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About five miles from Canterbury, a mysterious figure in black clothes begins to approach the group of pilgrims. (For a more detailed look at the Canon's portrait, see the 'Characters' section.)
When the man reaches the company, he says he has ridden very quickly to catch up with them, for he wants to ride with such a merry group.
The man's yeoman, or apprentice, is also very courteous. He tells the group that he saw them ride out of their inn that morning and urged the Canon to try and catch up with them.
The Host says that indeed, the Canon is wise to catch up with them, and can he tell a merry tale?
The Yeoman replies that not only is the Canon capable of telling a tale, but he can work such wonders that, if the company knew about them, they would never want to forgo his acquaintance.
The Host's curiosity piqued, he asks the Yeoman if his master is a clerk.
The Yeoman replies that his master is not a clerk, but a man capable of transforming the whole road to Canterbury into silver and gold.
The Host declares this marvelous, but inquires why the Canon and the Yeoman are wearing such poor, worn-out clothing if his master is truly capable of transforming the road into silver and gold.
The Yeoman replies that the Canon is too wise, and "overdoes" whatever it is he's doing (this part is ambiguous) and therefore never quite succeeds at what he sets out to do.
The Host asks where the Canon and Yeoman live, and the Yeoman replies that they live in the same dark alleys and hiding places as thieves and robbers.
The Host asks why the Yeoman's face is so discolored, and the Yeoman replies it is because he spends so much time hovering over the fire trying to change things into gold.
The Yeoman says that he and his colleagues are able to convince people to loan them money on the promise of multiplying it, but never achieve this, although they wish to: he fears they will end up as beggars because of their obsession.
The Canon overtakes the Host and Yeoman, and becomes angry that the Yeoman is divulging their secrets and slandering him to the company.
The Host tells the Yeoman to keep talking, and not to listen to the Canon's threats.
When the Canon sees the Yeoman won't stop talking, he rides away.
The Yeoman is glad about this; now, he tells the pilgrims, he can tell them all he knows.