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“ He is one Burrel, in some repute for his learning, and doubtless may be found at Durham House. Question him of this marriage : for we would know if it hath taken place. If he answer you to the purpose, you shall come away and do him no hindrance-but if he be contumacious, or seem to hold back what he knowethstraight with him to prison : he shall there have time to repent him of his meddlesomeness. Delay not to report to us the minute you get ought worth the telling.”
6 I will be the most zealous intelligencer in your majesty's dominions," replied Cecil.
My Lady Howard, we are for the presence chamber," said the queen, and straightway she passed haughtily out at the door with her attendant, but not before the latter and Sir Robert Cecil had, unseen by her majesty, exchanged a look in which there appeared a wonderful deal of meaning.
I cannot eat but little meat,
My stomach is not good;
With him that wears a hood.
I nothing am a cold,
GAMMER GURTON'S NEEDLE.
My masters, are you mad? or what are you? Have you no wit, manners, nor honesty, but to gabble like tinkers at this time of night ?-SHAKSPEARE.
Ir was getting deep into the evening. The prudent citizens had long closed their houses, and many of the more sober sort had retired to rest. Nothing disturbed the silence of the streets, but now and then the riotous singing of some prodigal gallants returning late from the tavern, with more wine in their pates than wit, with perchance, the hoarse bawling of some of the city watch, chiding them for disturbing the night with their catterwauling; or mayhap, a score of disorderly apprentices for the sake of diversion screaming fire, murder, and the like, from different places, till the whole neighbourhood was in an uproar, and the
watch running to and fro in strange perplexity as to where was the mischief. Now you might hear some particular clock striking the hour, and anon there was such a striking from all parts that it seemed as if there would be no end to it; like unto when chanticleer croweth in the early morning, there answereth to him another, and he is taken up by a third, and so on till the whole of the cocks round about have tried the strength of their voices.
So it fared in the city, and in Eastcheap more especially—which of all places was most noted for mad pranks and merry doings; but whilst such goings on proceeded outside, the little back parlour of Geoffrey Sarsnet the mercer, as oft did echo with a very similar merriment. There he sat before an oak table having on it a bowl and drinking horns, looking very portly in a buff jerkin; a jolly face and a merry eye seeming to mock the gravity of his grey beard and bald pate; and a loud short laugh bursting from his mouth ever and anon, said plain enough, of all conscience, that his thoughts were none of the saddest. Opposite to him, in singular fine contrast, sat the meagre form of the miser of St. Mary Axe, who, by the complaçency of his withered aspect had evidently forgiven Joanna the loss of the Venetian chain.
Margery! Margery !” bawled the mercer,
after he had looked into the bowl and found it empty of liquor. “By cock and pye, I'm no lover of jolly good ale and old, if we hav'n't drained it as dry as—as dry as thy wit, thou ghost of a pickled herring. Haw! haw! haw !”
6 Forsooth, thou art in a most facetious vein gossip,” replied Gregory Vellum, who cared not for being laughed at when he had aught to gain by joining in the mirth.
“ If I be not in the vein the vein be in me,” said the jolly mercer, with another laugh as loud as the preceding. “ Here, Margery,” cried he again; then sinking his voice, added, “ Hang these old women, say I! They be as deaf as thy conscience, and as slow as thy comprehension. Is't not so, thou delectable pippin-face ?"
« In truth, they be exceedingly deaf and slow," answered the scrivener, with a wonderful gravity.
6 The young ones for me-ey, Gregory !" continued the old fellow, with a knowing wink of his eye. They have ears for any thing; and as for going, I doubt them not, at an ambling pace, they would beat any colt that runs. Ilaw ! haw! haw ! Why, Margery, I say."
“ How, now ?- what do you lack, sweet master?” exclaimed a little old woman with a very pointed nose and chin, and sharp grey eyes, who appeared at the door.
66 Another bowl, Margery!” replied Geoffrey Sarsnet. “And, prithee, brew it delicately, with good store of nutmeg and a famous toast in it.”
“ That will I, kind heart, and quickly," answered the old dame, fetching the empty vessel.
“ I’faith, Margery, thou lookest as innocent as a sucking donkey,” said the jolly mercer, with his usual laugh, as he gazed upon her uncomely face.
“ An't please your goodness, I was always noticed for the innocency of my looks,” replied the old dame very demurely.
“ I doubt it not,” cried her master; "and thine innocency was always respected, I'll be bound for it. Haw! haw! haw !”
“ Indeed, you may say that,” responded she. 66 For it is a most notable truth that no longer ago than five-and-twenty year last Martinmas—”
66 Thou must then have seen a good forty years at least an excellent fine age for innocency;" and then the old fellow chuckled again mightily.
“ Fie on you for saying so, and I not fifty yet !" said Margery, her yellow physiognomy blushing with indignation at such an insinuation of her antiquity—the which, however, was no great way from the truth. “No longer ago than five-andtwenty year last Martinmas”
“ Thou wert put in the stocks for a wantonan excellent fine proof of innocency, o' my life!