What You Will: A Queer-er Shakespeare (S2, E8)

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Season Content Notes: Revenge plot, violence, boundary violations, sexual harassment

“Put up your sword.”

(Here, we will hear the story as Antonio saw it, for this moment is more of his tale than Cesario’s.)

Antonio had been concerned when Sebastian did not meet him at the Elephant as planned. So he had gone looking. He didn’t know what he had expected, but it definitely hadn’t been to finally see Sebastian on the wrong side of a walled orchard, surrounded by three strangers across drawn swords.

Antonio didn’t stop to think, he hopped the wall and ran to stand between his young lover and danger.

He took the strange look Sebastian gave him as surprise that Antonio was not waiting at the inn, and extended what he hoped was a calming hand toward the strangers. “If this young gentleman have done offence, I take the fault on me. If you offend him, I for him defy you.”

If it hurt Antonio that Ces– ahem, that is Sebastian, stepped away from him, not trusting his protection, Antonio did not show it. For all the time he and Sebastian had spent together, none had been in swordplay, and few sailors are known for their skill with a blade.

But Antonio’s focus was as sharp as his blade on the man he took to be the leader of this assault. That man, finely dressed but with the eye of one who has seen death many times, glared at Antonio. The man put his hand on sword hilt and demanded, “You, sir! why, what are you?”

Knowing that his appearance and low status would not impress such a high-ranking man, Antonio said only, “One, sir, that for his love dares yet do more than you have heard him brag to you he will.”

“Nay, if you be an undertaker,” the stranger snarled, drawing his sword, “I am for you.”

Antonio carried no sword, but Sebastian did, and Antonio reached out quickly to take it from him. Despite the strangeness with which Sebastian continued to view him, he gave Antonio the sword willingly and backed up out of range of the brewing duel.

It was at this time that several officers of the watch came down the road, looking closely around them.

“O good Sir Toby, hold!” the man dressed as a servant cried, pulling Antonio’s opponent away before they could even cross blades, “here come the officers.”

Then it was briefly chaos with all speaking at once.

This ‘Sir Toby’ growled at Antonio, saying, “I’ll be with you anon.”

Sebastian begged the other strange man to put up his sword. The man replied with some nonsense about his horse to Sebastian’s clear confusion.

And one of the officers pointed at Antonio, saying, “This is the man; do thy office.”

Antonio’s heart sank as the second officer pulled out metal handcuffs. “Antonio, I arrest thee at the suit of Count Orsino.”

Giving the sword back to Sebastian, lest he be thought resisting, Antonio said quickly, “You do mistake me, sir.”

“No, sir, no jot,” the first officer scoffed. “I know your favour well, though now you have no sea-cap on your head. Take him away: he knows I know him well.”

“I must obey.” Antonio swallowed and turned to Sebastian. “This comes with seeking you: but there’s no remedy; I shall answer it.” Sebastian looked at him wide-eyed, like a new sailor at first sight of the deep ocean. It pained Antonio more than he thought possible, but he had to ask, “What will you do, now my necessity makes me to ask you for my purse?” He held out his hands, but Sebastian didn’t reply, took a step back even. Was it shock that made him act so strangely? “It grieves me much more for what I cannot do for you than what befalls myself. You stand amazed, but be of comfort.”

“Come, sir, away,” the officers urged, but Antonio shrugged them off. He didn’t care anymore that they might say he resisted them. Didn’t even really care about the money. But Sebastian — Sebastian! — for whom Antonio had given up so much, whose feet he would have willingly knelt at for only the pleasure of his company, who he had given life and hope and love to…

“I must entreat of you some of that money.”

But Sebastian shook his head and answered in a baffled tone, “What money, sir?”

Antonio’s eyes flew wide at the pain of that blow.

“For the fair kindness you have show’d me here,” Sebastian continued, as if Antonio no more than a stranger, “I’ll lend you something: my having is not much; I’ll make division of my present with you.” He reached into his pocket and held out a pittance, saying, “Hold, there’s half my coffer.”

“Will you deny me now?” Antonio snarled, sudden anger being the only thing that held back the tears burning behind his eyes. “Is’t possible that my deserts to you can lack persuasion? Do not tempt my misery, lest that it make me so unsound a man as to upbraid you with those kindnesses that I have done for you.”

As hurt and angry, and yes, scared as Antonion was, nothing could have prepared him for what came next. For Sebastian, who only hours ago had greeted him with words of love and welcome, now dismissed all that gone between them.

“I know of none,” he said, and Antonio’s kneels nearly buckled at that heart-strike. “Nor know I you by voice or any feature.”

“O heavens themselves!” Antonio cried, finally unable to keep the tears from falling.

The second officer, with surprising gentleness, put a hand on Antonio’s shoulder, “Come, sir, I pray you, go.”

With his hands bound behind him, Antonio was unable to wipe the tears from his cheeks, so he let them fall. “Let me speak a little,” he pleaded. “This youth that you see here, I snatch’d one half out of the jaws of death, relieved him with such sanctity of love, and to his image did I devotion.”

“What’s that to us?” The first officer demanded, “The time goes by: away!”

Barely hearing him, Antonio spat on the ground at Sebastian’s feet. “But O how vile an idol proves this god! Thou hast, Sebastian, done good feature shame.” And it brought him spiteful pleasure to see Sebastian finally react without something other than put-on bewilderment. The villain winced as if Antonio had slapped him, as Antonio wished he could. But if words were all he had to express his pain then he would use them. “In nature there’s no blemish but the mind; none can be call’d deform’d but the unkind.”

Exasperated, the first officer shoved the second aside, saying, “The man grows mad: away with him! Come, come, sir.”

With a final curse, Antonio turned to follow them. He left behind the shattered remains of his heart and the one he had thought to devote his life.

Unknown to Antonio, ‘Sebastian,’ still in shock, followed the officers and their charge a short way down the road.

For this Sebastian, of course, was Cesario. The two brothers did indeed look enough alike to fool even Antonio for a short period, and Sebastian was at that time a distance from that place.

In all Cesario’s confusion at the events just past, one thing had struck him most clearly: “He named Sebastian.” Cesario did not doubt that Antonio — whose name Cesario still did not know — had spoken truth. His passion, his pain, had been all too clear. But… Cesario was not Sebastian, yet Cesario’s look, from how he cut his hair, to the clothes, and even the expressions he often wore… He had styled after those of his lost brother. The brother who should have been dead, but this stranger had spoken of saving his life… “O, if it prove, tempests are kind and salt waves fresh in love.”

Cesario had to speak with the Duke. If there was any truth to this, Orsino would help him find it. And it was the Duke who sent the officers, so only he could get Cesario audience with the stranger.

Mind made up, Cesario (with no thought to Countess Olivia’s people who had ambushed him so short a time ago) turned and strode quickly down the road to home.

Behind him, Sir Toby had seen a chance for further mischief and, more, had taken Cesario at a severe dislike for the shameful actions he had just witnessed.

“A very dishonest paltry boy,” that worthy growled, “and more a coward than a hare. His dishonesty appears in leaving his friend here in necessity and denying him, and for his cowardship, ask Fabian.”

Fabian, of course, knew a cue when he heard it and chimed in, “A coward, a most devout coward, religious in it.”

As predictably as Fabian, though with less self-awareness, Sir Anthony jumped for the bait, “‘Slid, I’ll after him again and beat him.”

“Do,” Sir Toby encouraged, “cuff him soundly, but never draw thy sword.”

“An I do not,–” Sir Andrew started down the road after the now-vanished Cesario.

Chortling, Fabian and Sir Toby followed behind to see what sport followed.

“I dare lay any money ’twill be nothing yet.” Sir Toby confided to Fabian, washing his hands with glee.

What You Will: A Queer-er Shakespeare (S2, E6)

Season Content Notes: Revenge plot, violence, boundary violations, sexual harassment

Sir Toby and Fabian were playing cards with the fool making music quietly in the corner. Their quiet play was interrupted when Sir Andrew rushed in waving a much-crumpled paper.

Fabian, facing the door, saw him first and leaned toward Sir Toby, whispering, “More matter for a May morning.”

Thus alerted, Sir Toby did not jump up and spill his drink when Sir Andrew clapped his shoulder from behind and dropped the paper on the table.

“Here’s the challenge!” he cried, “Read it: warrant there’s vinegar and pepper in’t.”

“Is’t so saucy?” Fabian asked, mostly hiding his disbelief.

Taking up the paper again, Sir Andrew made as if to shake it in Fabian’s face but shied away at the last moment. “Ay, is’t, I warrant him: do but read.”

Sir Toby snatched the waving paper from Sir Andrew’s hands and spread it out. Then began to read aloud.

‘Youth, whatsoever thou art, thou art but a scurvy fellow.’

“Good,” Fabian said, surprised, “and valiant.”

Sir Andrew took up a fencing pose and began lunging about the room.

Sir Toby continued to read, ” ‘Wonder not, nor admire not in thy mind, why I do call thee so, for I will show thee no reason for’t.’

Surprise faded from Fabian’s face, and a grimace took its place. “A… a good note; that keeps you from the blow of the law.”

Setting his lute aside, the fool drew forth his non-existent sword and gave challenge to Sir Andrew. Startled, Sir Andrew lost his footing and squeaked, but quickly recovered to give a brave show of himself. The two dueled back and forth across the floor, trading imaginary blow and parry.

” ‘Thou comest to the lady Olivia, and in my sight she uses thee kindly: but thou liest in thy throat; that is not the matter I challenge thee for.'”

Fabian squeaked now and gaped for a moment before managing, “Very brief, and to exceeding good sense–less.”

” ‘I will waylay thee going home; where if it be thy chance to kill me,’–”

Sir Andrew, retreating from the fool’s attack, tripped over Fabian’s feet, knocking them both to the ground. The fool took advantage of his opponent’s fall to make the coup-de-grace, and Sir Andrew died dramatically.

“Good.” Fabian coughed.

“‘Thou killest me like a rogue and a villain.'”

“Still,” Fabian gasped, trying to get up without shoving Sir Andrew off of him, “you keep o’ the windy side of the law: good.”

” ‘Fare thee well, and God have mercy upon one of our souls! He may have mercy upon mine, but my hope is better, and so look to thyself. Thy friend, as thou usest him, and thy sworn enemy, ANDREW AGUECHEEK.’ If this letter move him not, his legs cannot.” Sir Toby finally took notice of Sir Andrew, still laying on Fabian and struggling to rise. Sir Toby tucked the letter into his pocket and reached down to lift Sir Andrew up.

“I’ll give’t him.” Sir Toby assured the other, hiding the rolling of his eyes.

For a moment Sir Andrew looked as if he would speak, but then Maria poked her head through the door.

Maria poked her head in the door. “You may have very fit occasion for’t: he is now in some commerce with my lady, and will by and by depart.”

“Go, Sir Andrew,” Sir Toby urged the knight toward the door, “scout me for him at the corner of the orchard. So soon as ever thou seest him, draw; and, as thou drawest swear horrible. Away!”

Sir Andrew dragged his feet but was eventually guided on his way, insisting the whole time that he was not one to swear.

Once he was gone, Sir Toby pulled the note out, and ripped it to pieces. “Now will not I deliver his letter: for the behavior of the young gentleman gives him out to be of good capacity and breeding; his employment between his lord and my niece confirms no less.” Toby tossed the shredded letter into the fireplace and spit upon it — which did as much good as spitting into fire ever does. “Therefore this letter, being so excellently ignorant, will breed no terror in the youth: he will find it comes from a clodpole. I will deliver his challenge by word of mouth”

“Here he comes with your niece,” Fabian said. And indeed, through the window, they could see Olivia and Cesario walking the lawn. “Give them way til he take leave, and presently after him.”

“I will meditate the while upon some horrid message for a challenge.”

Fabian and Sir Toby followed Maria from the room, leaving the fool to watch and listen through the window.

Countess Olivia was once again pleading with the youth:

“I have said too much unto a heart of stone and laid mine honour too unchary out. There’s something in me that reproves my fault; but such a headstrong potent fault it is, that it but mocks reproof.”

Cesario had long since grown sick of these visits. He shook his head and said quietly, “With the same ‘havior that your passion bears, goes on my master’s grief.”

As far as Cesario was concerned, they were all fools — himself, the duke, and the countess — for loving one they could not have. And himself the double fool for encouraging their folly!

Unaware of his thoughts, the countess removed her necklace — a cunningly worked cameo — and held it out to Cesario. “Here, wear this jewel for me, ’tis my picture.” She held it out so long to him, but he did not even look at it. “Refuse it not,” she begged, “it hath no tongue to vex you.” With a resigned chuckle at his folly, Cesario accepted the gift, but did not put it on.

“And I beseech you come again to-morrow,” she continued, “What shall you ask of me that I’ll deny, that honour saved may upon asking give?”

“Nothing but this,” Cesario replied, knowing it was a waste of words, “your true love for my master.”

“How with mine honour may I give him that which I have given to you?”

Pulling upon his hair, Cesario turned and started down the road, calling over his shoulder, “I will acquit you.”

Olivia chased after him for a few steps. “Well, come again to-morrow: fare thee well!” He waved an acknowledgment, and she turned back to the manor, speaking to herself. “A fiend like thee might bear my soul to hell.”

What You Will: A Queer-er Shakespeare (S2, E4)

(Sorry folks, this was scheduled to go up last Friday, but something glitched. So you get extra post today.)

Season Content Notes: Revenge plot, violence, boundary violations

Sir Andrew was folding his clothing and packing it into his valise. The only sign of his upset was the extra effort he put into making sure every fold was creased just so.

He put a crisp white shirt in the valise and turned to take a light blue vest off its hanger. As he did so, Sir Toby grabbed the white shirt, shook it out, put it back on a hanger, and smoothed out the creases.

Fabian stood in the door, waiting to carry down the valise when Sir Andrew was done packing — and trying not to laugh.

“No, faith,” Sir Andrew whined, snatching the white shirt of the hanger again. “I’ll not stay a jot longer.”

Sir Toby took the shirt from his hands. “Thy reason, dear venom, give thy reason.”

“You must needs yield your reason, Sir Andrew,” Fabian put in from the doorway. (He knew well from whence his bread was buttered.)

“Marry,” Sir Andrew abandoned the white shirt for the moment to two more vests from the wardrobe. “I saw your niece do more favours to the count’s serving-man than ever she bestowed upon me; I saw’t i’ the orchard.”

“Did she see thee the while, old boy?” Sir Toby took hold of the hangers the vests were on, dropping the shirt to the floor. They wrestled briefly over the clothing. The vests slipped off the hangers, and Sir Toby stumbled backward, catching himself with a hand against the wall. “Tell me that.”

“As plain as I see you now.” Sir Andrew tossed the vests in the valise, not bothering to fold them. Ignoring the white shirt, he closed the case and began to secure it.

“This was a great argument of love in her toward you,” Fabian said.

Sir Andrew scowled at the man and all but threw the valise at him. ” ‘Slight, will you make an ass o’ me?”

Catching the valise deftly, Fabian set it on the floor behind himself. Sit Toby went to stand next to Fabian, blocking the doorway. “I will prove it legitimate, sir,” Fabian urged, “upon the oaths of judgment and reason.”

“And they,” Sir Toby opined, pulling out a flask and offering it to Sir Andrew, “have been grand-jury-men since before Noah was a sailor.”

Sir Andrew continued scowling, but at Sir Toby’s urging, Fabian spoke. “She did show favour to the youth in your sight only to exasperate you, to awake your dormouse valour, to put fire in your heart and brimstone in your liver.”

Slowly Sir Andrew’s scowl lifted, and he took on a more thoughtful mien.

“You should then have accosted her,” Fabian continued, “and with some excellent jests, fire-new from the mint, you should have banged the youth into dumbness. This was looked for at your hand, and this was balked. The double gilt of this opportunity you let time wash off, and you are now sailed into the north of my lady’s opinion, where you will hang like an icicle on a Dutchman’s beard–” Sir Andrew resumed scowling and tried to push past Sir Toby, but Fabian moved to block him, holding up a hand in entreaty, “–unless you do redeem it by some laudable attempt either of valour or policy.”

“An’t be any way,” Sir Andrew took the flask from Sir Toby and tossed it back, “it must be with valour; for policy I hate: I had as lief be a Brownist as a politician.”

“Why, then, build me thy fortunes upon the basis of valour.” Sir Toby cried. He then looked over his shoulder before leaning forward and whispering, so Sir Andrew had to strain to hear, “Challenge me the count’s youth to fight with him; hurt him in eleven places. My niece shall take note of it; and assure thyself, there is no love-broker in the world can more prevail in man’s commendation with woman than report of valour.” He nodded knowingly and waited to see Sir Andrew’s response.

Sir Andrew took another swallow of the flask. It took him two tries to get the cap back on.

“There is no way but this, Sir Andrew,” Fabian said gently.

Taking a deep breath, Sir Andrew fortified himself to ask, “Will either of you bear me a challenge to him?”

“Go, write it in a martial hand.”

Moving together, Sir Toby and Fabian stepped back out of the doorway, Fabian pushing the valise behind him. Once they were clear of the doorway Sir Toby quickly closed the door, leaving Sir Andrew, sans valise, to write his challenge.

“This is a dear manikin to you, Sir Toby,” Fabian observed.

Sir Toby chuckled and reached for his flask, but found it gone. “I have been dear to him, lad, some two thousand strong, or so.”

Fabian shook his head and picked up the valise, carrying it over to tuck behind a couch. “We shall have a rare letter from him,” the man rolled his eyes, “but you’ll not deliver’t?”

“Never trust me, then,” Sir Toby winked. “And by all means, stir on the youth to an answer.” Fabian grinned and nodded. He was not averse to helping Sir Toby make this farcical challenge happen. “I think,” Sir Toby continued, “oxen and wainropes cannot hale them together. For Andrew,” a derisive laugh, “if he were opened, and you find so much blood in his liver as will clog the foot of a flea, I’ll eat the rest of the anatomy.”

For all his flaws, and Sir Toby had many, he was a good judge of men. And Sir Andrew’s liver — the seat of courage — was in truth a withered and pitiable thing.

“And his opposite,” Fabian said, “the count’s youth, bears in his visage no great presage of cruelty.”

Before he could say more, Maria entered the room laughing.

Sir Toby lit up on seeing her, saying, “Look, where the youngest wren of nine comes.”

Maria waved him off. “If you desire the spleen, and will laugh yourself into stitches, follow me. Yond gull Malvolio is turned heathen, a very renegado; for there is no Christian, that means to be saved by believing rightly, can ever believe such impossible passages of grossness. He’s in yellow stockings.”

Fabian whooped in delight. Sir Toby gaped. “And cross-gartered?” He demanded

“Most villanously;” Maria laughed again, “like a pedant that keeps a school i’ the church. He does obey every point of the letter that I dropped to betray him. He does smile his face into more lines than is in the new map with the augmentation of the Indies: you have not seen such a thing as ’tis. I can hardly forbear hurling things at him. I know my lady will strike him: if she do, he’ll smile and take’t for a great favour.”

“Come,” Sir Toby demanded, reaching his hand to her, “bring us, bring us where he is.”

Not far from there, a sea-battered man with a sailor’s bag slung across his back walked alongside a well-born youth. His companion, if any had known it, bore a striking resemblance to the newest member of Duke Orsino’s court. Though they didn’t touch, their hands oft seemed about to clasp, and their eyes were on each other as much as the road they walked. “I would not by my will have troubled you;” young Sebastian said, still surprised and delighted that his good friend and lover had followed him so far. “But, since you make your pleasure of your pains, I will no further chide you.”

Antonio shook his head, knowing himself for a fool. No well-bred young man would long continue to keep company with a poor sailor. And yet… “I could not stay behind you,” he admitted, “my desire, more sharp than filed steel, did spur me forth.” Embarrassed to speak so plainly, he hurried on before Sebastian could reply. “And not all love to see you, though so much as might have drawn one to a longer voyage, but jealousy what might befall your travel, being skilless in these parts.” He gestured to a pair of ruffians lurking in an alley, “which to a stranger, often prove rough and unhospitable.”

Not fooled by Antonio’s attempt to diminish his declaration, Sebastian stopped and turned to put both hands on Antonio’s shoulders. “My kind Antonio, I can no other answer make but thanks, and thanks.” He shook his head and chuckled. “Ever oft good turns are shuffled off with such uncurrent pay.” Leaning in, he brushed a kiss across Antonio’s cheek, knowing that any around them would see it only as a sign of friendship. Knowing Antonio would know it for much more.

“Were my worth as is my conscience firm,” he murmured, knowing with the shipwreck he had little left of what been a modest inheritance. “You should find better dealing.” he stepped back with a shrug, “What’s to do? Shall we go see the reliques of this town?”

“To-morrow, sir,” Antonio cautioned, “best first go see your lodging.”

But Sebastian shook his head, too full of energy after a long coach ride to be still. “I am not weary, and ’tis long to night: I pray you, let us satisfy our eyes with the memorials and the things of fame that do renown this city.”

Antonio bowed his head, saying, “Would you’ld pardon me; I do not without danger walk these streets. Once, in a sea-fight, ‘gainst the count his galleys I did some service; of such note indeed, that were I ta’en here it would scarce be answer’d.”

Sebastian stepped back, suddenly diffident. He was not sheltered for a man of his class, but still… “Belike you slew great number of his people.”

But Antonio hurried to shake his head. “The offence is not of such a bloody nature; though,” he made himself admit, “the quality of the time and quarrel Might well have given us bloody argument.” Antonio shrugged but could not look at Sebastian. “It might have since been answer’d in repaying what we took from them; most of our city did: only myself stood out.” He swallowed and finally looked again at Sebastian, “If I be lapsed in this place, I shall pay dear.”

Sebastian had come close to him again. He looked about the street as if searching for guards who might attack. “Do not then walk too open,” he said, and Antonio breathed a sigh of relief.

“It doth not fit me,” he said with a laugh, “Hold, sir, here’s my purse.” Antonio pulled out a small pouch and pressed it into Sebastian’s hands. “In the south suburbs, at the Elephant, is best to lodge: I will bespeak our diet, whiles you beguile the time and feed your knowledge: there shall you have me.”

“Why I your purse?”

With a shrug, Antonio turned to go. “Haply your eye shall light upon some toy you have desire to purchase; and your store, I think, is not for idle markets, sir.”

Sebastian could not deny that and gave in graciously, slipping the purse inside his vest. “I’ll be your purse-bearer and leave you for an hour.”

“To the Elephant,” Antonio called as he moved down the street.

“I do remember.”

What You Will: A Queer-er Shakespeare (S2, E1)

(Find Season 1 on my website if you need to get caught up.)

Season Content Notes: Revenge plot, violence

In a corner of Countess Olivia’s grounds gathered three gentlemen for some unsanctioned sport. Or so it seemed, for they huddled together behind the box trees, like boys hiding from a tutor. That was Sir Toby Belch, the countess’ uncle; Sir Andrew, one of her suitors (who she would have been happier to see gone); and one Fabian.

As they huddled and chortled over their sport, a fourth came to join their fun. Mistress Maria, that was the countess’ chambermaid. Sir Toby, seeing her first, cried out, “Here comes the little villain. How now, my metal of India!”

Maria’s grin broke through before she regained control and showed a properly sober face. To Sir Toby and his fellow hooligans she hissed, “Get ye all three into the box-tree: Malvolio’s coming down this walk: he has been yonder i’ the sun practicing behavior to his own shadow this half hour: observe him, for the love of mockery; for I know this letter will make a contemplative idiot of him. Close, in the name of jesting!”

As she spoke, she dropped a sealed envelope upon the walk, glanced over her shoulder, and hurried off murmuring, “Here comes the trout that must be caught with tickling.”

The three, ignoring their venerable age (and the well-being of their clothes) climbed up into the trees and peered back the way she had come.

They didn’t have long to wait, for soon followed Master Malvolio. Steward to the Countess Olivia and commander of all within her home. He was speaking to himself.

” ‘Tis but fortune; all is fortune. Maria once told me she did affect me: and I have heard herself come thus near, that, should she fancy, it should be one of my complexion.” (Here, he paused to admire that complexion in a still bird bath. “Besides, she uses me with a more exalted respect than any one else that follows her. What should I think on’t?”

“Here’s an overweening rogue!” Sir Toby growled, shaking his fist. He might have fallen from the tree had not Fabian grabbed his arm and hushed him.

“O, peace!” he whispered. “Contemplation makes a rare turkey-cock of him.”

Sir Andrew, unable to be silent when others spoke, added his own portion: “I could so beat the rogue!”

And then it was Sir Toby who cautioned peace.

Malvolio continued along the walk, lost in his daydreams. One day, the countess would recognize his long service and raise him to his proper place. “To be Count Malvolio!”

It was only with utmost effort that Fabian kept Sir Toby in the trees and quiet over the next few minutes as Malvolio continued in this vein. But finally, he came far enough along to notice the letter Maria left on the walk.

He stopped, bent over, and picked the letter, examining it in detail. “By my life, this is my lady’s hand these be her very C’s, her U’s and her T’s and thus makes she her great P’s.” (Fabian pressed a hand over his mouth to quiet his laughter.) “It is, in contempt of question, her hand.”

Sir Andrew shook his head and asked quietly, “Her C’s, her U’s and her T’s: why that?” And Fabian nearly fell out of the tree.

Luckily for the rascals three, Malvolio did not notice, instead bending all attention on the letter. “‘To the unknown beloved, this, and my good wishes:’–her very phrases!” Suddenly, he looked around, peering low under the bushes and around the hedges. He then slipped his finger under the seal and pulled it from the page, opening the envelope. Then he continued but more quietly, “By your leave, wax! And the impressure her Lucrece, with which she uses to seal: ’tis my lady. To whom should this be?”

Settling himself on a bench directly under the box tree, he continued reading silently — but now the scallywags could read along with him.

Jove knows I love: But who?
Lips, do not move;
No man must know.

If this should be thee, Malvolio?” he asked himself, his earlier daydreams flashing into bright promise.

I may command where I adore;
But silence, like a Lucrece knife,
With bloodless stroke my heart doth gore:
M, O, A, I, doth sway my life.

Fabian grinned and murmured, “A fustian riddle!”

It was, indeed, a pretentious thing, and Sir Toby was delighted by it. Eagerly they listened to the steward muttering to himself.

“‘M, O, A, I, doth sway my life.’ Nay, but first, let me see, let me see, let me see.

“‘I may command where I adore.’ Why, she may command me: I serve her; she is my lady. Why, this is evident to any formal capacity; there is no obstruction in this: and the end,–what should that alphabetical position portend? If I could make that resemble something in me,–Softly! M, O, A, I,–”

This followed several minutes of Malvolio trying to find some way to claim that those letters were a reference to his name. A period where Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, and Fabian passed the time by making a mock of Malvolio’s foolishness and ignorance of the trouble he was walking into.

Finally, Malvolio gave up, saying, “M, O, A, I; this simulation is not as the former: and yet, to crush this a little, it would bow to me, for every one of these letters are in my name. Soft! here follows prose.”

‘If this fall into thy hand, revolve. In my stars I
am above thee; but be not afraid of greatness: some
are born great, some achieve greatness, and some
have greatness thrust upon ’em. Thy Fates open
their hands; let thy blood and spirit embrace them;
and, to inure thyself to what thou art like to be,
cast thy humble slough and appear fresh. Be
opposite with a kinsman, surly with servants; let
thy tongue tang arguments of state; put thyself into
the trick of singularity: she thus advises thee
that sighs for thee. Remember who commended thy
yellow stockings, and wished to see thee ever
cross-gartered: I say, remember. Go to, thou art
made, if thou desirest to be so; if not, let me see
thee a steward still, the fellow of servants, and
not worthy to touch Fortune’s fingers. Farewell.
She that would alter services with thee,
THE FORTUNATE-UNHAPPY.’

Malvolio was transported into raptures as one who has been granted a vision of the heavens. “Daylight and champaign discovers not more: this is open.” He stood and pulled himself erect, thrusting his shoulders back. “I will be proud. I will baffle Sir Toby, I will wash off gross acquaintance, I will be point-devise the very man.” Shaking a fist to any who dared dissuade him, he declared, “I do not now fool myself, to let imagination jade me.” He let the first fall, and a soft smile crept across his face. He looked down at the letter with eyes bright, “for every reason excites to this, that my lady loves me. She did commend my yellow stockings of late, she did praise my leg being cross-gartered, and in this she manifests herself to my love. Jove and my stars be praised!”

Then something caught his eye, and he sat down again. “Here is yet a postscript…”

‘Thou canst not choose but know who I am. If thou
entertainest my love, let it appear in thy smiling;
thy smiles become thee well; therefore in my
presence still smile, dear my sweet, I prithee.’

“Jove,” he said with a happy sigh, “I thank thee: I will smile; I will do everything that thou wilt have me.”

With firm purpose, he stood from the bench and strode off, ready to achieve his future.

As soon as he was out of sight, the box tree exploded with laughter. Fabian slid down the tree first, stammering between bursts of laughter, “I will not give my part of this sport for a pension of thousands to be paid from the Sophy.”

“I could marry this wench for this device,” Sir Toby chortled, stumbling down to trip over the bench, still laughing.

“So could I too,” agreed Sir Andrew, “trying to figure out how to get down from the tree.”

“And ask no other dowry with her but such another jest!” Toby continued, ignoring Sir Andrew.

“Nor I neither,” Sir Andrew agreed again.

“Here,” Fabian said, “comes my noble gull-catcher.”

Finding his feet again, Sir Toby knelt in front of Maria and bowed his head, “Wilt thou set thy foot o’ my neck?”

Maria put her hand to her mouth and dropped her eyes, unable, for a moment, to speak.

Finally, down from the tree, Sir Andrew threw himself on his knees beside Sir Toby, “Or o’ mine either?”

Looking up, Sir Toby offered Maria his hand, which she took and pulled him to his feet. “Why, thou hast put him in such a dream, that when the image of it leaves him he must run mad.”

Blushing, Maria asked, “Nay, but say true; does it work upon him?”

“Like aqua-vitae with a midwife,” Sir Toby assured her.

She grinned freely a moment, then, as if recalling herself, dropped his and stepped back. “If you will then see the fruits of the sport,” she said, “mark his first approach before my lady: he will come to her in yellow stockings, and ’tis a colour she abhors, and cross-gartered, a fashion she detests; and he will smile upon her, which will now be so unsuitable to her disposition, being addicted to a melancholy as she is, that it cannot but turn him into a notable contempt. If you will see it, follow me.”

Fabian was carefully not looking at Sir Andrew’s yellow stockings, but Sir Toby had eyes only for Maria. “To the gates of Tartar, thou most excellent devil of wit!”

“I’ll make one too,” Sir Andrew called out after the pair as they headed quickly for the manor.


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