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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.
All the better for that; for it should seem by his Behaviour that he hath had good bringing-up.
Indeed, my father in his lifetime was a man Given to the fear of G.o.d, and to use much devotion.
Ay, but he gave nothing for G.o.d’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_.
Hear you, sir; If you be in readiness, here is the judge.
Ay, sir: I fear not, I warrant you: is that your adversary?
What an old crust it is!
I think the villain hath a face hardened with steel; He could never be so impudent else.
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.
And so I can; and here’s my witness to it, That saw me when I paid the money.
Why, I am sure he will not say it.
I never saw the man in all my life.
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.
But where was the money tendered?
At the gentleman’s house.
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 pa.s.s sentence, then, against you needs.
[_To_ CONEYCATCHER.] But will you swear on the Bible this is true?
Ay, sir, and to that intent I came hither; For I will never refuse to swear a truth, while I live.
Yet, ere thou speak, vouchsafe to hear me speak.
Full threescore winters, gentle sir, I have pa.s.s’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.
Well, if thou be well-advised, take thy oath; But yet remember before whom thou swearest, The G.o.d of truth and perfect equity, Which will revenge wrong to the innocent With thousand plagues and tortures worse than death.
By the holy contents of this Bible, And by that just G.o.d before whom I stand, I saw this man—-
Peace! shameless villain, execrable wretch, Monster of nature, degenerate miscreant!
Who ever knew or heard so vile an oath Vilely p.r.o.nounc’d by such a d.a.m.ned 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?
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.
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.
I beseech your grace, be good to me.
Ay, you shall have a cold iron clapt in your forehead; A hot one, I would say: you are a slave indeed.
Good villain, there’s no help for you.
_Enter_ ETHENWALD _alone_.
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 pa.s.sions, Makes me amazed in these extremities.
The king commands me on his emba.s.sage 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.
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