OF late time there hath a certain base kind of trade been used, who though divers poor men, & doubtless honest apply themselves to, only to relieve their need: yet are there some notorious varlets do the same, being compacted with such kind of people, as this present treatise manifesteth to the world, and what with outward simplicity on the one side, and cunning close treachery on the other, divers honest citizens and day-labouring men, that resort to such places as I am to speak of, only for recreation as opportunity serveth, have been of late sundry times deceived of their purses. This trade, or rather unsufferable loitering quality, in singing of ballads and songs at the doors of such houses where plays are used, as also in open markets and other places of this city, where is most resort: which is nothing else but a sly fetch to draw many togeather, who listening unto an harmless ditty, afterward walk home to their houses with heavy hearts: from such as are hereof true witnesses to their cost, do I deliver this example.
A subtle fellow, belike emboldened by acquaintance with the former deceit, or else being but a beginner to practice the same, calling certain of his companions together, would try whether he could attain to be master of his art or no, by taking a great many of fools with one train. But let his intent and what else beside, remain to abide the censure after the matter is heard, & come to Gracious street, where this villainous prank was performed. A roguing mate, & such another with him, were there got upon a stall singing of ballads which belike was some pretty toy, for very many gathered about to hear it, & divers buying, as their affections served, drew to their purses & paid the singers for them. The sly mate and his fellows, who were dispersed among them that stood to hear the song, well noted where every man that bought, put up his purse again, and to such as would not buy, counterfeit warning was sundry times given by the rogue and his associate, to beware of the cutpurse, and look to their purses, which made them often feel where their purses were, either in sleeve, hose, or at girdle, to know whether they were safe or no. Thus the crafty copesmates were acquainted with what they most desired, and as they were scattered, by shouldering, thrusting, feigning to let fall something, and other wily tricks fit for their purpose: here one lost his purse, there another had his pocket picked, and to say all in brief, at one instant, upon the complaint of one or two that saw their purses were gone, eight more in the same company, found themselves in like predicament. Some angry, others sorrowful, and all greatly discontented, looking about them, knew not who to suspect or challenge, in that the villains themselves that had thus beguiled them, made show that they had sustained like loss. But one angry fellow, more impatient then all the rest, he falls upon the ballad singer, and beating him with his fists well favouredly, says, if he had not listened his singing, he had not lost his purse, and therefore would not be otherwise persuaded, but that they two and the cutpurses were compacted together. The rest that had lost their purses likewise, and saw that so many complain together: they jump in opinion with the other fellow, & begin to tug & hale the ballad singers, when one after one, the false knaves began to shrink away with the purses. By means of some officer then being there present, the two rogues were had before a Justice, and upon his discreet examination made, it was found, that they and the cutpurses were compacted together, and that by this unsuspected villainy, they had deceived many. The fine fool-taker himself, with one or two more of that company, was not long after apprehended: when I doubt not but they had their reward answerable to their deserving: for I hear of their journey westward, but not of their return<43>: let this forewarn those that listen singing in the streets.