Northward Ho – Act 3, Scene 2

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Enter LEAPFROG and SQUIRREL.

  LEAPFROG
Now, Squirrel, wilt thou make us acquainted with the jest thou promis’d to tell us of?

 SQUIRREL
I will discover it, not as a Derbyshire woman discovers her great teeth, in laughter, but softly as a gentleman courts a wench behind an arras; and this it is:  young Greenshield’s sister lie in my master’s garden-house here n Morefields.

 LEAPFROG
Right, what of this?

 SQUIRREL
Marry, sir, if the gentlewoman be not his wife, he commits incest, for I’m sure he lies with her every night.

 LEAPFROG
All this I know, but to the rest.

 SQUIRREL
I will tell thee, the most politic trick of a woman that ere made a man’s face look wither’d and pale like the tree in Cuckold’s Haven in a great snow, and this it is:  my mistress makes her husband believe that she walks in her sleep a’ nights, and to con firm this belief in him, sundry times she hath risen out of her bed, unlock’d all the doors, gone from chamber to chamber, open’d her chests, toss’d about her linen, and when he hath wak’d and miss’d her, coming to question why she conjur’d thus at midnight, he hath found her asleep; marry it was cat’s sleep, for you shall hear what prey she watch’d for.

 LEAPFROG
Good; forth.

 SQIRREL
I overheard her last night talking with thy master, and she promis’d him that as soon as her husband was asleep, she would walk according to her custom, and come to his chamber, marry she would do it so puritanically, so secretly I mean, that nobody should hear of it.

 LEAPFROG
Is’t possible?

 SQUIRREL
Take but that corner and stand alone, and thine eyes shall witness it.

 LEAPFROG
O intolerable wit!  What hold can any man take of a woman’s honesty?

 SQUIRREL
Hold! no more hold then of a bull ‘nointed with soap, and bathed with a shoal of fiddlers in Staffordshire.  Stand close, I hear her coming.                         [They withdraw.

Enter KATE.

 KATE
What a filthy knave was the shoemaker, that made my slippers; what a creaking they keep.  Oh Lord! if there be any power that can make a woman’s husband sleep soundly at a pinch, as I have often read in foolish poetry that there is, now, now, and it be thy will, let him dream some fine dream or other, that he’s made a knight, or a nobleman, or somewhat whilst I go and take  but two kisses from sweet Featherstone.                     [Exit.

 SQUIRREL
‘Sfoot, he may well dream he’s made a knight, for I’ll be hang’d if she do not dub him.

Enter GREENSHIELD.

 GREENSHIELD
Was there ever any walking spirit like to my wife?  What reason should there be in nature for this?  I will question some physician, nor hear neither.  Ud’s life, I would laugh if she were in Master Featherstone’s chamber; she would fright him.  Master Featherstone!  Master Featherstone!

 FEATHERSTONE
[Within.] Ha, how now, who calls?

 GREENSHIELD
Did you leave your door open last night?

 FEATHERSTONE
[Within.] I know not.  I think my boy did.

 GREENSHIELD
God’s light, she’s there then!  Will you know the jest?  My wife hath her old tricks.  I’ll hold my life my wife’s in your chamber.  Rise out of your bed and see and you can feel her.

  SQUIRREL
He will feel her, I warrant you.

 GREENSHIELD
Have you her, sir?

 FEATHERSTONE
[Within] Not yet, sir.  She’s here, sir.

 GREENSHIELD
So I said even now to myself, before God, la!  Take her up in your arms and bring her hither softly for fear of waking her.

Enter FEATHERSTONE and KATE in his arms.

I never knew the like of this, before God, la!  Alas, poor Kate, look before God.  She’s asleep with her eyes open; pretty little rogue.  I’ll wake her, and make her asham’d of it.

 FEATHERSTONE
Oh, you’ll make her sicker then.

 GREENSHIELD
I warrant you, would all women thought no more hurt then thou dost now, sweet villain, Kate, Kate.

 KATE
I long’d for the merry thought of a pheasant.

 GREENSHIELD
She talks in her sleep.

 KATE
And the foul-gutted tripe-wife had got it, and eat half of it, and my colour went and came, and my stomach wambled till I was ready to sound; but a midwife perceived it, and mark’d which way my eyes went, and help’d me to it, but lord, how I pick’d it; ‘twas the sweetest meat methought.

 SQUIRREL
O, politic mistress!

 GREENSHIELD
Why, Kate, Kate?

 KATE
Ha, ha, ha, I beshrew your heart.  Lord, where am I?

 GREENSHIELD
I pray thee, be not frightened.

 KATE
O, I am sick, I am sick, I am sick!  O, how my flesh trembles! Oh, some of the Angelica water.  I shall have the mother presently.

 GREENSHIELD
Hold down her stomach, good Master Featherstone, while I fetch some.     [Exit.

 FEATHERSTONE
Well dissembled, Kate.

 KATE
Pish, I am like some of your ladies that can be sick when they have no stomach to lie with their husbands.

 FEATHERSTONE
What mischievous fortune is this?  We’ll have a journey to Ware, Kate, to redeem this misfortune.

 KATE
Well, cheaters do not win all ways; that woman that will entertain a friend must as well provide a closet or back door for him, as a feather bed.

 FEATHERSTONE
By my troth, I pity thy husband.

 KATE
Pity, him, no man dares call him cuckold, for he wear satin.  Pity him, he that will pull down a man’s sign, and set up horns; there’s law for him.

 FEATHERSTONE
Be sick again; your husband comes.

Enter GREENSHIELD with a broken shin.

 GREENSHIELD
I have the worst luck!  I think I get more bumps and shrewd turns i’th’ dark.  How does she, Master Featherstone?

 FEATHERSTONE
Very ill, sir; she’s troubled with the mother extremely; I held down her belly even now and I might feel it rise.

 KATE
Oh, lay me in my bed, I beseech you.

 GREENSHIELD
I will find a remedy for this walking, if all the doctors in town can sell it’ a thousand pound to a penny she spoil not her face, or break her neck, or catch a cold that she may ne’er claw off again.  How dost, wench?

 KATE
A little recover’d.  Alas, I have so troubled that gentleman!

 FEATHERSTONE
None i’th’ world, Kate.  May I do you any further service?

 KATE
[Aside.] And I were where I would be, in your bed… [Aloud.] Pray, pardon me, wast you, Master Featherstone? [Aside.] …I should be well then.

 SQUIRREL
Mark how she wrings him by the fingers.

 KATE
Good night; pray you, give the gentleman thanks for patience.

 GREENSHIELD
Good night, sir.

 FEATHERSTONE
You have a shrewd blow; you were best have it search’d.

 GREENSHIELD
A scratch, a scratch.                                         [Exeunt GREENSHIELD and KATE.

 FEATHERSTONE
Let me see what excuse should I frame, to get this wench forth a town with me:  I’ll persuade her husband to take physic and presently have a letter framed from his father-in-law, to be deliver’d that morning, for his wife to come and receive some small parcel of money in Enfield Chase at a keeper’s that is her uncle, then, sir, he not being in case to travel, will entreat me to accompany his wife; we’ll lie at Ware all night, and the next morning to London.  I’ll go strike a tinder and frame a letter presently.  [Exit.

 SQUIRREL
And I’ll take pains to discover all this to my master, old Mayberry; there goes a report a good while.  My master hath used them kindly because they have been over familiar with his wife, but I see which way Featherstone looks.  ‘Sfoot, there’s ne’er a gentleman of them al shall gull a citizen, and think to go scot-free, though your commons shrink for this be but secret, and my master shall entertain thee, make thee instead of handling false dice finger nothing but gold and silver wag; an old serving-man turns to a young beggar, whereas a young prentice may turn to an old alderman; wilt be secret?

 LEAPFROG
O God, sir! as secret as rushes in an old lady’s chamber.             [Exeunt.

Proceed to the next scene

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