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gallants who like their privacy to be broken in upon when engaged with a pretty wench."
Master Francis went not up the stairs in any pleasanter mood for this, it may well be believed; but his thoughts were in a sort of confusion. He scarce knew what he would be about. The shock he received from what he gained knowledge of when he was under the gateway, had completely changed the current of his feelings towards Joanna, and what he had heard since was not like to do aught in her favour; yet was there still some lingering tenderness in his disposition on account of the many kindnesses she had done him, but when he came to think that these had been done but as bribes to keep him in compliance with her humours, as he thought more than once, his mind was made up; and he would have none of her. In this mood reached he the room that hath been previously described as the one he had been in before, the door of which standing open, he walked in: but there found he no one but Dame Margery, who seemed busy at dusting of the furniture.
“Ah, Master Francis, be that you !” exclaimed the old woman, seemingly with huge delight, as she observed who it was. “ Well, to be sure! And how bravely you be dressed! In honest truth, dear heart ! you be the sweetest young gentleman I've seen this many a day."
“ Is Joanna at home, dame ?” enquired the youth.
No, dear heart!” replied she. 66 She hath stepped out some time since. And you wear a sword too! Indeed you have as handsome an appearance with you as heart could desire.”
“ Know you what time she will return?” asked Master Francis, in some disappointment at not meeting with her.
“Nay, forsooth, how should I,” answered the old woman, with an indignant toss of her head, seeing that she goeth out at all hours, and stayeth mayhap half the day, and no one knoweth a word of where she hath been. Well, they that live longest will see most. I be not so blind, Master Francis, as some folks think. I was not born yesterday: and the goings on that I have seen would be a marvel to hear.”
“ If you know aught of Joanna that be not maidenly, you do not well in keeping it from me,” said the youth.
6 Maidenly !” exclaimed Dame Margery, with a very significant look, as she went and carefully closed the door. « l'faith, 'twould be strange indeed, could it be called maidenly. But, in honest truth, I like sot to see you so imposed on. I have noticed, scort of times, with what an earnestness you do affect hei which hath the more shocked me to know how she misuses you. But if I tell you aught, how know I you will not tell of me again.”
“Be assured I will do no such thing," replied he.
« Indeed she would be the ruin of me, knew she I told you of such matters," added the old woman, “ for she be of a very revengeful nature, and of an exceeding bad heart, as is manifest by her letting me work my old bones till I be ready to drop; and she standing by as fine as you please, and never lending me a hand. There's many a time she might have said, here be a dress of mine but little the worse for the wear, that be rather too tight in the sleeve—or, mayhap in the body—but, doubtless, 'twill fit you, dame, if you please to accept of it;' which she hath never done. In fact, the grace of God be not in her, that's a sure thing. And she be the wickedest deceitful creature that lives, for she hath ofttimes got me a rating of her father, when she might easy have prevented it. Forsooth, all the blame must come upon poor me, when I be as innocent as a babe."
66 What hath come to your knowledge concerning of her unmaidenly doings?” said the youth, in a little impatence.
“Oh, scores of things, I warrant you,” answered the dame, “and such things, that the speaking of them maketh me blush outright. Indeed, it be a most absolute truth that I be the virtuosest of women; and it be no other than a burning shame in her to do what she hath, instead of following my excellent example. I never gave encouragement to a parcel of fellows, I warrant you. I never shut
myself up in rooms with fine gallants--not I, by my troth! I never went nobody knows where, and stayed nobody knows how long, believe me! No! I was ever as discreet and modest as a virgin ought to be! that was l_and all the world knoweth it."
“Well, but what have you got to tell me, dame?” enquired Master Francis, rather earnestly.
“I be coming to it, kind heart,” replied Margery. “ Now, had it been my good fortune, at her years, to have met with such a sweet young gentleman as yourself, methinks I should have cared for no other; but she-she must entertain gallants by the score! Not only, forsooth, must she have a parcel of famous fine fellows to fill her head with nonsensical notions about love and the like but she must needs have a few of meaner quality. Nay, for the matter of that, I do believe she be in no way particular. She liketh one as well as another, and careth only that there should be plenty of them. Would I have done such? I that was in such repute for the seriousness of my behaviour, that no man dared so much as meddle with my kirtle? In honest truth, it be but five and twenty years last Martinmas”.
“ But I have heard that before-I pray you, say at once what you have to tell me," said the youth, still more patiently.
“Ah! but forgot I had told you of it,” continued the dame.“ Well, then, to proceed. Often
have I, going up the stairs in the dark, stumbled over some fellow sneaking out—who'd been after no good, I'll be bound, by the suspicious manner of his getting away; and when I have come into the room suddenly, I have surprised her with some of her fine gallants sitting as close as you please to her-mayhap, with his villainous arm round her waist. Would I have done such? I that-but no matter. Then I have heard such whisperings in corners as were awful to listen to. And there was that Ralph Goshawk”
66 What of him, dame?” enquired her companion, suddenly.
“Oh! the paltry fellow ! Oh! the fustain rogue! I could never abide his presence,” she added, as if in a monstrous indignation; " he would pass himself off for a gentleman, forsooth! and talk in as holiday terms as any lord: yet was he nothing but a trumpery haberdasher, who had no higher employment than the measuring out a yard or so of sad-coloured taffeta for some tapster's widow. He be the impudentest varlet :-but I will acquaint you with what he did, Master Francis, no longer ago than last week, and you shall judge him for an unmannerly knave, as he is, that hath no respect for the virtuousest of women. This was it. I was sitting in the low-backed arm-chairy that hath a cushion in it, by the side of the kitchen fire, mend. ing of master's hose. I remember me, 'twas a pair