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William did not have the courage to face his wife after a week's absence, and told me privately that he was going off instanter by the way of Oxford to London and seek his fortune.
I applauded his spunk and determination, and, at his solicitation willingly joined him in his eloquent rambles. My parents were both dead, and being of a bohemian tendency, my home has ever been on any spot of the earth where the sun rose or set. Pot luck suits me.
Natural freedom of body and mind has ever been my greatest delight and the artificial fashions and tyrannical laws of society I despise and defy, and shall to my dying day. My mind is my master. Right is my religion and God is my instructor!
"I must have liberty
Withal, as large a charter as the wind
The evening before we left Stratford William wrote a short note to his wife and said that he would take her advice, leave the town, and seek his fortune in the whirlpool of grand old London.
I imagine that Anne was delighted to receive his impromptu note, for it left her one less mouth to feed; and William was equally satisfied to be relieved of the rôle of playing husband without any of the practical moral adjuncts.
In passing by the entrance gate to the lordly estate of Sir Thomas Lucy, or Justice Shallow, William nailed up the following poetic shot to the hot-headed old squire, which was read and copied the next morning, by all the market men
going to town, and the tavern lads going to their country ploughs:
"The tyrant Thomas Lucy
By this bluffer of the state,
Will dare to call him great.
IN SEARCH OF PEACE AND FORTUNE.
"Blessed are those whose blood And judgment are so commingled, That they are not a pipe for Fortune's finger "To sound what stop she pleases.' 'Give me that man that is not passion's slave,' And I will wear him in my heart's core, Ay, in my heart of heart as I do thee."
EARLY on the morning of the 9th of September, 1586, William and myself took our departure from the Crown Tavern. The landlord, Tom Gill, gave us a bottle of his best gin and brandy to cheer us on our way to fame and fortune. Fannie Hill, the barmaid, threw kisses at us until we rounded the corner of the street leading to the old Grammar School. We carried blackthorn cudgels to protect us from gamekeepers, lords and dogs.
As we passed the modest cottage where William's parents resided, he impulsively broke away from my presence to bid a long farewell to his angelic mother, and soon again he was at my side, flushed with pride and tears, exclaiming in undertone:
A mother's love and fervent hope
'And to our latest dying breath
Her heart and soul are ours to death!
In his clutched hand he held four gold "sovereigns" that his fond mother had given him at parting to help him in the daily trials of life, when no other friend could be so true and powerful. Gold gilds success.
"Here, Jack, keep two of these for yourself, and if I should ever be penniless, and you have gold, I know you will aid me in a pinch. The wine nature of your soul needs no bush.
"We still have slept together,
Rose at an instant, learned, played, eat together,
"William," said I, "memory with her indelible signet shall long imprint this generous act of yours upon my soul, and when hundreds of years have passed, I shall tell of the undying friendship of two bohemians, who, day and night, set their own fashion, created a world of their own, and lived ecstatically, oscillating between the blunders of Bacchus and the vanity of Venus!"
William's heart was heavy when turning his back on father, mother, brother, sister, wife and children, at the age of twenty-two.
We passed along the Clopton stone bridge, and as we tramped over Primrose Hill looking back at the roofs and spires of Stratford, glinting in the morning light, the Bard uttered this impulsive dash of eloquence:
Farewell, farewell! a sad farewell
No more shall wild eyed deer,
Fretful hares, hawks and hounds
Shall picture these eternal hills,
And pillowed even in the lap of misery
Shall lull deepest woe to repose.
With this apostrophe, we took a last look at the glinting gables and sparkling spires of Strat