The Merry Wives of Windsor By William Shakespeare Act III: Scene 3

MRS. FORD.
Nay, I must tell you, so you do; or else I could not be in that mind.

ROBIN.
[Within] Mistress Ford! Mistress Ford! here's Mistress Page at the
door, sweating and blowing and looking wildly, and would needs speak
with you presently.

FALSTAFF.
She shall not see me; I will ensconce me behind the arras.

MRS. FORD.
Pray you, do so; she's a very tattling woman.

[FALSTAFF hides himself.]

[Re-enter MISTRESS PAGE and ROBIN.]

What's the matter? How now!

MRS. PAGE.
O Mistress Ford, what have you done? You're shamed, you are
overthrown, you are undone for ever!

MRS. FORD.
What's the matter, good Mistress Page?

MRS. PAGE.
O well-a-day, Mistress Ford! having an honest man to your husband,
to give him such cause of suspicion!

MRS. FORD.
What cause of suspicion?

MRS. PAGE.
What cause of suspicion? Out upon you! how am I mistook in you!

MRS. FORD.
Why, alas, what's the matter?

MRS. PAGE.
Your husband's coming hither, woman, with all the officers in
Windsor, to search for a gentleman that he says is here now in
the house, by your consent, to take an ill advantage of his absence:
you are undone.

MRS. FORD.
[Aside.] Speak louder. —
'Tis not so, I hope.

MRS. PAGE.
Pray heaven it be not so that you have such a man here! but 'tis
most certain your husband's coming, with half Windsor at his heels,
to search for such a one. I come before to tell you. If you know
yourself clear, why, I am glad of it; but if you have a friend here,
convey, convey him out. Be not amazed; call all your senses to you;
defend your reputation, or bid farewell to your good life for ever.

MRS. FORD.
What shall I do? — There is a gentleman, my dear friend; and I fear
not mine own shame as much as his peril: I had rather than a
thousand pound he were out of the house.

MRS. PAGE.
For shame! never stand 'you had rather' and 'you had rather': your
husband's here at hand; bethink you of some conveyance; in the
house you cannot hide him. O, how have you deceived me! Look, here
is a basket; if he be of any reasonable stature, he may creep in
here; and throw foul linen upon him, as if it were going to
bucking: or — it is whiting-time — send him by your two men to
Datchet-Mead.

MRS. FORD.
He's too big to go in there. What shall I do?

FALSTAFF.
[Coming forward] Let me see 't, let me see 't. O, let me see 't!
I'll in, I'll in; follow your friend's counsel; I'll in.

MRS. PAGE.
What, Sir John Falstaff! Are these your letters, knight?

FALSTAFF.
I love thee and none but thee; help me away: let me creep in here.
I'll never —

[He gets into the basket; they cover him with foul linen.]

MRS. PAGE.
Help to cover your master, boy. Call your men, Mistress Ford. You
dissembling knight!

MRS. FORD.
What, John! Robert! John!

[Exit ROBIN.]

[Re-enter SERVANTS.]

Go, take up these clothes here, quickly; where's the cowl-staff?
Look how you drumble! Carry them to the laundress in Datchet-Mead;
quickly, come.

[Enter FORD, PAGE, CAIUS, and SIR HUGH EVANS.]

FORD.
Pray you come near. If I suspect without cause, why then make sport
at me, then let me be your jest; I deserve it. How now, whither
bear you this?

SERVANT.
To the laundress, forsooth.

MRS. FORD.
Why, what have you to do whither they bear it? You were best meddle
with buck-washing.

FORD.
Buck! I would I could wash myself of the buck! Buck, buck, buck!
ay, buck; I warrant you, buck; and of the season too, it shall appear.

[Exeunt SERVANTS with the basket.]

Gentlemen, I have dreamed to-night; I'll tell you my dream. Here,
here, here be my keys: ascend my chambers; search, seek, find out.
I'll warrant we'll unkennel the fox. Let me stop this way first.
[Locking the door.] So, now uncape.

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