We ar so hamyd,* For-taxed and ramyd,| We ar mayde hand-tamyd, With thyse gentlery men.
Thus thay refe J us our rest, Our Lady theym wary ! § These men that ar lord-fest,|| they cause the ploghe tary."
To these shepherds joins himself Mak, a thieving neighbour. Going to sleep, they make him lie between them, for they doubt his honesty. But for all their precautions he manages to steal a sheep, and carries it home to his wife. She thinks of an ingenious plan for concealing it from the shepherds if they visit the cottage seeking their lost property : she will pretend that she is in child-bed and that the sheep is the new-born infant. So it is wrapped up and laid in a cradle, and Mak sings a lullaby. The shepherds do suspect Mak, and come to search his house ; his wife upbraids them and keeps them from the cradle. They depart, but suddenly an idea comes to one of them :—
" The First Shepherd. Gaf ye the chyld any thyng ? The Second. I trow not oone farthyng. The Third. Fast agane will I flyng, Abyde ye me there. [He goes back.\ Mak, take it to no grefe, if I com to thi barne."
Mak tries to put him oft, but the shepherd will have his way :—
" Gyf me lefe hym to kys, and lyft up the clowtt. What the devill is this ? he has a long snowte."
So the secret is out. Mak's wife gives a desperate explanation :—
" He was takyn with an elfe, I saw it myself. When the clok stroke twelf Was he forshapyn."
* Crippled. \ Deprive of. | Strong in lordliness,
f Overreached. § Curse.