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1 Car. Like a tench? by the mass, there is ne'er a king in Christendom could be better bit than I have been since the first cock.
2 Car. Why, they will allow us ne'er a jorden, and then we leak in your chimney; and your chamber-lie breeds fleas like a loach.9
1 Car. What, ostler! come away and be hanged, come away.
2 Car. I have a gammon of bacon, and two razes of ginger, to be delivered as far as Charing-cross.
i Car. 'Odsbody! the turkies in my pannier are quite starved. - What, ostler! - A plague on thee! hast thou never an eye in thy head ? canst not hear? An ’twere not as good a deed as drink, to break the pate of thee, I am a very villain. - Come, and be hanged: Hast no faith in thee?
Enter GADSHILL. Gads. Good morrow, carriers. What's o'clock ? 1 Car. I think it be two o'clock.
Gads. I pr’ythee, lend me thy lantern, to see my gelding in the stable.
1 Car. Nay, soft, I pray ye; I know a trick worth two of that, i'faith.
Gads. I pr’ythee, lend me thine.
2 Car. Ay, when? canst tell? - Lend me thy lantern, quoth a? — marry, I'll see thee hanged first.
Gads. Sirrah carrier, what time do you mean to come to London ?
2 Car. Time enough to go to bed with a candle, I warrant thee. - Come, neighbour Mugs, we'll call up the gentlemen ; they will along with company, for they have great charge.
breeds fleas like a loach.] i. e. as a loach breeds. The loach is a very small fish, but so exceedingly prolifick, that it is seldom found without spawn in it.
Gadshill.] This thief receives his title from a place on the Kentish road, where many robberies have been committed.
Gads. What, ho! chamberlain !
Gads. That's even as fair as - at hand, quoth the chamberlain: for thou variest no more from picking of purses, than giving direction doth from labouring; thou lay'st the plot how.
Enter Chamberlain. Cham. Good morrow, master Gadshill. It holds current, that I told you yesternight: There's a franklin 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
2 At hand, quoth pick-purse.] This is a proverbial expression often used by Green, Nashe, and other writers of the time, in whose works the cant of low conversation is preserved.
franklin —] is a little gentleman, perhaps an opulent freeholder.
Fortescue, says the editor of The Canterbury Tales, vol. iv. p. 202. (de L. L. Ang. C. xxix.) describes a franklain to be pater familias magnis ditatus possessionibus. He is classed with (but after) the miles and armiger; and is distinguished from the Libere tenentes and valecti ; though, as it should seem, the only real distinction between him and other freeholders, consisted in the largeness of his estate. Spelman, in voce Franklein, quotes the following passage from Trivet's French Chronicle. (MSS. Bibl. R. S. n. 56.) “ Thomas de Brotherton filius Edwardi I. marescallus Angliæ, apres la mort de son pere esposa la fille de un Franchelyn apelee Alice.” The Historian did not think it worth his while even to mention the name of the Frankleian. REED.
saint Nicholas' clerks,] St. Nicholas was the patron saint of scholars; and Nicholas, or old Nick, is a cant name for the devil. Hence he equivocally calls robbers, St. Nicholas' clerks.
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; 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 inake her their boots.
Cham. What, the commonwealth their boots ? will she hold out water in foul way?
Gads. She will, she will; justice hath liquored her. 9
other Trojans -] Trojan had a cant signification, and perhaps was only a more creditable term for a thief.
6 I am joined with no foot land-rakers, &c.] that is, with no padders, no wanderers on foot. No long staff sixpenny strikers, - no fellows that infest the road with long staffs, and knock men down for sixpence. None of these mad mustachio purple-hued malt-worms, none of those whose faces are red with drinking ale. Johnson.
burgomasters, and great oneyers;] Perhaps public accountants. Some read monyers, or bankers.
such as can hold in; such as will strike sooner than speak, and speak sooner than drink, and drink, fc.] Perhaps the meaning
Men who will knock the traveller down sooner than speak to him; who yet will speak to him and bid him stand, sooner than drink; (to which they are sufficiently well inclined;) and lastly, who will drink sooner than pray.
9 She will, she will; justice hath liquored her.) A satire on chicane in courts of justice; which supports ill men in their violations of the law, under the very cover of it.
We steal as in a castle', cock-sure; we have the receipt of fern-seed?, 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.
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.
Fal. Poins ! Poins, and be hanged ! Poins !
as in a castle,] Perhaps Shakspeare means, we steal with as much security as the ancient inhabitants of castles, who had those strong holds to fly to for protection and defence against the laws.
we have the receipt of fern-seed,] The ancients, who often paid more attention to received opinions than to the evidence of their senses, believed that fern bore no seed. Our ancestors imagined that this plant produced seed which was invisible. Hence, from an extraordinary mode of reasoning, founded on the fantastick doctrine of signatures, they concluded that they who possessed the secret of wearing this seed about them would become invisible. purchase,) anciently the cant term for stolen goods,
P. Hen. Peace, ye fat-kidneyed rascal; What a brawling dost thou keep?
Fal. Where's Poins, Hal ?
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 4 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 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.
Pal. 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 colts me thus ?
- four foot by the squire --] Dr. Warburton extracts humour out of this expression, but Dr. Johnson and the other commentators think that by the squire means no more than by a rule.
to colt —] is to fool, to trick; but the prince taking it in another sense, opposes it by uncolt, that is, unhorse.