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"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 friend.
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 to chastity."
"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...."

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