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“Mark your divorce, young sir,” said the king, discovering himself.

Polixenes then reproached his son for daring to contract himself to this low-born maiden, calling Perdita “shepherd’s-brat, sheep-hook,”

and other disrespectful names; and threatening, if ever she suffered his son to see her again, he would put her, and the old shepherd her father, to a cruel death.

The king then left them in great wrath, and ordered Camillo to follow him with prince Florizel.

When the king had departed, Perdita, whose royal nature was roused by Polixenes’s reproaches, said, “Though we are all undone, I was not much afraid; and once or twice I was about to speak, and tell him plainly that the self-same sun which shines upon his palace, hides not his face from our cottage, but looks on both alike.” Then sorrowfully she said, “But now I am awakened from this dream, I will queen it no farther. Leave me, sir; I will go milk my ewes, and weep.”

The kind-hearted Camillo was charmed with the spirit and propriety of Perdita’s behaviour; and perceiving that the young prince was too deeply in love to give up his mistress at the command of his royal father, he thought of a way to befriend the lovers, and at the same time to execute a favourite scheme he had in his mind.

Camillo had long known that Leontes, the king of Sicily, was become a true penitent; and though Camillo was now the favoured friend of king Polixenes, he could not help wishing once more to see his late royal master and his native home. He therefore proposed to Florizel and Perdita, that they should accompany him to the Sicilian court, where he would engage Leontes should protect them, till through his mediation they could obtain pardon from Polixenes, and his consent to their marriage.

To this proposal they joyfully agreed; and Camillo, who conducted every thing relative to their flight, allowed the old shepherd to go along with them.

The shepherd took with him the remainder of Perdita’s jewels, her baby clothes, and the paper which he had found pinned to her mantle.

After a prosperous voyage, Florizel and Perdita, Camillo and the old shepherd, arrived in safety at the court of Leontes. Leontes, who still mourned his dead Hermione and his lost child, received Camillo with great kindness, and gave a cordial welcome to prince Florizel.

But Perdita, whom Florizel introduced as his princess, seemed to engross all Leontes’ attention: perceiving a resemblance between her and his dead queen Hermione, his grief broke out afresh, and he said, such a lovely creature might his own daughter have been, if he had not so cruelly destroyed her. “And then too,” said he to Florizel, “I lost the society and friendship of your brave father, whom I now desire more than my life once again to look upon.”

When the old shepherd heard how much notice the king had taken of Perdita, and that he had lost a daughter, who was exposed in infancy, he fell to comparing the time when he found the little Perdita with the manner of its exposure, the jewels and other tokens of its high birth; from all which it was impossible for him not to conclude, that Perdita and the king’s lost daughter were the same.

Florizel and Perdita, Camillo and the faithful Paulina, were present when the old shepherd related to the king the manner in which he had found the child, and also the circ.u.mstance of Antigonus’s death, he having seen the bear seize upon him. He shewed the rich mantle in which Paulina remembered Hermione had wrapped the child; and he produced a jewel which she remembered Hermione had tied about Perdita’s neck, and he gave up the paper which Paulina knew to be the writing of her husband; it could not be doubted that Perdita was Leontes’ own daughter: but oh! the n.o.ble struggles of Paulina, between sorrow for her husband’s death, and joy that the oracle was fulfilled, in the king’s heir, his long-lost daughter, being found. When Leontes heard that Perdita was his daughter, the great sorrow that he felt that Hermione was not living to behold her child, made him that he could say nothing for a long time, but “O thy mother, thy mother!”

Paulina interrupted this joyful yet distressful scene, with saying to Leontes, that she had a statue, newly finished by that rare Italian master, Julio Romano, which was such a perfect resemblance of the queen, that would his majesty be pleased to go to her house and look upon it, he would be almost ready to think it was Hermione herself.

Thither then they all went; the king anxious to see the semblance of his Hermione, and Perdita longing to behold what the mother she never saw did look like.

When Paulina drew back the curtain which concealed this famous statue, so perfectly did it resemble Hermione, that all the king’s sorrow was renewed at the sight: for a long time he had no power to speak or move.

“I like your silence, my liege,” said Paulina; “it the more shews your wonder. Is not this statue very like your queen?” At length the king said, “O, thus she stood, even with such majesty, when I first wooed her. But yet, Paulina, Hermione was not so aged as this statue looks.”

Paulina replied, “So much the more the carver’s excellence, who has made the statue as Hermione would have looked had she been living now.

But let me draw the curtain, sire, lest presently you think it moves.”

The king then said, “Do not draw the curtain! Would I were dead! See, Camillo, would you not think it breathed? Her eye seems to have motion in it.” “I must draw the curtain, my liege,” said Paulina. “You are so transported, you will persuade yourself the statue lives.” “O, sweet Paulina,” said Leontes, “make me think so twenty years together! Still methinks there is an air comes from her. What fine chisel could ever yet cut breath? Let no man mock me, for I will kiss her.” “Good, my lord, forbear!” said Paulina. “The ruddiness upon her lip is wet; you will stain your own with oily painting. Shall I draw the curtain?”

“No, not these twenty years,” said Leontes.

Perdita, who all this time had been kneeling, and beholding in silent admiration the statue of her matchless mother, said now, “And so long could I stay here, looking upon my dear mother.”

“Either forbear this transport,” said Paulina to Leontes, “and let me draw the curtain; or prepare yourself for more amazement. I can make the statue move indeed; aye, and descend from off the pedestal, and take you by the hand. But then you will think, which I protest I am not, that I am a.s.sisted by some wicked powers.” “What you can make her do,” said the astonished king, “I am content to look upon. What you can make her speak, I am content to hear; for it is as easy to make her speak as move.”

Paulina then ordered some slow and solemn music, which she had prepared for the purpose, to strike up; and to the amazement of all the beholders, the statue came down from off the pedestal, and threw its arms around Leontes’ neck. The statue then began to speak, praying for blessings on her husband, and on her child, the newly found Perdita.

No wonder that the statue hung upon Leontes’ neck, and blessed her husband and her child. No wonder; for the statue was indeed Hermione herself, the real, the living queen.

Paulina had falsely reported to the king the death of Hermione, thinking that the only means to preserve her royal mistress’s life; and with the good Paulina Hermione had lived ever since, never choosing Leontes should know she was living, till she heard Perdita was found; for though she had long forgiven the injuries which Leontes had done to herself, she could not pardon his cruelty to his infant daughter.

His dead queen thus restored to life, his lost daughter found, the long-sorrowing Leontes could scarcely support the excess of his own happiness.

Nothing but congratulations and affectionate speeches were heard on all sides. Now the delighted parents thanked prince Florizel for loving their lowly-seeming daughter; and now they blessed the good old shepherd for preserving their child. Greatly did Camillo and Paulina rejoice, that they had lived to see so good an end of all their faithful services.

And as if nothing should be wanting to complete this strange and unlooked-for joy, king Polixenes himself now entered the palace.

When Polixenes first missed his son and Camillo, knowing that Camillo had long wished to return to Sicily, he conjectured he should find the fugitives here; and, following them with all speed, he happened to arrive just at this, the happiest moment of Leontes’ life.

Polixenes took a part in the general joy; he forgave his friend Leontes the unjust jealousy he had conceived against him, and they once more loved each other with all the warmth of their first boyish friendship. And there was no fear that Polixenes would now oppose his son’s marriage with Perdita. She was no “sheep-hook” now, but the heiress of the crown of Sicily.

Thus have we seen the patient virtues of the long-suffering Hermione rewarded. That excellent lady lived many years with her Leontes and her Perdita, the happiest of mothers and of queens.

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING

(_By Mary Lamb_)

There lived in the palace at Messina two ladies, whose names were Hero and Beatrice. Hero was the daughter, and Beatrice the niece, of Leonato, the governor of Messina.

Beatrice was of a lively temper, and loved to divert her cousin Hero, who was of a more serious disposition, with her sprightly sallies.

Whatever was going forward was sure to make matter of mirth for the light-hearted Beatrice.

At the time the history of these ladies commences, some young men of high rank in the army, as they were pa.s.sing through Messina on their return from a war that was just ended, in which they had distinguished themselves by their great bravery, came to visit Leonato. Among these were Don Pedro, the prince of Arragon; and his friend Claudio, who was a lord of Florence; and with them came the wild and witty Bened.i.c.k, and he was a lord of Padua.

These strangers had been at Messina before, and the hospitable governor introduced them to his daughter and his niece as their old friends and acquaintance.

Bened.i.c.k, the moment he entered the room, began a lively conversation with Leonato and the prince. Beatrice, who liked not to be left out of any discourse, interrupted Bened.i.c.k with saying, “I wonder that you will still be talking, signior Bened.i.c.k; n.o.body marks you.” Bened.i.c.k was just such another rattle-brain as Beatrice, yet he was not pleased at this free salutation: he thought it did not become a well-bred lady to be so flippant with her tongue; and he remembered, when he was last at Messina, that Beatrice used to select him to make her merry jests upon. And as there is no one who so little likes to be made a jest of as those who are apt to take the same liberty themselves, so it was with Bened.i.c.k and Beatrice; these two sharp wits never met in former times but a perfect war of raillery was kept up between them, and they always parted mutually displeased with each other. Therefore when Beatrice stopped him in the middle of his discourse with telling him n.o.body marked what he was saying, Bened.i.c.k, affecting not to have observed before that she was present, said, “What, my dear lady Disdain, are you yet living?” And now war broke out afresh between them, and a long jangling argument ensued, during which Beatrice, although she knew he had so well approved his valour in the late war, said that she would eat all he had killed there: and observing the prince take delight in Bened.i.c.k’s conversation, she called him “the prince’s jester.” This sarcasm sunk deeper into the mind of Bened.i.c.k than all Beatrice had said before. The hint she gave him that he was a coward, by saying she would eat all he had killed, he did not regard, knowing himself to be a brave man: but there is nothing that great wits so much dread as the imputation of buffoonery, because the charge comes sometimes a little too near the truth; therefore Bened.i.c.k perfectly hated Beatrice, when she called him “the prince’s jester.”

The modest lady Hero was silent before the n.o.ble guests; and while Claudio was attentively observing the improvement which time had made in her beauty, and was contemplating the exquisite graces of her fine figure (for she was an admirable young lady), the prince was highly amused with listening to the humorous dialogue between Bened.i.c.k and Beatrice; and he said in a whisper to Leonato, “This is a pleasant-spirited young lady. She were an excellent wife for Bened.i.c.k.” Leonato replied to this suggestion, “O my lord, my lord, if they were but a week married, they would talk themselves mad.” But though Leonato thought they would make a discordant pair, the prince did not give up the idea of matching these two keen wits together.

When the prince returned with Claudio from the palace, he found that the marriage he had devised between Bened.i.c.k and Beatrice was not the only one projected in that good company, for Claudio spoke in such terms of Hero, as made the prince guess at what was pa.s.sing in his heart; and he liked it well, and he said to Claudio, “Do you affect Hero?” To this question Claudio replied, “O my lord, when I was last at Messina, I looked upon her with a soldier’s eye, that liked, but had no leisure for loving; but now, in this happy time of peace, thoughts of war have left their places vacant in my mind, and in their room come thronging soft and delicate thoughts, all prompting me how fair young Hero is, reminding me that I liked her before I went to the wars.” Claudio’s confession of his love for Hero so wrought upon the prince, that he lost no time in soliciting the consent of Leonato to accept of Claudio for a son-in-law. Leonato agreed to this proposal, and the prince found no great difficulty in persuading the gentle Hero herself to listen to the suit of the n.o.ble Claudio, who was a lord of rare endowments, and highly accomplished; and Claudio, a.s.sisted by his kind prince, soon prevailed upon Leonato to fix an early day for the celebration of his marriage with Hero.

Claudio was to wait but a few days before he was to be married to his fair lady; yet he complained of the interval being tedious, as indeed most young men are impatient, when they are waiting for the accomplishment of any event they have set their hearts upon: the prince therefore, to make the time seem short to him, proposed as a kind of merry pastime, that they should invent some artful scheme to make Bened.i.c.k and Beatrice fall in love with each other. Claudio entered with great satisfaction into this whim of the prince, and Leonato promised them his a.s.sistance, and even Hero said she would do any modest office to help her cousin to a good husband.

The device the prince invented was, that the gentlemen should make Bened.i.c.k believe that Beatrice was in love with him, and that Hero should make Beatrice believe that Bened.i.c.k was in love with her.

The prince, Leonato, and Claudio, began their operations first, and watching an opportunity when Bened.i.c.k was quietly seated reading in an arbour, the prince and his a.s.sistants took their station among the trees behind the arbour, so near that Bened.i.c.k could not choose but hear all they said; and after some careless talk the prince said, “Come hither, Leonato. What was it you told me the other day,–that your niece Beatrice was in love with signior Bened.i.c.k? I did never think that lady would have loved any man.” “No, nor I neither, my lord,” answered Leonato. “It is most wonderful that she should so doat on Bened.i.c.k, whom she in all outward behaviour seemed ever to dislike.” Claudio confirmed all this, with saying that Hero had told him Beatrice was so in love with Bened.i.c.k that she would certainly die of grief, if he could not be brought to love her; which Leonato and Claudio seemed to agree was impossible, he having always been such a railer against all fair ladies, and in particular against Beatrice.

The prince affected to hearken to all this with great compa.s.sion for Beatrice, and he said, “It were good that Bened.i.c.k were told of this.”

“To what end?” said Claudio; “he would but make sport of it, and torment the poor lady worse.” “And if he should,” said the prince, “it were a good deed to hang him; for Beatrice is an excellent sweet lady, and exceeding wise in every thing but in loving Bened.i.c.k.” Then the prince motioned to his companions that they should walk on, and leave Bened.i.c.k to meditate upon what he had overheard.

Bened.i.c.k had been listening with great eagerness to this conversation; and he said to himself when he heard Beatrice loved him, “Is it possible? Sits the wind in that corner?” And when they were gone, he began to reason in this manner with himself. “This can be no trick!

they were very serious, and they have the truth from Hero, and seem to pity the lady. Love me! Why, it must be requited! I did never think to marry. But when I said I should die a bachelor, I did not think I should live to be married. They say the lady is virtuous and fair. She is so. And wise in every thing but in loving me. Why that is no great argument of her folly. But here comes Beatrice. By this day, she is a fair lady. I do spy some marks of love in her.” Beatrice now approached him, and said with her usual tartness, “Against my will I am sent to bid you come in to dinner.” Bened.i.c.k, who never felt himself disposed to speak so politely to her before, replied, “Fair Beatrice, I thank you for your pains:” and when Beatrice after two or three more rude speeches left him, Bened.i.c.k thought he observed a concealed meaning of kindness under the uncivil words she uttered, and he said aloud, “If I do not take pity on her, I am a villain. If I do not love her, I am a Jew. I will go get her picture.”

The gentleman being thus caught in the net they had spread for him, it was now Hero’s turn to play her part with Beatrice; and for this purpose she sent for Ursula and Margaret, two gentlewomen who attended upon her, and she said to Margaret, “Good Margaret, run to the parlour; there you will find my cousin Beatrice talking with the prince and Claudio. Whisper in her ear, that I and Ursula are walking in the orchard, and that our discourse is all of her. Bid her steal into that pleasant arbour, where honey-suckles, ripened by the sun, like ungrateful minions, forbid the sun to enter.” This arbour, into which Hero desired Margaret to entice Beatrice, was the very same pleasant arbour where Bened.i.c.k had so lately been an attentive listener. “I will make her come, I warrant, presently,” said Margaret.

Hero, then taking Ursula with her into the orchard, said to her, “Now, Ursula, when Beatrice comes, we will walk up and down this alley, and our talk must be only of Bened.i.c.k, and when I name him, let it be your part to praise him more than ever man did merit. My talk to you must be how Bened.i.c.k is in love with Beatrice. Now begin; for look where Beatrice like a lapwing runs close by the ground, to hear our conference.” They then began; Hero saying, as if in answer to something which Ursula had said, “No truly, Ursula. She is too disdainful; her spirits are as coy as wild birds of the rock.”

“But are you sure,” said Ursula, “that Bened.i.c.k loves Beatrice so entirely?” Hero replied, “So says the prince, and my lord Claudio, and they intreated me to acquaint her with it; but I persuaded them, if they loved Bened.i.c.k, never to let Beatrice know of it.” “Certainly,”

replied Ursula, “it were not good she knew his love, lest she made sport of it.” “Why to say truth,” said Hero, “I never yet saw a man, how wise soever, or n.o.ble, young or rarely featured, but she would dispraise him.” “Sure, sure, such carping is not commendable,” said Ursula. “No,” replied Hero, “but who dare tell her so? if I should speak, she would mock me into air.” “O you wrong your cousin,” said Ursula: “she cannot be so much without true judgment, as to refuse so rare a gentleman as signior Bened.i.c.k.” “He hath an excellent good name,” said Hero: “indeed he is the first man in Italy, always excepting my dear Claudio.” And now, Hero giving her attendant a hint that it was time to change the discourse, Ursula said, “And when are you to be married, madam?” Hero then told her, that she was to be married to Claudio the next day, and desired she would go in with her, and look at some new attire, as she wished to consult with her on what she should wear on the morrow. Beatrice, who had been listening with breathless eagerness to this dialogue, when they went away, exclaimed, “What fire is in my ears? Can this be true? Farewel, contempt, and scorn and maiden pride, adieu! Bened.i.c.k, love on! I will requite you, taming my wild heart to your loving hand.”

It must have been a pleasant sight to see these old enemies converted into new and loving friends; and to behold their first meeting after being cheated into mutual liking by the merry artifice of the good-humoured prince. But a sad reverse in the fortunes of Hero must now be thought of. The morrow, which was to have been her wedding day, brought sorrow on the heart of Hero and her good father Leonato.

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