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THE LIBRARY

OF

THE UNIVERSITY
OF CALIFORNIA

LOS ANGELES

IN MEMORY OF
MRS. VIRGINIA B. SPORER



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COPYRIGHT, A. D. 1905, BY
GEORGE W. JACOBS & CO.
PUBLISHED OCTOBER, 1905.





CHAPTER PAGE

X* Ho^v jMLwtstcr j - r. s 1 1~. _ 3. . . . t * c i rr~3. trcrc. ..*................ n

EL It Was a Lover and Hi* Lav 25

HL The Coarse off True Love 37

IV. Under the Greenwood Tree 51

V. O Cursed Spite. 9

VL Poor Players 73

VIL Breaking tbe Locks of Prison Gates. .. .... 89

VlJLL A Willow Grows Aslant die Brook 101

IX. A Young Maid's Whs .117

X. A Pretty Boy. 131

XL A Dark Lady. MS

XIL Love Given Unsought 159

XIIL Romero and Juliet 173

XIV. Look Upon This Pkluie and on This 191

XV. By the Church 307

XVL Take, oh, Take Those Lips Away 217

XVIL His Wedded Lady *sg

iVlll. A Fan- Vestal Throned by the West. 945

XIX. After Life's Fitful Fever. . . . . sfo



-79






It is my lady! Oh, it is my love! Facing page 32

A health to Shakespeare's freedom and Shakespeare's Sweetheart! 84

A widow grows aslant the brook 106

Nay if thotfrt bent on fighting, then most e'en fight me 332





asleep beside the Avon,
long and lonely years!



Five years have now
passed since he left us and
the world that will forever
love and mourn him. Five
times have the seasons run their course since he fell

never to waken more. Five
And yet and yet to me it
seems that he is never far away. Lonely in body have
I been, but never hath my soul dwelt solitary. My
grief for him is as no other's; yet my joy is such as
none can ever take from me. I was his, he was mine.
The world's poet was my beloved, too. It makes me
almost catch my breath to say it, and I often marvel
why this crown of my life was given me. 'Tis a mys-
tery sweet as strange, a very sacrament of wonder and
of love. And a mystery, whether human or divine, we
may adore, but never comprehend.

For I was Shakespeare's sweetheart verily and
alone his sweetheart, even after I became his wedded
wife. From that first wondrous day when we read in

13




each other's eyes the new-born love which was to live
forever, to the time when he left me for a while, five
years ago; nay, even until now, I am Shakespeare's
sweetheart. And so it is my right, as it is also my
pride and delight, to tell the story of our love for the
great multitudes who held Will dear, for the shadowy,
unborn multitudes who shall pay homage to his mem-
ory in years to come. Truly, the story is sacred to me ;
but he is not mine alone; he is also the world's, the
world that loved him, that he loved.

After all, however, Master Ben Jonson is respon-
sible for my trying to tell this tale of mine. For yes-
terday, with a great noise and bustle, as is his wont,
he rode up to the gates of New Place and called loudly
for me. I was sitting in the garden, sewing, and the
instant after he had bellowed forth my name he be-
held me.

"Good-morrow, Mistress Shakespeare," he cried,
waving his hand to me. "Thou art the very dame I
wish to see. Art weary, art busy? If so, I will leave
my errand until later. This sorry nag of mine must
be stabled at the inn;" and he gave a vicious dig at
the poor beast he bestrode. Master Jonson is not at
his best on horseback.




"I am neither weary nor busy, Master Jonson," I
replied, walking down to the gateway, that we might
converse more freely. "Prythee, come in at once ; Will's
friends are always welcome at New Place."

"Marry, it is about Will that I would speak with
thee," he said, bluntly, looking at me with shrewd,
kindly eyes. "Moreover, I am mistaken sorely if my
errand shall not please thee. Natheless, on my way
hither I ordered dinner at the inn, and I must e'en go
there first. Then I will return, an it like thee. I have
many things to talk about."

I expressed my pleasure at the prospect, and he
looked delighted. "I will return, then, as speedily as
may be," he said, beginning a somewhat unsuccessful
attempt to turn his horse about. "Au revoir, Mistress

Shakespeare, and may all the gods of Olympus

The devil take thee, thou evil-faced, sorry steed! Ac-
cursed be the day I hired thee! Wilt thou obey my
rein? Ah, at last. Go on, thou imp of Satan!" With
which cheerful adjuration Master Jonson ambled away,
too absorbed in guiding his steed to take further notice
of me then.

I laughed a little as I watched his ungraceful
progress; but as I turned from the gate I sighed.

15




Master Jonson had been Will's true friend. They had
loved each other right well. I remembered, on the day
of Will's funeral, how swollen and marred with tears
had been that kindly, whimsical face into which I had
just been looking. What could it be in connection with
Will that he had to say to me? No matter what, it
would be something arising from the love these two
had borne toward each other. So thinking, I once
more seated myself in the garden, took up my sewing
and awaited Master Jonson's return.

An hour later I saw him again approaching. He
was on foot this time, and looked much more com-
fortable than before. I smiled and nodded to him, and
rose to give him welcome. An instant after, we were
seated at the table in our garden where, in years gone
by, Will had often entertained his London friends. My
little maid brought us cakes and wine, then left us.
Master Jonson smacked his lips at sight of them.

"Mistress Shakespeare, thou good angel !" he cried.
"Execrable was my inn dinner, but now thou wilt make
amends. Well do I remember," and a shadow fell over
his face, "well do I remember thy hospitality of yore."

I replied, simply, that I was glad he was pleased,
and bade him do justice to the fare, since he approved

16




it. Nothing loth, he attacked the wine, and had drunk
several glasses before he spoke again.

"Methinks Will was right," he said at length, sud-
denly; "he told me once that there was one woman
who could guard her tongue," and he looked at me
with a twinkle in his eyes. I smiled at his words,
although a little sadly.

"Will said many things that I did not deserve," I
replied; "nor do I think I have justified in my life the
opinion thou hast quoted. I betrayed my one great
secret in a moment of terror and distress. Natheless,
'tis sooth that I have never been prone to gossip after
the fashion of my sex."

"Art anxious to know what hath brought me down
thus suddenly from London?" he said, abruptly, pour-
ing out more wine.

I answered, truthfully, that I was; but added that
I would await his convenience to tell me his errand.

"And, therefore, one woman can restrain her nat-
ural curiosity," he replied, promptly and teasingly.
"Will was right Well, virtue shall be rewarded, and
I will tell thee at once. Thou know*st Will's plays-
Hamlet, Romeus and Juliet, Much Ado and the rest?"

I nodded, silently, my eyes fixed upon his face.




"And soothly," he continued, gazing at me thought-
fully, "I think I know now why the women of Will's
plays are what they are. The rest of us cannot pic-
ture women. We can show drabs or shrews, but Portias
and Imogens are not for us. I know why now; there
is but one Anne Hathaway."

I blushed at that, for it was base flattery. I am
not a young woman now, and what girlish charm I
may have had is gone.

"You cozen me, Master Jonson," I observed with
some coldness ; "you cozen me, indeed ; and it is ill done
of one whom Will deemed his dear friend. Surely you
seek some favor of me that you give me these soft
words."

"Nay," he said, eagerly, "nay, and yet ay. It is
true I seek a favor ; but, on my soul, I seek not to cozen
thee. Let me tell thee without more words than need
be. These plays of Will's never had our London
players such to perform, nor ever will again are at
last to be published. Art not pleasured by these tid-
ings?"

I assented, but a little doubtfully. "I wonder "

I began.

"I know what thou wouldst say," interrupted

18




Master Jonson, quickly; "thou dost wonder whether
Will's honor would permit this to be done, were he
alive. Ay, Mistress Shakespeare, for I would not coun-
tenance the proceeding else. I love his honor as my
own, nor would I see it smirched. The public seeks
now to have these plays in print, and in a form put
forth in authorized fashion. While Will lived it was
different. He sought not a dishonorable double profit,
after the fashion of some. Having sold his play to
the theatre, he took it not also to the printer's. But
now conditions are changed. Were Will himself alive,
he would do what John Hemminge and John Condell
seek to do for him to prepare the plays for publica-
tion. Their work is one of love, but, of necessity, im-
perfect. Would that he were here to do it for himself!
God knows I wish it sore!"

He dropped his face into his hands and was silent
for an instant. As for me, sudden tears blinded me,
and I sat gazing at the garden with eyes that beheld,
as in a vision, the beloved form I could no longer see
with mortal sight. For a moment we sat thus. Then,
with an impetuous movement, Master Jonson raised
his head, and, rapidly pouring out two glasses of wine,
handed one to me.

19




"To his memory !" he cried, holding the other aloft.
"To his memory, and to his soul's rest! Will Shake-
speare, Comrade and Poet!"

We drank the little toast together.

"It is glad news, indeed, then," I said. "Since the
act smircheth not his honor, I shall be right glad to
see the plays in lawful printed form. Thou wilt super-
intend the task, Master Jonson?"

"Ay," he answered, flushing with delight at my
pleased tone. There was always much of the child
about him, despite his learning. "I am glad that thou
approvest. Were't otherwise, the enterprise would end
forthwith. Ay, I will see that as few errors are made
as may be. Master Hemminge and Master Condell will

perform their task faithfully, I am sure; and I "

he began to feel in his pockets; "I have here a copy
of some verses I have written which are to be printed
as preface to the volume. I brought them down to
Stratford, thinking they would be of interest to thee."
He had found the lines by this time in the chaos of his
pockets. He pushed back the wine-glasses and cleared
his throat portentously, then paused and looked at me
anxiously.

"Perchance," he began, "perchance thou dost not




ESlfhake spcare$l . iSliwc et-hea rR

care to hear them. They are faulty lines enough, un-
worthy of the subject, but, at least, they are written
by one who loved Will right dearly."

"And no other apology is needed, if need there be
for any," I said, gently. "Proceed, Master Jonson. I
know already that the verses will pleasure me greatly."

He cleared his throat again, and began to read in
a somewhat pompous tone, although with real feeling.
I sat listening, my head resting on my hand. Mingled
with Master Jonson's voice were the old, familiar ones
of the wind and of the river; the soft sighing of the
breeze; the low murmur of the Avon, which always
whisper to me one name, Will, Will, Will.

"To draw no envy, Shakespeare, on thy name,
Am I thus ample to thy Book and Fame:
While I confess thy writings to be such
As neither Man nor Muse can praise too much."

Thus the stately beginning, followed by lines equal-
ing them in felicity and beauty. How perfect the
tribute that came an instant later:

"Soul of the Age! The applause! delight! the wonder

of our Stage!
My Shakespeare, rise ; I will not lodge thee by




Chaucer, or Spenser, or bid Beaumont lie
A little further, to make thee a room :
Thou art a Monument, without a tomb,
And art alive still, while thy Book doth live.



The verses continued, a perfect and gracious tribute
from one poet to another. All know them well, yet
I will put down the magnificent closing lines, because
I love them:

"Sweet Swan of Avon ! what a sight it were
To see thee in our waters yet appear,
And make those flights upon the banks of Thames,
That so did take Eliza and our James !
But stay, I see thee in the Hemisphere
Advanc'd, and made a Constellation there!
Shine forth, thou Star of Poets, and with rage,
Or influence, chide, or cheer the drooping Stage ;
Which, since thy flight from hence, hath mourn'd like night,
And despaires day, but for thy volumes light."



Master Jonson looked at me as he finished without
a trace of his usual noise and bluster.

"Art pleased with the verses, Mistress Shake-
speare?" he asked, simply.




"Tli -I ^e mat ! j^ r j !_. ...1 ** T r*

swered. "I thank thee, Master Jonson. They are noble

lines."

"Then," he said, "since thou art pleased with them,
and with the idea of the volume they are to prefix, I
am emboldened to tett thee my chief errand to Strat-
ford."

I wfll not write here what he said next. At first
I was so aghast at his proposal that I refused, in a
panic at the idea. But, at last, after he had talked long
to me, and made me understand his reason for the re-
quest, I wavered, then pondered, and finally gave my
consent. When he left me, I had begun to look forward
to the task.

xiis 1 <oiioon c^otivrT^offs ^FSI.O snfi^*^ oi him <^^> DtuL'vcr
and as poet," said Master Jonson. "Thou alone, Mis-
tress Shakespeare, knew him as lover and as man.
One other, *f*dkrij ** He paused abruptly, aiVi
hastily changed his sentence. "This being so, I pry-
thee tell his love story for the world that loves him."

I knew weU what his unfinished sentence iiicani,
and who that "one" was to whom he referred. He did
not know that I knew, but he wfll when he reads aU
I shall write. That Dark Lady of whom he spoke




caused me much anguish once; but now, when my life
has reached its evening, I can remember even her with
pity and forgiveness.

So, obeying Master Jonson, I set about my unac-
customed task. I am not a learned woman; yet I feel
no fear, rather a strange confidence. Is it that the
theme inspires me; or does Will's spirit enfold and
strengthen me as I begin this labor of love? Truly, I
do not know; but verily my happiness as I do so is
strangely deep and sweet. Here follows, then, my love
story and his. 'Tis for the world, and the world may
one day forget him, although I think not so. Nay,
meseems that the glory he brought to Stratford and
to England is not like to fade away; but that Stratford
and England will honor forevermore Will Shakespeare,
poet and player. Mayhap, however, this is but a fond
woman's fancy.





May Day dawned
fair and smiling on
Stratford that year; and
lads and lasses, as was
their wont, rose early to
greet it fittingly. As I
went about my usual household tasks throughout the
morn, I caught glimpses now and again of blithe youths
and maidens, decked with flowers, on their way to the
Maypole. I heard snatches of gay song and peals of
merry laughter, but always from afar. No lad came
hastening to Shottery to beg Anne Hathaway as a
partner for the Maying. No maiden comrade came to
lure her forth to share the merrymaking.

I can scarce say I was grieved that this was so.
Such a state of affairs had come to be so much a matter
of custom to me that, as a rule, I thought not of it at
all. But that May morning something in the spring
softness of the air, the sweet freshness of the earth,
filled me with that sense of pulsating youth and love
which comes even to the sad and solitary at this season.

27




Conscious of a strange unrest, I found myself, as the
day wore on, by the window. There I stood, gazing
across the fields, with their wealth of spring beauty,
toward the place where Stratford lay fair and smiling
beyond.

There was a strange wistfulness in my heart as I
leaned upon the sill, almost hidden by the clustering
vines. Standing there, I realized, as often before, with
a quiet, sorrowful wonder, how little of the beauty and
the sweetness of life had come to me. Twenty-five May
Days had I seen as child and woman, and from the first
to the present one I had spent them all alike, in solitude
and joylessness. No other lass in Stratford and Shot-
tery, perhaps no other in England, I dared swear could
say the same.

But I knew why ; ah, I knew why ! I shivered as if
a sudden chill had come to me from the balmy May air,
and I passed my hand drearily across my eyes. In the
room below I heard my grandam stirring about with
a cheerful clatter. She and I alone lived in the cottage
now; but it had not been always so. Six months ago
had ceased to beat the poor restless heart of one who,
while she lived, had made our home, tranquil now, an
evil den of torture. Mad was she, that poor mother of

28




mine, and had been since my earliest remembrance.
Never had I seen, either, my grandam's hair aught but
silvered, although when I was a little child she scarce
could have been a very old woman. I knew now what
had blanched those locks and made her aged before
her time; I realized why I had been transformed into
a grave woman while yet a girl in years. It was the
care of my poor mad mother, sometimes gentle and
harmless, but again brooding, violent, seeking with
devilish cunning to murder us while we slept. Alack!
I knew the very book of madness in its extremest tor-
tures. I conned it, where other children learn happy
and blessed things, at my mother's knee.

What made her mad I never knew until she had
become sane forever. On the night before her burial
I suddenly and softly asked my grandam the question.

"Grandam," I said, "why was it? What drove her
wits astray?"

I was looking down at the dead face, and it was
as if I beheld my own in a glass. The clustering golden
hair was mine, the oval outline of cheek and chin, the
clear pallor of the complexion. The eyes were closed
forever, but in life they had been as dark and sombre
as mine own.

29




My grandam saw, I think, the resemblance that I
noted, and a shudder ran through her, whether at the
thought or at my question I knew not. She looked at
me with eyes at once fierce and pitiful.

"What makes thee ask that?" she whispered,
sharply, and I noticed that her worn and knotted hands
were clenched. "What makes thee ask that?"

Sooth, I myself knew not what sudden impulse
had prompted the inquiry. I made no answer, but
stood as before, gazing into the still dead face, full
of that strange, tranquil beauty which death always
brings.

Suddenly I was aware that my grandam was gaz-
ing at that calm countenance, too, but not quietly, as
I was doing. Another moment and a great sob broke
the stillness. My grandam fell on her knees beside my
mother's body, and tenderly, tremulously, lifted the
stark left hand in hers. Then I saw that her shaking
finger strove to point out to me something on the still
dead hand she held. What was it? For an instant I
gazed, uncomprehending. Then suddenly I understood.
I looked my sobbing grandam in the eyes searchingly,
gravely.

The knowledge that she strove to convey came to
30




me with a strange sense of familiarity. The dead hand
had no wedding-ring upon it, nor had I recollection of
a father. I was a nameless child.

And that was why, upon this May Day, when the
spring-time called youth and love to make merry, that
I stood alone and sorrowful, while the joy of the world
passed by me, as hi a vision far away.

Suddenly another sound broke melodiously across
the low crooning of my grandam in the room below,
across the twitter of the birds without; a sound which
somehow seemed akin to the May Day itself in daunt-
less youth and frank delight. It was a young man's
voice that I heard, mellow and joyous:

"Her beauty hangs upon the cheek of night
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiop's ear;
Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear."

At the same instant the speaker came in sight. He
looked up and saw me in the window, framed about
with blossoming vines. I knew him at once. It was
young Will Shakespeare.

For a breathless instant we gazed at each other.
I had often passed him in Stratford streets. He knew
my name and my story. We had probably seen each

31




other before a hundred times; but never thus, face to
face, on a May morning that made all the world young ;
never amid sights and sounds that spoke of love alone.
In that moment, somehow, some way, all was told.
With a strange rush of joy I caught my breath half-
sobbingly. I knew that I was no longer solitary and
unloved.

As for him, he bared his head and bent it low, just
breathing words which I afterwards found were those
of his Italian Romeus when he looked on the love of

his life:

"It is my lady! Oh, it is my love !"

Then, cap still in hand, he raised his face towards
mine, and spoke in more ordinary fashion.

"Mistress Anne, greeting. Wilt come a-Maying
with me?"

I was flushed and trembling, and I could not an-
swer at once. I realized that he had used the com-
monplace words to still my agitation; but I could not
immediately avail myself of his consideration.

"Nay," I faltered at length; "I I " There I

paused, and my face grew suddenly crimson. I remem-
bered who and what I was. What right had I to such

32




joy? Moreover, he was a mere, happy lad; I a sad,
mature woman. The hard thought thrust itself upon
me unbidden. There were numberless fair Stratford
maidens, among whom he could find a more fitting
May Day sweetheart.

"Thou dost forget," I said at length, still falter-
ing, although I strove to speak coldly; "thou dost for-
get. It is " I hesitated, then went on hurriedly;

"it is necessity that isolates me. It is thy choice that
thou art solitary."

He must have known my meaning at once, for my
story was familiar in Stratford; but he replied in-
stantly.

"Sweet Mistress Anne," he said, and his voice was,
if possible, a shade more courteous than before, "be-
lieve me, thou art the only lass that I desire to go
a-Maying with me. If thou dost refuse me I will go
solitary still."

There was that in his manner which suggested
more than his words; which told me that he wished
my company for a much longer period than a spring
day, and that if I did not yield, his loneliness would
be for all his life. I hesitated, my mind in a whirl.
Impetuously, he leaped the gate, clambered up the

33




trellis work over which the vines grew and brought
his face at last on a level with mine own.

"Anne," he breathed in tones so silver sweet as to
melt the hardest woman's heart; "dear Mistress Anne,
surely thou dost know, surely dost understand, that
I ah, what need of words? And yet oh, Anne, dear-
est, stand not silent there, with the color flaming into
thy dear fair face. I am envious of the very vines
that screen thee. Say but three words, sweet, and
make Will Shakespeare happy f orevermore !"

In the midst of his impetuous pleading there came
to me the recollection of my thoughts a half hour since ;
the memory of the mad presence that had haunted my
childhood and girlhood ; the vision of my poor mother's
ringless hand

I turned from the window. He reached forward
and laid his hand on mine as it rested upon the sill.
The touch was light, but insistent, imperative.

"Thou dost forget " I whispered again, falter-

ingly, looking at him with pleading eyes, "thou dost
forget. There is there is a shadow on my life. Oh,
haste thee from me, lest it fall likewise on thee."

His lips rested on my hand for an instant.

"Ay, sweetheart," he said, and I could never tell

34




half the trndtmcaB that spoke in his voice; "ay, I do
forget it, as thou, too, shalt forget. I will give thee a
key to release thee from thy prison of gloom and sor-
row ; a key of three parts. Tis 1 love thee,' Nan. Say
it, sweetheart, sweetheart. Say only now, *I love thee';
then come with me from out the shadows into sun-
light forevennore.''





And so, good sooth,
was lifted the heavy pal]
that had lain over my youth
and happiness, and what
was seeming dead arose to
glorious resurrection. "Forevermore!" Will had said.
"Come with me from out the shadows into sunlight
forevermore !" Ah, thou didst speak truly, thou dear
light of my life ! Though clouds have often sought to
darken the eternal brightness of thy love, behind them
still its radiance hath never ceased to shine; will shine
forever.

For a month after that most joyous May Day none
knew of our love. In this matter Will bowed to my
wish. Many saw us together during the afternoon,
and marveled thereat; but the excitements of the day
were many, and our companionship was speedily for-
got. When, our Maying ended, Will brought me


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