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Mrs. Ford. I'll first direct my men, what they shall do with the basket. Go up; I'll bring linen for him straight.
[Exit. Mrs. Page. Hang him, dishonest varlet! we cannot misuse him enough.
We'll leave a proof, by that which we will do,
Re-enter MRS. FORD, with two Servants. Mrs. Ford. Go, sirs, take the basket again on your shoulders; your master is hard at door; if he bid you set it down, obey him; quickly, despatch.
1 Serv. Come, come, take it up.
2 Serv. Pray heaven, it be not full of the knight again.
1 Serv. I hope not; I had as lief bear so much lead.
Enter FORD, PAGE, SHALLOW, CAIUS, and SIR Hugh EVANS.
Ford. Ay, but if it prove true, master Page, have you any way then to unfool me again?-Set down the basket, villain :-Somebody call my wife :-You, youth in a basket, come out here!-O, you panderly rascals! there's a knot, a ging,' a pack, a conspiracy against me: Now, shall the devil be shamed. What! wife, I say! come, come forth; behold what honest clothes you send forth to bleaching.
Page. Why, this passes! 2 Master Ford, you are not to go loose any longer; you must be pinioned.
Eva. Why, this is lunatics! this is mad as a mad dog! Shal. Indeed, master Ford, this is not well; indeed.
Re-enter MRS. FORD.
Ford. So say I too, sir.-Come hither, mistress Ford; mistress Ford, the honest woman, the modest
2 Surpasses, or goes beyond all bounds.
wife, the virtuous creature, that hath the jealous fool to her husband!-I suspect without cause, mistress, do I?
Mrs. Ford. Heaven be my witness, you do, if suspect me in any dishonesty.
Ford. Well said, brazen-face; hold it out. Come forth, sirrah. [Pulls the clothes out of the basket. Page. This passes!
Mrs. Ford. Are you not ashamed? let the clothes alone.
Ford. I shall find you anon. Eva. 'Tis unreasonable! Will you take up your wife's clothes? Come away.
Ford. Empty the basket, I say.
Ford. Master Page, as I am a man, there was one conveyed out of my house yesterday in this basket: Why may not he be there again? In my house I am sure he is my intelligence is true; my jealousy is reasonable: Pluck me out all the linen.
Mrs. Ford. If you find a man there, he shall die a flea's death.
Page. Here's no man.
Shal. By my fidelity, this is not well, master Ford; this wrongs you.1
Eva. Master Ford, you must pray, and not follow the imaginations of your own heart: this is jealousies. Ford. Well, he's not here I seek for.
Page. No, nor no where else, but in your brain. Ford. Help to search my house this one time; if I find not what I seek, show no color for my extremity, let me forever be your table-sport; let them say of me, As jealous as Ford, that searched a hollow walnut for his wife's leman. Satisfy me once more; once more search with me.
Mrs. Ford. What hoa, mistress Page! come you and the old woman down; my husband will come into the chamber.
1 i. e. This is unworthy of you.
Ford. Old woman! What old woman is that? Mrs. Ford. Why, it is my maid's aunt of Brentford. Ford. A witch, a quean, an old cozening quean! Have I not forbid her my house? She comes of errands, does she? We are simple men; we do not know what's brought to pass under the profession of fortune-telling. She works by charms, by spells, by the figure, and such daubery as this is; beyond our element; we know nothing.Come down, you witch, you hag, you; come down, I say.
Mrs. Ford. Nay, good, sweet husband;-good gentlemen, let him not strike the old woman.
Enter FALSTAFF in women's clothes, led by Mrs. PAGE. Mrs. Page. Come, mother Pratt, come, give me your hand.
Ford. I'll prat her:Out of my door, you witch! [beats him] you rag, you baggage, you polecat, you ronyon! out! out! I'll conjure you, I'll fortune-tell [Exit FALSTAFF. Mrs. Page. Are you not ashamed? I think you have killed the poor woman.
Mrs. Ford. Nay, he will do it :-'Tis a goodly credit for you.
Ford. Hang her, witch!
Eva. By yea and no, I think, the 'oman is a witch indeed: I like not when a 'oman has a great peard; I spy a great peard under her muffler.
Ford. Will you follow, gentlemen? I beseech you, follow; see but the issue of my jealousy; if I cry out thus upon no trail,3 never trust me when I open again. Page. Let's obey his humor a little further: Come, gentlemen.
[Exeunt PAGE, FORD, SHALLOW, and EVANS. Mrs. Page. Trust me, he beat him most pitifully. Mrs. Ford. Nay, by the mass, that he did not; he beat him most unpitifully, methought.
1 Falsehood, imposition.
2 Means much the same as scall or scab, from rogneuse, Fr.
3 Expressions taken from the chase. Trail is the scent left by the passage of the game. To cry out is to open, or bark.
Mrs. Page. I'll have the cudgel hallowed, and hang o'er the altar; it hath done meritorious service.
Mrs. Ford. What think you? May we, with the warrant of womanhood, and the witness of a good conscience, pursue him with any further revenge?
Mrs. Page. The spirit of wantonness is, sure, scared out of him; if the devil have him not in fee simple, with fine and recovery, he will never, I think, in the way of waste, attempt us again.
Mrs. Ford. Shall we tell our husbands how we have served him?
Mrs. Page. Yes, by all means; if it be but to scrape the figures out of your husband's brains. If they can find in their hearts, the poor unvirtuous fat knight shall be any further afflicted, we two will still be the ministers.
Mrs. Ford. I'll warrant they'll have him publicly shamed: and, methinks, there would be no period to the jest, should he not be publicly shamed.
Mrs. Page. Come to the forge with it then ;_shape it: I would not have things cool. [Exeunt.
SCENE III. A Room in the Garter Inn.
Enter Host and BARDOLPH.
Bard. Sir, the Germans desire to have three of your horses the duke himself will be to-morrow at court, and they are going to meet him.
Host. What duke should that be comes so secretly? I hear not of him in the court: Let me speak with the gentlemen; they speak English?
Bard. Ay, sir: I'll call them to you.
Host. They shall have my horses; but I'll make them pay, I'll sauce them: they have had my house a week at command; I have turned away my other guests: they must come off; I'll sauce them: Come.
1 To come off is to pay, to come down (as we now say), with a sum of money. It is a phrase of frequent occurrence in old plays.
SCENE IV. A Room in Ford's House.
Enter PAGE, FORD, MRS. PAGE, Mrs. Ford, and SIR HUGH EVANS.
Eva. 'Tis one of the pest discretions of a 'oman as ever I did look upon.
Page. And did he send you both these letters at an instant?
Mrs. Page. Within a quarter of an hour.
Ford. Pardon me, wife: Henceforth do what thou wilt;
I rather will suspect the sun with cold,1 Than thee with wantonness : now doth thy honor stand,
In him that was of late an heretic,
As firm as faith.
'Tis well, 'tis well; no more. Be not as éxtreme in submission
As in offence;
But let our plot go forward: let our wives
Page. How! to send him word they'll meet him in the park at midnight! fie, fie; he'll never come.
Eva. You say, he has been thrown into the rivers; and has been grievously peaten, as an old 'oman; methinks there should be terrors in him, that he should not come; methinks his flesh is punished, he shall have no desires.
Page. So think I too.
Mrs. Ford. Devise but how you'll use him when he comes,
And let us two devise to bring him thither.
1 The reading in the text was Mr. Rowe's. The old copies read, “I rather will suspect the sun with gold."