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lin 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, 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, for their own credit sake, make all whole. I am joined with no foot land-rakers, no long-staff, sixpenny strikers ;3 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.5.
Cham. What, the commonwealth their boots ? will she hold out water in foul way?
1 In a note on The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act üz. 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.
4 Thus “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-eers, as we say privateer, auctioneer, circuiteer.”
5 A quibble upon boots and booty. Boot is profit, advantage.
Gads. She will, she will ; justice hath liquored her. We steal as in a castle,” cock-sure: we have the receipt of fern-seed ;3 we walk invisible.
Cham. Nay, by my faith, I think you are more beholden to the night, than to fern-seed, for your walking invisible.
Gads. Give me thy hand : thou shalt have a share in our purchase,* 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 men. Bid the ostler bring my gelding out of the stable. Farewell, you muddy knave.
SCENE II. The Road by Gadshill.
Enter PRINCE HENRY and Poins; BARDOLPH and
Pero, at some distance. Poins. Come, shelter, shelter ; I have removed Falstaff's horse, and he frets like a gummed velvet.”
P. Hen. Stand close.
rascal. What a brawling dost thou keep?
Fal. Where's Poins, Hal ?
1 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.”
2 As in a castle was a proverbial phrase for security.
3 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.
4 Purchase was anciently understood in the sense of gain, profit, whether legally or illegally obtained.
5 Velvet and taffeta were sometimes stiffened with gum; but the consequence was, that the stuff, being thus hardened, quickly rubbed and fretted itself out.
go seek him.
P. Hen. He is walked up to the top of the bill; I'll
[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' farther 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 to make me love him, l'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 farther. 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 list 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 ?
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
Fal. Go, hang thyself in thy own heir-apparent garters! If I be ta’en, I'll peach for this. An I have
1 i. e. the square or measure. A carpenter's rule was called a square (from esquierre, Fr.).
? To colt is to trick, fool, or deceive ; perhaps from the wild tricks of a colt
not ballads made on you all, and sung to filthy tunes, let
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
Gads. There's enough to make us all.
P. Hen. 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 on us.
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.
Poins. Sirrah Jack, thy horse stands behind the hedge; when thou needest him, there thou shalt find him. Farewell, and stand fast.
Fal. Now cannot I strike him, if I should be hanged.
[Exeunt P. Hen. and Poins. Fal. Now, my masters, happy man be his dole,' say I; every man to his business.
Enter Travellers. 1 Trav. Come, neighbor; the boy shall lead our horses down the hill : we'll walk afoot a while, and ease our legs.
Fal. Strike; down with them; cut the villains' throats. Ah! whoreson caterpillars! bacon-fed knaves! they hate us youth: down with them; fleece them.
i Trav. O, we are undone, both we and ours, forever.
Fal. Hang ye, gorbellied knaves; are ye undone? No, ye fat chuffs ;? I would your store were here! On, bacons, on! What, ye knaves ?
young men must live. You are grand-jurors, are ye? We'll jure ye, i' faith.
[Exeunt Fal. fic., driving the Travellers out.
Re-enter PRINCE HENRY and Poins. P. Hen. The thieves have bound the true men. Now could thou and I rob the thieves, and go merrily to London, it would be argument for a week, laughter for a month, and a good jest forever. Poins. Stand close; I hear them coming.
Re-enter Thieves. Fal. Come, my masters, let us share, and then to horse before day. An the prince and Poins be not two arrant cowards, there's no equity stirring; there's no more valor in that Poins, than in a wild duck. P. Hen. Your money.
[Rushing out upon them. Poins. Villains !
[As they are sharing, the Prince and Poins
set upon them. FALSTAFF, after a blow or two, and the rest, run away, leaving the booty behind them.
1 Gorbellied is big-paunched, corpulent. 2 A term of reproach usually applied to avaricious old citizens. It is of uncertain derivation. Cotgrave interprets “Un gros marroufle, a big cat; also an ouglie luske or clusterfist; also a rich churl or fat chuffe."
3 Argument is subject matter for conversation.