Page:Lives of Poets-Laureate.djvu/47

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have her, but King Harry should buy her. 'Why so, Will?' quoth Doctor Skelton. 'Because,' quoth Will Somers, 'that she shall be kept for breed; for if the King would marry her to long Sanders, of the Court, they would bring forth none but soldiers.' Well, the hostess demanded what her name was? 'Margaret, forsooth,' quoth she. 'And what work can you do?' 'Faith, little, mistress,' quoth she, 'but handy labour, as to wash and wring, to make clean a house, to brew, bake, or any such drudgery; for my needle, to that I have been little used to.' 'Thou art,' quoth the hostess, 'a good lusty wench, and therefore I like thee the better. I have here a great charge, for I keep a victualling-house, and divers times there come in swaggering fellows that, when they have eat and drunk, will not pay what they call for; yet, if thou take the charge of my drink, I must be answered out of your wages.' 'Content, mistress,' quoth she; 'for while I serve you, if any stale cutter[1] comes in and thinks to pay the shot with swearing, hey, Gog's wounds! let me alone! I'll not only (if his clothes be worth it) make him pay ere he pass, but lend him as many bats as his crag will carry, and then throw him out of doors.' At this they all smiled. 'Nay, mistress,' quoth the carrier, ''tis true; for my poor pilch[2] here is able, with a pair of blue shoulders, to swear as much!' and with that he told them how she had used him at her coming to London. 'I cannot think,' quoth Sir James of Castille, 'that she is so strong.' 'Try her,' quoth Skelton; 'for I have heard that Spaniards are of wonderful strength.' Sir James, in a bravery, would needs make experience, and therefore asked the maid if she durst change a box on the ear with him? 'I, Sir,' quoth she, 'that I dare, if my mistress will give me leave.'

  1. A cant word for swaggerer or bully.
  2. A carman's leather coat.