Cony-Catching - Of a crafty mate, that brought two young men unto a Tavern, where departing with a cup, he left them to pay both for the wine and cup.

Of a crafty mate, that brought two young men unto a Tavern, where departing with a cup, he left them to pay both for the wine and cup.

            A friend of mine sent me this note, and assuring me the truth therof, I thought necessary to set it down amongst the rest: both for the honest simplicity on the one side and most cunning knavery used on the other, and thus it was. Two young men of familiar acquaintance, who delighted much in music, because themselves therein were somewhat expert, as on the virginals, bandore, lute and such like, were one evening at a common inn of this town (as I have heard) where the one of them showed his skill on the virginals, to the no little contentment of the hearers. Now as divers guests of the house came into the room to listen, so among the rest entered an artificial cony-catcher, who as occasion served, in the time of ceasing between the several toys and fancies he played, very much commended his cunning, quick hand, and such qualities praiseworthy in such a professor. The time being come, when these young men craved leave to depart, this politic varlet stepping to them, desired that they would accept a quart of wine at his hand, which he would, most gladly he would, bestow upon them: besides, if it liked him that played on the virginals to instruct, he would help him to so good a place, as happily might advantage him for ever. These kind words, delivered with such honest outward show, caused the young men, whose thoughts were free from any other opinion, than to be as truly and plainly dealt withal as themselves meant, accepted his offer, because he that played on the virginals was desirous to have some good place of service, and here upon to the tavern they go, and being set, the wily companion calleth for two pints of wine, a pint of white, and a pint of claret, casting his cloak upon the table, and falling to his former communication of preferring the young man. The wine is brought, and two cups withal, as is the usual manner: when drinking to them of the one pint, they pledge him, not unthankful for his gentleness. After some time spent in talk, and as he perceived fit for his purpose, he takes the other cup, and tastes the other pint of wine: wherewith he finding fault, that it drank somewhat hard, said, that rose-water and sugar would do no harm, whereupon he leaves his seat, saying he was well acquainted with one of the servants of the house, of whom he could have two pennyworth of rose-water for a penny, and so of sugar likewise, wherefore he would step to the bar unto him, so taking the cup in his hand, he did, the young men never thinking on any such treachery as ensued, in that he seemed an honest man, and beside left his cloak lying on the table by them. No more returns the younker with rose-water and sugar, but stepping out of doors, unseen of any, goes away roundly with the cup. The young men not a little wondering at his long tarrying, by the coming of the servants to see what they wanted, who took no regard of his sudden departure, find themselves there left, not only to pay for the wine, but for the cup also, being rashly supposed by the master and his servants to be co-partners with the treacherous villain: but their honest behaviour well known, as also their simplicity too much abused well witnessed their innocence: notwithstanding they were fain to pay for the cup, as afterward they did, having nothing towards their charge but a threadbare cloak not worth two shillings. Take heed how you drink wine with any such companions.

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