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, edited by R. H. Cunningham

Chapter I.

A merry Jest betwixt old Mother Winter and her Son-in-Law Tom.

There was an old woman named Mother Winter that had but one son-in-law, and his name was Tom; and though he was at man's estate, yet would do nothing but what he listed, which grieved his old mother to the heart. Upon a time being in the market, she heard a proclamation, "That those that would not work should be whipped." At which the old woman leapt, and with great joy home she comes meets with her son, and tells him the mayor of the town had made a decree, which was, "That all those that would not work should be whipped." "Has he so," says he, "marry, my blessing on his heart; for my part, I'll not break the decree." So the old woman left her son, and went again to the market; she was no sooner gone but her son looks into the stone pots, which she kept small beer in; and when he saw that the beer did not work, he takes the pot, strips off his doublet, and with a carter's whip he lays on them as hard as he could drive. The people who saw him do it, told his mother what he had done; which made the old woman cry out, "O! that young knave will be hanged." So in that tone home she goes. Her son seeing her, came running and foaming at the mouth to meet her, and told her, that he had broke both the pots; which made the old woman to say, "O thou villain! what hast thou done?" "O mother," quoth he, "you told me it was proclaimed, 'That all those that would not work must be whipped'; and I have often seen our pots work so hard, that they have foamed so much at the mouth, that they befouled all the house where they stood; but these two lazy knaves," said he, "told me, that they did never work, nor never meant to work; and therefore," quoth he, "I have whipped them to death, to teach the rest of their fellows to work, or never look me in the face again."

Chapter II.

Another Jest of old Mother Winter and her Son Tom.

Upon a time Mother Winter sent her son Tom into the market to buy her a penny-worth of soap, and gave him twelvepence, and charged him to bring it home safe. Tom told her it should be so; and to that end it should be safe brought home, according to his mother's charge, he goes and buys a penny-worth of soap, and hired two men with a hand-barrow to carry the soap, and four men with brown bills to guard it along to her, giving them the elevenpence for their pains, which made his mother in great fury go to the mayor of the town, who committed him to prison. Now, the prison window joining close to the mayor's chamber window, Tom and some other merry prisoners like himself, getting a cup of good liquor in their heads, began to sing and roar and domineer, insomuch that the mayor heard them that night, and charged them they should leave off drinking and singing of loose songs, and sing good psalms. Tom told him that he should hear that he would amend his life if he would pardon his fault. The mayor said that for their misdemeanours, they should be that night in prison, and upon amendment, being neighbours, he would release them in the morning. They thanked the mayor, and Tom Tram prevailed so far with a friend of his that he borrowed three shillings; which three shillings he spent upon his fellow-prisoners, which made the poor men be ruled by him, and do what he enjoined them to do; so when the mayor was gone to bed, the prison window as before observed, being close to the chamber-window, they began to sing psalms so loud that the mayor could take no rest, which made him cause one of his servants forbid them leave off singing. Tom Tram said that it was the mayor's good counsel that they should sing psalms, and sing they would, as long as they lived three. Which made the mayor bid the jailer turn them out of prison, without paying their fees.

Chapter III.

How Tom served his Hostess and a Tobacco Seller—being another of his Jests.

It happened that Tom was sent on an errand forty miles from his abode, over heaths and plains, where having dispatched his business, he chanced to be lodged in a room that opened into a yard, where his hostess kept many turkeys, which Tom seeing he thrusts pins into two of their heads and in the night they died. The woman in the morning wondered how the fowls should come to die. Tom persuaded her that there was a great sickness where he dwelt amongst all manner of fowls, and wished his hostess to fling them away, which she did. Tom watched where she flung them, and when he took his leave of his hostess, it was at such a time when she was busy setting bread into the oven, so that he was sure she could not look after him. So he goes and wraps the turkeys in his coat, and away he runs; but finding his two turkeys heavy, he sees a man that sold tobacco up and down the country at the foot of a hill, when he alighted to lead his horse down the hill, at the bottom of which he falls down, and lies crying as if he had broken one of his legs, and makes to the man a most piteous lamentation; that he was six or seven miles from any town, there being no house near; and that he was like to perish for want of succour. The man asked where he dwelt. He said with a knight, to whom Tom did live as a jester. The man knowing the knight, and thinking Tom's leg had really been broken, with much ado lifted him upon the horse. When Tom was mounted, he prayed the man to give him his master's turkeys. Tom made the horse to gallop away, crying out, "I shall be killed! I shall be killed! O my leg! What shall I do! O my leg!" The man seeing him gone, stood in amaze, and knew not what to think; nevertheless, he durst not leave his turkeys behind him, for fear of displeasing the knight, but carried them lugging along fretting and swearing in his boots, till he came to the next town, where he hired a horse to overtake Tom, but could not, until he came to the knight's house, where Tom stood to attend his coming, looking out at the window. When the man alighted, Tom then called to him so loud, that most of the house heard him. "O," said he, "now I see thou art an honest man, I had thought you had set me, upon your headstrong horse, on purpose to deceive me of my turkeys." The man replied, "A pox take you and your turkeys, for I never was played the knave with so in my life; I hope you will pay for the hire of the horse, which I was forced to borrow to follow you withal." "That I will," said Tom, "with all my heart."

Chapter IV.

How Tom paid the Man for his Horse Hire.

Tom asked the man what way he intended to travel. "Marry," said the man, "I must go back with the horse I have hired." Quoth Tom, "What did you give for the hire of him?" Said the man, "I gave five shillings." "Well," said Tom, "I will set you to the next public-house, and then we will eat one of the turkeys, and I will bring you in good silver the five shillings for the horse hire." The place appointed being two miles off, Tom appoints three or four of his companions to meet him, who did not fail, for they were there before Tom and his friend, who came riding upon the horses—Tom upon the hired horse, and the man upon his own. Tom alighted, and called the hostler to set up his horse, and to give him oats enough, and caused a turkey to be roasted with all possible haste, which, according as he commanded, was performed. But Tom whispered to his consorts, and wished them to ply the man with drink; while he, in the meantime, went to the host and told him they came to be merry, and money was short with him and desired he would lend him ten shillings upon his horse. The host having so good a pawn, lent it him, knowing it would be spent in his house. So Tom went and gave the man five shillings for the hire of the horse, and spends the other five shillings freely upon him. By that time the day was pretty nigh spent, so that the man could get no further that night, but Tom and his companions took their leaves and returned home, and the man went his way to bed little suspecting the trick Tom had put upon him. In the morning the man rising betimes, thinking to be gone, could have but one horse unless he paid ten shillings, for Tom had left word with his host, that paying the money he should have both horses. The man seeing himself cozened again by Tom, paid the ten shillings, and wished all such cheating knaves were hanged, away he went fretting and foaming to see himself abused.

Chapter V.

How Tom served a Company of Gentlemen.

It happened that a company of gentlemen being disposed to create mirth, rode some miles from home to be merry. One of them would need have Tom to wait upon him, and Tom was as willing as he to be in that company, but as they were coming home, one of them cut the reins of Tom's bridle, so that when Tom mounted on his horse the reins broke, and the horse ran away with him in the midst of a great heath whereon stood a large gallows against which the horse stood, and rubbed his neck, so that the gentleman hooped and hallooed, and said, "Farewell, Tom, farewell." But Tom alighted from his horse, and made fast his reins, and with his sword cut three or four chips from off the gallows; and at the next tavern Tom met with them, where they jeer'd him not a little; but Tom very earnestly entreated them to forbear, yet the more he entreated them, the more they played upon him. But to be even with them, in the morning Tom calls the hostler, and sends him for nutmegs and ginger, and gets a grater, and when he had grated them he also grated the chips off the gallows, and mixed with the spice only a little nutmeg and ginger, he laid towards one end of the trencher for himself, and with a gallon of ale into the gentleman's chamber he goes, begging of them not to mock him any more with the gallows; and he would give them that ale and spice; and so, says he, "Gentlemen, I drink to you all." Now, as soon as he had drank, the hostler called him, as he gave him charge before so to do. Down stairs runs Tom as fast as he could. The gentlemen made all possible speed to drink up the ale and spice before he came up again, and that was what Tom desired. When he came again, seeing all the ale and spice gone, he says, "Gentlemen, will you know why my horse carried me to the gallows?" "Yes," says one of them. "Well," says Tom, "it was to fetch you some spice to your ale, and if you want, I have more for you:" and with that showed them the chips out of his pocket, and away he runs, leaving the gentlemen to look one upon another, studying how they should be revenged on him.

Chapter VI.

How Tom rode a-Gossiping.

Tom heard a company of women that would meet at the place a house-warming, to welcome one of the house. These women had formerly abused Tom, and now he thought to be even with them, so he goes to an apothecary's shop, buys a pound of purging comfits, and puts them in a cake with other spices, and dresses himself in women's apparel, and gets a horse and a pannel, and to the house he comes, knocks at the door, and asked the maid, whether there were any women come a house-warming? The maid said, "Not yet." "I pray," says Tom, "take this cake, and if I come not at the meeting, let them eat it and be merry, for I must go to a woman that is exceedingly unwell," and away he goes. The women came, and wondered what woman it should be that left the cake. Some of them supposed that it was some rich lady. They stayed a while and the person they expected to be with them not coming, they fell to their meat, and at last to the cake. But it was not long in their stomach before it began to work, so that all began vomiting, and were so sick, that they disordered the house. In which time Tom shifts himself into man's apparel, and with a staff in his hand came where his gossips were, and hearing them groaning all the house over, opened the door and asked them what was the matter? They answered they were all poisoned. "Marry," quoth Tom, "I hope not; if you please to let me have a horse, I will ride to Mr. Doctor's and fetch an antidote to deaden the poison." "Take my horse," quoth one; "Take my horse," said another; "Or mine," said a third. "Well, well," said Tom, "I will take one." And into the stable he goes and takes three horses, and to the doctor's he rides, and told him that all the people in such a house had eaten something that had poisoned them; and prayed him that he would, without delay, carry them some medicines, and that they had sent a horse for him and another for his man. The doctor, greedy of money, hastened thither with his medicine bottles as fast as the horses could carry him and his man. But the doctor no sooner came into the house, but he saw there was no need of medicines. In the meantime Tom told not only all he met with, that there were such women met to be merry at such a place; and not only they, but all the women of the house were poisoned, but went likewise to their husbands, and told them the like, so that all the people thereabouts repaired thither, which made the women so ashamed that they knew not which way to look, because all that saw them judged they were drunk; so that instead of comforting them which they expected, they fell a reviling them. The women also fell to scolding among themselves, and would have fought, had not their husbands parted them, by carrying them home.

Chapter VII.

How Tom, served a Company of Gypsies.

It happened on a day, towards night, that there came a company of gypsies into a town, and had not very long been there till Tom met them, and asked them, "What they made there?" They said they came to town to tell the people their fortunes, that thereby they might understand ensuing dangers. "Aye," says Tom, "and where do you lie to-night?" They told him they could not tell. "Nay," said Tom, "if you will be contented to lie in straw, I will bring you where you may lie dry and warm." They thanked him, and told him they would tell him his fortune in the morning for nothing. Tom thanked them, and therefore conveys them into a little thatched house which had a ditch round about it, very close to the wall thereof. That house Tom helped them to fill with straw, and saw them take their lodging; and then, it being dark, Tom bade them good-night, and as soon as he was over the bridge, which was a plank, he drew it after him; and in the dead time of the night Tom gets a long pole, with a wasp of straw at the end of it, and sets the straw on fire, calling out to the rest of the fellows to shift for themselves; who, thinking to run over the bridge, fell into the ditch, crying and calling out for help, while, by Tom's means, most part of the town stood to see the jest; and as the gypsies waded through the ditch, they took them and carried them into a house, where there was a good fire, for it was in the midst of winter; where Tom counsels them that they should never make him believe that they could tell him anything, that did not know what danger should befall themselves. "But," says he, "because you cannot tell me my fortune, I will tell you yours. For to-morrow in the forenoon you shall be whipped for deceivers, and in the afternoon be hanged for setting the house on fire." The gypsies hearing this so strict sentence, made haste to dry themselves, and next morning stole out of town, and never came any more there.

Chapter VIII.

How Tom sold his Mother's Trevot, and cozened an Acqua Vitæ Man that sold Hot Water.

In a winter night, coming home very late, Tom Tram fell with his arms before him, and at the last run his nose against a post. "What," quoth Tom, "is my nose longer than my arms?" And afterwards he dropped into a well that was in the yard, and crying out, "Help, help." All is not well that is in the well. The neighbours came and pulled him out, and he dropped like a pig that had been roasted on a spit; but he was then in a cold condition, so he went to bed, and covered himself, but before morning Tom became unwell; and when some had discovered this, he told them that if he died of that sickness he should be buried by torchlight, because none should see him go to his grave. Just as he had said, in came a hot water man, of whom he requested to give him a sup, which having tasted, he feigned himself to be in a hot fever, and rose up in his clothes, ran away with the acqua vitæ man's bottle of hot water, and took his mother's trevot, and sold it for a long hawking pole, and a falconer's bag, which being tied to his side, and having drank up the poor man's hot water, he came reeling home with an owl upon his fist, saying, "It is gentlemanlike to be betwixt hawk and buzzard;" and he told the acqua vitæ man that he had sent the trevot, with three legs, to the next town to fill you bottles again.

Chapter IX.

How he Hired himself to the Justice, and what Pranks he played while with him.

The justice at this time being without a man, and finding Tom to be a lively fellow, asked him if he would serve him. "Yes," quoth Tom, "for I am a great many miles from the country." As soon as they had agreed for wages, Tom was immediately entertained. But he had not lived long there before the justice and his family were obliged to go to London, leaving nobody at home but Tom. Now in the justice's absence, an officer brought a lusty young woman and a little man with a complaint. So they knocked at the door, and Tom let them in; then placing himself in his master's chair, he asked the woman what she had to say, who told him that the man whom she had brought before him ill-used her. "Adzooks," quoth Tom, "is it possible that such a little fellow as this could ill-use such a strapping dame as you." "Alas! sir," said she, "although he is little he is strong." "Well, little whipper-snapper," quoth Tom, "what do you say to this." He replied, "Like your worship it is false what she says. The truth is, I have been at sea, and coming ashore, where I received my pay, I met with this woman, and agreed with her for a pair of shoes for half a crown, and when they were put on, I pulled out my purse to pay her honestly what I had agreed for; but she seeing that I had a considerable sum of money, contrary to our bargain, would force me to give her ten shillings, and because I would not, but struck her as she deserved, she has brought me before your worship." "Have you got that purse of money?" quoth Tom. "Yes, sir," said the seaman. "Give it into my hand," said Tom. He receives it, and turning to the woman, said, "Here take it and get about your business." She replied, "I thank your worship, you are an honest good man, and have done me justice." The little seaman the meanwhile wrung his hands and bitterly cried out, "I am ruined, for it is every penny I had in the world." "Well," quoth Tom, "haste after her, and take it from her again." According to Tom's order he runs after her, and when he came after her, he said, "I must, and will have my purse again." Then she fell about his ears and cuffed him. Nay, this did not satisfy her, but she dragged him back again to Tom, who sat as justice, and told him that the fellow followed her for the purse, which he in justice gave her. "Well," said Tom, "and has he got it?" "No," said she, "I think not; before he should take it from me, I'd tear out both his eyes." "Let me see it again," says Tom. She gives it to him. "Is all the money in it?" quoth he. "Yes, sir," said she, "every penny." "Why then," said he, "here little whipper-snapper, take your purse again; and as for you Mrs. Impudence, had you kept your word as well as you did the money, I never had been troubled with this complaint. Here, Mr. Constable, give her a hundred lashes at the town's whipping post." Which was accordingly done, and Tom was applauded for his just proceedings.

Chapter X.

How Tom used a Singing Man of a Cathedral Church in the West.

Once there was a cathedral singing man that had very much angered Tom, and had made songs and jests upon him, whereupon Tom got on his back an ox-hide, with the horns set upon his head, and so lay in a hedge bottom, waiting till the singing man came by, who he was sure must pass that way. At last name the singing man. Up started Tom out of the hedge bottom in his ox-hide, and followed him, the singing man cried out, "The devil! the devil!" "No," quoth Tom, "I am the ghost of goodman Johnson, living hard by the Church stile, unto whose house ye came and sung catches, and owes me five pounds for ale, therefore appoint me a day when ye will bring me my money hither, or else I will haunt thee still." The singing man promised that day se'enight, and accordingly he did; and Tom made himself brave clothes with the money, and sweethearts came about him as bees do about a honey pot. But Tom wore a rope in his pocket, and being asked if he would marry, he would pull it out, and laugh, saying, "I have broken my shins already, and will be wiser hereafter; for I am an old colt, and now may have as much wit as a horse."

Chapter XI.

Of Tom Tram's wooing Cicily Summers, the neat Wench of the West.

Cicily Summers, whose nose was then as fair as the midnight sun, which shined as bright as Baconthine, was beloved of young Tom Tram; and a sad story to tell, he grew not worth the bread he ate, through pining away for her love. Tom was loath to speak but still whistled. At last, when Cicily made no answer, he burst out in thus:—"O Cicily Summers, if I Tom Tram, son of Mother Winter, and thou Cicily Summers be joined together what a quarter shall we keep, as big as three half years; besides Cicily Summers when thou scoldest, then Winter shall presently cool thy temper; and when we walk on the street they'll say yonder goes Summer and Winter; and our children, we shall call a generation of almanacks. So they went to the parson and were married; but they fell out so extremely that they scolded all the summer season; and Tom drank good ale, and told old tales all the winter time, and so they could never but thrive all the year through. Tom lived by good ale, and his wife by eating oat-meal; and when Tom went to be drunk in the morning, she put oat-meal in the ale, and made caudle with mustard instead of eggs, which bit Tom so by the nose, that it would run water; but the next day he would be drunk again."



Tale I.

Of a Scholar and a Tapster on a Winter Night.

The tapster said, "Sir, will you go to bed." "No," quoth the scholar, "There are thieves abroad, and would not willingly be caught napping." So the tapster left him, and being gone, in came a spirit into the chamber, with his head under his arm so that he durst not stir, but cried out, "Help! help! fire! thieves! thieves!" "Oh," quoth he, "the devil was here and spoke to me with his head under his arm; but now I will go to bed, and if he comes again I will send him to the tapster, to help him to make false reckonings. It being a cold night," quoth he, "I will first put fire to toe, that is, I will warm my toes by the fire, then I'll go to bed." And so he did, and a great reckoning put the scholar out of his jest saying, "That was in earnest made too large a reckoning," he being but poor Sir John, of Oxford.

Tale II.

Down in the west country a certain conceited fellow had a great nose; so a country man by him with a sack of corn, jostled him, saying, "Your nose stands in my way," whereupon the other fellow with the great nose, took his nose in his hand, and held it to the other side, saying, "A pox on thee, go and be hanged."

Tale III.

Once there was a company of gypsies that came to a country fellow on the highway, and would needs tell Tom his fortune. Amongst other things, they bade him assure himself that his worst misfortunes were past, and that he would not be troubled with crosses as he had been. So coming home, and having sold the cow at the market, he looked into his purse for the money, thinking to have told it to his wife; but he found not so much as one cross in his purse; whereupon he remembered the words of the gypsies, and said that the gypsies had said true that he should not be troubled with crosses, and that they had picked his pocket, and left not a penny in his purse. Whereupon his wife basted and cudgelled him so soundly, that he began to perceive that a man that had a cursed wife should never be without a cross, though he had never a penny in his purse; and because it was winter-time, he sat a while by the fireside, and after went to bed supperless and penniless.

Tale IV.

A farmer's wife in the west had three pigs, which she loved exceedingly well, and fed them with good butter milk and whey; but they would come running into the house and dirtied the rooms. Whereupon she resolved to sell them at the market, because they were better fed than taught, but afterwards they were stolen away from her; whereupon she supposed they were driven up to London to learn manners; "But," said she, "they were too old to learn to turn the spit in Bartholemew fair," and therefore believed some butchers had stolen them away.

Her cock had a piece of cloth sewn about him, and was left upon the porch, but afterwards stolen; whereupon she said, that her cock was turned scholar in a black gown, and so she went to Oxford to a conjurer, to know what was become of her pigs and her cock. The scholar smiled, and told her the three pigs were blown home, and the cock was made a bachelor of arts in one of the colleges. "I thought so," said the woman, "for sure bachelors of arts are very coxcombs."