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Claud. Thou thinkest, I am in sport; I pray thee tell me truly how thou likest her?
Bene. Would you buy her, that you enquire after her?
Claud. Can the world buy such a jewel?
Bene. Yea, and a case to put it into. But speak you this with a sad brow? or do you play the flouting jack; to tell us Cupid is a good hare-finder, and Vulcan a rare carpenter? Come, in what key shall a man take you, to go in the song?
Claud. In mine eye, she is the sweetest lady that ever I looked on.
Bene. I can see yet without spectacles, and I see no such matter: there's her cousin, an she were not possessed with a fury, exceeds her as much in beauty, as the first of May doth the last of December. But I hope you have no intent to turn husband; have you?
Claud. I would scarce trust myself, though I had sworn the contrary, if Hero would be my wife.
Bene. Is it come to this, i'faith? Hath not the world one man, but he will wear his cap with suspicion? Shall I never see a bachelor of threescore again? Go to, i'faith; an thou wilt needs thrust thy neck into a yoke, wear the print of it, and sigh away Sundays. Look, Don Pedro is returned to seek you.
Re-enter Don Pedro.
D. Pedro. What secret hath held you here, that you followed not to Leonato's ?
Bene. I would, your grace would constrain me to tell.
D. Pedro. I charge thee on thy allegiance. Bene. You hear, Count Claudio: I can be secret as a dumb man, I would have you think so; but on my allegiance, mark you this, on my allegiance:He is in love. With who?-now that is your grace's part.-Mark, how short his answer is:-With Hero, Leonato's short daughter.
Claud. If this were so, so were it uttered. Bene. Like the old tale, my lord: it is not so, nor 'twas not so; but, indeed, God forbid it should be so.
Claud. If my passion change not shortly, God forbid it should be otherwise.
D. Pedro. Amen, if you love her; for the lady is very well worthy.
Claud. You speak this to fetch me in, my lord. D. Pedro. By my troth, I speak my thought. Claud. And, in faith, my lord, I spoke mine. Bene. And, by my two faiths and troths, my lord, I spoke mine.
Claud. That I love her, I feel.
D. Pedro. That she is worthy, I know.
Bene. That I neither feel how she should be loved, nor know how she should be worthy, is the opinion that fire cannot melt out of me; I will die in it at the stake.
D. Pedro. Thou wast ever an obstinate heretick in the despite of beauty.
Claud. And never could maintain his part, but in the force of his will.
Bene. That a woman conceived me, I thank her; that she brought me up, I likewise give her most humble thanks: but that I will have a recheat* winded in my forehead, or hang my bugle† in an invisible baldrick‡, all women shall pardon me. Because I will not do them the wrong to mistrust any, I will do myself the right to trust none; and the fine is (for the which I may go the finer), I will live a bachelor.
D. Pedro. I shall see thee, ere I die, look pale with love.
Bene. With anger, with sickness, or with hunger, my lord; not with love: prove, that ever I lose more blood with love, than I will get again with drinking, pick out mine eyes with a ballad-maker's
* The tune sounded to call off the dogs.
pen, and hang me up at the door of a brothel-house, for the sign of blind Cupid.
D. Pedro. Well, if ever thou dost fall from this faith, thou wilt prove a notable argument.
Bene. If I do, hang me in a bottle like a cat, and shoot at me; and he that hits me, let him be clapped on the shoulder, and called Adam*.
D. Pedro. Well, as time shall try:
Bene. The savage bull may; but if ever the sensible Benedick bear it, pluck off the bull's horns, and set them in my forehead: and let me be vilely painted; and in such great letters as they write, Here is good horse to hire, let them signify under my sign,— Here you may see Benedick the married man.
Claud. If this should ever happen, thou would'st be horn-mad.
D. Pedro. Nay, if Cupid have not spent all his quiver in Venice, thou wilt quake for this shortly.
Bene. I look for an earthquake too then.
D. Pedro. Well, you will temporize with the hours. In the mean time, good signior Benedick, repair to Leonato's; commend me to him, and tell him, I will not fail him at supper; for, indeed, he hath made great preparation.
Bene. I have almost matter enough in me for such an embassage; and so I commit you
Claud. To the tuition of God: From my house (if I had it)
D. Pedro. The sixth of July: Your loving friend, Benedick.
Bene. Nay, mock not, mock not: The body of your discourse is sometime guarded+ with fragments, and the guards are but slightly basted on neither: ere you flout old ends any further, examine your conscience; and so I leave you. [Exit Benedick. Claud. My liege, your highness now may do me
* The name of a famous archer.
D. Pedro. My love is thine to teach; teach it but how,
And thou shalt see how apt it is to learn
D. Pedro. Thou wilt be like a lover presently,
Claud. How sweetly do you minister to love,
D. Pedro. What need the bridge much broader than the flood?
The fairest grant is the necessity:
Look, what will serve, is fit: 'tis once*, thou lov'st; And I will fit thee with the remedy.
I know, we shall have revelling to-night;
I will assume thy part in some disguise,
* Once for all.
And, the conclusion is, she shall be thine:
A room in Leonato's house.
Enter Leonato and Antonio.
Leon. How now, brother? where is my cousin, your son? Hath he provided this musick?
Ant. He is very busy about it. But, brother, I can tell you strange news that you yet dreamed not of.
Leon. Are they good?
Ant. As the event stamps them; but they have a good cover, they shew well outward. The prince and Count Claudio, walking in a thick-pleached alley in my orchard, were thus much overheard by a man of mine: The prince discovered to Claudio, that he loved my niece, your daughter, and meant to acknowledge it this night in a dance; and, if he found her accordant, he meant to take the present time by the top, and instantly break with you of it.
Leon. Hath the fellow any wit, that told you this? Ant. A good sharp fellow; I will send for him, and question him yourself.
Leon. No, no; we will hold it as a dream, till it appears itself:-but I will acquaint my daughter withal, that she may be the better prepared for an answer, if peradventure this be true. Go you, and tell her of it. Several persons cross the stage.] Cousins, you know what you have to do.-O, I cry you mercy, friend; you go with me, and I will use your skill:-Good cousins, have a care this busy
* Thickly interwoven.