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The Merry Wives of Windsor

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ACT III SCENE III A room in FORD'S house. 
MISTRESS FORDWhat, John! What, Robert!
MISTRESS PAGEQuickly, quickly! is the buck-basket--
MISTRESS FORDI warrant. What, Robin, I say!
[Enter Servants with a basket]
MISTRESS PAGECome, come, come.
MISTRESS FORDHere, set it down.5
MISTRESS PAGEGive your men the charge; we must be brief.
MISTRESS FORDMarry, as I told you before, John and Robert, be
ready here hard by in the brew-house: and when I
suddenly call you, come forth, and without any pause
or staggering take this basket on your shoulders:10
that done, trudge with it in all haste, and carry
it among the whitsters in Datchet-mead, and there
empty it in the muddy ditch close by the Thames side.
MISTRESS PAGEYou will do it?
MISTRESS FORDI ha' told them over and over; they lack no15
direction. Be gone, and come when you are called.
[Exeunt Servants]
MISTRESS PAGEHere comes little Robin.
[Enter ROBIN]
MISTRESS FORDHow now, my eyas-musket! what news with you?
ROBINMy master, Sir John, is come in at your back-door,
Mistress Ford, and requests your company.20
MISTRESS PAGEYou little Jack-a-Lent, have you been true to us?
ROBINAy, I'll be sworn. My master knows not of your
being here and hath threatened to put me into
everlasting liberty if I tell you of it; for he
swears he'll turn me away.25
MISTRESS PAGEThou'rt a good boy: this secrecy of thine shall be
a tailor to thee and shall make thee a new doublet
and hose. I'll go hide me.
MISTRESS FORDDo so. Go tell thy master I am alone.
[Exit ROBIN]
Mistress Page, remember you your cue.30
MISTRESS PAGEI warrant thee; if I do not act it, hiss me.
MISTRESS FORDGo to, then: we'll use this unwholesome humidity,
this gross watery pumpion; we'll teach him to know
turtles from jays.
FALSTAFFHave I caught thee, my heavenly jewel? Why, now let35
me die, for I have lived long enough: this is the
period of my ambition: O this blessed hour!
MISTRESS FORDO sweet Sir John!
FALSTAFFMistress Ford, I cannot cog, I cannot prate,
Mistress Ford. Now shall I sin in my wish: I would40
thy husband were dead: I'll speak it before the
best lord; I would make thee my lady.
MISTRESS FORDI your lady, Sir John! alas, I should be a pitiful lady!
FALSTAFFLet the court of France show me such another. I see
how thine eye would emulate the diamond: thou hast45
the right arched beauty of the brow that becomes the
ship-tire, the tire-valiant, or any tire of
Venetian admittance.
MISTRESS FORDA plain kerchief, Sir John: my brows become nothing
else; nor that well neither.50
FALSTAFFBy the Lord, thou art a traitor to say so: thou
wouldst make an absolute courtier; and the firm
fixture of thy foot would give an excellent motion
to thy gait in a semi-circled farthingale. I see
what thou wert, if Fortune thy foe were not, Nature55
thy friend. Come, thou canst not hide it.
MISTRESS FORDBelieve me, there is no such thing in me.
FALSTAFFWhat made me love thee? let that persuade thee
there's something extraordinary in thee. Come, I
cannot cog and say thou art this and that, like a60
many of these lisping hawthorn-buds, that come like
women in men's apparel, and smell like Bucklersbury
in simple time; I cannot: but I love thee; none
but thee; and thou deservest it.
MISTRESS FORDDo not betray me, sir. I fear you love Mistress Page.65
FALSTAFFThou mightst as well say I love to walk by the
Counter-gate, which is as hateful to me as the reek
of a lime-kiln.
MISTRESS FORDWell, heaven knows how I love you; and you shall one
day find it.70
FALSTAFFKeep in that mind; I'll deserve it.
MISTRESS FORDNay, I must tell you, so you do; or else I could not
be in that mind.
ROBIN[Within] Mistress Ford, Mistress Ford! here's
Mistress Page at the door, sweating and blowing and75
looking wildly, and would needs speak with you presently.
FALSTAFFShe shall not see me: I will ensconce me behind the arras.
MISTRESS FORDPray you, do so: she's a very tattling woman.
[FALSTAFF hides himself]
What's the matter? how now!
MISTRESS PAGEO Mistress Ford, what have you done? You're shamed,80
you're overthrown, you're undone for ever!
MISTRESS FORDWhat's the matter, good Mistress Page?
MISTRESS PAGEO well-a-day, Mistress Ford! having an honest man
to your husband, to give him such cause of suspicion!
MISTRESS FORDWhat cause of suspicion?85
MISTRESS PAGEWhat cause of suspicion! Out pon you! how am I
mistook in you!
MISTRESS FORDWhy, alas, what's the matter?
MISTRESS PAGEYour husband's coming hither, woman, with all the
officers in Windsor, to search for a gentleman that90
he says is here now in the house by your consent, to
take an ill advantage of his assence: you are undone.
MISTRESS FORD'Tis not so, I hope.
MISTRESS PAGEPray heaven it be not so, that you have such a man
here! but 'tis most certain your husband's coming,95
with half Windsor at his heels, to search for such a
one. I come before to tell you. If you know
yourself clear, why, I am glad of it; but if you
have a friend here convey, convey him out. Be not
amazed; call all your senses to you; defend your100
reputation, or bid farewell to your good life for ever.
MISTRESS FORDWhat shall I do? There is a gentleman my dear
friend; and I fear not mine own shame so much as his
peril: I had rather than a thousand pound he were
out of the house.105
MISTRESS PAGEFor shame! never stand 'you had rather' and 'you
had rather:' your husband's here at hand, bethink
you of some conveyance: in the house you cannot
hide him. O, how have you deceived me! Look, here
is a basket: if he be of any reasonable stature, he110
may creep in here; and throw foul linen upon him, as
if it were going to bucking: or--it is whiting-time
--send him by your two men to Datchet-mead.
MISTRESS FORDHe's too big to go in there. What shall I do?
FALSTAFF[Coming forward] Let me see't, let me see't, O, let 115
me see't! I'll in, I'll in. Follow your friend's
counsel. I'll in.
MISTRESS PAGEWhat, Sir John Falstaff! Are these your letters, knight?
FALSTAFFI love thee. Help me away. Let me creep in here.
I'll never--120
[Gets into the basket; they cover him with foul linen]
MISTRESS PAGEHelp to cover your master, boy. Call your men,
Mistress Ford. You dissembling knight!
MISTRESS FORDWhat, John! Robert! John!
[Exit ROBIN]
[Re-enter Servants]
Go take up these clothes here quickly. Where's the
cowl-staff? look, how you drumble! Carry them to125
the laundress in Datchet-meat; quickly, come.
FORDPray you, come near: if I suspect without cause,
why then make sport at me; then let me be your jest;
I deserve it. How now! whither bear you this?
ServantTo the laundress, forsooth.130
MISTRESS FORDWhy, what have you to do whither they bear it? You
were best meddle with buck-washing.
FORDBuck! I would I could wash myself of the buck!
Buck, buck, buck! Ay, buck; I warrant you, buck;
and of the season too, it shall appear.135
[Exeunt Servants with the basket]
Gentlemen, I have dreamed to-night; I'll tell you my
dream. Here, here, here be my keys: ascend my
chambers; search, seek, find out: I'll warrant
we'll unkennel the fox. Let me stop this way first.
[Locking the door]
So, now uncape.140
PAGEGood Master Ford, be contented: you wrong yourself too much.
FORDTrue, Master Page. Up, gentlemen: you shall see
sport anon: follow me, gentlemen.
SIR HUGH EVANSThis is fery fantastical humours and jealousies.
DOCTOR CAIUSBy gar, 'tis no the fashion of France; it is not145
jealous in France.
PAGENay, follow him, gentlemen; see the issue of his search.
MISTRESS PAGEIs there not a double excellency in this?
MISTRESS FORDI know not which pleases me better, that my husband
is deceived, or Sir John.150
MISTRESS PAGEWhat a taking was he in when your husband asked who
was in the basket!
MISTRESS FORDI am half afraid he will have need of washing; so
throwing him into the water will do him a benefit.
MISTRESS PAGEHang him, dishonest rascal! I would all of the same155
strain were in the same distress.
MISTRESS FORDI think my husband hath some special suspicion of
Falstaff's being here; for I never saw him so gross
in his jealousy till now.
MISTRESS PAGEI will lay a plot to try that; and we will yet have160
more tricks with Falstaff: his dissolute disease will
scarce obey this medicine.
MISTRESS FORDShall we send that foolish carrion, Mistress
Quickly, to him, and excuse his throwing into the
water; and give him another hope, to betray him to165
another punishment?
MISTRESS PAGEWe will do it: let him be sent for to-morrow,
eight o'clock, to have amends.
FORDI cannot find him: may be the knave bragged of that
he could not compass.170
MISTRESS PAGE[Aside to MISTRESS FORD] Heard you that?
MISTRESS FORDYou use me well, Master Ford, do you?
FORDAy, I do so.
MISTRESS FORDHeaven make you better than your thoughts!
MISTRESS PAGEYou do yourself mighty wrong, Master Ford.
FORDAy, ay; I must bear it.
SIR HUGH EVANSIf there be any pody in the house, and in the
chambers, and in the coffers, and in the presses,
heaven forgive my sins at the day of judgment!180
DOCTOR CAIUSBy gar, nor I too: there is no bodies.
PAGEFie, fie, Master Ford! are you not ashamed? What
spirit, what devil suggests this imagination? I
would not ha' your distemper in this kind for the
wealth of Windsor Castle.185
FORD'Tis my fault, Master Page: I suffer for it.
SIR HUGH EVANSYou suffer for a pad conscience: your wife is as
honest a 'omans as I will desires among five
thousand, and five hundred too.
DOCTOR CAIUSBy gar, I see 'tis an honest woman.190
FORDWell, I promised you a dinner. Come, come, walk in
the Park: I pray you, pardon me; I will hereafter
make known to you why I have done this. Come,
wife; come, Mistress Page. I pray you, pardon me;
pray heartily, pardon me.195
PAGELet's go in, gentlemen; but, trust me, we'll mock
him. I do invite you to-morrow morning to my house
to breakfast: after, we'll a-birding together; I
have a fine hawk for the bush. Shall it be so?
FORDAny thing.200
SIR HUGH EVANSIf there is one, I shall make two in the company.
DOCTOR CAIUSIf dere be one or two, I shall make-a the turd.
FORDPray you, go, Master Page.
SIR HUGH EVANSI pray you now, remembrance tomorrow on the lousy
knave, mine host.205
DOCTOR CAIUSDat is good; by gar, with all my heart!
SIR HUGH EVANSA lousy knave, to have his gibes and his mockeries!

Next: The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act 3, Scene 4


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