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my frendes come hether to me, I wil take aduyse of them what I shal doo.
They saide, That they thought it good: and also it was reson in weyghty matters, a man shold take aduys of his frendis.
Thenne came dame Slopecade and Grymbert the dasse, her husband; dame Rukenawe wyth her ii susters; Byteluys and Fulrompe, her two sons, and Hatenet her doughter; the flyndermows, and the wezel. And ther cam moo than xx, whiche would not have comen yf the foxe had lest the feeld. So who that wynneth and cometh to hys aboue, he getteth grete loos and worship ; and who that is overthrowen and hath the werse, to hym wil no man gladly come. Ther cam also to the foxe, the beuer, the otter, and bothe theyr wyues Panthecrote and Ordegale ; and the ostrole, the martre, the fychews, the fyret, the mowse, and the squyrel, and many moo than I can name ; and alle bycause he had wonne the feeld. Ye some that to fore had complayned on hym, and were now of his next kynne, and they shewde hym right frendly chier and contenance. Thus fareth the world now: Who that is riche and high on the wheel, he hath many kynnesmen and frendes that shal helpe to bere out his welthe. But who that is nedy and in payne, or in poverte, fyndeth but few frendes and kynnesmen ; for every man almost esheweth his
waye. There was thenne grete feste : they blewe up trompettis and pyped wyth shalmoyses. They sayden alle, Dere neuew, blessyd be God that ye haue sped
wel. We were in grete drede and fere whan we saw
yow lye vnder.
Reynart the foxe thanked alle them frendly, and resceyued them with grete joye and gladnes. Thenne he asked of them, what they counsseylled hym; yf he sholde gyue the felde vnto the kynge or no. Dame Slopecade sayde, Ye hardely cosyn. Ye may wyth worship wel sette it in to his handes, and truste hym wel ynough.
Tho wente they alle wyth the kepars of the felde vnto the kynge, and Reynard the foxe wente to fore them alle wyth trompes and pypes, and moche other mynstralcye. The foxe kneled down to fore the kynge. The kynge bad hym stand vp, and said to hym, Reynard ye
be now joyeful. Ye have kepte your day worshipfully. I discharge yow, and late yow goo freely quyte where it plesyth yow. And the debate bytwene yow I holde it on me, and shal discusse it by reson and by counseyl of noble men, and wil ordeyne therof that ought be doon by reson, at suche tyme as Yysegrym shal be hool. And thenne I shal sende for yow to come to me ; and thenne, by Goddes grace, I shal yeue out the sentence and jugement.
AN ENSAMPLE THAT THE FOXE TOLDE TO THE KYNGE WHAN
HE HAD WONNE THE FELDE.
My worthy and dere lord, the kynge, saide the foxe, I am wel agreed and payd therwyth. But whan I
cam fyrst in your court, ther were many that were felle and enuyous to me, whiche never had hurte ne cause of scathe by me, but they thought that they myght beste over me. And alle they cryden wyth myn enemyes ayenst me, and wold fayn haue destroyed me, by cause they thought that the wulf was better withholden and gretter wyth you than I was, whiche am your humble subget. They knewe none other thynge why ne wherfore. They thoughte not as the wyse be woned to doo, that is what the end may happen. My lorde, thyse ben lyke a grete heep of houndes whiche I ones saw stonde at a lordes place vpon a donghil, where as they awayted that men sholde brynge them mete. Thenne sawe they an hound come out of the kychen, and had taken there a fayr rybbe of beef er it was gyuen hym, and he ran fast away wyth all. But the cook had espyed or he wente away, and took a grete bolle ful of scaldyng water and caste it on his hyppes behynde ; wherof he thankyd nothyng the cook, for the heer behynde was skalded of, and his skyn semed as it had be thurgh soden. Nevertheles he escaped away, and kepte that he had wonne. And whan his felaws, the other houndes, saw hym come wyth this fayr rybbe, they called hym alle, and saide to hym, O, how good a frende is the cook to the, whiche hath gyuen to the so good a boone wheron his so moche flessh. The hound saide, Ye knowe nothyng therof; ye preyse me lyke as ye see me to fore wyth this bone, but ye haue not seen me behynde. Take hede and beholde me afterward on myne buttokkis, and thenneye shal knowe how I haue deseruyd it.
And whan they had seen hym behynde on his hyppes, how that his skynne and his flessh was al rawe and thurgh soden ; tho growled them alle, and were aferd of that syedyng water, and wold not of his felawship, but fledde and ran away from hym, and lete hym there allone. See, my lord, this right haue thyse false beestis, whan they be made lordes and may gete their desire, and whan they be myghty and doubted, thenne ben they extorcionners and scatte and pylle the peple, and eten them lyke as they were forhongred houndes. These ben they that bere the bone in her mouth. No man dar haue to doo wyth hem, but preyse alle that they bedryve. No man dar saye
but suche as shal plese hem by cause they wold not be shorn ; and somme helpe them forth in theyr vnryghtwys dedes by cause they wold haue parte, and lykke theyr fyngres, and strengthe them in theyr euyl lyf and werkis. O, dere lord, how lytyl seen they that do thus after behynde them what the ende shal be. Atte laste they fal fro hye to lowe in grete shame and sorowe, and thenne theyr werkis come to knowleche, and be opene in suche wyse that no man hath pyte ne compasion on them in theyr meschief and trouble ; and every man curse them, and saye euyl by them to their shame and vylanye.
Many of suche haue ben blamed and shorn ful nyghe that they had no worship ne prouffyt, but lose theyr heer as the hound dyde ; that is, theyr frendes, whiche haue holpe them to couere their mysdedes and extorcions, like as the heer couerythe the skyn. And whan they
haue sorow and shame for theyr olde trespaces, thenne eche body pluckyth his hand fro hym, and flee, lyke as the houndes dyde fro hym that was scalded wyth the syedyng water, and lete hym thyse extorcions in her sorow and nede.
My dere lorde the kynge, I beseche you to remembre the example of me, it shal not be ayenst your worship ne wysedom. What wene ye
ben ther suche false extorcionners, now in these dayes, ye much werse than an hound, that bereth suche a bone in his mouth, in townes, in grete lordes courtes, whiche wyth greet facing and bracyng oppresse the poure peple wyth grete wronge, and selle theyr fredom and pryuelages; and bere them on hond of thyngis that they neuer knewe, ne thoughte. And all for to gete good for theyr synguler proffyt, God giue them all shame and soone destroy them, who somme euer they be that so doo.
But God be thanked, said the foxe, ther may no man endwyte me, ne my lygnage, ne kynne, of suche werkys, but that we shal acquyte vs, and comen in the lyghte. I am not aferd of ony, that can saye on me ony thyng that I haue don otherwyse than a trewe man ought to doo.
way the foxe shal a byde the foxe, though alle his enemyes hadde sworn the contrarye. My dere lord the kynge, I loue you wyth my herte aboue alle other lordes. And neuer for noman wold I torne fro yow; but abyde by yow to the utterist; how wel it hath ben otherwyse enformed your hyenes: I haue neuertheles alway do the best, and forth so wylle doo alle my lyf, that I can or may.