Kent was in the French camp near Dover. He had found the gentleman he had sent to give a true account of the events surrounding the King.
‘Do you know why the King of France has suddenly gone back to his kingdom?’ he said.
‘He had some unfinished business back home that came to the forefront since coming here: it was something with such threatening implications that his personal attendance was vital and necessary.’
‘Who has he left here in charge?’
‘The Marshal of France, Monsieur La Far.’
‘Did your letters move the Queen to any demonstration of grief?’
‘Yes sir,’ the gentleman said. ‘She took them and read them in my presence, and every now and then a large tear trickled down her delicate cheek. It struck me that she was a queen over her emotions which, like rebels, battled to be king over her.’
‘Oh, then it moved her.’ Kent nodded.
‘Not to anger. Self control and sorrow contested each other as to which should express her better. You have seen sunshine and rain at the same time: her smiles and tears were like that, but more beautiful. The happy little smiles that played on her rosy lips seemed unaware of those visitors in her eyes, which fell from them like pearls dropping from diamonds. To cut a long story short, sorrow would be a precious commodity if it became everyone as it became her.’
‘Did she ask any questions?’
‘Oh yes.’ The gentleman nodded vigorously. ‘Once or twice she breathed the name “father”, as though it were pressing on her heart: cried “Sisters! Sisters! Disgrace to their sex! Sisters! Kent! Father! Sisters! What! In the storm! In the night? In the name of pity, I don’t believe it!” And at that she allowed her holy tears to fall from her heavenly eyes then, her storm damped, she went off to deal with her grief alone.’
Kent’s eyes were moist as he listened. ‘It is the stars,’ he said. ‘The stars above us are responsible for our characters. Otherwise two parents couldn’t beget such different offspring. You haven’t spoken to her since?’
‘Was that before the King returned?’
‘Well, sir, the poor distressed Lear’s in the town. Sometimes, in his more rational moments, he remembers why we’ve come to Dover, and won’t in any circumstances consent to see his daughter.’
‘Why, dear sir?’
‘A great shame elbows him away. His own unkindness – depriving her of his blessing: turning her out to the mercy of foreign lands: giving her dowry to his pitiless daughters – these things sting his mind so venomously that burning shame keeps him away from Cordelia.’
‘Alas, poor man,’ the gentleman said.
‘You haven’t heard anything of the armies of Albany and Cornwall?’
‘Yes,’ the gentleman said. ‘They’re on the march.’
‘Well, sir,’ said Kent, ‘I’ll take you to our master, Lear, and leave you to look after him. I’m going to be tied up in some important business for a while. When you find out who I am you won’t be sorry you’ve helped me. Please. Come with me.’
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