Open Source Shakespeare

The Winter's Tale

Act I

Scene 1. Antechamber in LEONTES’ palace.

Scene 2. A room of state in the same.

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Act I, Scene 1

Antechamber in LEONTES’ palace.



  • Archidamus. If you shall chance, Camillo, to visit Bohemia, on
    the like occasion whereon my services are now on
    foot, you shall see, as I have said, great
    difference betwixt our Bohemia and your Sicilia. 5
  • Camillo. I think, this coming summer, the King of Sicilia
    means to pay Bohemia the visitation which he justly owes him.
  • Archidamus. Wherein our entertainment shall shame us we will be
    justified in our loves; for indeed—
  • Camillo. Beseech you,— 10
  • Archidamus. Verily, I speak it in the freedom of my knowledge:
    we cannot with such magnificence—in so rare—I know
    not what to say. We will give you sleepy drinks,
    that your senses, unintelligent of our insufficience,
    may, though they cannot praise us, as little accuse 15
  • Camillo. You pay a great deal too dear for what's given freely.
  • Archidamus. Believe me, I speak as my understanding instructs me
    and as mine honesty puts it to utterance.
  • Camillo. Sicilia cannot show himself over-kind to Bohemia. 20
    They were trained together in their childhoods; and
    there rooted betwixt them then such an affection,
    which cannot choose but branch now. Since their
    more mature dignities and royal necessities made
    separation of their society, their encounters, 25
    though not personal, have been royally attorneyed
    with interchange of gifts, letters, loving
    embassies; that they have seemed to be together,
    though absent, shook hands, as over a vast, and
    embraced, as it were, from the ends of opposed 30
    winds. The heavens continue their loves!
  • Archidamus. I think there is not in the world either malice or
    matter to alter it. You have an unspeakable
    comfort of your young prince Mamillius: it is a
    gentleman of the greatest promise that ever came 35
    into my note.
  • Camillo. I very well agree with you in the hopes of him: it
    is a gallant child; one that indeed physics the
    subject, makes old hearts fresh: they that went on
    crutches ere he was born desire yet their life to 40
    see him a man.
  • Archidamus. Would they else be content to die?
  • Camillo. Yes; if there were no other excuse why they should
    desire to live.
  • Archidamus. If the king had no son, they would desire to live 45
    on crutches till he had one.



Act I, Scene 2

A room of state in the same.



  • Polixenes. Nine changes of the watery star hath been 50
    The shepherd's note since we have left our throne
    Without a burthen: time as long again
    Would be find up, my brother, with our thanks;
    And yet we should, for perpetuity,
    Go hence in debt: and therefore, like a cipher, 55
    Yet standing in rich place, I multiply
    With one 'We thank you' many thousands moe
    That go before it.
  • Leontes. Stay your thanks a while;
    And pay them when you part. 60
  • Polixenes. Sir, that's to-morrow.
    I am question'd by my fears, of what may chance
    Or breed upon our absence; that may blow
    No sneaping winds at home, to make us say
    'This is put forth too truly:' besides, I have stay'd 65
    To tire your royalty.
  • Leontes. We are tougher, brother,
    Than you can put us to't.
  • Polixenes. No longer stay.
  • Leontes. One seven-night longer. 70
  • Polixenes. Very sooth, to-morrow.
  • Leontes. We'll part the time between's then; and in that
    I'll no gainsaying.
  • Polixenes. Press me not, beseech you, so.
    There is no tongue that moves, none, none i' the world, 75
    So soon as yours could win me: so it should now,
    Were there necessity in your request, although
    'Twere needful I denied it. My affairs
    Do even drag me homeward: which to hinder
    Were in your love a whip to me; my stay 80
    To you a charge and trouble: to save both,
    Farewell, our brother.
  • Leontes. Tongue-tied, our queen?
    speak you.
  • Hermione. I had thought, sir, to have held my peace until 85
    You have drawn oaths from him not to stay. You, sir,
    Charge him too coldly. Tell him, you are sure
    All in Bohemia's well; this satisfaction
    The by-gone day proclaim'd: say this to him,
    He's beat from his best ward. 90
  • Leontes. Well said, Hermione.
  • Hermione. To tell, he longs to see his son, were strong:
    But let him say so then, and let him go;
    But let him swear so, and he shall not stay,
    We'll thwack him hence with distaffs. 95
    Yet of your royal presence I'll adventure
    The borrow of a week. When at Bohemia
    You take my lord, I'll give him my commission
    To let him there a month behind the gest
    Prefix'd for's parting: yet, good deed, Leontes, 100
    I love thee not a jar o' the clock behind
    What lady-she her lord. You'll stay?
  • Polixenes. No, madam.
  • Hermione. Nay, but you will?
  • Polixenes. I may not, verily. 105
  • Hermione. Verily!
    You put me off with limber vows; but I,
    Though you would seek to unsphere the
    stars with oaths,
    Should yet say 'Sir, no going.' Verily, 110
    You shall not go: a lady's 'Verily' 's
    As potent as a lord's. Will you go yet?
    Force me to keep you as a prisoner,
    Not like a guest; so you shall pay your fees
    When you depart, and save your thanks. How say you? 115
    My prisoner? or my guest? by your dread 'Verily,'
    One of them you shall be.
  • Polixenes. Your guest, then, madam:
    To be your prisoner should import offending;
    Which is for me less easy to commit 120
    Than you to punish.
  • Hermione. Not your gaoler, then,
    But your kind hostess. Come, I'll question you
    Of my lord's tricks and yours when you were boys:
    You were pretty lordings then? 125
  • Polixenes. We were, fair queen,
    Two lads that thought there was no more behind
    But such a day to-morrow as to-day,
    And to be boy eternal.
  • Hermione. Was not my lord 130
    The verier wag o' the two?
  • Polixenes. We were as twinn'd lambs that did frisk i' the sun,
    And bleat the one at the other: what we changed
    Was innocence for innocence; we knew not
    The doctrine of ill-doing, nor dream'd 135
    That any did. Had we pursued that life,
    And our weak spirits ne'er been higher rear'd
    With stronger blood, we should have answer'd heaven
    Boldly 'not guilty;' the imposition clear'd
    Hereditary ours. 140
  • Hermione. By this we gather
    You have tripp'd since.
  • Polixenes. O my most sacred lady!
    Temptations have since then been born to's; for
    In those unfledged days was my wife a girl; 145
    Your precious self had then not cross'd the eyes
    Of my young play-fellow.
  • Hermione. Grace to boot!
    Of this make no conclusion, lest you say
    Your queen and I are devils: yet go on; 150
    The offences we have made you do we'll answer,
    If you first sinn'd with us and that with us
    You did continue fault and that you slipp'd not
    With any but with us.
  • Leontes. Is he won yet? 155
  • Hermione. He'll stay my lord.
  • Leontes. At my request he would not.
    Hermione, my dearest, thou never spokest
    To better purpose.
  • Hermione. Never? 160
  • Leontes. Never, but once.
  • Hermione. What! have I twice said well? when was't before?
    I prithee tell me; cram's with praise, and make's
    As fat as tame things: one good deed dying tongueless
    Slaughters a thousand waiting upon that. 165
    Our praises are our wages: you may ride's
    With one soft kiss a thousand furlongs ere
    With spur we beat an acre. But to the goal:
    My last good deed was to entreat his stay:
    What was my first? it has an elder sister, 170
    Or I mistake you: O, would her name were Grace!
    But once before I spoke to the purpose: when?
    Nay, let me have't; I long.
  • Leontes. Why, that was when
    Three crabbed months had sour'd themselves to death, 175
    Ere I could make thee open thy white hand
    And clap thyself my love: then didst thou utter
    'I am yours for ever.'
  • Hermione. 'Tis grace indeed.
    Why, lo you now, I have spoke to the purpose twice: 180
    The one for ever earn'd a royal husband;
    The other for some while a friend.
  • Leontes. [Aside]. Too hot, too hot!
    To mingle friendship far is mingling bloods.
    I have tremor cordis on me: my heart dances; 185
    But not for joy; not joy. This entertainment
    May a free face put on, derive a liberty
    From heartiness, from bounty, fertile bosom,
    And well become the agent; 't may, I grant;
    But to be paddling palms and pinching fingers, 190
    As now they are, and making practised smiles,
    As in a looking-glass, and then to sigh, as 'twere
    The mort o' the deer; O, that is entertainment
    My bosom likes not, nor my brows! Mamillius,
    Art thou my boy? 195
  • Mamillius. Ay, my good lord.
  • Leontes. I' fecks!
    Why, that's my bawcock. What, hast
    smutch'd thy nose?
    They say it is a copy out of mine. Come, captain, 200
    We must be neat; not neat, but cleanly, captain:
    And yet the steer, the heifer and the calf
    Are all call'd neat.—Still virginalling
    Upon his palm!—How now, you wanton calf!
    Art thou my calf? 205
  • Mamillius. Yes, if you will, my lord.
  • Leontes. Thou want'st a rough pash and the shoots that I have,
    To be full like me: yet they say we are
    Almost as like as eggs; women say so,
    That will say anything but were they false 210
    As o'er-dyed blacks, as wind, as waters, false
    As dice are to be wish'd by one that fixes
    No bourn 'twixt his and mine, yet were it true
    To say this boy were like me. Come, sir page,
    Look on me with your welkin eye: sweet villain! 215
    Most dear'st! my collop! Can thy dam?—may't be?—
    Affection! thy intention stabs the centre:
    Thou dost make possible things not so held,
    Communicatest with dreams;—how can this be?—
    With what's unreal thou coactive art, 220
    And fellow'st nothing: then 'tis very credent
    Thou mayst co-join with something; and thou dost,
    And that beyond commission, and I find it,
    And that to the infection of my brains
    And hardening of my brows. 225
  • Polixenes. What means Sicilia?
  • Hermione. He something seems unsettled.
  • Polixenes. How, my lord!
    What cheer? how is't with you, best brother?
  • Hermione. You look as if you held a brow of much distraction 230
    Are you moved, my lord?
  • Leontes. No, in good earnest.
    How sometimes nature will betray its folly,
    Its tenderness, and make itself a pastime
    To harder bosoms! Looking on the lines 235
    Of my boy's face, methoughts I did recoil
    Twenty-three years, and saw myself unbreech'd,
    In my green velvet coat, my dagger muzzled,
    Lest it should bite its master, and so prove,
    As ornaments oft do, too dangerous: 240
    How like, methought, I then was to this kernel,
    This squash, this gentleman. Mine honest friend,
    Will you take eggs for money?
  • Mamillius. No, my lord, I'll fight.
  • Leontes. You will! why, happy man be's dole! My brother, 245
    Are you so fond of your young prince as we
    Do seem to be of ours?
  • Polixenes. If at home, sir,
    He's all my exercise, my mirth, my matter,
    Now my sworn friend and then mine enemy, 250
    My parasite, my soldier, statesman, all:
    He makes a July's day short as December,
    And with his varying childness cures in me
    Thoughts that would thick my blood.
  • Leontes. So stands this squire 255
    Officed with me: we two will walk, my lord,
    And leave you to your graver steps. Hermione,
    How thou lovest us, show in our brother's welcome;
    Let what is dear in Sicily be cheap:
    Next to thyself and my young rover, he's 260
    Apparent to my heart.
  • Hermione. If you would seek us,
    We are yours i' the garden: shall's attend you there?
  • Leontes. To your own bents dispose you: you'll be found,
    Be you beneath the sky. 265
    I am angling now,
    Though you perceive me not how I give line.
    Go to, go to!
    How she holds up the neb, the bill to him! 270
    And arms her with the boldness of a wife
    To her allowing husband!
    [Exeunt POLIXENES, HERMIONE, and Attendants]
    Gone already!
    Inch-thick, knee-deep, o'er head and 275
    ears a fork'd one!
    Go, play, boy, play: thy mother plays, and I
    Play too, but so disgraced a part, whose issue
    Will hiss me to my grave: contempt and clamour
    Will be my knell. Go, play, boy, play. 280
    There have been,
    Or I am much deceived, cuckolds ere now;
    And many a man there is, even at this present,
    Now while I speak this, holds his wife by the arm,
    That little thinks she has been sluiced in's absence 285
    And his pond fish'd by his next neighbour, by
    Sir Smile, his neighbour: nay, there's comfort in't
    Whiles other men have gates and those gates open'd,
    As mine, against their will. Should all despair
    That have revolted wives, the tenth of mankind 290
    Would hang themselves. Physic for't there is none;
    It is a bawdy planet, that will strike
    Where 'tis predominant; and 'tis powerful, think it,
    From east, west, north and south: be it concluded,
    No barricado for a belly; know't; 295
    It will let in and out the enemy
    With bag and baggage: many thousand on's
    Have the disease, and feel't not. How now, boy!
  • Mamillius. I am like you, they say.
  • Leontes. Why that's some comfort. What, Camillo there? 300
  • Camillo. Ay, my good lord.
  • Leontes. Go play, Mamillius; thou'rt an honest man.
    [Exit MAMILLIUS]
    Camillo, this great sir will yet stay longer.
  • Camillo. You had much ado to make his anchor hold: 305
    When you cast out, it still came home.
  • Leontes. Didst note it?
  • Camillo. He would not stay at your petitions: made
    His business more material.
  • Leontes. Didst perceive it? 310
    They're here with me already, whispering, rounding
    'Sicilia is a so-forth:' 'tis far gone,
    When I shall gust it last. How came't, Camillo,
    That he did stay? 315
  • Camillo. At the good queen's entreaty.
  • Leontes. At the queen's be't: 'good' should be pertinent
    But, so it is, it is not. Was this taken
    By any understanding pate but thine?
    For thy conceit is soaking, will draw in 320
    More than the common blocks: not noted, is't,
    But of the finer natures? by some severals
    Of head-piece extraordinary? lower messes
    Perchance are to this business purblind? say.
  • Camillo. Business, my lord! I think most understand 325
    Bohemia stays here longer.
  • Leontes. Ha!
  • Camillo. Stays here longer.
  • Leontes. Ay, but why?
  • Camillo. To satisfy your highness and the entreaties 330
    Of our most gracious mistress.
  • Leontes. Satisfy!
    The entreaties of your mistress! satisfy!
    Let that suffice. I have trusted thee, Camillo,
    With all the nearest things to my heart, as well 335
    My chamber-councils, wherein, priest-like, thou
    Hast cleansed my bosom, I from thee departed
    Thy penitent reform'd: but we have been
    Deceived in thy integrity, deceived
    In that which seems so. 340
  • Camillo. Be it forbid, my lord!
  • Leontes. To bide upon't, thou art not honest, or,
    If thou inclinest that way, thou art a coward,
    Which hoxes honesty behind, restraining
    From course required; or else thou must be counted 345
    A servant grafted in my serious trust
    And therein negligent; or else a fool
    That seest a game play'd home, the rich stake drawn,
    And takest it all for jest.
  • Camillo. My gracious lord, 350
    I may be negligent, foolish and fearful;
    In every one of these no man is free,
    But that his negligence, his folly, fear,
    Among the infinite doings of the world,
    Sometime puts forth. In your affairs, my lord, 355
    If ever I were wilful-negligent,
    It was my folly; if industriously
    I play'd the fool, it was my negligence,
    Not weighing well the end; if ever fearful
    To do a thing, where I the issue doubted, 360
    Where of the execution did cry out
    Against the non-performance, 'twas a fear
    Which oft infects the wisest: these, my lord,
    Are such allow'd infirmities that honesty
    Is never free of. But, beseech your grace, 365
    Be plainer with me; let me know my trespass
    By its own visage: if I then deny it,
    'Tis none of mine.
  • Leontes. Ha' not you seen, Camillo,—
    But that's past doubt, you have, or your eye-glass 370
    Is thicker than a cuckold's horn,—or heard,—
    For to a vision so apparent rumour
    Cannot be mute,—or thought,—for cogitation
    Resides not in that man that does not think,—
    My wife is slippery? If thou wilt confess, 375
    Or else be impudently negative,
    To have nor eyes nor ears nor thought, then say
    My wife's a hobby-horse, deserves a name
    As rank as any flax-wench that puts to
    Before her troth-plight: say't and justify't. 380
  • Camillo. I would not be a stander-by to hear
    My sovereign mistress clouded so, without
    My present vengeance taken: 'shrew my heart,
    You never spoke what did become you less
    Than this; which to reiterate were sin 385
    As deep as that, though true.
  • Leontes. Is whispering nothing?
    Is leaning cheek to cheek? is meeting noses?
    Kissing with inside lip? stopping the career
    Of laughing with a sigh?—a note infallible 390
    Of breaking honesty—horsing foot on foot?
    Skulking in corners? wishing clocks more swift?
    Hours, minutes? noon, midnight? and all eyes
    Blind with the pin and web but theirs, theirs only,
    That would unseen be wicked? is this nothing? 395
    Why, then the world and all that's in't is nothing;
    The covering sky is nothing; Bohemia nothing;
    My wife is nothing; nor nothing have these nothings,
    If this be nothing.
  • Camillo. Good my lord, be cured 400
    Of this diseased opinion, and betimes;
    For 'tis most dangerous.
  • Leontes. Say it be, 'tis true.
  • Camillo. No, no, my lord.
  • Leontes. It is; you lie, you lie: 405
    I say thou liest, Camillo, and I hate thee,
    Pronounce thee a gross lout, a mindless slave,
    Or else a hovering temporizer, that
    Canst with thine eyes at once see good and evil,
    Inclining to them both: were my wife's liver 410
    Infected as her life, she would not live
    The running of one glass.
  • Camillo. Who does infect her?
  • Leontes. Why, he that wears her like a medal, hanging
    About his neck, Bohemia: who, if I 415
    Had servants true about me, that bare eyes
    To see alike mine honour as their profits,
    Their own particular thrifts, they would do that
    Which should undo more doing: ay, and thou,
    His cupbearer,—whom I from meaner form 420
    Have benched and reared to worship, who mayst see
    Plainly as heaven sees earth and earth sees heaven,
    How I am galled,—mightst bespice a cup,
    To give mine enemy a lasting wink;
    Which draught to me were cordial. 425
  • Camillo. Sir, my lord,
    I could do this, and that with no rash potion,
    But with a lingering dram that should not work
    Maliciously like poison: but I cannot
    Believe this crack to be in my dread mistress, 430
    So sovereignly being honourable.
    I have loved thee,—
  • Leontes. Make that thy question, and go rot!
    Dost think I am so muddy, so unsettled,
    To appoint myself in this vexation, sully 435
    The purity and whiteness of my sheets,
    Which to preserve is sleep, which being spotted
    Is goads, thorns, nettles, tails of wasps,
    Give scandal to the blood o' the prince my son,
    Who I do think is mine and love as mine, 440
    Without ripe moving to't? Would I do this?
    Could man so blench?
  • Camillo. I must believe you, sir:
    I do; and will fetch off Bohemia for't;
    Provided that, when he's removed, your highness 445
    Will take again your queen as yours at first,
    Even for your son's sake; and thereby for sealing
    The injury of tongues in courts and kingdoms
    Known and allied to yours.
  • Leontes. Thou dost advise me 450
    Even so as I mine own course have set down:
    I'll give no blemish to her honour, none.
  • Camillo. My lord,
    Go then; and with a countenance as clear
    As friendship wears at feasts, keep with Bohemia 455
    And with your queen. I am his cupbearer:
    If from me he have wholesome beverage,
    Account me not your servant.
  • Leontes. This is all:
    Do't and thou hast the one half of my heart; 460
    Do't not, thou split'st thine own.
  • Camillo. I'll do't, my lord.
  • Leontes. I will seem friendly, as thou hast advised me.


  • Camillo. O miserable lady! But, for me, 465
    What case stand I in? I must be the poisoner
    Of good Polixenes; and my ground to do't
    Is the obedience to a master, one
    Who in rebellion with himself will have
    All that are his so too. To do this deed, 470
    Promotion follows. If I could find example
    Of thousands that had struck anointed kings
    And flourish'd after, I'ld not do't; but since
    Nor brass nor stone nor parchment bears not one,
    Let villany itself forswear't. I must 475
    Forsake the court: to do't, or no, is certain
    To me a break-neck. Happy star, reign now!
    Here comes Bohemia.

[Re-enter POLIXENES]

  • Polixenes. This is strange: methinks 480
    My favour here begins to warp. Not speak?
    Good day, Camillo.
  • Camillo. Hail, most royal sir!
  • Polixenes. What is the news i' the court?
  • Camillo. None rare, my lord. 485
  • Polixenes. The king hath on him such a countenance
    As he had lost some province and a region
    Loved as he loves himself: even now I met him
    With customary compliment; when he,
    Wafting his eyes to the contrary and falling 490
    A lip of much contempt, speeds from me and
    So leaves me to consider what is breeding
    That changeth thus his manners.
  • Camillo. I dare not know, my lord.
  • Polixenes. How! dare not! do not. Do you know, and dare not? 495
    Be intelligent to me: 'tis thereabouts;
    For, to yourself, what you do know, you must.
    And cannot say, you dare not. Good Camillo,
    Your changed complexions are to me a mirror
    Which shows me mine changed too; for I must be 500
    A party in this alteration, finding
    Myself thus alter'd with 't.
  • Camillo. There is a sickness
    Which puts some of us in distemper, but
    I cannot name the disease; and it is caught 505
    Of you that yet are well.
  • Polixenes. How! caught of me!
    Make me not sighted like the basilisk:
    I have look'd on thousands, who have sped the better
    By my regard, but kill'd none so. Camillo,— 510
    As you are certainly a gentleman, thereto
    Clerk-like experienced, which no less adorns
    Our gentry than our parents' noble names,
    In whose success we are gentle,—I beseech you,
    If you know aught which does behove my knowledge 515
    Thereof to be inform'd, imprison't not
    In ignorant concealment.
  • Camillo. I may not answer.
  • Polixenes. A sickness caught of me, and yet I well!
    I must be answer'd. Dost thou hear, Camillo, 520
    I conjure thee, by all the parts of man
    Which honour does acknowledge, whereof the least
    Is not this suit of mine, that thou declare
    What incidency thou dost guess of harm
    Is creeping toward me; how far off, how near; 525
    Which way to be prevented, if to be;
    If not, how best to bear it.
  • Camillo. Sir, I will tell you;
    Since I am charged in honour and by him
    That I think honourable: therefore mark my counsel, 530
    Which must be even as swiftly follow'd as
    I mean to utter it, or both yourself and me
    Cry lost, and so good night!
  • Polixenes. On, good Camillo.
  • Camillo. I am appointed him to murder you. 535
  • Polixenes. By whom, Camillo?
  • Camillo. By the king.
  • Polixenes. For what?
  • Camillo. He thinks, nay, with all confidence he swears,
    As he had seen't or been an instrument 540
    To vice you to't, that you have touch'd his queen
  • Polixenes. O, then my best blood turn
    To an infected jelly and my name
    Be yoked with his that did betray the Best! 545
    Turn then my freshest reputation to
    A savour that may strike the dullest nostril
    Where I arrive, and my approach be shunn'd,
    Nay, hated too, worse than the great'st infection
    That e'er was heard or read! 550
  • Camillo. Swear his thought over
    By each particular star in heaven and
    By all their influences, you may as well
    Forbid the sea for to obey the moon
    As or by oath remove or counsel shake 555
    The fabric of his folly, whose foundation
    Is piled upon his faith and will continue
    The standing of his body.
  • Polixenes. How should this grow?
  • Camillo. I know not: but I am sure 'tis safer to 560
    Avoid what's grown than question how 'tis born.
    If therefore you dare trust my honesty,
    That lies enclosed in this trunk which you
    Shall bear along impawn'd, away to-night!
    Your followers I will whisper to the business, 565
    And will by twos and threes at several posterns
    Clear them o' the city. For myself, I'll put
    My fortunes to your service, which are here
    By this discovery lost. Be not uncertain;
    For, by the honour of my parents, I 570
    Have utter'd truth: which if you seek to prove,
    I dare not stand by; nor shall you be safer
    Than one condemn'd by the king's own mouth, thereon
    His execution sworn.
  • Polixenes. I do believe thee: 575
    I saw his heart in 's face. Give me thy hand:
    Be pilot to me and thy places shall
    Still neighbour mine. My ships are ready and
    My people did expect my hence departure
    Two days ago. This jealousy 580
    Is for a precious creature: as she's rare,
    Must it be great, and as his person's mighty,
    Must it be violent, and as he does conceive
    He is dishonour'd by a man which ever
    Profess'd to him, why, his revenges must 585
    In that be made more bitter. Fear o'ershades me:
    Good expedition be my friend, and comfort
    The gracious queen, part of his theme, but nothing
    Of his ill-ta'en suspicion! Come, Camillo;
    I will respect thee as a father if 590
    Thou bear'st my life off hence: let us avoid.
  • Camillo. It is in mine authority to command
    The keys of all the posterns: please your highness
    To take the urgent hour. Come, sir, away.