| Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare|
|by Edith Nesbit|
|Twenty stories from Shakespeare retold in lively prose. The author makes the complex language of Shakespeare's greatest plays accessible to young children by relating the stories that form the core of the plays. Her graceful, vivid retellings are the perfect introduction to Shakespeare's works. Ages 9-12 |
IACHIMO AND IMOGEN.
YMBELINE was the King of Britain. He had three children. The
two sons were stolen away from him when they were quite little
children, and he was left with only one daughter, Imogen. The
King married a second time, and brought up Leonatus, the son of
a dear friend, as Imogen's playfellow; and when Leonatus was old
enough, Imogen secretly married him. This made the King and Queen
very angry, and the King, to punish Leonatus, banished him from
 Poor Imogen was nearly heart-broken at parting from Leonatus, and
he was not less unhappy. For they were not only lovers and husband
and wife, but they had been friends and comrades ever since they
were quite little children. With many tears and kisses they said
"Good-bye." They promised never to forget each other, and that
they would never care for anyone else as long as they lived.
"This diamond was my mother's, love," said Imogen; "take it, my
heart, and keep it as long as you love me."
"Sweetest, fairest," answered Leonatus, "wear this bracelet for my
"Ah!" cried Imogen, weeping, "when shall we meet again?"
And while they were still in each other's arms, the King came in,
and Leonatus had to leave without more farewell.
When he was come to Rome, where he had gone to stay with an old
friend of his father's, he spent his days still in thinking of
his dear Imogen, and his nights in dreaming of her. One day at
a feast some Italian and French noblemen were talking of their
 sweethearts, and swearing that they were the most faithful and
honorable and beautiful ladies in the world. And a Frenchman
reminded Leonatus how he had said many times that his wife Imogen
was more fair, wise, and constant than any of the ladies in
"I say so still," said Leonatus.
"She is not so good but that she would deceive," said Iachimo, one
of the Italian nobles.
"She never would deceive," said Leonatus.
"I wager," said Iachimo, "that, if I go to Britain, I can persuade
your wife to do whatever I wish, even if it should be against your
"That you will never do," said Leonatus. "I wager this ring upon
my finger," which was the very ring Imogen had given him at parting,
"that my wife will keep all her vows to me, and that you will
never persuade her to do otherwise."
So Iachimo wagered half his estate against the ring on Leonatus's
finger, and started forthwith for Britain, with a letter of
introduction to Leonatus's wife. When he reached there he was
received with all kindness; but he was still determined to win
 He told Imogen that her husband thought no more of her, and went
on to tell many cruel lies about him. Imogen listened at first,
but presently perceived what a wicked person Iachimo was, and
ordered him to leave her. Then he said—
"Pardon me, fair lady, all that I have said is untrue. I only told
you this to see whether you would believe me, or whether you were
as much to be trusted as your husband thinks. Will you forgive
"I forgive you freely," said Imogen.
"Then," went on Iachimo, "perhaps you will prove it by taking charge
of a trunk, containing a number of jewels which your husband and
I and some other gentlemen have bought as a present for the Emperor
"I will indeed," said Imogen, "do anything for my husband and a
friend of my husband's. Have the jewels sent into my room, and
I will take care of them."
"It is only for one night," said Iachimo, "for I leave Britain
So the trunk was carried into Imogen's room, and
 that night she
went to bed and to sleep. When she was fast asleep, the lid of
the trunk opened and a man got out.
It was Iachimo. The story
about the jewels was as untrue as the rest of the things he had
said. He had only wished to get into her room to win his wicked
wager. He looked about him and noticed the furniture, and then
crept to the side of the bed where Imogen was asleep and took from
her arm the gold bracelet which had been the parting gift of her
husband. Then he crept back to the trunk, and next morning sailed
IACHIMO IN THE TRUNK.
When he met Leonatus, he said—
"I have been to Britain and I have won the wager, for your wife no
longer thinks about you. She stayed talking with me all one night
in her room, which is hung with tapestry and has a carved
chimney-piece, and silver andirons in the shape of two winking
"I do not believe she has forgotten me; I do not
 believe she stayed
talking with you in her room. You have heard her room described
by the servants."
"Ah!" said Iachimo, "but she gave me this bracelet. She took it
from her arm. I see her yet. Her pretty action did outsell her
gift, and yet enriched it too. She gave it me, and said she prized
"Take the ring," cried Leonatus, "you have won; and you might have
won my life as well, for I care nothing for it now I know my lady
has forgotten me."
And mad with anger, he wrote letters to Britain to his old servant,
Pisanio, ordering him to take Imogen to Milford Haven, and to
murder her, because she had forgotten him and given away his gift.
At the same time he wrote to Imogen herself, telling her to go
with Pisanio, his old servant, to Milford Haven, and that he, her
husband, would be there to meet her.
Now when Pisanio got this letter he was too good to carry out its
orders, and too wise to let them alone altogether. So he gave
Imogen the letter from her husband, and started with her for
Milford Haven. Before he left, the wicked Queen gave him a drink
 which, she said, would be useful in sickness. She hoped he would
give it to Imogen, and that Imogen would die, and the wicked
Queen's son could be King. For the Queen thought this drink was
a poison, but really and truly it was only a sleeping-draft.
When Pisanio and Imogen came near to Milford Haven, he told her
what was really in the letter he had had from her husband.
"I must go on to Rome, and see him myself," said Imogen.
And then Pisanio helped her to dress in boy's clothes, and sent
her on her way, and went back to the Court. Before he went he
gave her the drink he had had from the Queen.
Imogen went on, getting more and more tired, and at last came to
a cave. Someone seemed to live there, but no one was in just
then. So she went in, and as she was almost dying of hunger, she
took some food she saw there, and had just done so, when an old
man and two boys came into the cave. She was very much frightened
when she saw them, for she thought that they would be angry with
 taking their food, though she had meant to leave money
for it on the table. But to her surprise they welcomed her kindly.
She looked very pretty in her boy's clothes and her face was
good, as well as pretty.
"You shall be our brother," said both the boys; and so she stayed
with them, and helped to cook the food, and make things comfortable.
But one day when the old man, whose name was Bellarius, was out
hunting with the two boys, Imogen felt ill, and thought she would
try the medicine Pisanio had given her. So she took it, and at
once became like a dead creature, so that when Bellarius and the
boys came back from hunting, they thought she was dead, and with
many tears and funeral songs, they carried her away and laid her
in the wood, covered with flowers.
They sang sweet songs to her, and strewed flowers on her, pale
primroses, and the azure harebell, and eglantine, and furred moss,
and went away sorrowful. No sooner had they gone than Imogen
awoke, and not knowing how she came there, nor where she was, went
wandering through the wood.
 Now while Imogen had been living in the cave, the Romans had decided
to attack Britain, and their army had come over, and with them
Leonatus, who had grown sorry for his wickedness against Imogen,
so had come back, not to fight with the Romans against Britain,
but with the Britons against Rome. So as Imogen wandered alone,
she met with Lucius, the Roman General, and took service with him
as his page.
When the battle was fought between the Romans and Britons, Bellarius
and his two boys fought for their own country, and Leonatus,
disguised as a British peasant, fought beside them. The Romans
had taken Cymbeline prisoner, and old Bellarius, with his sons
and Leonatus, bravely rescued the King. Then the Britons won the
battle, and among the prisoners brought before the King were
Lucius, with Imogen, Iachimo, and Leonatus, who had put on the
uniform of a Roman soldier. He was tired of his life since he
had cruelly ordered his wife to be killed, and he hoped that, as
a Roman soldier, he would be put to death.
When they were brought before the King, Lucius spoke out—
 "A Roman with a Roman's heart can suffer," he said. "If I must
die, so be it. This one thing only will I entreat. My boy, a
Briton born, let him be ransomed. Never master had a page so
kind, so duteous, diligent, true. He has done no Briton harm,
though he has served a Roman. Save him, Sir."
Then Cymbeline looked on the page, who was his own daughter, Imogen,
in disguise, and though he did not recognize her, he felt such a
kindness that he not only spared the boy's life, but he said—
"He shall have any boon he likes to ask of me, even though he ask
a prisoner, the noblest taken."
Then Imogen said, "The boon I ask is that this gentleman shall say
from whom he got the ring he has on his finger," and she pointed
 "Speak," said Cymbeline, "how did you get that diamond?"
Then Iachimo told the whole truth of his villainy. At this, Leonatus
was unable to contain himself, and casting aside all thought of
disguise, he came forward, cursing himself for his folly in having
believed Iachimo's lying story, and calling again and again on
his wife whom he believed dead.
IMOGEN AND LEONATUS.
"Oh, Imogen, my love, my life!" he cried. "Oh, Imogen!"
"Then Imogen, forgetting she was disguised, cried out, "Peace, my
 Leonatus turned to strike the forward page who thus interfered in
his great trouble, and then he saw that it was his wife, Imogen,
and they fell into each other's arms.
The King was so glad to see his dear daughter again, and so grateful
to the man who had rescued him (whom he now found to be Leonatus),
that he gave his blessing on their marriage, and then he turned
to Bellarius, and the two boys. Now Bellarius spoke—
"I am your old servant, Bellarius. You accused me of treason when
I had only been loyal to you, and to be doubted, made me disloyal.
So I stole your two sons, and see,—they are here!" And he brought
forward the two boys, who had sworn to be brothers to Imogen when
they thought she was a boy like themselves.
The wicked Queen was dead of some of her own poisons, and the King,
with his three children about him, lived to a happy old age.
So the wicked were punished, and the good and true lived happy ever
after. So may the wicked suffer, and honest folk prosper till
the world's end.
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