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fysshe were comen. She helde her tayl so longe that it was frorn harde in the yse, and coude not plucke it out. And whan he sawe that, he sprange up her ; alas ; so knauisshly that I am ashamed to telle it. She coude not defende herself, the sely beest, she stode so depe in the myre. Hereof he can not saye naye, for as I wente above vpon the banke I sawe hym bynethe. Alas! what payne suffred I, tho at my herte. I had almost for sorow loste my fyve wits ; and cryde so lowde as I myght, Reynart, what do ye there? And whan he sawe me so nyghe tho lepe he of, and wente his waye.
I wente to her in grete hevvinesse ; and wente depe in that myre and that water er I coude breke the yse ; and moche payne suffred she er she coude have out her taylle; and yet lefte a gobet of her tayle behynd her. And we were lyke bothe therby to have lost our lyves, for she galped and cryde so loude for the smarte that she had, er she cam out, that the men of the village cam out with stavys and byllis, with flaylis and pykforkes ; and the wyvis wyth theyr distavis, and cryed dyspytously Sle! sle! and smyte down right. I was never in my lyf so aferde : for unnethe we escape, we ran so fast that we swette. Ther was a vylayne that stake on vs wyth a pyke, whiche hurted vs sore. He was stronge, and swyfte
Hadde it not be nyght, certaynly we had ben slayn.
The fowle olde quenes wold fayn have beten us. They saide that we had byten theyr sheep. They
cursed vs with many a curse. Tho cam we in to a field ful of brome and brembles ; there hydde we vs fro the vylaynes, and they durst not folowe vs ferther by nyght, but retorned home agayn.
See, my lord, thys fowle mater ; this is murdre, rape, and treason, which ye ought to doo justyce theron sharply.
Reynard answerd and said, Yf this were trewe, it shold go to nyghe myn honour and worship. God forbede that it shold be founde trewe. But is wel trewe that I taught her how she sholde in a place catche fysshe, and shewde her a good waye for to goo over in to the water without goyng in to the myre ; but she ranne so desyrously whan she herde me name the fysshe, that she nether way no path helde, but wente in to the yse wherin she was forfrorn ; and that was by cause she abode to longe ; she had fissh ynough yf she coude have be plesyd wyth mesure. It falleth ofte, who that wold have all, leseth alle. Over covetous was never good ; for the beest can not be satisfyed. And whan I sawe her in the yse so faste, I wende to have holpen her, and heef and shoef, and stack here and there, to have brought her out ; but it was al payne loste, for she was to hevy for me.
Tho cam Y segrym and sawe how I shoef and stack, and dyde al my beste, and he a fowle chorle, fowle and rybadously sklaundryth me wyth her, as thyse fowle unthriftes ben wonte to do.
But, my dere lord, it was none otherwyse ; he belyeth me falsely. Peradventure his eyen daselyd as
he loked from above down. He cryde and cursed me, and swore many an oth I shold dere abye it. When I herde hym so curse and thretene, I wente my waye, and lete him curse and menace til he was wery. And tho wente he and heef and shoef, and halpe his wyf out, and then he leep and ran, and she also, for to gete them an hete, and to warm them, or ellis they shold have deyed for colde. And what somever I have said a fore or after, that is clerely al trouthe. I wolde not for a thousand marke of fyn gold, lye to yow one lesying, it were not fyttyng for me. What somever falle of me, I shal saye the trouthe, lyke as myn elders have alway don syth the tyme that fyrst we vnderstode reson ; and if
ye be in doubte of ony thyng that I have said otherwyse than trouth, gyve me respyte of viij dayes, that I may have couseyl ; and I shal brynge suche informacion wyth good tryew and suffycient recorde, that ye shal alle your lyf duryng truste and byleve me, and so shal all your counseyl also. What have I to doo wyth the wulf, hit is to fore clerly ynowh shewde that he is a foule vylaynous kaytyf, and an unclene beest when he deled and departed the swyn.
So it is now knowen to yow alle by his owen wordes that is a deffamer of wymmen, as moche as in him is. Ye
may wel marke everychone. Who shold luste to do that game to one so stedfast a wyf, beyng in so grete peryll of deth. Now aske ye hys wyf, yf it be so as he sayth ; yf she wyl saye the trouth, I wote wel she shal
saye as I doo.
Tho spack Erswynde, the wulfis wyf: Ach felle reynart, no man can kepe hym self fro the ; thou canst so wel uttre thy wordes and thy falsenes, and treson sette forth ; but it shall be euyl rewarded in the ende. How broughtest thou me ones in to the welle where the two bokettys henge by one corde rennyng thurgh one polley which wente one up and another down. Thou sattest in that one bocket bynethe in the pytte in great drede. I cam theder, and herde the syghe and make sorrow, and axed the how thou camest there. Thou saidest that thou haddest there so many good fysshes eten out of the water that thy bely wolde breste. I said, Tell me how I shall come to the. Thenne saidest thou, Aunte, sprynge in to that boket that hangeth there, and ye shal come anon to me. I dyde so, and I wente downward, and ye cam upward. Tho was I alle angry: thou saidest, Thus fareth the world, that one goth up, and another goth down. Tho sprang ye forth, and wente your waye, and I abode there allone, syttyng an hole day sore an hongryd, and a colde ; and therto had I many a stroke er I coude gete thens.
Aunte, says the foxe, though the strokes dyde you harme, I had lever ye had them than I, for ye may better bere them, for one of vs must nedes have had them. I taught yow good ; wyl ye vnderstande it, and thynke on it, that ye another tyme take better hede, and bileve no man over hastely ; is he frende or cosyn. For every man seketh his owe prouffyt. They be now
fooles that do not so ; and specyally whan they be in jeopardy of theyr lyves.
A FAYR PARABLE OF THE FOXE AND THE WULF.
My lord, said dame Erswyn, I pray yow here how he can blowe with alle wyndes ; and how fayr bryngeth he his maters forth. Thus hath he brought me many tyme in scathe and hurte, said the wulf. He hath ones betrayed me to the she ape, myn aunte; where I was in grete drede and fere, for I lefte there almost myn
Yf the foxe wil telle it how it byfel, I wyl gyve hym the fordele thereof; for I can not telle it so wel, but he shal beryspe me.
Wel, said the foxe, I shal telle it wythout stameryng; I shal saye the trouth. I pray yow herken me. He cam in to the wode, and complayned to me that he had grete hongre; for I sawe hym never so ful, but he wold alway have had fayn more. I have wonder where the mete becometh that he destroyeth. I see now on his contenance that he begynneth to grymme for hongre. Whan I herde hym so complayne, I had pyte of hym; and I said I was also hongry. Thenne wente we half a day togydre, and fond nothyng, tho whyned he and cryted, and said he myght goo no ferther. Thenne espyed I a grete hool, standyng in the myddys vnder an hawe whiche was thyck of brembles; and I herde a russhyng therin; I wist not what