How Duke Robert came a wooing to Margaret with the white Hand, and how he appointed to come and steale her away from her Masters.

CHAPTER X.

How Duke Robert came a wooing to Margaret with the white Hand, and how he appointed to come and steale her away from her Masters.

THE beautiful Margaret, who had now dwelt with her Dame the space of foure Yeeres, was highly regarded and secretly beloved of many gallant and worthy Gentlemen of the Country, but of Two most especially, Duke Robert, and Sir William Ferris. It chanced on a Time that faire Margaret, with many Others of her Masters Folkes; went a Hay-making: attired in a red Stammell Peticoate, and a broad Strawne Hat upon her Head; she had also a Hay-forke, and in her Lappe she did carry her Breake-fast. As she went along, Duke Robert, with One or Two of his Keepers, met with her, whose amiable Sight did now anew re-inkindle the secret Fire of Love, which long lay smothering in his Heart. Wherefore meeting her so happily, he saluted her thus friendly.

Faire

Faire Maid, good Morow, are you walking so diligently to your Labour? Needes must the Weather be faire, when the Sun shines so cleare, and the Hay wholesome that is dryed with such splendent Rayes. Renowned and most notable Duke (qd. she) poore Harvest Folkes pray for faire Weather, and it is the Laborers Comfort to see his Worke prosper, and the more happy may we count the Day, that is blessed with your princely Presence. But more happy, said the Duke, are they which are conversant in thy Company. But let me intreat thee to turne backe to thy Masters with me, and commit thy Forke to some that are fitter for such Toyle: trust me, me thinkes thy Dame is too much ill-advised in setting thee to such homely Busines. I muse thou canst indure this vile beseeming Servitude, whose delicate Lims were never framed to prove such painefull Experiments.

Albeit, quoth she, it becommeth not me to controule your judiciall Thoughts, yet, were you not the Duke, I would say, your Opinion deceived you: though your faire Eyes seeme cleare, yet I deemed them unperfect, if they cast before your Mind any Shadow or Sparke of Beauty in me: But I rather thinke, because it hath beene an old Saying, that

Women Women are proud to heare themselves praised, that you either speake this to drive away the Time, or to wring from me my too apparant Imperfections. But I humbly intreate Pardon, too longe have I fore-slowed my Businesse, and shewne myselfe over-bold in your Presence; and therewith, with a courtly Grace, bending her Knees to the courteous Duke, she went forward to the Field, and the Duke to the Towne of Glocester.

When he came thither, he made his Keepers great Cheare, intreating them they would give him Respit to be awhile with old Gray; for we Twaine must have a Game or Two, quoth he: and for my safe Returne, I gage you my princely Word, that as I am a true Knight and a Gentleman, I will returne safe to your Charge againe.

The Keepers being content, the Duke departed, and with old Gray goes to the Field, to peruse the Worke-folkes, where while Gray found himselfe busie in many Matters, he tooke Opportunity to talke with Margaret; shee who by his Letters before was privie to his Purpose, guest beforehand the Cause of his comming: to whom he spake to this effect:

Faire Maid, I did long since manifest my Love to thee by my Letter; tell me, therefore, were it

not

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