Modern Prose

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“Some sports are demanding,” Ferdinand said aloud as he was gathering wood, “but the delight derived from them makes the effort worthwhile. Some dreary jobs have dignity, and most drudgery is indispensable. My menial task would be as boring as it is odious if it was not that the mistress I serve puts a spring in my step and makes my labour pleasure. She is ten times more gentle than her crab-faced father, he’s composed of nothing but harshness. I must move thousands of these logs and pile them up or face Prospero’s wrath. My sweet mistress weeps when she sees me work and says that such a task never had so aristocratic a labourer. I get carried away! But these sweet thoughts enliven my labours and help me to work harder.”

Ferdinand continued his chore while Miranda approached him. Not too far behind, though, was Prospero. He stayed hidden in the bushes, far away enough to evade their eyes but close enough to hear what they were saying.

Miranda stopped at stared momentarily at Ferdinand then shouted: “Alas, don’t work so hard, please! I wish the lightning had incinerated those logs you’ve been ordered to pile up! Please, leave that log and rest. When the logs burn they’ll cry for having exhausted you! My father is deep in his studies- rest yourself, please. He’s occupied for the next three hours.”

“Oh, dear mistress, the sun will set before I’ve fulfilled my orders.”

“If you sit down, I’ll carry your logs. Please, give me that. I’ll carry it to the pile.”

“No, delicate creature, I’d rather pull a muscle or break my back than see you subjected to such humiliation while I sit lazily by!”

“It would become me as well as it does you. And I would do it with much more ease. I am accustomed to a basic existence while you are not.”

Prospero was wryly observing his daughter from afar.” Poor chick,” he thought to himself, “you’ve been struck by cupid’s arrow! Here’s the evidence! “

“You look exhausted,” Miranda told Ferdinand.

“No, noble mistress, it is a fresh morning when you are in the vicinity at night. I wish to ask you- only that I can put you in my prayers- what is your name?”

“Miranda.” Miranda startled herself by saying it. “Oh, father! I’ve disobeyed you by telling him!”

“Admired Miranda! Indeed, the peak of admiration! The world’s most esteemed! Many ladies have received my admiration and many a time their sweet words took my too diligent ear prisoner! For various virtues I have liked various women but never has one been so perfect – there has always been some defect in her detracted from her virtues. But you- oh, you- so perfect and peerless, are a compendium of all their finer virtues!”

“I do not know another of my sex. No woman’s face do I remember, other than my own reflection. Nor have I seen much more of men other than you, my good friend, and my father. What people look like beyond this island I do not know. By my modesty- the jewel in my dowry- I would not wish any other companion in all the world but you. Nor can my imagination conceive anyone more likeable than you. But I prattle on bit too wildly and in doing so I am forgetting my father’s instructions.”

“I am, by right, Miranda, a prince. In fact I do think I am now a king, but I wish I wasn’t. And I would no more endure this wood-carrying slavery than suffer a flesh-fly nest in my mouth. Hear my soul speak: The instant I saw you my heart was at you beck and call. I am here to be your slave. For your sake I am the patient log-man.”

“Do you love me?” Miranda asked.

“Oh, Heaven! Oh earth, bear witness to my words. If I speak truthfully crown what I profess with kind events. If I lie change my future happiness to misfortune! Beyond all limit of what else is in the world, Miranda, I love, prize and honour you!”

“I am a fool to weep at what makes me so happy!” Miranda gaily sobbed.

Prospero was still observing everything and was delighted his plan was unfolding perfectly. “A fair encounter of two unique souls,” he smiled to himself. “Heaven rain grace on what is flourishing between them.”

“Why do you weep?” Ferdinand asked Miranda.

“At my unworthiness. I dare not offer what I desire to give you. I can’t take what I can’t live without. But this is trifling! The more I try to hide things the bigger the bulk shows! No more word play. Plain and simple, I am your wife if you will marry me! If not I’ll die your jilted lady. You may deny me your hand. But I will be your servant whether you will it or not.”

“My wife, dearest. I am humbly yours for evermore!”

“My husband, then?”

“Yes, with a heart as willing as a slave seeking freedom. Here is my hand.”

“And mine, with my heart too. Now farewell till half an hour hence.”

“Farewell, a thousand, thousand times!”

Miranda left Ferdinand to return to the cave. Prospero smiled: “I cannot be as glad at this as they are. They are surprised by it all. But nothing can make me rejoice more. I must get back to my magic book. Others things have to be completed before suppertime.”