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chamberlain: for thou variest no more from picking of purses, than giving direction doth from labouring; thou lay'st the plot how 11.
Enter Chamberlain. Cham. Good morrow, master Gadshill. It holds current, that I told you yesternight: There's a franklin 12 in the wild of Kent, hath brought three hundred marks with him in gold: I heard him tell it to one of his company, last night at supper; a kind of auditor; one that hath abundance of charge too, God knows what. They are up already, and call for eggs and butter: They will away presently.
Gads. Sirrah, if they meet not with Saint Nicholas' clerks 13, I'll give thee this neck.
Cham. No, I'll none of it: I pr’ythee, keep that for the hangman; for, I know, thou worship’st Saint Nicholas as truly as a man of falsehood may.
Gads. What talkest thou to me of the hangman? if I hang, I'll make a fat pair of gallows: for, if I hang, old Sir John hangs with me; and, thou knowest, he's no starveling. Tut! there are other Trojans that thou dreamest not of, the which, for sport sake, are content to do the profession some grace; that would, if matters should be looked into,
11 Thus in The Life and Death of Gamaliel Ratsey, 1605 :
he dealt with the chamberlaine of the house, to learn which way they went in the morning, which the chamberlaine performed accordingly, and that with great care and diligence, for he knew he should partake of their fortunes if they sped.'
12 A freeholder or yeoman, a man above a vassal or villain, but not a gentleman. This was the Franklin of the age of Elizabeth. In earlier times he was a person of much more dignity. See Canterbury Tales, v. 333, and Mr. Tyrwhitt's note upon it.
13 In a note on The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act iii. Sc. 1, is an account of the origin of this expression as applied to scholars ; and as Nicholas or old Nick is a cant name for the devil, so thieves are equivocally called Saint Nicholas' clerks.
-for their own credit sake, make all whole. joined with no foot land-rakers 14, no long-staff, sixpenny strikers 15; none of these mad, mustachio, purple-hued malt-worms: but with nobility, and tranquillity; burgomasters, and great oneyers such as can hold in; such as will strike sooner than speak, and speak sooner than drink, and drink sooner than pray: And yet I lie; for they pray continually to their saint, the commonwealth; or, rather, not pray to her, but prey on her; for they ride up and down on her, and make her their boots 17.
Cham. What, the commonwealth their boots ? will she hold out water in foul way? Gads. She will, she will; justice hath liquored
We steal as in a castle 19, cock-sure; we have the receipt of fern-seed, we walk invisible.
15 A striker was a thief. In Greene's Art of Coney Catching; ' - the cutting a pocket, or picking a purse is called striking.' Again, who taking a proper youth to be his prentice, to teach him the order of striking and foisting.'
16 Some of the commentators have been at great pains to conjecture what class of persons were meant by great oneyers. One proposed to read moneyers; another mynheers; and Malone coins a word, onyers, which he says may mean a public accountant, from the term o-ni, used in the exchequer. The ludicrous nature of the appellations which Gadshill' bestows upon his associates might have sufficiently shown them that such attempts must be futile ;' nobility and tranquillity, burgomasters and great oneyers.' Johnson has judiciously explained it. Gadshill tells the chamberlain that he is joined with no mean wretches, but with “burgomasters and great ones,” or, as he terms them in merriment by a cant termination, great one-y-ers, or great one-eérs, as we say privateer, auctioneer, circuiteer.'
17 A quibble upon boots and booty. Boot is profit, advantage. 18 Alluding to boots in the preceding passage.
In The Merry Wives of Windsor, Falstaff says :— *They would melt me out of my fat drop by drop, and liquor fishermen's boots with me.'
19 As in a castle was a proverbial phrase for security. Steevens has adduced several examples of its use in cotemporary writers.
Cham. Nay, by my faith, I think you are more : beholden to the night, than to fern-seed 20, for your walking invisible.
Gads. Give me thy hand : thou shalt have a share in our purchase 21, as I am a true man.
Cham. Nay, rather let me have it, as you are a false thief. Gads. Go to; Homo is a common name to all
Bid the ostler bring my gelding out of the stable. Farewell, you muddy knave. [E.ceunt.
SCENE II. The Road by Gadshill. Enter PRINCE HENRY, and PoinS; BARDOLPH
and Peto, at some distance. Poins. Come, shelter, shelter: I have removed Falstaff's horse, and he frets like a gummed velvet !.
P. Hen. Stand close.
P. Hen. Peace, ye fat-kidneyed rascal; What a brawling dost thou keep?
Fal. Where's Poins, Hal?
20 Fern-seed was supposed to have the power of rendering persons invisible: the seed of fern is itself invisible; therefore to find it was a magic operation, and in the use it was supposed to communicate its own property. Thus in Ben Jonson's New Inn, 1. 6:
Because, indeed, I had
No fern-seed in my pocket.' 21 Purchase was anciently understood in the sense of gain, profit, whether legally or illegally obtained. The commentators are wrong in saying that it meant stolen goods.
1 This allusion we often meet with in the old comedies. Thus in The Malecontent, 1604 :-*I'll come among you, like gum into taffata, to fret, fret.' Velvet and taffeta were sometimes stiffened with
gum; but the consequence was, that the stuff being thus hardened quickly rubbed and fretted itself out.
P. Hen. He is walked up to the top of the hill; I'll go seek him.
[Pretends to seek Poins. Fal. I am accursed to rob in that thief's company: the rascal hath removed my horse, and tied him I know not where. If I travel but four foot by the squire further afoot, I shall break my wind. Well, I doubt not but to die a fair death for all this, if I'scape hanging for killing that rogue. I have forsworn his company hourly, any time this two-and-twenty years, and yet I am bewitched with the rogue's company. If the rascal have not given me medicines 3 to make me love him, I'll be hanged; it could not be else; I have drunk medicines.Poins !-Hal!-a plague upon you both!-Bardolph!—Peto!—I'll starve, ere I'll rob a foot further. An 'twere not as good a deed as drink, to turn true man, and leave these rogues, I am the veriest varlet that ever chewed with a tooth. Eight yards of uneven ground, is threescore and ten miles afoot with me; and the stony-hearted villains know it well enough: A plague upon't, when thieves cannot be true to one another! [They whistle.] Whew! --A plague upon you all! Give me my horse, you rogues; give me my horse, and be hanged.
P. Hen. Peace, ye fat-guts ! lie down; lay thine ear close to the ground, and list if thou canst hear the tread of travellers.
Fal. Have you any levers to lift me up again, being down ? 'Sblood, I'll not bear mine own flesh so far afoot again, for all the coin in thy father's exchequer. What a plague mean ye to colt* me thus?
2 i.e. the square or measure. A carpenter's rule was called a square; from esquierre, Fr.
3 Alluding to the vulgar notion of love-powders. 4 To oolt is to trick, fool, or deceive; perhaps from the wild tricks of a colt.
P. Hen. Thou liest, thou art not colted, thou art uncolted.
Fal. I pr’ythee, good Prince Hal, help me to my horse: good king's son. P. Hen. Out, you rogue! shall I be your
ostler! Fal. Go, hang thyself in thy own heir-apparent garters! If I be ta’en, I'll peach for this. An I have not ballads made on you all, and sung to filthy tunes, let a cup of sack be my poison: When a jest is so forward, and afoot too, I hate it.
Enter BARDOLPH. Bard. What news?
Gads. Case ye, case ye; on with your visors; there's money of the king's coming down the hill; 'tis going to the king's exchequer.
Fal. You lie, you rogue; 'tis going to the king's tavern.
Gads. There's enough to make us all.
P. Hen. Sirs, you four shall front them in the narrow lane; Ned Poins, and I will walk lower: if they 'scape from your encounter, then they light
Peto. How many be there of them?
Fal. Indeed, I am not John of Gaunt, your grandfather; but yet no coward, Hal.
P. Hen. Well, we leave that to the proof.