If I do not usurp myself, I am.
~Cesario & Olivia~
A few hours after Cesario left the manor of the duke, Olivia and several members of her household (mainly Feste, Mariah, and Malvolio) were playing cards in the grandly built, but sparsely decorated drawing room. Olivia inquired after the state of her uncle, to which Mariah replied that he had gone into town that morn and not been seen since. No one spoke of how they all knew he was with the foolish Andrew, nor of how they were certain that they were both quite drunk by now.
Olivia laid down her cards, and the others quickly followed suit. “I no longer desire to play.” she said sadly. “I fear I have lost interest in a great many things lately.” Feste smiled slightly at her.
“I have no doubt,” he said, “that over time you will desire to play cards again.” Her lips quirked at this.
Just then, there was a crash outside the great window which looked upon the gate at the north end of the house, which also happened to be the main entrance. Standing quickly, Olivia threw open the window with the assistance of Mariah, and looked outside to behold her uncle lying on his back.
“Oh dear,” she groaned. “He's drunk again before noon.” she sighed, and then raised her voice, “What is it now, uncle, that makes you cause such havok at the gate?”
He looked up at her stupidly, eyes slightly crossed. “A gentlemen.”
She looked at him in astonishment. “What gentlemen would make such noise?”
“A young knave by the looks of it.” Toby said, though the company did not know if they should believe him or not. He looked to the left of Olivia, and saw the Feste. His eyes widened and a smile lit his face. “How are you Feste?” he bellowed, stumbling to his feet and swaying dangerously.
“Good Sir Toby,” the fool replied, “I daresay that I am a right sight better than you.”
“Uncle, why are you so drunk so early?” Olivia asked hopelessly.
“Drunk? Who's drunk?” was his reply, “I'll knock his head together, he who dares be drunk in mine niece's presence. Is it the youth at the gate?”
“Nay,” Olivia cried in exasperation. “But who is he?”
“He could be the devil for all I care! It's all one to me.” He stumbled a few more times as he made his way to the door of the kitchen, opening it with one loud BANG! and closing it with another.
Olivia sighed slightly and put her hand to her head, feeling a headache coming on. “Feste,” she practically whispered. “My uncle is currently a madman thanks to his beloved drink. Please, look to him for me. Call him a doctor for when he comes out of his stupor.”
The fool nodded to his mistress, and took his leave of the whole company. If he stuck out his tongue at Malvolio before climbing through the window (at which both Mariah and Olivia shook their heads in exasperation) and skipping across the courtyard, no one took notice.
Well, Malvolio noticed, but in truth no one currently cared for his opinion. And now that the cause of her trail was gone, Olivia could focus on the current task at hand. “Malvolio, see to the man at the gate, please.” he bowed to her request and also left the room, though by the window in place of the door.
“What man do you think this is?” Mariah asked her mistress.
“No doubt he is another lad from Orsino, doomed to carry messages of love to me.”
“What will your reply be to him?”
“Reply? Mariah, do not think I shall let the person beyond the gate.”
With that, the two women sat down on the couch and picked up a bit of needlework they then focused themselves on. Mariah looked over at Olivia in slight concern, for Olivia had her lips pressed together tightly. She was about to ask her what was the matter, but Malvolio chose at that moment to enter.
“Madam,” he began imperiously, “The fellow outside swears that he will speak with you. I told him you were sick, and yet he saw that it was a falsehood, and demanded to speak to you. I told him you were asleep, and yet again he knew I was lying, and demanded to speak to you.!” The last sentence grew louder until it was a shout. The steward paused to draw breath. “My Lady, what shall I say to this man?” he begged, “For he is ignoring all denials I give him.”
Olivia and Mariah shared an astonished glance, both shocked at the impertinence of the stranger.
“You told him he would not speak with me?”
“Aye!” Malvolio exclaimed, “Yet he refuses to leave the house, and says he will stand at the door like a post until you give him entrance.”
“What kind of man is he?” Olivia asked curiously.
“He is indeed one of Adam's sons.”
“No, I mean what is his manner, his appearance? His years?”
“A very ill manner, for he continues to darken your doorstep. He is not yet old enough to be called man, and is not young enough to be called boy. His appearance is well favored, though I daresay were his hair any longer people would think him a woman.”
Olivia sat in thought for a few minutes before replying. “Let him in.”
“I said let him in, Malvolio! We shall once more here what Orsino has to say, and yet cannot say himself.” her voice was very firm.
“As you wish.”
Cesario entered the room cautiously, not knowing what to expect. She was greeted with the sight of two women sitting on a couch, and the man who had let her in. The women were both clothed in heavy black garb, and wore veils. The man stood imperiously behind the lady, acting as if the position was his right and his right alone. Cesario without great effort ignored him. She bowed slightly to the group.
“Which is the lady of the house?” she asked as she straightened.
“I will answer for her,” The woman on the left replied.
Cesario studied the lady who had spoken. Out of question, while her clothes were as black as those worn by the other lady in the room, the speakers garments were considerably finer. Her lace veil was of a greater quality, and her manner in comparison to the other was more haughty, and it was clear that she was used to having her orders followed. Indeed, Cesario surmised, this was the Lady Olivia.
Upon further quiet examination, Cesario saw a kindred spirit in the other noblewoman. Both had lost everything in less than a year, though Olivia managed to keep her fortunes, station, and femininity. Despite their vast differences (for it is certain Olivia will never be caught dead with trousers on) they were still very much the same.
During this period of internal reflection, Cesario had withdrawn from her pocket the slip of paper the Duke had entrusted to her. Glancing at it for a brief moment, she nodded cheerfully to all the room's inhabitants before beginning.
“Most radiant, exquisite, unmatchable beauty...” she paused. “I must ask you to confirm whether or not you are truly the lady of the house, for I have never had the pleasure of making her acquaintance. I would be loath to unleash my speech upon a person it was not meant for, for my master to great pains to write it, and I took pains to study it.”
In truth, Cesario was sure that it was indeed Olivia before her, but she wanted verbal conformation.
Olivia was surprised at the opacity of this young youth. First he had demanded entrance without so much as a by-your-leave, and now he was demanding her identity? Such a thing was unheard of, and terribly impolite. Though, it was true that she had already given him entrance even though she did not know him. They both had acted very strangely and in an improper manner today. If her father and brother were alive, oh the things they would say.
“From where do you come?”
“From the Duke Orsino, as I have already told you, lady. Good gentle one, give me assurance that you are the lady of the house and I shall proceed in my speech. Or tell me that you are not, and bring me the lady of the house so that I may tell it to her.” Cesario's tone was slightly teasing.
“Why, are you a comedian?” Olivia couldn't help but ask.
“No, my dear, I am not. I am but a servant.” she paused, and her face grew melancholy. “I must admit though, I am not who I appear to be.” Laughing bitterly she continues, “If you are the lady of the house, please tell me so now.”
“Well,” Olivia sniffed, oblivious to the state of her guest, “If I do not usurp myself, I am.”
The lady was surprised to discover that she felt slightly relieved at confirming her identity, though she could not explain why.
“Very well,” Cesario was saying, “I will continue on with my words of praise then, and show you the heart of my message.”
“Please, leave out the praise,” Olivia replied hastily, wanting to spare herself from another one of Orinoco’s love letters, “And skip to the important parts.”
“Oh dear,” Cesario fretted, “I took a great pain to study it, and 'tees poetical.”
“Look here,” Olivia cried, “It is more likely feigned then poetical, so therefore do not speak it.” Her tone grew reproachful. “I heard that you were saucy at my gates, and I allowed your appearance in this room to see your impertinence rather than to hear your speech. If you are as mad as I think you are, begone! But if you think you have reason, than I pray you, be brief in your speech so that this interlude may end.”
Mariah rose from her seat next to her lady and moved over to the youth. “Will you hoist sail sir?” she asked. “Here lies your way.”
Cesario stepped back, “Nay, fair shrew, I shall anchor here a little longer.”
“Then speak your message and be gone!” The lady-in-waiting cried. “You are trying my lady's patience.”
“It concerns your lady's ear alone, I'm afraid.”
Olivia stood in a huff, her skirts twirling as she moved. Walking over to stand by the window, she placed a hand upon it and stood for a minute just looking out of it. It was clear to the three others present that she was upset, but no one dared to move.
“Leave us,” she said suddenly, “So that I may hear this cursed speech and get this youth gone.”
Seeing her mood, Malvolio and Mariah were quick to leave with little protest.
“You may tell me the heart of your speech, and leave. Where is your text?”
“It rests in two places. On this sheet of paper in my hand, and in Orsino's bosom.”
“In his bosom?” Olivia cried, “Why, in what chapter of his bosom?”
“In the very first of his heart, I should think,” was Cesario's reply.
“Oh, that chapter. Well, I have read it, and it is nothing but lies and heresy.”
Cesario moved from where she was standing to a spot directly behind the Lady. She studied Olivia's profile, noting the heaviness that seemed to weigh on the girl. She was again reminded of their circumstances of grief, so similar in nature, and yet the events had taken both ladies to two very different places.
“Will you let me see your face?” the servant asked suddenly.
Olivia laughed out loud, something that she had not done in a long while. “Have you any order from your master to see my face?” she asked incredulously. “You have indeed stepped over many lines today, but this one takes the cake!”
Olivia seemed to consider something for a minute, before lifting her veil off and flinging it to the side.
“But we will draw the curtain and show you the picture.” she turned to fully face the youth. “It's excellently done, is it not?”
“Indeed it is,” Cesario replied, “That is, if God did all.”
“He did.” Her reply was short.
“Now, may I on with my speech?”
“Oh, confound that speech of yours! Orsino thinks that he loves me, but I do not love him, I cannot! I find myself questioning his sanity, for we have only met a handful of times, and have hardly ever spoken, and yet he is declaring his undying adoration from every mountain in Illyria! Your duke is a good person, a kind man, I will grant him that, but I cannot love him.”
During her speech, Olivia had thrown her arms about animatedly, her face had adopted a slightly desperate expression, and her manner was one of sad acceptance. She sank into a chair, and a small tear flowed down her cheek.
“Whether or not you choose to believe it, I understand you. I know what you are enduring right now, and I am sorry for it.” Cesario sat next to her, and offered her a pocket handkerchief to dry her eyes.
“And what's your story and parentage?” Olivia felt compelled to question.
“My story is much like yours, and my parentage is above my current fortunes, although I assure you lady that my state is well. I shall not trouble you again today with my master's love for you, and therefore take my leave of you.” Cesario kissed the lady's hand, and exited.