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SCENE I.-Before Page's House.
Enter Mistress Page, with a letter. Mrs Page. What! have I ’scaped love-letters in the holy-day time of my beauty, and am I now a subject for them? Let me see:
[Reads. Ask me no reason why I love you; for though love use reason for his precisian, he admits him not for his counsellor : You are not young, no more am I; go to then, there's sympathy: you are merry, so am I; Ha! ha! then there's more sympathy : you love sack, and so do I; Would you desire better sympathy? Let it suffice thee, mistress Page, (at the least, if the love of a soldier can suffice,) that I love thee. I will not say, pity me, 'tis not a soldier-like phrase; but I say, love me. By me,
Thine own true knight,
What a Herod of Jewry is this ?-0 wicked, wicked, world !-one, that is well nigh worn to pieces with age, to show himself a young gallant! What an unweighed behaviour hath this Flemish drunkard picked (with the devil's name) out of my conversation, that he dares in this manner assay me? Why, he hath not been thrice in my company !—What should I say to him?-I was then frugal of my mirth :-heaven forgive me!-Why, I'll exhibit a bill in the parliament for the putting down of men. How shall I be revenged on him? for revenged I will be, as sure as his guts are made of puddings.
Enter Mistress Ford. Mrs Ford. Mistress Page! trust me, I was going to your house.
Mrs Page. And, trust me, I was coming to you. You look very ill.
Mrs Ford. Nay, I'll ne'er believe that; I have to show to the contrary.
Mrs Page. 'Faith, but you do, in my mind.
Mrs Ford. Well, I do then; yet, I say, I could show you to the contrary : 0, mistress Page, give me some counsel !
Mrs Page. What's the matter, woman?
Mrs Ford. O woman, if it were not for one trilling respect, I could come to such honour!!
Mrs Page. Hang the trifle, woman; take the honour: What is it? — dispense with trifles;-what is it?
Mrs Ford. If I would but go to hell for an eternal moment, or so, I could be knighted.
Mrs Page. What!—thou liest!—Sir Alice Ford ! - These knights will hack; and so thou shouldst not alter the article of thy gentry. '
Mrs Ford. We burn day-light:-here, read, read ;perceive how I might be knighted.--I shall think the worse of fat men, as long as I have an eye to make difference of men's liking: And yet he would not swear; praised women's modesty: and gave such orderly and well-behaved reproof to all uncomeliness, that I would have sworn his disposition would have gone to the truth of his words: but they do no more adhere and keep place together than the hundredth psalm to the tune of Green sleeves. What tempest, I trow, threw this whale, with so many tuns of oil in his belly, ashore at Windsor? How shall I be revenged on him? I think, the best way were to entertain him with hope, till the wicked fire of lust have melted him in his own grease.—Did you ever hear the like?
Mrs Page. Letter for letter; but that the name of Page and Ford differs !—To thy great comfort in this mystery of ill opinions, here's the twin-brother of thy letter: but let thine inherit first; for, I protest, mine never shall. I warrant, he hath a thousand of these letters, writ with blank space for different names, (sure more,) and these are of the second edition : He will print them, out of doubt; for he cares not what he puts into the press, when he would put us two. I had rather be a giantess, and lie under mount Pelion. Well, I will find you twenty lascivious turtles, ere one chaste man.
Mrs Ford. Why, this is the very same; the very hand, the very words: What doth he think of us ?
Mrs Page. Nay, I know not: it makes me almost ready to wrangle with mine own honesty. I'll entertain myself like one that I am not acquainted withal ; for, sure, unless he know some strain in me, that I know not myself, he would never have boarded me in this fury.
Mrs Ford. Boarding, call you it? I'll be sure to keep him above deck.
Mrs Page. So will I; if he come under my hatches, I'll never to sea again. Let's be revenged on him : let's appoint him a meeting; give him a show of comfort in his suit; and lead him on with a fine-baited delay, till he hath pawn’d his horses to mine Host of the Garter.
Mrs Ford. Nay, I will consent to act any villainy against him, that may not sully the chariness of our honesty. O, that my husband saw this letter! it would give eternal food to his jealousy.
Mrs Page. Why, look, where he comes; and my good man too: he's as far from jealousy, as I am from giving him cause; and that, I hope, is an unmeasurable distance.
Mrs Ford. You are the happier woman.
Mrs Page. Let's consult together against this greasy knight: Come hither.
Enter FORD, Pistol, Page, and Nym.
Pist. Hope is a curtail dog in some affairs :
Ford. Why, sir, my wife is not young.
Ford. Love my wife?
Like sir Actæon he, with Ring-wood af thy heels:0, odious is the name!
Ford. What name, sir?
Pist. The horn, I say: Farewel. Take heed; have open eye; for thieves do foot by
night: Take heed, ere summer comes, or cuckoo birds do
sing: Away, sir corporal Nym. Believe it, Page; he speaks sense. [Exit Pistol.
Ford. I will be patient; I will find out this.
Nym. And this is true; [To Page.] I like not the humour of lying. He hath wronged me in some humours: I should have borne the humoured letter to her; but I have a sword, and it shall bite upon my necessity. He loves your wife; there's the short and the long. My name is corporal Nym; I speak, and I avouch. 'Tis true :--my name is Nym, and Falstaff loves your wife.—Adieu! I love not the humour of bread and cheese; and there's the humour of it. Adieu.
[Erit Nym. Page. The humour of it, quoth a'! here's a fellow frights humour out of his wits.
Ford. I will seek out Falstaff.
Page. I never heard such a drawling, affecting rogue.
Ford. If I do find it, well. ..
Page. I will not believe such a Cataian, though the priest o'the town commended him for a true man.
Ford. 'Twas a good sensible fellow : Well.