"Mercury of the Wise"
Copyright 1994, Kevin Andrew Murphy
Hark ye gentles all! My name is Rosaline, and take heed
as I relate a most peculiar pass of circumstance that did
come about in my sixteenth year. For 'twas then, in the
city of Verona, that I met a young man of good but infamous
house--one Romeo, of House Montague, sworn enemy of House
Capulet, the house of my mother and grandfather, albeit of
no relation to my father's--who for me did conceive a most
monstrous affection as does a calf for its dam or a gosling
for its mother. I, being neither cow nor goose, and not of
a nature to even countenance taking the part of such an
unnatural hybrid, did in my endeavors to elude the
attentions of this Romeo both bring about a most strange
course of events and also make the acquaintance of another
young gentleman: One Mercutio, cousin to the Prince, knave,
scholar, gentleman and wit, a merry youth whose finest fault
and gravest virtue was that he was Romeo's best and firmest
How should I begin my tale, now that it is already
begun? Perhaps with the first time I met this Mercutio,
whilst spending an idle afternoon in my father's garden.
'Twas then that I heard a noise and looked up from my book
to see a handsome youth, long of leg and bemused of
countenance, perched atop my garden wall, a bouquet of roses
depending from one hand.
"Good lady, pay me no heed," he bade me, "or I am undone
and forsworn, and you will have taken part in making a man
break a solemn oath, which is a very sorry deed indeed."
"Indeed it would be," I said, putting down my book upon
the bench, "but as I have already taken note of you, that
note cannot be stilled. Still, if you but let me take note
of this oath, that may be coin enough to buy my silence, and
we may find some way to keep both it and yourself unbroken,
for change is a troublesome thing to make. So come you down
off that wall and tell me what you have sworn."
Nimbly he sprang down, bowing deeply, and quoth the
knave, "I have been charged by my most bosom friend, Romeo,
of House Montague, to deliver these roses in secret to the
balcony of one Rosaline, of this house, for as they say, a
rose for a rose, and a line of roses for a Rosaline."
"Well then," said I, standing up and straightening my
gown, "I know where lie the apartments of this Rosaline, and
I will swear by Heaven most high and Hell most low that I
shan't speak to her of your errand, so thus I share your
secret and your oath remains unbroken. But if you wish to
remain unbroken, perhaps you might give me the roses to
deliver, as this garden is not unguarded and you might find
yourself pricked with sharper things than thorns were you to
go any further."
"I have already encountered your wit, milady, and I
tremble to think of anything more pointed." After
exchanging more barbs and pleasantries--much like the
roses--it was revealed that I was the self-same Rosaline,
though I did not disclose this until after I had taken the
roses to my chamber and set them in water.
What of all this? Well, this Mercutio played messenger
for Romeo over the course of the weeks that followed, and he
and I exchanged many more jousts and jests all the while.
"Ah, Mercutio," I said one day, falling into the familiar,
"I am afraid it does thy friend no good to play at Jupiter,
for I am little interested in swans or showers of gold. But
for the messenger I have a message."
"And what might that be, milady?" he asked wryly.
"This," I said, catching him unawares, and planted a
kiss full on his mouth.
Once I'd come back, it had taken root and blossomed into
a smile. "I trust, my Mercury," I said then, "that thou
wilt not be taking that message to thy Jove."
"Nay, milady, I will not. I fear that I am no longer
under his rulership. By Mary, I feel the mark of Mars hot
upon my face." And forsooth, he was blushing most fierce, a
deep crimson like the ruddy planet, and it was another
minute afore he had recovered his tongue. "Mistress
Rosaline, perhaps I mistook thy motive, but by Romeo was I
informed that thou hadst Dian's wit and hadst sworn thyself
"Nonsense," I said, "thy Romeo misspoke me, as is his
wont. I merely swore to him that I would live as chastely
as Diana, and if he is so poor a scholar as to forget the
scandal of Orion, it is no trouble of mine. Dian's a
huntress, and I choose to choose instead of being chosen."
"Fearful huntress, thy arrow hath hit its target, though
a bit below the heart. Indeed, I can feel the cloth yard
shaft protruding as we speak, and I must howl like the wolf
since it seems I now follow neither Jupiter nor Mars, but
the fair moon herself!"
And what is there to say? The naughty wolf had
recovered his tongue, and we pledged to meet like Diana and
Orion on the sly, for truth to tell, Mercutio was sore
afraid to tell his friend Romeo that the pretty prize he
sought had refused the message but not the messenger.
And as Sheherezayd said, "Yet that is not the end of my tale...."