Cony-Catching - The discovery of the Courbing Law.

The discovery of the Courbing Law.

            The Courber, which the common people call the hooker, is he that with a courb (as they term it) or hook, do pull out of a window any loose cloth, apparel or else any other houshould stuff whatsoever, which stolen parcels, they in their art call snappings: to the performance of this law there be required, only two persons, the Courber and the Warp: the courber his office is to spy in the day time fit places where his trade may be practised at night, and coming to any window if it be open, then he hath his purpose; if shut, then growing into the nature of the black art, hath his trickers, which are engines of iron so cunningly wrought, that he will cut a bar of iron in two with them so easily, that scarcely shall the standers-by hear him: then when he hath the window open and spies any fat snappings worth the curbing, then straight he sets the warp to watch, who hath a long cloak to cover whatsoever he gets, then doth the other thrust in a long hook some nine foot in length (which he calleth a courb) that hath at the end a crook with three tines turned contrary so that 'tis unpossible to miss if there be any snappings abroad: Now this long hook they call a courb, and because you shall not wonder how they carry it for being espied, know this that it is made with joints like an angle rod, and can be conveyed into the form of a truncheon & worn in the hand like a walking staff, until they come to their purpose and then they let it out at the length and hook or courb whatsoever is loose and within the reach, and then he conveys it to the warp, and from thence (as they list) their snappings goes to the broker or to the bawd, and there they have as ready money for it as merchants have for their ware in the exchange: beside, there is a Diver, which is in the very nature of the courber, for as he puts in a hook, so the other puts in at the window some little figging boy who plays his part notably, and perhaps the youth is so well instructed that he is a scholar in the black art, and can pick a lock if it be not too cross-warded, and deliver to the diver what snappings he finds in the chamber. Thus you hear what the courber doth and the diver, and what inconvenience grows to many by their base villainies: therefore I do wish all men servants and maids, to be careful for their masters' commodities, and to leave no lose ends abroad, especially in chambers where windows open to the street, least the courber take them as snappings, and convey them to the cozening broker.

            Let this suffice, and now I will recreate your wits with a merry Tale or two.

Of a Courber, & how Cunningly he was Taken.

            IT fortuned of late that a courber & his warp went walking in the dead of the night to spy out some window open for their purpose, & by chance came by a nobleman's house about London and saw the window of the porter's lodge open, and looking in, spied fat snappings and bade his warp watch carefuly for there would be purchase, & with that took his courb and thrust it into the chamber, and the porter lying in his bed was awake & saw all, and so was his bedfellow that was yeoman of the wine-seller, the porter stole out of his bed to mark what would be done, and the first snapping the courber light on, was his livery coat, as he was drawing it to the window, the porter easily lifted it off and so the courber drew his hook in vain, the whilst his bedfellow stole out of the chamber and raised up two or three more and went about to take them, but still the rogue he plied his business and lighted on a gown that he used to sit in in the porters lodge, and warily drew it, but when it came at the window, the porter drew it off so lightly that the hooker perceived it not: then when he saw his courb would take no hold, he swore and chafed and told the warp he had hold of two good snaps and yet missed them both and that the fault was in his courb, then he fell to sharping and hammering of the hook to make it keep better hold, and in again he thrusts it and lights upon a pair of buff hose, but when he had drawn them to the window the porter took them off again, which made the courber almost mad, & swore he thought the devil was abroad tonight he had such hard fortune: nay says the yeoman of the seller, there is three abroad, and we are come to fetch you and your hooks to hell: so they apprehended these base rogues & carried them into the porter's lodge and made that their prison. In the morning a crew of gentlemen in the house, sat for judges (in that they would not trouble their Lord with such filthy caterpillars) and by them they were found guilty, and condemned to abide forty blows apiece with a bastinado, which they had solemnly paid, and so went away without any further damage.

Of the Subtlety of a Curber in Cozening a Maid.

            A Merry jest and a subtle, was reported to me of a cunning courber, who had apparelled himself marvelous brave, like some good well-favoured young gentleman, and instead of a man had his warp to wait upon him: this smooth faced rogue comes into Moorfields, and caused his man to carry a pottle of hippocras under his cloak, and there had learned out, amongst others that was drying of clothes, a very well-favoured maid that was there with her basket of linen, what her master was, where she dwelt, and what her name: having gotten this intelligence, to this maid he goes, and courteously salutes her, and after some pretty chat, tells her how he saw her sundry times at her master's door, and was so besotted with her beauty, that he had made inquiry what her qualities were, which by the neighbours he generally heard to be so virtuous, that his desire was the more inflamed, and thereupon in sign of good will, and in further acquaintance he had brought her a pottle of hippocras: the maid seeing him a good proper man, took it very kindly, and thanked him, and so they drunk the wine, and after a little lovers' prattle, for that time they parted.

            The maid's heart was set on fire, that a gentleman was become a suitor unto her, and she began to think better of herself than ever she did before, and waxed so proud that her other suitors were counted too base for her, and there might be none welcome but this new come gentleman her lover. Well, divers times they appointed meetings, that they grew very familiar, and he oftentimes would come to her master's house, when all but she and her fellow maids were abed so that he and the warp his man did almost know every corner of the house: It fortuned that so long he dallied, that at length he meant earnest, but not to marry the maid whatsoever he had done else, and coming into the fields to her on a washing day, saw a mighty deal of fine linen worth twenty pound as he conjectured: whereupon he thought this night to set down his rest, and therefore he was very pleasant with his lover, and told her that that night after her master and mistress were to bed he would come and bring a bottle of sack with him and drink with her: the maid glad at these news, promised to sit up for him and so they parted: till about ten o'clock at night, when he came and brought his man with him, and one other courber with his tools, who should stand without the doors. To be brief, welcome he came, and so welcome as a man might be to a maid: he that had more mind to spy the clothes, then to look on her favour, at last perceived them in a parlour that stood to the street-ward, and there would the maid have had him sit, no sweeting quoth he, it is too near the street, we can neither laugh nor be merry but every one that passeth by must hear us: upon that they removed into another room, and pleasant they were, and tippled the sack round, till all was out, and the gentleman swore that he would have another pottle, and so sent his man, who told the other courber that stood without, where the window was he should work at, & away goes he for more sack and brings it very orderly, and then to their cups they fall again, while the courber without had not left one rag of linen behind. Late it grew, and the morning began to wear grey, and away goes this courber and his man, leaving the maid very pleasant with his flattering promises until such time as poor soul she went into the parlour, and missed all her master's linen, then what a sorrowful heart she had, I refer to them that have grieved at the like loss.

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