Viola’s twin brother, Sebastian, clinging to a mast, had stayed afloat until the storm had subsided. The sea became calm and the sun emerged and shone fiercely down on him. He lay, his arm around the mast, and floated on the still sea. Eventually he saw a ship approaching and he began shouting. The sailors saw him and hauled him aboard. Antonio, the ship’s captain, tended his wounds, fed him, and nursed him back to health. When he felt well enough Sebastian went out on deck and, seeing that they were close to the land, asked Antonio to put him ashore. The sailors lowered a boat and rowed him to the beach. Antonio accompanied him.
They got out of the boat. Antonio had been begging him not to leave so soon but to wait till he was stronger. ‘Won’t you stay longer?’ he said again, ‘or at least let me go with you?’
‘With apologies, no,’ said Sebastian. ‘I’m not in favour with the stars at the moment and my ill fate may, perhaps, affect yours. So I’ll ask you to let me bear my evils alone. It would be poor payment for your friendship to offload them on you.’
‘Won’t you at least tell me where you’re going?’
‘No, really, sir. My destination isn’t clear. And I’ve noticed that you’re diplomatic enough not to extort from me things that I want to keep to myself. I’ll tell you, though. My name is Sebastian, although I called myself Roderigo. My father was Sebastian of Messaline, whom I know you have heard of. He left behind him myself and a twin sister, born within an hour of each other. I wish heaven had been willing for both of us to die together! But you, sir, prevented that. My sister was drowned an hour before you rescued me from the sea.’
‘That’s terrible!’ exclaimed Antonio.
‘She was a lady, sir, who, although she closely resembled me, was considered beautiful. Although I couldn’t personally go that far without stretching things, I have no hesitation in proclaiming her qualities to this extent: she had a mind that even envy itself would call beautiful. She’s already drowned in salt water although I seem to be drowning her memory as well with salt tears.’ He wiped his eyes.
Antonio didn’t know what to say and all he could think of was to ask his guest to pardon him for giving him such humble hospitality.
Sebastian shook his head and begged forgiveness for the trouble he had put the captain to.
Antonio took his hand. ‘If you don’t want me to die from worrying about you, let me be your servant.’
Sebastian had difficulty in containing his emotions. ‘If you don’t want to undo the good you’ve done – that is, kill the one you’ve just rescued – don’t ask for that. Goodbye for the time being. My heart is overflowing with feeling and there’s still enough of my mother’s son in me to make me start crying for the slightest thing. I’m going to Count Orsino’s court. Farewell.’ He turned and started walking.
‘May the gods’ protection follow you!’ Antonio called. He stood and watched the retreating figure. He had enemies in Orsino’s circle else he would follow Sebastian and see him there soon. He turned to get back into the boat but stopped. No, that didn’t matter. He was so fond of his new friend that the danger would seem like fun. No, he would follow him.