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alle your counseyl, whiche at that tyme were by you, and folewed the same, and preysed Reynardis wysedom, that he had made the man quyte and free. Thus the foxe wysely kepte your noble honour and worship, as a triewe seruant is bounde to doo to his lord. Wher hath the beer or the wulf don euer to yow so moche worship? They conne wel huylen, and blasen, stele and robbe, and ete fatte morsellis, and fyll theyr belyes, and thenne juge they for right and lawe, that smale theuis that stelen hennys and chekyns shold be hanged. But they hem self that stelen kyen, oxen, and horses, they shal goo quyte, and be lordes, and seme as though they were wyser than Salamon, Avycene, or Aristotiles. And eche wil be holden hye proud, and preised of grete dedes and hardy ; but and they come where as it is to doo, they ben the firste that flee. Thenne muste the symple goo forth to fore, and they kepe the rereward behynde. Och, my lorde, these and other lyke to them, be not wyse, but they destroye towne, castle, lande, and peple. They retche not whos hows brenneth, so that they may warme them by the coles.
They seke alle theyr owne auayll, and synguler proffyte ; but Reynart the foxe, and alle his frendis, and lygnage, sorowen and thynke to preferre the honour, worship, fordeel, and proffyte, of theyr lord, and for wise counseyl, whiche ofte more prouffyteth here than pryde and boost. This doth Reynard, though he haue no thanke. Atte longe it shal be wel knowen who is beste, and doth moste prouffyt. My lord, ye saye, that his kynne and lignage drawe al afterward
from hym, and stonde not by hym, for his falshede and deceyuable and subtyl touchis. I wolde an other had sayde that, ther sholde thenne suche wrake be taken therof, that hym myght growle that euer he sawe hym. But, my lorde, we wyl forbere you. Ye maye saye your playsir, and also I saye it not by yow. Were ther ony that wolde bedryue ony thyng ayenst yow with wordes or with werkes, hym wold we soo doo to, that men shold saye we had ben there.
Ther as fyghtyng is, we ben not woned to be aferd.
My lorde, by your leue I may wel gyue you knowleche of Reynardis frendis and kynne. Ther ben many of them that for his sake and loue wille auenture lyf and good. I know my self for one. I am a wyf. I shold, yf he had nede, sette my lyf and good for hym. Also I haue thre ful waxen children which ben hardy and stronge, whom I wold alle to gydre auenture for his loue, rather than I shold see hym destroyed ; yet had I leuer dye than I sawe them myscarye to fore myn eyen: so wel loue I hym.
WHICHE BEN FRENDES AND KYNNE UNTO REYNARD THE FOXE.
The fyrste chylde is named Byteluys, whiche is moche cherysshyd and can make moche sporte and game, wherfore is gyuen to hym the fatte trenchours and moche other good mete, whiche cometh wel to prouffyt of Fulrompe his brother, and also my thyrde
chylde is a doughter and is named Hatenette. She can wel pyke out lyse and netis out of mens heedis. Thise thre ben to eche other tryewe, wherfor I loue them wel.
Dame Rukenawe called hem forth and sayde, Welcome, my dere chyldren ; come forth and stande by Reynard your dere neuew. Thenne sayd she, Come forth, alle ye that ben of my kynne and Reynarts ; and late vs praye the kynge that he wille doo to Reynard ryght of the lande. Tho cam forth many a beest anon, as the squyrel, the musehont, the fychews, the martron, the beuer wyth his wyf Ordegale, the genete, the ostrole, the boussyng and the fyret ; thyse tweyne ete as fayne polayl as doth Reynart; the oter and Pantecroet his wyf, whom I had almoste forgoten, yet were they to fore with the beuer, enemyes to the foxe ; but they durst not gaynsaye Dame Rukenawe, for they were aferd of her. She was also the wysest of al his kynne of counseyl, and was moste doubted. Ther cam also mo than xx other by cause of her for to stande by Rynard. Ther cam also dame Atrote with her ij sustres, the wesel, and Hermell the asse, the backe, the watreratte, and many moo to the nombre of xl. wbiche alle camen and stoden by Reynard the foxe.
My lord the kyng, saide Rukenawe, come and see, heir yf Reynart haue any frendis. Here may ye see we ben your trewe subgettis whiche for yow wold auenture both lyf and good, yf ye had nede. Though ye be hardy, myghty and stronge, oure wel wyllyd frendship can not hurte you. Late Reynard the foxe
wel bethynke hym vpon thise maters that ye haue leyd ayenst him, and yf he can not excuse hym, thenne doo hym right, we desire no better. And this by right ought to no man be warned.
The quene thenne spack : This saide I to hym yesterday; but he was so fyers and angry that he wold not here it. The lupaerd saide also, Syre, ye may juge no ferther than your men gyue theyr verdyte: for yf ye wold goo forth by wyl and myghte, that were not worshipful for your estate ; here allewaye bothe partyes, and thenne by the beste and wysest counseyl, gyue jugement discretly acordyng to the beste right.
The kinge saide, this is al trewe ; but I was so sore meuyd whan I was enformed of Kywart's deth, and sawe his hede, that I was hoot and hasty. I shal here the foxe. Can he answere and excuse hym of that is leyd ayenst hym, I shal gladly late hym goo quyte. And also atte requeste of his good frendis and kynne. Reynart was glad of thise wordes, and thoughte, God thanke myn aunte! She hath the rys doo blosme agayn.
She hath wel holpen me forth now. I haue now a good foot to daunse on. I shal now loke out of myne eyen, and brynge forth the fayrest lesyngis that euer man herde, and brynge my self out of this daunger.
HOW THE FOXE WYTH SUBTYLTE EXCUSED HYM FOR THE DETH OF KYWART THE HARE, AND OF ALLE OTHER MATERS THAT WERE LEYDE AYENST HYM, AND HOW WYTH FLATERYNG
GATE AGAYN HIS PEES OF THE KYNGE.
Thenne spak Reynart the foxe, and saide, Alas what
saye ye, is Kywart deed ? and where is Bellyn the ramme, what brought he to yow whan he cam agayn ; for I delyuerd to hym thre iewellis.
I wold fayn knowe where they ben be comen. That one of hem shold he haue gyuen to yow, my lord the kyng: and the other ij to my lady the quene.
The kynge saide, Bellyn brought us nought ellis but Kywarts heed: lyke as I saide you to fore; wherof I toke on hym wrake ; I made hym to lose his lyf. For the foule kaytyf said to me, that he hym self was of the counseyl of the lettres makyng that were in the male.
Alas, my lord, is this very trouthe? Wo to me kaytyf, that euer I was born, sith that thise good jewellis be thus lost, myn herte wil breke for sorowe. I am sory that I now lyue. What shal my wyf saye whan she hereth herof. She shal goo out of her wytte for sorow. I shal neuer, also longe as I lyue, haue her frendship; she shal make moche sorowe when she hereth therof. The she ape saide, Reynard, dere neuew, what prouffyteth that
make al this sorowe. Late it passe, and telle us, what thise jewellis were. Parauenture we shalle fynde counseyl to haue them agayn yf they be aboue erthe. Mayster Akeryn shal laboure for them in his bookis ; and also we shal curse for them in alle chirchys vnto the tyme that we haue knowleche wher they ben. They maye not be loste.
Nay, aunte, thynke not that ; for they that haue them, wyl not lyghtly departe fro them. Ther was neuer kynge that euer gaf so riche jewellis as these