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Thenne said I, Goo therin, and loke yf ther be ony thyng ther for us; I wote wel ther is somwhat. Tho said he, Cosyn, I wolde not crepe in to that hole for twenty pound, but I wist fyrst what is therin; me thynketh that ther is some perylous thyng. But I shal abyde here vnder this tree, yf ye wil goo therin to fore; but come anon again, and late me wete what thyng is therin. Ye can many a subtylte and wel helpe your selfe, and moche better than I.
See, my lord, the kynge ; thus he made me, poure wight, to goo to fore in the daunger ; and he, whiche is grete, longe, and stronge, abode withoute, and rested hym in pees : awayte yf I dyde not for him there. I wold not suffre the drede and fere that I there suffred for al the good in erthe ; but yf I wyste how to escape. I wente bardyly in. I fonde the way derke, longe, and brood. Er I right in the hool cam, so espyed I a grete light; whiche cam in fro that one syde ; ther laye in a grete ape with tweyne grete wyde eyen, and they glymmed as a fyre. And she had a grete mouth with large teeth, and sharp naylles on hir feet, and on her handes. I wende hit had be a mermoyse, a baubyn, or a mercatte, for I sawe never fowler beest. And by her laye thre of her children, whiche were right fowle; for they were right lyke the moder.
Whan they sawe me come, they gapeden wyde on me, and were al stylle.
I was aferd, and wold wel I had ben thens ; but I thoughte, I am therin, I muste ther thurgh, and come out as wel as I maye. As I sawe her me thought she semed more than Ysegrym the wulf. And her chyl
more than I. I sawe never a fowler meyne ; they leye on fowle heye which was al be fouled. They were byslabbed and byclagged to their eres to in her owen donge. Hit stanke that I was almost smoldred therof. I durst not saye but good ; and thenne I said, Aunte, goed gyve yow good daye, and alle my cosyns, your fayr chyldren, they be of theyr age the fayrest that ever I sawe. O Lord God! how wel plese they me; how lovely, how fayr ben they. Eche of them for their beaute myght be a grete kyngis sone. of right we ought to thanke yow, that ye thus encrece oure lygnage. Dere aunte, whan I herde saye that ye were delyverd and leyd down, I coude no lenger abyde, but muste come and frendly vysite yow. I am sory that I had not erst knowen it.
Reynard, cosyn, saide he, ye be welcome for that ye have founde me, and thus come see me, I thanke yow. Dere cosyn, ye be right trewe, and named right wyse in alle londes, and also that ye gladly furthre and brynge your lignage in grete worship. Ye muste teche my chyldren with the youris, som wysedom, that they may knowe what they shal doo and leue. I have thought on yow ; for gladly ye goo and felowship with the good.
O, how wel was I plesyd whan I herde thise wordes. This deservyd I at the begynnyng whan I callyd her aunte ; how be it that she was nothyng sybbe to me ; for my right aunte is dame Rukenawe, that yonder standeth, whiche is woned to brynge forth wise chyl
I saide, Aunte, my lyf and my good is at your
commandement; and what I may doo for yow by nyght and by daye. I wylle gladly teche them alle
I wolde fayn have be thens for the stenche of them, and also I had pyte of the grete hongre that Isegrym had.
I saide, Aunte, I shal commyte you and your fayr chyldren to God, and take my leve. My wyf shal thynke longe after me.
Dere cosyn, said she, ye shal not departe til ye have eten, for yf ye dyde, I wold saie ye were not kynde. Tho stode she up, and brought me in an other hool, where as was moche mete of hertes and hyndes, roes, fesauntes, partrychs, and moche other venyson, that I wondred fro whens al this mete myght come. And whan I had eaten my bely ful, she gaf me a grete pece of an hynde for to ete wyth my wyf and wyth my houshold whan I come home. I was ashamed to take it; but I myght none other wyse doo. I thankyd her, and toke my leve. She bad me I shold come sone agayn. I sayd, I wold ; and so departed thens meryly, that I so wel had spedde.
I hasted me out, and whan I cam and sawe Ysegrym, whiche laye gronyng ; and I axed hym how he ferde; he said, Nevew, al evyll, for it is wonder that I lyve. Brynge ye ony mete to ete, I deye for honger. Tho had I compassion of hym, and gaf hym that I had, and saved hym there his lyf; wherof thenne he thanked me gretely ; how be it that he now oweth me evyl wyl.
He had eten this vp anon. Tho, said he, Reynard,
dere cosyn, what fonde ye in that hool? I am more hongry now than I was to fore ; my teeth ben now sharped to ete. I said thenne, Eme, haste yow thenne lyghtly in to that hool. Ye shal fynde there ynough. There lieth myn aunte wyth her chyldren. Yf ye wyl spare the trouth, and lye grete lesynges, ye shal have there al your desire ; but, and ye saye trouth, ye shal take harme. My lord, was not this ynough sayd and warned, who so wold vnderstonde it that al that he fonde he shold saye the contrayre. But rude and plompe beestis can not vnderstonde wysdom; therfore hate they alle subtyl inuencions, for they can not conceyve them. Yet, nevertheles, he saide he wolde goo inne, and lye so many lesynges er he sholde myshappe, that alle man sholde have wondre of it; and so wente forth in to that fowle stynkyng hool, and fonde the marmosette. She was lyke the devyl's doughter, and on her chyldren hynge moche fylth cloterd in gobettis.
Tho cryde he, Alas! me growleth of thyse fowle nyckers, come they out of helle ?
make devylles aferd of hem. Goo and drowne them, that evyl mote they fare. I sawe never fowler wormes ; they make al myn heer to stande right up.
Sir Ysegrym, said she, what may I doo therto? they ben my chyldren, and I muste be their moder. What lyeth that in your waye ? Whether they be fowl or fayr they have yow nothyng coste. There hath ben one to-day byfore yow, whiche was to them nyhe of kyn, and was your better and wyser ; and he sayde that they were fayr. Who hath sente yow
hyther with thyse tydynges? Dame, wyl ye wytte, I wylle ete of your mete ; hit is better bestowed on me than on thyse fowle wyghtes. She said, Heir is no mete. He saide, Here is ynough ; and ther wyth he sterte with his hede toward the mete, and wolde have goon in to the hool wher the mete was. aunte sterte vp wyth her chyldren, and ronne to hym wyth their sharp longe nayles so sore that the blode ran over his eyen. I herde hym cry sore and howle, but I knowe of no defence that he made, but that he ran faste out of the hool. And he was there cratched and byten ; and many an hool had they made in his cote and skyn. His visage was alle on a blood, and almost he had loste his one ere. He groned and complayned to me sore.
Thenne asked I hym yf he had wel lyed? He sayd, I saide lyke as I sawe and fonde ; and that was a fowle bytche with many fowle wyghtis. Nay eme, said I, ye shold have said, Fayr nece, how fare ye and your fair chyldren, whiche ben my wel belovid cosyns.
The wulf sayd, I had lever that they were hanged er I that saide.
Ye eme, therefore muste ye resseyue suche maner payment. Hit is better other while to lye than to saye trouthe. They that ben better, wyser, and strenger than we be, have doon so to fore vs.
See, my lord the kyng, thus gate he his rede coyf. Now stondeth he al so symply as he knewe no harme. I pray yow aske ye hym yf it was not thus ; he was not fer of, yf I wote it wel.