Whanne dame Prudence, ful debonairly and with greet pacience, hadde herd al that hir housbonde lyked for to seye, thanne axed she of him licence for to speke, and seyde in this wyse.
'My lord,' quod she, 'as to your firste resoun, certes it may lightly been answered. For I seye, that it is no folie to chaunge conseil whan the thing is chaunged; or elles whan the thing semeth otherweyes than it was biforn. And more-over I seye, that though ye han sworn and bihight to perfourne your emprise, and nathelees ye weyve to perfourne thilke same emprise by Iuste cause, men sholde nat seyn therefore that ye were a lyer ne forsworn. For the book seith, that "the wyse man maketh no lesing whan he turneth his corage to the bettre." And al-be-it so that your emprise be establissed and ordeyned by greet multitude of folk, yet thar ye nat accomplice thilke same ordinaunce but yow lyke. For the trouthe of thinges and the profit been rather founden in fewe folk that been wyse and ful of resoun, than by greet multitude of folk, ther every man cryeth and clatereth what that him lyketh. Soothly swich multitude is nat honeste. As to the seconde resoun, where-as ye seyn that "alle wommen been wikke," save your grace, certes ye despysen alle wommen in this wyse; and "he that alle despyseth alle displeseth," as seith the book. And Senek seith that "who-so wole have sapience, shal no man dispreise; but he shal gladly techen the science that he can, with-outen presumpcioun or pryde. And swiche thinges as he nought ne can, he shal nat been ashamed to lerne hem and enquere of lasse folk than him-self." And sir, that ther hath been many a good womman, may lightly be preved. For certes, sir, our lord Iesu Crist wolde never have descended to be born of a womman, if alle wommen hadden ben wikke. And after that, for the grete bountee that is in wommen, our lord Iesu Crist, whan he was risen fro deeth to lyve, appeered rather to a womman than to his apostles. And though that Salomon seith, that "he ne fond never womman good," it folweth nat therfore that alle wommen ben wikke. For though that he ne fond no good womman, certes, ful many another man hath founden many a womman ful good and trewe. Or elles per-aventure the entente of Salomon was this; that, as in sovereyn bountee, he fond no womman; this is to seyn, that ther is no wight that hath sovereyn bountee save god allone; as he him-self recordeth in his Evaungelie. For ther nis no creature so good that him ne wanteth somwhat of the perfeccioun of god, that is his maker. Your thridde resoun is this: ye seyn that "if ye governe yow by my conseil, it sholde seme that ye hadde yeve me the maistrie and the lordshipe over your persone." Sir, save your grace, it is nat so. For if it were so, that no man sholde be conseilled but only of hem that hadden lordshipe and maistrie of his persone, men wolden nat be conseilled so ofte. For soothly, thilke man that asketh conseil of a purpos, yet hath he free chois, wheither he wole werke by that conseil or noon. And as to your fourthe resoun, ther ye seyn that "the Ianglerie of wommen hath hid thinges that they woot noght," as who seith, that "a womman can nat hyde that she woot;" sir, thise wordes been understonde of wommen that been Iangleresses and wikked; of whiche wommen, men seyn that "three thinges dryven a man out of his hous; that is to seyn, smoke, dropping of reyn, and wikked wyves;" and of swiche wommen seith Salomon, that "it were bettre dwelle in desert, than with a womman that is riotous." And sir, by your leve, that am nat I; for ye han ful ofte assayed my grete silence and my gret pacience; and eek how wel that I can hyde and hele thinges that men oghte secreely to hyde. And soothly, as to your fifthe resoun, wher-as ye seyn, that "in wikked conseil wommen venquisshe men;" god woot, thilke resoun stant here in no stede. For understand now, ye asken conseil to do wikkednesse; and if ye wole werken wikkednesse, and your wyf restreyneth thilke wikked purpos, and overcometh yow by resoun and by good conseil; certes, your wyf oghte rather to be preised than y-blamed. Thus sholde ye understonde the philosophre that seith, "in wikked conseil wommen venquisshen hir housbondes." And ther-as ye blamen alle wommen and hir resouns, I shal shewe yow by manye ensamples that many a womman hath ben ful good, and yet been; and hir conseils ful hoolsome and profitable. Eek som men han seyd, that "the conseillinge of wommen is outher to dere, or elles to litel of prys." But al-be-it so, that ful many a womman is badde, and hir conseil vile and noght worth, yet han men founde ful many a good womman, and ful discrete and wise in conseillinge. Lo, Iacob, by good conseil of his moder Rebekka, wan the benisoun of Ysaak his fader, and the lordshipe over alle his bretheren. Iudith, by hir good conseil, delivered the citee of Bethulie, in which she dwelled, out of the handes of Olofernus, that hadde it biseged and wolde have al destroyed it. Abigail delivered Nabal hir housbonde fro David the king, that wolde have slayn him, and apaysed the ire of the king by hir wit and by hir good conseilling. Hester by hir good conseil enhaunced greetly the peple of god in the regne of Assuerus the king. And the same bountee in good conseilling of many a good womman may men telle. And moreover, whan our lord hadde creat Adam our forme-fader, he seyde in this wyse:
"it is nat good to been a man allone; make we to him an help semblable to himself." Here may ye se that, if that wommen were nat goode, and hir conseils goode and profitable, our lord god of hevene wolde never han wroght hem, ne called hem help of ...