How like you of this cony-catching Mr. R.G? But because now we have entered talk of tailors, let me have a bout with them, for they be mighty cony-catchers in sundry kinds. I pray you what poet hath so many fictions, what painter so many fancies, as a tailor hath fashions, to show the variety of his art? changing every week the shape of his apparel into new forms, or else he is counted a mere botcher. The Venetian and the galligaskins is stale, and trunk-slop<78> out of use, the round hose bum-basted close to the breech, and ruffed about the neck with a curl, is now common to every cullion in the country, & doublets be they never so quaintly quilted yet forsooth the swain at plough must have his belly as side as the courtier, that he may piss out at a button-hole at the least. And all these strange devices doth the tailor invent to make poor gentlemen conies: for if they were tied to one fashion, then still might they know how much velvet to send to the tailor, and then would his filching abate. But to prevent them, if he have a French belly, he will have a Spanish skirt, and an Italian wing, seamed and quartered at the elbows, as if he were a soldado ready to put on an armour of proof to fight in Mile-end under the bloody ensign of the Duke of Shoreditch. Thus will the fantastic tailor make poor gentlemen conies, & ever ask more velvet by a yard and a half than the doublet in conscience requires. But herein lies the least part of their cony-catching, for those grand tailors that have all the right properties of the mystery, which is to be knavish, thievish, and proud, take this course with courtiers and courtly gentlemen, the stade outside, inside, lace, drawing out, and making, and then set down their parcels in a bill, which they so overprice, that some of them with very pricking up of doublets, have fleeced young gentleman of whole lordships, & call you not this cony-catching, M. R.G.? To use the figure pleonasmos<79>, hisce oculis, with these eyes I have seen tailors' prentices sell as much vails<80> in a week in cloth of gold, velvet, satin, taffeta, and lace as hath been worth thirty shillings, and these ears hath heard them scorn when their vails came but to ten shillings, and yet there were four prentices in the shop. If the prentices could lurch so mightily, then what did the master? But you must imagine this was a woman's tailor, that could in a gown put seventeen yards of ell-broad taffeta: blest be the French sleeves & breech farthingales that grants them liberty to cony-catch so mightily. But this I talk of our London and courtly tailors, but even the poor prick-louse the country tailor, that hath scarce any more wealth than his thimble, his needle, his pressing iron and his shears, will stitch as well as the proudest of that trade in England; they will to snip and snap that all the reversion goes into hell. Now sir, this hell is a place that the tailors have under their shop-board, where all their stolen shreds is thrust, and I pray you, call you not this pilling & polling and flat cony-catching, Master R.G.? But because you may see whether I speak truth or no, I'll tell you a merry jest of a tailor in York, not far from Petergate, done about fourteen year ago, and thus it fell out.
In Yorkshire there dwelt a woman's tailor famous for his art, but noted for his filching, which although he was light-fingered, yet for the excellency of his workmanship he was much sought to, and kept more journeymen, than any five in that city did: and albeit he would have his share of velvet, satin, or cloth of gold, yet they must find no fault with him lest he half spoiled their garment in the making. Besides, he was passing proud, and had as haughty a look as if his father had with the devil looked over Lincoln: his ordinary doublets were taffeta, cut in the summer upon a wrought shirt, and his cloak faced with velvet, his stockings of the purest Granado silk, with a French paned hose of the richest biliment lace<81>, a beaver hat turfed with velvet, so quaintly as if he had been some Espagnolo tricked up to go court some quaint courtesan, insomuch that a plain serving-man once meeting him in this attire going through Walmgate to take air in the field thought him at the least some esquire, and off with his hat and gave his worship the time of the day; this clawed this glorioso by the elbow so that if a tavern had been by, a pottle of wine should have been the least reward for a largess to the simple serving-man, but this bowical huff-snuff, not content to pass away with one worship, began to hold the fellow in prate, and to question whose man he was. The fellow courteously making a low cringe said: May it please your Worship, I serve such a gentleman dwelling in such a place: as thus he answered him, he spied in the gentleman's bosom a needle and a thread, whereupon the fellow simply said to him: Fie your Worship's man in looking this morning to your doublet, hath left a needle and a thread on your Worship's breast, you had best take if off lest some think your Worship to be a tailor. The tailor not thinking the fellow had spoken simply, but frumped him, made this reply: What, saucy knave, dost thou mock me? what if I be a tailor? what's that to thee? wer't not for shame I would lend thee a box on the ear or two: the fellow being plain, but peevish and an old knave, gathering by his own words that he was a tailor, said, fie, so God help me, I mock you not, but are you a tailor? Aye marry am I quoth he: Why then, says the serving-man, all my caps, knees, and worships, I did to thy apparel, and therefore, master, thank me, for it 'twas against my will, but now I know thee, farewell good honest pricklouse, and look not behind you, for if you do, I'll swinge you with my scabbard of my sword till I can stand over thee: away went Monsieur Magnifico frowning, and the servingman went into the city laughing.
But all this is but to describe the nature of the man, now to the secrets of his art: all the gentlewomen of the country cried out upon him, yet could they not part from him because he so quaintly fitted their humours: at last it so fell out, that a gentlewoman not far from Ferrybridge had a taffeta gown to make, and he would have no less at those days than eleven ells of ell-broad taffeta, so she bought so much, and ready to send it, she said to her husband in hearing of all her serving-men: What a spite is this, seeing that I must send always to yonder knave tailor two yards more than is necessary, but how can we amend us? all the rest are but botchers in respect of him, and yet nothing grieves me but we can never take him with it, & yet I and mine have stood by while he hath cut my gown out: a pleasant fellow that was new come to serve her husband, one that was his clerk and a pretty scholar, answered, Good mistress give me leave to carry your taffeta and see it cut out, and if I spy not out his knavery laugh at me when I come home: marry, I prithee, do, quoth his M. and mistress, but whatsoever thou seest say nothing lest he be angry and spoil my gown; let me alone mistress quoth he, and so away he goes to York, & coming to this tailor found him in his shop, & delivered him the taffeta with this message, that his mistress had charged him to see it cut out, not that she suspected him, but that else he would let it lie long by him and take other work in hand: the tailor scornfully said he should, & asked him if he had any spectacles about him? no, quoth the fellow, my sight is young enough, I need no glasses: if you do put them on quoth he, and see if you can see me steal a yard of taffeta out of your mistress' gown: and so taking his shears in hand, he cut it out so nimbly that he cut three foreparts to the gown, and four side pieces, that by computation the fellow guessed he had stolen two ells & a half: but say nothing he durst. As soon as he had done, there came in more gentlemen's men with work, that the tailor was very busy & regarded not the serving-man, who seeing the tailor's cloak lying loose, lifted it away & carried it home with him to his mistress' house, where he discoursed to his master & his mistress what he had seen, & how he had stole the tailor's cloak, not to that intent to filch, but to try an experiment upon him: for master quoth he, when he brings home my mistress' gown, he will complain of the loss of his cloak, & then see, do you but tell him that I am experienced in magic, & can cast a figure, and will tell him where his cloak is without fail: say but this, sir, and let me alone; they all agreed, & resolved to try the wit of their young man. But leaving him, again to our tailor: who when he had dispatched his customers, was ready to walk with one of them to the tavern, & then missed his cloak, searched all about, but find it he could not, neither knew he whom to suspect: so with much grief he passed it over, & when he had ended the gentlewoman's gown (because she was a good customer of his) he himself took his nag & rid home withal: welcome he was to the gentlewoman and her husband, and the gown was passing fit, so that it could not be amended, insomuch that the gentlewoman praised it and highly thanked him. Oh mistress (quoth he) though it is a good gown to you, 'tis an infortunate gown to me, for that day your man brought the taffeta I had a cloak stolen that stood me but one fortnight before in four pound, and never since could I hear any word of it. Truly, said the gentleman, I am passing sorry for your loss, but that same man that was at your house is passing skilful in necromancy, and if any man in England can tell you where your cloak is, my man can: marry, quoth he, and I will give him a brace of angels for his labour: so the fellow was called and talked with all, and at his mistress' request was content to do it, but he would have his twenty shillings in hand, and promised if he told him not where it was, who had it, and caused it to be delivered to him again, for his two angels he would give him ten pounds: upon this the tailor willingly gave him the money, and up went he into a closet like a learned clerk, and there was three or four hours laughing at the tailor, he thinking he had been all this while at Caurake. At last down comes the fellow with a figure drawn in a paper in his hand, & smiling called for a Bible, and told the tailor he would tell him who had his cloak, where it was, & help him to it again, so that he would be sworn on a Bible to answer to all questions that he demanded of him faithfully: the tailor granted and swore on a Bible: then he commanded all should go out but his master, his mistress, the tailor, and himself. Then he began thus: well, you have taken your oath on the holy Bible, tell me, quoth he, did you not cut three foreparts for my mistress' gown? At this the tailor blushed & began to be in a chafe and would have flung out of the door, but the serving-man said: Nay, never start, man, for before thou goest out of this parlour, if thou deniest it, I will bring the taffeta thou stolest into this place wrapped in thine own cloak: & therefore answer directly to my question lest to your discredit I show you the trick of a scholar: the tailor, half afraid, said he did so indeed: and quoth he, did you not cut four side pieces where you have cut but two? yes all is true quoth the tailor; why then as true it is, that to deceive the deceiver is no deceit, for as truly as you stole my mistress' taffeta, so truly did I steal your cloak and here it is. At this the tailor was amazed, the gentleman and his wife laughed heartily, & so all was turned to a merriment; the tailor had his cloak again, the gentlewoman her taffeta, and the serving-man twenty shillings: was not this pretty and witty cony-catching, M. R.G.?