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in theyr hertes, that ye, my lorde the kynge, sholde destroye me wrongfully. Yf ye so dyde ye sholde destroye the trewest seruant that
haue in alle your landes.
What wene ye, syr kynge; hadde I knowen self gylty in ony feat or broke, that wold haue comen hether to the lawe emonge alle myne enemyes. Nay, sire, nay. Not for alle the world of rede gold. For I was fre and at large. What nede had I to do that, but God be thanked ! I knowe my self clere of alle mys dedes, that I dar wel come openly in the lyghte and to answere to alle the complayntes that ony man can saye
But whan Grymbert brought me first thise tydyngis tho was I not wel plesed, but half fro myself that I lepe here and there, as an vnwyse man. And had I not ben in the censures of the chyrche, I had wythout taryeng haue comen. But I wente dolynge on the heeth, and wist not what to doo for sorowe. And thenne it happed that Mertyne, myn eme, the ape, met wyth me, whiche is wyser in clergie than somme preest ; he hath ben aduocate for the bysshop of Eameryk ix yere duryng. He sawe me in this grete sorow and heuynes ; and saide to me, Dere cosyn, me thynketh ye ar not wel wyth yourself; what eyleth yow ? who hath dysplesyth yow ? thynge that thoucheth charge ought to be gyuen in knowleche to frendis. A triew frende is a grete helpe. He fyndeth ofte better counseyl than he that the charge resteth on. For who someuer is charged wyth maters, is so heuy and
acombred with them, that ofte he can not begynne to fynde the remedye. For suche be so woo lyke as they had loste theyr inwytte.
I saide, Dere eme, ye saye trouthe. For in lyke wyse is fallen to me. I am brought in to a grete heuynes, vndeseruid and not gylty, by one to whom I haue alway ben an herty and grete frende: that is the cony, whiche cam to me yesterday in the morenyng where as I satte to fore my hows, and sayd matyns. He tolde me he wolde goo to the court, and salewed me frendly, and I hym agayn. Tho sayd he to me, Good Reynard, I am an hongred and am wery: haue ye ony mete? I saide, Ye, ynowh, come nere. Tho gaf I hym a copel of maynchettis with swete butter. It was vpon a Wednesday, on whiche day I am not wonte to ete ony flessh. And also I fasted by cause of this feste of Whytsontyd whiche approuched. For who that wylle taste of the ouerest wysehede, and lyue goostly, in kepyng the commandemts of our Lord, he muste faste, and make hym redy ayenst the hye festis. Et vos estote parati. Dere Eme, I gaf hym fayr whyte breed with swete butter, wher wyth a man myght wel be easid that were moche hongry. And whan he had eten his bely fulle, tho cam Russel, my yongest sone, and wold haue taken
that was lefte. For yonge chyldren wold alway fayne eten. And with that he tasted for to haue taken somwhat, the cony smote Russel, to fore his mouthe, that his teeth bledde, and fyl down half a swoun. Whan Reynardyn, myn eldest sone, sawe that, he sprange to the cony, and
caught hym by the heed, and shold haue slayn hym, had I not reskowed hym. I helpe hym that he wente from hym ; and bete my chylde sore therfore. Lapreel the cony ran to my lord the kyng, and saide I wold haue murdred hym. See, eme, thus come I in the wordes ; and I am leyde in the blame. And yet he complayneth, and I playne not.
After this cam Corbant the roek, fleyng wyth a sorouful
noyse. I asked what hym eyled. And he said, Alas my wyf is deed : yonder lyeth a dede hare full of mathes, and wormes, and there she ete so moche therof, that the wormes haue byten a two her throte. I axed hym how cometh that by ; he wolde not speke a worde more, but flewe his waye ; and lete me stande. Now, saith he, that I haue byten and slayn her. How shold I come so nygh her ; for she fleeth, and I goo a fote. Beholde, dere eme, thus am I born an honde. I may saye wel that I am vnhappy. But parauenture it is for myn olde synnes. Hit were good for me, yf I coude paciently suffre it.
The ape saide to me, Neuew, ye shal goo to the courte to fore the lordes and excuse yow. Alas, eme, that may not be ; for the archdeken hath put me in the popes curse, bycause I counseylled Ysegrym the wulf, for to leue his relygon at Elmare, and forsake his habyte. He complayned to me, that he lyuyd so straytly, as in longe fastyng, and many thyngis redyng and syngyng, that he coude not endure it. Yf he shold longe abyde there he shold deye. I had pyte of his complaynyng, and I helpe hym, as a trewe frende,
that he cam oute. Whiche now me sore repenteth. For he laboureth, al that he can, agenst me to the kynge, for to do me to be hanged. Thus doth he euyl for good. So, eme, thus am I at the ende of my wyttes and of counseyl. For muste goo to Rome for an absolucion, and thenne shal my wyf and chyldren suffre moche harme and blame. For thise euyl bestis that hate me, shalle do to hem alle the hurte they maye, and fordryue them wher they can ; and I wold wel defende hem, yf I were fre of the curse ; for thenne wold I goo to the court and excuse me, where now I dar not. I shold do grete synne yf I cam emonge the good peple, I am aferde God shold plaghe
Nay, cosyn, be not aferd. Er I shold suffre
you in this sorow, I know the way to Rome wel. I vnderstande me on this werke. I am called ther Mertyne, the bisshops clerke ; and am wel by knowen there. shal do syte the archdeken and take a plee ayenst hym, and shal brynge with me for you an absolucion, ayenst his wil, for I knowe there all that is for to be doon or lefte. There dwelleth Symon, myn eme, whiche is grete and myghty ther; who that may gyue ought, he helpeth hym anon. Ther is Prentout, Waytescathe, and other of my frendis and alyes. Also, I shal take soome money with me, yf I ned ony.
The preyer is wyth yeftes hardy, wyth money alle way the right goth forth. A trewe frende shal for his frende auenture both lyf and good ; and so shal I for you in your right. Cosyn, make good chere, I shal not reste after
to morow, til I come to Rome, and I shal solycyte your maters. And goo ye to the court, as sone as ye may ; all your mysdedes, and tho synnes that haue brought you in the grete sentence and curse, I make you quyte of them ; and take them in
self. Whan ye come to the court, ye shal fynde there, Rukenawe, my wyf, her two susters, and my thre chyldren, and many mo of our lignage. Dere cosyn, speke to them hardely. My wyf is sondrely wyse, and wil gladly do somme what for her frendis. Who that hath nede of helpe, shal fynde on her grete frendship. One shal alway seke on his frendes, thaugh he haue angred them : For blood muste krepe where it can not goo; and yf so be, that ye be so ouer chargyd, that ye may haue no right, thenne sende to me, by nyght and day, to the court of Rome, and late me haue knowleche therof, and alle tho that ben in the lande, is it kynge or quene, wyf or man, I shal brynge them alle in the Popes curse; and sende there an inderdicte, that no man shal rede ne syngen, ne crystene chyldren, ne burye the dede, ne receyue sacramente, tyl that ye shal haue good ryght.
Cosyn, this shal I wel gete, for the pope is so sore olde, that he is but lytil sette by: and the cardynal of Puregold hath alle the myght of the court : he is yonge and grete of frendis ; he hath a concubyne, whom he mouch loueth ; and what she desyreth that geteth she anone. See cosyn, she is myn nece, and I am grete and may
doo mouche with her: in suche wyse what I desyre, I faylle not of it; but am alway fur