There are a number of my companions yet living in England, who being men for all companies, will by once conversing with a man, so draw him to them, that he shall think nothing in the world too dear for them, and never be able to part from them, until he hath spent all he hath.
If he be lasciviously addicted, they have Aretine's Tables<47> at their fingers' ends, to feed him on with new kind of filthiness: they will come in with Rous the French Painter, and what unusual vein in bawdry he had: not a whore or quean about the town but they know, and can tell you her marks, and where and with whom she hosts.
If they see you covetously bent, they will tell you wonders of the philosophers' stone, and make you believe they can make gold of goose-grease: only you must be at some two or three hundred pounds cost, or such a trifling matter, to help to set up their stills, and then you need not care where you beg your bread, for they will make you do little better if you follow their prescriptions.
Discourse with them of countries, they will set you on fire with travelling, yea what place is it they will not swear they have been in, and I warrant you tell such a sound tale, as if it were all Gospel they spake: not a corner in France but they can describe. Venice, why it is nothing, for they have intelligence from it every hour, & at every word will come in with Strado Curtizano, and tell you such miracles of Madam Padilia and Romana Imperia,<48> that you will be mad till you be out of England. And if he see you are caught with that bait, he will make as though he would leave you, and feign business about the Court, or that such a nobleman sent for him, when you will rather consent to rob all your friends, than be severed from him one hour. If you request his company to travel, he will say In faith I cannot tell: I would sooner spend my life in your company than in any man's in England, but at this time, I am not so provided of money as I would, therefore I can make you no promise: and if a man should adventure upon such a journey without money, it were miserable and base, and no man will care for us. Tut, money say you (like a liberal young master) take no care for that, for I have so much land and I will sell it, my credit is so much, and I will use it: I have the keeping of a Cousin's chamber of mine, which is an old Counsellor, & he this vacation time is gone down into the country, we will break up his study, rifle his chests, dive in to the bottom of his bags, but we will have to serve our turn: rather than fail, we will sell his books, pawn his bedding and hangings, & make riddance of all his houshold stuff to set us packing. To this he listens a little, & says: These are some hopes yet, but if he should go with you, and you have money & he none, you will domineer over him at your pleasure, and then he were well set up, to leave such possibilities in England, and be made a slave in another country: With that you offer to part halves with him, or put all you have into his custody, before he should think you meant otherwise then well with him. He takes you at your offer, and promiseth to husband it so for you, that you shall spend with the best and yet not waste so much as you do: which makes you (meaning simply) put him in trust and give him the purse: Then all a boon voyage into the low Countries you trudge, so to travel up into Italy, but per varios casus & tot discrimina rerum,<49> in a town of garrison he leaves you, runs away with your money, and makes you glad to betake yourself to provant, and to be a gentleman of a company. If he fear you will make after him, he will change his name, and if there be any better gentleman than other in the country where he sojourns, his name he will borrow, and creep into his kindred, or it shall cost him a fall, and make him pay sweetly for it in the end, if he take not the better heed. Thus will he be sure to have one ass or other afoot, on whom he may prey, and ever to have new inventions to keep himself in pleasing.
There is no art but he will have a superficial sight into, and put down every man with talk. and when he hath uttered the most he can, he makes men believe that he knows ten times more than he will put into their heads, which are secrets not to be made common to every one.
He will persuade you he hath twenty receipts of love powders: that he can frame a ring with such a quaint device, that if a wench put it on her finger, she shall not choose but follow you up and down the streets.
If you have an enemy that you would fain be rid of, he'll teach you to poison him with your very looks. To stand on the top of Paul's with a burning glass in your hand, and cast the Sun with such a force on a man's face that walks under, that it shall strike him stark dead more violently than lightning.
To fill a letter full of needles, which shall be laid after such a mathematical order, that when he opens it to whom it is sent, they shall all spring up and fly into his body as forceably as if they had been blown up with gunpowder, or sent from a caliver's mouth like small shot.
To conclude, he will have such probable reasons to procure belief to his lies, such a smooth tongue to deliver them, and set them forth with such a grace, that a very wise man he should be that did not swallow the gudgeon at his hands.
In this sort have I known sundry young gentlemen of England trained forth to their own destruction, which makes me the more willing to forewarn other of such base companions.
Wherefore, for the rooting out of these sly insinuating mothworms, that eat men out of their substance unseen, and are the decay of the forwardest gentlemen and best wits: it were to be wished that Amasis' Law<50> were revived, who ordained that every man at the year's end should give account to the magistrate how he lived, and he that did not so, or could not make an account of an honest life, to be put to death as a felon without favour or pardon.
Ye have about London, that (to the disgrace of gentlemen) live gentleman-like of themselves, having neither money nor land, nor any lawful means to maintain them: some by play, and they go a-mumming into the country all Christmas time with false dice, or if there be any place where gentlemen or merchants frequent in the city or town corporate, thither will they, either disguised like young merchants, or substantial citizens, and draw them all dry that ever deal with them.
There are some do nothing but walk up & down Paul's, or come to men's shops to buy wares, with budgets of writings under their arms, & these will talk with any man about their suits in law, and discourse unto them how these and these men's bonds they have for money, that are the chiefest dealers in London, Norwich, Bristol, and such like places, & complain that they cannot get one penny. Why if such a man doth owe it you, (will some man say that knows him) I durst buy the debt of you, let me get it of him as I can: O sayeth my budget man, I have his hand and seal to show, look here else, and with that plucks out a counterfeit bond, (as all his other writings are,) and reads it to him: whereupon, for half in half they presently compound, and after he hath that ten pound paid him for his bond of twenty, besides the forfeiture, or so forth, he says faith these lawyers drink me as dry as a sieve, and I have money to pay at such a day, and I doubt I shall not be able to compass it. Here are all the leases and evidences of my land lying in such a shire, could you lend me forty pound on them till the next Term, or for some six months? and it shall then be repaid with interest, or I'll forfeit my whole inheritance, which is better worth than a hundred marks a year.
The wealthy gentleman, or young novice, that hath store of crowns lying by him, greedy of such a bargain, thinking (perhaps) by one clause or other to defeat him of all he hath, lends him money, and takes a fair Statute Merchant<51>of his lands before a judge; but when all comes to all, he hath no more land in England then a younger brother's inheritance, nor doth any such great occupier as he feigneth, know him: much less owe him any money: whereby my covetous master is cheated forty or fifty pound thick at one clap.
Not unlike to these are they, that coming to ordinaries about the Exchange, where merchants do table for the most part, will say they have two or three ships of coals new come from Newcastle, and wish they could light on a good chapman, that would deal for them altogether. What's your price saith one? What's your price? saith another. He holds them at the first at a very high rate, and sets a good face on it, as though he had such traffic indeed, but afterward comes down so low, that every man strives who shall give him earnest first, and ere he be aware, he hath forty shillings clapped in his hand, to assure the bargain to some one of them: he puts it up quietly, and bids them enquire for him at such a sign and place, where he never came, signifying also his name: when in troth he is but a cozening companion, and no such man to be found. Thus goes he clear away with forty shillings in his purse for nothing, and they unlike to see him any more.