A man who writes on cheese

These snippets come a very curious little pamphlet entitled The Generous Usurer (1641). Essentially a dialogue between a maid and a nurse, it tells the story of their penny-pinching master and a curious incident over some cheese.

Maid: I will tell you what I heard my Master say even now of you.

Nurse: What did he say? I pray thee tell me.

Maid: He said that he would turn away you, and me: you tomorrow, and me the day after.

Nurse: How can I go away, and my Mistresse so ill? Thou talkest strangely; or thou either, why what is the matter with him now? It is the strangest man, he is never contented, never quiet.

Maid: Truly I must needs say that he is very miserable, for I did live with him when he was a Widower.

Nurse: Was he not then more generous and free than he is now?

Maid: Free? I will tell you how free he was; I was all the family he had, and he gave me but 18s a year, and we lay in bed commonly till 9 or 10 in the morning; and we went to bed before candle light to save charges; and he would let me make but one meal a day for the most part and that was with a black pudding to dinner, and a half penny loaf, except by chance sometimes he cut me a slice of bread and cheese, and that very thin: which he always used to lock up in the Cubboard himself, because he would not trust me with it.

Nurse: Had you no supper then never, nor breakfast? Oh monstrous, I never heard of the like: But what drink did he allow you? I hope you kept a good vessel of drink in the house.

Maid: We had always a firkin of foure shilling Beere in the house, but I could never come at it, except I went to him for the key which was very irksome.

Nurse: Oh fie upon it; how could you endure to dwell with him?

Maid: One morning he was called forth to goe to Grayes-Inne, and as it seemes knew that he should stay forth; and therefore left me the bread and cheese out; which was, I confesse, a great favour from him; for he doth so very seldome; but he had written upon the Cheese, which was about half a Cheese, within about an inch of the edge, he had written these words; Cut this Cheese even; and so it fortuned that about three hours, a friend of mine came to see me, who, when he came, I was glad that I had the bread and Cheese to set before him; and did therefore desire him to sit downe. But here was the mischiefe, that he espied this writing upon the Cheese, which he read, and knowing my Master to be a miserable covetous fellow, conceived that he writ it from a niggardly disposition, and therefore drew out his knife & cuts it quite through the Cheese very handsomely, and cut about halfe the Cheese, which was two or three pounds at the least, and when he had done, he took his pen and inke out of his pocket and writ very neare the edge: Is not this Cheese cut even; and put the rest in his pocket; and after some few words of discourse between us, he took his leave of me: but I was in a terrible perplexitie to see him carry away the Cheese, yet I was ashamed to forbid him. But even now my Master came in, and found his Cheese gone, but oh how he cryed out against me for his Cheese; then he called me a whore and went to complain to the neighbours that I have let in theeves to rob him; which God knows was nothing but a piece of bread and Cheese, which I promised to pay him out of my wages, but he would not heare me speake.

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