disease under which Lafeu said the king at that time languished: and when Helena heard of the king’s complaint, she, who till now had been so humble and so hopeless, formed an ambitious project in her mind to go herself to Paris, and undertake the cure of the king. But though Helena was the possessor of this choice prescription, it was unlikely, as the king as well as his physicians was of opinion that his disease was incurable, that they would give credit to a poor unlearned virgin, if she should offer to perform a cure. The firm hopes that Helena had of succeeding, if she might be permitted to make the trial, seemed more than even her father’s skill warranted, though he was the most famous physician of his time; for she felt a strong faith that this good medicine was sanctified by all the luckiest stars in heaven to be the legacy that should advance her fortune, even to the high dignity of being count Rousillon’s wife.

Bertram had not been long gone, when the countess was informed by her steward, that he had overheard Helena talking to herself, and that he understood from some words she uttered, she was in love with Bertram, and thought of following him to Paris. The countess dismissed the steward with thanks, and desired him to tell Helena she wished to speak with her. What she had just heard of Helena brought the remembrance of days long past into the mind of the countess; those days probably when her love for Bertram’s father first began; and she said to herself, “Even so it was with me when I was young. Love is a thorn that belongs to the rose of youth; for in the season of youth, if ever we are nature’s children, these faults are ours, though then we think not they are faults.” While the countess was thus meditating on the loving errors of her own youth, Helena entered, and she said to her, “Helena, you know I am a mother to you.” Helena replied, “You are my honorable mistress.” “You are my daughter,” said the countess again: “I say I am your mother. Why do you start and look pale at my words?” With looks of alarm and confused thoughts, fearing the countess suspected her love, Helena still replied, “Pardon me, madam, you are not my mother; the count Rousillon cannot be my brother, nor I your daughter.” “Yet, Helena,” said the countess, “you might be my daughter-in-law; and I am afraid that is what you mean to be, the words mother and daughter so disturb you. Helena, do you love my son?” “Good madam, pardon me,” said the affrighted Helena. Again the countess repeated her question, “Do you love my son?” “Do not you love him, madam?” said Helena. The countess replied, “Give me not this evasive answer, Helena. Come, come, disclose the state of your affections, for your love has to the full appeared.” Helena on her knees now owned her love, and with shame and terror implored the pardon of her noble mistress; and with words expressive of the sense she had of the inequality between their fortunes, she protested Bertram did not know she loved him, comparing her humble unaspiring love to a poor Indian, who adores the sun that looks upon his worshipper, but knows of him no more. The countess asked Helena if she had not lately an intent to go to Paris? Helena owned the design she had formed in her mind, when she heard Lafeu speak of the king’s illness. “This was your motive for wishing to go to Paris,” said the countess, “was it? Speak truly.” Helena honestly answered, “My lord your son made me to think of this; else Paris, and the medicine, and the king, had from the conversation of my thoughts been absent then.” The countess heard the whole of this confession without saying a word either of approval or of blame, but she strictly questioned Helena as to the probability of the medicine being useful to the king. She found that it was the most prized by Gerard de Narbon of all he possessed, and that he had given it to his daughter on his death-bed; and remembering the solemn promise she had made at that awful hour in regard to this young maid, whose destiny, and the life of the king himself, seemed to depend on the execution of a project (which though conceived by the fond suggestions of a loving maiden’s thoughts, the countess knew not but it might be the unseen workings of Providence to bring to pass the recovery of the king, and to lay the foundation of the future fortunes of Gerard de Narbon’s daughter), free leave she gave to Helena to pursue her own way, and generously furnished her with ample means and suitable attendants; and Helena set out for Paris with the blessings of the countess, and her kindest wishes for her success.

Helena arrived at Paris, and by the assistance of her friend the old lord Lafeu, she obtained an audience of the king. She had still many difficulties to encounter, for the king was not easily prevailed on to try the medicine offered him by this fair young doctor. But she told him she was Gerard de Narbon’s daughter (with whose fame the king was well acquainted), and she offered the precious medicine as the darling treasure which contained the essence of all her father’s long experience and skill, and she boldly engaged to forfeit her life, if it failed to restore his majesty to perfect health in the space of two days. The king at

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