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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

John Skelton (1460?–1529)

Fire! Fire!

From “Merry Tales”

SKELTON was an Englishman born as Skogyn was, and he was educated and brought up in Oxford, and there was he made a poet laureate. On time he had been to Abingdon to make merry, where he had eat salt meats; and he did come home late to Oxford, and he did lie in an inn named the Tabor, which is now the Angel. And he did drinke, and went to bed. About middle night he was so thirsty or dry that he was constrained to call to the tapster for drinke; and the tapster heard him not. “Alack,” said Skelton, “I shall perish for lack of drinke!” What remede? At the last he did cry out, and said, “Fire! fire! fire!” Skelton heard every man bustle himself upward; and some were naked, and some were half asleep and amazed. And Skelton did cry, “Fire! fire!” still, that every man knew not whither to resort. Then did Skelton go to bed, and the host and hostess, and the tapster with the ostler, did run to Skelton’s chamber with candles lighted in their handes, saying, “Where, where, where is the fire?” “Here, here, here,” said Skelton, and pointed his finger to his mouthe, saying, “Fetch me some drinke to quench the fire and the heat and the dryness of my mouthe.” And so they did. Wherefore it is good for every man to help his own selfe in time of need with some policy or crafte, so be it there be no deceit or falsehood used!