Cony-Catching - A Merry Tale how Ned Browne Used a Priest.

A Merry Tale how Ned Browne Used a Priest.

                I remember how prettily once I served a priest, and because one death dischargeth all, and is as good as a general pardon, hear how I served him.

            I chanced as I rode into Berkshire to light in the company of a fat priest that had hanging at his saddle bow a cap-case well stuffed with crowns that he went to pay for the purchase of some lands: Falling in talk with him (as communication will grow betwixt travellers) I behaved myself so demurely, that he took me for a very honest man, & was glad of my company, although ere we parted it cost him very dear: and amongst other chat he questioned me if I would sell my horse (for he was a fair large gelding well spread and foreheaded and so easily and swiftly paced, that I could well ride him seven mile an hour): I made him answer that I was loath to part from my gelding, and so shaped him a slight reply, but before we came at our bait he was so in love with him that I might say him no nay, so that when we came at our inn and were at dinner together we swapped a bargain: I had the priest's and twenty nobles to boot for mine. Well as soon as we had changed, I got me unto the stable, and there secretly I knit a hair about the horse's fetlock so straight upon the vein that he began a little to check of that foot, so that when he was brought forth the horse began to halt; which the priest espying marvelled at it, and began to accuse me that I had deceived him. Well, quoth I, 'tis nothing but a blood, and as soon as he is warm he will go well, and if in riding you like him not, for twenty shillings loss, I'll change with you at night: the priest was glad of this, and caused his saddle to be set on my gelding, and so having his cap-case on the saddle pommell, rode on his way, and I with him, but still his horse halted, and by that time we were two miles out of the town he halted right down: at which the priest chafed, and I said I wondered at it, and thought he was pricked, bade him alight, and I would see what he ailed, and wished him to get up on my horse that I had of him for a mile or two, and I would ride on his, to try if I could drive him from his halt. The priest thanked me, and was sorrowful, and I feeling about his foot cracked the hair asunder, and when I had done, got up on him, smiling to myself to see the cap-case hang so mannerly before me, and putting spurs to the horse, made him give way a little, but being somewhat stiff, he halted for half a mile, and then began to fall into his old pace, which the priest spying, said: Methinks my gelding begins to leave his halting. Aye marry doth he master parson (quoth I) I'll warrant you he'll gallop too fast for you to overtake, and so good Priest farewell, and take no thought for the carriage of your cap-case. With that I put spurs to him lustily, and away flung I like the wind: the Parson called to me, and said he hoped that I was but in jest, but he found it in earnest, for he never had his horse nor his cap-case after.

            Gentlemen, this is but a jest to a number of villainies that I have acted, so graceless hath my life been. The most expert and skilful alchemist, never took more pains in experience of his metals, the physician in his simples, the mechanical man in the mystery of his occupation, than I have done in plotting precepts, rules, axioms, and principles, how smoothly and neatly to foist a pocket, or nip a bung.

            It were too tedious to hold you with tales of the wonders I have acted, seeing almost they be numberless, or to make report how desperately I did execute them, either without fear of God, dread of the law, or love to my country: for I was so resolutely, or rather reprobately given, that I held death only as nature's due, and howsoever ignominiously it might happen unto me, that I little regarded: which careless disdain to die, made me thrust myself into every brawl, quarrel, and other bad action whatsoever, running headlong into all mischief, neither respecting the end, nor foreseeing the danger: and that secure life hath brought me to this dishonourable death. But what should I stand here preaching? I lived wantonly, and therefore let me end merrily, and tell you two or three of my mad pranks and so bid you farewell.

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