Cymbeline

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IACHIMO. Can we, with manners, ask what was the difference?

FRENCHMAN. 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, constant, qualified, and less attemptable than any the rarest of our ladies in France.

IACHIMO. That lady is not now living, or this gentleman's opinion by this worn out.

POSTHUMUS. She holds her virtue still, and I my mind.

IACHIMO. You must not so far prefer her 'fore ours of Italy.

POSTHUMUS. Being so far provok'd as I was in France, I would abate her nothing, though I profess myself her adorer, not her friend.

IACHIMO. As fair and as good--a kind of hand-in-hand comparison--had been something too fair and too good for any lady in Britain. 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.

POSTHUMUS. I prais'd her as I rated her; so do I my stone.

IACHIMO. What do you esteem it at?

POSTHUMUS. More than the world enjoys.

IACHIMO. Either your unparagon'd mistress is dead, or she's outpriz'd by a trifle.

POSTHUMUS. 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.

IACHIMO. Which the gods have given you?

POSTHUMUS. Which, by their graces, I will keep.

IACHIMO. You may wear her in title yours; but, you know, strange fowl light upon neighbouring ponds. Your ring may be stolen too; so your brace of unprizable estimations, the one is but frail and the other casual. A cunning thief, or a that-way- accomplish'd courtier, would hazard the winning both of first and last.

POSTHUMUS. Your Italy contains none so accomplish'd a courtier to convince the honour 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.

PHILARIO. Let us leave here, gentlemen.

POSTHUMUS. Sir, with all my heart. This worthy signior, I thank him, makes no stranger of me; we are familiar at first.

IACHIMO. 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.

POSTHUMUS. No, no.

IACHIMO. I dare thereupon 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.

POSTHUMUS. You are a great deal abus'd in too bold a persuasion; and I doubt not you sustain what you're worthy of by your attempt.

IACHIMO. What's that?

POSTHUMUS. A repulse; though your attempt, as you call it, deserve more,--a punishment too.

PHILARIO. Gentlemen, enough of this; it came in too suddenly. Let it die as it was born, and, I pray you, be better acquainted.

IACHIMO. Would I had put my estate and my neighbour's on the approbation of what I have spoke!

POSTHUMUS. What lady would you choose to assail?

IACHIMO. 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 honour of hers which you imagine so reserv'd.

POSTHUMUS. I will wage against your gold, gold to it. My ring I hold dear as my finger; 'tis part of it.

IACHIMO. You are afraid, 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, that you fear.

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