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and when I suddenly call you, come forth, and (without any pause, or staggering) take this basket on your shoulders: that done, trudge with it in all haste, and carry it among the whitsters 1 in Datchet mead, and there empty it in the muddy ditch, close by the Thames' side.
Mrs. Page. You will do it?
Mrs. Ford. I have told them over and over; they lack no direction: Be gone, and come when you are called.
[Exeunt Servants. Mrs. Page. Here comes little Robin.
Enter Robin. Mrs. Ford. How now, my eyas-musket?? what news with you?
Rob. My master Sir John is come in at your back door, mistress Ford; and requests your company.
Mrs. Page. You little Jack-a-lent, have you been true to us?
Rob. Ay, I'll be sworn: My master knows not of your being here; and hath threatened to put me into everlasting liberty, if I tell you of it; for, he swears, he'll turn me away.
Mrs. Page. Thou art a good boy; this secrecy of thine shall be a tailor to thee, and shall make thee a new doublet and hose.- I'll go hide me.
Mrs. Ford. Do so:-Go tell thy master, I am alone. Mistress Page, remember you your cue.
[Exit ROBIN. Mrs. Page. I warrant thee; if I do not act it, hiss me.
[Exit Mrs. PAGE. 1 Bleachers of linen.
? Young sparrow-hawk, here used as a jocular term for a small child.
3 A stuffed puppet thrown at throughout lent, as cocks were at shroyetide. So, in . The Weakest goes to the Wall,' 1600.
• A mere anatomy a Jack of Lent.'
Mrs. Ford. Go to then : we'll use this unwholesome humidity, this gross watry pumpion ;—we'll teach him to know turtles from jays*.
Enter FALSTAFF. Fal. Have I caught thee, my heavenly jewel5? Why, now let me die, for I have lived long enough; this is the period of my ambition: 0 this blessed hour!
Mrs. Ford. O sweet Sir John !
Fal. Mistress Ford, I cannot cog, I cannot prate, mistress Ford. Now shall I sin in my wish: I would thy husband were dead : I'll speak it before the best lord, I would make thee my lady.
Mrs. Ford. I your lady, sir John! alas, I should be a pitiful lady.
Fal. Let the court of France show me such another; I see how thine eye would emulate the diamond: Thou hast the right arched bent of the brow, that becomes the ship-tire, the tire-valiant, or any tire of Venetian admittance.
Mrs. Ford. A plain kerchief, Sir John: my brows become nothing else; nor that well neither.
Fal. By the lord, thou art a traitor to say so: thou would'st make an absolute courtier; and the firm fixture of thy foot would give an excellent mo
4 i. e. honest women from loose ones. The word Putta in Italian signifies both a jay and a loose woman. So, in Cymbeline:
- " some jay of Italy Whose mother was her painting,” &c. 5 This is the first line in the second song of Sidney's Astrophel and Stella.
6 First folio:--beauty.
7 That is, any fanciful head-dress worn by the celebrated beauties of Venice, or approved by them. In how much request the Venetian tire or head-dress was formerly held, appears from Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy, 1624. "Let her have the Spanish gait, the Venetian tire, Italian compliments and endowments.”
tion to thy gait, in a semi-circled farthingale. I see what thou wert, if fortune thy foe' were not: nature is thy friend : Come, thou canst not hide it.
Mrs. Ford. Believe me, there's no such thing in me.
Fal. What made me love thee? let that persuade thee, there's something extraordinary in thee. Come, I cannot cog, and say thou art this and that, like a inany of these lisping hawthorn buds, that come like women in men's apparel, and smell like Bucklersbury9 in simple-time; I cannot: but I love thee; none but thee; and thou deservest it.
Mrs. Ford. Do not betray me, sir; I fear you love mistress Page.
Fal. Thou might'st as well say, I love to walk by the Counter 10-gate; which is as hateful to me as the reek of a lime-kiln 11.
Mrs. Ford. Well, heaven knows how I love you; and you shall one day find it.
Fal. Keep in that mind; I'll deserve it.
8 Fortune my foe is the beginning of a popular old ballad enumerating all the misfortunes that fall on mankind through the caprice of Fortune. The tune was the same with that of Death and the Lady,' to which the metrical lamentations of extraordinary criminals were chanted for two hundred years and more.
9 Formerly chiefly inhabited by druggists, who sold all kinds of herbs green as well as dry.
10 The Counter as a prison was odious to Falstaff. 11 So, in Coriolanus
- Whose breath I hate
As reek o'the rotten fens.” The name of this prison was a frequent subject of jocularity with our ancestors. Shakspeare has availed himself of it in the Comedy of Errors. My old acquaintance Baret records one pleasantly enough in his Alvearie, 1573.—“We saie merrily of him who hath been in the Counter or such like places of prison: He can sing his counter-tenor very well. And in anger we say, I will make you sing a counter-tenor for this geare: meaning imprisonment."
Mrs. Ford. Nay, I must tell you, so you do; or else I could not be in that mind..
Rob. [within.] Mistress Ford, mistress Ford ! here's mistress Page at the door, sweating and blowing, and looking wildly, and would needs speak with you presently.
Fal. She shall not see me; I will ensconce me behind the arras 12.
Mrs. Ford. Pray you, do so; she's a very tattling woman.
[FALSTAFF hides himself.
Enter MISTRESS PAGE and Robin. What's the matter? how now?
Mrs. Page. O mistress Ford, what have you done? You're shamed, you are overthrown, you are undone for ever.
Mrs. Ford. What's the matter, good mistress Page?
Mrs. Page. O well-a-day, mistress Ford ! having an honest man to your husband, to give him such cause of suspicion !
Mrs. Ford. What cause of suspicion ? .
Mrs. Page. What cause of suspicion ?-Out upon you! how am I mistook in you!
Mrs. Ford. Why, alas! what's the matter?
Mrs. Page. Your husband's coming hither, woman, with all the officers in Windsor, to search for a gentleman, that, he says, is here now in the house, by your consent, to take an ill advantage of his absence: You are undone.
Mrs. Ford. Speak louder.-[Aside.]—'Tis not so, I hope.
Mrs. Page. Pray heaven it be not so, that you
13 The spaces left between the walls and wooden frames on which the tapestry was hung, were not more commodious to our ancestors, than to the authors of ancient dramatic pieces.
have such a man here; but 'tis most certain your husband's coming with half Windsor at his heels, to search for such a one. I come before to tell you: If you know yourself clear, why I am glad of it: but if you have a friend here, convey, convey him out. Be not amazed: call all your senses to you; defend your reputation, or bid farewell to your good life for ever.
Mrs. Ford. What shall I do?-There is a gentleman, my dear friend; and I fear not mine own shame, so much as his peril : I had rather than a thousand pound, he were out of the house.
Mrs. Page. For shame, never stand, you had rather, and you had rather ; your husband's here at hand, bethink you of some conveyance: in the house you cannot hide him.-0, how have you deceived me!-Look, here is a basket; if he be of any reasonable stature, he may creep in here; and throw foul linen upon him, as if it were going to bucking: Or, it is whiting-time 13, send him by your two men to Datchet mead.
Mrs. Ford. He's too big to go in there: What shall I do?
Re-enter FALSTAFF. Fal. Let me see't; let me see't! O let me see't! I'll in, I'll in ;-follow your friend's counsel:-I'll in.
Mrs. Page. What! Sir John Falstaff! Are these your letters, knight?
Fal. I love thee, and none but thee 14; help me away: let me creep in here; I'll never. [He goes into the basket; they cover him with
foul linen. 13 Bleaching time.
14 These words, which are characteristic and spoken to Mrs. Page aside, deserve to be restored from the old quarto. He had used the same words before to Mrs. Ford.