We’re in the home stretch, only a few episodes left. Hope you’ve enjoyed the ride as much as I have.
Season Content Notes: Revenge plot, violence, boundary violations, sexual harassment, ableist language
The fool and a few gardeners who had the… ah… ill luck to witness Sebastian’s pain had remained behind when he and the countess left to seek the priest. It was these the newly-arrived Duke Orsino addressed, asking, “Belong you to the Lady Olivia, friends?”
“Ay, sir,” the fool replied with a mocking bow, “We are some of her trappings.”
The Duke, well familiar with the fool’s antics, laughed. “I know thee well; how dost thou, my good fellow?”
“Truly, sir, the better for my foes and the worse for my friends.”
“Just the contrary,” the Duke said, “The better for thy friends.”
The fool shook his head sadly, “No, sir, the worse.”
“How can that be?”
“Marry, sir,” the fool replied, clearly surprised at the Duke’s confusion. “My friends praise me and make an ass of me. Now my foes tell me plainly I am an ass: so that by my foes, sir I profit in the knowledge of myself, and by my friends, I am abused. So that, conclusions to be as kisses, if your four negatives make your two affirmatives why then, the worse for my friends and the better for my foes.”
“Why, this is excellent,” Duke Orsino said with another laugh
“By my troth, sir, no; though it please you to be one of my friends.”
“Thou shalt not be the worse for me: there’s gold,” and so saying, Orsino pulled out his purse and gave thrice what the fool had already received from Cesario that day.
Truly, the duke was a rarity. Most wealthy men are so stingy one would think each coin their last. The fool couldn’t resist testing how far Duke Orsino’s generosity went. Taking the coin, he managed a hang-dog look and held his hand spread wide, so the single coin looked small against his palm. “But that it would be double-dealing, sir. I would you could make it another.”
The duke laughed again. His changeable mein, it seemed, wore Janus’ happy face for the day. “O, you give me ill counsel.”
“Put your grace in your pocket, sir, for this once,” the fool said, clasping his hands in prayer, “and let your flesh and blood obey it.” When the fool opened his hands, the coin had disappeared.
“Well, I will be so much a sinner, to be a double-dealer: there’s another.”
The fool took the new coin, and then the first was beside it. The fool counted them off, “Primo, secundo, tertio.” He waved his finger over an empty spot awaiting a third coin, “is a good play; and the old saying is, the third pays for all.”
The duke shook his head but still smiled, “You can fool no more money out of me at this throw.”
The fool opened his mouth to prove the duke wrong, but Orsino held up his hand and waggled his eyebrows — a hideous sight that should never be seen again. “If you will let your lady know I am here to speak with her, and bring her along with you, it may awake my bounty further.”
Smiling now himself, the fool made the two coins he held disappear into his purse and bowed. “Marry, sir, lullaby to your bounty till I come again. I go, sir, let your bounty take a nap, I will awake it anon.”
The fool hurried off, but not so fast that he did not hear Cesario speak behind him: “Here comes the man, sir, that did rescue me.”
And indeed it was, as the fool exited — stage left, if you will — so entered the bold sailor Antonio, still in chains and escorted by two guardsmen.
The duke had, of course, heard of the matter from Cesario. But Cesario’s description had focused on the wonder of a stranger coming to his aid. The moment he saw Antonio’s countenance, all merriment left Orsino’s face. “That face of his I do remember well; Yet, when I saw it last, it was besmear’d as black as Vulcan in the smoke of war.”
The chief officer saluted, saying, “Orsino, this is that Antonio that took the Phoenix and her fraught from Candy. And,” the officer paused in emphasis, “this is he that did the Tiger board, when your young nephew Titus lost his leg. Here in the streets, desperate of shame and state, in private brawl did we apprehend him.”
Cesario watched in concern as Orsino’s face darkened with each word. The duke’s anger to his own was a fearsome thing. To an enemy? Cesario felt some debt to the stranger and stepped forward to stand in front of the duke. “He did me kindness, sir, drew on my side.” Orsino’s eyes focused on Cesario. And as they always did for one moment they swallowed all else. Cesario licked his lips and tried to recall what he had been saying.
Valentine cleared his throat. Loudly. Both Orsino and Cesario jumped, looked away. And Cesario awkwardly finished, “But in conclusion put strange speech upon me. I know not what ’twas but distraction.”
Orsino looking away, had locked eyes this time with Antonio. He gently pushed Cesario aside and advanced on the sailor. His voice, when he spoke, might have been called a growl, save that there was a note of curiosity mixed with the anger. “Notable pirate. Thou salt-water thief. What foolish boldness brought thee to their mercies, whom thou, in terms so bloody and so dear, hast made thine enemies?”
Another man might have stepped back, but Antonio met Orsino’s gaze. His only sign of nerves was that he licked his lips before speaking. “Orsino, noble sir, be pleased that I shake off these names you give me. Antonio never yet was thief or pirate.” He spread his hands, as best he could wearing manacles. “Though I confess, on base and ground enough, Orsino’s enemy.”
He paused as if daring the duke to contradict him. But Orsino, for all his faults, was honest. And after a moment, he gave a brief jerk of a nod.
Antonio returned the nod, took a deep breath, and continued. “A witchcraft drew me hither: that most ingrateful boy there by your side.” He gestured to Cesario, who shook his head in dismay. Antonio spat on the ground. “From the rude sea’s enraged and foamy mouth did I redeem; a wreck past hope he was. His life I gave him and did thereto add my love, without retention or restraint.”
Cesario listened to this recitation in the most peculiar state. For surely the man was mad — Cesario had indeed been pulled from the sea, but not by him! But also, here was a man declaring openly his love for another man, for Cesario. It fired Cesario’s hope for that thing he had not dared believe was possible. But also, another hope, a hope she had given up for dead all these months past — she! How long since he had thought of himself like that! But he would put aside all he had, all he longed for, all he was, if only…
Antonio continued speaking, but Cesario heard none of it. “How can this be?” He repeated to himself, “How can this be?”
As if in comfort, Orsino put a hand on Cesario’s shoulder and squeezed. “When came he to this town?” The duke demanded.
“To-day, my lord,” Antonio declared, “and for three months before, no interim, not a minute’s vacancy, both day and night did we keep company.”
As he finished speaking, the countess finally came out of her manner, followed by Maria and the fool.
Orsino, seeing her, sighed with longing, and it was all Cesario could do not to roll his eyes. “Here comes the countess: now heaven walks on earth.” Turning back to Antonio, the duke shook his head, almost sadly. “But for thee, fellow; fellow, thy words are madness. Three months this youth hath tended upon me. But more of that anon. Take him aside.”