How the death of the Asse, and the Gentlewoman was stayed.
After supper they began to talke, and declare unto him the going away of the Gentlewoman, and how I hare her upon my backe, and what death was ordained for us two. Then he desired to see her, whereupon the Gentlewoman was brought forth fast bound, whom as soone as he beheld, he turned himselfe wringing his nose, and blamed them saying: I am not so much a beast, or so rash a fellow to drive you quite from your purpose, but my conscience will not suffer me to conceale any thing that toucheth your profit, since I am as carefull for you, howbeit if my counsell doe displease you, you may at your liberty proceed in your enterprise. I doubt not but all theeves, and such as have a good judgement, will preferre their owne lucre and gain above all things in the world, and above their vengeance, which purchaseth damage to divers persons. Therefore if you put this virgin in the Asses belly, you shall but execute your indignation against her, without all manner of profit; But I would advise you to carry the virgin to some towne and to sell her: and such a brave girle as she is, may be sold for a great quantity of money. And I my selfe know certaine bawdy Marchants, amongst whom peradventure one will give us summes of gold for her. This is my opinion touching this affaire: but advise you what you intend to do, for you may rule me in this case. In this manner the good theefe pleaded and defended our cause, being a good Patron to the silly virgin, and to me poore Asse. But they staied hereupon a good space, with long deliberation, which made my heart (God wot) and spirit greatly to quaile. Howbeit in the end they consented to his opinion, and by and by the Maiden was unloosed of her bonds, who seeing the young man, and hearing the name of brothels and bawdy Merchants, began to wax joyfull, and smiled with herself. Then began I to deeme evill of the generation of women, when as I saw the Maiden (who was appointed to be married to a young Gentleman, and who so greatly desired the same) was now delighted with the talke of a wicked brothel house, and other things dishonest. In this sort the consent and manners of women depended in the judgement of an Asse.
THE TWENTY-SIXTH CHAPTER
How all the Theeves were brought asleepe by their new companion.
Then the young man spake againe, saying, Masters, why goe wee not about to make our prayers unto Mars, touching this selling of the Maiden, and to seeke for other companions. But as farre as I see, here is no other manner of beast to make sacrifice withall, nor wine sufficient for us to drinke. Let me have (quoth hee) tenne more with me, and wee will goe to the next Castle, to provide for meat and other things necessary. So he and tenne more with him, went their way: In the meane season, the residue made a great fire and an Alter with greene turfes in the honour of Mars. By and by after they came againe, bringing with them bottles of wine, and a great number of beasts, amongst which there was a big Ram Goat, fat, old, and hairy, which they killed and offered unto Mars. Then supper was prepared sumptuously, and the new companion said unto the other, You ought to accompt me not onely your Captaine in robbery and fight, but also in pleasures and jolity, whereupon by and by with pleasant cheere he prepared meat, and trimming up the house he set all things in order, and brought the pottage and dainty dishes to the Table: but above all he plyed them wel with great pots and jugs of wine. Sometimes (seeming to fetch somewhat) hee would goe to the Maiden and give her pieces of meate, which he privily tooke away, and would drinke unto her, which she willingly tooke in good part. Moreover, hee kissed her twice or thrice whereof she was well pleased but I (not well contented thereat) thought in my selfe: O wretched Maid, thou hast forgotten thy marriage, and doest esteeme this stranger and bloudy theefe above thy husband which thy Parents ordained for thee, now perceive I well thou hast no remorse of conscience, but more delight to tarry and play the harlot heere amongst so many swords. What? knowest thou not how the other theeves if they knew thy demeanour would put thee to death as they had once appointed, and so worke my destruction likewise? Well now I perceive thou hast a pleasure in the dammage and hurt of other. While I did angerly devise with my selfe all these things, I perceived by certaine signes and tokens (not ignorant to so wise an Asse) that he was not the notable theefe Hemus, but rather Lepolemus her husband, for after much communication he beganne to speake more franckly, not fearing at all my presence, and said, Be of good cheere my sweete friend Charites, for thou shalt have by and by all these thy enemies captive unto thee. Then hee filled wine to the theeves more and more, and never ceased, till as they were all overcome with abundance of meat and drinke, when as hee himselfe abstained and bridled his owne appetite. And truely I did greatly suspect, least hee had mingled in their cups some deadly poyson, for incontinently they all fell downe asleepe on the ground one after an other, and lay as though they had beene dead.