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BOOK TWO

VINCENT: It is no little comfort to me, good uncle, that as I came in here I heard from your folk that since my last being here you have had meetly good rest (God be thanked), and your stomach somewhat more come to you. For verily, albeit I had heard before that, in respect of the great pain that for a month's space had held you, you were, a little before my last coming to you, somewhat eased and relieved—for otherwise would I not for any good cause have put you to the pain of talking so much as you then did—yet after my departing from you, remembering how long we tarried together, and that we were all that while talking, and that all the labour was yours, in talking so long together without interpausing between (and that of matter studious and displeasant, all of disease and sickness and other pain and tribulation), I was in good faith very sorry and not a little wroth with myself for mine own oversight, that I had so little considered your pain. And very feared I was, till I heard otherwise, lest you should have waxed weaker and more sick thereafter. But now I thank our Lord, who hath sent the contrary. For a little casting back, in this great age of yours, would be no little danger and peril.

ANTHONY: Nay, nay, good cousin—to talk much, unless some other pain hinder me, is to me little grief. A foolish old man is often as full of words as a woman. It is, you know, as some poets paint us, all the joy of an old fool's life to sit well and warm with a cup and a roasted crabapple, and drivel and drink and talk!

But in earnest, cousin, our talking was to me great comfort, and nothing displeasing at all. For though we commoned of sorrow and heaviness, yet the thing we chiefly thought upon was not the tribulation itself but the comfort that may grow thereon. And therefore am I now very glad that you are come to finish up the rest.

VINCENT: Of truth, my good uncle, it was comforting to me, and hath been since to some other of your friends, to whom, as my poor wit and remembrance would serve me, I did report and rehearse (and not needlessly) your most comforting counsel. And now come I for the rest, and am very joyful that I find you so well refreshed and so ready thereto. But this one thing, good uncle, I beseech you heartily. If I, for delight to hear you speak in the matter, forget myself and you both, and put you to too much pain, remember your own ease. And when you wish to leave off, command me to go my way and seek some other time.

ANTHONY: Forsooth, cousin, if a man were very weak, many words spoken (as you said right now) without interpausing, would peradventure at length somewhat weary him. And therefore wished I the last time, after you were gone (when I felt myself, to say the truth, even a little weary), that I had not so told you a long tale alone, but that we had more often interchanged words, and parted the talking between us, with more often interparling upon your part, in such manner as learned men use between the persons whom they devise, disputing in their feigned dialogues. But yet in that point I soon excused you and laid the lack where I found it, and that was even upon mine own neck.

For I remembered that between you and me it fared as it did once between a nun and her brother. Very virtuous was this lady, and of a very virtuous place and enclosed religion. And therein had she been long, in all which time she had never seen her brother, who was likewise very virtuous too, and had been far off at a university, and had there taken the degree of Doctor of Divinity. When he was come home, he went to see his sister, as one who highly rejoiced in her virtue. So came she to the grate that they call, I believe, the locutory, and after their holy watchword spoken on both sides, after the manner used in that place, each took the other by the tip of the finger, for no hand could be shaken through the grate. And forthwith my lady began to give her brother a sermon of the wretchedness of this world, and frailty of the flesh, and the subtle sleights of the wicked fiend, and gave him surely good counsel (saving somewhat too long) how he should be well wary in his living and master well his body for the saving of his soul. And yet, ere her own tale came to an end, she began to find a little fault with him and said, "In good faith, brother, I do somewhat marvel that you, who have been at learning so long and are a doctor and so learned in the law of God, do not now at our meeting (since we meet so seldom) to me who am your sister and a simple unlearned soul, give of your charity some fruitful exhortation. For I doubt not but you can say some good thing yourself." "By my troth, good sister," quoth her brother, "I cannot, for you! For your tongue hath never ceased, but said enough for us both."

And so, cousin, I remember that when I was once fallen in, I left you little space to say aught between. But now will I therefore take another way with you, for of our talking I shall drive you to the one half.

VINCENT: Now, forsooth, uncle, this was a merry tale! But now, if you make me talk the one half, then shall you be contented far otherwise than was of late a kinswoman of your own—but which one I will not tell you; guess her if you can! Her husband had much pleasure in the manner and behaviour of another honest man, and kept him therefore much company, so that he was at his mealtime the more often away from home. So happed it one time that his wife and he together dined or supped with that neighbour of theirs, and then she made a merry quarrel with him for making her husband so good cheer outside that she could not keep him at home. "Forsooth, mistress," quoth he (for he was a dry merry man), "in my company no thing keepeth him but one. Serve him with the same, and he will never be away from you." "What gay thing may that be?" quoth our cousin then. "Forsooth, mistress," quoth he, "your husband loveth well to talk, and when he sitteth with me, I let him have all the words." "All the words?" quoth she, "marry, than am I content! He shall have all the words with good will, as he hath ever had. But I speak them all myself, and give them all to him, and for aught I care for them, so shall he have them all. But otherwise to say that he shall have them all, you shall keep him still rather than he get the half!"

ANTHONY: Forsooth, cousin, I can soon guess which of our kin she was. I wish we had none, for all her merry words, who would let their husbands talk less!

VINCENT: Forsooth, she is not so merry but what she is equally good. But where you find fault, uncle, that I speak not enough: I was in good faith ashamed that I spoke so much and moved you such questions as (I found upon your answer) might better have been spared, they were of so little worth. But now, since I see you be so well content that I shall not forbear boldly to show my folly, I will be no more so shamefast but will ask you what I like.

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