Act 3, Scene II

Scene: A Room in the House of Bessus.

Enter BESSUS.

Bessus.
They talk of fame; I have gotten it in the wars, and will afford any man a reasonable pennyworth. Some will say, they could be content to have it, but that it is to be achieved with danger; but my opinion is otherwise: For if I might stand still in cannon-proof, and have fame fall upon me, I would refuse it. My reputation came principally by thinking to run away, which nobody knows but Mardonius; and, I think, he conceals it to anger me. Before I went to the wars, I came to the town a young fellow, without means or parts to deserve friends; and my emptv guts persuaded me to lie, and abuse people, for my meat; which I did, and they beat me. Then would I fast two days, till my hunger cried out on me, "Rail still:" Then, methought, I had a monstrous stomach to abuse 'em again, and did it. In this state I continued, till they hung me up by the heels, and beat me with hasle-sticks, as if they would have baked me, and have cozen'd somebody with me for venison. After this I rail'd , and eat quietly: For the whole kingdom took notice of me for a baffled whipp'd fellow, and what I said was remembered in mirth, but never in anger, of which I was glad. I would it were at that pass again! After this, Heaven call'd an aunt of mine, that left two hundred pounds in a cousin's hand for me; who, taking me to be a gallant young spirit, raised a company for me with the money, and sent me into Armenia with 'em. Away I would have run from them, but that I could get no company: and alone I durst not run. I was never at battle but once, and there I was running, but Mardonius cudgell'd me: Yet I got loose at last, but was so afraid that I saw no more than my shoulders do; but fled with my whole company amongst mine enemies, and overthrew 'em: Now the report of my valour is come over before me, and they say I was a raw young fellow, but now I am improved: A plague on their eloquence! 'twill cost me many a beating; and Mardonius might help this too, if he would; for now they think to get honour on me, and all the men I have abused call me freshly to account (worthily as they call it) by the way of challenge.

Enter the third Gentleman.

3 Gentleman.
Good-morrow, Captain Bessus.
Bessus.
Good-morrow, sir.
3 Gentleman.
I come to speak with you——
Bessus.
You're very welcome.
3 Gentleman.
From one that holds himself wrong'd by you some three years since. Your worth, he says, is famed, and he doth nothing doubt but you will do him right, as beseems a soldier.
Bessus.
A pox on 'em, so they cry all!
3 Gentleman.
And a slight note I have about me for you, for the delivery of which you must excuse me: It is an office that friendship calls upon me to do, and no way offensive to you; since I desire but right on both sides.
[Gives him a letter.
Bessus.
'Tis a challenge, sir, is it not?
3 Gentleman.
'Tis an inviting to the field.
Bessus.
An inviting? Oh, cry you mercy!—What a compliment he delivers it with! he might, as agreeably to my nature, present me poison with such a speech. [Read's]. Um, um, um—Reputation—um, um, um—call you to account—um um, um—forced to this—um, um, um—with my sword—um, um, um—like a gentleman—um, um, um—dear to me—um, um, um—satisfaction.—'Tis very well, sir; I do accept it; but he must wait an answer this thirteen weeks.
3 Gentleman.
Why, sir, he would be glad to wipe off this stain as soon as he could.
Bessus.
Sir, upon my credit, I am already engaged to two hundred and twelve; all which must have their stains wiped off, if that be the word, before him.
3 Gentleman.
Sir, if you be truly engaged but to one, he shall stay a competent time.
Bessus.
Upon my faith, sir, to two hundred and twelve: And I have a spent body, too much bruised in battle; so that I cannot fight, I must be plain, above three combats a-day. All the kindness I can show him, is to set him resolvedly in my roll, the two hundred and thirteenth man, which is something; for, I tell you, I think there will be more after him than before him; I think so. Pray you commend me to him, and tell him this.
3 Gentleman.
I will, sir. Good-morrow to you.
[Exit Gentleman.
Bessus.
Good-morrow, good sir.—Certainly, my safest way were to print myself a coward, with a discovery how I came by my credit, and clap it upon every post. I have received above thirty challenges within this two hours: Marry, all but the first I put off with engagement; and, by good fortune, the first is no madder of fighting than I; so that that's referred. The place where it must be ended is four days' journey off, and our arbitrators are these; he has chosen a gentleman in travel, and I have a special friend with a quartain ague, like to hold him this five years, for mine and when his man comes home, we are to expect my friend's health. If they would send me challenges thus thick, as long as I lived, I would have no other living: I can make seven shillings a-day o' th' paper to the grocers. Yet I learn nothing by all these, but a little skill in comparing of styles: I do find evidently, that there is some one scrivener in this town, that has a great hand in writing of challenges, for they are all of a cut, and six of 'em in a hand; and they all end, "My reputation is dear to me, and I must require satisfaction."—Who's there? more paper, I hope. No; 'tis my lord Bacurius. I fear, all is not well betwixt us.

Enter BACURIUS.

Bacurius.
Now, Captain Bessus! I come about a frivolous matter, caused by as idle a report: You know, you were a coward.
Bessus.
Very right.
Bacurius.
And wrong'd me.
Bessus.
True, my lord.
Bacurius.
But now, people will call you valiant; desertlessly, I think; yet, for their satisfaction, I will have you fight me.
Bessus.
Oh, my good lord, my deep engagements
Bacurius.
Tell not me of your engagements, Captain Bessus! It is not to be put off with an excuse. For my own part, I am none of the multitude that believe your conversion from coward.
Bessus.
My lord, I seek not quarrels, and this belongs not to me; I am not to maintain it.
Bacurius.
Who then, pray?
Bessus.
Bessus the coward wrong'd you.
Bacurius.
Right.
Bessus.
And shall Bessus the valiant maintain what Bessus the coward did?
Bacurius.
I pr'ythee leave these cheating tricks! I swear thou shalt fight with me, or thou shalt be beaten extremely, and kick'd.
Bessus.
Since you provoke me thus far, my lord, I will fight with you; and, by my sword, it shall cost me twenty pounds, but I will have my leg well a week sooner purposely.
Bacurius.
Your leg! why, what ail's your leg? I'll do a cure on you. Stand up!
Bessus.
My lord, this is not noble in you.
Bacurius.
What dost thou with such a phrase in thy mouth? I will kick thee out of all good words before I leave thee.
[Kicks him.
Bessus.
My lord, I take this as a punishment for the offence I did when I was a coward.
Bacurius.
When thou wert? confess thyself a coward still, or, by this light, I'll beat thee into sponge.
Bessus.
Why, I am one.
Bacurius.
Are you so, sir? and why do you wear a sword then? Come, unbuckle! quick!
Bessus.
My lord?
Bacurius.
Unbuckle, I say, and give it me; or, as I live, thy head will ache extremely.
Bessus.
It is a pretty hilt; and if your lordship take an affection to it, with all my heart I present it to you, for a new-year's gift.
[Gives him his sword, with a knife in the scabbard.
Bacurius.
I thank you very heartily, sweet captain! Farewell.
Bessus.
One word more: I beseech your lordship to render me my knife again.
Bacurius.
arry, by all means, captain. [Gives him back the knife.] Cherish yourself with it, and eat hard, good captain! we cannot tell whether we shall have any more such. Adieu, dear captain!
[Exit Bacurius.
Bessus.
I will make better use of this, than of my sword. A base spirit has this 'vantage of a brave one; it keeps always at a stay, nothing brings it down, not beating. I remember I promised the king, in a great audience, that I would make my back-biters eat my sword to a knife: How to get another sword I know not; nor know any means left for me to maintain my credit, but impudence: Therefore I will outswear him and all his followers, that this is all that's left uneaten of my sword.
[Exit Bessus.