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Now o'er the one half-world
Nature seems dead.

      — Macbeth, Act II Scene 1

All's Well That Ends Well

Act I

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Scene 1. Rousillon. The COUNT’s palace.

Scene 2. Paris. The KING’s palace.

Scene 3. Rousillon. The COUNT’s palace.

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Act I, Scene 1

Rousillon. The COUNT’s palace.

      next scene .
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Enter BERTRAM, the COUNTESS of Rousillon, HELENA,] [p]and LAFEU, all in black]

  • Countess. In delivering my son from me, I bury a second husband.
  • Bertram. And I in going, madam, weep o'er my father's death
    anew: but I must attend his majesty's command, to 5
    whom I am now in ward, evermore in subjection.
  • Lafeu. You shall find of the king a husband, madam; you,
    sir, a father: he that so generally is at all times
    good must of necessity hold his virtue to you; whose
    worthiness would stir it up where it wanted rather 10
    than lack it where there is such abundance.
  • Countess. What hope is there of his majesty's amendment?
  • Lafeu. He hath abandoned his physicians, madam; under whose
    practises he hath persecuted time with hope, and
    finds no other advantage in the process but only the 15
    losing of hope by time.
  • Countess. This young gentlewoman had a father,—O, that
    'had'! how sad a passage 'tis!—whose skill was
    almost as great as his honesty; had it stretched so
    far, would have made nature immortal, and death 20
    should have play for lack of work. Would, for the
    king's sake, he were living! I think it would be
    the death of the king's disease.
  • Lafeu. How called you the man you speak of, madam?
  • Countess. He was famous, sir, in his profession, and it was 25
    his great right to be so: Gerard de Narbon.
  • Lafeu. He was excellent indeed, madam: the king very
    lately spoke of him admiringly and mourningly: he
    was skilful enough to have lived still, if knowledge
    could be set up against mortality. 30
  • Bertram. What is it, my good lord, the king languishes of?
  • Lafeu. A fistula, my lord.
  • Bertram. I heard not of it before.
  • Lafeu. I would it were not notorious. Was this gentlewoman
    the daughter of Gerard de Narbon? 35
  • Countess. His sole child, my lord, and bequeathed to my
    overlooking. I have those hopes of her good that
    her education promises; her dispositions she
    inherits, which makes fair gifts fairer; for where
    an unclean mind carries virtuous qualities, there 40
    commendations go with pity; they are virtues and
    traitors too; in her they are the better for their
    simpleness; she derives her honesty and achieves her goodness.
  • Lafeu. Your commendations, madam, get from her tears.
  • Countess. 'Tis the best brine a maiden can season her praise 45
    in. The remembrance of her father never approaches
    her heart but the tyranny of her sorrows takes all
    livelihood from her cheek. No more of this, Helena;
    go to, no more; lest it be rather thought you affect
    a sorrow than have it. 50
  • Helena. I do affect a sorrow indeed, but I have it too.
  • Lafeu. Moderate lamentation is the right of the dead,
    excessive grief the enemy to the living.
  • Countess. If the living be enemy to the grief, the excess
    makes it soon mortal. 55
  • Bertram. Madam, I desire your holy wishes.
  • Lafeu. How understand we that?
  • Countess. Be thou blest, Bertram, and succeed thy father
    In manners, as in shape! thy blood and virtue
    Contend for empire in thee, and thy goodness 60
    Share with thy birthright! Love all, trust a few,
    Do wrong to none: be able for thine enemy
    Rather in power than use, and keep thy friend
    Under thy own life's key: be cheque'd for silence,
    But never tax'd for speech. What heaven more will, 65
    That thee may furnish and my prayers pluck down,
    Fall on thy head! Farewell, my lord;
    'Tis an unseason'd courtier; good my lord,
    Advise him.
  • Lafeu. He cannot want the best 70
    That shall attend his love.
  • Countess. Heaven bless him! Farewell, Bertram.

[Exit]

  • Bertram. [To HELENA] The best wishes that can be forged in
    your thoughts be servants to you! Be comfortable 75
    to my mother, your mistress, and make much of her.
  • Lafeu. Farewell, pretty lady: you must hold the credit of
    your father.

[Exeunt BERTRAM and LAFEU]

  • Helena. O, were that all! I think not on my father; 80
    And these great tears grace his remembrance more
    Than those I shed for him. What was he like?
    I have forgot him: my imagination
    Carries no favour in't but Bertram's.
    I am undone: there is no living, none, 85
    If Bertram be away. 'Twere all one
    That I should love a bright particular star
    And think to wed it, he is so above me:
    In his bright radiance and collateral light
    Must I be comforted, not in his sphere. 90
    The ambition in my love thus plagues itself:
    The hind that would be mated by the lion
    Must die for love. 'Twas pretty, though plague,
    To see him every hour; to sit and draw
    His arched brows, his hawking eye, his curls, 95
    In our heart's table; heart too capable
    Of every line and trick of his sweet favour:
    But now he's gone, and my idolatrous fancy
    Must sanctify his reliques. Who comes here?
    [Enter PAROLLES] 100
    [Aside]
    One that goes with him: I love him for his sake;
    And yet I know him a notorious liar,
    Think him a great way fool, solely a coward;
    Yet these fixed evils sit so fit in him, 105
    That they take place, when virtue's steely bones
    Look bleak i' the cold wind: withal, full oft we see
    Cold wisdom waiting on superfluous folly.
  • Parolles. Are you meditating on virginity?
  • Helena. Ay. You have some stain of soldier in you: let me
    ask you a question. Man is enemy to virginity; how 115
    may we barricado it against him?
  • Helena. But he assails; and our virginity, though valiant,
    in the defence yet is weak: unfold to us some
    warlike resistance. 120
  • Parolles. There is none: man, sitting down before you, will
    undermine you and blow you up.
  • Helena. Bless our poor virginity from underminers and
    blowers up! Is there no military policy, how
    virgins might blow up men? 125
  • Parolles. Virginity being blown down, man will quicklier be
    blown up: marry, in blowing him down again, with
    the breach yourselves made, you lose your city. It
    is not politic in the commonwealth of nature to
    preserve virginity. Loss of virginity is rational 130
    increase and there was never virgin got till
    virginity was first lost. That you were made of is
    metal to make virgins. Virginity by being once lost
    may be ten times found; by being ever kept, it is
    ever lost: 'tis too cold a companion; away with 't! 135
  • Helena. I will stand for 't a little, though therefore I die a virgin.
  • Parolles. There's little can be said in 't; 'tis against the
    rule of nature. To speak on the part of virginity,
    is to accuse your mothers; which is most infallible
    disobedience. He that hangs himself is a virgin: 140
    virginity murders itself and should be buried in
    highways out of all sanctified limit, as a desperate
    offendress against nature. Virginity breeds mites,
    much like a cheese; consumes itself to the very
    paring, and so dies with feeding his own stomach. 145
    Besides, virginity is peevish, proud, idle, made of
    self-love, which is the most inhibited sin in the
    canon. Keep it not; you cannot choose but loose
    by't: out with 't! within ten year it will make
    itself ten, which is a goodly increase; and the 150
    principal itself not much the worse: away with 't!
  • Helena. How might one do, sir, to lose it to her own liking?
  • Parolles. Let me see: marry, ill, to like him that ne'er it
    likes. 'Tis a commodity will lose the gloss with
    lying; the longer kept, the less worth: off with 't 155
    while 'tis vendible; answer the time of request.
    Virginity, like an old courtier, wears her cap out
    of fashion: richly suited, but unsuitable: just
    like the brooch and the tooth-pick, which wear not
    now. Your date is better in your pie and your 160
    porridge than in your cheek; and your virginity,
    your old virginity, is like one of our French
    withered pears, it looks ill, it eats drily; marry,
    'tis a withered pear; it was formerly better;
    marry, yet 'tis a withered pear: will you anything with it? 165
  • Helena. Not my virginity yet [—]
    There shall your master have a thousand loves,
    A mother and a mistress and a friend,
    A phoenix, captain and an enemy,
    A guide, a goddess, and a sovereign, 170
    A counsellor, a traitress, and a dear;
    His humble ambition, proud humility,
    His jarring concord, and his discord dulcet,
    His faith, his sweet disaster; with a world
    Of pretty, fond, adoptious christendoms, 175
    That blinking Cupid gossips. Now shall he—
    I know not what he shall. God send him well!
    The court's a learning place, and he is one—
  • Helena. That I wish well. 'Tis pity— 180
  • Helena. That wishing well had not a body in't,
    Which might be felt; that we, the poorer born,
    Whose baser stars do shut us up in wishes,
    Might with effects of them follow our friends, 185
    And show what we alone must think, which never
    Return us thanks.

[Enter Page]

  • Page. Monsieur Parolles, my lord calls for you.

[Exit]

  • Parolles. Little Helen, farewell; if I can remember thee, I
    will think of thee at court.
  • Helena. Monsieur Parolles, you were born under a charitable star.
  • Helena. I especially think, under Mars. 195
  • Helena. The wars have so kept you under that you must needs
    be born under Mars.
  • Helena. When he was retrograde, I think, rather. 200
  • Helena. You go so much backward when you fight.
  • Helena. So is running away, when fear proposes the safety;
    but the composition that your valour and fear makes 205
    in you is a virtue of a good wing, and I like the wear well.
  • Parolles. I am so full of businesses, I cannot answer thee
    acutely. I will return perfect courtier; in the
    which, my instruction shall serve to naturalize
    thee, so thou wilt be capable of a courtier's 210
    counsel and understand what advice shall thrust upon
    thee; else thou diest in thine unthankfulness, and
    thine ignorance makes thee away: farewell. When
    thou hast leisure, say thy prayers; when thou hast
    none, remember thy friends; get thee a good husband, 215
    and use him as he uses thee; so, farewell.

[Exit]

  • Helena. Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie,
    Which we ascribe to heaven: the fated sky
    Gives us free scope, only doth backward pull 220
    Our slow designs when we ourselves are dull.
    What power is it which mounts my love so high,
    That makes me see, and cannot feed mine eye?
    The mightiest space in fortune nature brings
    To join like likes and kiss like native things. 225
    Impossible be strange attempts to those
    That weigh their pains in sense and do suppose
    What hath been cannot be: who ever strove
    So show her merit, that did miss her love?
    The king's disease—my project may deceive me, 230
    But my intents are fix'd and will not leave me.

[Exit]

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. previous scene      

Act I, Scene 2

Paris. The KING’s palace.

      next scene .
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Flourish of cornets. Enter the KING of France,] [p]with letters, and divers Attendants]

  • King of France. The Florentines and Senoys are by the ears; 235
    Have fought with equal fortune and continue
    A braving war.
  • King of France. Nay, 'tis most credible; we here received it
    A certainty, vouch'd from our cousin Austria, 240
    With caution that the Florentine will move us
    For speedy aid; wherein our dearest friend
    Prejudicates the business and would seem
    To have us make denial.
  • First Lord. His love and wisdom, 245
    Approved so to your majesty, may plead
    For amplest credence.
  • King of France. He hath arm'd our answer,
    And Florence is denied before he comes:
    Yet, for our gentlemen that mean to see 250
    The Tuscan service, freely have they leave
    To stand on either part.
  • Second Lord. It well may serve
    A nursery to our gentry, who are sick
    For breathing and exploit. 255

[Enter BERTRAM, LAFEU, and PAROLLES]

  • First Lord. It is the Count Rousillon, my good lord,
    Young Bertram.
  • King of France. Youth, thou bear'st thy father's face; 260
    Frank nature, rather curious than in haste,
    Hath well composed thee. Thy father's moral parts
    Mayst thou inherit too! Welcome to Paris.
  • Bertram. My thanks and duty are your majesty's.
  • King of France. I would I had that corporal soundness now, 265
    As when thy father and myself in friendship
    First tried our soldiership! He did look far
    Into the service of the time and was
    Discipled of the bravest: he lasted long;
    But on us both did haggish age steal on 270
    And wore us out of act. It much repairs me
    To talk of your good father. In his youth
    He had the wit which I can well observe
    To-day in our young lords; but they may jest
    Till their own scorn return to them unnoted 275
    Ere they can hide their levity in honour;
    So like a courtier, contempt nor bitterness
    Were in his pride or sharpness; if they were,
    His equal had awaked them, and his honour,
    Clock to itself, knew the true minute when 280
    Exception bid him speak, and at this time
    His tongue obey'd his hand: who were below him
    He used as creatures of another place
    And bow'd his eminent top to their low ranks,
    Making them proud of his humility, 285
    In their poor praise he humbled. Such a man
    Might be a copy to these younger times;
    Which, follow'd well, would demonstrate them now
    But goers backward.
  • Bertram. His good remembrance, sir, 290
    Lies richer in your thoughts than on his tomb;
    So in approof lives not his epitaph
    As in your royal speech.
  • King of France. Would I were with him! He would always say—
    Methinks I hear him now; his plausive words 295
    He scatter'd not in ears, but grafted them,
    To grow there and to bear,—'Let me not live,'—
    This his good melancholy oft began,
    On the catastrophe and heel of pastime,
    When it was out,—'Let me not live,' quoth he, 300
    'After my flame lacks oil, to be the snuff
    Of younger spirits, whose apprehensive senses
    All but new things disdain; whose judgments are
    Mere fathers of their garments; whose constancies
    Expire before their fashions.' This he wish'd; 305
    I after him do after him wish too,
    Since I nor wax nor honey can bring home,
    I quickly were dissolved from my hive,
    To give some labourers room.
  • Second Lord. You are loved, sir: 310
    They that least lend it you shall lack you first.
  • King of France. I fill a place, I know't. How long is't, count,
    Since the physician at your father's died?
    He was much famed.
  • Bertram. Some six months since, my lord. 315
  • King of France. If he were living, I would try him yet.
    Lend me an arm; the rest have worn me out
    With several applications; nature and sickness
    Debate it at their leisure. Welcome, count;
    My son's no dearer. 320

[Exeunt. Flourish]

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. previous scene      

Act I, Scene 3

Rousillon. The COUNT’s palace.

       
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[Enter COUNTESS, Steward, and Clown]

  • Countess. I will now hear; what say you of this gentlewoman?
  • Steward. Madam, the care I have had to even your content, I 325
    wish might be found in the calendar of my past
    endeavours; for then we wound our modesty and make
    foul the clearness of our deservings, when of
    ourselves we publish them.
  • Countess. What does this knave here? Get you gone, sirrah: 330
    the complaints I have heard of you I do not all
    believe: 'tis my slowness that I do not; for I know
    you lack not folly to commit them, and have ability
    enough to make such knaveries yours.
  • Clown. 'Tis not unknown to you, madam, I am a poor fellow. 335
  • Clown. No, madam, 'tis not so well that I am poor, though
    many of the rich are damned: but, if I may have
    your ladyship's good will to go to the world, Isbel
    the woman and I will do as we may. 340
  • Clown. I do beg your good will in this case.
  • Clown. In Isbel's case and mine own. Service is no
    heritage: and I think I shall never have the 345
    blessing of God till I have issue o' my body; for
    they say barnes are blessings.
  • Countess. Tell me thy reason why thou wilt marry.
  • Clown. My poor body, madam, requires it: I am driven on
    by the flesh; and he must needs go that the devil drives. 350
  • Countess. Is this all your worship's reason?
  • Clown. Faith, madam, I have other holy reasons such as they
    are.
  • Clown. I have been, madam, a wicked creature, as you and 355
    all flesh and blood are; and, indeed, I do marry
    that I may repent.
  • Countess. Thy marriage, sooner than thy wickedness.
  • Clown. I am out o' friends, madam; and I hope to have
    friends for my wife's sake. 360
  • Countess. Such friends are thine enemies, knave.
  • Clown. You're shallow, madam, in great friends; for the
    knaves come to do that for me which I am aweary of.
    He that ears my land spares my team and gives me
    leave to in the crop; if I be his cuckold, he's my 365
    drudge: he that comforts my wife is the cherisher
    of my flesh and blood; he that cherishes my flesh
    and blood loves my flesh and blood; he that loves my
    flesh and blood is my friend: ergo, he that kisses
    my wife is my friend. If men could be contented to 370
    be what they are, there were no fear in marriage;
    for young Charbon the Puritan and old Poysam the
    Papist, howsome'er their hearts are severed in
    religion, their heads are both one; they may jowl
    horns together, like any deer i' the herd. 375
  • Countess. Wilt thou ever be a foul-mouthed and calumnious knave?
  • Clown. A prophet I, madam; and I speak the truth the next
    way:
    For I the ballad will repeat,
    Which men full true shall find; 380
    Your marriage comes by destiny,
    Your cuckoo sings by kind.
  • Countess. Get you gone, sir; I'll talk with you more anon.
  • Steward. May it please you, madam, that he bid Helen come to
    you: of her I am to speak. 385
  • Countess. Sirrah, tell my gentlewoman I would speak with her;
    Helen, I mean.
  • Clown. Was this fair face the cause, quoth she,
    Why the Grecians sacked Troy?
    Fond done, done fond, 390
    Was this King Priam's joy?
    With that she sighed as she stood,
    With that she sighed as she stood,
    And gave this sentence then;
    Among nine bad if one be good, 395
    Among nine bad if one be good,
    There's yet one good in ten.
  • Countess. What, one good in ten? you corrupt the song, sirrah.
  • Clown. One good woman in ten, madam; which is a purifying
    o' the song: would God would serve the world so all 400
    the year! we'ld find no fault with the tithe-woman,
    if I were the parson. One in ten, quoth a'! An we
    might have a good woman born but one every blazing
    star, or at an earthquake, 'twould mend the lottery
    well: a man may draw his heart out, ere a' pluck 405
    one.
  • Countess. You'll be gone, sir knave, and do as I command you.
  • Clown. That man should be at woman's command, and yet no
    hurt done! Though honesty be no puritan, yet it
    will do no hurt; it will wear the surplice of 410
    humility over the black gown of a big heart. I am
    going, forsooth: the business is for Helen to come hither.

[Exit]

  • Steward. I know, madam, you love your gentlewoman entirely. 415
  • Countess. Faith, I do: her father bequeathed her to me; and
    she herself, without other advantage, may lawfully
    make title to as much love as she finds: there is
    more owing her than is paid; and more shall be paid
    her than she'll demand. 420
  • Steward. Madam, I was very late more near her than I think
    she wished me: alone she was, and did communicate
    to herself her own words to her own ears; she
    thought, I dare vow for her, they touched not any
    stranger sense. Her matter was, she loved your son: 425
    Fortune, she said, was no goddess, that had put
    such difference betwixt their two estates; Love no
    god, that would not extend his might, only where
    qualities were level; Dian no queen of virgins, that
    would suffer her poor knight surprised, without 430
    rescue in the first assault or ransom afterward.
    This she delivered in the most bitter touch of
    sorrow that e'er I heard virgin exclaim in: which I
    held my duty speedily to acquaint you withal;
    sithence, in the loss that may happen, it concerns 435
    you something to know it.
  • Countess. You have discharged this honestly; keep it to
    yourself: many likelihoods informed me of this
    before, which hung so tottering in the balance that
    I could neither believe nor misdoubt. Pray you, 440
    leave me: stall this in your bosom; and I thank you
    for your honest care: I will speak with you further anon.
    [Exit Steward]
    [Enter HELENA]
    Even so it was with me when I was young: 445
    If ever we are nature's, these are ours; this thorn
    Doth to our rose of youth rightly belong;
    Our blood to us, this to our blood is born;
    It is the show and seal of nature's truth,
    Where love's strong passion is impress'd in youth: 450
    By our remembrances of days foregone,
    Such were our faults, or then we thought them none.
    Her eye is sick on't: I observe her now.
  • Helena. What is your pleasure, madam?
  • Countess. You know, Helen, 455
    I am a mother to you.
  • Helena. Mine honourable mistress.
  • Countess. Nay, a mother:
    Why not a mother? When I said 'a mother,'
    Methought you saw a serpent: what's in 'mother,' 460
    That you start at it? I say, I am your mother;
    And put you in the catalogue of those
    That were enwombed mine: 'tis often seen
    Adoption strives with nature and choice breeds
    A native slip to us from foreign seeds: 465
    You ne'er oppress'd me with a mother's groan,
    Yet I express to you a mother's care:
    God's mercy, maiden! does it curd thy blood
    To say I am thy mother? What's the matter,
    That this distemper'd messenger of wet, 470
    The many-colour'd Iris, rounds thine eye?
    Why? that you are my daughter?
  • Helena. Pardon, madam; 475
    The Count Rousillon cannot be my brother:
    I am from humble, he from honour'd name;
    No note upon my parents, his all noble:
    My master, my dear lord he is; and I
    His servant live, and will his vassal die: 480
    He must not be my brother.
  • Helena. You are my mother, madam; would you were,—
    So that my lord your son were not my brother,—
    Indeed my mother! or were you both our mothers, 485
    I care no more for than I do for heaven,
    So I were not his sister. Can't no other,
    But, I your daughter, he must be my brother?
  • Countess. Yes, Helen, you might be my daughter-in-law:
    God shield you mean it not! daughter and mother 490
    So strive upon your pulse. What, pale again?
    My fear hath catch'd your fondness: now I see
    The mystery of your loneliness, and find
    Your salt tears' head: now to all sense 'tis gross
    You love my son; invention is ashamed, 495
    Against the proclamation of thy passion,
    To say thou dost not: therefore tell me true;
    But tell me then, 'tis so; for, look thy cheeks
    Confess it, th' one to th' other; and thine eyes
    See it so grossly shown in thy behaviors 500
    That in their kind they speak it: only sin
    And hellish obstinacy tie thy tongue,
    That truth should be suspected. Speak, is't so?
    If it be so, you have wound a goodly clew;
    If it be not, forswear't: howe'er, I charge thee, 505
    As heaven shall work in me for thine avail,
    Tell me truly.
  • Helena. Good madam, pardon me!
  • Helena. Your pardon, noble mistress! 510
  • Helena. Do not you love him, madam?
  • Countess. Go not about; my love hath in't a bond,
    Whereof the world takes note: come, come, disclose
    The state of your affection; for your passions 515
    Have to the full appeach'd.
  • Helena. Then, I confess,
    Here on my knee, before high heaven and you,
    That before you, and next unto high heaven,
    I love your son. 520
    My friends were poor, but honest; so's my love:
    Be not offended; for it hurts not him
    That he is loved of me: I follow him not
    By any token of presumptuous suit;
    Nor would I have him till I do deserve him; 525
    Yet never know how that desert should be.
    I know I love in vain, strive against hope;
    Yet in this captious and intenible sieve
    I still pour in the waters of my love
    And lack not to lose still: thus, Indian-like, 530
    Religious in mine error, I adore
    The sun, that looks upon his worshipper,
    But knows of him no more. My dearest madam,
    Let not your hate encounter with my love
    For loving where you do: but if yourself, 535
    Whose aged honour cites a virtuous youth,
    Did ever in so true a flame of liking
    Wish chastely and love dearly, that your Dian
    Was both herself and love: O, then, give pity
    To her, whose state is such that cannot choose 540
    But lend and give where she is sure to lose;
    That seeks not to find that her search implies,
    But riddle-like lives sweetly where she dies!
  • Countess. Had you not lately an intent,—speak truly,—
    To go to Paris? 545
  • Helena. I will tell truth; by grace itself I swear.
    You know my father left me some prescriptions
    Of rare and proved effects, such as his reading 550
    And manifest experience had collected
    For general sovereignty; and that he will'd me
    In heedfull'st reservation to bestow them,
    As notes whose faculties inclusive were
    More than they were in note: amongst the rest, 555
    There is a remedy, approved, set down,
    To cure the desperate languishings whereof
    The king is render'd lost.
  • Countess. This was your motive
    For Paris, was it? speak. 560
  • Helena. My lord your son made me to think of this;
    Else Paris and the medicine and the king
    Had from the conversation of my thoughts
    Haply been absent then.
  • Countess. But think you, Helen, 565
    If you should tender your supposed aid,
    He would receive it? he and his physicians
    Are of a mind; he, that they cannot help him,
    They, that they cannot help: how shall they credit
    A poor unlearned virgin, when the schools, 570
    Embowell'd of their doctrine, have left off
    The danger to itself?
  • Helena. There's something in't,
    More than my father's skill, which was the greatest
    Of his profession, that his good receipt 575
    Shall for my legacy be sanctified
    By the luckiest stars in heaven: and, would your honour
    But give me leave to try success, I'ld venture
    The well-lost life of mine on his grace's cure
    By such a day and hour. 580
  • Helena. Ay, madam, knowingly.
  • Countess. Why, Helen, thou shalt have my leave and love,
    Means and attendants and my loving greetings
    To those of mine in court: I'll stay at home 585
    And pray God's blessing into thy attempt:
    Be gone to-morrow; and be sure of this,
    What I can help thee to thou shalt not miss.

[Exeunt]

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