Sir Toby and Sir Andrew returned from the local tavern and made their way to Sir Toby’s rooms, swaying and bumping into things, talking loudly and laughing.
‘Come on, Sir Andrew,’ said Sir Toby. ‘To be out of bed after midnight is to be up early, and diluculo surgere… you know…’ He looked at Sir Andrew to complete the phrase to get up at daybreak is good for your health but Sir Andrew just stared at him blankly.
‘No, really, I don’t know,’ he said, ‘But I know that to be up late is to be up late!’ He let out a peal of giggles.
‘A false conclusion. I hate it…’ Sir Toby lifted his tankard and, finding that it was empty, concluded ‘… as much as I hate an empty tankard.’ He stopped at his door. He turned and raised a finger to explain his logic to his guest. ‘To be up after midnight and to go to bed then, is early, so that to go to bed after midnight is to go to bed early.’
They both nodded at the wisdom of that. Then Sir Toby opened the door and they went in and sat down together.
‘Doesn’t our life consist of the four elements?’ said Sir Toby as he stretched his legs out.
‘So they say, in faith,’ said Sir Andrew. ‘But I think it consists of eating and drinking!’
Sir Toby slapped him hard on the back. ‘You are a scholar!’ he proclaimed. ‘Therefore let’s eat and drink. ‘Maria!’ he shouted. ‘I say, a tankard of wine!’
‘Here comes the fool, in faith!’ exclaimed Sir Andrew as Feste appeared in the doorway.
‘How’s it going, chums?’ Feste got between them and put his arms round their shoulders. ‘Have you ever seen the tavern sign, ‘we three’?’
‘Welcome, ass,’ said Sir Toby. ‘Come on then, let’s sing a catch.’
‘On my oath the fool has an excellent voice!’ said Sir Andrew. ‘I would rather have a shapely leg like the fool’s, and his sweet voice, than forty shillings.’ He turned to Feste. ‘You were really in form last night when you talked about Pigrogromutritus and the Vapians passing the equinotial of Queubus. It was very good indeed. I sent you sixpence to spend on your wench. Did you get it?’
‘I did impeticos your gratillity,’ said Feste. ‘Because Malvolio’s nose is long, my lady is genteel and The Myrmidons is not a cheap tavern.’ He winked at Sir Toby.
Sir Andrew looked bewildered for a moment but recovered quickly. ‘Excellent!’ he exclaimed. ‘Why, this is the greatest fun when it comes down to it. Now, a song.’
‘Come on,’ Sir Toby flicked a coin at Feste. ‘There’s a sixpence for you. Let’s have a song.’
Sir Andrew imitated his host by flicking a coin himself. ‘Here’s a sixpence from me too.’ He squealed with delight. ‘If one knight gives a…’
Feste interrupted him: ‘Do you want a love song or one about the pleasures of life?’
‘A love song, a love song,’ said Sir Toby.
‘Yes, yes!’ Sir Andrew clapped his hands. ‘I don’t care about the pleasures of life.’
O mistress mine! Where are you roaming?
O stay and hear! Your true love’s coming,
That can sing both high and low.
Trip no further little sweeting,
Journey’s end in lovers meeting,
Every wise man’s son doth know.
Sir Andrew clapped furiously ‘Really excellent!’ he exclaimed.
‘Good, good,’ from Sir Toby.
What is love? ‘Tis not hereafter:
Present mirth hath present laughter:
What’s to come is still unsure,
In delay there lies no plenty:
Then come kiss me, sweet-and-twenty,
Youth’s a stuff will not endure.
‘A mellifluous voice, as I’m a true knight,’ sighed Sir Andrew.
Sir Toby nodded. ‘Very catchy.’
Sir Andrew dabbed his cheeks with his handkerchief. ‘Very sweet and catchy.’
Sir Toby laughed as his guest blew his nose emotionally. ‘When you hear with your nose it’s very sweet in its catchiness.’ He got up suddenly. ‘But shall we make the sky dance? Shall we wake the night-owl up with a catch that will draw three souls out of one weaver? Shall we do that?’
Sir Andrew sprang up excitedly. ‘If you love me, yes please, let’s do that. I’m a real dog at catches!’
‘By God, Sir, and some dogs are good at catching,’ returned his host.
‘That’s for sure,’ said Sir Andrew. ‘Let Thou Knave be our catch.’
‘Hold your peace, you knave?’ said Feste. ‘That one, knight? I’ll have to call you knave, knight.’
‘It won’t be the first time I’ve forced someone to call me knave,’ said Sir Andrew. ‘Begin, fool: it begins Hold thy peace.’
‘I’ll never begin if I hold my peace,’ said Feste.
‘Good joke!’ yelled Sir Andrew excitedly. ‘Come on, begin!’
They began, increasing in volume, faster and faster, louder and louder. The door opened and Maria stood there. They took no notice of her and she came right into the room and stood between them.
‘What an infernal noise you’re making,’ she shouted, and they stopped and looked at her. ‘If my lady hasn’t woken her steward, Malvolio, and told him to kick you out never trust me again.’
The others looked at Sir Toby, who was staring at Maria. Then he laughed suddenly. ‘My lady’s oriental! We are cunning: Malvolio’s stuck-up, and…’ he burst into song: ‘… three merry men be we!’ He drew himself up and looked down at the tiny Maria. ‘Aren’t we related? Am I not of her blood? Poppycock!’ He signalled to the others. ‘Lady!’ He began singing again: ‘There dwelt a man in Babylon, lady, lady…’
‘My goodness, the knight’s on form,’ said Feste.
‘Yes, he fools well enough when he’s in the mood,’ said Sir Andrew. ‘And so do I too. He does it in great style: I do it more naturally.’
‘On the twelfth day of December –’ sang Sir Toby.
‘For the love of God pipe down!’ said Maria.
‘Gentlemen! Are you mad or something?’ Malvolio stood at the door.
‘Have you no brains, manners or decency, gabbling like tinkers at this time of night? Are you determined to make an alehouse of my lady’s house, that you screech out your common songs at the top of your voices? Don’t you have any respect for place, people or time?’
‘We showed respect for time, sir, in our songs!’ said Sir Toby. ‘So shut up!’
Malvolio stood stiffly till the laughter had died down. Then, ‘Sir Toby,’ he said. ‘I must be blunt with you. My lady told me to tell you that although she lets you stay here as her relative, she won’t tolerate your bad behaviour. If you can behave properly you’re welcome in the house, if not, and it pleases you to go elsewhere, she is very willing to say goodbye.’
‘Goodbye sweetheart…, sang Sir Toby, ‘… as I must be gone…’
Maria took his arm. ‘Don’t, good Sir Toby…’
Feste began the second line of the song: ‘His eyes do show his days are almost done…’
‘I can’t believe this!’ exclaimed the steward.
‘But I will never die,’ sang Sir Toby.
Feste made up the next line: ‘Sir Toby, there you lie…’
‘This is much credit to you!’ said Malvolio, pointing at Feste.
‘Shall I tell him to go?’ sang Sir Toby.
‘What if you did?’ sang Feste.
‘Shall I tell him to go and care not?’
‘Oh, no, no, no, no, you dare not.’
‘Out of tune, sir, you lie!’ said Sir Toby. He walked right up to Malvolio. ‘Are you anything more than a steward? Do you think that because you are virtuous there’ll be no more cakes and ale?’
Feste joined him. ‘Yes, by St Anne. And ginger will be hot in the mouth too!’
Sir Toby put his arm around the fool’s shoulders. ‘Absolutely.’ He gestured to Malvolio. ‘Go and polish your steward’s chain!’ He turned. ‘A jar of wine, Maria!’
‘Miss Mary,’ said Malvolio, ‘if you valued my lady’s opinion any higher than contempt you wouldn’t provide the drink to fuel this disorderly conduct. She’ll know about it, by this hand!’ He shook his fist at them and left.
Maria imitated the braying of a donkey. ‘Go and shake your ears,’ she called after him.
‘That’s just the same as giving a man a drink when he asks for food, or provoking a fight and then not turning up, to make a fool of him,’ said Sir Andrew.
Sir Toby swung round on him. ‘Do that, knight,’ he said, irritably. ‘I’ll write you a challenge. Or I’ll deliver your insult to him personally.’
‘Sweet Sir Toby, be patient for tonight,’ said Maria. ‘Since the count’s youth visited my lady today she’s been very restless. As for Monsieur Malvolio, leave him to me. If I don’t trick him into humiliating himself and make a laughing stock of him, don’t allow me enough brains to lie straight in my bed. I know I can do it.’
‘Tell us how, tell us how!’ exclaimed Sir Toby.
‘Tell us something about him,’ said Sir Andrew.
‘Indeed, sir, sometimes he’s a kind of Puritan,’ she said.
‘Oh, if I thought that I’d beat him like a dog!’
‘What?’ Sir Toby’s eyebrows were raised. ‘For being a Puritan? Your extraordinary reason, dear knight?’
Sir Andrew thought for a moment. ‘I have no extraordinary reason… But I have good enough reason.’
‘He’s no Puritan or anything else with any consistency,’ said Maria. ‘He’s a timeserver: an affected ass who uses words he doesn’t understand the meanings of, spewing them out in great volume. He loves himself: so full of fine qualities, he believes himself to be, that he’s convinced that all who look on him also love him. And it’s on that weakness that my revenge will work on.’
‘What are you going to do?’
‘I’ll drop some love letters in his way – ambiguously expressed so that he’ll be able to read himself in them, such as the colour of his beard, the shape of his leg, the way he walks, the expression in his eyes – forehead and complexion. I can write very much like my lady, your niece. Sometimes we can’t tell the difference.’
‘Excellent!’ Sir Toby sniffed. ‘I smell a device.’
Sir Andrew giggled. ‘I have it in my nose too.’
‘He’ll think, by the letters you drop in his path, that they come from my niece, and that she’s in love with him!’
‘I’m intending a horse of that colour,’ she said.
‘And your horse will make an ass of him!’ declared Sir Andrew. He was jumping up and down.
‘I have no doubt this will make an ass of him.’
‘Oh that will be wonderful!’ Sir Andrew couldn’t contain himself.
‘Sport royal, I promise you,’ said Maria. ‘I know my medicine will work with him. I’ll plant you two – and the fool will make a third – where he will find the letter. Watch how he interprets it. For tonight, to bed and dream about the plot. Good night!’
They watched her go and Sir Toby bowed deeply. ‘Goodnight, my Amazonian queen,’ he called after her.
‘On my oath she’s a fantastic wench,’ said Sir Andrew.
‘She’s a beagle, a thoroughbred, and one who adores me,’ said Sir Toby. ‘What do you say about that?’
Sir Andrew suddenly looked sad. ‘I was adored once too,’ he said.
Sir Toby sighed exaggeratedly. ‘Let’s get to bed, knight. You’ll need to send for more money.’
‘If I don’t get your niece I’ll be badly out of pocket.’
‘Send for money, knight. If you don’t have her in the end, call me a horse’s rear end.’
‘If I don’t never trust me again,’ said Sir Andrew. ‘You can take that any way you like.’
‘Come on, come on.’ Sir Toby pulled his guest by the arm. ‘I’ll go and heat up some wine. It’s too late to go to bed now. Come knight, come on!’