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A Select Collection of Old English Plays, Vol. VI by Robert Dodsley

Part 8 out of 9

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PERIN.
That were pretty, i'faith, to see. Honesty know a knave by his cap:
'Tis more than I can do with all the skill I have.
But tell me, I pray thee, how I should know a knave.

HONESTY.
I believe you well; for offenders never bewray their offences,
Till the law find them, and punish them.
But you would fain tell how to know a knave?
Then thus: the first man you meet in the morning,
If he salute you, draw near him,
And smell to his hat, and after smell to your own;
And, my cap to a noble, if his smell like yours, he is a knave.
I think I spoke with you now!

PERIN.
Base villain, were it not that the king's presence
Doth privilege thy presumption, I would teach you to jest
with your fellows.

KING.
Forbear, Honesty; thou art a good plain fellow,
And I commend thy wit, that hast such ways to know a knave.

HONESTY.
Honesty is plain, my lord, but no good fellow,
For good fellows be purse-takers now-a-days:
And there be so many of such good fellows,
That Honesty may walk the streets without company.
Not that there wants company, but honest company, I mean;
Yet Honesty can clap a knave on the shoulder for all his bravery.

PERIN.
Why, base companion, mean you me?

HONESTY.
Not base, sir, because I was truly begotten,
For Honesty may be suspected, but never detected.
But you think I had a bailiff to my father, as you had,
And that my mother could return a writ of error,
As yours did, when such a gallant as you were gotten.

KING.
Believe me, Perin, he hath touch'd you now;
And I perceive, though Honesty be simple,
Yet many times he speaks truth.

HONESTY.
True, if it please your grace, for honest men will not lie.
But, if your grace vouchsafe to give me leave,
You shall see me find more knaves than one,
If my cunning fail me not; or else say Honesty had no honesty.

KING.
But tell me, Dunstan, how thinkest thou of this motion?
Were it not good, thinkest thou, we gave him leave
To stifle such caterpillars as corrupt the commonwealth?
For many times such simple men as he
Bewray much matter in simplicity.
Then, tell me, Dunstan, what thinkest thou of his motion?

DUNSTAN.
If it please your grace to think it good,
Dunstan will say, as once Hephaestion did,
When Alexander wan rich Macedon;[289]
That whatsoe'er the king himself thought meet,
He would in dutiful obedience yield unto.
And so saith Dunstan to your majesty:
For many times such simple men bring that to pass,
That wiser heads cannot attain unto;
For doubtless he hath some device in hand,
Whereby to find such subtle knavery.

KING.
Well, Dunstan, then, as thou hast counsell'd me,
I will for once make proof of Honesty.
Sirrah: come hither:
In hope you will, as your profession is
In honest sort to find deceivers out,
And, finding them, to give us notice straight,
That we may punish them for their amiss.
We give thee leave to work what means thou may'st,
So it be not prejudice to the state nor us.

HONESTY.
My gracious lord, if Honesty offend
In anything that he hath promised,
And do not, as your grace hath given in charge,
Stifle such caterpillars as corrupt the state,
Let Honesty receive such punishment,
As he deserves that leses to the king.[290]

KING.
Honesty, it is enough; but tell me now
What moved thee first to undertake this task
To visit us? Speak truth, dissemble not.

HONESTY.
If I should tell your grace, 'twould make you laugh
To hear how Honesty was entertain'd.
Poor, lame, and blind, when I came once ashore,
Lord! how they came in flocks to visit me;
The shepherd with his hook, and thrasher with his flail,
The very pedlar with his dog, and the tinker with his mail:
Then comes a soldier counterfeit, and with him was his jug,[291]
And Will, the whipper of the dogs, had got a bouncing trug;
And cogging Dick was in the crew that swore he came from France:
He swore that in the king's defence he lost his arm by chance;
And yet in conscience, if I were put to swear,
I would be bound to lay a pound, the knave was never there.
And hap'ning 'mongst this company by chance one day,
I had no sooner nam'd my name, but they ran all away.
But now I will to my task, and leave your grace;
And so I take my cong of your majesty.
[_Exit_.

KING.
Honesty, farewell, and look unto your charge.

PERIN.
My gracious lord, if I might not offend,
I would entreat a favour at your hand.
'Tis so, I heard of late, my gracious lord,
That my kind father lay at point of death,
And if, my lord, I should not visit him,
The world, I fear, would find great fault with me.

KING.
Nay, Perin, if your business be of weight,
We are content to give you leave to go:
Provided this, that you return again,
When you have seen your father and your friends.

PERIN.
My gracious lord, I will not stay there long,
Only but see my father and return again:
Till when, my gracious lord, I take my leave.
[_Exit_.

KING.
Perin, farewell.
And tell me, Dunstan, now we are alone,
What dost thou think of beauteous Alfrida,
For she is reported to be passing fair?
They say she hath a white pit in her chin,
That makes her look like to the Queen of Love,[292]
When she was dallying with Endymion.
Believe me, Dunstan, if she be so fair,
She will serve our turn to make a concubine:
Methinks 'tis good some time to have a love,
To sport withal, and pass away the time.

DUNSTAN.
Ay, my good lord; Dunstan could well allow of it,
If so your grace would marry Alfrida.

KING.
What?
Wouldst thou have me marry her I never saw?
Then men would say I doted on a wench:
But, Dunstan, I have found a policy,
Which must indeed be followed to the full.

_Enter_ ETHENWALD.

Earl Ethenwald, welcome: I thought to send for you.
You must go do a message for us now:
'Tis nothing but to woo a wench, which you
Can do. You must not woo her for yourself,
But me. Tell her, I sit and pine like Tantalus;
And, if you can, strain forth a tear for me.
Tell her she shall be honoured in my love,
And bear a child that one day may be king.
Bid her not stand on terms, but send me word,
Whether she be resolved to love me, yea or no.
If she say no, tell her I can enforce her love:
Or 'tis no matter, though you leave that out,
And tell her this--we hear she is as wise,
As eloquent and full of oratory,
As Thaly[293] was, daughter of Jupiter,
Whose speeches was so pleasing 'mong the Greeks,
That she was term'd a second Socrates.
For some report, women love to be praised;
Then in my cause, I pray thee, love thou Alfrida.

ETHENWALD.
My gracious lord, and Ethenwald shall not fail
To show his humble duty to your majesty.
I will, my lord, woo her in your behalf, plead love
For you, and strain a sigh to show your passions:
I will say she is fairer than the dolphin's eye,
At whom amaz'd the night-stars stand and gaze.
Then will I praise her chin and cheek, and pretty hand,
Long, made like Venus when she us'd the harp,
When Mars was revelling in Jove's high house.
Besides, my lord, I will say she hath a pace
Much like to Juno in Ida[294] vale,
When Argus watch'd the heifer on the mount.
These words, my lord, will make her love, I am sure;
If these will not, my lord, I have better far.

KING.
Nay, this is well: now, Ethenwald, be gone,
For I shall long to hear of thy return.

ETHENWALD.
My gracious lord, I humbly take my leave.
[_Exit_.

KING.
Ethenwald, farewell. Dunstan, how likest thou this?
What, have I done well in sending Ethenwald?
But in good time, how if he like the maid;
Believe me, Dunstan, then my game is marr'd.

DUNSTAN.
I do not think, my gracious lord,
My nephew Ethenwald bears that bad mind,
For hitherto he hath been termed just,
And clept[295] your grace his gracious favourer.

KING.
True, Dunstan; yet have I read that love
Hath made the son deceive the father oft.
But, Dunstan, leaving this, come, let's to court.

DUNSTAN.
I will attend upon your majesty.

[_Exeunt_.

_Enter_ BAILIFF _of Hexham, and his four sons; to wit, a_
COURTIER, _a_ PRIEST, _a_ CONEYCATCHER, _and a_ FARMER.

BAILIFF.
My sons, you see how age decays my state,
And that my life, like snow before the sun,
'Gins to dissolve into that substance now,
From whose enclosure grew my fire of life;
The earth I mean, sweet mother of us all,
Whom death, authorised by heaven's high power,
Shall bring at last, from whence at first I came.
Yet, ere I yield myself to death, my sons,
Give ear, and hear what rules I set you down.
And first to thee, my son, that liv'st by wit:
I know thou hast so many honest sleights,
To shift and cosen smoothly on thy wit,
To cog and lie, and brave it with the best,
That 'twere but labour lost to counsel thee.
And therefore to the next--
Walter, that seems in show a husbandman--
My son, when that thy master trusts thee most,
And thinks thou dealest as truly as himself,
Be thou the first to work deceit to him;
So by that means thou may'st enrich thyself,
And live at pleasure when thy master's dead:
And when to market thou art sent with wool,
Put sand amongst it, and 'twill make it weigh--
The weight twice double than it did before:
The overplus is thine into thy purse--
But now, my son, that keeps the court;
Be thou a means to set the peers at strife,
And curry favour, for the Commons' love.
If any, but in conference, name the king,
Inform his majesty they envy him;
And if the king but move, or speak to thee,
Kneel on both knees, and say, God save your majesty.
If any man be favoured by the king,
Speak thou him fair, although in heart thou envy him,
But who is next?

PRIEST.
That am I, father, that use the word of God,
And live only by the heavenly manna.

BAILIFF.
Who? the Priest? Give ear, my son,
I have a lesson yet in store for thee.
Thou must, my son, make show of holiness;
And blind the world with thy hypocrisy;
And sometime give a penny to the poor,
But let it be in the church or market-place,
That men may praise thy liberality.
Speak against usury, yet forsake no pawns,
So thou may'st gain three shillings in the pound.
Warn thou the world from sin and vile excess,
And now and then speak against drunkenness:
So by this means thou shalt be termed wise,
And with thy pureness blind the people's eyes.
But now, my sons, discourse to me in brief
How you have lived, and how you mean to die.

CONEYCATCHER.
Then, father, thus I live that use my wit:
Unto myself I love still to be wise;
For when I am driven to shift for meat or coin,
Or gay apparel to maintain me brave,
Then do I flaunt it out about the 'Change,
As if I were some landed gentleman;
And, falling in with some rich merchant there,
I take commodities for six months' day:
The bill being made, I must set to my hand;
Then, if I pay not, they may burn the band.[296]

FARMER.
Then, father, hark how I have profited--
Walter, your son that keeps the country--
I have raised the markets and oppress'd the poor,
And made a thousand go from door to door.
And why did I, think you, use this extremity?
Because I would have corn enough to feed the enemy.
Father, you know we have but a while to live,
Then, while we live, let each man shift for one;
For he that cannot make shift in the world,
They say he's unworthy to live in it:
And he that lives must still increase his store,
For he that hath most wealth of all desireth more.

PERIN.
Brethren, you have spoken well, I must needs say;
But now give ear to me, that keeps the court.
Father, I live as Aristippus did,
And use my wits to flatter with the king.
If any in private conference name the king,
I straight inform his grace they envy him.
Did Sinon live, with all his subtlety
He could not tell a flattering tale more cunningly.
Sometime I move the king to be effeminate,
And spend his time with some coy courtesan.
Thus with the king I curry favour still,
Though with my heart I wish him any ill:
And sometime I can counterfeit his hand
And seal, and borrow money of the commonalty;
And thus I live and flaunt it with the best,
And dice and card inferior unto none:
And none dares speak against me in the court,
Because they know the king doth favour me.

PRIEST.
And I, among my brethren and my friends,
Do still instruct 'em with my doctrine,
And Yea and Nay goes through the world with us.
Fie, not an oath we swear for twenty pound:
Brethren, say we, take heed by Adam's fall;
For by his sins we are condemned all.
Thus preach we still unto our brethren,
Though in our heart we never mean the thing:
Thus do we blind the world with holiness,
And so by that are termed pure Precisians.

BAILIFF.
Full well and wisely have you said, my sons,
And I commend you for your forward minds,
That in your lives bewray whose sons ye are.
Here have I been a bailiff threescore years,
And us'd exaction on the dwellers-by;
For if a man were brought before my face
For cosenage, theft, or living on his wit:
For counterfeiting any hand or seals,
The matter heard, the witness brought to me,
I took a bribe, and set the prisoners free:
So by such dealings I have got the wealth,
Which I would have disburs'd among you all,
With this proviso, that you all shall live,
And lead such lives as I have set you down.
Carve to yourselves, and care not what they say,
That bid you fear the fearful judgment-day.
Live to yourselves, while you have time to live:
Get what you can, but see ye nothing give.
But hark, my sons: me thinks I hear a noise,
And ghastly visions make me timorous.
Ah! see, my sons, where death, pale Death, appears,
To summon me before a fearful Judge.
Methinks Revenge stands with an iron whip,
And cries, Repent, or I will punish thee.
My heart is hardened, I cannot repent,
And I am damned to ever-burning fire.
Soul, be thou safe, and body fly to hell. [_He dieth_.

_Enter_ DEVIL, _and carry him away_.

CONEYCATCHER.
Brother, why do you not read to my father?

PRIEST.
Truly, my book of exhortation is
At my place of exercise, and without it
I can do nothing. God's peace be with him!

[_Exeunt_.

_Enter the_ KING, PHILARCHUS _and his_ FATHER, DUNSTAN
_and attendants_.

KING.
Father, say on; for now my leisure serves,
And Edgar gives thee leave to tell thy mind;
For I perceive thine eyes are full of tears,
Which shows that many inward passions trouble thee.
If any here have wrong'd thine aged years,
In keeping that from thee that is thy due,
Name but the man, and, as I am England's king,
Thou shalt have all the favour I can show.

FATHER.
Then, virtuous prince, mirror of courtesy,
Whose judgments, and whose laws for government,
And punishing of every foul abuse,
Is like the judgment of great Alexander,
Third of that name, whom some termed the Severe;
Or like Vespasian, Rome's virtuous governor,
Who, for a blow his son did give a swain,
Did straight command that he should lose his hand.
Then, virtuous Edgar, be Vespasian once,
In giving sentence on a graceless child.
Know, virtuous prince, that in my pride of years,
When lustful pleasure prick'd my wanton mind,
Even in the April of my flourishing time,
I was betroth'd and wedded to a wife,
By whom too soon I had that unkind boy,
Whose disobedience to his aged sire
The Lord will plague with torments worse than death.
This disobedient child, nay, base extravagant,[297]
Whom I with care did nourish to this state,
Puff'd with a pride that upstart courtiers use,
And seeing that I was brought to poverty,
He did refuse to know me for his sire;
And when I challenged him by nature's laws
To yield obedience to his father's age,
He told me straight he took it in great scorn
To be begot by one so base as I.
My age, that ill could brook this sharp reply,
Did with this wand, my lord, reach him a blow;
But he, contrary laws of God and men,
Did strike me such a blow in vild disdain,
That with the stroke I fell to earth again.

KING.
Unkind Philarchus, how hast thou misdone,
In wilful disobedience to thy sire!
Art thou grown proud, because I favoured thee?
Why, I can quickly make thee bare again,
And then, I think, being in thy former state,
Thou wilt remember who thy father was.
And, gentle Sophocles, in good time I recount
Thy ancient saying, not so old as true,
For saith [he], He that hath many children,
Shall never be without some mirth,
Nor die without some sorrow; for if they
Be virtuous, he shall have cause to rejoice,
But if vicious, stubborn, or disobedient,
Ever to live in continual sadness.
I am sorry, Philarchus, that my favours
Have made thee insolent: well, I will see now if
My frowns will make thee penitent.
Now, father, see how Nature 'gins to work,
And how salt tears, like drops of pearly[298] dew,
Falls from his eyes, as sorrowing his amiss.

PHILARCHUS.
Most gracious prince, vouchsafe to hear me speak.
I cannot but confess, most gracious sovereign,
That I have err'd in being obstinate
In wilful disobedience to my sire
Wherein I have wrong'd nature and your majesty.
But I am not the first, whom oversight
Hath made forgetful of a father's love.
But father's love shall never be forgot,
If he but deign to pardon my amiss:
But if your wrath will noways be appeased,
Rip up this breast, where is enclos'd that heart,
That bleeds with grief to think on my amiss.
Ah, father! pardon, sweet father, pardon me.

FATHER.
No, graceless imp, degenerate and unkind,
Thou art no son of mine, but tiger's whelp,
That hast been fost'red by some lion's pap:
But as the tall'st ash is cut down, because
It yields no fruit, and an unprofitable cow,
Yielding no milk, is slaughtered, and the idle drone,
Gathering no honey, is contemned;
So ungrateful children, that
Will yield no natural obedience, must be
Cut off, as unfit to bear the name [of] Christians,
Whose lives digress both from reason and humanity.
But as thou hast dealt unnaturally with me,
So I resolve to pull my heart from thee.
Therefore, dread prince, vouchsafe to pity me,
And grant I may have justice on my son.

KING.
Dunstan, how counsellest thou the king in this?
I promise thee, I am sorry for the youth,
Because in heart I ever wish'd him well.

DUNSTAN.
My gracious lord, if I might counsel you,
I would counsel you to judge as he deserves.
He that disdains his father in his want,
And wilfully will disobey his sire,
Deserves, my lord, by God's and nature's laws,
To be rewarded with extremest ills:
Then, as your grace hath 'stablish'd laws for government,
So let offenders feel the penalties.

KING.
Ay, Dunstan; now thou speakest as fits a councillor,
But not as friend to him whom Edgar loves.
Father, what wouldest thou have me do in this?
Thou seest thy son is sorry for his fault,
And I am sure thou would not wish his death,
Because a father's care commands the contrary.
Then, gentle father, let me plead for him,
And be his pledge for shunning wilful ills.

FATHER.
Will Edgar now be found a partial judge,
In pleading pardon for a graceless child?
Is it not true,
That one coal of fire will burn many houses,
And one small brack in finest cloth that is,
Will both disgrace and blemish the whole piece?
So wilful children, spotted with one ill,
Are apt to fall to twenty thousand more;
And therefore, mighty sovereign, leave to speak,
And pass just sentence on Philarchus' life.

PHILARCHUS.
My life? dear father, that sentence were too hard:
Let me be banish'd from my country's bounds,
And live as exil'd in some wilderness,
Barr'd from society and sight of men;
Or let me hazard fortunes on the seas,
In setting me aboard some helmless ship,
That either I may split upon some rock,
Or else be swallowed in the purple main,
Rather than die in presence of my king,
Or bring that sorrow to your aged years.
If this suffice not, then let me be arm'd,
And left alone among ten thousand foes;
And if my weapon cannot set me free,
Let them be means to take my life from me.

KING.
Father, what say you to Philarchus now?
Are you content to pardon his amiss?
Dunstan, I promise thee, it grieves me much,
To hear what piteous moan Philarchus makes:
Methinks I see sad sorrow in his face,
And his humility argues him penitent.
But, father, for I will not be the judge,
To doom Philarchus either life or death,
Here, take my robes, and judge him as thou wilt.

FATHER.
Then, virtuous prince, seeing you will have it so,
Although the place be far unfit for me,
I am content your grace shall have your mind.
Thus, like an ass attired in costly robes,
Or like a ring thrust in a foul sow's snout,
So do these robes and sceptre fit mine age.
But for I am judge, Philarchus, stand thou forth,
And know, as there is nothing so good, but it hath some inconvenience,
So there is no man whatsoever without some fault:
Yet this is no argument to maintain thy wilful disobedience.
As the rose hath his prickle, the finest velvet his brack,
The fairest flower his bran, so the best wit his wanton will.
But, Philarchus, thou hast been more than wanton,
Because thou hast disobeyed the laws both of God and nature:
The tears that thou hast shed might warrant me,
That thou art penitent for thy amiss,
Besides, my son, a father's natural care
Doth challenge pardon for thy first amiss.

KING.
Father, well said: I see thou pitiest him.

FATHER.
Nay, stay, my lord:
This did I speak as father to Philarchus;
But now, my lord, I must speak as a judge.
And now, Philarchus, mark what I set down.
Because thou hast been disobedient,
And wronged thy aged father wilfully,
And given a blow to him that nourished thee,
And thereby hast incurr'd thy mother's curse,
And in that curse to feel the wrath of God,
And so be hated on the earth 'mongst men;
And for I will be found no partial judge,
Because I sit as God's vicegerent now,
Here I do banish thee from England's bounds,
And never to----

KING.
There stay: now, let me speak the rest.
Philarchus, thou hast heard thy father's doom,
And what thy disobedience moved him to;
Yet for thou wast once bedfellow to the king,
And that I loved thee as my second self, thou shall
Go live in France, in Flanders, Scotland, or elsewhere,
And have [an] annual pension sent to thee.
There may'st thou live in good and honest sort,
Until thou be recalled by the king.

PHILARCHUS.
Thanks, gracious king, for this great favour shown,
And may I never live, if I forget
Your grace's kind and unexpected love,
In favouring him whom all the world forsook:
For which my orisons shall still be spent,
Heavens may protect your princely majesty.
And, loving father, here upon my knee,
Sorry for my amiss, I take my leave
Both of yourself, my king, and countrymen.
England, farewell, more dearer unto me,
Than pen can write, or heart can think of thee.
[_Exit_.

KING.
Farewell, Philarchus; and, father, come to Court;
And, for Philarchus' sake, thou shalt not want.

FATHER.
Thanks, virtuous king; I humbly take my leave.
[_Exit_.

KING.
Dunstan, I promise thee, I was like to weep,
To hear what piteous moan Philarchus made.

DUNSTAN.
Here your grace hath showed yourself to be
Edgar, so famed for love and virtuous government;
And I pray God your grace may live to be
Long England's king to reign with verity.

[_Exeunt_.

[_Enter_ HONESTY.]

HONESTY.
'Tis strange to see how men of honesty
Are troubled many times with subtle knavery:
For they have so many cloaks to colour their abuses,
That Honesty may well suspect them, but dares not detect them;
For if he should, they have by their knavery
Got so many friends, that though never so bad,
They will stand in defence with the best.
I was at the water-side, where I saw such deceit--
I dare not say knavery--in paying and receiving
Custom for outlandish ware, that I wond'red to see,
Yet durst not complain of: the reason was,
They were countenanced with men of great wealth,
Richer than I a great deal, but not honester.
Then I went into the markets, where I saw petty knavery
In false-measuring corn, and in scales,
That wanted no less than two ounces in the pound.
But all this was nothing, scant worth the talking of;
But when I came to the Exchange, I espied in a corner of an aisle
An arch-cosener; a coneycatcher, I mean,
Which used such gross cosening, as you would wonder to hear.
But here he comes fine and brave:
Honesty marks him down for a knave.

[_Enter_ CONEYCATCHER.]

CONEYCATCHER.
Why so, 'tis an ill wind blows no man to profit;
And he is but a fool that, when all fails, cannot live upon his wit.
I have attired myself like a very civil citizen,
To draw fourscore pound from a couple of fools.
A gentleman, having made over his land by deed of gift,
Means to cosen a broker with a false conveyance.
All's one to me; I shall lose nothing by the bargain.
But here comes the broker: I will walk, as I regarded him not.

[_Enter_ BROKER.]

BROKER.
God save you, sir: I see you keep your hour.
But hear you, sir; hath the gentleman that conveyance
You told me of ready? I hope, sir, I
Shall need misdoubt no deceit in the matter,
For I mean plainly, and so, I hope, do you.

CONEYCATCHER.
Sir, as concerning the conveyance, I assure you,
'Tis so good, and he hath such good interest in it,
That, were I furnish'd with so much money presently,
No man in the world should have it but myself.
And for own part, you need not suspect me,
For I would not discredit myself for a thousand pound;
For the gentleman is my very friend,
And, being in some want, is enforc'd to pawn land
For the supplying of a present necessity.
Tush, the interest is good, I warrant you.

HONESTY.
And that's much worth: some will say,
A crafty knave needs no broker,
But here is a crafty knave and a broker too:
There wants not a knave, then, I imagine. [_Aside_.

BROKER.
But tell me, sir, when did he promise to be here?
What, will it be long, ere he come?

CONEYCATCHER.
Nay, it will not be long, ere he come,
For the conveyance was made, ere I came from the scrivener's,
And in good time here he comes. God save you, sir:

[_Enter_ GENTLEMAN.]

Here is the man I told you of, that would lend you the money.
He is a very honest man; and but for my sake, I know,
He would not do it. But is the land despatch'd another way?
If you be ready to seal, he is ready with the money.
Hear you, sir, you have a good bargain; despatch it quickly.

BROKER.
Being advertised by my friend, this honest merchant,
That you have certain land to pawn for present money,
Now, I had not so much money of mine own at this time,
But I made means to borrow so much of a friend of mine,
Because I would not have you fall in bad men's handling.

GENTLEMAN.
I thank you, sir, for this unspeakable favour.
If you deal amiss with me, I am undone for ever.

BROKER.
I would not deal amiss with any man for a thousand pound.

HONESTY.
And yet he will cut a man's throat for twelve-pence.
Here is a cluster of knaves; here lacks but the baily of Hexham.
[Aside.]

BROKER.
Well, sir, here is the money: will it please you seal the assurance.

GENTLEMAN.
With all my heart.

HONESTY.
God save her, sirs, and her good friends; her is a poor Welshman,
come as far as Carnarvon, in Wales, to receive a little money, and
here a has paid her I cannot tell what.
[_To_ BROKER.] Here, you master; what, is it not brass money?

BROKER.
No, honest fellow; 'tis a good angel in gold.

HONESTY.
Who told him my name? [_Aside_.]
Hear you, master: a has a great deal more in her bosom, but a will
take her leave.

CONEYCATCHER.
Nay, stay and dine with me.
I must fetch him over for all his gold. [_Aside_.]

HONESTY.
Marry, I thank her, good master: I will wait upon her, I warrant you.

BROKER.
Now, sir, have you seal'd and subscribed?

GENTLEMAN.
I have, sir.

BROKER.
And you deliver this as your deed to my use?

GENTLEMAN.
With all my heart, sir; and hope you will use me well.

BROKER.
We will talk of that another time: here is your money.

GENTLEMAN.
I thank you, sir: I'll be gone.

CONEYCATCHER.
Hear you, sir; was not this bravely done? [_Aside_.]

GENTLEMAN.
Excellent: hold, here is forty pound, as I promised thee.

CONEYCATCHER.
I thank you, sir. Do you hear, sir, you have got a thousand pound
by the bargain; but much good may it do you.
[_Exit_.

BROKER.
God-a-mercy; and here's forty pound for thy pains.
Such another match, and I'll give thee a hundred pound.
[_Exit_.

CONEYCATCHER.
I thank you, sir, God b'w'y'. Now to my Welshman.
Sirrah, let me see thy piece of gold;
I'll tell thee whether it be weight or no.
Hast thou any more? I'll give thee white money for it.

HONESTY.
Yes, a has a great deal more in her bosom,
But a will have no whit' money: O, a loves red money.

CONEYCATCHER.
Well, I'll keep them for thee, till thou come to my house.

HONESTY.
Why, Cutbert, wilt thou never leave thy old knavery?
Why, we should gree together like bells,
If thou wert but hanged first.
Why, we are as near kin together
As the cates[299] of Banbury be to the bells of Lincoln.
Why, man, we are all birds of a feather,
And whosoever says nay, we will hold together.
Come, you mad slave, thou dost not know me.
Tush! I have done many better tricks than this.

CONEYCATCHER.
Why, you base slave, take you me for your fellow?
Why, I am of good reputation in the city,
And held in account with the best.

HONESTY.
And yet you are Cutbert the Coneycatcher,
The bailiff's son of Hexham, whose father, being dead,
The devil carried to hell for his knavery.
How sayest thou, art not thou his son?
This grave black cloak makes you so proud,
You have forgotten who was your father.

CONEYCATCHER.
Nay, I have not forgotten that my father was a bailiff,
A man that would live to himself.
And yet, in faith, he gave me nothing at his death
But good counsel, how to live in the world.
But, sirrah, as thou knowest me, I pray thee, bewray me not,
And in anything I can, command me.

HONESTY.
Tush! fear not me, I will be as secret as thyself.
But, sirrah, 'tis thus, if thou wilt do one thing,
I shall tell thee, I will give thee an hundred pound:
'Tis nothing with thee, I am sure.

CONEYCATCHER.
Tush! tell me what it is; I'll do it, I warrant thee.

HONESTY.
Nothing but this; to swear upon a book
That thou sawest a gentleman pay a farmer
Four hundred pound, as the last payment of a farm
That the said gentleman bought of him.

CONEYCATCHER.
Tush! if this be all, let me alone, I will do it.
Why, 'tis nothing for me to swear,
For I am forsworn already: but when is the day?

HONESTY.
Why, to-morrow,

CONEYCATCHER.
But where shall I meet you?

HONESTY.
Why, upon the Exchange at eight o'clock.

CONEYCATCHER.
I will not miss: till that time, farewell. [_Exit_.

HONESTY.
Fare well? [_Aside_.] Nay, you will scant fare well
By that time I have done: but I must about my business,
To find some knack to know this knave at large.
[_Exit_.

_Enter_ ETHENWALD.

ETHENWALD.
The night draws on,
And Phoebus is declining towards the west.
Now shepherds bear their flocks unto the folds,
And wint'red oxen, foddered in their stalls,
Now leave to feed, and 'gin to take their rest:
Black, dusky clouds environ round the globe,
And heaven is covered with a sable robe.
Now am I come to do the king's command;
To court a wench, and win her for the king:
But if I like her well, I say no more,
'Tis good to have a hatch before the door.
But first I will move her father to prefer
The earnest suit I have in canvassing,
So may I see the maid, woo, wed,
Ay, and bed her too. Who is here? what ho!

_Enter_ OSRICK.

OSRICK.
Earl Ethenwald, welcome. How fares our friends at court?
What cause constrains your honour, that thus late
You visit us, that dream not of your coming?

ETHENWALD.
My lord, I am come unlooked-for, very true;
So is my coming yet conceal'd from you.

OSRICK.
Your honour shall repose you here to-night,
And early as you please begin your task;
Time serves not now. Come, Ethenwald,
As welcome as the king himself to me.

ETHENWALD.
Now, Ethenwald, if fortune favour thee,
Thou may'st prove happy love to Alfrida. [_Exeunt_.

_Enter_ HONESTY, _and the_ KING _disguised_.

HONESTY.
This is the place, and this th'appointed time. I know
He'll keep his word, for he thinks me his friend.

KING.
But tell me, Honesty, am I not well disguised?
Can any man discern me by my looks
To be the king? Take heed of that,
For then our game is marr'd: and hast
Thou promised him what reward he shall have?

HONESTY.
Tush! fear not you; for you never knew honest man
Dissemble with his friend, though many friends
Dissemble with honest men. But, my lord,
The cards be shuffled, and here comes a knave.

_Enter_ CONEYCATCHER.

CONEYCATCHER.
'Tis strange to see how men of our knowledge live,
And how we are hated of the baser sort,
Because, forsooth, we live upon our wit:
But let the baser sort think as they will,
For he may best be termed a gentleman,
That, when all fails, can live upon his wit.
And if all fails, then have I got a wench
That cuts and deals to maintain my expense.
Now I use her, as men use sweetest flowers,
That while they are sweet and pleasant to the eye.
I do regard them for their pleasant smell;
But when their colour fades, and scent decays,
I cast them off for men to trample on.
But to the purpose: here is the gentleman,
My honest friend did lately tell me of. [_Aside_.
Sir, though I had another business of import,
That might have hind'red me from coming here,
Yet in regard I am loth to break my word,
I have set my other business clean apart,
Because you should not judge amiss of me.

HONESTY.
I find you kind, sir, and yourself shall see
How I will labour to requite your courtesy.
[_To the_ KING.] This is the honest man I told you of,
One that will do your pleasure in the cause,
So be it you will content him for his pains.

KING.
Else God forbid: and, good sir, thus it is,
I bought a farm of one that dwells here by,
And for an earnest gave an hundred pound:
The rest was to be paid as six weeks past.
Now, sir, I would have you as witness,
That at my house you saw me pay three hundred pound,
And for your pains I will give you a hundred pound;
Besides, I will stand your friend in what I may.
You hear the cause;
What, will your conscience serve you to do it?

CONEYCATCHER.
How say you, sir? My conscience? then you touch me!
I tell you, sir, my conscience will serve me to do more than this.
Why, I have been a post-knight[300] in Westminster this twelve year,
And sworn to that which no one else would venture on.
Why, I have sworn against mine own father for money:
I have sworn right or wrong--any ways--for money,
When I have received money before witness, I swore to the contrary;
And do you misdoubt me in so slight a matter as this,
When I have sworn against father, mother, and all my kin?

HONESTY.
I told you, sir, how resolute you should find him:
He doth it without fear, I warrant you. I think
That in London you could not have found a man so fit
For your purpose. I knew his father, sir:
A man of honest reputation, and one whose life
Was witness to the life he led: he was a bailiff, sir,
Though I say't, but no bailiff that used deceit;
He had too good a conscience for that.

KING.
All the better for that; for it should seem by his
Behaviour that he hath had good bringing-up.

CONEYCATCHER.
Indeed, my father in his lifetime was a man
Given to the fear of God, and to use much devotion.

HONESTY.
Ay, but he gave nothing for God's sake, except it were
Hard words, or blows; and they had been better kept than given.
But hush! here comes the judge.

_Enter_ PERIN _a judge, and_ DUNSTAN _a farmer_.

KING.
Hear you, sir;
If you be in readiness, here is the judge.

CONEYCATCHER.
Ay, sir: I fear not,
I warrant you: is that your adversary?
What an old crust it is!

HONESTY.
I think the villain hath a face hardened with steel;
He could never be so impudent else.

DUNSTAN.
If it please your worship, this is the man
That wrongfully would have my farm from me,
Facing me down that he hath paid me that,
Which he never off'red, nor I never received:
And this day he hath promised to make proof,
That he hath paid me full four hundred pound.

KING.
And so I can; and here's my witness to it,
That saw me when I paid the money.

DUNSTAN.
Why, I am sure he will not say it.
I never saw the man in all my life.

CONEYCATCHER.
No, sir? but I saw you, and was a witness
When this gentleman paid you three hundred pound,
As the last payment for the farm he bought.

PERIN.
But where was the money tendered?

CONEYCATCHER.
At the gentleman's house.

PERIN.
You see, father, this merchant will be witness,
That he saw so much money tend'red,
And you received it, being full satisfied,
As the last payment for the farm he bought.
And if this merchant take his oath against you,
That seven days past he saw the money tendered,
I must pass sentence, then, against you needs.
[_To_ CONEYCATCHER.] But will you swear on the Bible this is true?

CONEYCATCHER.
Ay, sir, and to that intent I came hither;
For I will never refuse to swear a truth, while I live.

DUNSTAN.
Yet, ere thou speak, vouchsafe to hear me speak.
Full threescore winters, gentle sir, I have pass'd,
And age hath brought grey hairs upon my head:
Look but upon my face, and thou shalt see
The perfect pattern of humility.
Thou man of worth, or citizen, whate'er thou be,
Weigh but my charge, and then thou wilt not swear.
I have five sons, all pretty, tender babes,
That live upon the farm that he would have;
Twelve hundred sheep do feed upon the plains,
That yearly bring a great increase to me,
Besides a hundred oxen, fatly fed,
That every winter feed within my stalls,
And twenty poor men, living near my house,
I daily feed, and all upon my farm.
Go but among my neighbours, where I dwell,
And hear what good report they give of me.
The poor man never yet went from my door,
But to my power I did relieve his want:
I was no farmer that enrich'd myself,
By raising markets and oppressing poor,
But I have sold my corn full many times
At better rate than I could well afford,
And all to help my needy brethren,
Then, ere thou swear'st, call all these things to mind,
And thou wilt weep, and leave to swear untruths--
Confusion to thy body and thy soul.

PERIN.
Well, if thou be well-advised, take thy oath;
But yet remember before whom thou swearest,
The God of truth and perfect equity,
Which will revenge wrong to the innocent
With thousand plagues and tortures worse than death.

CONEYCATCHER.
By the holy contents of this Bible,
And by that just God before whom I stand,
I saw this man----

KING.
Peace! shameless villain, execrable wretch,
Monster of nature, degenerate miscreant!
Who ever knew or heard so vile an oath
Vilely pronounc'd[301] by such a damned slave?
Have I such monstrous vipers in my land,
That with their very breaths infect the air?
Say, Dunstan, hast thou ever heard the like?

DUNSTAN.
My liege,
Such loathsome weeds must needs infect the corn;
Such cankers perish both the root and branch,
Unless they be soon spied, and weeded out.

KING.
I'll be the husbandman to mow such tares--
Here, Honesty; let him be manacled,
And scar his forehead, that he may be known--
As Cain for murder, he for perjury.

CONEYCATCHER.
I beseech your grace, be good to me.

HONESTY.
Ay, you shall have a cold iron clapt in your forehead;
A hot one, I would say: you are a slave indeed.

CONEYCATCHER.
Good Honesty!

HONESTY.
Good villain, there's no help for you.

[_Exeunt_.

_Enter_ ETHENWALD _alone_.

ETHENWALD.
My fancy's thoughts, like the labouring spider,
That spreads her nets to entrap the silly fly,
Or like the restless billows of the seas,
That ever alter by the fleeting air,
Still hovering past their wonted passions,
Makes me amazed in these extremities.
The king commands me on his embassage
To Osrick's daughter, beauteous Alfrida,
The height and pride of all this bounding ill;
To post amain, plead love in his behalf,
To court for him, and woo, and wed the maid.
But have you never heard that theme?
Deceit in love is but a merriment
To such as seek a rival to prevent.
Whither, distraught, roams my unruly thoughts?
It is the king I cosen of his choice,
And he nill brook Earl Ethenwald should prove
False to his prince, especially in love.
Then thus it shall be:
I'll tell the king the maid is fair,
Of nut-brown colour, comely and fair-spoken,
Worthy companion to an earl or so,
But not a bride for Edgar, England's king.
This will allay the strong effects in love
Fame wrought in Edgar's mind of Alfrida.
Well, I'll to court, and dally with the king,
And work some means to draw his mind from love.

_Enter a_ KNIGHT, SQUIRE, _and_ FARMER.

KNIGHT.
Neighbour Walter, I cannot but admire to see
How housekeeping is decayed within this thirty year;
But where the fault is, God knows: I know not.
My father in his lifetime gave hospitality
To all strangers,
And distressed travellers;
His table was never empty of bread, beef, and beer;
He was wont to keep a hundred tall men in his hall.
He was a feaster of all comers in general,
And yet was he never in want of money: I think
God did bless him with increase for his bountiful mind.

FARMER.
Truly, sir, I am sorry you are fallen into decay,
In that you want to maintain household charge;
And whereof comes this want? I will tell you, sir:
'Tis only through your great housekeeping.
Be ruled by me, and do as I advise you.
You must learn to leave so great a train of men,
And keep no more than needs of force you must,
And those you keep, let them be simple men,
For they will be content with simple fare.
Keep but a boy or two within your house,
To run of errands, and to wait on you,
And for your kitchen, keep a woman-cook,
One that will serve for thirty shillings a year;
And by that means you save two liveries.
And if ye will keep retainers towards you,
Let them be farmers, or rich husbandmen,
For you shall find great profit, sir, in keeping them:
For if you stand in need of corn or hay,
Send but to them, and you may have it straight.
And if you kill a beef, let it be so lean,
The butcher nor the grazier will not buy it.
Your drink is too strong, and tastes too much of malt:
Tush, single beer is better far, both for your profit,
and your servants' health.
And at a Christmas-time feast none at all,
But such as yield you some commodity;
I mean such as will send you now and then
Fat geese and capons to keep house withal:
To these and none else would I have you liberal.

KNIGHT.
Why, neighbour, my goods are lent me to no other end,
But to relieve my needy brethren; but God, I hope, hath in store for me.

FARMER.
Ay, trust you to that, and you may hap die a beggar.

SQUIRE.
Why, sir, if he should not trust in God, in whom should he trust,
for God is the giver of all good whatsoever?

FARMER.
True; and yet 'tis good for a man to trust to himself now and then;
for if you be down, and bid God help you up, and do not help yourself,
you may fortune lie and perish; and therefore serve God on Sundays, as
you are appointed, and thereby hope to be saved; for by your alms-deeds
you cannot, for if you give to the poor, there be many will say, he
thinks to be saved by his alms-deeds; and thus you shall be ill-thought
on for your good-will; and therefore learn to provide for yourself; let
God provide for the poor.

KNIGHT.
I tell you, neighbour, my great grandfather and all my predecessors
have been held in good regard for their good housekeeping; and (God
willing) their good names shall never take an exigent[302] in me, for
I will (God willing) keep such hospitality to my death, as my state
can maintain; and I will rather sell my land to maintain housekeeping,
than, keeping my land, make sale of my good name for housekeeping.
But, stay, who comes here?

_Enter two poor_ OLD MEN _and a_ BAILIFF.

ONE OLD MAN.
God save you, sir; I pray be good to me, for cham a poor man, and I
cannot tell what you will do, for you say my horse hath broken into
your corn, or your corn into my horse. But, indeed, my neighbour saw
your boy drive my horse into a field. But I'll stand to nothing, now
I am warn'd with a piece of paper and a little wax, to prepare to
proceed to London; and there I am invented, I cannot tell for what.
The bailiff here hath arrested me, ere I was weary,[303] against my
will; he said it was upon your suit, and yet he laid his hands on me;
nay, more, on my shoulder--

ANOTHER OLD [MAN.]
And, sir, and it may please you, I borrowed certain corn; and I brought
you your corn again, and yet you 'rrest me.

FARMER.
True, sir; but then was corn sold for four shillings a bushel, and now
'tis sold for two.

KNIGHT.
Ay, sir, but he borrowed corn, and promised
To pay you corn again, and you can have
But so much as you lent; for if
He should pay you at the rate you demand,
You would have for the twenty bushels you lent,
Forty, which were neither right nor conscience.

FARMER.
O sir, I pray let me alone with my conscience. You would have me give
all I have away to the poor, and want as you do. I pray, let me alone
to deal for myself. Hear you, have you 'rrested them?

BAILIFF.
I have, sir, as you commanded me.

FARMER.
Then to prison with them, till they have paid such damages, as the law
shall award them.

ONE POOR [MAN.]
Hear you, sir: if you should bid your boy break down a gap, and drive
in my horse, 'twere little better than plain knavery; for my horse is
as honest a horse as any is in this town.

ANOTHER.
Well, neighbour, we will have the horse examined
Before an officer, and my boy Jack shall write
What the horse speaks; and if the horse say a was driven
In against his will,
Then you may have the law of him, neighbour;
For all the horses in the parish will be sworn
For his horse. But I'll stand to nothing--

FARMER.
Well, to prison with them, till they have paid your due; away with them.

ONE POOR [MAN.]
Nay, I pray, be more miserable to me, and I will give you forty
shillings, when I have it.

FARMER
By the mass, the knave hath a pretty cottage:
I'll see, and I can get that. [_Aside_.] Sirrah,
You have an old cottage; if you will make
Me that over by deed of gift, I am content
To draw my action.

ANOTHER POOR MAN.
My house? why, 'tis my goods,
My wife, my land, my horse, my ass, or anything
That is his. No, you caterpillar, I will never make
Away my house; I will die first.

KNIGHT.[304]
But tell me, sir,
How much would you have of them for their trespass?

FARMER.
Marry, forty[305] shillings, and yet I befriend them.
Why, sir, I hope you will not pay it for them?

KNIGHT.
But I will. Sirrah, bailiff, I will answer
The poor men's debts, and come home to me for thy fee
Anon. Go, old men; get you home, and praise God.

ONE POOR [MAN.]
Marry, Jesus bless you. Neighbour, how many such
Good knights have you now-a-days?

ANOTHER.
Too few, neighbour; the more is the pity.
But come, lets away. [_Exeunt_.

KNIGHT.
But who comes here?

_Enter_ PERIN _and_ HONESTY.

PERIN.
God save you, gentlemen. The king greets you, and at this time
Having some occasion to use money, hath sent to know
What you that be knights and squires will lend his grace;
And you, Master Farmer: be brief, sir[s,] for I cannot stay.

KNIGHT.
Sir, though housekeeping be some hind'rance
to my willing mind, by reason that it robs me of
that, which should bewray my loving mind both
to my prince and country--money I mean, which
at this time I stand in some want of--yet of that
small store that I have, [I] am willing to impart the
lending of the king twenty pound; and more, I
assure you, I am not able.

PERIN.
Very well; and what say you, Master Squire?

SQUIRE.
I say that my revenues are but small,
Yet I will lend his majesty ten pound.

PERIN.
Very well; but what saith the Farmer?
What can he spare the king?

FARMER.
Marry, sir,
I am a poor farmer, and yet I can afford to lend
The king a hundred or two of pounds. And hear you, sir; [_Aside_.]
If you prefer a suit I have to the king,
I will give you forty angels for your pains:
Besides, I will give you the keeping of a dozen jades,
And now and then meat for you and your horse,
If you come to my house, and lie a whole year.

PERIN.
Why, that's well said, and I commend
Thy honest mind. Would all men were of thy mind:
I warrant thee, thou art an honest man,
And one that loves the king. But tell me,
What wouldst thou have me do?

FARMER.
Nothing, but procure me the king's letter to convey corn beyond seas;
for in England it is so good cheap, that a man can make no living by
selling thereof: therefore, if the king will grant me his letter, I
will at any time lend him five or six hundred pound, and perhaps never
ask it again; and I will not forget your pains.

PERIN.
Sir, fear not, I will do it for you, I warrant you;
For, I tell you, I can do much with the king.

HONESTY.
I believe you will do more than you will be
Commended for. The courtier resembleth
The jay, that decketh herself with the feathers
Of other birds, to make herself glorious;
So the courtier must be brave, though he be
Hang'd at the gallows. [_Aside_.

FARMER.
Well, sir, will it please you to come and dine
With me?

PERIN.
I thank you, sir, heartily.

FARMER.
But what's he there in your company?

PERIN.
A plain fellow, and his name is Honesty.

FARMER.
O, let him go where he will, for he shall
Not dine with me.

HONESTY.
See how the Farmer fears my name;
What would he do if he knew my nature?
But hear you, master courtier, shall I dine
With you? I promise you, sir, I am very hungry.

PERIN.
Truly, Honesty, if I were furnish'd with money,
I would not stick to give thee thy dinner;
But now, thou seest, I am but a guest myself.

FARMER.
Truly, honest fellow, if I were certain of my cheer, I would bid thee
to dinner, but know not my provision, I promise thee.

KNIGHT.
Hear you, sir; will it please you to take part of a piece of beef
with me? you shall be welcome.

PERIN.
I thank you, sir, but I must dine with my honest friend here, else
I would not refuse your gentle offer.

HONESTY.
See how he can use my name and not me:
But I perceive I may go dine with Duke Humphrey.[306]
God b'w'y', gentlemen; for none here hath occasion to use Honesty.

KNIGHT.
Yes, Honesty; thou shalt be my brother's guest and mine.

HONESTY.
Marry, and I thank you too; for now the world may say,
That Honesty dines with Hospitality to-day.

[_Exeunt_.

_Enter_ OSRICK _and_ ALFRIDA.

OSRICK.
Daughter, see that you entertain the earl
As best beseems his state and thy degree.
He comes to see, whether Fame have worthily
Been niggard in commending thee or no:
So shall thy virtues be admired at the court,
And thou be praised for kind and debonaire;
For courtesy contents a courtier oft,
When nothing else seems pleasant in his eyes.

ALFRIDA.
Father, you shall perceive that Alfrida
Will do her best in honouring of your age,
To entertain the Earl of Cornwall so,
That he shall think him highly favoured,
Through loving speech and courteous entertain.

_Enter_ ETHENWALD.

OSRICK.
How fares my Lord of Cornwall? What, displeased?
Or troubled with a mood that's malecontent?

ETHENWALD.
Not malecontent, and yet I am not well,
For I am troubled with a painful rheum,
That, when I would be merry, troubles me;
And commonly it holds me in my eyes,
With such extremes that I can scantly see.

OSRICK.
How long have you been troubled with the pain?
Or is it a pain that you have usual?
Or is it some water that, by taking cold,
Is fall'n into your eyes and troubles you?

ETHENWALD.
I cannot tell, but sure it pains me much.
Nor did it ever trouble me till now;
For till I came to lodge within your house,
My eyes were clear, and I never felt the pain.

OSRICK.
I am sorry that my house should cause your grief.
Daughter, if you have any skill at all,
I pray you, use your cunning with the earl,
And see if you can ease him of his pain.

ALFRIDA.
Father, such skill as I received of late,
By reading many pretty-penn'd receipts,
Both for the ache of head and pain of eyes,
I will, if so it please the earl to accept it,
Endeavour what I may to comfort him.
My lord, I have waters of approved worth,
And such as are not common to be found;
Any of which, if it please your honour use them,
I am in hope will help you to your sight.

ETHENWALD.
No, matchless Alfrida, they will do me no good,
For I am troubled only when I look.

ALFRIDA.
On what, my lord, or whom?

ETHENWALD.
I cannot tell.

ALFRIDA.
Why, let me see your eyes, my lord; look upon me.

ETHENWALD.
Then 'twill be worse.

ALFRIDA.
What, if you look on me? then, I'll be gone.

ETHENWALD.
Nay, stay, sweet love, stay, beauteous Alfrida,
And give the Earl of Cornwall leave to speak.
Know, Alfrida, thy beauty hath subdued,
And captivate the Earl of Cornwall's heart:
Briefly, I love thee, seem I ne'er so bold,
So rude and rashly to prefer my suit;
And if your father give but his consent,
Eased be that pain that troubles Ethenwald:
And, this considered. Osrick shall prove
My father and his daughter be my love.
Speak, Osrick, shall I have her, ay or no?

OSRICK.
My lord, with all my heart: you've my consent,
If so my daughter please to condescend.

ETHENWALD.
But what say'th Alfrida?

ALFRIDA.
I say, my lord, that seeing my father grants,
I will not gainsay what his age thinks meet:
I do appoint myself, my lord, at your dispose.

ETHENWALD.
Well, Osrick, now you see your daughter's mine;
But tell me when shall be the wedding-day?

OSRICK.
On Monday next; till then you are my guest.

ETHENWALD.
Well, Osrick, when our nuptial rites are past,
I must to court of business to the king.

ALFRIDA.
Let that be as you please, my lord; but stay
Not long, for I shall hardly brook your absence then.

ETHENWALD.
Fear not, Alfrida, I will not stay there long.
But come, let us in; Father, pray lead the way.

[_Exeunt_.

_Enter the_ KING _and_ DUNSTAN.

KING.
Tell me, Dunstan, what thinkest thou of the favours of kings?

DUNSTAN.
I think of kings' favours as of a marigold flower
That, as long as the sun shineth openeth her leaves
And with the least cloud closeth again:
Or like the violets in America, that in summe yield an odoriferous smell,
And in winter a most infectious savour:
For at every full sea they flourish, or at every dead ebb[307] they vade.
The fish palerna, being perfect white in the calm,
Yet turneth black with every storm.
Or like the trees in the deserts of Africa,
That flourish but while the south-west wind bloweth:
Even so, my lord, the favours of kings to them they favour;
For as their favours give life, so their frowns yield death.

KING.
Well said, Dunstan: but what merits he, that dissembles with his
sovereign?

DUNSTAN.
In my opinion, my lord, he merits death.

KING.
Then assure thyself, if Ethenwald dissemble, he shall die. But who
comes here? Perin, what news, that thou comest in such haste? and
what is he that bears thee company?

[_Enter_ PERIN _and the_ FARMER.]

PERIN.
It is, my gracious lord, an honest man, and one,
It seems, that loves your majesty; for as your grace
Gave me in charge, I went about into the country,
To see what sums of money I could make.
Among the chiefest of the commonalty:
And 'mongst the richest knights that I could find,
They would lend your grace at most but twenty pound,
And every squire would lend your grace but ten.
Then came I, 'mongst the rest, to this plain man,
And asked him what he would lend the king.
He answered, sir, you see I am but poor,
Not half so wealthy as a knight or squire,
And yet, in sign of duty to his grace,
I will lend his majesty two hundred pound.

KING.
Thanks, honest fellow, for thy love to us;
And if I may but pleasure thee in ought,
Command me to the uttermost I may.
England hath too few men of thy good mind.

_Enter_ HONESTY _and_ PIERS PLOWMAN.

Honesty, what news? where hast thou been so long?

HONESTY.
Ah, my lord, I have been searching for a privy knave;
One, my lord, that feeds upon the poor commons,
And makes poor Piers Plowman wear a thread-bare coat.
It is a farmer, my lord, which buys up all the corn in the market,
And sends it away beyond seas, and thereby feeds the enemy.

KING.
Alas, poor Piers Plowman! what ailest thou?
Why dost thou weep? Peace, man: if any have
Offended thee, thou shalt be made amends
Unto the most.

PIERS PLOWMAN.
I beseech your grace
To pity my distress. There is an unknown thief
That robs the commonwealth, and makes me and my
Poor wife and children beg for maintenance.
The time hath been, my lord, _in diebus illis_,
That the ploughman's coat was of good homespun russet cloth,
Whereof neither I nor my servants had no want,
Though now both they and I want,
And all by this unknown farmer;
For there cannot be an acre of ground to be sold,
But he will find money to buy it: nay, my lord,
He hath money to buy whole lordships, and yet but a farmer.
I have kept a poor house, where I dwell this fourscore year,
Yet was I never driven to want till now:
I beseech your grace, as you have still been just,
To seek redress for this oppression.
I beseech your grace, read my humble petition.
[_Delivers it to the_ KING.]

KING.
Let me see: The humble petition of poor Piers Plowman.
Alas, poor Piers! I have heard my father say,
That Piers Plowman was one of the best members in a commonwealth;
For his table was never empty of bread, beef, and beer,
As a help to all distressed travellers. But where thou tellest me
I harbour him, and he is daily under my elbow,
I assure thee, 'tis more than I know; for I harbour
None but this, which is my honest friend.

HONESTY.
Is this your honest friend? the devil a is. [_Aside_].
My lord, this is he: if you doubt my word to be true, call in Clerk
of the Assizes. Now shall your grace see, how Honesty can shake out
a knave in this company.

_Enter_ CLERK OF THE ASSIZE.

Sirrah, tell me who hath most poor men in suit at this Sizes?

CLERK.
That hath Walter Would-have-more:
He hath one poor man in suit for certain barley,
And another, for that his horse was taken in his corn.

HONESTY.
But what indictments are against him? read them.

CLERK. [_Read the indictment_.
First, he hath conveyed corn out of the land to feed the enemy. Next,
he hath turned poor Piers Plowman out of doors by his great raising of
rents. Next, he is known to be a common disturber of men of their quiet,
by serving writs on them, and bringing them to London, to their utter
undoing. Also, he keeps corn in his barn, and suffers his brethren and
neighbours to lie and want; and thereby makes the market so dear, that
the poor can buy no corn.

KING.
Enough! Now, fie upon thee, thou monster of nature,
To seek the utter undoing of many, to enrich thyself.--
Honesty, take him, and use him as thou wilt.

HONESTY.
Come, sir, I think I found out your knavery.
Away, sir, and bear your fellow company.

[_Exeunt omnes but the_ KING _and_ DUNSTAN.

_Enter_ ETHENWALD.

ETHENWALD.
Health and good hap befall your majesty.

KING.
Ethenwald, welcome; how fares our beauteous love?
Be brief, man: what, will she love or no?

ETHENWALD.
Then, as your grace did give to me in charge,
I have discharged my duty every way,
And communed with the maid you so commend:
For when the sun, rich father of the day,
Eye of the world, king of the spangled vale,
Had run the circuit of the horizon,
And that Artofelex, the night's bright star,
Had brought fair Luna from the purpled main,
Where she was dallying with her wanton love,
To lend her light to weary travellers,
Then 'twas my chance to arrive at Osrick's house:
But being late, I could not then unfold
The message that your grace had given in charge;
But in the morn Aurora did appear,
At sight of whom the welkin straight did clear.
Then was the spangled veil of heaven drawn in,
And Phoebus rose, like heaven's imperial king;
And ere the sun was mounted five degrees,
The maid came down, and gave me the good day.

KING.
But being come, what said she then?
How likest thou her? what, is she fair or no?

ETHENWALD.
My lord, she is coloured like the Scythia maid,[308]
That challenged Lucio at the Olympian games.
Well-bodied, but her face was something black,
Like those that follow household business:
Her eyes were hollow, sunk into her head,
Which makes her have a cloudy countenance.
She hath a pretty tongue, I must confess,
And yet, my lord, she is nothing eloquent.

KING.
Why then, my lord, there's nothing good in her.

ETHENWALD.
Yes, my lord, she is fit to serve an earl or so,
But far unfit for Edgar, England's king.

KING.
So then she is fit for Ethenwald, our Cornish earl,
But far unfit for Edgar, England's king.
Well, Ethenwald, I sound your policy:
But tell me, i'faith, dost thou love the maid?
Speak truly, man; dissemble not.

ETHENWALD.
I do, my gracious lord, and therewithal
Entreat your majesty to pardon me.

KING.
Ethenwald, I am content to pardon thee,
And will be with thee myself ere long,
To do thee honour in thy marriage:
And therefore, Ethenwald, thou may'st depart,
And leave us till we visit thee at home.

ETHENWALD.
My gracious lord, I humbly take my leave.

DUNSTAN.
If it please your grace, pardon me, and give me leave,
I would gladly bring my nephew on the way.

KING.
With all my heart, Dunstan; but stay not long.

ETHENWALD.
I humbly take my leave of your majesty.

[_Exeunt_ DUNSTAN _and_ ETHENWALD.

[_Enter_ PERIN.]

KING.
Farewell, Ethenwald. But, Perin, tell me now,
What dost thou think of Alfrida?
Is she so foul as Ethenwald reports her?
Believe me, then, she had been unfit for me.

PERIN.
My gracious lord, Ethenwald hath dissembled with your majesty,
For Alfrida is fair and virtuous;
For last night, being in private conference,
He told me he had devised a mean
To colour with the king by forg'd excuse.
No, no (quoth he), my Alfrida is fair,
As is the radiant North star crystalline,
That guides the wet and weary traveller,
Sous'd with the surge of Neptune's wat'ry main.
And thus, my lord, he fell to praising her,
And from his pocket straight he drew this counterfeit.[309]
And said 'twas made by[310] beauteous Alfrida.

KING.
A face more fair than is the sun's bright beams,
Or snow-white Alps beneath fair Cynthia!
Who would refuse with Hercules to spin,
When such fair faces bears us company?
Fair Polyxena never was so fair:
Nor she that was proud love to Troylus.
Great Alexander's love, Queen of Amazons,
Was not so fair as is fair Alfrida.
But, Perin, be thou secret to the king,
And I will sound these subtle practises.
And, Ethenwald, be sure I will quittance thee,
And teach thee how to dally with thy king.
But, Perin, let's to court until to-morn,
And then we'll take horse and away.

[_Exeunt_.

_Enter mad men of Gotham, to wit, a_ MILLER,
_a_ COBBLER, _and a_ SMITH.

MILLER.
Now, let us constult among ourselves,
How to misbehave ourselves to the king's worship,
Jesus bless him! and when he comes, to deliver him this petition,
I think the Smith were best to do it, for he's a wise man.

COBBLER.
Neighbour, he shall not do it, as long as Jeffrey the translater[311]
is Mayor of the town.

SMITH.
And why, I pray? because I would have put you from the Mace?

MILLER.
No, not for that, but because he is no good fellow;
Nor he will not spend his pot for company.

SMITH.
Why, sir, there was a god[312] of our occupation; and I charge you
by virtue of his godhead to let me deliver the petition.

COBBLER.
But soft, you: your god was a cuckold, and his godhead was the horn,
and that's the arms of the godhead you call upon. Go, you are put
down with your occupation; and now I will not grace you so much as
to deliver the petition for you.

SMITH.
What, dispraise our trade?

COBBLER.
Nay, neighbour, be not angry, for I'll stand to nothing only but this--

SMITH.
But what? bear witness a gives me the but, and I am not willing to
shoot. Cobbler, I will talk with you: nay, my bellows, my coal-trough,
and my water shall enter arms with you for our trade. O neighbour,
I cannot bear it, nor I will not bear it!

MILLER.
Hear you, neighbour; I pray consuade yourself and be not wilful, and
let the cobbler deliver it: you shall see him mar all.

SMITH.
At your request I will commit myself to you,
And lay myself open to you, like an oyster.

MILLER.
I'll tell him what you say. Hear you, neighbour, we have constulted to
let you deliver the petition: do it wisely, for the credit of the town.

COBBLER.
Let me alone, for the king's carminger[313] was here;
He says the king will be here anon.

SMITH.
But hark! by the mass, he comes.

_Enter the_ KING, DUNSTAN, _and_ PERIN.

KING.
How now, Perin; who have we here?

COBBLER.
We, the townsmen of Gotham,
Hearing your grace would come this way,
Did think it good for you to stay.--
But hear you, neighbours, bid somebody ring the bells.--
And we are come to you alone, to deliver our petition[314].

KING.
What is it, Perin? I pray thee, read.

PERIN.
Nothing but to have a license to brew strong ale thrice a week; and he
that comes to Gotham, and will not spend a penny on a pot of ale, if he
be a-dry, that he may fast.

KING.
Well, sirs, we grant your petition.

COBBLER.
We humbly thank your royal majesty.

KING.
Come, Dunstan; let's away.

[_Exeunt omnes_.

_Enter_ ETHENWALD _alone_.

ETHENWALD.
Ethenwald, be advised: the king has sent to thee;
Nay, more, he means to come and visit thee.
But why? Ay, there's the question.
Why, 'tis for this; to see if he can find
A front whereon to graft a pair of horns:
But in plain terms he comes to cuckold me.
And for he means to do it without suspect,
He sends me word he means to visit me.
The king is amorous, and my wife is kind,
So kind, I fear, that she will quickly yield
To any motion that the king shall make,
Especially if the motion be of love;
For Pliny writes, women are made like wax,
Apt to receive any impression,
Whose minds are like the Janamyst,
That eats, yet cries, and never is satisfied.
Well, be as it is, for I'll be sure of this,
It shall be no ways prejudice to me;
For I will set a screen before the fire,
And so prevent what otherwise would ensue.
'Twere good I questioned with my father first,
To hear how he['s] affected towards the king.
What ho!

_Enter_ OSRICK _and_ ALFRIDA.

OSRICK.
Ethenwald, my son, what news?

ETHENWALD.
Why ask you? I am sure you have heard the news.

OSRICK.
Not yet, I promise you, my lord.

ETHENWALD.

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