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up his imparted knowledge as freely and quickly as the sun in his course inhales the sparkling dewdrops from garden, vale and mountain.
In the spring of 1591 William and myself paid a flying visit to Stratford, the Bard to pay up some family debts and bury a brother who had recently migrated to the land of imagination.
The mother and father of William were delighted at the London success of their son, and Anne Hathaway seemed to be mellowed and mollified by the guineas William emptied into her lap, while Hammet and Judith, the rollicking children, were rampant with delight at the toys, sweetmeats and dresses presented as Easter offerings.
No matter what the incompatibility of temper between William and Anne, he never forgot to send part of his wages for the support of herself and children, and although he was a "free lance" among the ladies of London, he maintained the "higher law" of family purity and morality.
When he violated any of the ten commandments, he did it with his eyes open, and took the consequent mental or physical punishment with stoic. indifference. He never called on others to shoulder his sins, but on the contrary he often bore the burden of cowardly "friends," who made him the "scapegoat" for their own iniquity—a common class of scoundrels.
He never bothered himself about the religion manufacturers of mankind, knowing that the whole scheme, from the Oriental sun worshipers to the quarreling crowd of Pagans, Hebrews, Christians and Moslems, was nothing but a keen financial syndicate or trust to keep sacerdotal sharpers in
place and power at the expense of plodding ignorance, hope and bigotry!
The night we started back for London, by jaunting car, on the road to Oxford, the Bard was in a mood of lofty contemplation. He had stowed away in the bottom of the car, a mass of schoolday and strolling-player compositions, evolved in the rush of vanished years.
"William," said I, "can you tell me anything about the silence of those sparkling, eternal stars and planets ?"
He instantly replied:
I question the infinite silence,
And endeavor to fathom the deep
Its mysterious realm to explore,
And my wreckage of hopes are scattered
Arriving at the Crown Tavern, in Oxford, we were, as usual, received by the old Boniface Devanant and his handsome wife, with warm words and luxurious table cheer. After a day and night of reasonable revelry, we proceeded on our way to London, and in due course found our sunny lodgings at the home of Maggie Mellow.
The night after our arrival Sir Walter Raleigh gave a grand banquet at the Mermaid Club to the principal wits of London.
Burbage, Florio, Field, William and myself were invited as special guests; in honor of the poetic and dramatic association.
Representative authors and actors of the various theatrical companies were present at the festive war of wits.
The Queen's men, and those who played under the patronage of Leicester, Pembroke, Burleigh, and the Lord Admiral were there, while Henslowe, the owner of the Rose Theatre on Bankside, with his son-in-law, Edward Alleyn, the noted actor, shone in all their borrowed glory.
Spenser, Drayton, Marlowe, Kyd, Nash, Chettle, Peele, Greene, and a young author, Ben Jonson, were a few of the literary luminaries present.
A contingent of London lords, patrons of authors and actors graced the scene. Essex, Southhampton, Pembroke, Cecil, Mortimer, Burleigh and Lord Bacon occupied prominent places at the angle table of the club, where Raleigh sat as master of ceremonies.
Promptly at eleven o'clock, the great courtier, sailor and discoverer arose from his elevated chair and proposed a toast to the Virgin and Fairy Queen!
All stood to their tankards and drank unanimously to the Virgin Queen.
I thought I observed a flash of secret smiles pictured on the lips of Essex, Spenser, Bacon and Raleigh when Elizabeth was toasted as the Virgin Queen; and William whispered in my ear:
"Her virtues graced with eternal gifts, Do breed love's settled passions in my heart!"
After tremendous cheers were given for the Queen, Sir Walter, in his blandest mood said: "We are glorified by having with us to-night the greatest poet in the realm, and I trust Sir Edmund Spenser will be gracious enough to give us a few lines from the 'Faerie Queen.'"
Sir Edmund arose in his place and said:
"In Una, the Fairy Queen, I beheld the purity and innocence of Elizabeth, and in the lion of passion, hungry from the forest, I saw her conquer even in her naked habiliments.
"One day, nigh weary of the irksome way
But to the prey when as he drew more nigh-
Spenser resumed his seat, while a whirl of echoing applause waved from floor to rafter.
Then Sir Walter remarked:
"We are honored to-night by the presence of the counsel extraordinary of Queen Elizabeth, the orator and philosopher, Sir Francis Bacon, who will, I trust, give us a sentiment in honor of Her Majesty, the patron of art, literature and liberty!"
Bacon, handsome, proud, but obsequious, then arose and addressed the jolly banqueters as follows:
"Gentlemen: The toast of the evening to her gracious Majesty, Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen, meets my soul-lit approval, and had I the wings of fancy, instead of the plodding pedals of practical administration, I should raise her virtuous statue to the skies until its pinnacle shone above the uplands of omnipotence!
"Philosophy teaches us that vice and virtue are at eternal war, and that whether married or single, the happiest state of man or woman is personal independence!
"Domestic cares afflict the husband's bed,
Or pain his head;
Those that live single, take it for a curse,
Some would have children, those that have them
Or wish they were gone;
What is it then, to have or have no wife,
"My friends: The ocean is the solitary handmaid of eternity. Cold and salt cure alike!