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The Merry Wives of Windsor

Act III, Scene 3

A room in FORD'S house.
 
[Enter MISTRESS FORD and MISTRESS PAGE]
 
MISTRESS FORD
What, John! What, Robert!
 
MISTRESS PAGE
Quickly, quickly! is the buck-basket--
 
MISTRESS FORD
I warrant. What, Robin, I say!
 
[Enter Servants with a basket]
 
MISTRESS PAGE
Come, come, come.
 
MISTRESS FORD
Here, set it down.
 
MISTRESS PAGE
Give your men the charge; we must be brief.
 
MISTRESS FORD
Marry, 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: 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 PAGE
You will do it?
 
MISTRESS FORD
I have told them over and over; they lack no direction. Be gone, and come when you are called.
 
[Exeunt Servants]
 
MISTRESS PAGE
Here comes little Robin.
 
[Enter ROBIN]
 
MISTRESS FORD
How now, my eyas-musket! what news with you?
 
ROBIN
My master, Sir John, is come in at your back-door, Mistress Ford, and requests your company.
 
MISTRESS PAGE
You little Jack-a-Lent, have you been true to us?
 
ROBIN
Ay, 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.
 
MISTRESS PAGE
Thou'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 FORD
Do so. Go tell thy master I am alone. Mistress Page, remember you your cue.
 
MISTRESS PAGE
I warrant thee; if I do not act it, hiss me.
 
[Exit]
 
MISTRESS FORD
Go to, then: we'll use this unwholesome humidity, this gross watery pumpion; we'll teach him to know turtles from jays.
 
[Enter FALSTAFF]
 
FALSTAFF
Have I caught thee, my heavenly jewel? Why, now let me die, for I have lived long enough: this is the period of my ambition: O this blessed hour!
 
MISTRESS FORD
O sweet Sir John!
 
FALSTAFF
Mistress Ford, I cannot cog, I cannot prate, Mistress Ford. Now shall I sin in my wish: I would thy husband were dead: I'll speak it before the best lord; I would make thee my lady.
 
MISTRESS FORD
I your lady, Sir John! alas, I should be a pitiful lady!
 
FALSTAFF
Let the court of France show me such another. I see how thine eye would emulate the diamond: thou hast the right arched beauty of the brow that becomes the ship-tire, the tire-valiant, or any tire of Venetian admittance.
 
MISTRESS FORD
A plain kerchief, Sir John: my brows become nothing else; nor that well neither.
 
FALSTAFF
By 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, Nature thy friend. Come, thou canst not hide it.
 
MISTRESS FORD
Believe me, there is no such thing in me.
 
FALSTAFF
What 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 a 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 FORD
Do not betray me, sir. I fear you love Mistress Page.
 
FALSTAFF
Thou 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 FORD
Well, heaven knows how I love you; and you shall one day find it.
 
FALSTAFF
Keep in that mind; I'll deserve it.
 
MISTRESS FORD
Nay, 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 and looking wildly, and would needs speak with you presently.
 
FALSTAFF
She shall not see me: I will ensconce me behind the arras.
 
MISTRESS FORD
Pray you, do so: she's a very tattling woman. What's the matter? how now!
 
[FALSTAFF hides himself. Re-enter MISTRESS PAGE and ROBIN]
 
MISTRESS PAGE
O Mistress Ford, what have you done? You're shamed, you're overthrown, you're undone for ever!
 
MISTRESS FORD
What's the matter, good Mistress Page?
 
MISTRESS PAGE
O well-a-day, Mistress Ford! having an honest man to your husband, to give him such cause of suspicion!
 
MISTRESS FORD
What cause of suspicion?
 
MISTRESS PAGE
What cause of suspicion! Out pon you! how am I mistook in you!
 
MISTRESS FORD
Why, alas, what's the matter?
 
MISTRESS PAGE
Your husband's coming hither, woman, with all the officers in Windsor, to search for a gentleman that 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 PAGE
Pray heaven it be not so, that you have such a man here! but 'tis most certain your husband's coming, 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 your reputation, or bid farewell to your good life for ever.
 
MISTRESS FORD
What 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.
 
MISTRESS PAGE
For 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, he 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 FORD
He's too big to go in there. What shall I do?
 
FALSTAFF [Coming forward]
Let me see it, let me see it, O, let me see it! I'll in, I'll in. Follow your friend's counsel. I'll in.
 
MISTRESS PAGE
What, Sir John Falstaff! Are these your letters, knight?
 
FALSTAFF
I love thee. Help me away. Let me creep in here. I'll never--
 
Gets into the basket; they cover him with foul linen
 MISTRESS PAGE Help to cover your master, boy. Call your men, Mistress Ford. You dissembling knight!
 
MISTRESS FORD
What, 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 to the laundress in Datchet-meat; quickly, come.
 
[Enter FORD, PAGE, DOCTOR CAIUS, and SIR HUGH EVANS]
 
FORD
Pray 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?
 
SERVANT
To the laundress, forsooth.
 
MISTRESS FORD
Why, what have you to do whither they bear it? You were best meddle with buck-washing.
 
FORD
Buck! 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.
 
[Exeunt Servants with the basket]
Gentlemen, I have dreamed tonight; 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.
 
PAGE
Good Master Ford, be contented: you wrong yourself too much.
 
FORD
True, Master Page. Up, gentlemen: you shall see sport anon: follow me, gentlemen.
 
[Exit]
 
SIR HUGH EVANS
This is fery fantastical humours and jealousies.
 
DOCTOR CAIUS
By gar, 'tis no the fashion of France; it is not jealous in France.
 
PAGE
Nay, follow him, gentlemen; see the issue of his search.
 
[Exeunt PAGE, DOCTOR CAIUS, and SIR HUGH EVANS]
 
MISTRESS PAGE
Is there not a double excellency in this?
 
MISTRESS FORD
I know not which pleases me better, that my husband is deceived, or Sir John.
 
MISTRESS PAGE
What a taking was he in when your husband asked who was in the basket!
 
MISTRESS FORD
I am half afraid he will have need of washing; so throwing him into the water will do him a benefit.
 
MISTRESS PAGE
Hang him, dishonest rascal! I would all of the same strain were in the same distress.
 
MISTRESS FORD
I 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 PAGE
I will lay a plot to try that; and we will yet have more tricks with Falstaff: his dissolute disease will scarce obey this medicine.
 
MISTRESS FORD
Shall we send that foolish carrion, Mistress Quickly, to him, and excuse his throwing into the water; and give him another hope, to betray him to another punishment?
 
MISTRESS PAGE
We will do it: let him be sent for tomorrow, eight o'clock, to have amends.
 
[Re-enter FORD, PAGE, DOCTOR CAIUS, and SIR HUGH EVANS]
 
FORD
I cannot find him: may be the knave bragged of that he could not compass.
 
MISTRESS PAGE [Aside to MISTRESS FORD]
Heard you that?
 
MISTRESS FORD
You use me well, Master Ford, do you?
 
FORD
Ay, I do so.
 
MISTRESS FORD
Heaven make you better than your thoughts!
 
FORD
Amen!
 
MISTRESS PAGE
You do yourself mighty wrong, Master Ford.
 
FORD
Ay, ay; I must bear it.
 
SIR HUGH EVANS
If 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!
 
DOCTOR CAIUS
By gar, nor I too: there is no bodies.
 
PAGE
Fie, fie, Master Ford! are you not ashamed? What spirit, what devil suggests this imagination? I would not have your distemper in this kind for the wealth of Windsor Castle.
 
FORD
'Tis my fault, Master Page: I suffer for it.
 
SIR HUGH EVANS
You suffer for a pad conscience: your wife is as honest a womans as I will desires among five thousand, and five hundred too.
 
DOCTOR CAIUS
By gar, I see 'tis an honest woman.
 
FORD
Well, 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.
 
PAGE
Let's go in, gentlemen; but, trust me, we'll mock him. I do invite you tomorrow morning to my house to breakfast: after, we'll a-birding together; I have a fine hawk for the bush. Shall it be so?
 
FORD
Any thing.
 
SIR HUGH EVANS
If there is one, I shall make two in the company.
 
DOCTOR CAIUS
If dere be one or two, I shall make-a the turd.
 
FORD
Pray you, go, Master Page.
 
SIR HUGH EVANS
I pray you now, remembrance tomorrow on the lousy knave, mine host.
 
DOCTOR CAIUS
Dat is good; by gar, with all my heart!
 
SIR HUGH EVANS
A lousy knave, to have his gibes and his mockeries!
 
[Exeunt]

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