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Ned giving Harry an Account of his Courtship and Marriage State.

edited by R. H. Cunningham

Ned.—Honest Harry, I am glad to see you. You're welcome to York. You're a great stranger. When came you to town?

Harry.—I came to your town last night, Ned, and am glad to see you. I inquired after you of my landlord, and he told me you was well, and had been married two or three years. I wish you much happiness; but how d'ye like matrimony?

Ned.—In good faith, Harry, scrubbing his shoulders, but so, so; however, I will not discourage you.

Harry.—But don't you remember, Ned, that you and I made an agreement that which of us two was married first, should tell one another of the way of courtship, and how he liked it and a married state.

Ned.—'Tis true we did so, Harry, but now I have not time to tell you, for it will take me more than two or three hours to give you a full account of both parts.

Harry.—What! are you in haste then, Ned? 'Tis a great while since I have seen you, and shan't we have one mug together?

Ned.—Faith, Harry, I'm loath to deny you; but if I go with you, I must send home to my wife, and let her know where I am.

Harry.—So you may Ned, and tell her you are with an old friend that would be glad to see her.

Ned.—Not a word of that, Harry, for if I go with you and stay any time, we shall have her company without sending for her.

Harry.—Say you so. Come then, let us go to Tom Swan's. Well, Ned, I am glad to see thee—ring the bell. Jenny, bring us a pint of your best ale. Come, Ned, sit down. And how long was it before you got your wife into the mind to marry; for if I speak to any of the female sex, they are so very coy, I can't tell what to make of them?

Ned.—That's very true. They are so, Harry, for when I spoke to my wife first, she was so very coy and huffish, and told me she did not know what I meant. She was not for marrying. She lived very well as she was, and if she should marry, she must then be confined to the humours of a husband.

Harry.—Well, but how then, Ned, tell me all.

Ned.—Faith I have not time now, Harry, for I must go home.

Harry.—Come, my service t'ye, Ned, I will have you be as good as your promise.

Ned.—Then if I must, I will stay a little longer and tell you. I told her I had as good a trade as any of my neighbours. Upon these words she was called away.

Harry.—How then, Ned?

Ned.—Faith I went home, but could not get her out of my mind. The next day I went again to see her, and took her by the hand, but she pulled it away with scorn, saying, "Pray don't banter me, for I know you men love to banter us silly women." Upon my faith, madam, said I, I am in good earnest, for a man of my trade must have both journeymen and prentices, therefore I cannot well be without a wife, and you are the only person I always thought would make me happy. Then I took her by the hand again, and with much ado got a kiss off her. "Pray be quiet," said she, "Goodness! what do you mean? you are so troublesome!" and looked very angry, and so left me.

Harry.—Very well, Ned, go on, this is vastly pleasant.

Ned.—That very kiss made me think of her, and love her more than ever I did, for after that kiss I was always wishing myself in her company, and was never at rest. The Sunday after, I saw her in the minster at prayers, and thought everything handsome and pretty about her—her face, her eyes, her mouth, her breast, her shape. I watched her coming out of the choir, and walked with her in the minster, and asked her if she would please to take a walk into the Groves, but she told me she was engaged. Believe me, Harry; I was so daft with that answer that my heart was fit to break with fear that she should love another better than myself. However, I went home with her. She told me she was engaged, and I need not trouble myself any further. Madam, said I, the first that ever I saw you, I was struck with the thought that you was the woman that was to make me a happy wife. "You men," said she, "say so to all women you meet with." "Truly, madam," said I, "what I say is really true, from the bottom of my heart, and I hope you will find it so." "You men always promise fair," said she, "before you are married, but when the job is over you seldom or never perform your promise." "Pray, try me, madam," said I, "for upon my word, you will find me always as good as I have said, by this kiss." "Fye," said she, "I swear I will never come into your company any more, if you will not let me stand quietly by you." Then I asked her again the favour to take a walk, for it was a fine evening, and would do her a great deal of good. She told me at last, she was to meet two or three of her acquaintances at seven o'clock in the Groves, just to take a turn or two and so come home again, so bid me good night.

Harry.—Well, Ned, I hope you went to the Groves to meet her, did you not?

Ned.—Yes, you may be assured I did, and within a quarter of an hour after I was there, my mistress came, but her friends were not with her, as good luck would have it.

Harry.—Were not you glad of that, Ned, though I dare swear, she knew of nobody to meet her at that time.

Ned.—Yes, faith, I was very glad of it; and when we had taken a turn or two, I asked her if she would go to the cheese-cake house, and with much ado I got her to consent to go.

Harry.—Well, Ned, what discourse had you there?

Ned.—Why, faith, we were very merry. I called for some cheese-cakes, and a bottle of cider, and at last began to ask her about marrying me. She told me she heard I had a good trade, and did mind it now very well, but how I would mind it, if she should consent to marry me, was her fear. I told her she need never fear that, for marrying of her would be the only means to make me mind my business, if possible, more than I have done. I do assure you, Harry, that the servants which we call chamber-maids, stand as much upon their honour, as some of them will call it, in courting, as their mistress, nay, and more.

Harry.—Why, Ned, I have observed that all along you have called her madam whenever you named her, but I hope it is not a custom here at York, to call your chamber-maids madam at every word.

Ned.—Yes, faith we do, and they themselves call one another so, for if there be five or six of them together at the parting with one another, you shall hear them take leave of one another with, "Madam, good-night to you," says one; "Madam, your servant," says another; "Pray my service to you know who"——'Tis very true, Harry.

Harry.—How could you ever expect Ned, that such an one would make you a good wife that minded nothing but her pride.

Ned.—Well, Harry, but you are mistaken, for some of them do make very good wives and are very good housewives too.

Harry.—How long were you a-courting her, before she gave consent to marry you?

Ned.—Why, about a year or more, and all that while I very little did mind myself for minding of her, for I was fain to watch her as a cat watcheth a mouse, for fear of a rival. At last I told her I hoped now she would consent to marry me, if not, to tell me so, for it was a great loss to me to lose my time so day after day. Upon these words she told me she thought I was in earnest, but she did not much like the house I lived in. I told her it was a very pretty house, and I should be glad to see her in it. Upon this she smiled and gave me her consent.

Harry.—Was you asked in the church, Ned, or had you a license?

Ned.—I went on purpose to ask her that question, and she told me she was a gentlewoman born, and did not care to be asked in the church, for, she said, there was nobody asked in the church but cook-maids and kitchen-maids, so it cost me about twenty shillings for a license. Well, married we were, and very merry were we that day.

Harry.—But now, Ned, in the second place, come tell me how you and your wife agree together, for I think it is said your York wives will be masters of their husbands in less than a year's time if possible they can. Well then, Ned, I do suppose it is with you as with most of your neighbours, your wife is the master?

Ned.—Faith, Harry, not much matter (scratching his head), but I doubt she'll come and find us together, and then there will be——

Harry.—What then, Ned, let her come, I have a mug or two at her service and shall be glad to see her.

Ned.—So shall not I, Harry.

Harry.—Why, Ned, how can she be angry with you when she sees you with an old acquaintance you have not seen for two or three years?

Ned.—That's nothing.

Harry.—What, Ned, do not you agree then really, and has been married but three years. Suppose she should come, what would or could she say to you?

Ned.—Dear Harry, do not desire me to tell you, for if I would, and if you should happen to tell it again, and it should come to her ears that it was I told you, I might as well run my country as stay at home.

Harry.—Ned, my service to you, upon my honour, as the gentleman says, I will never say anything of it to anybody.

Ned.—Well then, Harry, if I be out at any time, as now with you, when I go home, as soon as I get within doors she'll begin with a pretty tone she has learned off her neighbours.

"Oh! brave sir! You are a fine husband, you mind your business and shop, as you promised me before we were married: do you not, you drunken dog? you rogue, you rascal, where have you been these six hours (though it were but three), sirrah, give me account where you have been."

Harry.—Well, Ned, do you give her an account where you were, or what answer do you make her?

Ned.—All that I say to her is, "Pray, my dear, be not in such a passion, for I was with an old friend that I have not seen two or three years." "A pox on your old friend," says she, "and you too must go and fill your belly with good meat and drink, and I and my poor children starve at home, with only a little bread and cheese. A curse on the first day I saw you."

Harry.—Why, Ned, I hope your circumstances are not so low in the world, but that you can afford your wife pretty well to keep house with.

Ned.—Why, Harry, there's hardly a day but we have a joint of meat, either boiled or roasted, and I am sure she never wants for good bread, cheese, eggs, and butter.

Harry.—Pray, Ned, what does she do towards maintaining your house, does she endeavour any ways to get a penny? What portion had you with her?

Ned.—Harry, never marry a chamber-maid, for they bring nothing with them but a few old clothes of their mistresses, and for house-keeping, few of them know anything of it; for they can hardly make a pudding or a pie, neither can they spin, nor knit, nor wash, except it be a few laces to make themselves fine withal.

Harry.—What would she be at?

Ned—Why always a-gossiping, there is such a company of them in our street that there's never a day but some or other of them meet together.

Harry.—Where do they meet?

Ned.—Where the best country ale is.

Harry.—What, do they make a sitting of it when they meet?

Ned.—A sitting of it; yes, yes, they will sit from three till ten at night, and drink like fishes, and talk against their husbands.

Harry.—What do you say when she comes home? Do you not ask her where she has been that she stayed so late?

Ned.—I dare not say one word to her, but am glad she will let me go to bed and sleep quietly.

Harry.—What becomes of your children those days; who looks after them all this while?

Ned.—Nobody but a silly maid she hired who can do nothing; I am fain as well as I can, to boil them their milk for their suppers and help to get them to bed.

Harry.—Does not she ask when she comes home how her children do, and who gave them their suppers and got them to bed?

Ned.—Never, never, Harry, but perhaps the next morning will get them up herself, and put them on, poor things, the same linen they had on three days before.

Harry.—How do you allow your wife? do you allow her so much a week? how gets she the money to spare for gossiping?

Ned.—Why, she watches me; and if I sell anything in the shop, then she comes to me and tells me, such a child wants this, and such a one that, so I am fain to give her money for quietness' sake.

Harry.—Why, Ned, she makes a mere fool of you.

Ned.—'Tis not my case alone, Harry, for most of my neighbours have not much better wives, for the better sort they say, love carding and gossiping and cold tea.

Harry.—Well, Ned, I think you have almost satisfied me, and I promise you for your sake I will never marry any one of that sort called chamber-maids.

Ned.—If ever you marry, Harry, marry one that's bred up in business, I mean one that knows how to look after her house? and as you endeavour to get a penny in your way she will endeavour to get another in hers, such a one will make both you and herself happy.

Harry.—Pray then, Ned, what can your wife or any other man's wife say against her husband if he takes all the pains, as you say you do, to maintain her and her children handsomely?

Ned.—I know not but I hear this is their way. If any new married wife come among them; first she must pay for her admittance, then presently after, some of them will begin, "Neighbour, your good health;" another, "Neighbour I wish you health and happiness;" another, "Pray neighbour, what kind of a humoured man is your husband?" another, "Is he kind to you?" another, "Does he allow you as he should do? If he does not, neighbour, let us know, and we will tell you how to manage him I warrant you."

Harry.—Well, Ned, I pity thee, with all my heart, and all them that have such wives; but now you must make the best of it, and live as quietly as you can.

Ned.—Harry, I must so. Well, come, let's know what's to pay. I have stayed too long, so I am sure of a lecture when I go home.

Harry.—Come, Ned, I treat you this time because I invited you, it may be you will find your wife in a better humour than you think of.

Ned.—I wish I may, Harry. I am sure of it that it shall make me stay at home and mind my business a great deal better than I have done of late.

Harry.—How many children have you, Ned?

Ned.—Two boys, and I believe another coming.

Harry.—Well, Ned, she cannot complain of the smallness of her family.

Ned.—Well, Harry, I must take my leave of you, and I thank you for me, and if you do not go out of town to-morrow, I hope I shall see you again; there is a great deal more in a married state than I have told you of, that is all charges to the husband, the sickening-day, the week-day, the christening-day, three-week-day, the churching-day; all these days they have their meetings and discourses, which would take half a day to tell them all; and if the husband be not there to wait upon them on those days, some of them will say, "Neighbour, where is your husband? he should be here to wait on us." "If my husband, should serve me so," says another, "when I lie in, odds had." A third will say, "Indeed, neighbour, you give your husband too much liberty, more than I would do." So, Harry, when I go home she falls a-telling me what such a one and such a one, and all the company said of me, for my not being there to wait upon them.

Harry.—Well, Ned, thou has satisfied me very well, and for thy sake will never marry a chamber-maid. Come, ring the bell, we'll see what there's to pay, and should be glad of your company longer, if it stand to your conveniency.

Ned.—Harry, I thank you, but home I must go now.

Harry.—Jenny, what's to pay? "One shilling sir."—Ned, good-night to you, my service to your spouse; and if I stay to-morrow, I'll come and see you and her.

Ned.—Harry, good night to you, I thank you for me, and I shall be glad to see you to-morrow; but whether my wife will or no I cannot tell, for I doubt I will find her but so-and-so in her humour.

Harry.—Good-night to you, Ned, thank you for your good company; it has been very pleasant, and I hope you will find all things easy and quiet at home.