Cony-Catching - Of an honest householder which was cunningly deceived by a subtle companion, that came to hire a chamber for his master.

Of an honest householder which was cunningly deceived by a subtle companion, that came to hire a chamber for his master.

            NOT far from Charing Cross dwelleth an honest young man, who being not long since married, and having more rooms in his house than himself occupieth, either for term time, or the Court lying so near, as divers do, to make a reasonable commodity, and to ease house-rent, which (as the world goeth now is none of the cheapest) letteth forth a chamber or two, according as it may be spared. In an evening but a while since, came one in the manner of a serving-man to this man and his wife, and he must needs have a chamber for his master, offering so largely, as the bargain was soon concluded between them. His intent was to have fingered some booty in the house, as by the sequel it may be likeliest gathered: but belike no fit thing lying abroad, or he better regarded than happily he would be, his expectation that way was frustrate: yet as a resolute cony-catcher indeed, that scorneth to attempt without some success, and rather will prey upon small commodity, than return to his fellows disgraced with a lost labour: he summons his wits together, and by a smooth tale over-reached both the man and his wife. He tells them, that his master was a captain late come from the Sea, and had costly apparel to bring thither, which for more easy carriage, he entreats them lend him a sheet to bind it up in: they suspecting no ill, because he required their boy should go with him to help him carry the stuff, the good wife steps unto her Chest, where her linen lay finely sweetened with roseleaves and lavender, and lends him a very good sheet indeed. This success made him bold to venture a little further, and then he tells them, his master had a great deal of broken sugar, and fine spices that lay negligently abroad in his lodging as it was brought from the ship, all which he was assured his master would bestow on them, so he could devise how to get it brought thither.

            These liberal promises, prevailing with them that lightly believed, and withal were somewhat covetous of the sugar and spices: The woman demanded if a couple of pillow-beres would not serve to bring the sugar and spices in? Yes marry, (quoth he) so the sugar may best be kept by itself, and the spices by themselves. And (quoth he) because there are many crafty knaves abroad, (grieving that any should be craftier than himself) and in the evening the linen might quickly be snatched from the boy: For the more safety, he would carry the sheet and pillow-beres himself, and within an hour or little more, return with the boy again, because he would have all things ready before his master came, who (as he said) was attending on the Council at the Court. The man and his wife crediting his smooth speeches, sends their boy with him, and so along toward Ivy-bridge go they. The Cony-catcher seeing himself at free liberty, that he had gotten a very good sheet, and two fine pillow-beres, steps to the wall, as though he would make water, bidding the boy go fair and softly on before. The boy doubting nothing, did as he willed him, when presently he stepped into some house hard by fit to entertain him: and never since was he, his master, the sugar, spices, or the linen heard off. Many have been in this manner deceived, as I hear, let this then give them warning to beware of any such unprofitable guests.

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