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XIV

VINCENT: Verily, good uncle, this seemeth so indeed. Howbeit, yet methinketh that you say very sore in some things concerning such persons as are in continual prosperity. And they are, you know, not a few; and they are also those who have the rule and authority of this world in their hand. And I know well that when they talk with such great learned men as can, I suppose, tell the truth; and when they ask them whether, while they make merry here in earth all their lives, they may not yet for all that have heaven afterwards too; they do tell them "Yes, yes," well enough. For I have heard them tell them so myself.

ANTHONY: I suppose, good cousin, that no very wise man, and especially none that is also very good, will tell any man fully of that fashion. But surely such as so say to them, I fear me that they flatter them thus either for lucre or for fear.

Some of them think, peradventure, thus: "This man maketh much of me now, and giveth me money also to fast and watch and pray for him. But so, I fear me, would he do no more, if I should go tell him now that all that I do for him will not serve him unless he go fast and watch and pray for himself too. And if I should add thereto and say further that I trust my diligent intercession for him may be the means that God should the sooner give him grace to amend, and fast and watch and pray and take affliction in his own body, for the bettering of his sinful soul, he would be wonderous wroth with that. For he would be loth to have any such grace at all as should make him go leave off any of his mirth, and so sit and mourn for his sin." Such mind as this, lo, have some of those who are not unlearned, and have worldly wit at will, who tell great men such tales as perilously beguile them. For the flatterer who so telleth them would, if he told a true tale, jeopard to lose his lucre.

Some are there also who tell them such tales for consideration of another fear. For seeing the man so sore set on his pleasure that they despair of any amendment of his, whatsoever they should say to him; and then seeing also that the man doth no great harm, but of a courteous nature doth some good men some good; they pray God themselves to send him grace. And so they let him lie lame still in his fleshly lusts, at the pool that the gospel speaketh of, beside the temple, in which they washed the sheep for the sacrifice, and they tarry to see the water stirred. And when his good angel, coming from God, shall once begin to stir the water of his heart, and move him to the lowly meekness of a simple sheep, then if he call them to him they will tell him another tale, and help to bear him and plunge him into the pool of penance over the hard ears! But in the meanwhile, for fear lest if he would wax never the better he would wax much the worse; and from gentle, smooth, sweet, and courteous, might wax angry, rough, froward, and sour, and thereupon be troublous and tedious to the world to make fair weather with; they give him fair words for the while and put him in good comfort, and let him for the rest take his own chance.

And so deal they with him as the mother doth sometimes with her child, when the little boy will not rise in time for her, but will lie slug-abed, and when he is up weepeth because he has lain so long, fearing to be beaten at school for his late coming thither. She telleth him then that it is but early days, and he shall come in time enough, and she biddeth him, "Go, good son. I warrant thee, I have sent to thy master myself. Take thy bread and butter with thee—thou shalt not be beaten at all!" And thus, if she can but send him merry forth at the door, so that he weep not in her sight at home, she careth not much if he be taken tardy and beaten when he cometh to school.

Surely thus, I fear me, fare many friars and state's chaplains too, in giving comfort to great men when they are both loth to displease them. I cannot commend their doing thus, but surely I fear me thus they do.

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