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Chapter 11
I say, my lord, can such a subtilty
(But all his craft ye must not wot of me,
And somewhat help I yet to his working),
That all the ground on which we ben riding,
Till that we come to Canterbury town,
He can all clean turnen so up so down,
And pave it all of silver and of gold.
THE artist commenced his narrative in the following terms:--
"I was bred a blacksmith, and knew my art as well as e'er a black-thumbed, leathern-
aproned, swart-faced knave of that noble mystery. But I tired of ringing hammer-tunes
on iron stithies, and went out into the world, where I became acquainted with a
celebrated juggler, whose fingers had become rather too stiff for legerdemain, and who
wished to have the aid of an apprentice in his noble mystery. I served him for six years,
until I was master of my trade--I refer myself to your worship, whose judgment cannot
be disputed, whether I did not learn to ply the craft indifferently well?"
"Excellently," said Tressilian; "but be brief."
"It was not long after I had performed at Sir Hugh Robsart's, in your worship's
presence," said the artist, "that I took myself to the stage, and have swaggered with the
bravest of them all, both at the Black Bull, the Globe, the Fortune, and elsewhere; but I
know not how--apples were so plenty that year that the lads in the twopenny gallery
never took more than one bite out of them, and threw the rest of the pippin at whatever
actor chanced to be on the stage. So I tired of it--renounced my half share in the
company, gave my foil to my comrade, my buskins to the wardrobe, and showed the
theatre a clean pair of heels."
"Well, friend, and what," said Tressilian, "was your next shift?"
"I became," said the smith, "half partner, half domestic to a man of much skill and little
substance, who practised the trade of a physicianer."
"In other words," said Tressilian, "you were Jack Pudding to a quacksalver."
"Something beyond that, let me hope, my good Master Tressilian," replied the artist;
"and yet to say truth, our practice was of an adventurous description, and the pharmacy
which I had acquired in my first studies for the benefit of horses was frequently applied
to our human patients. But the seeds of all maladies are the same; and if turpentine, tar,
pitch, and beef-suet, mingled with turmerick, gum-mastick, and one bead of garlick, can