Cony-Catching - Of a notable knave, who for his cunning deceiving a gentleman of his purse, scorned the name of a cony-catcher, and would needs be termed a fool-taker, as master and beginner of that new found art.

Of a notable knave, who for his cunning deceiving a gentleman of his purse, scorned the name of a cony-catcher, and would needs be termed a fool-taker, as master and beginner of that new found art.

            A crew of these wicked companions being one day met together in Paul's church, (as that is a usual place of their assembly, both to determine on their drifts, as also to speed of many a booty) seeing no likelihood of a good afternoon, so they term it either forenoon or after, when aught is to be done: some dispersed themselves to the plays, other to the bowling alleys, and not past two or three stayed in the church. Quoth one of them, I have vowed not to depart but something or other I'll have before I go: my mind gives me, that this place yet will yield us all our suppers this night, the other holding like opinion with him there likewise walked up and down, looking when occasion would serve for some cash. At length they espied a gentleman toward the law entering in at the little North door, and a country client going with him in very hard talk, the gentleman holding his gown open with his arms on either side as very many do, gave sight of a fair purple velvet purse, which was half put under his girdle: which I warrant you the resolute fellow that would not depart without some thing, had quickly espied. A game, qoth he to his fellows, mark the stand, and so separating themselves walked aloof, the gentleman going to the nether step of the stairs that ascend up into the choir, and there he walked still with his client. Oft this crew of mates met together, and said there was no hope of nipping the bung because he held open his gown so wide, and walked in such an open place. Base knaves, quoth the frolic fellow, if I say I will have it, I must have it, though he that owes it had sworn the contrary. Then looking aside, he spied his trug or quean coming up the church: Away, quoth he to the other, go look you for some other purchase, this wench and I are sufficient for this. They go, he lessons the drab in this sort, that she should to the gentleman, whose name she very well knew, in that she had holp to cozen him once before, & pretending to be sent to him from one he was well acquainted with for his counsel, should give him his fee for avoiding suspicion, and so frame some wrong done her, as well enough she could: when her mate (taking occasion as it served) would work the mean, she should strike, & so they both prevail. The quean well inured with such courses, because she was one of the most skilful in that profession, walked up and down alone in the gentleman's sight, that he might discern she stayed to speak with him, and as he turned toward her, he saw her take money out of her purse, whereby he gathered some benefit was toward him: which made him the sooner dispatch his other client, when she stepping to him, told such a tale of commendations from his very friend, that had sent her to him as she said, that he entertained her very kindly, and giving him his fee, which before her face he put up into his purse, and thrust it under his girdle again: she proceeded to a very sound discourse, whereto he listened with no litle attention. The time serving fit for the fellow's purpose, he came behind the gentleman, and as many times one friend will familiarly with another, clap his hands over his eyes to make him guess who he is, so did this companion, holding his hands fast over the gentleman's eyes, said: who am I? twice or thrice, in which time the drab had gotten the purse and put it up. The gentleman thinking it had been some merry friend of his, reckoned the names of three or four, when letting him go, the crafty knave dissembling a bashful shame of what he had done, said: By my troth sir I cry thee mercy, as I came in at the Church door, I took ye for such a one (naming a man) a very friend of mine, whom you very much resemble: I beseech the be not angry, it was very boldly done of me, but in penance of my fault, so please the to accept it, I will bestow a gallon or two of wine on ye, and so laboured him earnestly to go with him to the tavern, still alleging his sorrow for mistaking him. The gentleman litle suspecting how who-am-I had handled him, seeing how sorry he was, and seeming to be a man of no such base condition: took all in good part, saying: No harm sir, to take one for another, a fault wherein any man may easily err, and so excusing the acceptation of his wine, because he was busy there with a gentlewoman his friend: the treacher with courtesy departed, and the drab (having what she would) shortening her tale, he desiring her to come to his chamber the next morning, went to the place where her copesmate & she met, and not long after, divers other of the crew, who hearing in what manner this act was performed, smiled a good thereat, that she had both got the gentleman's purse, her own money again, and his advice for just nothing. He that had done this tall exploit, in a place so open in view, so hardly to be come by, and on a man that made no mean esteem of his wit: bids his fellows keep the worthless name of a cony-catcher to themselves: for he henceforth would be termed a fool-taker, and such as could imitate this quaint example of his, (which he would set down as an entrance into that art) should not think scorn to become his scholars

            Night drawing on apace, the gentleman returned home, not all this while missing his purse, but being set at supper, his wife entreated a pint of sack, which he minding to send for, drew to his purse, and seeing it gone, what strange looks (beside sighs) were between him and his wife, I leave to your supposing, and blame them not: for as I have heard, there was seven pound in gold, beside thirty shillings and odd white money in the purse. But in the midst of his grief, he remembered him that said, who am I? Wherewith he brake forth into a great laughter, the cause whereof his wife being desirous to know, he declared all that passed between him and the deceiver, as also how soon afterward the quean abreviated her discourse and followed: so by troth wife (quoth he) between who-am-I and the drab, my purse is gone: let his loss teach others to look better to theirs.

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