IT hath been used as a common byword, a crafty knave needeth no broker, whereby it should appear that there can hardly be a craftier knave than a broker. Suspend your judgements till you have heard this discourse ensuing, & then as you please censure both the one and the other.
A lady of the country sent up a servant whom she might well put in trust, to provide her of a gown answerable to such directions as she had given him, which was of good price, as may appear by the outside and lace, whereto doubtless was every other thing agreeable. For the tailor had seventeen yards of the best black satin that could be got for money, and so much gold lace, beside spangles, as valued thirteen pound, what else was beside I know not, but let it suffice thus much was lost, and therefore let us to the manner how.
The satin and the lace being brought to the tailor that should make the gown, and spread abroad on the shop board to be measured, certain good fellows of the cony-catching profession chanced to go by, who seeing so rich lace, and so excellent good satin, began to commune with themselves how they might make some purchase of what they had seen: and quickly it was to be done or not at all. As ever in a crew of this quality, there is some one more ingenious and politic then the rest, or at leastwise that covets to make himself more famous then the rest, so this instant was there one in this company that did swear his cunning should deeply deceive him, but he would have both the lace and satin. When having laid the plot with his companions, how and which way their help might stand him in stead, this way they proceeded.
Well noted they the serving-man that stood in the shop with the tailor, and gathered by his diligent attendance, that he had some charge of the gown there to be made, wherefore by him must they work their treachery intended, and use him as an instrument to beguile himself. One of them sitting on a seat near the tailor's stall, could easily hear the talk that passed between the serving-man and the tailor, where among other communication, it was concluded that the gown should be made of the self-same fashion in every point, as another lady's was who then lay in the City, and that measure being taken by her, the same would fitly serve the lady for whom the gown was to be made. Now the serving-man intended to go speak with the lady, and upon a token agreed between them (which he carelessly spake so loud, that the cony-catcher heard it) he would as her leisure served, certify the tailor, and he should bring the stuff with him, to have the lady's opinion both of the one and the other.
The serving-man being gone about his affairs, the subtle mate that had listened to all their talk, acquaints his fellows both with the determination and token appointed for the tailor's coming to the lady. The guide and leader to all the rest for villainy, though there was no one but was better skilled in such matters than honesty: he appoints that one of them should go to the tavern, which was not far off, and laying two faggots on the fire in a room by himself, and a quart of wine filled for countenance of the treachery: another of that crew should give attendance on him, as if he were his master, being bareheaded, and sir, humbly answering at every word. To the tavern goes this counterfeit gentleman, and his servant waiting on him, where every thing was performed as is before rehearsed. When the master knave calling the drawer, demanded if there dwelt near at hand a skilful tailor, that could make a suit of velvet for himself, marry it was to be done with very great speed.
The drawer named the tailor that we now speak of, and upon the drawer's commending his cunning, the man in all haste was sent for to a gentleman, for whom he must make a suit of velvet forthwith. Upon talk had of the stuff, how much was to be bought of every thing appertaining thereto: he must immediately take measure of this counterfeit gentleman, because he knew not when to return that way again: afterward they would go to the mercer's.
As the tailor was taking measure on him bare-headed, as if he had been a substantial gentleman indeed, the crafty mate had cunningly gotten his purse out of his pocket, at the one string whereof was fastened a little key, and at the other his signet ring: This booty he was sure of already, whether he should get anything else or no of the mischief intended, stepping to the window he cuts the ring from the purse, and by his supposed man (rounding him in the ear) sends it to the plot-layer of this knavery, minding to train the tailor along with him, as it were to the mercer's, while he the meantime took order for the other matter.
Afterward speaking aloud to his man, Sirrah, quoth he, dispatch what I bade you, and about four of the clock meet me in Paul's, by that time I hope the tailor and I shall have dispatched. To Cheapside goeth the honest tailor with this notorious dissembler, not missing his purse for the space of two hours after, in less then half which time the satin and gold lace was gotten likewise by the other villain from the tailor's house in this order.
Being sure the tailor should be kept absent, he sends another mate home to his house, who abused his servants with this device: That the lady's man had met their master abroad, and had him to the other lady to take measure of her, and lest they should delay the time too long, he was sent for the satin and lace, declaring the token appointed, and withal giving their masters signet ring for better confirmation of his message. The servants could do no less then deliver it, being commanded (as they supposed) by so credible testimony: Neither did the leisure of any one serve to go with the messenger, who seemed an honest young gentleman, and caried no cause of distrust in his countenance: Wherefore they delivered him the lace and satin folded up together as it was, and desired him to will their master to make some speed home, both for cutting out of work, and other occasions.
To a broker fit for their purpose, goes this deceiver with the satin lace, who knowing well they could not come honestly by it, nor anything else he bought of that crew, as often before he had dealt much with them: either gave them not so much as they would have, or at least as they judged they could have in another place, for which the ring-leader of this cozenage, vowed in his mind to be revenged on the broker. The master knave, who had spent two hours and more in vain with the tailor, & would not like of any velvet he saw, when he perceived that he missed his purse, and could not devise how or where he had lost it, showed himself very sorry for his mishap, and said in the morning he would send the velvet home to his house, for he knew where to speed of better than any he had seen in the shops. Home goes the tailor very sadly, where he was entertained with a greater mischance, for there was the lady's serving-man swearing and stamping, that he had not seen their master since the morning they parted, neither had he sent for the satin and lace, but when the servants justified their innocency, beguiled both with the true token rehearsed, and their master's signet ring, it exceedeth my cunning to set down answerable words, to this exceeding grief and amazement on either part, but most of all the honest tailor, who sped the better by the broker's wilfulness, as afterward it happened, which made him the better brook the loss of his purse. That night all means were used that could be, both to the mercers, brokers, goldsmiths, gold-finers, and such like, where haply such things do come to be sold: but all was in vain, the only help came by the inventor of this villainy, who scant sleeping all night, in regard of the broker's extreme gaining, both by him, and those of his profession: the next morning he came by the tailor's house, at what time he espied him with the lady's serving-man, coming forth of the doors, and into the tavern he went to report what a mishap he had upon the sending for him thither the day before.
As she was but newly entered his sad discourse, in comes the party offended with the broker, and having heard all, (whereof none could make better report than himself) he takes the tailor & serving-man aside, and pretending great grief for both their causes, demands what they would think him worthy of that could help them to their good again. On condition to meet with such a friend offer was made of five pound, and after sundry speeches passing between them alone, he seeming that he would work the recovery thereof by art, and they promising not to disclose the man that did them good, he drew forth a litle book out of his bosom—whether it were Latin or English it skilled not, for he could not read a word on it—then desiring them to spare him alone a while, they should perceive what he would do for them. Their hearts encouraged with some good hope, kept all his words secret to themselves: and not long had they sitten absent out of the room, but he called them in again, and seeming as though he had been a scholar indeed, said he found by his figure that a broker in such a place had their goods lost, and in such a place of the house they should find it, bidding them go thether with all speed, and as they found his words, so (with reserving to themselves how they came to knowledge thereof) to meet him there again in the evening, and reward him as he had deserved.
Away in haste goes the tailor and the serving-man, and entering the house with the constable, found them in the place where he that revealed it, knew the broker alway laid such gotten goods. Of their joy again, I leave you to conjecture, and think you see the broker with a good pair of bolts on his heels, ready to take his farewell of the world in a halter, when time shall serve. The counterfeit cunning man, and artificial cony-catcher, as I heard, was paid his five pound that night. Thus one crafty knave beguiled another, let each take heed of dealing with any such kind of people.