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Post. By your pardon, sir, I was then a young traveller; rather shunned to go even with what I heard, than in my every action to be guided by others' experiences : but, upon my mended judgment, (if I offend not to say it is mended) my quarrel was not altogether slight.
French. Faith, yes, to be put to the arbitrement of swords; and by such two, that would, by all likelihood, have confounded 1 one the other, or have fallen both.
Ia. Can we, with manners, ask what was the difference?
French. Safely, I think : 'twas a contention in public, which may, without contradiction, suffer the report. It was much like an argument that fell out last night, where each of us fell in praise of our country mistresses; this gentleman at that time vouching, (and upon warrant of bloody affirmation) his to be more fair, virtuous, wise, chaste, constantqualified, and less attemptible, than any the rarest of our ladies in France.
Ia. That lady is not now living; or this gentleman's opinion, by this, worn out.
Post. She holds her virtue still, and I my mind.
Ia. You must not so far prefer her 'fore ours of Italy.
Post. Being so far provoked as I was in France, I
would abate her nothing; though I profess myself her adorer, not her friend.1
Ia. As fair and as good, (a kind of hand-in-hand comparison) had been something too fair and too good, for any lady in Britany. If she went before others I have seen, as that diamond of yours outlustres many I have beheld, I could not but believe she excelled many : but I have not seen the most precious diamond that is, nor you the lady.
Post. I praised her as I rated her; so do I my stone.
Ia. What do you esteem it at?
Ia. Either your unparagoned mistress is dead, or she's outprized by a trifle.
Post. You are mistaken: the one may be sold or given, if there were wealth enough for the purchase, or merit for the gift: the other is not a thing for sale, and only the gift of the gods.
Ia. Which the gods have given you?
Ia. You may wear her in title yours; but, you know, strange fowl light upon neighboring ponds. Your ring may be stolen too: so, of your brace of unprizable estimations, the one is but frail, and the other casual; a cunning thief, or a that-way-accomplished courtier, would hazard the winning both of first and last.
Post. Your Italy contains none so accomplished a courtier to convince1 the honor of my mistress; if, in the holding or loss of that, you term her frail. I do nothing doubt, you have store of thieves; notwithstanding, I fear not my ring.
Phi. Let us leave here, gentlemen.
Post. Sir, with all my heart. This worthy signior, I thank him, makes no stranger of me ; we are familiar at first.
Ia. With five times so much conversation, I should get ground of your fair mistress ; make her go back, even to the yielding, had I admittance, and opportunity to friend.
Post. No, no.
Ia. I dare thereon pawn the moiety of my estate to your ring, which, in my opinion, o'ervalues it something: but I make my wager rather against your confidence than her reputation; and, to bar your
offence herein too, I durst attempt it against any lady in the world.
Post. You are a great deal abused 2 in too bold a persuasion; and I doubt not you sustain what you 're worthy of, by your attempt.
Ia. What's that?
Post. A repulse : though your attempt, as you call it, deserve more; a punishment too.
Phi. Gentlemen, enough of this : it came in too
suddenly: let it die as it was born; and, I pray you, be better acquainted.
Ia. Would I had put my estate and my neighbor's on the approbation 1 of what I have spoke.
Post. What lady would you choose to assail ?
Ia. Yours, whom in constancy, you think, stands so safe. I will lay you ten thousand ducats to your ring, that, commend me to the court where your lady is, with no more advantage than the opportunity of a second conference, and I will bring from thence that honor of hers, which you imagine so reserved.
Post. I will wage against your gold, gold to it: my ring I hold dear as my finger; 'tis part of it.
Ia. You are a friend, and therein the wiser. If you buy ladies' flesh at a million a dram, you cannot preserve it from tainting : but, I see, you have some religion in you,
fear. Post. This is but a custom in your tongue : you bear a graver purpose, I hope.
Ia. I am the master of my speeches ; 3 and would undergo what's spoken, I swear.
Post. Will you ?-I shall but lend my diamond till your return. Let there be covenants drawn between us. My mistress exceeds in goodness the hugeness of your unworthy thinking. I dare you to this match : here's my ring.
3 Lover. 3 I know what I have said.
Phi. I will have it no lay.
Ia. By the gods, it is one. If I bring you no sufficient testimony that I have enjoyed the dearest bodily part of your mistress, my ten thousand ducats are yours; so is your diamond too: if I come off, and leave her in such honor as you have trust in, she your jewel, this your jewel, and my gold are yours ; provided I have your commendation for my more free entertainment.
Post. I embrace these conditions ; let us have articles betwixt us: only, thus far you shall answer. If you make your voyage upon her, and give me directly to understand you have prevailed, I am no farther your enemy; she is not worth our debate : if she remain unseduced, (you not making it appear otherwise) for your ill opinion, and the assault you have made to her chastity, you shall answer me with
Ia. Your hand : a covenant. We will have these things set down by lawful counsel, and straight away for Britain, lest the bargain should catch cold and starve. I will fetch my gold, and have our two wagers recorded.
Post. Agreed. [Exeunt Posthumus and Iachimo. French. Will this hold, think you?
Phi. Signior Iachimo will not from it. Pray, let us follow 'em.