings of the countess, and her kindest wishes for her success.

Helena arrived at Paris, and by the assistance of her friend the old
lord Lafeu, she obtained an audience of the king. She had still many
difficulties to encounter, for the king was not easily prevailed on to
try the medicine offered him by this fair young doctor. But she told
him she was Gerard de Narbon's daughter (with whose fame the king was
well acquainted), and she offered the precious medicine as the darling
treasure which contained the essence of all her father's long
experience and skill, and she boldly engaged to forfeit her life, if it
failed to restore his majesty to perfect health in the space of two
days. The king at length consented to try it, and in two days' time
Helena was to lose her life if the king did not recover; but if she
succeeded, he promised to give her the choice of any man throughout all
France (the princes only excepted) whom she could like for a husband;
the choice of a husband being the fee Helena demanded if she cured the
king of his disease.

Helena did not deceive herself in the hope she conceived of the
efficacy of her father's medicine. Before two days were at an end, the
king was restored to perfect health, and he assembled all the young
noblemen of his court together, in order to confer the promised reward
of a husband upon his fair physician; and he desired Helena to look
round on this youthful parcel of noble bachelors, and choose her
husband. Helena was not slow to make her choice, for among these young
lords she saw the count Rousillon, and turning to Bertram, she said:
'This is the man. I dare not say, my lord, I take you, but I give me
and my service ever whilst I live into your guiding power.' 'Why,
then,' said the king 'young Bertram, take her; she is your wife.'
Bertram did not hesitate to declare his dislike to this present of the
king's of the self-offered Helena, who, he said, was a poor physician's
daughter, bred at his father's charge, and now living a dependent on
his mother's bounty. Helena heard him speak these words of rejection
and of scorn, and she said to the king: 'That you are well, my lord, I
am glad. Let the rest go.' But the king would not suffer his royal
command to be so slighted; for the power of bestowing their nobles in
marriage was one of the many privileges of the kings of France; and
that same day Bertram was married to Helena, a forced and uneasy
marriage to Bertram, and of no promising hope to the poor lady, who,
though she gained the noble husband she had hazarded her life to
obtain, seemed to have won but a splendid blank, her husband's love not
being a gift in the power of the king of France to bestow.

Helena was no sooner married than she was desired by Bertram to apply
to the king for him for leave of absence from court; and when she
brought him the king's permission for his departure, Bertram told her
that he was not prepared for this sudden marriage, it had much
unsettled him, and therefore she must not wonder at the course he
should pursue. If Helena wondered not, she grieved when she found it
was his intention to leave her. He ordered her to go home to his
mother. When Helena heard this unkind command, she replied: 'Sir, I can
nothing say to this, but that I am your most obedient servant, and
shall ever with true observance seek to eke out that desert, wherein my
homely stars have failed to equal my great fortunes.' But this humble
speech of Helena's did not at all move the haughty Bertram to pity his
gentle wife, and he parted from her without even the common civility of
a kind farewell.

Back to the countess then Helena returned. She had accomplished the
purport of her journey, she had preserved the life of the king, and she
had wedded her heart's dear lord, the count Rousillon; but she returned
back a dejected lady to her noble mother-in-law, and as soon as she
entered the house she received a letter from Bertram which almost broke
her heart.

The good countess received her with a cordial welcome, as if she had
been her son's own choice, and a lady of a high degree, and she spoke
kind words to comfort her for the unkind neglect of Bertram in sending
his wife home on her bridal day alone. But this gracious reception
failed to cheer the sad mind of Helena, and she said: 'Madam my lord is
gone, for ever gone.' She then read these words out of Bertram's
letter: When you can get the ring from my finger, which never shall
come of, then call me husband, but in such a Then I write a Never.
'This is a dreadful sentence!' said Helena. The countess begged her to
have patience, and said, now Bertram was gone, she should be her child,
and that she deserved a lord that twenty such rude boys as Bertram
might tend upon, and hourly call her mistress. But in vain by
respectful condescension and kind flattery this matchless mother tried
to soothe the sorrows of her daughter in-law.

Helena still kept her eyes fixed upon the letter, and cried out in an
agony of grief: Till I have no wife, I have nothing in France. The
countess asked her if she found those words in the letter? 'Yes,
madam,' was all poor Helena could answer.

The next morning Helena was missing. She left a letter to be delivered
to the countess after she was gone, to acquaint her with the reason of
her sudden absence: in this letter she informed her that she was so
much grieved at having driven Bertram from his native country and his
home, that to atone for her offence, she had undertaken a pilgrimage to
the shrine of St. Jaques le Grand, and concluded with requesting the
countess to inform her son that the wife he so hated had left his house
for ever.

Bertram, when he left Paris, went to Florence, and there became an
officer in the duke of Florence's army, and after a successful war, in
which he distinguished himself by many brave actions, Bertram received
letters from his mother, containing the acceptable tidings that Helena
would no more disturb him; and he was preparing to return home, when
Helena herself, clad in her pilgrim's weeds, arrived at the city of
Florence.

Florence was a city through which the pilgrims used to pass on their
way to St. Jaques le Grand; and when Helena arrived at this city, she
heard that a hospitable widow dwelt there, who used to receive into her
house the female pilgrims that were going to visit the shrine of that
saint, giving them lodging and kind entertainment. To this good lady,
therefore, Helena went, and the widow gave her a courteous welcome, and
invited her to see whatever was curious in that famous city, and told
her that if she would like to see the duke's army, she would take her
where she might have a full view of it. 'And you will see a countryman
of yours,' said the widow; 'his name is count Rousillon, who has done
worthy service in the duke's wars.' Helena wanted no second invitation,
when she found Bertram was to make part of the show. She accompanied
her hostess; and a sad and mournful pleasure it was to her to look once
more upon her dear husband's face. 'Is he not a handsome man?' said the
widow. 'I like him well,' replied Helena, with great truth. All the way
they walked, the talkative widow's discourse was all of Bertram: she
told Helena the story of Bertram's marriage, and how he had deserted
the poor lady his wife, and entered into the duke's army to avoid
living with her. To this account of her own misfortunes Helena
patiently listened, and when it was ended, the history of Bertram was
not yet done, for then the widow began another tale, every word of
which sank deep into the mind of Helena; for the story she now told was
of Bertram's love for her daughter.

Though Bertram did not like the marriage forced on him by the king, it
seems he was not insensible to love, for since he had been stationed
with the army at Florence, he had fallen in love with Diana, a fair
young gentlewoman, the daughter of this widow who was Helena's hostess;
and every night, with music of all sorts, and songs composed in praise
of Diana's beauty, he would come under her window, and solicit her
love; and all his suit to her was, that she would permit him to visit
her by stealth after the family were retired to rest; but Diana would
by no means be persuaded to grant this improper request, nor give any
encouragement to his suit, knowing him to be a married man; for Diana
had been brought up under the counsels of a prudent mother, who, though
she was now in reduced circumstances, was well born, and descended from
the noble family of the Capulets.

All this the good lady related to Helena, highly praising the virtuous
principles of her discreet daughter, which she said were entirely owing
to the excellent education and good advice she had given her; and she
further said, that Bertram had been particularly importunate with Diana
to admit him to the visit he so much desired that night, because he was
going to leave Florence early the next morning.

Though it grieved Helena to hear of Bertram's love for the widow's
daughter, yet from the story the ardent mind of Helena conceived a
project (nothing discouraged at the ill success of her former one) to
recover her truant lord. She disclosed to the widow that she was
Helena, the deserted wife of Bertram, and requested that her kind
hostess and her daughter would suffer this visit from Bertram to take
place, and allow her to pass herself upon Bertram for Diana; telling
them, her chief motive for desiring to have this secret meeting with
her husband, was to get a ring from him, which he had said, if ever she
was in possession of he would acknowledge her as his wife.

The widow and her daughter promised to assist her in this affair,
partly moved by pity for this unhappy forsaken wife, and partly won
over to her interest by the promises of reward which Helena made them,
giving them a purse of money in earnest of her future favour. In the
course of that day Helena caused information to be sent to Bertram that
she was dead; hoping that when he thought himself free to make a second
choice by the news of her death, he would offer marriage to her in her
feigned character of Diana. And if she could obtain the ring and this
promise too, she doubted not she should make some future good come of
it.

In the evening, after it was dark, Bertram was admitted into Diana's
chamber, and Helena was there ready to receive him. The flattering
compliments and love discourse he addressed to Helena were precious
sounds to her, though she knew they were meant for Diana; and Bertram
was so well pleased with her, that he made her a solemn promise to be
her husband, and to love her for ever; which she hoped would be
prophetic of a real affection, when he should know it was his own wife
the despised Helena, whose conversation had so delighted him.

Bertram never knew how sensible a lady Helena was, else perhaps he
would not have been so regardless of her; and seeing her every day, he
had entirely overlooked her beauty; a face we are accustomed to see
constantly, losing the effect which is caused by the first sight either
of beauty or of plainness; and of her understanding it was impossible
he should judge, because she felt such reverence, mixed with her love
for him, that she was always silent in his presence: but now that her
future fate, and the happy ending of all her love-projects, seemed to
depend on her leaving a favourable impression on the mind of Bertram
from this night's interview, she exerted all her wit to please him; and
the simple graces of her lively conversation and the endearing
sweetness of her manners so charmed Bertram, that he vowed she should
be his wife. Helena begged the ring from off his finger as a token of
his regard, and he gave it to her; and in return for this ring, which
it was of such importance to her to possess, she gave him another ring,
which was one the king had made her a present of. Before it was light
in the morning, she sent Bertram away; and he immediately set out on
his journey towards his mother's house.

Helena prevailed on the widow and Diana to accompany her to Paris,
their further assistance being necessary to the full accomplishment of
the plan she had formed. When they arrived there, they found the king
was gone upon a visit to the countess of Rousillon, and Helena followed
the king with all the speed she could make.

The king was still in perfect health, and his gratitude to her who had
been the means of his recovery was so lively in his mind, that the
moment he saw the countess of Rousillon, he began to talk of Helena,
calling her a precious jewel that was lost by the folly of her son; but
seeing; the subject distressed the countess, who sincerely lamented the
death of Helena, he said: 'My good lady, I have forgiven and forgotten
all.' But the good-natured old Lafeu, who was present, and could not
bear that the memory of his favourite Helena should be so lightly
passed over, said: 'This I must say, the young lord did great offence
to his majesty, his mother, and his lady; but to himself he did the
greatest wrong of all, for he has lost a wife whose beauty astonished
all eyes, whose words took all ears captive, whose deep perfection made
all hearts wish to serve her.' The king said: 'Praising what is lost
makes the remembrance dear. Well call him hither'; meaning Bertram, who
now presented himself before the king: and, on his expressing deep
sorrow for the injuries he had done to Helena, the king, for his dead
father's and his admirable mother's sake, pardoned him and restored him
once more to his favour. But the gracious countenance of the king was
soon changed towards him, for he perceived that Bertram wore the very
ring upon his finger which he had given to Helena: and he well
remembered that Helena had called all the saints in heaven to witness
she would never part with that ring, unless she sent it to the king
himself upon some great disaster befalling her; and Bertram, on the
king's questioning him how he came by the ring, told an improbable
story of a lady throwing it to him out of a window, and denied ever
having seen Helena since the day of their marriage. The king, knowing
Bertram's dislike to his wife, feared he had destroyed her: and he
ordered his guards to seize Bertram, saying: 'I am wrapt in dismal
thinking, for I fear the life of Helena was foully snatched.' At this
moment Diana and her mother entered, and presented a petition to the
king, wherein they begged his majesty to exert his royal power to
compel Bertram to marry Diana, he having made her a solemn promise of
marriage. Bertram, fearing the king's anger, denied he had made any
such promise; and then Diana produced the ring (which Helena had put
into her hands) to confirm the truth of her words; and she said that
she had given Bertram the ring he then wore, in exchange for that, at
the time he vowed to marry her. On hearing this, the king ordered the
guards to seize her also; and her account of the ring differing from
Bertram's, the king's suspicions were confirmed: and he said, if they
did not confess how they came by this ring of Helena's, they should be
both put to death. Diana requested her mother might be permitted to
fetch the jeweller of whom she bought the ring, which being granted,
the widow went out, and presently returned leading in Helena herself.

The good countess, who in silent grief had beheld her son's danger, and
had even dreaded that the suspicion of his having destroyed his wife
might possibly be true, finding her dear Helena, whom she loved with
even a maternal affection, was still living, felt a delight she was
hardly able to support; and the king, scarce believing for joy that it
was Helena, said: 'Is this indeed the wife of Bertram that I see?'
Helena, feeling herself yet an unacknowledged wife, replied: 'No, my
good lord, it is but the shadow of a wife you see, the name and not the
thing.' Bertram cried out: 'Both, both! O pardon!' 'O my lord,' said
Helena, 'when I personated this fair maid, I found you wondrous kind;
and look, here is your letter!' reading to him in a joyful tone those
words which she had once repeated so sorrowfully: When from my finger
you can get this ring - ' This is done; it was to me you gave the ring.
Will you be mine, now you are doubly won?' Bertram replied: 'If you can
make it plain that you were the lady I talked with that night, I will
love you dearly ever, ever dearly.' This was no difficult task, for the
widow and Diana came with Helena to prove this fact; and the king was
so well pleased with Diana, for the friendly assistance she had
rendered the dear lady he so truly valued for the service she had done
him, that he promised her also a noble husband: Helena's history giving
him a hint, that it was a suitable reward for kings to bestow upon fair
ladies when they perform notable services.

Thus Helena at last found that her father's legacy was indeed
sanctified by the luckiest stars in heaven; for she was now the beloved
wife of her dear Bertram, the daughter-in-law of her noble mistress,
and herself the countess of Rousillon.





THE TAMING OF THE SHREW

Katharine, the Shrew, was the eldest daughter of Baptista, a rich
gentleman of Padua. She was a lady of such an ungovernable spirit and
fiery temper, such a loud-tongued scold, that she was known in Padua by
no other name than Katharine the Shrew. It seemed very unlikely, indeed
impossible, that any gentleman would ever be found who would venture to
marry this lady, and therefore Baptista was much blamed for deferring
his consent to many excellent offers that were made to her gentle
sister Bianca, putting off all Bianca's suitors with this excuse, that
when the eldest sister was fairly off his hands, they should have free
leave to address young Bianca.

It happened, however, that a gentleman, named Petruchio, came to Padua,
purposely to look out for a wife, who, nothing discouraged by these
reports of Katharine's temper, and hearing she was rich and handsome,
resolved upon marrying this famous termagant, and taming her into a
meek and manageable wife. And truly none was so fit to set about this
herculean labour as Petruchio, whose spirit was as high as Katharine's,
and he was a witty and most happy-tempered humourist, and withal so
wise, and of such a true judgment, that he well knew how to feign a
passionate and furious deportment, when his spirits were so calm that
himself could have laughed merrily at his own angry feigning, for his
natural temper was careless and easy; the boisterous airs he assumed
when he became the husband of Katharine being but in sport, or more
properly speaking, affected by his excellent discernment, as the only
means to overcome, in her own way, the passionate ways of the furious
Katharine.

A courting then Petruchio went to Katharine the Shrew; and first of all
he applied to Baptista her father, for leave to woo his gentle daughter
Katharine, as Petruchio called her, saying archly, that having heard of
her bashful modesty and mild behaviour, he had come from Verona to
solicit her love. Her father, though he wished her married, was forced
to confess Katharine would ill answer this character, it being soon
apparent of what manner of gentleness she was composed, for her
music-master rushed into the room to complain that the gentle
Katharine, his pupil, had broken his head with her lute, for presuming
to find fault with her performance; which, when Petruchio heard, he
said: 'It is a brave wench; I love her more than ever, and long to have
some chat with her'; and hurrying the old gentleman for a positive
answer, he said: 'My business is in haste, signior Baptista, I cannot
come every day to woo. You knew my father: he is dead, and has left me
heir to all his lands and goods. Then tell me, if I get your daughter's
love, what dowry you will give with her.' Baptista thought his manner
was somewhat blunt for a lover; but being glad to get Katharine
married, he answered that he would give her twenty thousand crowns for
her dowry, and half his estate at his death: so this odd match was
quickly agreed on, and Baptista went to apprise his shrewish daughter
of her lover's addresses, and sent her in to Petruchio to listen to his
suit.

In the meantime Petruchio was settling with himself the mode of
courtship he should pursue; and he said: 'I will woo her with some
spirit when she comes. If she rails at me, why then I will tell her she
sings as sweetly as a nightingale; and if she frowns. I will say she
looks as clear as roses newly washed with dew. If she will not speak a
word, I will praise the eloquence of her language; and if she bids me


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Online LibraryCharles LambTales of Shakespeare → online text (page 12 of 23)