Anticipation and Concern
Seventy-five miles north of London, at York, the archbishop concludes his comments to several lords, all seated around a massive, carved-oak table, whom he has summoned to meet in his palace. “Thus have you heard our cause and known our means; and, my most noble friends, I pray you all, speak plainly your opinions of our hopes.
“And first, lord marshal, what say you to it?” he asks Thomas Mowbray.
“I well allow the occasion of our arms,”—an expected attack, the earl replies, dryly, “but gladly would be better satisfied how, given our means, we should advance ourselves to look with forehead bold and big enough upon the power and puissance of the king.”
One nobleman tells him, “Our present musters grow upon the file to five and twenty thousand men of choice, but our supplies live largely in the hope of great Northumberland, whose bosom burns with an incensèd fire of injuries.”
Lord Bancroft regards him. “The question then, Lord Hastings, standeth thus: whether our present five and twenty thousand may hold up head without Northumberland.”
“With him, we may—” begins Hastings.
“Yea, marry, there’s the point!” says Bancroft. “But if without him we be thought too feeble, my judgment is that we should not step too far till we have his assistance by the hand! For in a theme so bloody-faced as this, conjecture, expectation, and surmise of aids incertain should not be admitted!”
“’Tis very true, Lord Bancroft,” says the archbishop, “for indeed that was young Hotspur’s case at Shrewsbury.”
“It was, my lord,” says Bancroft. “He aligned himself with hope, eating air on the promise of supply—flattering himself in projecting a power”—attacking with forces—“much smaller than the smallest in his thought! And so, with the great imagination proper to madmen, he led his powers to death, and, eyes shut, leaped into destruction!”
Still, Hastings wants to proceed. “But, by your leave, it never yet did hurt to lay down likelihoods, and forms of hope.”
Bancroft is a skeptic. “Yet the quality of the present war—indeed, this instant action, the cause afoot—lives in such hope as when in an early spring we see the appearing buds—which to prove fruit, hope gives not as much warrant as despair that frosts will bite them!
“When we mean to build, we first survey the plot, then draw a model; and when we see the figure of the house, we must then rate the cost of the erection—which if we find outweighs ability, what do we then but draw the model anew, for fewer purposes?—or at last desist building at all!
“Much more in this great work, which is almost to pluck a kingdom down and set another up, should we survey the plot of situation, and the model!—question surveyors, consent upon a sure foundation, know how able is our own estate to undergo such a work, weighed against its opposition!
“Or else we fortify paper and designs, using the names of men instead of men, like one that draws a model beyond his power to build it—who halfway through gives o’er, and leaves his partly created house naked—subject to the weeping clouds, and waiting for churlish winter’s tyranny!”
Hastings replies: “Even granted that our hopes, yet likely of fair birth, could be still-born, and that we are already possessed of the utmost men in expectation, I think we are a body strong enough as we are to equal with the king!”
The doubter scoffs. “What, has the king but five and twenty thousand?”
“Against us no more!—nay, not so much, Lord Bancroft,” argues Hastings. “For, as the times do brawl, his divisions are in several heads: one power against the French and one against Glendower!—perforce a third must take up us! So is the unfirm king in three divided—and his coffers sound of hollow poverty and emptiness!”
The archbishop believes the other threats to King Henry will continue. “That he should draw his strengths together and come against us in full puissance need not be dreaded.”
Adds Hastings, “If he should do so, he leaves his back unarmed!—the French and Welsh baying him at the heels! Never fear that!”
Bancroft considers for a moment. “Who is it likely should lead his forces hither?”
“The Duke of Lancaster”—Prince John—“and Westmoreland,” says Hastings. “Against the Welsh, himself and Harry Monmouth”—Prince Harry. “But who is substituted ’gainst the French, I have no certain notice.”
“Let us on, and publish the explanation for our arms!” urges the archbishop. “The commonwealth is sick of their own choice: their over-greedy love hath surfeited! An habitation giddy and unsure hath he that buildeth on the vulgar heart!”—the commoner’s. “O thou foolish many, with what loud applause didst thou beat heaven with blessing Bolingbroke, before he was what thou wouldst have him be!”—king. “And being now trimmèd with thine own desires, thou, beastly feeder, art so full of him that thou provokest thyself to cast him up!”—to spew.
“So, so, thou common dog,” adds the churchman, “didst thou disgorge thy glutton bosom of the royal Richard! And now, when thou wouldst eat thy dead vomit, thou howl’st to find it!
“What trust is in these times? Thou that when Richard lived would have him die are now become enamoured of his grave!
“Thou that threw’st dust upon his goodly head when through proud London he came sighing on after the admirèd heels of Bolingbroke, criest now, ‘O earth, yield us that king again, and take thou this!’
“Oh, thoughts of men accursèd! Past and to come seems best—things present, worst.”
Mowbray looks at the others. “Shall we go draw our numbers”—gather troops—“and set on?”
Hastings rises, nodding. “We are Time’s subjects—and Time bids begone!”
The nobleman means get moving—but Rumor might well laugh.
Mistress Ursula Quickly is primed for confrontation late this morning. “Master Fang, have you entered the action?” she asks the officer.
“It is entered.” Her charges have been filed with the magistrate.
“Where’s your yeoman? Is’t a lusty yeoman?—will he stand to ’t?”
Fang asks his boy, “Sirrah, where’s Snare?”
“Oh, Lord, aye!” says Mistress Quickly, approving. “Good Master Snare!”
A large, burly man with a black beard clumps past the others on the muddy road through Eastcheap. “Here,” he says, wiping his hands on the threadbare blue jacket of his office, “here.”
“Snare, we must arrest Sir John Falstaff,” Fang tells him.
“Yes, good Master Snare!” says Mistress Quickly. “I have entered him and all!”
“It may ’chance cost some of us our lives,” warns Snare, “for he will stab—”
“Alas the day!” she cries. “Take heed of him!—he’s stabbed me in mine own house!—and that most beastly! If his weapon be out, he will foin like any devil!” She shakes her head. “In good faith, he cares not what mischief he does! He will spare neither man, woman, nor child!”
Snare rubs his large, hairy-backed hands together. “If I can close with him, I care not for his thrust!”
“No, nor I neither!” says Mistress Quickly. “I’ll be at your elbows!”
Snare in confident. “An I but fist him once, an ’a come but within my vice—”
“I am undone by his going!” moans Mistress Quickly, worried that the knight, bound for the war, will leave his debts at home unpaid. “I warrant you, he’s an infinitive thing upon my score!”—an endless debit, although thing suggests penis. “Good Master Fang, hold him sure; good Master Snare, let him not ’scape!
“He comes continuantly to Pie Corner,”—she ignores the smirks; it’s on Cock’s Lane, “saving your manhoods, to ‘buy a saddle!’ And he’s indicted to dinner at the Lubber’s Head in Lumbert Street, is Master Smooth, the silk man!
“I pray ye, since my action is entered and my case so openly known to the world,”—ill- phrased; case is a common synonym for cunt, “let him be brought in to his answer! A hundred marks”—sixty-six pounds—“is a long one for a poor, lone woman to bear!” She groans, thinking of what the fat knight owes her. “And I have so borne, and borne, and borne, and have been fubbed off, and fubbed off, and fubbed off, from this day to that day, that it is a shame to be thought on! There is no honesty in such dealing; unless a woman should be made an ass and a beast, to bear every knave’s wrongs!”
She points up the street. “Yonder he comes!—and that arrant, malmsey-nose knave Bardolph with him! Do your offices, do your offices! Master Fang and Master Snare, do me, do me, do me your offices!”
Falstaff approaches, aware of turmoil. “How now?—whose mare’s dead? What’s the matter?”
Fang reaches for his arm. “Sir John, I arrest you at the suit of Mistress Quickly!”
“Away, varlets!” cries Falstaff, stepping back. “Draw, Bardolph! Cut me off the villain’s head! Throw the quean”—a rude term for a woman—“in the channel!” The Thames is a quarter-mile away.
“Throw me in the channel?” huffs Mistress Quickly. “I’ll throw thee in the channel!” She shakes a small white fist. “Murder, murder!” she cries, as Bardolph brandishes his rapier. “Wilt thou? Wilt thou, thou bastardly rogue! Oh, thou honey-suckle”—she means homicidal—“villain! Wilt thou kill God’s officers—and the king’s? Ah, thou rogue, thou art a honey-seed!—a man-queller, and a woman-queller!”
As the killer back away, Falstaff urges, from beside him, “Keep them off, Bardolph!”
Fang calls for help as his prisoner escapes, protesting, “A rescue! A rescue!”
“Good people bring a rescuer too!” cries Mistress Quickly, as passers-by dash for safety. She glares at the knight. “Thou wo’t, wo’t thou? Thou wo’t, wo’t ya? Do, do, thou rogue! Do, thou hemp-speed!”—one destined for a hangman’s rope.
“Away, you scullion!” cries Falstaff. “You rampallion! You fustilarian! I’ll tickle your cat-ass-trophee!”
The disturbance soon draws the lord chief justice—with four deputies. “What is the matter?” he demands. “Keep the peace here, ho!”
Mistress Quickly hurries to his side. “Good my lord, be good to me! I beseech you, stand to me!”
He ignores the unintentionally indecent request. “How now, Sir John! What?—are you brawling here? Doth this become your place, your time and business? You should have been well on your way to York!”—with a new company of foot-soldiers.
“Stand from him, fellow! Wherefore hang’st upon him?” demands the judge. Bardolph moves away a pace and sheathes his blade.
Mistress Quickly curtseys. “O most worshipful lord, an’t please Your Grace, I am a poor widow of Eastcheap, and he is arrested at my suit.”
“For what sum?”
“It is more than for some, my lord!—it is for all, all I have! He hath eaten me out of house and home!—he hath put all my substance into that fat belly of his!
“But I will have some of it out again!” she tells Falstaff hotly, “or I will ride thee o’ nights like the mare!”—nightmare.
“I think I am as likely to ride the mare!” retorts Falstaff, “if I have any vantage of grounds to get up!”
The chief justice is dismayed by the knight’s ribald reply. “How comes this, Sir John? Fie! What man of good temper would deliver this tempest of exclamation? Are you not ashamed to enforce a poor widow to so rough a course to come by her own?”
Falstaff faces the widow. “What is the gross sum that I owe thee?”
“Marry, if thou wert an honest man,” she says ruefully, “thyself, and the money too!
“Thou didst swear to me—upon a partly gilt goblet, sitting in my ‘Dolphin’ chamber, at the round table by a sea-coal fire, upon Wednesday in Wheeson week, when the prince broke thy head for likening his father to a singing-man of Windsor—thou didst swear to me then, as I was washing thy wound, to marry me and make me my lady thy wife!
“Canst thou deny it? Did not Goodwife Suet, the butcher’s wife, come in then and call me Gossip Quickly?—coming in to borrow a mess of vinegar; telling us she had a good dish of prawns?—whereby thou didst desire to eat some?—whereby I told thee they were ill for a green wound? And didst thou not, when she was gone down stairs, desire me to be no more so familiarity with such poor people?—saying that ere long they should call me madam!”—so addressing a knight’s wife, as she took it, if not as he meant it.
“And didst thou not kiss me, and bid me fetch thee thirty shillings? I put thee now to thy Book oath!—deny it, if thou canst!”
Falstaff turns calmly to the justice. “My lord, this is a poor, mad soul—and she says up and down the town that her eldest son looks like you!” The judge merely frowns. “She hath not seen a good case; and the truth is, poverty hath distracted her,” the knight adds benevolently. “But as for these foolish officers, I beseech you I may have redress against them!”
The justice scolds: “Sir John, Sir John, I am well acquainted with your manner of wrenching a true cause a false way! It is not the confident brow, nor the throng of words that come with such more-than-impudent sauciness from you that can thrust me from a level consideration!
“You have, as it appears to me, practised upon the easy, yielding spirit of this woman, and made her serve your uses, both in purse and in person!”
“Yes, in truth, my lord!” she affirms, utterly unabashed.
“Pray thee, peace,” the judge tells her. He eyes Falstaff with contempt. “Pay her the debt you owe her, and unpay the villainy you have done her! The one you may do with sterling money, and the other with current repentance!”
Falstaff affects indignation. “My lord, I will not undergo this stripe”—whip mark—“without reply! You call honourable boldness ‘impudent sauciness!’ If a man will make courtesy”—bow—“and say nothing, is he virtuous? No, my lord!—my humble duty remembered, I will not be your petitioner; I say to you I do deserve deliverance from these officers, being upon hasty employment in the king’s affairs!”
As the deputies gaze, frowning, at Falstaff, the justice rebukes him: “You speak as one having power to do wrong! But answer to the effect on your reputation, and satisfy this poor woman!”
Falstaff knows he is ill reputed—and surrounded; still, satisfy…. “Come hither, hostess.” They confer together quietly.
As the two talk, the chief justice spots a man running toward him, waving a document to draw his attention. “Now, Master Gower, what news?”
“The king, my lord, and Harry, Prince of Wales, are near at hand!” gasps Gower. “The rest the paper tells….”
The judge unfolds it and begins to read.
Falstaff is gently taking Mistress Quickly by the hand. “As I am a gentleman,” he tells her in conclusion.
“’Faith, you said so before!” she replies.
“As I am a gentleman. Come, no more words on it.”
She is fretful. “By this heavenly ground I tread on, I would be forced to pawn both my plate and the tapestry of my dining-chambers!”—muslin, painted with scenes of allegory. But she does not withdraw her hand.
“Glasses, glasses is the only drinking ware!” he counters glibly. “And as for thy walls: a pretty, slight drollery in watercolor—on the story of the prodigal, or the hunting German—is worth a thousand of these bed-hangings, these fly-bitten ‘tapestries!’”
Falstaff smiles. “Let it be ten pounds, if thou canst” he says, of this new loan of money. “Come, an ’twere not for thy humours,”—moods, “there’s not a better wench in England!” She blushes, and he notes her tears. “Go, wash thy face, and withdraw the action. Come, thou must not be in this humour with me!—dost not know me? Come, come, I know thou wast set on to do this….”
“Pray thee, Sir John, let it be but twenty nobles,”—about three pounds, she pleads. “I’ faith, I am loath to pawn my plate, so God save me, la!”
“Let it alone,” says Falstaff gently. “I’ll make other shift,” he sighs—while thinking, You’ll be a fool ever!
Mistress Quickly surrenders. “Well, you shall have it, though I pawn my gown!” She looks up at him, wiping her eyes. “I hope you’ll come to supper. You’ll pay me all together?”—everything, someday.
Falstaff beams. “Will I live?” To Bardolph he whispers. “Go!—with her, with her!” he urges, eager to get the money. “Hook on, hook on!”
Mistress Quickly strives to please: “Will you have Doll Tearsheet meet you at supper?”
Falstaff smiles at her again. “No more words,” he says tenderly. But as she goes he adds, “Let’s have her.”
Bardolph leads the hostess away, and the deputies return to their rounds.
The lord chief justice now looks up from the paper. “I have heard better news,” he tells Gower gravely.
“What’s the news, my lord?” asks Falstaff.
The judge ignores him. “Where lay the king last night?”
“At Basingstoke, my lord,” Gower reports.
“I hope, my lord, all’s well,” says Falstaff, trying again. “What is the news, my lord?”
“Come all his forces back?” asks Sir William.
“No,” says Gower. “Fifteen hundred foot, five hundred horse, are marching with my lord of Lancaster against Northumberland and the archbishop.” Having defeated Glendower’s force, those royal troops are camped about fifteen leagues west of London, preparing to march north to confront the remaining rebels.
Falstaff persists. “Comes the king back from Wales, my noble lord?”
“You shall have letters of me presently,” the judge tells his chief clerk. “Come, go along with me, good Master Gower.” They start away.
“My lord!—” says Falstaff.
“What’s the matter?” asks the chief justice, annoyed.
The knight smiles. “Master Gower, shall I entreat you to dine with me?” It is nearly noon.
“I must wait upon my good lord, here; I thank you, good Sir John.”
The judge frowns. “Sir John, you loiter here too long, being you are to take soldiers up”—impress men into service—“in counties as you go.”
Falstaff looks past him. “Will you sup with me, Master Gower?”
The justice frowns. “What foolish master taught you these manners, Sir John?”
“Master Gower,” says Falstaff, “if they become me not, he was a fool that taught them to me!” He looks at the chief justice. “This is the rite of fencing grace, my lord: tap for tap!—and so I part fair!” With that, he lumbers away.
Says the disgusted judge, watching, “Now may the Lord ’lighten thee!—thou art a great fool!”
War Again Threatens
“Before God, I am exceeding weary!” groans Prince Harry. He has finished the long march leading troops back from Shrewsbury, and now trudges along in the heat of London.
“Is’t come to that?” asks Poins in mock dismay. “I had thought weariness durst not have attached”—arrested—“one of so high blood!”
“’Faith, it does me—though it discolours the complexion of my greatness to acknowledge it! Doth it not show vilely in me to desire small beer?”—mild home brew, the most common beverage for all, including children.
The gentleman, too, is thirsty, but he craves more-potent potions. “Why, a prince should not be so loosely studied”—so poor a student—“as to remember so weak a composition!” he says with facetious scorn.
“Belike then my appetite was not princely begot,” laughs Harry, “for, by my troth, I do now remember the poor creature small beer!” He regards his companion, and wryly affects annoyance: “Indeed, these humble considerations take me out of love with my greatness! But what a disgrace is it to me to remember thy name, or to know thy face tomorrow! Or to take note how many pair of silk stockings thou hast—namely these, and those that were thy peach-coloured ones; or to bear the inventory of thy shirts—as, one for superfluity and another for use!
“But that the tennis-court keeper knows better than I; for it is a low ebb of linen with thee when thou keepest not a racket there—as thou hast not done for a great while, because the rest of thy low countries have made a shift to eat up thy Holland!” His children’s clothes have been cut from his fine, Holland-cloth shirts. “And God knows whether those that bawl out in the ruins of thy linen shall inherit his kingdom!” Poins laughs, always happy to think of the rascals.
“The midwives say only the children are not in the fault”—involved in the crime—“whereupon the world increases, and kindreds are mightily strengthened!” adds the prince, hands clasped behind his back as they walk.
His companion is amused, but well aware of what being kindred to the king means. “How ill it follows, after you have laboured so hard, you should talk so idly! Tell me, how many good young princes would do so, their fathers being so sick as yours at this time is?”
But Harry now supports his father—and recently, in battle, saved his life. He stops. “Shall I tell thee one thing, Poins?”
“Yes, ’faith—but let it be an excellent good thing!”
“It shall serve—among wits of no higher breeding than thine!” gibes Harry.
“Go to!” says Poins, stopping, hands on hips. “I’ll withstand the push of your ‘one thing’ that you will tell!”
“Marry, I tell thee it is not meet that I should be solemn,”—not appropriate to show concern, “now that my father is sick. But I can tell thee, as to one it pleases me, for lack of a better, to call my friend: I could be sad—and sad in deed, too.”
“Very hardly upon such a subject!”—topic and person ruled laughs Poins, after the prince’s dig.
But Harry is peeved that even Poins has thought his alienation would continue in wartime. “By this hand, thou thinkest me as far in the devil’s book as thou and Falstaff for obduracy and persistency!
“Let the end try the man,” he says, and resumes walking. “But I’ll tell thee my heart bleeds inwardly that my father is so sick!
“And keeping such vile company as thou art hath for a reason taken from me all ostentation of sorrow.”
“What wouldst thou think of me if I should weep?”
“I would think thee a most princely hypocrite.”
Prince Harry nods. “It would be every man’s thought! And thou art a blessèd fellow to think as every man thinks!” he tells his friend dryly. “Never a man’s thought in the world keeps to the road-way”—the ordinary path—“better than thine!
“Every man would think me an hypocrite indeed. And what stirs your most worshipful thought to think so?”
Poins shrugs. “Why, because you have been so wicked, and so much engrafted to Falstaff.”
“And to thee.”
“By this light, I am well spoke on!” protests Poins. “I can hear it with my own ears! The worst that they can say of me is that I am a second brother”—unlikely to inherit, “and that I am a proper fellow with my fists—and those two things I confess I cannot help!”
He points ahead on the street. “By the Mass, here comes Bardolph!”
“And the boy that I gave Falstaff.” Prince Harry frowns, observing, as they approach, the page’s fancy new apparel and cocky swagger. “He had him from me Christian—and look if the fat villain have not transformed him ape!”
Reaching them, Bardolph bows. “God save Your Grace!”
Prince Harry nods. “And yours, most noble Bardolph!”
Poins teases the red-haired, scarlet-complexioned soldier: “Come, you virtuous ass, you bashful fool, must you be blushing? Wherefore blush you now? What a maidenly man-at-arms are you become! Is’t such a matter to get a pottle-pot’s maidenhead?”—an achievement to divest a beer mug of its foam.
The page laughs. “He called me e’en now, my lord, through a red lattice,”—of a typical tavern casement, “and I could discern no part of his face from the window! At last I spied his eyes—and methought he had made two holes in the ale-wife’s new petticoat, and so peepèd through!”
Prince Harry shakes his head. He asks Poins, with irony, “Has not the boy profited?”
Bardolph swats ineffectually at the small lad with his hat. “Away, you whoreson upright rabbit, away!”
“Away, you rascally Althaea’s dream, away!” cries the page, dodging.
“Instruct us, boy!—what dream, boy?” demands Prince Harry; the classical allusion likely stems from Falstaff’s tainting tutelage.
“Marry, my lord, Althaea dreamed she was delivered of”—gave birth to—“a fire-brand; and therefore I call him her dream!”
The prince is amused by the conflation of queens: Hecuba, warned at her son’s birth that the fiery-warrior-to-be would bring destruction to Troy; and Althaea, advised by the Fates that her Greek child’s life depended upon the preservation of a fire-brand—a hearth log.
“A crown’s worth of good interpretation!” he laughs, pulling a coin from a leather purse. “There ’tis, boy.”
“Oh, that this good blossom could be kept from cankers!”—caterpillars, chuckles Poins. “Well, there is sixpence to preserve thee,” he says, adding to the gratuity.
Bardolph scowls at their largess. “If between you you do not make him hanged, the gallows shall have been wronged!”—cheated.
“And how doth thy master, Bardolph?” asks Prince Harry.
“Well, my lord.” He reaches inside his coat, remembering. “He heard of Your Grace’s coming to town; there’s a letter for you.”
“Delivered with good respect,”—due alacrity, say Poins sourly, as the prince unfolds the missive. “And how doth that martlemas”—autumn feast—“your master?”
“In bodily health, sir.”
“Marry, the immortal part needs the physician! But that moves not him: though that be sick, it dines not,” says Poins.
The prince is annoyed by the letter’s content. “I do allow this wen”—lump—“to be as familiar with me as my dog—and he holds its place, for look you how be writes!” He hands the paper to Poins.
The gentleman reads aloud: “‘John Falstaff, knight—’ Every man must know that, as oft as he has occasion to name himself!” notes Ned. “Even like those that are kin to the king; for they never prick their finger but they say, ‘There’s some of the king’s blood spilt!’
“‘How comes that?’ asks he that takes upon him not to understand.
“The answer is as ready as a borrower’s cap: ‘I am the king’s poor cousin, sir.’”
Harry laughs. “Aye, they will be kin to us, or they will fetch it from Japhet!”—Noah’s third son, Biblical ancestor of all Europeans. “But to the letter….”
The gentleman reads further: “‘From Sir John Falstaff, knight, to the son of the king nearest his father, Harry, Prince of Wales, greeting!’” Poins looks up, irritated. “Why, this is by certificate!”—a familiarity that, without such written authorization, is impertinence, if not insolence; Henry should have been named properly—and first.
“Peace,” says the prince; there’s more.
Poins reads on: “‘I will imitate the honourable Roman in brevity.’ He surely means brevity in breath: short-winded! ‘I commend me to thee, I commend thee, and I leave thee’”—a lame allusion to Julius Caesar’s most famous line, I came, I saw, I conquered.
Falstaff proffers advice. “‘Be not too familiar with Poins, for he misuses thy favours so much that he swears thou art to marry his sister Nell!
“‘Repent as thou mayest at idle times.
“‘And so, farewell!
“‘Thine, by yea and no—which is as much as to say, as thou usest him!—Jack Falstaff with my familiars, John with my brothers and sisters, and Sir John with all Europe!’”
Poins stares at the paper, amazed. “My lord, I’ll steep this letter in sack and make him eat it!”
“That’s to make him eat twenty of his words!” laughs Harry. “But do you use me thus, Ned?—must I marry your sister?”
Poins laughs, too. “God send the wench no worse fortune! But I never said so.”
The prince looks around at the city’s peaceful streets. “Well, thus we play the fools with the time, as the spirits of the wise sit in the clouds and mock us,” he murmurs, pocketing the letter. “Is your master here in London?”
“Yes, my lord,” says Bardolph.
“Where sups he? Doth the old boar feed in the old frank?”—sty.
Bardolph nods. “At the old place, my lord, in Eastcheap.”
“What company?”—with whom?
The pert page replies, with facetious reverence, “Ephesians, my lord, of the old church!”—hearty drinkers.
“Sup any women with him?”
“None, my lord, but old Mistress Quickly and Mistress Doll Tearsheet,” the boy reports.
Prince Harry rolls his eyes, hearing the younger woman’s working name. “What pagan may that be?”
“A proper gentlewoman, sir—a kinswoman of my master’s.”
Harry can’t help but laugh; Falstaff has likely told the lad she’s a niece—a very affectionate one. “Even such kin as the parish heifers are to the town bull!” With a mischievous look he glances at Poins. “Shall we steal upon them, Ned, at supper?”
Poins grins. “I am your shadow, my lord; I’ll follow you!”
The prince again opens the pouch. “Sirrah….” Bardolph looks up. “You, boy,” Harry tells the page, “and Bardolph, no word to your master yet that I am come to town!—there’s for your silence.”
“I have no tongue, sir,” Bardolph tells him.
“As for mine, sir, I will govern it,” says the boy, happily fingering the coins.
“Fare you well; go.” Bardolph and the page leave, returning to the tavern.
“This Doll Tearsheet would be some road,” says Prince Harry.
“I warrant you,” laughs Poins. “As common as the way between Saint Alban’s and London!”
“How might we behold Falstaff showing himself tonight in his true colours, and not ourselves be seen?”
“Put on two leathern jerkins and aprons, and wait upon him at his table as drawers!”—tapsters.
“From a god to a bull was Jove’s case—a heavy transformation!” says Harry of an incident in mythology. “From a prince to a ’prentice!—a low descension! That shall be mine.
“For in everything the purpose must weigh with”—balance, proportionally—“the folly.” The prince is silent for a moment, thinking again about the cost, in suffering, of the insurrection.
But they will be at war soon enough. “Follow me, Ned!”
Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland faces dissent at home, in the garden of Warkworth Castle. “I pray thee, loving wife, and gentle daughter-in-law, give even way unto my rough affairs!—put you not on the visage of the times, and be, like them, to Percy troublesome!”
“I have given up! I will speak no more!” says his wife, tearful in frustration. “Do what you will!—your wisdom be your guide!”
“Alas, sweet wife, my honour is at pawn!—and nothing but my going can redeem it!”
The younger Lady Percy—widow of his son, Hotspur—pleads again: “Oh, yet for God’s sake go not to these wars!”
She regards the old man angrily. “The time was, Father, that you broke your word when you were more endearèd to it than now—when your own Percy, when my heart’s dear Harry, threw many a northward look to see his father bring up his powers”—arrive with more troops. “But he did long in vain!
“Who then persuaded you to stay at home?
“Then were two honours lost: yours and your son’s! As for yours, may the God of heaven brighten it.
“As for his: it stuck upon him as does the sun’s in the grey vault of heaven, and by his light did all the chivalry of England move to do brave acts!
“He was indeed the mirror wherein the noble youth did dress themselves! They had no legs who practised not his gait; and speaking thick,”—quickly, intensely, “which nature made his blemish, became the accents of the valiant; for those that could speak low and tardily would turn their own perfection to abuse, to seem like him!
“So that in speech, in gait, in diet, in affections of delight, in military rules, humours of blood, he was the mark and glass, copy and book, that fashioned others!
“And him—oh wondrous him!—oh, miracle of men!—him did you leave—second to none, unseconded by you!—to look upon the hideous god of war at disadvantage!—to abide in a field where nothing but the sound of Hotspur’s name did seem defensible! So you left him!”
She glares. “Never, oh never, do his ghost the wrong of holding to your honour more precisely and finely with others than with him!
“The marshal and the archbishop are strong! Let them go alone. Had my sweet Harry had but half their numbers, today might I, hanging on Hotspur’s neck, have talked of Monmouth’s grave!” Henry of Monmouth—Prince Harry—killed Hotspur at Shrewsbury.
Northumberland wrings his hands sorrowfully. “Beshrew your heart, fair daughter, you do draw my spirits from me with new lamenting of ancient oversights! But I must go and meet with danger there, or it will seek me in another place, and find me worse provided!”
His wife scoffs. “Oh, flee to Scotland,” she insists, “till that the nobles and the armèd commons”—the rebels’ army—“have of their puissance made a little test!”
Lady Percy concurs. “If they get ground and vantage of the king, then join you with them, like a rib of steel, to make strength stronger; but, for all our loves, first let them try themselves!
“So did your son; he was suffered so!
“So became I a widow,” she groans, “and never shall have length of life enough to rain with mine eyes upon remembrance such that it may grow and sprout as high as heaven for recordation of my noble husband!”
“Come, come, go in with me,” Northumberland urges the ladies. “’Tis with my mind as with the tide that, swelled up unto its height, makes a still-stand, running neither way.”
But as they enter the dank, dark castle he thinks of the king’s troops—and decides. Fain would I go to meet the archbishop, but many thousand reasons hold me back!
I will resolve for Scotland; there am I, till time and vantage crave my company.