John is drained and cast aside

His lordship was busy with some letters, and did not look up for a minute or two, although he knew that I was there. Meanwhile I stood waiting to make my bow; afraid to begin upon him, and wondering at his great bull-head. Then he closed his letters, well-pleased with their import, and fixed his bold broad stare on me, as if I were an oyster opened, and he would know how fresh I was.

‘May it please your worship,’ I said, ‘here I am according to order, awaiting your good pleasure.’

‘Thou art made to weight, John, more than order. How much dost thou tip the scales to?’

‘Only twelvescore pounds, my lord, when I be in wrestling trim. And sure I must have lost weight here, fretting so long in London.’

‘Ha, ha! Much fret is there in thee! Hath His Majesty seen thee?’

‘Yes, my lord, twice or even thrice; and he made some jest concerning me.’

‘A very bad one, I doubt not. His humour is not so dainty as mine, but apt to be coarse and unmannerly. Now John, or Jack, by the look of thee, thou art more used to be called.’

‘Yes, your worship, when I am with old Molly and Betty Muxworthy.’

‘Peace, thou forward varlet! There is a deal too much of thee. We shall have to try short commons with thee, and thou art a very long common. Ha, ha! Where is that rogue Spank? Spank must hear that by- and-by. It is beyond thy great thick head, Jack.’

‘Not so, my lord; I have been at school, and had very bad jokes made upon me.’

‘Ha, ha! It hath hit thee hard. And faith, it would be hard to miss thee, even with harpoon. And thou lookest like to blubber, now. Capital, in faith! I have thee on every side, Jack, and thy sides are manifold; many- folded at any rate. Thou shalt have double expenses, Jack, for the wit thou hast provoked in me.’

‘Heavy goods lack heavy payment, is a proverb down our way, my lord.’

‘Ah, I hurt thee, I hurt thee, Jack. The harpoon hath no tickle for thee. Now, Jack Whale, having hauled thee hard, we will proceed to examine thee.’ Here all his manner was changed, and he looked with his heavy brows bent upon me, as if he had never laughed in his life, and would allow none else to do so.

‘I am ready to answer, my lord,’ I replied, ‘if he asks me nought beyond my knowledge, or beyond my honour.’

‘Hadst better answer me everything, lump. What hast thou to do with honour? Now is there in thy neighbourhood a certain nest of robbers, miscreants, and outlaws, whom all men fear to handle?’

‘Yes, my lord. At least, I believe some of them be robbers, and all of them are outlaws.’

‘And what is your high sheriff about, that he doth not hang them all? Or send them up for me to hang, without more to do about them?’

‘I reckon that he is afraid, my lord; it is not safe to meddle with them. They are of good birth, and reckless; and their place is very strong.’

‘Good birth! What was Lord Russell of, Lord Essex, and this Sidney? ‘Tis the surest heirship to the block to be the chip of a good one. What is the name of this pestilent race, and how many of them are there?’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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