Document: All > Shakespeare > Comedies > All's Well That Ends Well > Act III, scene II
[Enter COUNTESS and Clown]
COUNTESS: It hath happened all as I would have had it, save
that he comes not along with her.
Clown: By my troth, I take my young lord to be a very
COUNTESS: By what observance, I pray you?
Clown: Why, he will look upon his boot and sing; mend the
ruff and sing; ask questions and sing; pick his
teeth and sing. I know a man that had this trick of
melancholy sold a goodly manor for a song.
COUNTESS: Let me see what he writes, and when he means to come.
[Opening a letter]
Clown: I have no mind to Isbel since I was at court: our
old ling and our Isbels o' the country are nothing
like your old ling and your Isbels o' the court:
the brains of my Cupid's knocked out, and I begin to
love, as an old man loves money, with no stomach.
COUNTESS: What have we here?
Clown: E'en that you have there.
COUNTESS: [Reads] I have sent you a daughter-in-law: she hath
recovered the king, and undone me. I have wedded
her, not bedded her; and sworn to make the 'not'
eternal. You shall hear I am run away: know it
before the report come. If there be breadth enough
in the world, I will hold a long distance. My duty
to you. Your unfortunate son,
This is not well, rash and unbridled boy.
To fly the favours of so good a king;
To pluck his indignation on thy head
By the misprising of a maid too virtuous
For the contempt of empire.
Clown: O madam, yonder is heavy news within between two
soldiers and my young lady!
COUNTESS: What is the matter?
Clown: Nay, there is some comfort in the news, some
comfort; your son will not be killed so soon as I
thought he would.
COUNTESS: Why should he be killed?
Clown: So say I, madam, if he run away, as I hear he does:
the danger is in standing to't; that's the loss of
men, though it be the getting of children. Here
they come will tell you more: for my part, I only
hear your son was run away.
[Enter HELENA, and two Gentlemen]
First Gentleman: Save you, good madam.
HELENA: Madam, my lord is gone, for ever gone.
Second Gentleman: Do not say so.
COUNTESS: Think upon patience. Pray you, gentlemen,
I have felt so many quirks of joy and grief,
That the first face of neither, on the start,
Can woman me unto't: where is my son, I pray you?
Second Gentleman: Madam, he's gone to serve the duke of Florence:
We met him thitherward; for thence we came,
And, after some dispatch in hand at court,
Thither we bend again.
HELENA: Look on his letter, madam; here's my passport.
When thou canst get the ring upon my finger which
never shall come off, and show me a child begotten
of thy body that I am father to, then call me
husband: but in such a 'then' I write a 'never.'
This is a dreadful sentence.
COUNTESS: Brought you this letter, gentlemen?
First Gentleman: Ay, madam;
And for the contents' sake are sorry for our pain.
COUNTESS: I prithee, lady, have a better cheer;
If thou engrossest all the griefs are thine,
Thou robb'st me of a moiety: he was my son;
But I do wash his name out of my blood,
And thou art all my child. Towards Florence is he?
Second Gentleman: Ay, madam.
COUNTESS: And to be a soldier?
Second Gentleman: Such is his noble purpose; and believe 't,
The duke will lay upon him all the honour
That good convenience claims.
COUNTESS: Return you thither?
First Gentleman: Ay, madam, with the swiftest wing of speed.
HELENA: [Reads] Till I have no wife I have nothing in France.
COUNTESS: Find you that there?
HELENA: Ay, madam.
First Gentleman: 'Tis but the boldness of his hand, haply, which his
heart was not consenting to.
COUNTESS: Nothing in France, until he have no wife!
There's nothing here that is too good for him
But only she; and she deserves a lord
That twenty such rude boys might tend upon
And call her hourly mistress. Who was with him?
First Gentleman: A servant only, and a gentleman
Which I have sometime known.
COUNTESS: Parolles, was it not?
First Gentleman: Ay, my good lady, he.
COUNTESS: A very tainted fellow, and full of wickedness.
My son corrupts a well-derived nature
With his inducement.
First Gentleman: Indeed, good lady,
The fellow has a deal of that too much,
Which holds him much to have.
COUNTESS: You're welcome, gentlemen.
I will entreat you, when you see my son,
To tell him that his sword can never win
The honour that he loses: more I'll entreat you
Written to bear along.
Second Gentleman: We serve you, madam,
In that and all your worthiest affairs.
COUNTESS: Not so, but as we change our courtesies.
Will you draw near!
[Exeunt COUNTESS and Gentlemen]
HELENA: 'Till I have no wife, I have nothing in France.'
Nothing in France, until he has no wife!
Thou shalt have none, Rousillon, none in France;
Then hast thou all again. Poor lord! is't I
That chase thee from thy country and expose
Those tender limbs of thine to the event
Of the none-sparing war? and is it I
That drive thee from the sportive court, where thou
Wast shot at with fair eyes, to be the mark
Of smoky muskets? O you leaden messengers,
That ride upon the violent speed of fire,
Fly with false aim; move the still-peering air,
That sings with piercing; do not touch my lord.
Whoever shoots at him, I set him there;
Whoever charges on his forward breast,
I am the caitiff that do hold him to't;
And, though I kill him not, I am the cause
His death was so effected: better 'twere
I met the ravin lion when he roar'd
With sharp constraint of hunger; better 'twere
That all the miseries which nature owes
Were mine at once. No, come thou home, Rousillon,
Whence honour but of danger wins a scar,
As oft it loses all: I will be gone;
My being here it is that holds thee hence:
Shall I stay here to do't? no, no, although
The air of paradise did fan the house
And angels officed all: I will be gone,
That pitiful rumour may report my flight,
To consolate thine ear. Come, night; end, day!
For with the dark, poor thief, I'll steal away.
ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL