COLLECTED FROM THE ABBEYS OF TOURAINE
THE THIRD TEN TALES
HONORE DE BALZAC
THE THIRD TEN TALES
PERSEVERANCE IN LOVE
CONCERNING A PROVOST WHO DID NOT RECOGNISE THINGS
ABOUT THE MONK AMADOR, WHO WAS A GLORIOUS ABBOT OF TURPENAY
BERTHA THE PENITENT
HOW THE PRETTY MAID OF PORTILLON CONVINCED HER JUDGE
IN WHICH IT IS DEMONSTRATED THAT FORTUNE IS ALWAYS FEMININE
CONCERNING A POOR MAN WHO WAS CALLED LE VIEUX PAR-CHEMINS
ODD SAYINGS OF THREE PILGRIMS
THE FAIR IMPERIA MARRIED
THIRD TEN TALES
Certain persons have interrogated the author as to why there was such
a demand for these tales that no year passes without his giving an
instalment of them, and why he has lately taken to writing commas
mixed up with bad syllables, at which the ladies publicly knit their
brows, and have put to him other questions of a like character.
The author declares that these treacherous words, cast like pebbles in
his path, have touched him in the very depths of his heart, and he is
sufficiently cognisant of his duty not to fail to give to his special
audience in this prologue certain reasons other than the preceding
ones, because it is always necessary to reason with children until
they are grown up, understand things, and hold their tongues; and
because he perceives many mischievous fellows among the crowd of noisy
people, who ignore at pleasure the real object of these volumes.
In the first place know, that if certain virtuous ladies—I say
virtuous because common and low class women do not read these stories,
preferring those that are never published; on the contrary, other
citizens' wives and ladies, of high respectability and godliness,
although doubtless disgusted with the subject-matter, read them
piously to satisfy an evil spirit, and thus keep themselves virtuous.
Do you understand, my good reapers of horns? It is better to be
deceived by the tale of a book than cuckolded through the story of a
gentleman. You are saved the damage by this, poor fools! besides
which, often your lady becomes enamoured, is seized with fecund
agitations to your advantage, raised in her by the present book.
Therefore do these volumes assist to populate the land and maintain it
in mirth, honour and health. I say mirth, because much is to be
derived from these tales. I say honour, because you save your nest
from the claws of that youthful demon named cuckoldom in the language
of the Celts. I say health, because this book incites that which was
prescribed by the Church of Salerno, for the avoidance of cerebral
plethora. Can you derive a like proof in any other typographically
blackened portfolios? Ha! ha! where are the books that make children?
Think! Nowhere. But you will find a glut of children making books
which beget nothing but weariness.
But to continue. Now be it known that when ladies, of a virtuous
nature and a talkative turn of mind, converse publicly on the subject
of these volumes, a great number of them, far from reprimanding the
author, confess that they like him very much, esteem him a valiant
man, worthy to be a monk in the Abbey of Theleme. For as many reasons
as there are stars in the heavens, he does not drop the style which he
has adopted in these said tales, but lets himself be vituperated, and
keeps steadily on his way, because noble France is a woman who refuses
to yield, crying, twisting about, and saying,
"No, no, never! Oh, sir, what are you going to do? I won't let you;
you'd rumple me."
And when the volume is done and finished, all smiles, she exclaims,
"Oh, master, are there any more to come?"
You may take it for granted that the author is a merry fellow, who
troubles himself little about the cries, tears and tricks of the lady
you call glory, fashion, or public favour, for he knows her to be a
wanton who would put up with any violence. He knows that in France her
war-cry is Mount Joy! A fine cry indeed, but one which certain
writers have disfigured, and which signifies, "Joy it is not of the
earth, it is there; seize it, otherwise good-bye." The author has this
interpretation from Rabelais, who told it to him. If you search
history, has France ever breathed a word when she was joyous mounted,
bravely mounted, passionately mounted, mounted and out of breath? She
goes furiously at everything, and likes this exercise better than
drinking. Now, do you not see that these volumes are French, joyfully
French, wildly French, French before, French behind, French to the
backbone. Back then, curs! strike up the music; silence, bigots!
advance my merry wags, my little pages, put your soft hands into the
ladies' hands and tickle them in the middle—of the hand of course.
Ha! ha! these are high sounding and peripatetic reasons, or the author
knows nothing of sound and the philosophy of Aristotle. He has on his
side the crown of France and the oriflamme of the king and Monsieur
St. Denis, who, having lost his head, said "Mount-my-Joy!" Do you mean
to say, you quadrupeds, that the word is wrong? No. It was certainly
heard by a great many people at the time; but in these days of deep
wretchedness you believe nothing concerning the good old saints.
The author has not finished yet. Know all ye who read these tales with
eye and hand, feel them in the head alone, and love them for the joy
they bring you, and which goes to your heart, know that the author
having in an evil hour let his ideas, id est, his inheritance, go
astray, and being unable to get them together again, found himself in
a state of mental nudity. Then he cried like the woodcutter in the
prologue of the book of his dear master Rabelais, in order to make
himself heard by the gentleman on high, Lord Paramount of all things,
and obtain from Him fresh ideas. This said Most High, still busy with
the congress of the time, threw to him through Mercury an inkstand
with two cups, on which was engraved, after the manner of a motto,
these three letters, Ave. Then the poor fellow, perceiving no other
help, took great care to turn over this said inkstand to find out the
hidden meaning of it, thinking over the mysterious words and trying to
find a key to them. First, he saw that God was polite, like the great
Lord as He is, because the world is His, and He holds the title of it
from no one. But since, in thinking over the days of his youth, he
remembered no great service rendered to God, the author was in doubt
concerning this hollow civility, and pondered long without finding out
the real substance of the celestial utensil. By reason of turning it
and twisting it about, studying it, looking at it, feeling it,
emptying it, knocking it in an interrogatory manner, smacking it down,
standing it up straight, standing it on one side, and turning it
upside down, he read backwards Eva. Who is Eva, if not all women
in one? Therefore by the Voice Divine was it said to the author:
Think of women; woman will heal thy wound, stop the waste-hole in thy
bag of tricks. Woman is thy wealth; have but one woman, dress,
undress, and fondle that women, make use of the woman—woman is
everything—woman has an inkstand of her own; dip thy pen in that
bottomless inkpot. Women like love; make love to her with the pen
only, tickle her phantasies, and sketch merrily for her a thousand
pictures of love in a thousand pretty ways. Woman is generous, and all
for one, or one for all, must pay the painter, and furnish the hairs
of the brush. Now, muse upon that which is written here. Ave, Hail,
Eva, woman; or Eva, woman, Ave, Hail. Yes, she makes and
unmakes. Heigh, then, for the inkstand! What does woman like best?
What does she desire? All the special things of love; and woman is
right. To have children, to produce an imitation, of nature, which is
always in labour. Come to me, then, woman!—come to me, Eva!
With this the author began to dip into that fertile inkpot, where
there was a brain-fluid, concocted by virtues from on high in a
talismanic fashion. From one cup there came serious things, which
wrote themselves in brown ink; and from the other trifling things,
which merely gave a roseate hue to the pages of the manuscript. The
poor author has often, from carelessness, mixed the inks, now here,
now there; but as soon as the heavy sentences, difficult to smooth,
polish, and brighten up, of some work suitable to the taste of the day
are finished, the author, eager to amuse himself, in spite of the
small amount of merry ink remaining in the left cup, steals and bears
eagerly therefrom a few penfuls with great delight. These said penfuls
are, indeed, these same Droll Tales, the authority on which is above
suspicion, because it flows from a divine source, as is shown in this
the author's naive confession.
Certain evil-disposed people will still cry out at this; but can you
find a man perfectly contented on this lump of mud? Is it not a shame?
In this the author has wisely comported himself in imitation of a
higher power; and he proves it by atqui. Listen. Is it not most
clearly demonstrated to the learned that the sovereign Lord of worlds
has made an infinite number of heavy, weighty, and serious machines
with great wheels, large chains, terrible notches, and frightfully
complicated screws and weights like the roasting jack, but also has
amused Himself with little trifles and grotesque things light as
zephyrs, and has made also naive and pleasant creations, at which you
laugh directly you see them? Is it not so? Then in all eccentric
works, such as the very spacious edifice undertaken by the author, in
order to model himself upon the laws of the above-named Lord, it is
necessary to fashion certain delicate flowers, pleasant insects, fine
dragons well twisted, imbricated, and coloured—nay, even gilt,
although he is often short of gold—and throw them at the feet of his
snow-clad mountains, piles of rocks, and other cloud-capped
philosophers, long and terrible works, marble columns, real thoughts
carved in porphyry.
Ah! unclean beasts, who despise and repudiate the figures, phantasies,
harmonies, and roulades of the fair muse of drollery, will you not
pare your claws, so that you may never again scratch her white skin,
all azure with veins, her amorous reins, her flanks of surpassing
elegance, her feet that stay modestly in bed, her satin face, her
lustrous features, her heart devoid of bitterness? Ah! wooden-heads,
what will you say when you find that this merry lass springs from the
heart of France, agrees with all that is womanly in nature, has been
saluted with a polite Ave! by the angels in the person of their
spokesman, Mercury, and finally, is the clearest quintessence of Art.
In this work are to be met with necessity, virtue, whim, the desire of
a woman, the votive offering of a stout Pantagruelist, all are here.
Hold your peace, then, drink to the author, and let his inkstand with
the double cup endow the Gay Science with a hundred glorious Droll
Stand back then, curs; strike up the music! Silence, bigots; out of
the way, dunces! step forward my merry wags!—my little pages! give
your soft hand to the ladies, and tickle theirs in the centre in a
pretty manner, saying to them, "Read to laugh." Afterwards you can
tell them some mere jest to make them roar, since when they are
laughing their lips are apart, and they make but a faint resistance to
PERSEVERANCE IN LOVE
During the first years of the thirteenth century after the coming of
our Divine Saviour there happened in the City of Paris an amorous
adventure, through the deed of a man of Tours, of which the town and
even the king's court was never tired of speaking. As to the clergy,
you will see by that which is related the part they played in this
history, the testimony of which was by them preserved. This said man,
called the Touranian by the common people, because he had been born in
our merry Touraine, had for his true name that of Anseau. In his
latter days the good man returned into his own country and was mayor
of St. Martin, according to the chronicles of the abbey of that town;
but at Paris he was a great silversmith.
But now in his prime, by his great honesty, his labours, and so forth,
he became a citizen of Paris and subject of the king, whose protection
he bought, according to the custom of the period. He had a house built
for him free of all quit-rent, close the Church of St. Leu, in the Rue
St. Denis, where his forge was well-known by those in want of fine
jewels. Although he was a Touranian, and had plenty of spirit and
animation, he kept himself virtuous as a true saint, in spite of the
blandishments of the city, and had passed the days of his green season
without once dragging his good name through the mire. Many will say
this passes the bounds of that faculty of belief which God has placed
in us to aid that faith due to the mysteries of our holy religion; so
it is needful to demonstrate abundantly the secret cause of this
silversmith's chastity. And, first remember that he came into the town
on foot, poor as Job, according to the old saying; and unlike all the
inhabitants of our part of the country, who have but one passion, he
had a character of iron, and persevered in the path he had chosen as
steadily as a monk in vengeance. As a workman, he laboured from morn
to night; become a master, he laboured still, always learning new
secrets, seeking new receipts, and in seeking, meeting with inventions
of all kinds. Late idlers, watchmen, and vagrants saw always a modest
lamp shining through the silversmith's window, and the good man
tapping, sculpting, rounding, distilling, modeling, and finishing,
with his apprentices, his door closed and his ears open. Poverty
engendered hard work, hard work engendered his wonderful virtue, and
his virtue engendered his great wealth. Take this to heart, ye
children of Cain who eat doubloons and micturate water. If the good
silversmith felt himself possessed with wild desires, which now in one
way, now another, seize upon an unhappy bachelor when the devil tries
to get hold of him, making the sign of the cross, the Touranian
hammered away at his metal, drove out the rebellious spirits from his
brain by bending down over the exquisite works of art, little
engravings, figures of gold and silver forms, with which he appeased
the anger of his Venus. Add to this that this Touranian was an artless
man, of simple understanding, fearing God above all things, then
robbers, next to that of nobles, and more than all, a disturbance.
Although if he had two hands, he never did more than one thing at a
time. His voice was as gentle as that of a bridegroom before marriage.
Although the clergy, the military, and others gave him no reputation
for knowledge, he knew well his mother's Latin, and spoke it correctly
without waiting to be asked. Latterly the Parisians had taught him to
walk uprightly, not to beat the bush for others, to measure his
passions by the rule of his revenues, not to let them take his leather
to make other's shoes, to trust no one farther then he could see them,
never to say what he did, and always to do what he said; never to
spill anything but water; to have a better memory than flies usually
have; to keep his hands to himself, to do the same with his purse; to
avoid a crowd at the corner of a street, and sell his jewels for more
than they cost him; all things, the sage observance of which gave him
as much wisdom as he had need of to do business comfortably and
pleasantly. And so he did, without troubling anyone else. And watching
this good little man unobserved, many said,
"By my faith, I should like to be this jeweller, even were I obliged
to splash myself up to the eyes with the mud of Paris during a hundred
years for it."
They might just as well have wished to be king of France, seeing that
the silversmith had great powerful nervous arms, so wonderfully strong
that when he closed his fist the cleverest trick of the roughest
fellow could not open it; from which you may be sure that whatever he
got hold of he stuck to. More than this, he had teeth fit to masticate
iron, a stomach to dissolve it, a duodenum to digest it, a sphincter
to let it out again without tearing, and shoulders that would bear a
universe upon them, like that pagan gentleman to whom the job was
confided, and whom the timely arrival of Jesus Christ discharged from
the duty. He was, in fact, a man made with one stroke, and they are
the best, for those who have to be touched are worth nothing, being
patched up and finished at odd times. In short, Master Anseau was a
thorough man, with a lion's face, and under his eyebrows a glance that
would melt his gold if the fire of his forge had gone out, but a
limpid water placed in his eyes by the great Moderator of all things
tempered this great ardour, without which he would have burnt up
everything. Was he not a splendid specimen of a man?
With such a sample of his cardinal virtues, some persist in asking why
the good silversmith remained as unmarried as an oyster, seeing that
these properties of nature are of good use in all places. But these
opinionated critics, do they know what it is to love? Ho! Ho! Easy!
The vocation of a lover is to go, to come, to listen, to watch, to
hold his tongue, to talk, to stick in a corner, to make himself big,
to make himself little, to agree, to play music, to drudge, to go to
the devil wherever he may be, to count the gray peas in the dovecote,
to find flowers under the snow, to say paternosters to the moon, to
pat the cat and pat the dog, to salute the friends, to flatter the
gout, or the cold of the aunt, to say to her at opportune moments "You
have good looks, and will yet write the epitaph of the human race." To
please all the relations, to tread on no one's corns, to break no
glasses, to waste no breath, to talk nonsense, to hold ice in his
hand, to say, "This is good!" or, "Really, madam, you are very
beautiful so." And to vary that in a hundred different ways. To keep
himself cool, to bear himself like a nobleman, to have a free tongue
and a modest one, to endure with a smile all the evils the devil may
invent on his behalf, to smother his anger, to hold nature in control,
to have the finger of God, and the tail of the devil, to reward the
mother, the cousin, the servant; in fact, to put a good face on
everything. In default of which the female escapes and leaves you in a
fix, without giving a single Christian reason. In fact, the lover of
the most gentle maid that God ever created in a good-tempered moment,
had he talked like a book, jumped like a flea, turned about like dice,
played like King David, and built for the aforesaid woman the
Corinthian order of the columns of the devil, if he failed in the
essential and hidden thing which pleases his lady above all others,
which often she does not know herself and which he has need to know,
the lass leaves him like a red leper. She is quite right. No one can
blame her for so doing. When this happens some men become
ill-tempered, cross, and more wretched than you can possibly imagine.
Have not many of them killed themselves through this petticoat tyranny?
In this matter the man distinguishes himself from the beast, seeing that
no animal ever yet lost his senses through blighted love, which proves
abundantly that animals have no souls. The employment of a lover is
that of a mountebank, of a soldier, of a quack, of a buffoon, of a
prince, of a ninny, of a king, of an idler, of a monk, of a dupe, of a
blackguard, of a liar, of a braggart, of a sycophant, of a numskull,
of a frivolous fool, of a blockhead, of a know-nothing, of a knave. An
employment from which Jesus abstained, in imitation of whom folks of
great understanding likewise disdain it; it is a vocation in which a
man of worth is required to spend above all things, his time, his
life, his blood, his best words, besides his heart, his soul, and his
brain; things to which the women are cruelly partial, because directly
their tongues begin to go, they say among themselves that if they have
not the whole of a man they have none of him. Be sure, also, that
there are cats, who, knitting their eyebrows, complain that a man does
but a hundred things for them, for the purpose of finding out if there
be a hundred, at first seeing that in everything they desire the most
thorough spirit of conquest and tyranny. And this high jurisprudence
has always flourished among the customs of Paris, where the women
receive more wit at their baptism than in any other place in the
world, and thus are mischievous by birth.
But our silversmith, always busy at his work, burnishing gold and
melting silver, had no time to warm his love or to burnish and make
shine his fantasies, nor to show off, gad about, waste his time in
mischief, or to run after she-males. Now seeing that in Paris virgins
do not fall into the beds of young men any more than roast pheasants
into the streets, not even when the young men are royal silversmiths,
the Touranian had the advantage of having, as I have before observed,
a continent member in his shirt. However, the good man could not close
his eyes to the advantage of nature with which were so amply furnished
the ladies with whom he dilated upon the value of his jewels. So it
was that, after listening to the gentle discourse of the ladies, who
tried to wheedle and to fondle him to obtain a favour from him, the
good Touranian would return to his home, dreamy as a poet, wretched as
a restless cuckoo, and would say to himself, "I must take to myself a
wife. She would keep the house tidy, keep the plates hot for me, fold
the clothes for me, sew my buttons on, sing merrily about the house,
tease me to do everything according to her taste, would say to me as
they all say to their husbands when they want a jewel, 'Oh, my own
pet, look at this, is it not pretty?' And every one in the quarter
will think of my wife and then of me, and say 'There's a happy man.'
Then the getting married, the bridal festivities, to fondle Madame
Silversmith, to dress her superbly, give her a fine gold chain, to
worship her from crown to toe, to give her the whole management of the
house, except the cash, to give her a nice little room upstairs, with
good windows, pretty, and hung around with tapestry, with a wonderful
chest in it and a fine large bed, with twisted columns and curtains of
yellow silk. He would buy her beautiful mirrors, and there would
always be a dozen or so of children, his and hers, when he came home
to greet him." Then wife and children would vanish into the clouds. He
transferred his melancholy imaginings to fantastic designs, fashioned
his amorous thoughts into grotesque jewels that pleased their buyers
well, they not knowing how many wives and children were lost in the
productions of the good man, who, the more talent he threw into his
art, the more disordered he became. Now if God had not had pity upon
him, he would have quitted this world without knowing what love was,
but would have known it in the other without that metamorphosis of the
flesh which spares it, according to Monsieur Plato, a man of some
authority, but who, not being a Christian, was wrong. But, there!
these preparatory digressions are the idle digressions and fastidious
commentaries which certain unbelievers compel a man to wind about a
tale, swaddling clothes about an infant when it should run about stark
naked. May the great devil give them a clyster with his red-hot
three-pronged fork. I am going on with my story now without further
This is what happened to the silversmith in the one-and-fortieth year
of his age. One Sabbath-day while walking on the left bank of the
Seine, led by an idle fancy, he ventured as far as that meadow which
has since been called the Pre-aux-Clercs and which at that time was in
the domain of the abbey of St. Germain, and not in that of the
University. There, still strolling on the Touranian found himself in
the open fields, and there met a poor young girl who, seeing that he
was well-dressed, curtsied to him, saying "Heaven preserve you,
monseigneur." In saying this her voice had such sympathetic sweetness
that the silversmith felt his soul ravished by this feminine melody,
and conceived an affection for the girl, the more so as, tormented
with ideas of marriage as he was, everything was favourable thereto.
Nevertheless, as he had passed the wench by he dared not go back,
because he was as timid as a young maid who would die in her
petticoats rather than raise them for her pleasure. But when he was a
bowshot off he bethought him that he was a man who for ten years had
been a master silversmith, had become a citizen, and was a man of
mark, and could look a woman in the face if his fancy so led him, the
more so as his imagination had great power over him. So he turned
suddenly back, as if he had changed the direction of his stroll, and
came upon the girl, who held by an old cord her poor cow, who was
munching grass that had grown on the border of a ditch at the side of
"Ah, my pretty one," said he, "you are not overburdened with the goods
of this world that you thus work with your hands upon the Lord's Day.
Are you not afraid of being cast into prison?"
"Monseigneur," replied the maid, casting down her eyes, "I have
nothing to fear, because I belong to the abbey. The Lord Abbot has
given me leave to exercise the cow after vespers."
"You love your cow, then, more than the salvation of your soul?"
"Ah, monseigneur, our beast is almost the half of our poor lives."
"I am astonished, my girl, to see you poor and in rags, clothed like a
fagot, running barefoot about the fields on the Sabbath, when you
carry about you more treasures than you could dig up in the grounds of
the abbey. Do not the townspeople pursue, and torment you with love?"
"Oh, never monseigneur. I belong to the abbey", replied she, showing
the jeweller a collar on her left arm like those that the beasts of
the field have, but without the little bell, and at the same time
casting such a deplorable glance at our townsman that he was stricken
quite sad, for by the eyes are communicated contagions of the heart
when they are strong.
"And what does this mean?" he said, wishing to hear all about it.
And he touched the collar, upon which was engraved the arms of the
abbey very distinctly, but which he did not wish to see.
"Monseigneur, I am the daughter of an homme de corps; thus whoever
unites himself to me by marriage, will become a bondsman, even if he
were a citizen of Paris, and would belong body and goods to the abbey.
If he loved me otherwise, his children would still belong to the
domain. For this reason I am neglected by everyone, abandoned like a
poor beast of the field. But what makes me most unhappy is, that
according to the pleasure of monseigneur the abbot, I shall be coupled
at some time with a bondsman. And if I were less ugly than I am, at
the sight of my collar the most amorous would flee from me as from the
So saying, she pulled her cow by the cord to make it follow her.
"And how old are you?" asked the silversmith.
"I do not know, monseigneur; but our master, the abbot, has kept
This great misery touched the heart of the good man, who had in his
day eaten the bread of sorrow. He regulated his pace to the girl's,
and they went together towards the water in painful silence. The good
man gazed at the fine forehead, the round red arms, the queen's waist,
the feet dusty, but made like those of a Virgin Mary; and the sweet
physiognomy of this girl, who was the living image of St. Genevieve,
the patroness of Paris, and the maidens who live in the fields. And
make sure that this Joseph suspected the pretty white of this sweet
girl's breasts, which were by a modest grace carefully covered with an
old rag, and looked at them as a schoolboy looks at a rosy apple on a
hot day. Also, may you depend upon it that these little hillocks of
nature denoted a wench fashioned with delicious perfection, like
everything that the monks possess. Now, the more it was forbidden our
silversmith to touch them, the more his mouth watered for these fruits
of love. And his heart leaped almost into his mouth.
"You have a fine cow," said he.
"Would you like a little milk?" replied she. "It is so warm these
early days of May. You are far from the town."
In truth, the sky was a cloudless blue, and glared like a forge.
Everything was radiant with youth, the leaves, the air, the girls, the
lads; everything was burning, was green, and smelt like balm. This
naive offer, made without the hope of recompense, though a byzant
would not have paid for the special grace of this speech; and the
modesty of the gesture with which the poor girl turned to him gained
the heart of the jeweller, who would have liked to be able to put this
bondswoman into the skin of a queen, and Paris at her feet.
"Nay, my child, I thirst not for milk, but for you, whom I would have
leave to liberate."
"That cannot be, and I shall die the property of the abbey. For years
we have lived so, from father to son, from mother to daughter. Like my
ancestors, I shall pass my days on this land, as will also my
children, because the abbot cannot legally let us go."
"What!" said the Touranian; "has no gallant been tempted by your
bright eyes to buy your liberty, as I bought mine from the king?"
"It would cost too dear; thus it is those whom at first sight I
please, go as they came."
"And you have never thought of gaining another country in company of a
lover on horseback on a fleet courser?"
"Oh yes. But, monseigneur, if I were caught I should be hanged at
least; and my gallant, even were he a lord, would lose more than one
domain over it, besides other things. I am not worth so much; besides,
the abbey has arms longer than my feet are swift. So I live on in
perfect obedience to God, who has placed me in this plight."
"What is your father?"
"He tends the vines in the gardens of the abbey."
"And your mother?"
"She is a washerwoman."
"And what is your name?"
"I have no name, dear sir. My father was baptised Etienne, my mother
is Etienne, and I am Tiennette, at your service."
"Sweetheart," said the jeweller, "never has woman pleased me as you
please me; and I believe that your heart contains a wealth of
goodness. Now, since you offered yourself to my eyes at the moment
when I was firmly deliberating upon taking a companion, I believe that
I see in you a sign from heaven! And if I am not displeasing to you, I
beg you to accept me as your friend."
Immediately the maid lowered her eyes. These words were uttered in
such a way, in so grave a tone, so penetrating a manner, that the said
Tiennette burst into tears.
"No, monseigneur, I should be the cause of a thousand
unpleasantnesses, and of your misfortune. For a poor bondsmaid, the
conversation has gone far enough."
"Ho!" cried Anseau; "you do not know, my child, the man you are
The Touranian crossed himself, joined his hands, and said—
"I make a vow to Monsieur the Saint Eloi, under whose invocation are
the silversmiths, to fashion two images of pure silver, with the best
workmanship I am able to perform. One shall be a statue of Madame the
Virgin, to this end, to thank her for the liberty of my dear wife; and
the other for my said patron, if I am successful in my undertaking to
liberate the bondswoman Tiennette here present, and for which I rely
upon his assistance. Moreover, I swear by my eternal salvation, to
persevere with courage in this affair, to spend therein all I process,
and only to quit it with my life. God has heard me," said he. "And
you, little one," he added, turning towards the maid.
"Ha! monseigneur, look! My cow is running about the fields," cried
she, sobbing at the good man's knees. "I will love you all my life;
but withdraw your vow."
"Let us to look after the cow," said the silversmith, raising her,
without daring yet to kiss her, although the maid was well disposed to
"Yes," said she, "for I shall be beaten."
And behold now the silversmith, scampering after the cursed cow, who
gave no heed to their amours; she was taken by the horns, and held in
the grip of the Touranian, who for a trifle would have thrown her in
the air, like a straw.
"Adieu, my sweet one! If you go into the town, come to my house, over
against St Leu's Church. I am called Master Anseau, and am silversmith
to the King of France, at the sign of St. Eloi. Make me a promise to
be in this field the next Lord's-Day; fail not to come, even should it
"Yes, dear Sir. For this I would leap the walls, and, in gratitude,
would I be yours without mischief, and cause you no sorrow, at the
price of my everlasting future. Awaiting the happy moment, I will pray
God for you with all my heart."
And then she remained standing like a stone saint, moving not, until
she could see the good citizen no longer, and he went away with
lagging steps, turning from time to time further to gaze upon her. And
when he was far off, and out of her sight, she stayed on, until
nightfall, lost in meditation, knowing not if she had dreamed that
which had happened to her. Then she went back to the house, where she
was beaten for staying out, but felt not the blows. The good
silversmith could neither eat nor drink, but closed his workshop,
possessed of this girl, thinking of nothing but this girl, seeing
everywhere the girl; everything to him being to possess this girl. Now
when the morrow was come, he went with great apprehension towards the
abbey to speak to the lord abbot. On the road, however, he suddenly
thought of putting himself under the protection of one of the king's
people, and with this idea returned to the court, which was then held
in the town. Being esteemed by all for his prudence, and loved for his
little works and kindnesses, the king's chamberlain—for whom he had
once made, for a present to a lady of the court, a golden casket set
with precious stones and unique of its kind—promised him assistance,
had a horse saddled for himself, and a hack for the silversmith, with
whom he set out for the abbey, and asked to see the abbot, who was
Monseigneur Hugon de Sennecterre, aged ninety-three. Being come into
the room with the silversmith, waiting nervously to receive his
sentence, the chamberlain begged the abbot to sell him in advance a
thing which was easy for him to sell, and which would be pleasant to
To which the abbot replied, looking at the chamberlain—
"That the canons inhibited and forbade him thus to engage his word."
"Behold, my dear father," said the chamberlain, "the jeweller of the
Court who has conceived a great love for a bondswoman belonging to
your abbey, and I request you, in consideration of my obliging you in
any such desire as you may wish to see accomplished, to emancipate
"Which is she?" asked the abbot of the citizen.
"Her name is Tiennette," answered the silversmith, timidly.
"Ho! ho!" said the good old Hugon, smiling. "The angler has caught us
a good fish! This is a grave business, and I know not how to decide by
"I know, my father, what those words mean," said that chamberlain,
knitting his brows.
"Fine sir," said the abbot, "know you what this maid is worth?"
The abbot ordered Tiennette to be fetched, telling his clerk to dress
her in her finest clothes, and to make her look as nice as possible.
"Your love is in danger," said that chamberlain to the silversmith,
pulling him on one side. "Dismiss this fantasy. You can meet anywhere,
even at Court, with women of wealth, young and pretty, who would
willingly marry you. For this, if need be, the king would assist you
by giving you some title, which in course of time would enable you to
found a good family. Are you sufficiently well furnished with crowns
to become the founder of a noble line?"
"I know not, monseigneur," replied Anseau. "I have put money by."
"Then see if you cannot buy the manumission of this maid. I know the
monks. With them money does everything."
"Monseigneur," said the silversmith to the abbot, coming towards him,
"you have the charge and office representing here below the goodness
of God, who is often clement towards us, and has infinite treasures of
mercy for our sorrows. Now, I will remember you each evening and each
morning in my prayers, and never forget that I received my happiness
at your hands, if you aid me to gain this maid in lawful wedlock,
without keeping in servitude the children born of this union. And for
this I will make you a receptacle for the Holy Eucharist, so
elaborate, so rich with gold, precious stones and winged angels, that
no other shall be like it in all Christendom. It shall remain unique,
it shall dazzle your eyesight, and shall be so far the glory of your
altar, that the people of the towns and foreign nobles shall rush to
it, so magnificent shall it be."
"My son," replied the abbot "have you lost your senses? If you are so
resolved to have this wench for a legal wife, your goods and your
person belong to the Chapter of the abbey."
"Yes, monseigneur, I am passionately in love with this girl, and more
touched with her misery and her Christian heart than even with her
perfections; but I am," said he, with tears in his eyes, "still more
astonished at your harshness, and I say it although I know that my
fate is in your hands. Yes, monseigneur, I know the law; and if my
goods fall to your domain, if I become a bondsman, if I lose my house
and my citizenship, I will still keep that engine, gained by my
labours and my studies, on which lies there," cried he, striking his
forehead "in a place of which no one, save God, can be lord but
myself. And your whole abbey could not pay for the special creations
which proceed therefrom. You may have my body, my wife, my children,
but nothing shall get you my engine; nay, not even torture, seeing
that I am stronger than iron is hard, and more patient than sorrow is
So saying, the silversmith, enraged by the calmness of the abbot, who
seemed resolved to acquire for the abbey the good man's doubloons,
brought down his fist upon an oaken chair and shivered it into
fragments, for it split as under the blow of a mace.
"Behold, monseigneur, what kind of servant you will have, and of an
artificer of things divine you will make a mere cart-horse."
"My son," replied the abbot, "you have wrongfully broken my chair, and
lightly judged my mind. This wench belongs to the abbey and not to me.
I am the faithful servant of the rights and customs of this glorious
monastery; although I might grant this woman license to bear free
children, I am responsible for this to God and to the abbey. Now,
since there was here an altar, bondsmen and monks, id est, from time
immemorial, there has never occurred the case of a citizen becoming
the property of the abbey by marriage with a bondswoman. Now,
therefore, is there need to exercise the right, and to make use of it
so that it would not be lost, weakened, worn out, or fallen into
disuse, which would occasion a thousand difficulties. And this is of
higher advantage to the State and to the abbey than your stones,
however beautiful they be, seeing that we have treasure wherewith to
buy rare jewels, and that no treasure can establish customs and laws.
I call upon the king's chamberlain to bear witness to the infinite
pains which his majesty takes every day to fight for the establishment
of his orders."
"That is to close my mouth," said the chamberlain.
The silversmith, who was not a great scholar, remained thoughtful.
Then came Tiennette, clean as a new pin, her hair raised up, dressed
in a robe of white wool with a blue sash, with tiny shoes and white
stockings; in fact, so royally beautiful, so noble in her bearing was
she, that the silversmith was petrified with ecstasy, and the
chamberlain confessed he had never seen so perfect a creature.
Thinking there was too much danger in this sight for the poor
jeweller, he led him into the town, and begged him to think no further
of the affair, since the abbey was not likely to liberate so good a
bait for the citizens and nobles of the Parisian stream. In fact, the
Chapter let the poor lover know that if he married this girl he must
resolve to yield up his goods and his house to the abbey, consider
himself a bondsman, both he and the children of the aforesaid
marriage; although, by a special grace, the abbey would let him his
house on the condition of his giving an inventory of his furniture and
paying a yearly rent, and coming during eight days to live in a shed
adjoining the domain, thus performing an act of service. The
silversmith, to whom everyone spoke of the cupidity of the monks, saw
clearly that the abbot would incommutably maintain this order, and his
soul was filled with despair. At one time he determined to burn down
the monastery; at another, he proposed to lure the abbot into a place
where he could torment him until he had signed a charter for
Tiennette's liberation; in fact a thousand ideas possessed his brain,
and as quickly evaporated. But after much lamentation he determined to
carry off the girl, and fly with her into her a sure place from which
nothing could draw him, and made his preparations accordingly; for
once out of the kingdom, his friends or the king could better tackle
the monks and bring them to reason. The good man counted, however,
without his abbot, for going to the meadows, he found Tiennette no
more there, and learned that she was confined in the abbey, and with
much rigour, that to get at her it would be necessary to lay siege to
the monastery. Then Master Anseau passed his time in tears,
complaints, and lamentations; and all the city, the townspeople, and
housewives, talked of his adventure, the noise of which was so great,
that the king sent for the old abbot to court, and demanded of him why
he did not yield under the circumstances to the great love of the
silversmith, and why he did not put into practice Christian charity.
"Because, monseigneur," replied the priest, "all rights are knit
together like the pieces of a coat of mail, and if one makes default,
all fail. If this girl was taken from us against our wish, and if the
custom were not observed, your subjects would soon take off your
crown, and raise up in various places violence and sedition, in order
to abolish the taxes and imposts that weigh upon the populace."
The king's mouth was closed. Everyone was eager to know the end of
this adventure. So great was the curiosity that certain lords wagered
that the Touranian would desist from his love, and the ladies wagered
to the contrary. The silversmith having complained to the queen that
the monks had hidden his well-beloved from his sight, she found the
deed detestable and horrible; and in consequence of her commands to
the lord abbot it was permitted to the Touranian to go every day into
the parlour of the abbey, where came Tiennette, but under the control
of an old monk, and she always came attired in great splendour like a
lady. The two lovers had no other license than to see each other, and
to speak to each other, without being able to snatch the smallest atom
of pleasure, and always grew their love more powerful.
One day Tiennette discoursed thus with her lover—"My dear lord, I
have determined to make you a gift of my life, in order to relieve
your suffering, and in this wise; in informing myself concerning
everything I have found a means to set aside the rights of the abbey,
and to give you all the joy you hope for from my fruition."
"The ecclesiastical judge has ruled that as you become a bondsman only
by accession, and because you were not born a bondsman, your servitude
will cease with the cause that makes you a serf. Now, if you love me
more than all else, lose your goods to purchase our happiness, and
espouse me. Then when you have had your will of me, when you have
hugged me and embraced me to your heart's content, before I have
offspring will I voluntarily kill myself, and thus you become free
again; at least you will have the king on your side, who, it is said,
wishes you well. And without doubt, God will pardon me that I cause my
own death, in order to deliver my lord spouse."
"My dear Tiennette," cried the jeweller, "it is finished—I will be a
bondsman, and thou wilt live to make my happiness as long as my days.
In thy company, the hardest chains will weigh but lightly, and little
shall I reck the want of gold, when all my riches are in thy heart,
and my only pleasure in thy sweet body. I place myself in the hands of
St. Eloi, will deign in this misery to look upon us with pitying eyes,
and guard us from all evils. Now I shall go hence to a scrivener to
have the deeds and contracts drawn up. At least, dear flower of my
days, thou shalt be gorgeously attired, well housed, and served like a
queen during thy lifetime, since the lord abbot leaves me the earnings
of my profession."
Tiennette, crying and laughing, tried to put off her good fortune and
wished to die, rather than reduce to slavery a free man; but the good
Anseau whispered such soft words to her, and threatened so firmly to
follow her to the tomb, that she agreed to the said marriage, thinking
that she could always free herself after having tasted the pleasures
When the submission of the Touranian became known in the town, and
that for his sweetheart he yielded up his wealth and his liberty,
everyone wished to see him. The ladies of the court encumbered
themselves with jewels, in order to speak with him, and there fell
upon him as from the clouds women enough to make up for the time he
had been without them; but if any of them approached Tiennette in
beauty, none had her heart. To be brief, when the hour of slavery and
love was at hand, Anseau remolded all of his gold into a royal crown,
in which he fixed all his pearls and diamonds, and went secretly to
the queen, and gave it to her, saying, "Madame, I know not how to
dispose of my fortune, which you here behold. Tomorrow everything that
is found in my house will be the property of the cursed monks, who
have had no pity on me. Then deign, madame, to accept this. It is a
slight return for the joy which, through you, I have experienced in
seeing her I love; for no sum of money is worth one of her glances. I
do not know what will become of me, but if one day my children are
delivered, I rely upon your queenly generosity."
"Well said, good man," cried the king. "The abbey will one day need my
aid and I will not lose the remembrance of this."
There was a vast crowd at the abbey for the nuptials of Tiennette, to
whom the queen presented the bridal dress, and to whom the king
granted a licence to wear every day golden rings in her ears. When the
charming pair came from the abbey to the house of Anseau (now serf)
over against St. Leu, there were torches at the windows to see them
pass, and a double line in the streets, as though it were a royal
entry. The poor husband had made himself a collar of gold, which he
wore on his left arm in token of his belonging to the abbey of St.
Germain. But in spite of his servitude the people cried out, "Noel!
Noel!" as to a new crowned king. And the good man bowed to them
gracefully, happy as a lover, and joyful at the homage which every one
rendered to the grace and modesty of Tiennette. Then the good
Touranian found green boughs and violets in crowns in his honour; and
the principal inhabitants of the quarter were all there, who as a
great honour, played music to him, and cried to him, "You will always
be a noble man in spite of the abbey." You may be sure that the happy
pair indulged an amorous conflict to their hearts' content; that the
good man's blows were vigorous; and that his sweetheart, like a good
country maiden, was of a nature to return them. Thus they lived
together a whole month, happy as the doves, who in springtime build
their nest twig by twig. Tiennette was delighted with the beautiful
house and the customers, who came and went away astonished at her.
This month of flowers past, there came one day, with great pomp, the
good old Abbot Hugon, their lord and master, who entered the house,
which then belonged not the jeweller but to the Chapter, and said to
the two spouses:—
"My children, you are released, free and quit of everything; and I
should tell you that from the first I was much struck with the love
which united you one to the other. The rights of the abbey once
recognised, I was, so far as I was concerned, determined to restore
you to perfect enjoyment, after having proved your loyalty by the test
of God. And this manumission will cost you nothing." Having thus said,
he gave them each a little tap with his hand on the cheek. And they
fell about his knees weeping tears of joy for such good reasons. The
Touranian informed the people of the neighbourhood, who picked up in
the street the largesse, and received the predictions of the good
Then it was with great honour, Master Anseau held the reins of his
mule, so far as the gate of Bussy. During the journey the jeweller,
who had taken a bag of silver, threw the pieces to the poor and
suffering, crying, "Largesse, largesse to God! God save and guard the
abbot! Long live the good Lord Hugon!" And returning to his house he
regaled his friends, and had fresh wedding festivities, which lasted a
fortnight. You can imagine that the abbot was reproached by the
Chapter, for his clemency in opening the door for such good prey to
escape, so that when a year after the good man Hugon fell ill, his
prior told him that it was a punishment from Heaven because he had
neglected the sacred interests of the Chapter and of God.
"If I have judged that man aright," said the abbot, "he will not
forget what he owes us."
In fact, this day happening by chance to be the anniversary of the
marriage, a monk came to announce that the silversmith supplicated his
benefactor to receive him. Soon he entered the room where the abbot
was, and spread out before him two marvellous shrines, which since
that time no workman has surpassed, in any portion of the Christian
world, and which were named "Vow of a Steadfast Love." These two
treasures are, as everyone knows, placed on the principal altar of the
church, and are esteemed as an inestimable work, for the silversmith
had spent therein all his wealth. Nevertheless, this wealth, far from
emptying his purse, filled it full to overflowing, because so rapidly
increased his fame and his fortune that he was able to buy a patent of
nobility and lands, and he founded the house of Anseau, which has
since been held in great honour in fair Touraine.
This teaches us to have always recourse to God and the saints in all
the undertakings of life, to be steadfast in all things, and, above
all, that a great love triumphs over everything, which is an old
sentence; but the author has rewritten it because it is a most
CONCERNING A PROVOST WHO DID NOT RECOGNISE THINGS
In the good town of Bourges, at the time when that lord the king
disported himself there, who afterwards abandoned his search after
pleasure to conquer the kingdom, and did indeed conquer it, lived
there a provost, entrusted by him with the maintenance of order, and
called the provost-royal. From which came, under the glorious son of
the said king, the office of provost of the hotel, in which behaved
rather harshly my lord Tristan of Mere, of whom these tales oft make
mention, although he was by no means a merry fellow. I give this
information to the friends who pilfer from old manuscripts to
manufacture new ones, and I show thereby how learned these Tales
really are, without appearing to be so. Very well, then, this provost
was named Picot or Picault, of which some made picotin, picoter, and
picoree; by some Pitot or Pitaut, from which comes pitance; by
others in Languedoc, Pichot from which comes nothing comes worth
knowing; by these Petiot or Petiet; by those Petitot and Petinault, or
Petiniaud, which was the masonic appellation; but at Bourges he was
called Petit, a name which was eventually adopted by the family, which
has multiplied exceedingly, for everywhere you find "des Petits,"
and so he will be called Petit in this narrative. I have given this
etymology in order to throw a light on our language, and show how our
citizens have finished by acquiring names. But enough of science.
This said provost, who had as many names as there were provinces into
which the court went, was in reality a little bit of a man, whose
mother had given him so strange a hide, that when he wanted to laugh
he used to stretch his cheeks like a cow making water, and this smile
at court was called the provost's smile. One day the king, hearing
this proverbial expression used by certain lords, said jokingly—
"You are in error, gentlemen, Petit does not laugh, he's short of skin
below the mouth."
But with his forced laugh Petit was all the more suited to his
occupation of watching and catching evil-doers. In fact, he was worth
what he cost. For all malice, he was a bit of a cuckold, for all vice,
he went to vespers, for all wisdom he obeyed God, when it was
convenient; for all joy he had a wife in his house; and for all change
in his joy he looked for a man to hang, and when he was asked to find
one he never failed to meet him; but when he was between the sheets he
never troubled himself about thieves. Can you find in all Christendom
a more virtuous provost? No! All provosts hang too little, or too
much, while this one just hanged as much as was necessary to be a
This good fellow had for his wife in legitimate marriage, and much to
the astonishment of everyone, the prettiest little woman in Bourges.
So it was that often, while on his road to the execution, he would ask
God the same question as several others in the town did—namely, why
he, Petit, he the sheriff, he the provost royal, had to himself,
Petit, provost royal and sheriff, a wife so exquisitely shapely, said
dowered with charms, that a donkey seeing her pass by would bray with
delight. To this God vouchsafed no reply, and doubtless had his
reasons. But the slanderous tongues of the town replied for him, that
the young lady was by no means a maiden when she became the wife of
Petit. Others said she did not keep her affections solely for him. The
wags answered, that donkeys often get into fine stables. Everyone had
taunts ready which would have made a nice little collection had anyone
gathered them together. From them, however, it is necessary to take
nearly four-fourths, seeing that Petit's wife was a virtuous woman,
who had a lover for pleasure and a husband for duty. How many were
there in the town as careful of their hearts and mouths? If you can
point out one to me, I'll give you a kick or a half-penny, whichever
you like. You will find some who have neither husband nor lover.
Certain females have a lover and no husband. Ugly women have a husband
and no lover. But to meet with a woman who, having one husband and one
lover, keeps to the deuce without trying for the trey, there is the
miracle, you see, you greenhorns, blockheads, and dolts! Now then, put
the true character of this virtuous woman on the tablets of your
memory, go your ways, and let me go mine.
The good Madame Petit was not one of those ladies who are always on
the move, running hither and thither, can't keep still a moment, but
trot about, worrying, hurrying, chattering, and clattering, and had
nothing in them to keep them steady, but are so light that they run
after a gastric zephyr as after their quintessence. No; on the
contrary, she was a good housewife, always sitting in her chair or
sleeping in her bed, ready as a candlestick, waiting for her lover
when her husband went out, receiving the husband when the lover had
gone. This dear woman never thought of dressing herself only to annoy
and make other wives jealous. Pish! She had found a better use for the
merry time of youth, and put life into her joints in order to make the
best use of it. Now you know the provost and his good wife.
The provost's lieutenant in duties matrimonial, duties which are so
heavy that it takes two men to execute them, was a noble lord, a
landowner, who disliked the king exceedingly. You must bear this in
mind, because it is one of the principal points of the story. The
Constable, who was a thorough Scotch gentleman, had seen by chance
Petit's wife, and wished to have a little conversation with her
comfortably, towards the morning, just the time to tell his beads,
which was Christianly honest, or honestly Christian, in order to argue
with her concerning the things of science or the science of things.
Thinking herself quite learned enough, Madame Petit, who was, as has
been stated, a virtuous, wise, and honest wife, refused to listen to
the said constable. After certain arguments, reasonings, tricks and
messages, which were of no avail, he swore by his great black
coquedouille that he would rip up the gallant although he was a man
of mark. But he swore nothing about the lady. This denotes a good
Frenchman, for in such a dilemma there are certain offended persons
who would upset the whole business of three persons by killing four.
The constable wagered his big black coquedouille before the king and
the lady of Sorel, who were playing cards before supper; and his
majesty was well pleased, because he would be relieved of this noble,
that displeased him, and that without costing him a Thank You.
"And how will you manage the affair?" said Madame de Sorel to him,
with a smile.
"Oh, oh!" replied the constable. "You may be sure, madame, I do not
wish to lose my big black coquedouille."
"What was, then, this great coquedouille?"
"Ha, ha! This point is shrouded in darkness to a degree that would
make you ruin your eyes in ancient books; but it was certainly
something of great importance. Nevertheless, let us put on our
spectacles, and search it out. Douille signifies in Brittany, a
girl, and coque means a cook's frying pan. From this word has come
into France that of coquin—a knave who eats, licks, laps, sucks,
and fritters his money away, and gets into stews; is always in hot
water, and eats up everything, leads an idle life, and doing this,
becomes wicked, becomes poor, and that incites him to steal or beg.
From this it may be concluded by the learned that the great
coquedouille was a household utensil in the shape of a kettle used for
"Well," continued the constable, who was the Sieur of Richmond, "I
will have the husband ordered to go into the country for a day and a
night, to arrest certain peasants suspected of plotting treacherously
with the English. Thereupon my two pigeons, believing their man
absent, will be as merry as soldiers off duty; and, if a certain thing
takes place, I will let loose the provost, sending him, in the king's
name, to search the house where the couple will be, in order that he
may slay our friend, who pretends to have this good cordelier all to
"What does this mean?" said the Lady of Beaute.
"Friar . . . fryer . . . an equivoque," answered the king, smiling.
"Come to supper," said Madame Agnes. "You are bad men, who with one
word insult both the citizens' wives and a holy order."
Now, for a long time, Madame Petit had longed to have a night of
liberty, during which she might visit the house of the said noble,
where she could make as much noise as she liked, without waking the
neighbours, because at the provost's house she was afraid of being
overheard, and had to content herself well with the pilferings of
love, little tastes, and nibbles, daring at the most only to trot,
while what she desired was a smart gallop. On the morrow, therefore,
the lady's-maid went off about midday to the young lord's house, and
told the lover—from whom she received many presents, and therefore in
no way disliked him—that he might make his preparations for pleasure,
and for supper, for that he might rely upon the provost's better half
being with him in the evening both hungry and thirsty.
"Good!" said he. "Tell your mistress I will not stint her in anything
The pages of the cunning constable, who were watching the house,
seeing the gallant prepare for his gallantries, and set out the
flagons and the meats, went and informed their master that everything
had happened as he wished. Hearing this, the good constable rubbed his
hands thinking how nicely the provost would catch the pair. He
instantly sent word to him, that by the king's express commands he was
to return to town, in order that he might seize at the said lord's
house an English nobleman, with whom he was vehemently suspected to be
arranging a plot of diabolical darkness. But before he put this order
into execution, he was to come to the king's hotel, in order that he
might understand the courtesy to be exercised in this case. The
provost, joyous at the chance of speaking to the king, used such
diligence that he was in town just at that time when the two lovers
were singing the first note of their evening hymn. The lord of
cuckoldom and its surrounding lands, who is a strange lord, managed
things so well, that madame was only conversing with her lord lover at
the time that her lord spouse was talking to the constable and the
king; at which he was pleased, and so was his wife—a case of concord
rare in matrimony.
"I was saying to monseigneur," said the constable to the provost, as
he entered the king's apartment, "that every man in the kingdom has a
right to kill his wife and her lover if he finds them in an act of
infidelity. But his majesty, who is clement, argues that he has only a
right to kill the man, and not the woman. Now what would you do, Mr.
Provost, if by chance you found a gentleman taking a stroll in that
fair meadow of which laws, human and divine, enjoin you alone to
cultivate the verdure?"
"I would kill everything," said the provost; "I would scrunch the five
hundred thousand devils of nature, flower and seed, and send them
flying, the pips and apples, the grass and the meadow, the woman and
"You would be in the wrong," said the king. "That is contrary to the
laws of the Church and of the State; of the State, because you might
deprive me of a subject; of the Church, because you would be sending
an innocent to limbo unshriven."
"Sire, I admire your profound wisdom, and I clearly perceive you to be
the centre of all justice."
"We can then only kill the knight—Amen," said constable, "Kill the
horseman. Now go quickly to the house of the suspected lord, but
without letting yourself be bamboozled, do not forget what is due to
The provost, believing he would certainly be Chancellor of France if
he properly acquitted himself of the task, went from the castle into
the town, took his men, arrived at the nobleman's residence, arranged
his people outside, placed guards at all the doors, opened noiselessly
by order of the king, climbs the stairs, asks the servants in which
room their master is, puts them under arrest, goes up alone, and
knocks at the door of the room where the two lovers are tilting in
love's tournament, and says to them—
"Open, in the name of our lord the king!"
The lady recognised her husband's voice, and could not repress a
smile, thinking that she had not waited for the king's orders to do
what she had done. But after laughter came terror. Her lover took his
cloak, threw it over him, and came to the door. There, not knowing
that his life was in peril, he declared that he belonged to the court
and to the king's household.
"Bah!" said the provost. "I have a strict order from the king; and
under pain of being treated as a rebel, you are bound instantly to
Then the lord went out to him, still holding the door.
"What do you want here?"
"An enemy of our lord the king, whom we command you to deliver into
our hands, otherwise you must follow me with him to the castle."
This, thought the lover, is a piece of treachery on the part of the
constable, whose proposition my dear mistress treated with scorn. We
must get out of this scrape in some way. Then turning towards the
provost, he went double or quits on the risk, reasoning thus with the
"My friend, you know that I consider you but as gallant a man as it is
possible for a provost to be in the discharge of his duty. Now, can I
have confidence in you? I have here with me the fairest lady of the
court. As for Englishmen, I have not sufficient of one to make the
breakfast of the constable, M. de Richmond, who sends you here. This
is (to be candid with you) the result of a bet made between myself and
the constable, who shares it with the King. Both have wagered that
they know who is the lady of my heart; and I have wagered to the
contrary. No one more than myself hates the English, who took my
estates in Piccadilly. Is it not a knavish trick to put justice in
motion against me? Ho! Ho! my lord constable, a chamberlain is worth
two of you, and I will beat you yet. My dear Petit, I give you
permission to search by night and by day, every nook and cranny of my
house. But come in here alone, search my room, turn the bed over, do
what you like. Only allow me to cover with a cloth or a handkerchief
this fair lady, who is at present in the costume of an archangel, in
order that you may not know to what husband she belongs."
"Willingly," said the provost. "But I am an old bird, not easily
caught with chaff, and would like to be sure that it is really a lady
of the court, and not an Englishman, for these English have flesh as
white and soft as women, and I know it well, because I've hanged so
many of them."
"Well then," said the lord, "seeing of what crime I am suspected, from
which I am bound to free myself, I will go and ask my lady-love to
consent for a moment to abandon her modesty. She is too fond of me to
refuse to save me from reproach. I will beg her to turn herself over
and show you a physiognomy, which will in no way compromise her, and
will be sufficient to enable you to recognise a noble woman, although
she will be in a sense upside down."
"All right," said the provost.
The lady having heard every word, had folded up all her clothes, and
put them under the bolster, had taken off her chemise, that her
husband should not recognise it, had twisted her head up in a sheet,
and had brought to light the carnal convexities which commenced where
her spine finished.
"Come in, my friend," said the lord.
The provost looked up the chimney, opened the cupboard, the clothes'
chest, felt under the bed, in the sheets, and everywhere. Then he
began to study what was on the bed.
"My lord," said he, regarding his legitimate appurtenances, "I have
seen young English lads with backs like that. You must forgive me
doing my duty, but I must see otherwise."
"What do you call otherwise?" said the lord.
"Well, the other physiognomy, or, if you prefer it, the physiognomy of
"Then you will allow madame to cover herself and arrange only to show
you sufficient to convince you," said the lover, knowing that the lady
had a mark or two easy to recognise. "Turn your back a moment, so that
my dear lady may satisfy propriety."
The wife smiled at her lover, kissed him for his dexterity, arranging
herself cunningly; and the husband seeing in full that which the jade
had never let him see before, was quite convinced that no English
person could be thus fashioned without being a charming Englishwoman.
"Yes, my lord," he whispered in the ear of his lieutenant, "this is
certainly a lady of the court, because the towns-women are neither so
well formed nor so charming."
Then the house being thoroughly searched, and no Englishman found, the
provost returned, as the constable had told him, to the king's
"Is he slain?" said the constable.
"He who grafted horns upon your forehead."
"I only saw a lady in his couch, who seemed to be greatly enjoying
herself with him."
"You, with your own eyes, saw this woman, cursed cuckold, and you did
not kill your rival?"
"It was not a common woman, but a lady of the court."
"You saw her?"
"And verified her in both cases."
"What do you mean by those words?" cried the king, who was bursting
"I say, with all the respect due to your Majesty, that I have verified
the over and the under."
"You do not, then, know the physiognomies of your own wife, you old
fool without memory! You deserve to be hanged."
"I hold those features of my wife in too great respect to gaze upon
them. Besides she is so modest that she would die rather than expose
an atom of her body."
"True," said the king; "it was not made to be shown."
"Old coquedouille! that was your wife," said the constable.
"My lord constable, she is asleep, poor girl!"
"Quick, quick, then! To horse! Let us be off, and if she be in your
house I'll forgive you."
Then the constable, followed by the provost, went to the latter's
house in less time than it would have taken a beggar to empty the
"Hullo! there, hi!"
Hearing the noise made by the men, which threatened to bring the walls
about their ears, the maid-servant opened the door, yawning and
stretching her arms. The constable and the provost rushed into the
room, where, with great difficulty, they succeeded in waking the lady,
who pretended to be terrified, and was so soundly asleep that her eyes
were full of gum. At this the provost was in great glee, saying to the
constable that someone had certainly deceived him, that his wife was a
virtuous woman, and was more astonished than any of them at these
proceedings. The constable turned on his heel and departed. The good
provost began directly to undress to get to bed early, since this
adventure had brought his good wife to his memory. When he was
harnessing himself, and was knocking off his nether garments, madame,
still astonished, said to him—
"Oh, my dear husband, what is the meaning of all this uproar—this
constable and his pages, and why did he come to see if I was asleep?
Is it to be henceforward part of a constable's duty to look after
our . . ."
"I do not know," said the provost, interrupting her, to tell her what
had happened to him.
"And you saw without my permission a lady of the court! Ha! ha! heu!
Then she began to moan, to weep, and to cry in such a deplorable
manner and so loudly, that her lord was quite aghast.
"What's the matter, my darling? What is it? What do you want?"
"Ah! You won't love me any more are after seeing how beautiful court
"Nonsense, my child! They are great ladies. I don't mind telling you
in confidence; they are great ladies in every respect."
"Well," said she, "am I nicer?"
"Ah," said he, "in a great measure. Yes!"
"They have, then, great happiness," said she, sighing, "when I have so
much with so little beauty."
Thereupon the provost tried a better argument to argue with his good
wife, and argued so well that she finished by allowing herself to be
convinced that Heaven has ordained that much pleasure may be obtained
from small things.
This shows us that nothing here below can prevail against the Church
ABOUT THE MONK AMADOR, WHO WAS A GLORIOUS ABBOT OF TURPENAY
One day that it was drizzling with rain—a time when the ladies remain
gleefully at home, because they love the damp, and can have at their
apron strings the men who are not disagreeable to them—the queen was
in her chamber, at the castle of Amboise, against the window curtains.
There, seated in her chair, she was working at a piece of tapestry to
amuse herself, but was using her needle heedlessly, watching the rain
fall into the Loire, and was lost in thought, where her ladies were
following her example. The king was arguing with those of his court
who had accompanied him from the chapel—for it was a question of
returning to dominical vespers. His arguments, statements, and
reasonings finished, he looked at the queen, saw that she was
melancholy, saw that the ladies were melancholy also, and noted the
fact that they were all acquainted with the mysteries of matrimony.
"Did I not see the Abbot of Turpenay here just now?" said he.
Hearing these words, there advanced towards the king the monk, who, by
his constant petitions, rendered himself so obnoxious to Louis the
Eleventh, that that monarch seriously commanded his provost-royal to
remove him from his sight; and it has been related in the first volume
of these Tales, how the monk was saved through the mistake of Sieur
Tristan. The monk was at this time a man whose qualities had grown
rapidly, so much so that his wit had communicated a jovial hue to his
face. He was a great favourite with the ladies, who crammed him with
wine, confectioneries, and dainty dishes at the dinners, suppers, and
merry-makings, to which they invited him, because every host likes
those cheerful guests of God with nimble jaws, who say as many words
as they put away tit-bits. This abbot was a pernicious fellow, who
would relate to the ladies many a merry tale, at which they were only
offended when they had heard them; since, to judge them, things must
"My reverend father," said the king, "behold the twilight hour, in
which ears feminine may be regaled with certain pleasant stories, for
the ladies can laugh without blushing, or blush without laughing, as
it suits them best. Give us a good story—a regular monk's story. I
shall listen to it, i'faith, with pleasure, because I want to be
amused, and so do the ladies."
"We only submit to this, in order to please your lordship," said the
queen; "because our good friend the abbot goes a little too far."
"Then," replied the king, turning towards the monk, "read us some
Christian admonition, holy father, to amuse madame."
"Sire, my sight is weak, and the day is closing."
"Give us a story, then, that stops at the girdle."
"Ah, sire!" said the monk, smiling, "the one I am thinking of stops
there; but it commences at the feet."
The lords present made such gallant remonstrances and supplications to
the queen and her ladies, that, like the good Bretonne that she was,
she gave the monk a gentle smile, and said—
"As you will, my father; but you must answer to God for our sins."
"Willingly, madame; if it be your pleasure to take mine, you will be a
Everyone laughed, and so did queen. The king went and sat by his dear
wife, well beloved by him, as everyone knows. The courtiers received
permission to be seated—the old courtiers, of course, understood; for
the young ones stood, by the ladies' permission, beside their chairs,
to laugh at the same time as they did. Then the Abbot of Turpenay
gracefully delivered himself of the following tale, the risky passages
of which he gave in a low, soft, flute-like voice:—
About a hundred years ago at the least, there occurred great quarrels
in Christendom because there were two popes at Rome, each one
pretending to be legitimately elected, which caused great annoyance to
the monasteries, abbeys, and bishoprics, since, in order to be
recognised by as many as possible, each of the two popes granted
titles and rights to each adherent, the which made double owners
everywhere. Under these circumstances, the monasteries and abbeys that
were at war with their neighbours would not recognise both the popes,
and found themselves much embarrassed by the other, who always gave
the verdict to the enemies of the Chapter. This wicked schism brought
about considerable mischief, and proved abundantly that error is worse
in Christianity than the adultery of the Church.
Now at this time, when the devil was making havoc among our
possessions, the most illustrious abbey of Turpenay, of which I am at
present the unworthy ruler, had a heavy trial on concerning the
settlements of certain rights with the redoubtable Sire de Cande, an
idolatrous infidel, a relapsed heretic, and most wicked lord. This
devil, sent upon earth in the shape of a nobleman, was, to tell the
truth, a good soldier, well received at court, and a friend of the
Sieur Bureau de la Riviere; who was a person to whom the king was
exceedingly partial—King Charles the Fifth, of glorious memory.
Beneath the shelter of the favour of this Sieur de la Riviere, Lord of
Cande did exactly as he pleased in the valley of the Indre, where he
used to be master of everything, from Montbazon to Usse. You may be
sure that his neighbours were terribly afraid of him, and to save
their skulls let him have his way. They would, however, have preferred
him under the ground to above it, and heartily wished him bad luck;
but he troubled himself little about that. In the whole valley the
noble abbey alone showed fight to this demon, for it has always been a
doctrine of the Church to take into her lap the weak and suffering,
and use every effort to protect the oppressed, especially those whose
rights and privileges are menaced.
For this reason this rough warrior hated monks exceedingly, especially
those of Turpenay, who would not allow themselves to be robbed of
their rights either by force or stratagem. He was well pleased at the
ecclesiastical schism, and waited the decision of our abbey,
concerning which pope they should choose, to pillage them, being quite
ready to recognise the one to whom the abbot of Turpenay should refuse
his obedience. Since his return to his castle, it was his custom to
torment and annoy the priests whom he encountered upon his domains in
such a manner, that a poor monk, surprised by him on his private road,
which was by the water-side, perceived no other method of safety then
to throw himself into the river, where, by a special miracle of the
Almighty, whom the good man fervently invoked, his gown floated him on
the Indre, and he made his way comfortably to the other side, which he
attained in full view of the lord of Cande, who was not ashamed to
enjoy the terrors of a servant of God. Now you see of what stuff this
horrid man was made. The abbot, to whom at that time, the care of our
glorious abbey was committed, led a most holy life, and prayed to God
with devotion; but he would have saved his own soul ten times, of such
good quality was his religion, before finding a chance to save the
abbey itself from the clutches of this wretch. Although he was very
perplexed, and saw the evil hour at hand, he relied upon God for
succour, saying that he would never allow the property of the Church
to be touched, and that He who had raised up the Princess Judith for
the Hebrews, and Queen Lucretia for the Romans, would keep his most
illustrious abbey of Turpenay, and indulged in other equally sapient
remarks. But his monks, who—to our shame I confess it—were
unbelievers, reproached him with his happy-go-lucky way of looking at
things, and declared that, to bring the chariot of Providence to the
rescue in time, all the oxen in the province would have to be yoked
it; that the trumpets of Jericho were no longer made in any portion of
the world; that God was disgusted with His creation, and would have
nothing more to do with it: in short, a thousand and one things that
were doubts and contumelies against God.
At this desperate juncture there rose up a monk named Amador. This
name had been given him by way of a joke, since his person offered a
perfect portrait of the false god Aegipan. He was like him, strong in
the stomach; like him, had crooked legs; arms hairy as those of a
saddler, a back made to carry a wallet, a face as red as the phiz of a
drunkard, glistening eyes, a tangled beard, was hairy faced, and so
puffed out with fat and meat that you would have fancied him in an
interesting condition. You may be sure that he sung his matins on the
steps of the wine-cellar, and said his vespers in the vineyards of
Lord. He was as fond of his bed as a beggar with sores, and would go
about the valley fuddling, faddling, blessing the bridals, plucking
the grapes, and giving them to the girls to taste, in spite of the
prohibition of the abbot. In fact, he was a pilferer, a loiterer, and
a bad soldier of the ecclesiastical militia, of whom nobody in the
abbey took any notice, but let him do as he liked from motives of
Christian charity, thinking him mad.
Amador, knowing that it was a question of the ruin of the Abbey, in
which he was as snug as a bug in a rug, put up his bristles, took
notice of this and of that, went into each of the cells, listened in
the refectory, shivered in his shoes, and declared that he would
attempt to save the abbey. He took cognisance of the contested points,
received from the abbot permission to postpone the case, and was
promised by the whole Chapter the Office of sub-prior if he succeeded
in putting an end to the litigation. Then he set off across the
country, heedless of the cruelty and ill-treatment of the Sieur de
Cande, saying that he had that within his gown which would subdue him.
He went his way with nothing but the said gown for his viaticum: but
then in it was enough fat to feed a dwarf. He selected to go to the
chateau, a day when it rained hard enough to fill the tubs of all the
housewives, and arrived without meeting a soul, in sight of Cande, and
looking like a drowned dog, stepped bravely into the courtyard, and
took shelter under a sty-roof to wait until the fury of the elements
had calmed down, and placed himself boldly in front of the room where
the owner of the chateau should be. A servant perceiving him while
laying the supper, took pity on him, and told him to make himself
scarce, otherwise his master would give him a horsewhipping, just to
open the conversation, and asked him what made him so bold as to enter
a house where monks were hated more than a red leper.
"Ah!" said Amador, "I am on my way to Tours, sent thither by my lord
abbot. If the lord of Cande were not so bitter against the poor
servant of God, I should not be kept during such a deluge in the
courtyard, but in the house. I hope that he will find mercy in his
hour of need."
The servant reported these words to his master, who at first wished to
have the monk thrown into the big trough of the castle among the other
filth. But the lady of Cande, who had great authority over her spouse,
and was respected by him, because through her he expected a large
inheritance, and because she was a little tyrannical, reprimanded him,
saying, that it was possible this monk was a Christian; that in such
weather thieves would succour an officer of justice; that, besides, it
was necessary to treat him well to find out to what decision the
brethren of Turpenay had come with regard to the schism business, and
that her advice was put an end by kindness and not by force to the
difficulties arisen between the abbey and the domain of Cande, because
no lord since the coming of Christ had ever been stronger than the
Church, and that sooner or later the abbey would ruin the castle;
finally, she gave utterance to a thousand wise arguments, such as
ladies use in the height of the storms of life, when they have had
about enough of them. Amador's face was so piteous, his appearance so
wretched, and so open to banter, that the lord, saddened by the
weather, conceived the idea of enjoying a joke at his expense,
tormenting him, playing tricks on him, and of giving him a lively
recollection of his reception at the chateau. Then this gentleman, who
had secret relations with his wife's maid, sent this girl, who was
called Perrotte, to put an end to his ill-will towards the luckless
Amador. As soon as the plot had been arranged between them, the wench,
who hated monks, in order to please her master, went to the monk, who
was standing under the pigsty, assuming a courteous demeanour in order
the better to please him, said—
"Holy father, the master of the house is ashamed to see a servant of
God out in the rain when there is room for him indoors, a good fire in
the chimney, and a table spread. I invite you in his name and that of
the lady of the house to step in."
"I thank the lady and lord, not for their hospitality which is a
Christian thing, but for having sent as an ambassador to me, a poor
sinner, an angel of such delicate beauty that I fancy I see the Virgin
over our altar."
Saying which, Amador raised his nose in the air, and saluted with the
two flakes of fire that sparkled in his bright eyes the pretty
maidservant, who thought him neither so ugly nor so foul, nor so
bestial; when, following Perrotte up the steps, Amador received on the
nose, cheeks, and other portions of his face a slash of the whip,
which made him see all the lights of the Magnificat, so well was the
dose administered by the Sieur de Cande, who, busy chastening his
greyhounds pretended not see the monk. He requested Amador to pardon
him this accident, and ran after the dogs who had caused the mischief
to his guest. The laughing servant, who knew what was coming, had
dexterously kept out of the way. Noticing this business, Amador
suspected the relations of Perrotte and the chevalier, concerning whom
it is possible that the lasses of the valley had already whispered
something into his ear. Of the people who were then in the room not
one made room for the man of God, who remained right in the draught
between the door and the window, where he stood freezing until the
moment when the Sieur de Cande, his wife, and his aged sister,
Mademoiselle de Cande, who had the charge of the young heiress of the
house, aged about sixteen years, came and sat in their chairs at the
head of the table, far from the common people, according to the old
custom usual among the lords of the period, much to their discredit.
The Sieur de Cande, paying no attention to the monk, let him sit at
the extreme end of the table, in a corner, where two mischievous lads
had orders to squeeze and elbow him. Indeed these fellows worried his
feet, his body, and his arms like real torturers, poured white wine
into his goblet for water, in order to fuddle him, and the better to
amuse themselves with him; but they made him drink seven large jugfuls
without making belch, break wind, sweat or snort, which horrified them
exceedingly, especially as his eye remained as clear as crystal.
Encouraged, however, by a glance from their lord, they still kept
throwing, while bowing to him, gravy into his beard, and wiping it dry
in a manner to tear every hair of it out. The varlet who served a
caudle baptised his head with it, and took care to let the burning
liquor trickle down poor Amador's backbone. All this agony he endured
with meekness, because the spirit of God was in him, and also the hope
of finishing the litigation by holding out in the castle.
Nevertheless, the mischievous lot burst out into such roars of
laughter at the warm baptism given by the cook's lad to the soaked
monk, even the butler making jokes at his expense, that the lady of
Cande was compelled to notice what was going on at the end of the
table. Then she perceived Amador, who had a look of sublime
resignation upon his face, and was endeavouring to get something out
of the big beef bones that had been put upon his pewter platter. At
this moment the poor monk, who had administered a dexterous blow of
the knife to a big ugly bone, took it into his hairy hands, snapped it
in two, sucked the warm marrow out of it, and found it good.
"Truly," said she to herself, "God has put great strength into this
At the same time she seriously forbade the pages, servants, and others
to torment the poor man, to whom out of mockery they had just given
some rotten apples and maggoty nuts. He, perceiving that the old lady
and her charge, the lady and the servants had seen him manoeuvring the
bone, pushed backed his sleeve, showed the powerful muscles of his
arm, placed nuts near his wrist on the bifurcation of the veins, and
crushed them one by one by pressing them with the palm of his hand so
vigorously that they appeared like ripe medlars. He also crunched them
between his teeth, white as the teeth of a dog, husk, shell, fruit,
and all, of which he made in a second a mash which he swallowed like
honey. He crushed them between two fingers, which he used like
scissors to cut them in two without a moment's hesitation.
You may be sure that the women were silent, that the men believed the
devil to be in the monk; and had it not been for his wife and the
darkness of the night, the Sieur de Cande, having the fear of God
before his eyes, would have kicked him out of the house. Everyone
declared that the monk was a man capable of throwing the castle into
the moat. Therefore, as soon as everyone had wiped his mouth, my lord
took care to imprison this devil, whose strength was terrible to
behold, and had him conducted to a wretched little closet where
Perrotte had arranged her machine in order to annoy him during the
night. The tom-cats of the neighbourhood had been requested to come
and confess to him, invited to tell him their sins in embryo towards
the tabbies who attracted their affections, and also the little pigs
for whom fine lumps of tripe had been placed under the bed in order to
prevent them becoming monks, of which they were very desirous, by
disgusting them with the style of libera, which the monk would sing to
them. At every movement of poor Amador, who would find short
horse-hair in the sheets, he would bring down cold water on to the bed,
and a thousand other tricks were arranged, such are usually practised
in castles. Everyone went to bed in expectation of the nocturnal revels
of the monk, certain that they would not be disappointed, since he had
been lodged under the tiles at the top of a little tower, the guard of
the door of which was committed to dogs who howled for a bit of him.
In order to ascertain what language the conversations with the cats
and pigs would be carried on, the Sire came to stay with his dear
Perrotte, who slept in the next room.
As soon as he found himself thus treated, Amador drew from his bag a
knife, and dexterously extricated himself. Then he began to listen in
order to find out the ways of the place, and heard the master of the
house laughing with his maid-servant. Suspecting their manoeuvres, he
waited till the moment when the lady of the house should be alone in
bed, and made his way into her room with bare feet, in order that his
sandals should not be in his secrets. He appeared to her by the light
of the lamp in the manner in which monks generally appear during the
night—that is, in a marvellous state, which the laity find it
difficult long to sustain; and the thing is an effect of the frock,
which magnifies everything. Then having let her see that he was all a
monk, he made the following little speech—
"Know, madame, that I am sent by Jesus and the Virgin Mary to warn you
to put an end to the improper perversities which are taking place—to
the injury of your virtue, which is treacherously deprived of your
husband's best attention, which he lavishes upon your maid. What is
the use of being a lady if the seigneurial dues are received
elsewhere. According to this, your servant is the lady and you are the
servant. Are not all the joys bestowed upon her due to you? You will
find them all amassed in our Holy Church, which is the consolation of
the afflicted. Behold in me the messenger, ready to pay these debts if
you do not renounce them."
Saying this, the good monk gently loosened his girdle in which he was
incommoded, so much did he appear affected by the sight of those
beauties which the Sieur de Cande disdained.
"If you speak truly, my father, I will submit to your guidance," said
she, springing lightly out of bed. "You are for sure, a messenger of
God, because you have been in a single day that which I had not
noticed here for a long time."
Then she went, accompanied by Amador, whose holy robe she did not fail
to run her hand over, and was so struck when she found it real, that
she hoped to find her husband guilty; and indeed she heard him talking
about the monk in her servant's bed. Perceiving this felony, she went
into a furious rage and opened her mouth to resolve it into words—
which is the usual method of women—and wished to kick up the devil's
delight before handing the girl over to justice. But Amador told her
that it would be more sensible to avenge herself first, and cry out
"Avenge me quickly, then, my father," said she, "that I may begin to
Thereupon the monk avenged her most monastically with a good and ample
vengeance, that she indulged in as a drunkard who puts his lips to the
bunghole of a barrel; for when a lady avenges herself, she should get
drunk with vengeance, or not taste it at all. And the chatelaine was
revenged to that degree that she could not move; since nothing
agitates, takes away the breath, and exhausts, like anger and
vengeance. But although she were avenged, and doubly and trebly
avenged, yet would she not forgive, in order that she might reserve
the right of avenging herself with the monk, now here, now there.
Perceiving this love for vengeance, Amador promised to aid her in it
as long as her ire lasted, for he informed her that he knew in his
quality of a monk, constrained to meditate long on the nature of
things, an infinite number of modes, methods, and manners of
Then he pointed out to her canonically what a Christian thing it is to
revenge oneself, because all through the Holy Scriptures God declares
Himself, above all things, to be a God of vengeance; and moreover,
demonstrates to us, by his establishment in the infernal regions, how
royally divine a thing vengeance is, since His vengeance is eternal.
From which it followed, that women with monks ought to revenge
themselves, under pain of not being Christians and faithful servants
of celestial doctrines.
This dogma pleased the lady much, and she confessed that she had never
understood the commandments of the Church, and invited her
well-beloved monk to enlighten her thoroughly concerning them. Then
the chatelaine, whose vital spirits had been excited by the vengeance
which had refreshed them, went into the room where the jade was
amusing herself, and by chance found her with her hand where she, the
chatelaine, often had her eye—like the merchants have on their most
precious articles, in order to see that they were not stolen. They
were—according to President Lizet, when he was in a merry mood—a
couple taken in flagrant delectation, and looked dumbfounded, sheepish
and foolish. The sight that met her eyes displeased the lady beyond
the power of words to express, as it appeared by her discourse, of
which to roughness was similar to that of the water of a big pond when
the sluice-gates were opened. It was a sermon in three heads,
accompanied with music of a high gamut, varied in tones, with many
sharps among the keys.
"Out upon virtue! my lord; I've had my share of it. You have shown me
that religion in conjugal faith is an abuse; this is then the reason
that I have no son. How many children have you consigned to this
common oven, this poor-box, this bottomless alms-purse, this leper's
porringer, the true cemetery of the House of Cande? I will know if I
am childless from a constitutional defect, or through your fault. I
will have handsome cavaliers, in order that I may have an heir. You
can get the bastards, I the legitimate children."
"My dear," said the bewildered lord, "don't shout so."
"But," replied the lady, "I will shout, and shout to make myself
heard, heard by the archbishop, heard by the legate, by the king, by
my brothers, who will avenge this infamy for me."
"Do not dishonour your husband!"
"This is dishonour then? You are right; but, my lord, it is not
brought about by you, but by this hussy, whom I will have sewn up in a
sack, and thrown into the Indre; thus your dishonour will be washed
away. Hi! there," she called out.
"Silence, madame!" said the sire, as shamefaced as a blind man's dog;
because this great warrior, so ready to kill others, was like a child
in the hands of his wife, a state of affairs to which soldiers are
accustomed, because in them lies the strength and is found all the
dull carnality of matter; while, on the contrary, in woman is a subtle
spirit and a scintillation of perfumed flame that lights up paradise
and dazzles the male. This is the reason that certain women govern
their husbands, because mind is the master of matter.
(At this the ladies began to laugh, as did also the king).
"I will not be silent," said the lady of Cande (said the abbot,
continuing his tale); "I have been too grossly outraged. This, then,
is the reward of the wealth that I brought you, and of my virtuous
conduct! Did I ever refuse to obey you even during Lent, and on fast
days? Am I so cold as to freeze the sun? Do you think that I embrace
by force, from duty, or pure kindness of heart! Am I too hallowed for
you to touch? Am I a holy shrine? Was there need of a papal brief to
kiss me? God's truth! have you had so much of me that you are tired?
Am I not to your taste? Do charming wenches know more than ladies? Ha!
perhaps it is so, since she has let you work in the field without
sowing. Teach me the business; I will practice it with those whom I
take into my service, for it is settled that I am free. That is as we
should be. Your society was wearisome, and the little pleasure I
derived from it cost me too dear. Thank God! I am quit of you and your
whims, because I intend to retire to a monastery." . . . She meant to
say a convent, but this avenging monk had perverted her tongue.
"And I shall be more comfortable in this monastery with my daughter,
than in this place of abominable wickedness. You can inherit from your
wench. Ha, ha! The fine lady of Cande! Look at her!"
"What is the matter?" said Amador, appearing suddenly upon the scene.
"The matter is, my father," replied she, "that my wrongs cry aloud for
vengeance. To begin with, I shall have this trollop thrown into the
river, sewn up in a sack, for having diverted the seed of the House of
Cande from its proper channel. It will be saving the hangman a job.
For the rest I will—"
"Abandon your anger, my daughter," said the monk. "It is commanded us
by the Church to forgive those who trespass against us, if we would
find favour in the side of Heaven, because you pardon those who also
pardon others. God avenges himself eternally on those who have avenged
themselves, but keeps in His paradise those who have pardoned. From
that comes the jubilee, which is a day of great rejoicing, because all
debts and offences are forgiven. Thus it is a source of happiness to
pardon. Pardon! Pardon! To pardon is a most holy work. Pardon
Monseigneur de Cande, who will bless you for your gracious clemency,
and will henceforth love you much; This forgiveness will restore to
you the flower of youth; and believe, my dear sweet young lady, that
forgiveness is in certain cases the best means of vengeance. Pardon
your maid-servant, who will pray heaven for you. Thus God, supplicated
by all, will have you in His keeping, and will bless you with male
lineage for this pardon."
Thus saying, the monk took the hand of the sire, placed it in that of
the lady, and added—
"Go and talk over the pardon."
And then he whispered into the husband's ears this sage advice—
"My lord, use your best argument, and you will silence her with it,
because a woman's mouth it is only full of words when she is empty
elsewhere. Argue continually, and thus you will always have the upper
hand of your wife."
"By the body of the Jupiter! There's good in this monk after all,"
said the seigneur, as he went out.
As soon as Amador found himself alone with Perrotte he spoke to her,
"You are to blame, my dear, for having wished to torment a poor
servant of God; therefore are you now the object of celestial wrath,
which will fall upon you. To whatever place you fly it will always
follow you, will seize upon you in every limb, even after your death,
and will cook you like a pasty in the oven of hell, where you will
simmer eternally, and every day you will receive seven hundred
thousand million lashes of the whip, for the one I received through
"Ah! holy Father," said the wench, casting herself at the monk's feet,
"you alone can save me, for in your gown I should be sheltered from
the anger of God."
Saying this, she raised the robe to place herself beneath it, and
"By my faith! monks are better than knights."
"By the sulphur of the devil! You are not acquainted with the monks?"
"No," said Perrotte.
"And you don't know the service that monks sing without saying a
Thereupon the monk went through this said service for her, as it is
sung on great feast days, with all the grand effects used in
monasteries, the psalms well chanted in f major, the flaming tapers,
and the choristers, and explained to her the Introit, and also the
ite missa est, and departed, leaving her so sanctified that the
wrath of heaven would have great difficulty in discovering any portion
of the girl that was not thoroughly monasticated.
By his orders, Perrotte conducted him to Mademoiselle de Cande, the
lord's sister, to whom he went in order to learn if it was her desire
to confess to him, because monks came so rarely to the castle. The
lady was delighted, as would any good Christian have been, at such a
chance of clearing out her conscience. Amador requested her to show
him her conscience, and she having allowed him to see that which he
considered the conscience of old maids, he found it in a bad state,
and told her that the sins of women were accomplished there; that to
be for the future without sin it was necessary to have the conscience
corked up by a monk's indulgence. The poor ignorant lady having
replied that she did not know where these indulgences were to be had,
the monk informed her that he had a relic with him which enabled him
to grant one, that nothing was more indulgent than this relic, because
without saying a word it produced infinite pleasures, which is the
true, eternal and primary character of an indulgence. The poor lady
was so pleased with this relic, the virtue of which she tried in
various ways, that her brain became muddled, and she had so much faith
in it that she indulged as devoutly in indulgences as the Lady of
Cande had indulged in vengeances. This business of confession woke up
the younger Demoiselle de Cande, who came to watch the proceedings.
You may imagine that the monk had hoped for this occurrence, since his
mouth had watered at the sight of this fair blossom, whom he also
confessed, because the elder lady could not hinder him from bestowing
upon the younger one, who wished it, what remained of the indulgences.
But, remember, this pleasure was due to him for the trouble he had
taken. The morning having dawned, the pigs having eaten their tripe,
and the cats having become disenchanted with love, and having watered
all the places rubbed with herbs, Amador went to rest himself in his
bed, which Perrotte had put straight again. Every one slept, thanks to
the monk, so long, that no one in the castle was up before noon, which
was the dinner hour. The servants all believed the monk to be a devil
who had carried off the cats, the pigs, and also their masters. In
spite of these ideas however, every one was in the room at meal time.
"Come, my father," said the chatelaine, giving her arm to the monk,
whom she put at her side in the baron's chair, to the great
astonishment of the attendants, because the Sire of Cande said not a
word. "Page, give some of this to Father Amador," said madame.
"Father Amador has need of so and so," said the Demoiselle de Cande.
"Fill up Father Amador's goblet," said the sire.
"Father Amador has no bread," said the little lady.
"What do you require, Father Amador?" said Perrotte.
It was Father Amador here, and Father Amador there. He was regaled
like a little maiden on her wedding night.
"Eat, father," said madame; "you made such a bad meal yesterday."
"Drink, father," said the sire. "You are, s'blood! the finest monk I
have ever set eyes on."
"Father Amador is a handsome monk," said Perrotte.
"An indulgent monk," said the demoiselle.
"A beneficent monk," said the little one.
"A great monk," said the lady.
"A monk who well deserves his name," said the clerk of the castle.
Amador munched and chewed, tried all the dishes, lapped up the
hypocras, licked his chops, sneezed, blew himself out, strutted and
stamped about like a bull in a field. The others regarded him with
great fear, believing him to be a magician. Dinner over, the Lady of
Cande, the demoiselle, and the little one, besought the Sire of Cande
with a thousand fine arguments, to terminate the litigation. A great
deal was said to him by madame, who pointed out to him how useful a
monk was in a castle; by mademoiselle, who wished for the future to
polish up her conscience every day; by the little one, who pulled her
father's beard, and asked that this monk might always be at Cande. If
ever the difference were arranged, it would be by the monk: the monk
was of a good understanding, gentle and virtuous as a saint; it was a
misfortune to be at enmity with a monastery containing such monks. If
all the monks were like him, the abbey would always have everywhere
the advantage of the castle, and would ruin it, because this monk was
very strong. Finally, they gave utterance to a thousand reasons, which
were like a deluge of words, and were so pluvially showered down that
the sire yielded, saying, that there would never be a moment's peace
in the house until matters were settled to the satisfaction of the
women. Then he sent for the clerk, who wrote down for him, and also
for the monk. Then Amador surprised them exceedingly by showing them
the charters and the letters of credit, which would prevent the sire
and his clerk delaying this agreement. When the Lady of Cande saw them
about to put an end to this old case, she went to the linen chest to
get some fine cloth to make a new gown for her dear Amador. Every one
in the house had noticed how this old gown was worn, and it would have
been a great shame to leave such a treasure in such a worn-out case.
Everyone was eager to work at the gown. Madame cut it, the servant put
the hood on, the demoiselle sewed it, and the little demoiselle worked
at the sleeves. And all set so heartily to work to adorn the monk,
that the robe was ready by supper time, as was also the charter of
agreement prepared and sealed by the Sire de Cande.
"Ah, my father!" said the lady, "if you love us, you will refresh
yourself after your merry labour by washing yourself in a bath that I
have had heated by Perrotte."
Amador was then bathed in scented water. When he came out he found a
new robe of fine linen and lovely sandals ready for him, which made
him appear the most glorious monk in the world.
Meanwhile the monks of Turpenay fearing for Amador, had ordered two of
their number to spy about the castle. These spies came round by the
moat, just as Perrotte threw Amador's greasy old gown, with other
rubbish, into it. Seeing which, they thought that it was all over with
the poor madman. They therefore returned, and announced that it was
certain Amador had suffered martyrdom in the service of the abbey.
Hearing which the abbot ordered them to assemble in the chapel and
pray to God, in order to assist this devoted servant in his torments.
The monk having supped, put his charter into his girdle, and wished to
return to Turpenay. Then he found at the foot of the steps madame's
mare, bridled and saddled, and held ready for him by a groom. The lord
had ordered his men-at-arms to accompany the good monk, so that no
accident might befall him. Seeing which, Amador pardoned the tricks of
the night before, and bestowed his benediction upon every one before
taking his departure from this converted place. Madame followed him
with her eyes, and proclaimed him a splendid rider. Perrotte declared
that for a monk he held himself more upright in the saddle than any of
the men-at-arms. Mademoiselle de Cande sighed. The little one wished
to have him for her confessor.
"He has sanctified the castle," said they, when they were in the room
When Amador and his suite came to the gates of the abbey, a scene of
terror ensued, since the guardian thought that the Sire de Cande had
had his appetite for monks whetted by the blood of poor Amador, and
wished to sack the abbey. But Amador shouted with his fine bass voice,
and was recognised and admitted into the courtyard; and when he
dismounted from madame's mare there was enough uproar to make the
monks as a wild as April moons. They gave vent to shouts of joy in the
refectory, and all came to congratulate Amador, who waved the charter
over his head. The men-at-arms were regaled with the best wine in the
cellars, which was a present made to the monks of Turpenay by those of
Marmoustier, to whom belonged the lands of Vouvray. The good abbot
having had the document of the Sieur de Cande read, went about
"On these divine occasions there always appears the finger of God, to
whom we should render thanks."
As the good abbot kept on at the finger of God, when thanking Amador,
the monk, annoyed to see the instrument of their delivery thus
diminished, said to him—
"Well, say that it is the arm, my father, and drop the subject."
The termination of the trial between the Sieur de Cande and the abbey
of Turpenay was followed by a blessing which rendered him devoted to
the Church, because nine months after he had a son. Two years
afterwards Amador was chosen as abbot by the monks, who reckoned upon
a merry government with a madcap. But Amador become an abbot, became
steady and austere, because he had conquered his evil desires by his
labours, and recast his nature at the female forge, in which is that
fire which is the most perfecting, persevering, persistent,
perdurable, permanent, perennial, and permeating fire that there ever
was in the world. It is a fire to ruin everything, and it ruined so
well the evil that was in Amador, that it left only that which it
could not eat—that is, his wit, which was as clear as a diamond,
which is, as everyone knows, a residue of the great fire by which our
globe was formerly carbonised. Amador was then the instrument chosen
by Providence to reform our illustrious abbey, since he put everything
right there, watched night and day over his monks, made them all rise
at the hours appointed for prayers, counted them in chapel as a
shepherd counts his sheep, kept them well in hand, and punished their
faults severely, that he made them most virtuous brethren.
This teaches us to look upon womankind more as the instruments of our
salvation than of our pleasure. Besides which, this narrative teaches
us that we should never attempt to struggle with the Churchmen.
The king and the queen had found this tale in the best taste; the
courtiers confessed that they had never heard a better; and the ladies
would all willingly have been the heroines of it.
BERTHA THE PENITENT
HOW BERTHA REMAINED A MAIDEN IN THE MARRIED STATE
About the time of the first flight of the Dauphin, which threw our
good Sire, Charles the Victorious, into a state of great dejection,
there happened a great misfortune to a noble House of Touraine, since
extinct in every branch; and it is owing to this fact that this most
deplorable history may now be safely brought to light. To aid him in
this work the author calls to his assistance the holy confessors,
martyrs, and other celestial dominations, who, by the commandments of
God, were the promoters of good in this affair.
From some defect in his character, the Sire Imbert de Bastarnay, one
of the most landed lords in our land of Touraine, had no confidence in
the mind of the female of man, whom he considered much too animated,
on account of her numerous vagaries, and it may be he was right. In
consequence of this idea he reached his old age without a companion,
which was certainly not to his advantage. Always leading a solitary
life, this said man had no idea of making himself agreeable to others,
having only been mixed up with wars and the orgies of bachelors, with
whom he did not put himself out of the way. Thus he remained stale in
his garments, sweaty in his accoutrements, with dirty hands and an
apish face. In short, he looked the ugliest man in Christendom. As far
as regards his person only though, since so far as his heart, his
head, and other secret places were concerned, he had properties which
rendered him most praiseworthy. An angel (pray believe this) would
have walked a long way without meeting an old warrior firmer at his
post, a lord with more spotless scutcheon, of shorter speech, and more
Certain people have stated, they have heard that he gave sound advice,
and was a good and profitable man to consult. Was it not a strange
freak on the part of God, who plays sometimes jokes on us, to have
granted so many perfections to a man so badly apparelled?
When he was sixty in appearance, although only fifty in years, he
determined to take unto himself a wife, in order to obtain lineage.
Then, while foraging about for a place where he might be able to find
a lady to his liking, he heard much vaunted, the great merits and
perfections of a daughter of the illustrious house of Rohan, which at
that time had some property in the province. The young lady in
question was called Bertha, that being her pet name. Imbert having
been to see her at the castle of Montbazon, was, in consequence of the
prettiness and innocent virtue of the said Bertha de Rohan, seized
with so great a desire to possess her, that he determined to make her
his wife, believing that never could a girl of such lofty descent fail
in her duty. This marriage was soon celebrated, because the Sire de
Rohan had seven daughters, and hardly knew how to provide for them
all, at a time when people were just recovering from the late wars,
and patching up their unsettled affairs. Now the good man Bastarnay
happily found Bertha really a maiden, which fact bore witness to her
proper bringing up and perfect maternal correction. So immediately the
night arrived when it should be lawful for him to embrace her, he got
her with a child so roughly that he had proof of the result two months
after marriage, which rendered the Sire Imbert joyful to a degree. In
order that we may here finish with this portion of the story, let us
at once state that from this legitimate grain was born the Sire de
Bastarnay, who was Duke by the grace of Louis the Eleventh, his
chamberlain, and more than that, his ambassador in the countries of
Europe, and well-beloved of this most redoubtable lord, to whom he
was never faithless. His loyalty was an heritage from his father, who
from his early youth was much attached to the Dauphin, whose fortunes
he followed, even in the rebellions, since he was a man to put Christ
on the cross again if it had been required by him to do so, which is
the flower of friendship rarely to be found encompassing princes and
great people. At first, the fair lady of Bastarnay comported herself
so loyally that her society caused those thick vapours and black
clouds to vanish, which obscured the mind of this great man, the
brightness of the feminine glory. Now, according to the custom of
unbelievers, he passed from suspicion to confidence so thoroughly,
that he yielded up the government of his house to the said Bertha,
made her mistress of his deeds and actions, queen of his honour,
guardian of his grey hairs, and would have slaughtered without a
contest any one who had said an evil word concerning this mirror of
virtue, on whom no breath had fallen save the breath issued from his
conjugal and marital lips, cold and withered as they were. To speak
truly on all points, it should be explained, that to this virtuous
behaviour considerably aided the little boy, who during six years
occupied day and night the attention of his pretty mother, who first
nourished him with her milk, and made of him a lover's lieutenant,
yielding to him her sweet breasts, which he gnawed at, hungry, as
often as he would, and was, like a lover, always there. This good
mother knew no other pleasures than those of his rosy lips, had no
other caresses that those of his tiny little hands, which ran about
her like the feet of playful mice, read no other book than that in his
clear baby eyes, in which the blue sky was reflected, and listened to
no other music than his cries, which sounded in her ears as angels'
whispers. You may be sure that she was always fondling him, had a
desire to kiss him at dawn of day, kissed him in the evening, would
rise in the night to eat him up with kisses, made herself a child as
he was a child, educated him in the perfect religion of maternity;
finally, behaved as the best and happiest mother that ever lived,
without disparagement to our Lady the Virgin, who could have had
little trouble in bringing up our Saviour, since he was God.
This employment and the little taste which Bertha had for the blisses
of matrimony much delighted the old man, since he would have been
unable to return the affection of a too amorous wife, and desired to
practice economy, to have the wherewithal for a second child.
After six years had passed away, the mother was compelled to give her
son into the hands of the grooms and other persons to whom Messire de
Bastarnay committed the task to mould him properly, in order that his
heir should have an heritage of the virtues, qualities and courage of
the house, as well as the domains and the name. Then did Bertha shed
many tears, her happiness being gone. For the great heart of this
mother it was nothing to have this well-beloved son after others, and
during only certain short fleeting hours. Therefore she became sad and
melancholy. Noticing her grief, the good man wished to bestow upon her
another child and could not, and the poor lady was displeased thereat,
because she declared that the making of a child wearied her much and
cost her dear. And this is true, or no doctrine is true, and you must
burn the Gospels as a pack of stories if you have not faith in this
This, nevertheless, to certain ladies (I did not mention men, since
they have a smattering of the science), will still seem an untruth.
The writer has taken care here to give the mute reasons for this
strange antipathy; I mean the distastes of Bertha, because I love the
ladies above all things, knowing that for want of the pleasure of
love, my face would grow old and my heart torment me. Did you ever
meet a scribe so complacent and so fond of the ladies as I am? No; of
course not. Therefore, do I love them devotedly, but not so often as I
could wish, since I have oftener in my hands my goose-quill than I
have the barbs with which one tickles their lips to make them laugh
and be merry in all innocence. I understand them, and in this way.
The good man Bastarnay was not a smart young fellow of an amorous
nature, and acquainted with the pranks of the thing. He did not
trouble himself much about the fashion in which he killed a soldier so
long as he killed him; that he would have killed him in all ways
without saying a word in battle, is, of course, understood. The
perfect heedlessness in the matter of death was in accordance with the
nonchalance in the matter of life, the birth and manner of begetting a
child, and the ceremonies thereto appertaining. The good sire was
ignorant of the many litigious, dilatory, interlocutory and
proprietary exploits and the little humourings of the little fagots
placed in the oven to heat it; of the sweet perfumed branches gathered
little by little in the forests of love, fondlings, coddlings,
huggings, nursing, the bites at the cherry, the cat-licking, and other
little tricks and traffic of love which ruffians know, which lovers
preserve, and which the ladies love better than their salvation,
because there is more of the cat than the woman in them. This shines
forth in perfect evidence in their feminine ways. If you think it
worth while watching them, examine them attentively while they eat:
not one of them (I am speaking of women, noble and well-educated) puts
her knife in the eatables and thrusts it into her mouth, as do
brutally the males; no, they turn over their food, pick the pieces
that please them as they would gray peas in a dovecote; they suck the
sauces by mouthfuls; play with their knife and spoon as if they are
only ate in consequence of a judge's order, so much do they dislike to
go straight to the point, and make free use of variations, finesse,
and little tricks in everything, which is the especial attribute of
these creatures, and the reason that the sons of Adam delight in them,
since they do everything differently to themselves, and they do well.
You think so too. Good! I love you.
Now then, Imbert de Bastarnay, an old soldier, ignorant of the tricks
of love, entered into the sweet garden of Venus as he would into a
place taken by assault, without giving any heed to the cries of the
poor inhabitants in tears, and placed a child as he would an arrow in
the dark. Although the gentle Bertha was not used to such treatment
(poor child, she was but fifteen), she believed in her virgin faith,
that the happiness of becoming a mother demanded this terrible,
dreadful bruising and nasty business; so during his painful task she
would pray to God to assist her, and recite Aves to our Lady,
esteeming her lucky, in only having the Holy Ghost to endure. By this
means, never having experienced anything but pain in marriage, she
never troubled her husband to go through the ceremony again. Now
seeing that the old fellow was scarcely equal to it—as has been
before stated—she lived in perfect solitude, like a nun. She hated
the society of men, and never suspected that the Author of the world
had put so much joy in that from which she had only received infinite
misery. But she loved all the more her little one, who had cost her so
much before he was born. Do not be astonished, therefore, that she
held aloof from that gallant tourney in which it is the mare who
governs her cavalier, guides him, fatigues him, and abuses him, if he
stumbles. This is the true history of certain unhappy unions,
according to the statement of the old men and women, and the certain
reason of the follies committed by certain women, who too late
perceive, I know not how, that they have been deceived, and attempt to
crowd into a day more time than it will hold, to have their proper
share of life. That is philosophical, my friends. Therefore study well
this page, in order that you may wisely look to the proper government
of your wives, your sweethearts, and all females generally, and
particularly those who by chance may be under your care, from which
God preserve you.
Thus a virgin in deed, although a mother, Bertha was in her
one-and-twentieth year a castle flower, the glory of her good man,
and the honour of the province. The said Bastarnay took great pleasure
in beholding this child come, go, and frisk about like a willow-switch,
as lively as an eel, as innocent as her little one, and still most
sensible and of sound understanding; so much so that he never
undertook any project without consulting her about it, seeing that if
the minds of these angels have not been disturbed in their purity,
they give a sound answer to everything one asks of them. At this time
Bertha lived near the town of Loches, in the castle of her lord, and
there resided, with no desire to do anything but look after her
household duties, after the old custom of the good housewives, from
which the ladies of France were led away when Queen Catherine and the
Italians came with their balls and merry-makings. To these practices
Francis the First and his successors, whose easy ways did as much harm
to the State of France as the goings on of the Protestants lent their
aid. This, however, has nothing to do with my story.
About this time the lord and lady of Bastarnay were invited by the
king to come to his town of Loches, where for the present he was with
his court, in which the beauty of the lady of Bastarnay had made a
great noise. Bertha came to Loches, received many kind praises from
the king, was the centre of the homage of all the young nobles, who
feasted their eyes on this apple of love, and of the old ones, who
warmed themselves at this sun. But you may be sure that all of them,
old and young, would have suffered death a thousand times over to have
at their service this instrument of joy, which dazzled their eyes and
muddled their brains. Bertha was more talked about in Loches then
either God or the Gospels, which enraged a great many ladies who were
not so bountifully endowed with charms, and would have given all that
was left of their honour to have sent back to her castle this fair
gatherer of smiles.
A young lady having early perceived that one of her lovers was smitten
with Bertha, took such a hatred to her that from it arose all the
misfortunes of the lady of Bastarnay; but also from the same source
came her happiness, and her discovery of the gentle land of love, of
which she was ignorant. This wicked lady had a relation who had
confessed to her, directly he saw Bertha, that to be her lover he
would be willing to die after a month's happiness with her. Bear in
mind that this cousin was as handsome as a girl is beautiful, had no
hair on his chin, would have gained his enemy's forgiveness by asking
for it, so melodious was his young voice, and was scarcely twenty
years of age.
"Dear cousin," said she to him, "leave the room, and go to your house;
I will endeavour to give you this joy. But do not let yourself be seen
by her, nor by that old baboon-face by an error of nature on a
Christian's body, and to whom belongs this beauteous fay."
The young gentleman out of the way, the lady came rubbing her
treacherous nose against Bertha's, and called her "My friend, my
treasure, my star of beauty"; trying every way to be agreeable to her,
to make her vengeance more certain on the poor child who, all
unwittingly, had caused her lover's heart to be faithless, which, for
women ambitious in love, is the worst of infidelities. After a little
conversation, the plotting lady suspected that poor Bertha was a
maiden in matters of love, when she saw her eyes full of limpid water,
no marks on the temples, no little black speck on the point of her
little nose, white as snow, where usually the marks of the amusement
are visible, no wrinkle on her brow; in short, no habit of pleasure
apparent on her face—clear as the face of an innocent maiden. Then
this traitress put certain women's questions to her, and was perfectly
assured by the replies of Bertha, that if she had had the profit of
being a mother, the pleasures of love had been denied to her. At this
she rejoiced greatly on her cousin's behalf—like the good woman she
Then she told her, that in the town of Loches there lived a young and
noble lady, of the family of a Rohan, who at that time had need of the
assistance of a lady of position to be reconciled with the Sire Louis
de Rohan; that if she had as much goodness as God had given her
beauty, she would take her with her to the castle, ascertain for
herself the sanctity of her life, and bring about a reconciliation
with the Sire de Rohan, who refused to receive her. To this Bertha
consented without hesitation, because the misfortunes of this girl
were known to her, but not the poor young lady herself, whose name was
Sylvia, and whom she had believed to be in a foreign land.
It is here necessary to state why the king had given this invitation
to the Sire de Bastarnay. He had a suspicion of the first flight of
his son the Dauphin into Burgundy, and wished to deprive him of so
good a counsellor as was the said Bastarnay. But the veteran, faithful
to young Louis, had already, without saying a word, made up his mind.
Therefore he took Bertha back to his castle; but before they set out
she told him she had taken a companion and introduced her to him. It
was the young lord, disguised as a girl, with the assistance of his
cousin, who was jealous of Bertha, and annoyed at her virtue. Imbert
drew back a little when he learned that it was Sylvia de Rohan, but
was also much affected at the kindness of Bertha, whom he thanked for
her attempt to bring a little wandering lamb back to the fold. He made
much of his wife, when his last night at home came, left men-at-arms
about his castle, and then set out with the Dauphin for Burgundy,
having a cruel enemy in his bosom without suspecting it. The face of
the young lad was unknown to him, because he was a young page come to
see the king's court, and who had been brought up by the Cardinal
Dunois, in whose service he was a knight-bachelor.
The old lord, believing that he was a girl, thought him very modest
and timid, because the lad, doubting the language of his eyes, kept
them always cast down; and when Bertha kissed him on the mouth, he
trembled lest his petticoat might be indiscreet, and would walk away
to the window, so fearful was he of being recognised as a man by
Bastarnay, and killed before he had made love to the lady.
Therefore he was as joyful as any lover would have been in his place,
when the portcullis was lowered, and the old lord galloped away across
the country. He had been in such suspense that he made a vow to build
a pillar at his own expense in the cathedral at Tours, because he had
escaped the danger of his mad scheme. He gave, indeed, fifty gold
marks to pay God for his delight. But by chance he had to pay for it
over again to the devil, as it appears from the following facts if the
tale pleases you well enough to induce you to follow the narrative,
which will be succinct, as all good speeches should be.
HOW BERTHA BEHAVED, KNOWING THE BUSINESS OF LOVE
This bachelor was the young Sire Jehan de Sacchez, cousin of the Sieur
de Montmorency, to whom, by the death of the said Jehan, the fiefs of
Sacchez and other places would return, according to the deed of
tenure. He was twenty years of age and glowed like a burning coal;
therefore you may be sure that he had a hard job to get through the
first day. While old Imbert was galloping across the fields, the two
cousins perched themselves under the lantern of the portcullis, in
order to keep him the longer in view, and waved him signals of
farewells. When the clouds of dust raised by the heels of the horses
were no longer visible upon the horizon, they came down and went into
the great room of the castle.
"What shall we do, dear cousin?" said Bertha to the false Sylvia. "Do
you like music? We will play together. Let us sing the lay of some
sweet ancient bard. Eh? What do you say? Come to my organ; come along.
As you love me, sing!"
Then she took Jehan by the hand and led him to the keyboard of the
organ, at which the young fellow seated himself prettily, after the
manner of women. "Ah! sweet coz," cried Bertha, as soon as the first
notes tried, the lad turned his head towards her, in order that they
might sing together. "Ah! sweet coz you have a wonderful glance in
your eye; you move I know not what in my heart."
"Ah! cousin," replied the false Sylvia, "that it is which has been my
ruin. A sweet milord of the land across the sea told me so often that
I had fine eyes, and kissed them so well, that I yielded, so much
pleasure did I feel in letting them be kissed."
"Cousin, does love then, commence in the eyes?"
"In them is the forge of Cupid's bolts, my dear Bertha," said the
lover, casting fire and flame at her.
"Let us go on with our singing."
They then sang, by Jehan's desire, a lay of Christine de Pisan, every
word of which breathed love.
"Ah! cousin, what a deep and powerful voice you have. It seems to
"Where?" said the impudent Sylvia.
"There," replied Bertha, touching her little diaphragm, where the
sounds of love are understood better than by the ears, but the
diaphragm lies nearer the heart, and that which is undoubtedly the
first brain, the second heart, and the third ear of the ladies. I say
this, with all respect and with all honour, for physical reasons and
for no others.
"Let us leave off singing," said Bertha; "it has too great an effect
upon me. Come to the window; we can do needlework until the evening."
"Ah! dear cousin of my soul, I don't know how to hold the needle in my
fingers, having been accustomed, to my perdition to do something else
"Eh! what did you do then all day long?"
"Ah! I yielded to the current of love, which makes days seem Instants,
months seem days, and years months; and if it could last, would gulp
down eternity like a strawberry, seeing that it is all youth and
fragrance, sweetness and endless joy."
Then the youth dropped his beautiful eyelids over his eyes, and
remained as melancholy as a poor lady who has been abandoned by her
lover, who weeps for him, wishes to kiss him, and would pardon his
perfidy, if he would but seek once again the sweet path to his
"Cousin, does love blossom in the married state?"
"Oh no," said Sylvia; "because in the married state everything is
duty, but in love everything is done in perfect freedom of heart. This
difference communicates an indescribable soft balm to those caresses
which are the flowers of love."
"Cousin, let us change the conversation; it affects me more than did
She called hastily to a servant to bring her boy to her, who came, and
when Sylvia saw him, she exclaimed—
"Ah! the little dear, he is as beautiful as love."
Then she kissed him heartily upon the forehead.
"Come, my little one," said the mother, as the child clambered into
her lap. "Thou art thy mother's blessing, her unclouded joy, the
delight of her every hour, her crown, her jewel, her own pure pearl,
her spotless soul, her treasure, her morning and evening star, her
only flame, and her heart's darling. Give me thy hands, that I may eat
them; give me thine ears, that I may bite them; give me thy head, that
I may kiss thy curls. Be happy sweet flower of my body, that I may be
"Ah! cousin," said Sylvia, "you are speaking the language of love to
"Love is a child then?"
"Yes, cousin; therefore the heathen always portrayed him as a little
And with many other remarks fertile in the imagery of love, the two
pretty cousins amused themselves until supper time, playing with the
"Would you like to have another?" whispered Jehan, at an opportune
moment, into his cousin's ear, which he touched with his warm lips.
"Ah! Sylvia! for that I would ensure a hundred years of purgatory, if
it would only please God to give me that joy. But in spite of the
work, labour, and industry of my spouse, which causes me much pain, my
waist does not vary in size. Alas! It is nothing to have but one
child. If I hear the sound of a cry in the castle, my heart beats
ready to burst. I fear man and beast alike for this innocent darling;
I dread volts, passes, and manual exercises; in fact, I dread
everything. I live not in myself, but in him alone. And, alas! I like
to endure these miseries, because when I fidget, and tremble, it is a
sign that my offspring is safe and sound. To be brief—for I am never
weary of talking on this subject—I believe that my breath is in him,
and not in myself."
With these words she hugged him to her breasts, as only mothers know
how to hug children, with a spiritual force that is felt only in their
hearts. If you doubt this, watch a cat carrying her kittens in her
mouth, not one of them gives a single mew. The youthful gallant, who
had certain fears about watering this fair, unfertile plain, was
reassured by this speech. He thought then that it would only be
following the commandments of God to win this saint to love; and he
thought right. At night Bertha asked her cousin—according to the old
custom, to which the ladies of our day object—to keep her company in
her big seigneurial bed. To which request Sylvia replied—in order to
keep up the role of a well-born maiden—that nothing would give her
greater pleasure. The curfew rang, and found the two cousins in a
chamber richly ornamented with carpeting, fringes, and royal
tapestries, and Bertha began gracefully to disarray herself, assisted
by her women. You can imagine that her companion modestly declined
their services, and told her cousin, with a little blush, that she was
accustomed to undress herself ever since she had lost the services of
her dearly beloved, who had put her out of conceit with feminine
fingers by his gentle ways; that these preparations brought back the
pretty speeches he used to make, and his merry pranks while playing
the lady's-maid; and that to her injury, the memory of all these
things brought the water into her mouth.
This discourse considerably astonished the lady Bertha, who let her
cousin say her prayers, and make other preparations for the night
beneath the curtains of the bed, into which my lord, inflamed with
desire, soon tumbled, happy at being able to catch an occasional
glimpse of the wondrous charms of the chatelaine, which were in no way
injured. Bertha, believing herself to be with an experienced girl, did
not omit any of the usual practices; she washed her feet, not minding
whether she raised them little or much, exposed her delicate little
shoulders, and did as all the ladies do when they are retiring to
rest. At last she came to bed, and settled herself comfortably in it,
kissing her cousin on the lips, which she found remarkably warm.
"Are you unwell, Sylvia, that you burn so?" said she.
"I always burn like that when I go to bed," replied her companion,
"because at that time there comes back to my memory the pretty little
tricks that he invented to please me, and which make me burn still
"Ah! cousin, tell me all about this he. Tell all the sweets of love to
me, who live beneath the shadow of a hoary head, of which the snows
keep me from such warm feelings. Tell me all; you are cured. It will
be a good warning to me, and then your misfortunes will have been a
salutary lesson to two poor weak women."
"I do not know I ought to obey you, sweet cousin," said the youth.
"Tell me, why not?"
"Ah! deeds are better than words," said the false maiden, heaving a
deep sigh as the ut of an organ. "But I am afraid that this milord
has encumbered me with so much joy that you may get a little of it,
which would be enough to give you a daughter, since the power of
engendering is weakened in me."
"But," said Bertha, "between us, would it be a sin?"
"It would be, on the contrary, a joy both here and in heaven; the
angels would shed their fragrance around you, and make sweet music in
"Tell me quickly, then," said Bertha.
"Well, then, this is how my dear lord made my heart rejoice."
With these words Jehan took Bertha in his arms, and strained her
hungering to his heart, for in the soft light of the lamp, and clothed
with the spotless linen, she was in this tempting bed, like the pretty
petals of a lily at the bottom of the virgin calyx.
"When he held me as I hold thee he said to me, with a voice far
sweeter than mine, 'Ah, Bertha, thou art my eternal love, my priceless
treasure, my joy by day and my joy by night; thou art fairer than the
day is day; there is naught so pretty as thou art. I love thee more
than God, and would endure a thousand deaths for the happiness I ask
of thee!' Then he would kiss me, not after the manner of husbands,
which is rough, but in a peculiar dove-like fashion."
To show her there and then how much better was the method of lovers,
he sucked all the honey from Bertha's lips, and taught her how, with
her pretty tongue, small and rosy as that of a cat, she could speak to
the heart without saying a single word, and becoming exhausted at this
game, Jehan spread the fire of his kisses from the mouth to the neck,
from the neck to the sweetest forms that ever a woman gave a child to
slake its thirst upon. And whoever had been in his place would have
thought himself a wicked man not to imitate him.
"Ah!" said Bertha, fast bound in love without knowing it; "this is
better. I must take care to tell Imbert about it."
"Are you in your proper senses, cousin? Say nothing about it to your
old husband. How could he make his hands pleasant like mine? They are
as hard as washerwoman's beetles, and his piebald beard would hardly
please this centre of bliss, that rose in which lies our wealth, our
substance, our loves, and our fortune. Do you know that it is a living
flower, which should be fondled thus, and not used like a trombone, or
as if it were a catapult of war? Now this was the gentle way of my
Thus saying, the handsome youth comported himself so bravely in the
battle that victory crowned his efforts, and poor innocent Bertha
"Ah! cousin, the angels are come! but so beautiful is the music, that
I hear nothing else, and so flaming are their luminous rays, that my
eyes are closing."
And, indeed, she fainted under the burden of those joys of love which
burst forth in her like the highest notes of the organ, which
glistened like the most magnificent aurora, which flowed in her veins
like the finest musk, and loosened the liens of her life in giving her
a child of love, who made a great deal of confusion in taking up his
quarters. Finally, Bertha imagined herself to be in Paradise, so happy
did she feel; and woke from this beautiful dream in the arms of Jehan,
"Ah! who would not have been married in England!"
"My sweet mistress," said Jehan, whose ecstasy was sooner over, "you
are married to me in France, where things are managed still better,
for I am a man who would give a thousand lives for you if he had
Poor Bertha gave a shriek so sharp that it pierced the walls, and
leapt out of bed like a mountebank of the plains of Egypt would have
done. She fell upon her knees before her Prie-Dieu, joined her
hands, and wept more pearls than ever Mary Magdalene wore.
"Ah! I am dead" she cried; "I am deceived by a devil who has taken the
face of an angel. I am lost; I am the mother for certain of a
beautiful child, without being more guilty than you, Madame the
Virgin. Implore the pardon of God for me, if I have not that of men
upon earth; or let me die, so that I may not blush before my lord and
Hearing that she said nothing against him, Jehan rose, quite aghast to
see Bertha take this charming dance for two so to heart. But the
moment she heard her Gabriel moving she sprang quickly to her feet,
regarded him with a tearful face, and her eye illumined with a holy
anger, which made her more lovely to look upon, exclaimed—
"If you advance a single step towards me, I will make one towards
And she took her stiletto in her hand.
So heartrending was the tragic spectacle of her grief that Jehan
"It is not for thee but for me to die, my dear, beautiful mistress,
more dearly loved than will ever woman be again upon this earth."
"If you had truly loved me you would not have killed me as you have,
for I will die sooner than be reproached by my husband."
"Will you die?" said he.
"Assuredly," said she.
"Now, if I am here pierced with a thousand blows, you will have your
husband's pardon, to whom you will say that if your innocence was
surprised, you have avenged his honour by killing the man who had
deceived you; and it will be the greatest happiness that could ever
befall me to die for you, the moment you refuse to live for me."
Hearing this tender discourse spoken with tears, Bertha dropped the
dagger; Jehan sprang upon it, and thrust it into his breast, saying—
"Such happiness can be paid for but with death."
And fell stiff and stark.
Bertha, terrified, called aloud for her maid. The servant came, and
terribly alarmed to see a wounded man in Madame's chamber, and Madame
holding him up, crying and saying, "What have you done, my love?"
because she believed he was dead, and remembered her vanished joys,
and thought how beautiful Jehan must be, since everyone, even Imbert,
believed him to be a girl. In her sorrow she confessed all to her
maid, sobbing and crying out, "that it was quite enough to have upon
her mind the life of a child without having the death of a man as
well." Hearing this the poor lover tried to open his eyes, and only
succeeded in showing a little bit of the white of them.
"Ha! Madame, don't cry out," said the servant, "let us keep our senses
together and save this pretty knight. I will go and seek La Fallotte,
in order not to let any physician or surgeon into the secret, and as
she is a sorceress she will, to please Madame, perform the miracle of
healing this wound so not a trace of it shall remain.
"Run!" replied Bertha. "I will love you, and will pay you well for
But before anything else was done the lady and her maid agreed to be
silent about this adventure, and hide Jehan from every eye. Then the
servant went out into the night to seek La Fallotte, and was
accompanied by her mistress as far as the postern, because the guard
could not raise the portcullis without Bertha's special order. Bertha
found on going back that her lover had fainted, for the blood was
flowing from the wound. At the sight she drank a little of his blood,
thinking that Jehan had shed it for her. Affected by this great love
and by the danger, she kissed this pretty varlet of pleasure on the
face, bound up his wound, bathing it with her tears, beseeching him
not to die, and exclaiming that if he would live she would love him
with all her heart. You can imagine that the chatelaine became still
more enamoured while observing what a difference there was between a
young knight like Jehan, white, downy, and agreeable, and an old
fellow like Imbert, bristly, yellow, and wrinkled. This difference
brought back to her memory that which she had found in the pleasure of
love. Moved by this souvenir, her kisses became so warm that Jehan
came back to his senses, his look improved, and he could see Bertha,
from whom in a feeble voice he asked forgiveness. But Bertha forbade
him to speak until La Fallotte had arrived. Then both of them consumed
the time by loving each other with their eyes, since in those of
Bertha there was nothing but compassion, and on these occasions pity
is akin to love.
La Fallotte was a hunchback, vehemently suspected of dealings in
necromancy, and of riding to nocturnal orgies on a broomstick,
according to the custom of witches. Certain persons had seen her
putting the harness on her broom in the stable, which, as everyone
knows is on the housetops. To tell the truth, she possessed certain
medical secrets, and was of such great service to ladies in certain
things, and to the nobles, that she lived in perfect tranquillity,
without giving up the ghost on a pile of fagots, but on a feather bed,
for she had made a hatful of money, although the physicians tormented
her by declaring that she sold poisons, which was certainly true, as
will be shown in the sequel. The servant and La Fallotte came on the
same ass, making such haste that they arrived at the castle before the
day had fully dawned.
The old hunchback exclaimed, as she entered the chamber, "Now then, my
children, what is the matter?"
This was her manner, which was familiar with great people, who
appeared very small to her. She put on her spectacles, and carefully
examined the wound, saying—
"This is fine blood, my dear; you have tasted it. That's all right, he
has bled externally."
Then she washed the wound with a fine sponge, under the nose of the
lady and the servant, who held their breath. To be brief, Fallotte
gave it as her medical opinion, that the youth would not die from this
blow, "although," said she, looking at his hand, "he will come to a
violent end through this night's deed."
This decree of chiromancy frightened considerably both Bertha and the
maid. Fallotte prescribed certain remedies, and promised to come again
the following night. Indeed, she tended the wound for a whole
fortnight, coming secretly at night-time. The people about the castle
were told by the servants that their young lady, Sylvia de Rohan, was
in danger of death, through a swelling of the stomach, which must
remain a mystery for the honour of Madame, who was her cousin. Each
one was satisfied with this story, of which his mouth was so full that
he told it to his fellows.
The good people believe that it was the malady which was fraught with
danger; but it was not! it was the convalescence, for the stronger
Jehan grew, the weaker Bertha became, and so weak that she allowed
herself to drift into that Paradise the gates of which Jehan had
opened for her. To be brief, she loved him more and more. But in the
midst of her happiness, always mingled with apprehension at the
menacing words of Fallotte, and tormented by her great religion, she
was in great fear of her husband, Imbert, to whom she was compelled to
write that he had given her a child, who would be ready to delight him
on his return. Poor Bertha avoided her lover, Jehan, during the day on
which she wrote the lying letter, over which she soaked her
handkerchief with tears. Finding himself avoided (for they had
previously left each other no more than fire leaves the wood it has
bitten) Jehan believed that she was beginning to hate him, and
straightway he cried too. In the evening Bertha, touched by his tears,
which had left their mark upon his eyes, although he had well dried
them, told him the cause of her sorrow, mingling therewith her
confessions of her terrors for the future, pointing out to him how
much they were both to blame, and discoursing so beautifully to him,
gave utterance to such Christian sentences, ornamented with holy tears
and contrite prayers, that Jehan was touched to the quick by the
sincerity of his mistress. This love innocently united to repentance,
this nobility in sin, this mixture of weakness and strength, would, as
the old authors say, have changed the nature of a tiger, melting it to
pity. You will not be astonished then, that Jehan was compelled to
pledge his word as a knight-bachelor, to obey her in what ever she
should command him, to save her in this world and in the next.
Delighted at this confidence in her, and this goodness of heart,
Bertha cast herself at Jehan's feet, and kissing them, exclaimed—
"Oh! my love, whom I am compelled to love, although it is a mortal sin
to do so, thou who art so good, so gentle to thy poor Bertha, if thou
wouldst have her always think of thee with pleasure, and stop the
torrent of her tears, whose source is so pretty and so pleasant (here,
to show him that it was so, she let him steal a kiss)—Jehan, if thou
wouldst that the memory of our celestial joys, angel music, and the
fragrance of love should be a consolation to me in my loneliness
rather than a torment, do that which the Virgin commanded me to order
thee in a dream, in which I was beseeching her to direct me in the
present case, for I had asked her to come to me, and she had come.
Then I told her the horrible anguish I should endure, trembling for
this little one, whose movements I already feel, and for the real
father, who would be at the mercy of the other, and might expiate his
paternity by a violent death, since it is possible that La Fallotte
saw clearly into his future life. Then the beautiful Virgin told me,
smiling, that the Church offered its forgiveness for our faults if we
followed her commandments; that it was necessary to save one's self
from the pains of hell, by reforming before Heaven became angry. Then
with her finger she showed me a Jehan like thee, but dressed as thou
shouldst be, and as thou wilt be, if thou does but love thy Bertha
with a love eternal."
Jehan assured her of his perfect obedience, and raised her, seating
her on his knee, and kissing her. The unhappy Bertha told him then
that this garment was a monk's frock, and trembling besought him
—almost fearing a refusal—to enter the Church, and retire to
Marmoustier, beyond Tours, pledging him her word that she would grant
him a last night, after which she would be neither for him nor for
anyone else in the world again. And each year, as a reward for this,
she would let him come to her one day, in order that he might see the
child. Jehan, bound by his oath, promised to obey his mistress, saying
that by this means he would be faithful to her, and would experience
no joys of love but those tasted in her divine embrace, and would live
upon the dear remembrance of them. Hearing these sweet words, Bertha
declared to him that, however great might have been her sin, and
whatever God reserved for her, this happiness would enable her to
support it, since she believed she had not fallen through a man, but
through an angel.
Then they returned to the nest which contained their love but only to
bid a final adieu to all their lovely flowers. There can be but little
doubt that Seigneur Cupid had something to do with this festival, for
no woman ever experienced such joy in any part of the world before,
and no man ever took as much. The especial property of true love is a
certain harmony, which brings it about that the more one gives, the
more the other receives, and vice-versa, as in certain cases in
mathematics, where things are multiplied by themselves without end.
This problem can only be explained to unscientific people, by asking
them to look into their Venetian glasses, in which are to be seen
thousands of faces produced by one alone. Thus, in the heart of two
lovers, the roses of pleasure multiply within them in a manner which
causes them to be astonished that so much joy can be contained,
without anything bursting. Bertha and Jehan would have wished in this
night to have finished their days, and thought, from the excessive
languor which flowed in their veins, that love had resolved to bear
them away on his wings with the kiss of death; but they held out in
spite of these numerous multiplications.
On the morrow, as the return of Monsieur Imbert de Bastarnay was close
at hand, the lady Sylvia was compelled to depart. The poor girl left
her cousin, covering her with tears and with kisses; it was always her
last, but the last lasted till evening. Then he was compelled to leave
her, and he did leave her although the blood of his heart congealed,
like the fallen wax of a Paschal candle. According to his promise, he
wended his way towards Marmoustier, which he entered towards the
eleventh hour of the day, and was placed among the novices.
Monseigneur de Bastarnay was informed that Sylvia had returned to the
Lord which is the signification of le Seigneur in the English
language; and therefore in this Bertha did not lie.
The joy of her husband, when he saw Bertha without her waistband—she
could not wear it, so much had she increased in size—commenced the
martyrdom of this poor woman, who did not know how to deceive, and
who, at each false word, went to her Prie-Dieu, wept her blood away
from her eyes in tears, burst into prayers, and recommended herself to
the graces of Messieurs the Saints in paradise. It happened that she
cried so loudly to God that He heard her, because He hears everything;
He hears the stones that roll beneath the waters, the poor who groan,
and the flies who wing their way through the air. It is well that you
should know this, otherwise you would not believe in what happened.
God commanded the archangel Michael to make for this penitent a hell
upon earth, so that she might enter without dispute into Paradise.
Then St. Michael descended from the skies as far as the gate of hell,
and handed over this triple soul to the devil, telling him that he had
permission to torment it during the rest of her days, at the same time
indicating to him Bertha, Jehan and the child.
The devil, who by the will of God, is lord of all evil, told the
archangel that he would obey the message. During this heavenly
arrangement life went on as usual here below. The sweet lady of
Bastarnay gave the most beautiful child in the world to the Sire
Imbert, a boy all lilies and roses, of great intelligence, like a
little Jesus, merry and arch as a pagan love. He became more beautiful
day by day, while the elder was turning into an ape, like his father,
whom he painfully resembled. The younger boy was as bright as a star,
and resembled his father and mother, whose corporeal and spiritual
perfections had produced a compound of illustrious graces and
marvellous intelligence. Seeing this perpetual miracle of body and
mind blended with the essential conditions, Bastarnay declared that
for his eternal salvation he would like to make the younger the elder,
and that he would do with the king's protection. Bertha did not know
what to do, for she adored the child of Jehan, and could only feel a
feeble affection for the other, whom, nevertheless she protected
against the evil intentions of the old fellow, Bastarnay.
Bertha, satisfied with the way things were going, quieted her
conscience with falsehood, and thought that all danger was past, since
twelve years had elapsed with no other alloy than the doubt which at
times embittered her joy. Each year, according to her pledged faith,
the monk of Marmoustier, who was unknown to everyone except the
servant-maid, came to pass a whole day at the chateau to see his
child, although Bertha had many times besought brother Jehan to yield
his right. But Jehan pointed to the child, saying, "You see him every
day of the year, and I only once!" And the poor mother could find no
word to answer this speech with.
A few months before the last rebellion of the Dauphin Louis against
his father, the boy was treading closely on the heels of his twelfth
year, and appeared likely to become a great savant, so learned was he
in all the sciences. Old Bastarnay had never been more delighted at
having been a father in his life, and resolved to take his son with
him to the Court of Burgundy, where Duke Charles promised to make for
this well-beloved son a position, which should be the envy of princes,
for he was not at all averse to clever people. Seeing matters thus
arranged, the devil judged the time to be ripe for his mischiefs. He
took his tail and flapped it right into the middle of this happiness,
so that he could stir it up in his own peculiar way.
HORRIBLE CHASTISEMENT OF BERTHA AND EXPIATION OF THE SAME,
WHO DIED PARDONED
The servant of the lady of Bastarnay, who was then about
five-and-thirty years old, fell in love with one of the master's
men-at-arms, and was silly enough to let him take loaves out of the
oven, until there resulted therefrom a natural swelling, which certain
wags in these parts call a nine months' dropsy. The poor woman begged
her mistress to intercede for her with the master, so that he might
compel this wicked man to finish at the altar that which he had
commenced elsewhere. Madame de Bastarnay had no difficulty in obtaining
this favour from him, and the servant was quite satisfied. But the old
warrior, who was always extremely rough, hastened into his pretorium,
and blew him up sky-high, ordering him, under the pain of the gallows,
to marry the girl; which the soldier preferred to do, thinking more of
his neck than of his peace of mind.
Bastarnay sent also for the female, to whom he imagined, for the
honour of his house, he ought to sing a litany, mixed with epithets
and ornamented with extremely strong expressions, and made her think,
by way of punishment, that she was not going to be married, but flung
into one of the cells in the jail. The girl fancied that Madame wanted
to get rid of her, in order to inter the secret of the birth of her
beloved son. With this impression, when the old ape said such
outrageous things to her—namely, that he must have been a fool to
keep a harlot in his house—she replied that he certainly was a very
big fool, seeing that for a long time past his wife had been played
the harlot, and with a monk too, which was the worst thing that could
happen to a warrior.
Think of the greatest storm you ever saw it in your life, and you will
have a weak sketch of the furious rage into which the old man fell,
when thus assailed in a portion of his heart which was a triple life.
He seized the girl by the throat, and would have killed her there and
then, but she, to prove her story, detailed the how, the why, and the
when, and said that if he had no faith in her, he could have the
evidence of his own ears by hiding himself the day that Father Jehan
de Sacchez, the prior of Marmoustier, came. He would then hear the
words of the father, who solaced herself for his year's fast, and in
one day kissed his son for the rest of the year.
Imbert ordered this woman instantly to leave the castle, since, if her
accusation were true, he would kill her just as though she had
invented a tissue of lies. In an instant he had given her a hundred
crowns, besides her man, enjoining them not to sleep in Touraine; and
for greater security, they were conducted into Burgundy, by de
Bastarnay's officers. He informed his wife of their departure, saying,
that as her servant was a damaged article he had thought it best to
get rid of her, but had given her a hundred crowns, and found
employment for the man at the Court of Burgundy. Bertha was astonished
to learn that her maid had left the castle without receiving her
dismissal from herself, her mistress; but she said nothing. Soon
afterwards she had other fish to fry, for she became a prey to vague
apprehensions, because her husband completely changed in his manner,
commenced to notice the likeness of his first-born to himself, and
could find nothing resembling his nose, or his forehead, his this, or
his that, in the youngest he loved so well.
"He is my very image," replied Bertha one day that he was throwing out
these hints. "Know you not that in well regulated households, children
are formed from the father and mother, each in turn, or often from
both together, because the mother mingles her qualities with the vital
force of the father? Some physicians declare that they have known many
children born without any resemblance to either father or mother, and
attribute these mysteries to the whim of the Almighty."
"You have become very learned, my dear," replied Bastarnay; "but I,
who am an ignoramus, I should fancy that a child who resembles a
"Had a monk for a father!" said Bertha, looking at him with an
unflinching gaze, although ice rather than blood was coursing through
The old fellow thought he was mistaken, and cursed the servant; but he
was none the less determined to make sure of the affair. As the day of
Father Jehan's visit was close at hand, Bertha, whose suspicions were
aroused by this speech, wrote him that it was her wish that he should
not come this year, without, however, telling him her reason; then she
went in search of La Fallotte at Loches, who was to give her letter to
Jehan, and believed everything was safe for the present. She was all
the more pleased at having written to her friend the prior, when
Imbert, who, towards the time appointed for the poor monk's annual
treat, had always been accustomed to take a journey into the province
of Maine, where he had considerable property, remained this time at
home, giving as his reason the preparations for rebellion which
monseigneur Louis was then making against his father, who as everyone
knows, was so cut up at this revolt that it caused his death. This
reason was so good a one, that poor Bertha was quite satisfied with
it, and did not trouble herself. On the regular day, however, the
prior arrived as usual. Bertha seeing him, turned pale, and asked him
if he had not received her message.
"What message?" said Jehan.
"Ah! we are lost then; the child, thou, and I," replied Bertha.
"Why so?" said the prior.
"I know not," said she; "but our last day has come."
She inquired of her dearly beloved son where Bastarnay was. The young
man told her that his father had been sent for by a special messenger
to Loches, and would not be back until evening. Thereupon Jehan
wished, is spite of his mistress, to remain with her and his dear son,
asserting that no harm would come of it, after the lapse of twelve
years, since the birth of their boy.
The days when that adventurous night you know of was celebrated,
Bertha stayed in her room with the poor monk until supper time. But on
this occasion the lovers—hastened by the apprehensions of Bertha,
which was shared by Jehan directly she had informed him of them—dined
immediately, although the prior of Marmoustier reassured Bertha by
pointing out to her the privileges of the Church, and how Bastarnay,
already in bad odour at court, would be afraid to attack a dignitary
of Marmoustier. When they were sitting down to table their little one
happened to be playing, and in spite of the reiterated prayers of his
mother, would not stop his games, since he was galloping about the
courtyard on a fine Spanish barb, which Duke Charles of Burgundy had
presented to Bastarnay. And because young lads like to show off,
varlets make themselves bachelors at arms, and bachelors wish to play
the knight, this boy was delighted at being able to show the monk what
a man he was becoming; he made the horse jump like a flea in the
bedclothes, and sat as steady as a trooper in the saddle.
"Let him have his way, my darling," said the monk to Bertha.
"Disobedient children often become great characters."
Bertha ate sparingly, for her heart was as swollen as a sponge in
water. At the first mouthful, the monk, who was a great scholar, felt
in his stomach a pain, and on his palette a bitter taste of poison
that caused him to suspect that the Sire de Bastarnay had given them
all their quietus. Before he had made this discovery Bertha had eaten.
Suddenly the monk pulled off the tablecloth and flung everything into
the fireplace, telling Bertha his suspicion. Bertha thanked the Virgin
that her son had been so taken up with his sport. Retaining his
presence of mind, Jehan, who had not forgotten the lesson he had
learned as a page, leaped into the courtyard, lifted his son from the
horse, sprang across it himself, and flew across the country with such
speed that you would have thought him a shooting-star if you had seen
him digging the spurs into the horse's bleeding flanks, and he was at
Loches in Fallotte's house in the same space of time that only the
devil could have done the journey. He stated the case to her in two
words, for the poison was already frying his marrow, and requested her
to give him an antidote.
"Alas," said the sorceress, "had I known that it was for you I was
giving this poison, I would have received in my breast the dagger's
point, with which I was threatened, and would have sacrificed my poor
life to save that of a man of God, and of the sweetest woman that ever
blossomed on this earth; for alas! my dear friend, I have only two
drops of the counter-poison that you see in this phial."
"Is there enough for her?"
"Yes, but go at once," said the old hag.
The monk came back more quickly that he went, so that the horse died
under him in the courtyard. He rushed into the room where Bertha,
believing her last hour to be come, was kissing her son, and writhing
like a lizard in the fire, uttering no cry for herself, but for the
child, left to the wrath of Bastarnay, forgetting her own agony at the
thought of his cruel future.
"Take this," said the monk; "my life is saved!"
Jehan had the great courage to say these words with an unmoved face,
although he felt the claws of death seizing his heart. Hardly had
Bertha drunk when the prior fell dead, not, however, without kissing
his son, and regarding his dear lady with an eye that changed not even
after his last sigh. This sight turned her as cold as marble, and
terrified her so much that she remained rigid before this dead man,
stretched at her feet, pressing the hand of her child, who wept,
although her own eye was as dry as the Red Sea when the Hebrews
crossed it under the leadership of Baron Moses, for it seemed to her
that she had sharp sand rolling under her eyelids. Pray for her, ye
charitable souls, for never was woman so agonised, in divining that
her lover has saved her life at the expense of his own. Aided by her
son, she herself placed the monk in the middle of the bed, and stood
by the side of it, praying with the boy, whom she then told that the
prior was his true father. In this state she waited her evil hour, and
her evil hour did not take long in coming, for towards the eleventh
hour Bastarnay arrived, and was informed at the portcullis that the
monk was dead, and not Madame and the child, and he saw his beautiful
Spanish horse lying dead. Thereupon, seized with a furious desire to
slay Bertha and the monk's bastard, he sprang up the stairs with one
bound; but at the sight of the corpse, for whom his wife and her son
repeated incessant litanies, having no ears for his torrent of
invective, having no eyes for his writhings and threats, he had no
longer the courage to perpetrate this dark deed. After the first fury
of his rage had passed, he could not bring himself to it, and quitted
the room like a coward and a man taken in crime, stung to the quick by
those prayers continuously said for the monk. The night was passed in
tears, groans, and prayers.
By an express order from Madame, her servant had been to Loches to
purchase for her the attire of a young lady of quality, and for her
poor child a horse and the arms of an esquire; noticing which the
Sieur de Bastarnay was much astonished. He sent for Madame and the
monk's son, but neither mother nor child returned any answer, but
quietly put on the clothes purchased by the servant. By Madame's order
this servant made up the account of her effects, arranged her clothes,
purples, jewels, and diamonds, as the property of a widow is arranged
when she renounces her rights. Bertha ordered even her alms-purse be
included, in order that the ceremony might be perfect. The report of
these preparations ran through the house, and everyone knew then that
the mistress was about to leave it, a circumstance that filled every
heart with sorrow, even that of a little scullion, who had only been a
week in the place, but to whom Madame had already given a kind word.
Frightened at these preparations, old Bastarnay came into her chamber,
and found her weeping over the body of Jehan, for the tears had come
at last; but she dried them directly she perceived her husband. To his
numerous questions she replied briefly by the confession of her fault,
telling him how she had been duped, how the poor page had been
distressed, showing him upon the corpse the mark of the poniard wound;
how long he had been getting well; and how, in obedience to her, and
from penitence towards God, he had entered the Church, abandoning the
glorious career of a knight, putting an end to his name, which was
certainly worse than death; how she, while avenging her honour, had
thought that even God himself would not have refused the monk one day
in the year to see the son for whom he had sacrificed everything; how,
not wishing to live with a murderer, she was about to quit his house,
leaving all her property behind her; because, if the honour of the
Bastarnays was stained, it was not she who had brought the shame
about; because in this calamity she had arranged matters as best she
could; finally, she added a vow to go over mountain and valley, she
and her son, until all was expiated, for she knew how to expiate all.
Having with noble mien and a pale face uttered these beautiful words,
she took her child by the hand and went out in great mourning, more
magnificently beautiful than was Mademoiselle Hagar on her departure
from the residence of the patriarch Abraham, and so proudly, that all
the servants and retainers fell on their knees as she passed along,
imploring her with joined hands, like Notre Dame de la Riche. It was
pitiful to see the Sieur de Bastarnay following her, ashamed, weeping,
confessing himself to blame, and downcast and despairing, like a man
being led to the gallows, there to be turned off.
And Bertha turned a deaf ear to everything. The desolation was so
great that she found the drawbridge lowered, and hastened to quit the
castle, fearing that it might be suddenly raised again; but no one had
the right or the heart to do it. She sat down on the curb of the moat,
in view of the whole castle, who begged her, with tears, to stay. The
poor sire was standing with his hand upon the chain of the portcullis,
as silent as the stone saints carved above the door. He saw Bertha
order her son to shake the dust from his shoes at the end of the
bridge, in order to have nothing belonging to Bastarnay about him; and
she did likewise. Then, indicating the sire to her son with her
finger, she spoke to him as follows—
"Child, behold the murderer of thy father, who was, as thou art aware,
the poor prior; but thou hast taken the name of this man. Give it him
back here, even as thou leavest the dust taken by the shoes from his
castle. For the food that thou hast had in the castle, by God's help
we will also settle."
Hearing this, Bastarnay would have let his wife receive a whole
monastery of monks in order not to be abandoned by her, and by a young
squire capable of becoming the honour of his house, and remained with
his head sunk down against the chains.
The heart of Bertha was suddenly filled with holy solace, for the
banner of the great monastery turned the corner of a road across the
fields, and appeared accompanied by the chants of the Church, which
burst forth like heavenly music. The monks, informed of the murder
perpetrated on their well-beloved prior, came in procession, assisted
by the ecclesiastical justice, to claim his body. When he saw this,
the Sire de Bastarnay had barely that time to make for the postern
with his men, and set out towards Monseigneur Louis, leaving
everything in confusion.
Poor Bertha, en croup behind her son, came to Montbazon to bid her
father farewell, telling him that this blow would be her death, and
was consoled by those of her family who endeavoured to raise her
spirits, but were unable to do so. The old Sire de Rohan presented his
grandson with a splendid suit of armour, telling him to acquire glory
and honour that he might turn his mother's faults into eternal renown.
But Madame de Bastarnay had implanted in the mind of her dear son no
other idea than of atoning for the harm done, in order to save her and
Jehan from eternal damnation. Both then set out for the places then in
a state of rebellion, in order to render such service to Bastarnay
that he would receive from them more than life itself.
Now the heat of the sedition was, as everyone knows, in the
neighbourhood of Angouleme, and of Bordeaux in Guienne, and other
parts of the kingdom, where great battles and severe conflicts between
the rebels and the royal armies was likely to take place. The
principal one which finished the war was given between Ruffec and
Angouleme, where all the prisoners taken were tried and hanged. This
battle, commanded by old Bastarnay, took place in the month of
November, seven months after the poisoning of Jehan. Now the Baron
knew that his head had been strongly recommended as one to be cut off,
he being the right hand of Monsiegneur Louis. Directly his men began
to fall back, the old fellow found himself surrounded by six men
determined to seize him. Then he understood that they wished to take
him alive, in order to proceed against his house, ruin his name, and
confiscate his property. The poor sire preferred rather to die and
save his family, and present the domains to his son. He defended
himself like the brave old lion that he was. In spite of their number,
these said soldiers, seeing three of their comrades fall, were obliged
to attack Bastarnay at the risk of killing him, and threw themselves
together upon him, after having laid low two of his equerries and a
In this extreme danger an esquire wearing the arms of Rohan, fell upon
the assailants like a thunderbolt, and killed two of them, crying,
"God save the Bastarnays!" The third man-at-arms, who had already
seized old Bastarnay, was so hard pressed by this squire, that he was
obliged to leave the elder and turn against the younger, to whom he
gave a thrust with his dagger through a flaw in his armour. Bastarnay
was too good a comrade to fly without assisting the liberator of his
house, who was badly wounded. With a blow of his mace he killed the
man-at-arms, seized the squire, lifted him on to his horse, and gained
the open, accompanied by a guide, who led him to the castle of
Roche-Foucauld, which he entered by night, and found in the great room
Bertha de Rohan, who had arranged this retreat for him. But on
removing the helmet of his rescuer, he recognised the son of Jehan,
who expired upon the table, as by a final effort he kissed his mother,
and saying in a loud voice to her—
"Mother, we have paid the debt we owed him!"
Hearing these words, the mother clasped the body of her loved child to
her heart, and separated from him never again, for she died of grief,
without hearing or heeding the pardon and repentance of Bastarnay.
The strange calamity hastened the last day of the poor old man, who
did not live to see the coronation of King Louis the Eleventh. He
founded a daily mass in the Church of Roche-Foucauld, where in the
same grave he placed mother and son, with a large tombstone, upon
which their lives are much honoured in the Latin language.
The morals which any one can deduce from this history are the most
profitable for the conduct of life, since this shows how gentlemen
should be courteous with the dearly beloveds of their wives. Further,
it teaches us that all children are blessings sent by God Himself, and
over them fathers, whether true or false, have no right of murder, as
was formerly the case at Rome, owing to a heathen and abominable law,
which ill became that Christianity which makes us all sons of God.
HOW THE PRETTY MAID OF PORTILLON CONVINCED HER JUDGE
The Maid of Portillon, who became as everyone knows, La Tascherette,
was, before she became a dyer, a laundress at the said place of
Portillon, from which she took her name. If any there be who do not
know Tours, it may be as well to state that Portillon is down the
Loire, on the same side as St. Cyr, about as far from the bridge which
leads to the cathedral of Tours as said bridge is distant from
Marmoustier, since the bridge is in the centre of the embankment
between Portillon and Marmoustier. Do you thoroughly understand?
Yes? Good! Now the maid had there her washhouse, from which she ran to
the Loire with her washing in a second and took the ferry-boat to get
to St. Martin, which was on the other side of the river, for she had
to deliver the greater part of her work in Chateauneuf and other
About Midsummer day, seven years before marrying old Taschereau, she
had just reached the right age to be loved, without making a choice
from any of the lads who pursued her with their intentions. Although
there used to come to the bench under her window the son of Rabelais,
who had seven boats on the Loire, Jehan's eldest, Marchandeau the
tailor, and Peccard the ecclesiastical goldsmith, she made fun of them
all, because she wished to be taken to church before burthening
herself with a man, which proves that she was an honest woman until
she was wheedled out of her virtue. She was one of those girls who
take great care not to be contaminated, but who, if by chance they get
deceived, let things take their course, thinking that for one stain or
for fifty a good polishing up is necessary. These characters demand
A young noble of the court perceived her one day when she was crossing
the water in the glare of the noonday sun, which lit up her ample
charms, and seeing her, asked who she was. An old man, who was working
on the banks, told him she was called the Pretty Maid of Portillon, a
laundress, celebrated for her merry ways and her virtue. This young
lord, besides ruffles to starch, had many precious draperies and
things; he resolved to give the custom of his house to this girl, whom
he stopped on the road. He was thanked by her and heartily, because he
was the Sire du Fou, the king's chamberlain. This encounter made her
so joyful that her mouth was full of his name. She talked about it a
great deal to the people of St. Martin, and when she got back to the
washhouse was still full of it, and on the morrow at her work her
tongue went nineteen to the dozen, and all on the same subject, so
that as much was said concerning my Lord du Fou in Portillon as of God
in a sermon; that is, a great deal too much.
"If she works like that in cold water, what will she do in warm?" said
an old washerwoman. "She wants du Fou; he'll give her du Fou!"
The first time this giddy wench, with her head full of Monsieur du
Fou, had to deliver the linen at his hotel, the chamberlain wished to
see her, and was very profuse in praises and compliments concerning
her charms, and wound up by telling her that she was not at all silly
to be beautiful, and therefore he would give her more than she
expected. The deed followed the word, for the moment his people were
out of the room, he began to caress the maid, who thinking he was
about to take out the money from his purse, dared not look at the
purse, but said, like a girl ashamed to take her wages—
"It will be for the first time."
"It will be soon," said he.
Some people say that he had great difficulty in forcing her to accept
what he offered her, and hardly forced her at all; others that he
forced her badly, because she came out like an army flagging on the
route, crying and groaning, and came to the judge. It happened that
the judge was out. La Portillone awaited his return in his room,
weeping and saying to the servant that she had been robbed, because
Monseigneur du Fou had given her nothing but his mischief; whilst a
canon of the Chapter used to give her large sums for that which M. du
Fou wanted for nothing. If she loved a man she would think it wise to
do things for him for nothing, because it would be a pleasure to her;
but the chamberlain had treated her roughly, and not kindly and
gently, as he should have done, and that therefore he owed her the
thousand crowns of the canon. Then the judge came in, saw the wench,
and wished to kiss her, but she put herself on guard, and said she had
come to make a complaint. The judge replied that certainly she could
have the offender hanged if she liked, because he was most anxious to
serve her. The injured maiden replied that she did not wish the death
of her man, but that he should pay her a thousand gold crowns, because
she had been robbed against her will.
"Ha! ha!" said the judge, "what he took was worth more than that."
"For the thousand crowns I'll cry quits, because I shall be able to
live without washing."
"He who has robbed you, is he well off?"
"Then he shall pay dearly for it. Who is it?"
"Monseigneur du Fou."
"Oh, that alters the case," said the judge.
"But justice?" said she.
"I said the case, not the justice of it," replied the judge. "I must
know how the affair occurred."
Then the girl related naively how she was arranging the young lord's
ruffles in his wardrobe, when he began to play with her skirt, and she
turned round saying—
"Go on with you!"
"You have no case," said the judge, "for by that speech he thought
that you gave him leave to go on. Ha! ha!"
Then she declared that she had defended herself, weeping and crying
out, and that that constitutes an assault.
"A wench's antics to incite him," said the judge.
Finally, La Portillone declared that against her will she had been
taken round the waist and thrown, although she had kicked and cried
and struggled, but that seeing no help at hand, she had lost courage.
"Good! good!" said the judge. "Did you take pleasure in the affair?"
"No," said she. "My anguish can only be paid for with a thousand
"My dear," said the judge, "I cannot receive your complaint, because I
believe no girl could be thus treated against her will."
"Hi! hi! hi! Ask your servant," said the little laundress, sobbing,
"and hear what she'll tell you."
The servant affirmed that there were pleasant assaults and unpleasant
ones; that if La Portillone had received neither amusement nor money,
either one or the other was due to her. This wise counsel threw the
judge into a state of great perplexity.
"Jacqueline," said he, "before I sup I'll get to the bottom of this.
Now go and fetch my needle and the red thread that I sew the law paper
Jacqueline came back with a big needle, pierced with a pretty little
hole, and a big red thread, such as the judges use. Then she remained
standing to see the question decided, very much disturbed, as was also
the complainant at these mysterious preparations.
"My dear," said the judge, "I am going to hold the bodkin, of which
the eye is sufficiently large, to put this thread into it without
trouble. If you do put it in, I will take up your case, and will make
Monseigneur offer you a compromise."
"What's that?" said she. "I will not allow it."
"It is a word used in justice to signify an agreement."
"A compromise is then agreeable with justice?" said La Portillone.
"My dear, this violence has also opened your mind. Are you ready?"
"Yes," said she.
The waggish judge gave the poor nymph fair play, holding the eye
steady for her; but when she wished to slip in the thread that she had
twisted to make straight, he moved a little, and the thread went on
the other side. She suspected the judge's argument, wetted the thread,
stretched it, and came back again. The judge moved, twisted about, and
wriggled like a bashful maiden; still this cursed thread would not
enter. The girl kept trying at the eye, and the judge kept fidgeting.
The marriage of the thread could not be consummated, the bodkin
remained virgin, and the servant began to laugh, saying to La
Portillone that she knew better how to endure than to perform. Then
the roguish judge laughed too, and the fair Portillone cried for her
"If you don't keep still," cried she, losing patience; "if you keep
moving about I shall never be able to put the thread in."
"Then, my dear, if you had done the same, Monseigneur would have been
unsuccessful too. Think, too, how easy is the one affair, and how
difficult the other."
The pretty wench, who declared she had been forced, remained
thoughtful, and sought to find a means to convince the judge by
showing how she had been compelled to yield, since the honour of all
poor girls liable to violence was at stake.
"Monseigneur, in order that the bet made the fair, I must do exactly
as the young lord did. If I had only had to move I should be moving
still, but he went through other performances."
"Let us hear them," replied the judge.
Then La Portillone straightens the thread, and rubs it in the wax of
the candle, to make it firm and straight; then she looked towards the
eye of the bodkin, held by the judge, slipping always to the right or
to the left. Then she began making endearing little speeches, such as,
"Ah, the pretty little bodkin! What a pretty mark to aim at! Never did
I see such a little jewel! What a pretty little eye! Let me put this
little thread into it! Ah, you will hurt my poor thread, my nice
little thread! Keep still! Come, my love of a judge, judge of my love!
Won't the thread go nicely into this iron gate, which makes good use
of the thread, for it comes out very much out of order?" Then she
burst out laughing, for she was better up in this game than the judge,
who laughed too, so saucy and comical and arch was she, pushing the
thread backwards and forwards. She kept the poor judge with the case
in his hand until seven o'clock, keeping on fidgeting and moving about
like a schoolboy let loose; but as La Portillone kept on trying to put
the thread in, he could not help it. As, however, his joint was
burning, and his wrist was tired, he was obliged to rest himself for a
minute on the side of the table; then very dexterously the fair maid
of Portillon slipped the thread in, saying—
"That's how the thing occurred."
"But my joint was burning."
"So was mine," said she.
The judge, convinced, told La Portillone that he would speak to
Monseigneur du Fou, and would himself carry the affair through, since
it was certain the young lord had embraced her against her will, but
that for valid reasons he would keep the affair dark. On the morrow
the judge went to the Court and saw Monseigneur du Fou, to whom he
recounted the young woman's complaint, and how she had set forth her
case. This complaint lodged in court, tickled the king immensely.
Young du Fou having said that there was some truth in it, the king
asked if he had had much difficulty, and as he replied, innocently,
"No," the king declared the girl was quite worth a hundred gold
crowns, and the chamberlain gave them to the judge, in order not to be
taxed with stinginess, and said the starch would be a good income to
La Portillone. The judge came back to La Portillone, and said,
smiling, that he had raised a hundred gold crowns for her. But if she
desired the balance of the thousand, there were at that moment in the
king's apartments certain lords who, knowing the case, had offered to
make up the sum for her, with her consent. The little hussy did not
refuse this offer, saying, that in order to do no more washing in the
future she did not mind doing a little hard work now. She gratefully
acknowledged the trouble the good judge had taken, and gained her
thousand crowns in a month. From this came the falsehoods and jokes
concerning her, because out of these ten lords jealousy made a
hundred, whilst, differently from young men, La Portillone settled
down to a virtuous life directly she had her thousand crowns. Even a
Duke, who would have counted out five hundred crowns, would have found
this girl rebellious, which proves she was niggardly with her
property. It is true that the king caused her to be sent for to his
retreat of Rue Quinquangrogne, on the mall of Chardonneret, found her
extremely pretty, exceedingly affectionate, enjoyed her society, and
forbade the sergeants to interfere with her in any way whatever.
Seeing she was so beautiful, Nicole Beaupertuys, the king's mistress,
gave her a hundred gold crowns to go to Orleans, in order to see if
the colour of the Loire was the same there as at Portillon. She went
there, and the more willingly because she did not care very much for
the king. When the good man came who confessed the king in his last
hours, and was afterwards canonised, La Portillone went to him to
polish up her conscience, did penance, and founded a bed in the
leper-house of St. Lazare-aux-Tours. Many ladies whom you know have
been assaulted by more than two lords, and have founded no other beds
than those in their own houses. It is as well to relate this fact, in
order to cleanse the reputation of this honest girl, who herself once
washed dirty things, and who afterwards became famous for her clever
tricks and her wit. She gave a proof of her merit in marrying
Taschereau, who she cuckolded right merrily, as has been related in the
story of The Reproach. This proves to us most satisfactorily that with
strength and patience justice itself can be violated.
IN WHICH IT IS DEMONSTRATED THAT FORTUNE IS ALWAYS FEMININE
During the time when knights courteously offered to each other both
help and assistance in seeking their fortune, it happened that in
Sicily—which, as you are probably aware, is an island situated in the
corner of the Mediterranean Sea, and formerly celebrated—one knight
met in a wood another knight, who had the appearance of a Frenchman.
Presumably, this Frenchman was by some chance stripped of everything,
and was so wretchedly attired that but for his princely air he might
have been taken for a blackguard. It was possible that his horse had
died of hunger or fatigue, on disembarking from the foreign shore for
which he came, on the faith of the good luck which happened to the
French in Sicily, which was true in every respect.
The Sicilian knight, whose name was Pezare, was a Venetian long absent
from the Venetian Republic, and with no desire to return there, since
he had obtained a footing in the Court of the King of Sicily. Being
short of funds in Venice, because he was a younger son, he had no
fancy for commerce, and was for that reason eventually abandoned by
his family, a most illustrious one. He therefore remained at this
Court, where he was much liked by the king.
This gentleman was riding a splendid Spanish horse, and thinking to
himself how lonely he was in this strange court, without trusty
friends, and how in such cases fortune was harsh to helpless people
and became a traitress, when he met the poor French knight, who
appeared far worse off that he, who had good weapons, a fine horse,
and a mansion where servants were then preparing a sumptuous supper.
"You must have come a long way to have so much dust on your feet,"
said the Venetian.
"My feet have not as much dust as the road was long," answered the
"If you have travelled so much," continued the Venetian, "you must be
a learned man."
"I have learned," replied the Frenchman, "to give no heed to those who
do not trouble about me. I have learnt that however high a man's head
was, his feet were always level with my own; more than that, I have
learnt to have no confidence in the warm days of winter, in the sleep
of my enemies, or the words of my friends."
"You are, then, richer than I am," said the Venetian, astonished,
"since you tell me things of which I never thought."
"Everyone must think for himself," said the Frenchman; "and as you
have interrogated me, I can request from you the kindness of pointing
to me the road to Palermo or some inn, for the night is closing in."
"Are you then, acquainted with no French or Sicilian gentlemen at
"Then you are not certain of being received?"
"I am disposed to forgive those who reject me. The road, sir, if you
"I am lost like yourself," said the Venetian. "Let us look for it in
"To do that we must go together; but you are on horseback, I am on
The Venetian took the French knight on his saddle behind him, and
"Do you know with whom you are?"
"With a man, apparently."
"Do you think you are in safety?"
"If you were a robber, you would have to take care of yourself," said
the Frenchman, putting the point of his dagger to the Venetian's
"Well, now, my noble Frenchman, you appear to be a man of great
learning and sound sense; know that I am a noble, established at the
Court of Sicily, but alone, and I seek a friend. You seem to be in the
same plight, and, judging from appearances, you do not seem friendly
with your lot, and have apparently need of everybody."
"Should I be happier if everybody wanted me?"
"You are a devil, who turns every one of my words against me. By St.
Mark! my lord knight, can one trust you?"
"More than yourself, who commenced our federal friendship by deceiving
me, since you guide your horse like a man who knows his way, and you
said you were lost."
"And did not you deceive me?" said the Venetian, "by making a sage of
your years walk, and giving a noble knight the appearance of a
vagabond? Here is my abode; my servants have prepared supper for us."
The Frenchman jumped off the horse, and entered the house with the
Venetian cavalier, accepting his supper. They both seated themselves
at the table. The Frenchman fought so well with his jaws, he twisted
the morsels with so much agility, that he showed herself equally
learned in suppers, and showed it again in dexterously draining the
wine flasks without his eye becoming dimmed or his understanding
affected. Then you may be sure that the Venetian thought to himself he
had fallen in with a fine son of Adam, sprung from the right side and
the wrong one. While they were drinking together, the Venetian
endeavoured to find some joint through which to sound the secret
depths of his friend's cogitations. He, however, clearly perceived
that he would cast aside his shirt sooner than his prudence, and
judged it opportune to gain his esteem by opening his doublet to him.
Therefore he told him in what state was Sicily, where reigned Prince
Leufroid and his gentle wife; how gallant was the Court, what courtesy
there flourished, that there abounded many lords of Spain, Italy,
France, and other countries, lords in high feather and well feathered;
many princesses, as rich as noble, and as noble as rich; that this
prince had the loftiest aspirations—such as to conquer Morocco,
Constantinople, Jerusalem, the lands of Soudan, and other African
places. Certain men of vast minds conducted his affairs, bringing
together the ban and arriere ban of the flower of Christian chivalry,
and kept up his splendour with the idea of causing to reign over the
Mediterranean this Sicily, so opulent in times gone by, and of ruining
Venice, which had not a foot of land. These designs had been planted
in the king's mind by him, Pezare; but although he was high in that
prince's favour, he felt himself weak, had no assistance from the
courtiers, and desired to make a friend. In this great trouble he had
gone for a little ride to turn matters over in his mind, and decide
upon the course to pursue. Now, since while in this idea he had met a
man of so much sense as the chevalier had proved herself to be, he
proposed to fraternise with him, to open his purse to him, and give
him his palace to live in. They would journey in company through life
in search of honours and pleasure, without concealing one single
thought, and would assist each other on all occasions as the
brothers-in-arms did at the Crusades. Now, as the Frenchman was seeking
his fortune, and required assistance, the Venetian did not for a moment
expect that this offer of mutual consolation would be refused.
"Although I stand in need of no assistance," said the Frenchman,
"because I rely upon a point which will procure me all that I desire,
I should like to acknowledge your courtesy, dear Chevalier Pezare. You
will soon see that you will yet be the debtor of Gauttier de
Monsoreau, a gentleman of the fair land of Touraine."
"Do you possess any relic with which your fortune is wound up?" said
"A talisman given me by my dear mother," said the Touranian, "with
which castles and cities are built and demolished, a hammer to coin
money, a remedy for every ill, a traveller's staff always ready to be
tried, and worth most when in a state of readiness, a master tool,
which executes wondrous works in all sorts of forges, without making
the slightest noise."
"Eh! by St. Mark you have, then, a mystery concealed in your hauberk?"
"No," said the French knight; "it is a perfectly natural thing. Here
And rising suddenly from the table to prepare for bed, Gauttier showed
to the Venetian the finest talisman to procure joy that he had ever
"This," said the Frenchman, as they both got into bed together,
according to the custom of the times, "overcomes every obstacle, by
making itself master of female hearts; and as the ladies are the
queens in this court, your friend Gauttier will soon reign there."
The Venetian remained in great astonishment at the sight of the secret
charms of the said Gauttier, who had indeed been bounteously endowed
by his mother, and perhaps also by his father; and would thus triumph
over everything, since he joined to this corporeal perfection the wit
of a young page, and the wisdom of an old devil. Then they swore an
eternal friendship, regarding as nothing therein a woman's heart,
vowing to have one and the same idea, as if their heads had been in
the same helmet; and they fell asleep on the same pillow enchanted
with this fraternity. This was a common occurrence in those days.
On the morrow the Venetian gave a fine horse to his friend Gauttier,
also a purse full of money, fine silken hose, a velvet doublet,
fringed with gold, and an embroidered mantle, which garments set off
his figure so well, and showed up his beauties, that the Venetian was
certain he would captivate all the ladies. The servants received
orders to obey this Gauttier as they would himself, so that they
fancied their master had been fishing, and had caught this Frenchman.
Then the two friends made their entry into Palermo at the hour when
the princes and princesses were taking the air. Pezare presented his
French friend, speaking so highly of his merits, and obtaining such a
gracious reception for him, that Leufroid kept him to supper. The
knight kept a sharp eye on the Court, and noticed therein various
curious little secret practices. If the king was a brave and handsome
prince, the princess was a Spanish lady of high temperature, the most
beautiful and most noble woman of his Court, but inclined to
melancholy. Looking at her, the Touranian believed that she was
sparingly embraced by the king, for the law of Touraine is that joy in
the face comes from joy elsewhere. Pezare pointed out to his friend
Gauttier several ladies to whom Leufroid was exceedingly gracious and
who were exceedingly jealous and fought for him in a tournament of
gallantries and wonderful female inventions. From all this Gauttier
concluded that the prince went considerably astray with his court,
although he had the prettiest wife in the world, and occupied himself
with taxing the ladies of Sicily, in order that he might put his horse
in their stables, vary his fodder, and learn the equestrian
capabilities of many lands. Perceiving what a life Leufroid was
leading, the Sire de Monsoreau, certain that no one in the Court had
had the heart to enlighten the queen, determined at one blow to plant
his halberd in the field of the fair Spaniard by a master stroke; and
this is how. At supper-time, in order to show courtesy to the foreign
knight, the king took care to place him near the queen, to whom the
gallant Gauttier offered his arm, to take her into the room, and
conducted her there hastily, to get ahead of those who were following,
in order to whisper, first of all, a word concerning a subject which
always pleases the ladies in whatever condition they may be. Imagine
what this word was, and how it went straight through the stubble and
weeds into the warm thicket of love.
"I know, your majesty, what causes your paleness of face."
"What?" said she.
"You are so loving that the king loves you night and day; thus you
abuse your advantage, for he will die of love."
"What should I do to keep him alive?" said the queen.
"Forbid him to repeat at your altar more than three prayers a day."
"You are joking, after the French fashion, Sir Knight, seeing that the
king's devotion to me does not extend beyond a short prayer a week."
"You are deceived," said Gauttier, seating himself at the table. "I
can prove to you that love should go through the whole mass, matins,
and vespers, with an Ave now and then, for queens as for simple
women, and go through the ceremony every day, like the monks in their
monastery, with fervour; but for you these litanies should never
The queen cast upon the knight a glance which was far from one of
displeasure, smiled at him, and shook her head.
"In this," said she, "men are great liars."
"I have with me a great truth which I will show you when you wish it."
replied the knight. "I undertake to give you queen's fare, and put you
on the high road to joy; by this means you will make up for lost time,
the more so as the king is ruined through other women, while I shall
reserve my advantage for your service."
"And if the king learns of our arrangement, he will put your head on a
level with your feet."
"Even if this misfortune befell me it after the first night, I should
believe I had lived a hundred years, from the joy therein received,
for never have I seen, after visiting all Courts, a princess fit to
hold a candle to your beauty. To be brief, if I die not by the sword,
you will still be the cause of my death, for I am resolved to spend my
life in your love, if life will depart in the place whence it comes."
Now this queen had never heard such words before, and preferred them
to the most sweetly sung mass; her pleasure showed itself in her face,
which became purple, for these words made her blood boil within her
veins, so that the strings of her lute were moved thereat, and struck
a sweet note that rang melodiously in her ears, for this lute fills
with its music the brain and the body of the ladies, by a sweet
artifice of their resonant nature. What a shame to be young,
beautiful, Spanish, and queen, and yet neglected. She conceived an
intense disdain for those of her Court who had kept their lips closed
concerning this infidelity, through fear of the king, and determined
to revenge herself with the aid of this handsome Frenchman, who cared
so little for life that in his first words he had staked it in making
a proposition to a queen, which was worthy of death, if she did her
duty. Instead of this, however, she pressed his foot with her own, in
a manner that admitted no misconception, and said aloud to him—
"Sir Knight, let us change the subject, for it is very wrong of you to
attack a poor queen in her weak spot. Tell us the customs of the
ladies of the Court of France."
Thus did the knight receive the delicate hint that the business was
arranged. Then he commenced to talk of merry and pleasant things,
which during supper kept the court, the king, the queen, and all the
courtiers in a good humour; so much so that when the siege was raised,
Leufroid declared that he had never laughed so much in his life. Then
they strolled about the gardens, which were the most beautiful in the
world, and the queen made a pretext of the chevalier's sayings to walk
beneath a grove of blossoming orange trees, which yielded a delicious
"Lovely and noble queen," said Gauttier, immediately, "I have seen in
all countries the perdition of love have its birth in these first
attentions, which we call courtesy; if you have confidence in me, let
us agree, as people of high intelligence, to love each other without
standing on so much ceremony; by this means no suspicion will be
aroused, our happiness will be less dangerous and more lasting. In
this fashion should queens conduct their amours, if they would avoid
"Well said," said she. "But as I am new at this business, I did not
know what arrangements to make."
"Have you are among your women one in whom you have perfect
"Yes," said she; "I have a maid who came from Spain with me, who would
put herself on a gridiron for me like St. Lawrence did for God, but
she is always poorly."
"That's good," said her companion, "because you go to see her."
"Yes," said the queen, "and sometimes at night."
"Ah!" exclaimed Gauttier, "I make a vow to St. Rosalie, patroness of
Sicily, to build her a gold altar for this fortune."
"O Jesus!" cried the queen. "I am doubly blessed in having a lover so
handsome and yet so religious."
"Ah, my dear, I have two sweethearts today, because I have a queen to
love in heaven above, and another one here below, and luckily these
loves cannot clash one with the other."
This sweet speech so affected the queen, that for nothing she would
have fled with this cunning Frenchman.
"The Virgin Mary is very powerful in heaven," said the queen. "Love
grant that I may be like her!"
"Bah! they are talking of the Virgin Mary," said the king, who by
chance had come to watch them, disturbed by a gleam of jealousy, cast
into his heart by a Sicilian courtier, who was furious at the sudden
favour which the Frenchman had obtained.
The queen and the chevalier laid their plans, and everything was
secretly arranged to furnish the helmet of the king with two invisible
ornaments. The knight rejoined the Court, made himself agreeable to
everyone, and returned to the Palace of Pezare, whom he told that
their fortunes were made, because on the morrow, at night, he would
sleep with the queen. This swift success astonished the Venetian, who,
like a good friend, went in search of fine perfumes, linen of Brabant,
and precious garments, to which queens are accustomed, with all of
which he loaded his friend Gauttier, in order that the case might be
worthy the jewel.
"Ah, my friend," said he "are you sure not to falter, but to go
vigorously to work, to serve the queen bravely, and give her such joys
in her castle of Gallardin that she may hold on for ever to this
master staff, like a drowning sailor to a plank?"
"As for that, fear nothing, dear Pezare, because I have the arrears of
the journey, and I will deal with her as with a simple servant,
instructing her in the ways of the ladies of Touraine, who understand
love better than all others, because they make it, remake it, and
unmake it to make it again and having remade it, still keep on making
it; and having nothing else to do, have to do that which always wants
doing. Now let us settle our plans. This is how we shall obtain the
government of the island. I shall hold the queen and you the king; we
will play the comedy of being great enemies before the eyes of the
courtiers, in order to divide them into two parties under our command,
and yet, unknown to all, we will remain friends. By this means we
shall know their plots, and will thwart them, you by listening to my
enemies and I to yours. In the course of a few days we will pretend to
quarrel in order to strive one against the other. This quarrel will be
caused by the favour in which I will manage to place you with the
king, through the channel of the queen, and he will give you supreme
power, to my injury."
On the morrow Gauttier went to the house of the Spanish lady, who
before the courtiers he recognised as having known in Spain, and he
remained there seven whole days. As you can imagine, the Touranian
treated the queen as a fondly loved woman, and showed her so many
terra incognita in love, French fashions, little tendernesses, etc.,
that she nearly lost her reason through it, and swore that the French
were the only people who thoroughly understood love. You see how the
king was punished, who, to keep her virtuous, had allowed weeds to
grow in the grange of love. Their supernatural festivities touched the
queen so strongly that she made a vow of eternal love to Montsoreau,
who had awakened her, by revealing to her the joys of the proceeding.
It was arranged that the Spanish lady should take care always to be
ill; and that the only man to whom the lovers would confide their
secret should be the court physician, who was much attached to the
queen. By chance this physician had in his glottis, chords exactly
similar to those of Gauttier, so that by a freak of nature they had
the same voice, which much astonished the queen. The physician swore
on his life faithfully to serve the pretty couple, for he deplored the
sad desertion of this beautiful women, and was delighted to know she
would be served as a queen should be—a rare thing.
A month elapsed and everything was going on to the satisfaction of the
two friends, who worked the plans laid by the queen, in order to get
the government of Sicily into the hands of Pezare, to the detriment of
Montsoreau, whom the king loved for his great wisdom; but the queen
would not consent to have him, because he was so ungallant. Leufroid
dismissed the Duke of Cataneo, his principal follower, and put the
Chevalier Pezare in his place. The Venetian took no notice of his
friend the Frenchmen. Then Gauttier burst out, declaimed loudly
against the treachery and abused friendship of his former comrade, and
instantly earned the devotion of Cataneo and his friends, with whom he
made a compact to overthrow Pezare. Directly he was in office the
Venetian, who was a shrewd man, and well suited to govern states,
which was the usual employment of Venetian gentlemen, worked wonders
in Sicily, repaired the ports, brought merchants there by the
fertility of his inventions and by granting them facilities, put bread
into the mouths of hundreds of poor people, drew thither artisans of
all trades, because fetes were always being held, and also the idle
and rich from all quarters, even from the East. Thus harvests, the
products of the earth, and other commodities, were plentiful; and
galleys came from Asia, the which made the king much envied, and the
happiest king in the Christian world, because through these things his
Court was the most renowned in the countries of Europe. This fine
political aspect was the result of the perfect agreement of the two
men who thoroughly understood each other. The one looked after the
pleasures, and was himself the delight of the queen, whose face was
always bright and gay, because she was served according to the method
of Touraine, and became animated through excessive happiness; and he
also took care to keep the king amused, finding him every day new
mistresses, and casting him into a whirl of dissipation. The king was
much astonished at the good temper of the queen, whom, since the
arrival of the Sire de Montsoreau in the island, he had touched no
more than a Jew touches bacon. Thus occupied, the king and queen
abandoned the care of their kingdom to the other friend, who conducted
the affairs of government, ruled the establishment, managed the
finances, and looked to the army, and all exceedingly well, knowing
where money was to be made, enriching the treasury, and preparing all
the great enterprises above mentioned.
The state of things lasted three years, some say four, but the monks
of Saint Benoist have not wormed out the date, which remains obscure,
like the reasons for the quarrel between the two friends. Probably the
Venetian had the high ambition to reign without any control or
dispute, and forgot the services which the Frenchman had rendered him.
Thus do the men who live in Courts behave, for, according to the
statements of the Messire Aristotle in his works, that which ages the
most rapidly in this world is a kindness, although extinguished love
is sometimes very rancid. Now, relying on the perfect friendship of
Leufroid, who called him his crony, and would have done anything for
him, the Venetian conceived the idea of getting rid of his friend by
revealing to the king the mystery of his cuckoldom, and showing him
the source of the queen's happiness, not doubting for a moment but
that he would commence by depriving Monsoreau of his head, according
to a practice common in Sicily under similar circumstances. By this
means Pezare would have all the money that he and Gauttier had
noiselessly conveyed to the house of a Lombard of Genoa, which money
was their joint property on account of their fraternity. This
treasure, increased on one side by the magnificent presents made to
Montsoreau by the queen, who had vast estates in Spain, and other, by
inheritance in Italy; on the other, by the king's gifts to his prime
minister, to whom he also gave certain rights over the merchants, and
other indulgences. The treacherous friend, having determined to break
his vow, took care to conceal his intention from Gauttier, because the
Touranian was an awkward man to tackle.
One night that Pezare knew that the queen was in bed with her lover,
who loved him as though each night were a wedding one, so skilful was
she at the business, the traitor promised the king to let him take
evidence in the case, through a hole he had made in the wardrobe of
the Spanish lady, who always pretended to be at death's door. In order
to obtain a better view, Pezare waited until the sun had risen. The
Spanish lady, who was fleet of foot, had a quick eye and a sharp ear,
heard footsteps, peeped out, and perceiving the king, followed by the
Venetian, through a crossbar in the closet in which she slept the
night that the queen had her lover between two sheets, which is
certainly the best way to have a lover. She ran to warn the couple of
this betrayal. But the king's eye was already at the cursed hole,
That beautiful and divine lantern with burns so much oil and lights
the world—a lantern adorned with the most lovely baubles, flaming,
brilliantly, which he thought more lovely than all the others, because
he had lost sight of it for so long a time that it appeared quite new
to him; but the size of the hole prevented him seeing anything else
except the hand of a man, which modestly covered the lantern, and he
heard the voice of Montsoreau saying—
"How's the little treasure, this morning?" A playful expression, which
lovers used jokingly, because this lantern is in all countries the sun
of love, and for this the prettiest possible names are bestowed upon
it, whilst comparing it to the loveliest things in nature, such as my
pomegranate, my rose, my little shell, my hedgehog, my gulf of love,
my treasure, my master, my little one; some even dared most
heretically to say, my god! If you don't believe it, ask your friends.
At this moment the lady let him understand by a gesture that the king
"Can he hear?" said the queen.
"Can he see?"
"Who brought him?"
"Fetch the physician, and get Gauttier into his own room." said the
In less time than it takes a beggar to say "God bless you, sir!" the
queen had swathed the lantern in linen and paint, so that you would
have thought it a hideous wound in a state of grievous inflammation.
When the king, enraged by what he overheard, burst open the door, he
found the queen lying on the bed exactly as he has seen her through
the hole, and the physician, examining the lantern swathed in
bandages, and saying, "How it is the little treasure, this morning?"
in exactly the same voice as the king had heard. A jocular and
cheerful expression, because physicians and surgeons use cheerful
words with ladies and treat this sweet flower with flowery phrases.
This sight made the king look as foolish as a fox caught in a trap.
The queen sprang up, reddening with shame, and asking what man dared
to intrude upon her privacy at such a moment, but perceiving the king,
she said to him as follows:—
"Ah! my lord, you have discovered that which I have endeavoured to
conceal from you: that I am so badly treated by you that I am
afflicted with a burning ailment, of which my dignity would not allow
me to complain, but which needs secret dressing in order to assuage
the influence of the vital forces. To save my honour and your own, I
am compelled to come to my good Lady Miraflor, who consoles me in my
Then the physician commenced to treat Leufroid to an oration,
interlarded with Latin quotations and precious grains from
Hippocrates, Galen, the School of Salerno, and others, in which he
showed him how necessary to women was the proper cultivation of the
field of Venus, and that there was great danger of death to queens of
Spanish temperament, whose blood was excessively amorous. He delivered
himself of his arguments with great solemnity of feature, voice, and
manner, in order to give the Sire de Montsoreau time to get to bed.
Then the queen took the same text to preach the king a sermon as long
as his arm, and requested the loan of that limb, that the king might
conduct her to her apartment instead of the poor invalid, who usually
did so in order to avoid calumny. When they were in the gallery where
the Sire de Montsoreau resided, the queen said jokingly, "You should
play a good trick on this Frenchman, who I would wager is with some
lady, and not in his own room. All the ladies of Court are in love
with him, and there will be mischief some day through him. If you had
taken my advice he would not be in Sicily now."
Leufroid went suddenly into Gauttier's room, whom he found in a deep
sleep, and snoring like a monk in Church. The queen returned with the
king, whom she took to her apartments, and whispered to one of the
guards to send to her the lord whose place Pezare occupied. Then,
while she fondled the king, taking breakfast with him, she took the
lord directly he came, into an adjoining room.
"Erect a gallows on the bastion," said she, "then seize the knight
Pezare, and manage so that he is hanged instantly, without giving time
to write or say a single word on any subject whatsoever. Such is our
good pleasure and supreme command."
Cataneo made no remark. While Pezare was thinking to himself that his
friend Gauttier would soon be minus his head, the Duke Cataneo came to
seize and lead him on to bastion, from which he could see at the
queen's window the Sire de Montsoreau in company with the king, the
queen, and the courtiers, and came to the conclusion that he who
looked after the queen had a better chance in everything than he who
looked after the king.
"My dear," said the queen to her spouse, leading him to the window,
"behold a traitor, who was endeavouring to deprive you of that which
you hold dearest in the world, and I will give you the proofs when you
have the leisure to study them."
Montsoreau, seeing the preparations for the final ceremony, threw
himself at the king's feet, to obtain the pardon of him who was his
mortal enemy, at which the king was much moved.
"Sire de Monsoreau," said the queen, turning towards him with an angry
look, "are you so bold as to oppose our will and pleasure?"
"You are a noble knight," said the king, "but you do not know how
bitter this Venetian was against you."
Pezare was delicately strangled between the head and the shoulders,
for the queen revealed his treacheries to the king, proving to him, by
the declaration of a Lombard of the town, the enormous sums which
Pezare had in the bank of Genoa, the whole of which were given up to
This noble and lovely queen died, as related in the history of Sicily,
that is, in consequence of a heavy labour, during which she gave birth
to a son, who was a man as great in himself as he was unfortunate in
his undertakings. The king believed the physician's statement, that
the said termination to this accouchement was caused by the too chaste
life the queen had led, and believing himself responsible for it, he
founded the Church of the Madonna, which is one of the finest in the
town of Palermo. The Sire de Monsoreau, who was a witness of the
king's remorse, told him that when a king got his wife from Spain, he
ought to know that this queen would require more attention than any
other, because the Spanish ladies were so lively that they equalled
ten ordinary women, and that if he wished a wife for show only, he
should get her from the north of Germany, where the women are as cold
as ice. The good knight came back to Touraine laden with wealth, and
lived there many years, but never mentioned his adventures in Sicily.
He returned there to aid the king's son in his principal attempt
against Naples, and left Italy when this sweet prince was wounded, as
is related in the Chronicle.
Besides the high moralities contained in the title of this tale, where
it is said that fortune, being female, is always on the side of the
ladies, and that men are quite right to serve them well, it shows us
that silence is the better part of wisdom. Nevertheless, the monkish
author of this narrative seems to draw this other no less learned
moral therefrom, that interest which makes so many friendships, breaks
them also. But from these three versions you can choose the one that
best accords with your judgment and your momentary requirement.
CONCERNING A POOR MAN WHO WAS CALLED LE VIEUX PAR-CHEMINS
The old chronicler who furnished the hemp to weave the present story,
is said to have lived at the time when the affair occurred in the City
In the environs of this fair town, where at the time dwelt Duke
Richard, an old man used to beg, whose name was Tryballot, but to whom
was given the nickname of Le Vieux par-Chemins, or the Old Man of the
Roads; not because he was yellow and dry as vellum, but because he was
always in the high-ways and by-ways—up hill and down dale—slept with
the sky for his counterpane, and went about in rags and tatters.
Notwithstanding this, he was very popular in the duchy, where everyone
had grown used to him, so much so that if the month went by without
anyone seeing his cup held towards them, people would say, "Where is
the old man?" and the usual answer was, "On the roads."
This said man had had for a father a Tryballot, who was in his
lifetime a skilled artisan, so economical and careful, that he left
considerable wealth to his son.
But the young lad soon frittered it away, for he was the very opposite
of the old fellow, who, returning from the fields to his house, picked
up, now here, now there, many a little stick of wood left right and
left, saying, conscientiously, that one should never come home empty
handed. Thus he warmed himself in the winter at the expense of the
careless; and he did well. Everyone recognised what a good example
this was for the country, since a year before his death no one left a
morsel of wood on the road; he had compelled the most dissipated to be
thrifty and orderly. But his son made ducks and drakes of everything,
and did not follow his wise example. The father had predicted the
thing. From the boy's earliest youth, when the good Tryballot set him
to watch the birds who came to eat the peas, beans, and the grain, and
to drive the thieves away, above all, the jays, who spoiled
everything, he would study their habits, and took delight in watching
with what grace they came and went, flew off loaded, and returned,
watching with a quick eye the snares and nets; and he would laugh
heartily at their cleverness in avoiding them. Tryballot senior went
into a passion when he found his grain considerably less in a measure.
But although he pulled his son's ears whenever he caught him idling
and trifling under a nut tree, the little rascal did not alter his
conduct, but continued to study the habits of the blackbirds,
sparrows, and other intelligent marauders. One day his father told him
that he would be wise to model himself after them, for that if he
continued this kind of life, he would be compelled in his old age like
them, to pilfer, and like them, would be pursued by justice. This came
true; for, as has before been stated, he dissipated in a few days the
crowns which his careful father had acquired in a life-time. He dealt
with men as he did with the sparrows, letting everyone put a hand in
his pocket, and contemplating the grace and polite demeanour of those
who assisted to empty it. The end of his wealth was thus soon reached.
When the devil had the empty money bag to himself, Tryballot did not
appear at all cut up, saying, that he "did not wish to damn himself
for this world's goods, and that he had studied philosophy in the
school of the birds."
After having thoroughly enjoyed himself, of all his goods, there only
remained to him a goblet bought at Landict, and three dice, quite
sufficient furniture for drinking and gambling, so that he went about
without being encumbered, as are the great, with chariots, carpets,
dripping pans, and an infinite number of varlets. Tryballot wished to
see his good friends, but they no longer knew him, which fact gave him
leave no longer to recognise anyone. Seeing this, he determined to
choose a profession in which there was nothing to do and plenty to
gain. Thinking this over, he remembered the indulgences of the
blackbirds and the sparrows. Then the good Tryballot selected for his
profession that of begging money at people's houses, and pilfering.
From the first day, charitable people gave him something, and
Tryballot was content, finding the business good, without advance
money or bad debts; on the contrary, full of accommodation. He went
about it so heartily, that he was liked everywhere, and received a
thousand consolations refused to rich people. The good man watched the
peasants planting, sowing, reaping, and making harvest, and said to
himself, that they worked a little for him as well. He who had a pig
in his larder owed him a bit for it, without suspecting it. The man
who baked a loaf in his oven often baked it for Tryballot without
knowing it. He took nothing by force; on the contrary, people said to
him kindly, while making him a present, "Here Vieux par-Chemins, cheer
up, old fellow. How are you? Come, take this; the cat began it, you
can finish it."
Vieux par-Chemins was at all the weddings, baptisms, and funerals,
because he went everywhere where there was, openly or secretly,
merriment and feasting. He religiously kept the statutes and canons of
his order—namely, to do nothing, because if he had been able to do
the smallest amount of work no one would ever give anything again.
After having refreshed himself, this wise man would lay full length in
a ditch, or against a church wall, and think over public affairs; and
then he would philosophise, like his pretty tutors, the blackbirds,
jays, and sparrows, and thought a great deal while mumping; for,
because his apparel was poor, was that a reason his understanding
should not be rich? His philosophy amused his clients, to whom he
would repeat, by way of thanks, the finest aphorisms of his science.
According to him, suppers produced gout in the rich: he boasted that
he had nimble feet, because his shoemaker gave him boots that do not
pinch his corns. There were aching heads beneath diadems, but his
never ached, because it was touched neither by luxury nor any other
chaplet. And again, that jewelled rings hinder the circulation of the
blood. Although he covered himself with sores, after the manner of
cadgers, you may be sure he was as sound as a child at the baptismal
The good man disported himself with other rogues, playing with his
three dice, which he kept to remind him to spend his coppers, in order
that he might always be poor. In spite of his vow, he was, like all
the order of mendicants, so wealthy that one day at the Paschal feast,
another beggar wishing to rent his profit from him, Vieux par-Chemins
refused ten crowns for it; in fact, the same evening he spent fourteen
crowns in drinking the health of the alms-givers, because it is the
statutes of beggary that one should show one's gratitude to donors.
Although he carefully got rid of that of which had been a source of
anxiety to others, who, having too much wealth went in search of
poverty, he was happier with nothing in the world than when he had his
father's money. And seeing what are the conditions of nobility, he was
always on the high road to it, because he did nothing except according
to his fancy, and lived nobly without labour. Thirty crowns would not
have got him out of a bed when he was in it. The morrow always dawned
for him as it did for others, while leading this happy life; which,
according to the statements of Plato, whose authority has more than
once been invoked in these narratives, certain ancient sages had led
before him. At last, Vieux par-Chemins reached the age of eighty-two
years, having never been a single day without picking up money, and
possessed the healthiest colour and complexion imaginable. He believed
that if he had persevered in the race for wealth he would have been
spoiled and buried years before. It is possible he was right.
In his early youth Vieux par-Chemins had the illustrious virtue of
being very partial to the ladies; and his abundance of love was, it is
said, the result of his studies among the sparrows. Thus it was that
he was always ready to give the ladies his assistance in counting the
joists, and this generosity finds its physical cause in the fact that,
having nothing to do, he was always ready to do something. His secret
virtues brought about, it is said, that popularity which he enjoyed in
the provinces. Certain people say that the lady of Chaumont had him in
her castle, to learn the truth about these qualities, and kept him
there for a week, to prevent him begging. But the good man jumped over
the hedges and fled in great terror of being rich. Advancing in age,
this great quintessencer found himself disdained, although his notable
faculties of loving were in no way impaired. This unjust turning away
on the part of the female tribe caused the first trouble of Vieux
par-Chemins, and the celebrated trial of Rouen, to which it is time I
In this eighty-second year of his age he was compelled to remain
continent for about seven months, during which time he met no woman
kindly disposed towards him; and he declared before the judge that
that had caused the greatest astonishment of his long and honourable
life. In this most pitiable state he saw in the fields during the
merry month of May a girl, who by chance was a maiden, and minding
cows. The heat was so excessive that this cowherdess had stretched
herself beneath the shadow of a beech tree, her face to the ground,
after the custom of people who labour in the fields, in order to get a
little nap while her animals were grazing. She was awakened by the
deed of the old man, who had stolen from her that which a poor girl
could only lose once. Finding herself ruined without receiving from
the process either knowledge or pleasure, she cried out so loudly that
the people working in the fields ran to her, and were called upon by
her as witnesses, at the time when that destruction was visible in her
which is appropriate only to a bridal night. She cried and groaned,
saying that the old ape might just as well have played his tricks on
her mother, who would have said nothing.
He made answer to the peasants, who had already raised their hoes to
kill him, that he had been compelled to enjoy himself. These people
objected that a man can enjoy himself very well without enjoying a
maiden—a case for the provost, which would bring him straight to the
gallows; and he was taken with great clamour to the jail of Rouen.
The girl, interrogated by the provost, declared that she was sleeping
in order to do something, and that she thought she was dreaming of her
lover, with whom she was then at loggerheads, because before marriage
he wished to take certain liberties: and jokingly, in this dream she
let him reconnoiter to a certain extent, in order to avoid any dispute
afterwards, and that in spite of her prohibitions he went further than
she had given him leave to go, and finding more pain than pleasure in
the affair, she had been awakened by Vieux par-Chemins, who had
attacked her as a gray-friar would a ham at the end of lent.
This trial caused so great a commotion in the town of Rouen that the
provost was sent for by the duke, who had an intense desire to know if
the thing were true. Upon the affirmation of the provost, he ordered
Vieux par-Chemins to be brought to his palace, in order that he might
hear what defence he had to make. The poor old fellow appeared before
the prince, and informed him naively of the misfortune which his
impulsive nature brought upon him, declaring that he was like a young
fellow impelled by imperious desires; that up to the present year he
had sweethearts of his own, but for the last eight months he had been
a total abstainer; that he was too poor to find favour with the girls
of the town; that honest women who once were charitable to him, had
taken a dislike to his hair, which had feloniously turned white in
spite of the green youth of his love, and that he felt compelled to
avail himself of the chance when he saw this maiden, who, stretched at
full length under the beech tree, left visible the lining of her dress
and two hemispheres, white as snow, which had deprived him of reason;
that the fault was the girl's and not his, because young maidens
should be forbidden to entice passers-by by showing them that which
caused Venus to be named Callipyge; finally the prince ought to be
aware what trouble a man had to control himself at the hour of noon,
because that was the time of day at which King David was smitten with
the wife of the Sieur Uriah, that where a Hebrew king, beloved of God,
had succumbed, a poor man, deprived of all joy, and reduced to begging
for his bread, could not expect to escape; that for that matter of
that, he was quite willing to sing psalms for the remainder of his
days, and play upon a lute by way of penance, in imitation of the said
king, who had had the misfortune to slay a husband, while he had only
done a trifling injury to a peasant girl. The duke listened to the
arguments of Vieux par-Chemins, and said that he was a man of good
parts. Then he made his memorable decree, that if, as this beggar
declared, he had need of such gratification at his age he gave
permission to prove it at the foot of the ladder which he would have
to mount to be hanged, according to the sentence already passed on him
by the provost; that if then, the rope being round his neck, between
the priest and the hangman, a like desire seized him he should have a
This decree becoming known, there was a tremendous crowd to see the
old fellow led to the gallows. There was a line drawn up as if for a
ducal entry, and in it many more bonnets than hats. Vieux par-Chemins
was saved by a lady curious to see how this precious violator would
finish his career. She told the duke that religion demanded that he
should have a fair chance. And she dressed herself as if for a ball;
she brought intentionally into evidence two hillocks of such snowy
whiteness that the whitest linen neckerchief would have paled before
them; indeed, these fruits of love stood out, without a wrinkle, over
her corset, like two beautiful apples, and made one's mouth water, so
exquisite were they. This noble lady, who was one of those who rouse
one's manhood, had a smile ready on her lips for the old fellow. Vieux
par-Chemins, dressed in garments of coarse cloth, more certain of
being in the desired state after hanging than before it, came along
between the officers of justice with a sad countenance, glancing now
here and there, and seeing nothing but head-dresses; and he would he
declared, have given a hundred crowns for a girl tucked up as was the
cowherdess, whose charms, though they had been his ruin, he still
remembered, and they might still have saved him; but, as he was old,
the remembrance was not sufficiently recent. But when, at the foot of
the ladder, he saw the twin charms of the lady, and the pretty delta
that their confluent rotundities produced, the sight so much excited
him that his emotion was patent to the spectators.
"Make haste and see that the required conditions are fulfilled," said
he to the officers. "I have gained my pardon but I cannot answer for
The lady was well pleased with this homage, which, she said, was
greater than his offence. The guards, whose business it was to proceed
to a verification, believed the culprit to be the devil, because never
in their wits had they seen an "I" so perpendicular as was the old
man. He was marched in triumph through the town to the palace of the
duke, to whom the guards and others stated the facts. In that period
of ignorance, this affair was thought so much of that the town voted
the erection of a column on the spot where the old fellow gained his
pardon, and he was portrayed thereon in stone in the attitude he
assumed at the sight of that honest and virtuous lady. The statue was
still to be seen when Rouen was taken by the English, and the writers
of the period have included this history among the notable events of
As the town offered to supply the old man with all he required, and
see to his sustenance, clothing, and amusements, the good duke
arranged matters by giving the injured maiden a thousand crowns and
marrying her to her seducer, who then lost his name of Vieux
par-Chemins. He was named by the duke the Sieur de Bonne-C———.
This wife was confined nine months afterwards of a perfectly formed
male child, alive and kicking, and born with two teeth. From this
marriage came the house of Bonne-C———, who from motives modest but
wrong, besought our well-beloved King Louis Eleventh to grant them
letters patent to change their names into that of Bonne-Chose. The
king pointed out to the Sieur de Bonne-C——— that there was in the
state of Venice an illustrious family named Coglioni, who wore three
"C——— au natural" on their coat of arms. The gentlemen of the House
of Bonne-C——— stated to the king that their wives were ashamed to
be thus called in public assemblies; the king answered that they would
lose a great deal, because there is a great deal in a name.
Nevertheless, he granted the letters. After that this race was known
by this name, and founded families in many provinces. The first Sieur
de Bonne-C——— lived another 27 years, and had another son and two
daughters. But he grieved much at becoming rich, and no longer being
able to pick up a living in the street.
From this you can obtain finer lessons and higher morals than from any
story you will read all your life long—of course excepting these
hundred glorious Droll Tales—namely, that never could adventure of
this sort have happened to the impaired and ruined constitutions of
court rascals, rich people and others who dig their graves with their
teeth by over-eating and drinking many wines that impair the
implements of happiness; which said over-fed people were lolling
luxuriously in costly draperies and on feather beds, while the Sieur
de Bonne-Chose was roughing it. In a similar situation, if they had
eaten cabbage, it would have given them the diarrhoea. This may incite
many of those who read this story to change their mode of life, in
order to imitate Vieux par-Chemins in his old age.
ODD SAYINGS OF THREE PILGRIMS
When the pope left his good town of Avignon to take up his residence
in Rome, certain pilgrims were thrown out who had set out for this
country, and would have to pass the high Alps, in order to gain this
said town of Rome, where they were going to seek the remittimus of
various sins. Then were to be seen on the roads, and the hostelries,
those who wore the order of Cain, otherwise the flower of the
penitents, all wicked fellows, burdened with leprous souls, which
thirsted to bathe in the papal piscina, and all carrying with them
gold or precious things to purchase absolution, pay for their beds,
and present to the saints. You may be sure that those who drank water
going, on their return, if the landlords gave them water, wished it to
be the holy water of the cellar.
At this time the three pilgrims came to this said Avignon to their
injury, seeing that it was widowed of the pope. While they were
passing the Rhodane, to reach the Mediterranean coast, one of the
three pilgrims, who had with him a son about 10 years of age, parted
company with the others, and near the town of Milan suddenly appeared
again, but without the boy. Now in the evening, at supper, they had a
hearty feast in order to celebrate the return of the pilgrim, who they
thought had become disgusted with penitence through the pope not being
in Avignon. Of these three roamers to Rome, one had come from the city
of Paris, the other from Germany, and the third, who doubtless wished
to instruct his son on the journey, had his home in the duchy of
Burgundy, in which he had certain fiefs, and was a younger son of the
house of Villers-la-Faye (Villa in Fago), and was named La Vaugrenand.
The German baron had met the citizen of Paris just past Lyons, and
both had accosted the Sire de la Vaugrenand in sight of Avignon.
Now in this hostelry the three pilgrims loosened their tongues, and
agreed to journey to Rome together, in order the better to resist the
foot pads, the night-birds, and other malefactors, who made it their
business to ease pilgrims of that which weighed upon their bodies
before the pope eased them of that which weighed upon their
consciences. After drinking the three companions commenced to talk
together, for the bottle is the key of conversation, and each made
this confession—that the cause of his pilgrimage was a woman. The
servant who watched their drinking, told them that of a hundred
pilgrims who stopped in the locality, ninety-nine were travelling from
the same thing. These three wise men then began to consider how
pernicious is woman to man. The Baron showed the heavy gold chain that
he had in his hauberk to present to Saint Peter, and said his crime
was such that he would not get rid of with the value of two such
chains. The Parisian took off his glove, and exposed a ring set with a
white diamond, saying that he had a hundred like it for the pope. The
Burgundian took off his hat, and exhibited two wonderful pearls, that
were beautiful ear-pendants for Notre-Dame-de-Lorette, and candidly
confessed that he would rather have left them round his wife's neck.
Thereupon the servant exclaimed that their sins must have been as
great as those of Visconti.
Then the pilgrims replied that they were such that they had made a
solemn vow in their minds never to go astray again during the
remainder of their days, however beautiful the woman might be, and
this in addition to the penance which the pope might impose upon them.
Then the servant expressed her astonishment that all had made the same
vow. The Burgundian added, that this vow had been the cause of his
lagging behind, because he had been in extreme fear that his son, in
spite of his age, might go astray, and that he had made a vow to
prevent people and beasts alike gratifying their passions in his
house, or upon his estates. The baron having inquired the particulars
of the adventure, the sire narrated the affair as follows:—
"You know that the good Countess Jeane d'Avignon made formerly a law
for the harlots, who she compelled to live in the outskirts of the
town in houses with window-shutters painted red and closed. Now
passing in my company in this vile neighbourhood, my lad remarked
these houses with closed window-shutters, painted red, and his
curiosity being aroused—for these ten-year old little devils have
eyes for everything—he pulled me by the sleeve and kept on pulling
until he had learnt from me what these houses were. Then, to obtain
peace, I told him that young lads had nothing to do with such places,
and could only enter them at the peril of their lives, because it was
a place where men and women were manufactured, and the danger was such
for anyone unacquainted with the business that if a novice entered,
flying chancres and other wild beasts would seize upon his face. Fear
seized the lad, who then followed me to the hostelry in a state of
agitation, and not daring to cast his eyes upon the said bordels.
While I was in the stable, seeing to the putting up of the horses, my
son went off like a robber, and the servant was unable to tell me what
had become of him. Then I was in great fear of the wenches, but had
confidence in the laws, which forbade them to admit such children. At
supper-time the rascal came back to me looking no more ashamed of
himself than did our divine Saviour in the temple among the doctors.
"'Whence comes you?' said I to him.
"'From the houses with the red shutters,' he replied.
"'Little blackguard,' said I, 'I'll give you a taste of the whip.'
"Then he began to moan and cry. I told him that if he would confess
all that had happened to him I would let him off the beating.
"'Ha,' said he, 'I took care not to go in, because of the flying
chancres and other wild beasts. I only looked through the chinks of
the windows, in order to see how men were manufactured.'
"'And what did you see?' I asked.
"'I saw,' said he, 'a fine woman just being finished, because she only
wanted one peg, which a young worker was fitting in with energy.
Directly she was finished she turned round, spoke to, and kissed her
"'Have your supper,' said I; and the same night I returned into
Burgundy, and left him with his mother, being sorely afraid that at
the first town he might want to fit a peg into some girl."
"These children often make these sort of answers," said the Parisian.
"One of my neighbour's children revealed the cuckoldom of his father
by a reply. One day I asked, to see if he was well instructed at
school in religious matters, 'What is hope?' 'One of the king's big
archers, who comes here when father goes out,' said he. Indeed, the
sergeant of the Archers was named Hope. My friend was dumbfounded at
this, and, although to keep his countenance he looked in the mirror,
he could not see his horns there."
The baron observed that the boy's remark was good in this way: that
Hope is a person who comes to bed with us when the realities of life
are out of the way.
"Is a cuckold made in the image of God?" asked the Burgundian.
"No," said the Parisian, "because God was wise in this respect, that
he took no wife; therefore is He happy through all eternity."
"But," said the maid-servant, "cuckolds are made in the image of God
before they are horned."
Then the three pilgrims began to curse women, saying that they were
the cause of all the evils in the world.
"Their heads are as empty as helmets," said the Burgundian.
"Their hearts are as straight as bill-hooks," said the Parisian.
"Why are there so many men pilgrims and so few women pilgrims?" said
the German baron.
"Their cursed member never sins," replied the Parisian; "it knows
neither father nor mother, the commandments of God, nor those of the
Church, neither laws divine or human: their member knows no doctrine,
understands no heresies, and cannot be blamed; it is innocent of all,
and always on the laugh; its understanding is nil; and for this reason
do I hold it in utter detestation."
"I also," said the Burgundian, "and I begin to understand the
different reading by a learned man of the verses of the Bible, in
which the account of the creation is given. In this Commentary, which
in my country we call a Noel, lies the reason of imperfection of this
feature of women, of which, different to that of other females, no man
can slake the thirst, such diabolical heat existing there. In this
Noel is stated that the Lord God, having turned his head to look at a
donkey, who had brayed for the first time in his Paradise, while he
was manufacturing Eve, the devil seized this moment to put his finger
into this divine creature, and made a warm wound, which the Lord took
care to close with a stitch, from which comes the maid. By means of
this frenum, the woman should remain closed, and children be made in
the same manner in which God made the angels, by a pleasure far above
carnal pleasure as the heaven is above the earth. Observing this
closing, the devil, wild at being done, pinched the Sieur Adam, who
was asleep, by the skin, and stretched a portion of it out in
imitation of his diabolical tail; but as the father of man was on his
back this appendage came out in front. Thus these two productions of
the devil had the desire to reunite themselves, following the law of
similarities which God had laid down for the conduct of the world.
From this came the first sin and the sorrows of the human race,
because God, noticing the devil's work, determined to see what would
come of it."
The servant declared that they were quite correct in the statements,
for that woman was a bad animal, and that she herself knew some who
were better under the ground than on it. The pilgrims, noticing then
how pretty the girl was, were afraid of breaking their vows, and went
straight to bed. The girl went and told her mistress she was
harbouring infidels, and told her what they had said about women.
"Ah!" said the landlady, "what matters it to me the thoughts my
customers have in their brains, so long as their purses are well
And when the servant had told of the jewels, she exclaimed—
"Ah, these are questions which concern all women. Let us go and reason
with them. I'll take the nobles, you can have the citizen."
The landlady, who was the most shameless inhabitant of the duchy of
Milan, went into the chamber where the Sire de La Vaugrenand and the
German baron were sleeping, and congratulated them upon their vows,
saying that the women would not lose much by them; but to accomplish
these said vows it was necessary they should endeavour to withstand
the strongest temptations. Then she offered to lie down beside them,
so anxious were she to see if she would be left unmolested, a thing
which had never happened to her yet in the company of a man.
On the morrow, at breakfast, the servant had the ring on her finger,
her mistress had the gold chain and the pearl earrings. The three
pilgrims stayed in the town about a month, spending there all the
money they had in their purses, and agreed that if they had spoken so
severely of women it was because they had not known those of Milan.
On his return to Germany the Baron made this observation: that he was
only guilty of one sin, that of being in his castle. The Citizen of
Paris came back full of stories for his wife, and found her full of
Hope. The Burgundian saw Madame de La Vaugrenand so troubled that he
nearly died of the consolations he administered to her, in spite of
his former opinions. This teaches us to hold our tongues in
By the double crest of my fowl, and by the rose lining of my
sweetheart's slipper! By all the horns of well-beloved cuckolds, and
by the virtue of their blessed wives! the finest work of man is
neither poetry, nor painted pictures, nor music, nor castles, nor
statues, be they carved never so well, nor rowing, nor sailing
galleys, but children.
Understand me, children up to the age of ten years, for after that
they become men or women, and cutting their wisdom teeth, are not
worth what they cost; the worst are the best. Watch them playing,
prettily and innocently, with slippers; above all, cancellated ones,
with the household utensils, leaving that which displeases them,
crying after that which pleases them, munching the sweets and
confectionery in the house, nibbling at the stores, and always
laughing as soon as their teeth are cut, and you will agree with me
that they are in every way lovable; besides which they are flower and
fruit—the fruit of love, the flower of life. Before their minds have
been unsettled by the disturbances of life, there is nothing in this
world more blessed or more pleasant than their sayings, which are
naive beyond description. This is as true as the double chewing
machine of a cow. Do not expect a man to be innocent after the manner
of children, because there is an, I know not what, ingredient of
reason in the naivety of a man, while the naivety of children is
candid, immaculate, and has all the finesse of the mother, which is
plainly proved in this tale.
Queen Catherine was at that time Dauphine, and to make herself welcome
to the king, her father-in-law, who at that time was very ill indeed,
presented him, from time to time, with Italian pictures, knowing that
he liked them much, being a friend of the Sieur Raphael d'Urbin and of
the Sieurs Primatice and Leonardo da Vinci, to whom he sent large sums
of money. She obtained from her family—who had the pick of these
works, because at that time the Duke of the Medicis governed Tuscany
—a precious picture, painted by a Venetian named Titian (artist to
the Emperor Charles, and in very high flavour), in which there were
portraits of Adam and Eve at the moment when God left them to wander
about the terrestrial Paradise, and were painted their full height, in
the costume of the period, in which it is difficult to make a mistake,
because they were attired in their ignorance, and caparisoned with the
divine grace which enveloped them—a difficult thing to execute on
account of the colour, but one in which the said Sieur Titian
excelled. The picture was put into the room of the poor king, who was
then ill with the disease of which he eventually died. It had a great
success at the Court of France, where everyone wished to see it; but
no one was able to until after the king's death, since at his desire
it was allowed to remain in his room as long as he lived.
One day Madame Catherine took with her to the king's room her son
Francis and little Margot, who began to talk at random, as children
will. Now here, now there, these children had heard this picture of
Adam and Eve spoken about, and had tormented their mother to take them
there. Since the two little ones at times amused the old king, Madame
the Dauphine consented to their request.
"You wished to see Adam and Eve, who were our first parents; there
they are," said she.
Then she left them in great astonishment before Titian's picture, and
seated herself by the bedside of the king, who delighted to watch the
"Which of the two is Adam?" said Francis, nudging his sister Margot's
"You silly!" replied she, "to know that, they would have to be
This reply, which delighted the poor king and the mother, was
mentioned in a letter written in Florence by Queen Catherine.
No writer having brought it to light, it will remain, like a sweet
flower, in a corner of these Tales, although it is no way droll, and
there is no other moral to be drawn from it except that to hear these
pretty speeches of infancy one must beget the children.
THE FAIR IMPERIA MARRIED
HOW MADAME IMPERIA WAS CAUGHT BY THE VERY NET SHE WAS
ACCUSTOMED TO SPREAD FOR HER LOVE-BIRDS
The lovely lady Imperia, who gloriously opens these tales, because she
was the glory of her time, was compelled to come into the town of
Rome, after the holding of the council, for the cardinal of Ragusa
loved her more than his cardinal's hat, and wished to have her near
him. This rascal was so magnificent, that he presented her with the
beautiful palace that he had in the Papal capital. About this time she
had the misfortune to find herself in an interesting condition by this
cardinal. As everyone knows, this pregnancy finished with a fine
little daughter, concerning whom the Pope said jokingly that she
should be named Theodora, as if to say The Gift Of God. The girl was
thus named, and was exquisitely lovely. The cardinal left his
inheritance to this Theodora, whom the fair Imperia established in her
hotel, for she was flying from Rome as from a pernicious place, where
children were begotten, and where she had nearly spoiled her beautiful
figure, her celebrated perfections, lines of the body, curves of the
back, delicious breasts, and Serpentine charms which placed her as
much above the other women of Christendom as the Holy Father was above
all other Christians. But all her lovers knew that with the assistance
of eleven doctors of Padua, seven master surgeons of Pavia, and five
surgeons come from all parts, who assisted at her confinement, she was
preserved from all injury. Some go so far as to say that she gained
therein superfineness and whiteness of skin. A famous man, of the
school of Salerno, wrote a book on the subject, to show the value of a
confinement for the freshness, health, preservation, and beauty of
women. In this very learned book it was clearly proved to readers that
that which was beautiful to see in Imperia, was that which it was
permissible for lovers alone to behold; a rare case then, for she did
not disarrange her attire for the petty German princes whom she called
her margraves, burgraves, electors, and dukes, just as a captain ranks
Everyone knows that when she was eighteen years of age, the lovely
Theodora, to atone for her mother's gay life, wished to retire into
the bosom of the Church. With this idea she placed herself in the
hands of a cardinal, in order that he might instruct her in the duties
of the devout. This wicked shepherd found the lamb so magnificently
beautiful that he attempted to debauch her. Theodora instantly stabbed
herself with a stiletto, in order not to be contaminated by the
evil-minded priest. This adventure, which was consigned to the history
of the period, made a great commotion in Rome, and was deplored by
everyone, so much was the daughter of Imperia beloved.
Then this noble courtesan, much afflicted, returned to Rome, there to
weep for her poor daughter. She set out in the thirty-ninth year of
her age, which was, according to some authors, the summer of her
magnificent beauty, because then she had obtained the acme of
perfection, like ripe fruit. Sorrow made her haughty and hard with
those who spoke to her of love, in order to dry her tears. The pope
himself visited her in her palace, and gave her certain words of
admonition. But she refused to be comforted, saying that she would
henceforth devote herself to God, because she had never yet been
satisfied by any man, although she had ardently desired it; and all of
them, even a little priest, whom she had adored like a saint's shrine,
had deceived her. God, she was sure, would not do so.
This resolution disconcerted many, for she was the joy of a vast
number of lords. So that people ran about the streets of Rome crying
out, "Where is Madame Imperia? Is she going to deprive the world of
love?" Some of the ambassadors wrote to their masters on the subject.
The Emperor of the Romans was much cut up about it, because he had
loved her to distraction for eleven weeks; had left her only to go to
the wars, and loved her still as much as his most precious member,
which according to his own statement, was his eye, for that alone
embraced the whole of his dear Imperia. In this extremity the Pope
sent for a Spanish physician, and conducted him to the beautiful
creature, to whom he proved, by various arguments, adorned with Latin
and Greek quotations, that beauty is impaired by tears and
tribulation, and that through sorrow's door wrinkles step in. This
proposition, confirmed by the doctors of the Holy College in
controversy, had the effect of opening the doors of the palace that
same evening. The young cardinals, the foreign envoys, the wealthy
inhabitants, and the principal men of the town of Rome came, crowded
the rooms, and held a joyous festival; the common people made grand
illuminations, and thus the whole population celebrated the return of
the Queen of Pleasure to her occupation, for she was at that time the
presiding deity of Love. The experts in all the arts loved her much,
because she spent considerable sums of money improving the Church in
Rome, which contained poor Theodora's tomb, which was destroyed during
that pillage of Rome in which perished the traitorous constable of
Bourbon, for this holy maiden was placed therein in a massive coffin
of gold and silver, which the cursed soldiers were anxious to obtain.
The basilic cost, it is said, more than the pyramid erected by the
Lady Rhodepa, an Egyptian courtesan, eighteen hundred years before the
coming of our divine Saviour, which proves the antiquity of this
pleasant occupation, the extravagant prices which the wise Egyptians
paid for their pleasures, and how things deteriorate, seeing that now
for a trifle you can have a chemise full of female loveliness in the
Rue du Petit-Heulen, at Paris. Is it not abomination?
Never had Madame Imperia appeared so lovely as at this first gala
after her mourning. All the princes, cardinals, and others declared
that she was worthy the homage of the whole world, which was there
represented by a noble from every known land, and thus was it amply
demonstrated that beauty was in every place queen of everything.
The envoy of the King of France, who was a cadet of the house of l'Ile
Adam, arrived late, although he had never yet seen Imperia, and was
most anxious to do so. He was a handsome young knight, much in favour
with his sovereign, in whose court he had a mistress, whom he loved
with infinite tenderness, and who was the daughter of Monsieur de
Montmorency, a lord whose domains bordered upon those of the house of
l'Ile Adam. To this penniless cadet the king had given certain
missions to the duchy of Milan, of which he had acquitted himself so
well that he was sent to Rome to advance the negotiations concerning
which historians have written so much in their books. Now if he had
nothing of his own, poor little l'Ile Adam relied upon so good a
beginning. He was slightly built, but upright as a column, dark, with
black, glistening eyes; and a man not easily taken in; but concealing
his finesse, he had the air of an innocent child, which made him
gentle and amiable as a laughing maiden. Directly this gentleman
joined her circle, and her eyes had rested upon him, Madame Imperia
felt herself bitten by a strong desire, which stretched the harp
strings of her nature, and produced therefrom a sound she had not
heard for many a day. She was seized with such a vertigo of true love
at the sight of this freshness of youth, that but for her imperial
dignity she would have kissed the good cheeks which shone like little
Now take note of this; that so called modest women, and ladies whose
skirts bear their armorial bearings, are thoroughly ignorant of the
nature of man, because they keep to one alone, like the Queen of
France who believed all men had ulcers in the nose because the king
had; but a great courtesan, like Madame Imperia, knew man to his core,
because she had handled a great many. In her retreat, everyone came
out in his true colours, and concealed nothing, thinking to himself
that he would not be long with her. Having often deplored this
subjection, sometimes she would remark that she suffered from pleasure
more than she suffered from pain. There was the dark shadow of her
life. You may be sure that a lover was often compelled to part with a
nice little heap of crowns in order to pass the night with her, and
was reduced to desperation by a refusal. Now for her it was a joyful
thing to feel a youthful desire, like that she had for the little
priest, whose story commences this collection; but because she was
older than in those merry days, love was more fully established in
her, and she soon perceived that it was of a fiery nature when it
began to make itself felt; indeed, she suffered in her skin like a cat
that is being scorched, and so much so that she had an intense longing
to spring upon this gentleman, and bear him in triumph to her nest, as
a kite does its prey, but with great difficulty she restrained
herself. When he came and bowed to her, she threw back her head, and
assumed a most dignified attitude, as do those who have a love
infatuation in their hearts. The gravity of her demeanour to the young
ambassador caused many to think that she had work in store for him;
equivocating on the word, after the custom of the time.
L'Ile Adam, knowing himself to be dearly loved by his mistress,
troubled himself but little about Madame Imperia, grave or gay, and
frisked about like a goat let loose. The courtesan, terribly annoyed
at this, changed her tone, from being sulky became gay and lively,
came to him, softened her voice, sharpened her glance, gracefully
inclined her head, rubbed against him with her sleeve, and called him
Monsiegneur, embraced him with the loving words, trifled with his
hand, and finished by smiling at him most affably. He, not imagining
that so unprofitable a lover would suit her, for he was as poor as a
church mouse, and did not know that his beauty was the equal in her
eyes to all the treasures of the world, was not taken in her trap, but
continued to ride the high horse with his hand on his hips. This
disdain of her passion irritated Madame to the heart, which by this
spark was set in flame. If you doubt this, it is because you know
nothing of the profession of the Madame Imperia, who by reason of it
might be compared to a chimney, in which a great number of fires have
been lighted, which had filled it with soot; in this state a match was
sufficient to burn everything there, where a hundred fagots has smoked
comfortably. She burned within from top to toe in a horrible manner,
and could not be extinguished save with the water of love. The cadet
of l'Ile Adam left the room without noticing this ardour.
Madame, disconsolate at his departure, lost her senses from her head
to her feet, and so thoroughly that she sent a messenger to him on the
galleries, begging him to pass the night with her. On no other
occasion of her life had she had this cowardice, either for king,
pope, or emperor, since the high price of her favours came from the
bondage in which she held her admirers, whom the more she humbled the
more she raised herself. The disdainful hero of this history was
informed by the head chamber-women, who was a clever jade, that in all
probability a great treat awaited him, for most certainly Madame would
regale him with her most delicate inventions of love. L'Ile Adam
returned to the salons, delighted at this lucky chance. Directly the
envoy of France reappeared, as everyone had seen Imperia turn pale at
his departure, the general joy knew no bounds, because everyone was
delighted to see her return to her old life of love. An English
cardinal, who had drained more than one big-bellied flagon, and wished
to taste Imperia, went to l'Ile Adam and whispered to him, "Hold her
fast, so that she shall never again escape us."
The story of this remark was told to the pope at his levee, and caused
him to remark, Laetamini, gentes, quoniam surrexit Dominus. A
quotation which the old cardinals abominated as a profanation of
sacred texts. Seeing which, the pope reprimanded them severely, and
took occasion to lecture them, telling them that if they were good
Christians they were bad politicians. Indeed, he relied upon the fair
Imperia to reclaim the emperor, and with this idea he syringed her
well with flattery.
The lights of the palace being extinguished, the golden flagons on the
floor, and the servants drunk and stretched about on the carpets,
Madame entered her bedchamber, leading by the hand her dear
lover-elect; and she was well pleased, and has since confessed that so
strongly was she bitten with love, she could hardly restrain herself
from rolling at his feet like a beast of the field, begging him to
crush her beneath him if he could. L'Ile Adam slipped off his
garments, and tumbled into bed as if he were in his own house. Seeing
which, Madame hastened her preparations, and sprang into her lover's
arms with a frenzy that astonished her women, who knew her to be
ordinarily one of the most modest of women on these occasions. The
astonishment became general throughout the country, for the pair
remained in bed for nine days, eating, drinking, and embracing in a
marvellous and most masterly manner. Madame told her women that at
last she had placed her hand on a phoenix of love, since he revived
from every attack. Nothing was talked of in Rome and Italy but the
victory that had been gained over Imperia, who had boasted that she
would yield to no man, and spat upon all of them, even the dukes. As
to the aforesaid margraves and burgraves, she gave them the tail of
her dress to hold, and said that if she did not tread them under foot,
they would trample upon her. Madame confessed to her servants that,
differently to all other men she had had to put up with, the more she
fondled this child of love, the more she desired to do so, and that
she would never be able to part with him; nor his splendid eyes, which
blinded her; nor his branch of coral, that she always hungered after.
She further declared that if such were his desire, she would let him
suck her blood, eat her breasts—which were the most lovely in the
world—and cut her tresses, of which she had only given a single one
to the Emperor of the Romans, who kept it in his breast, like a
precious relic; finally, she confessed that on that night only had
life begun for her, because the embrace of Villiers de l'Ile Adam sent
the blood to her in three bounds and in a brace of shakes.
These expressions becoming known, made everyone very miserable.
Directly she went out, Imperia told the ladies of Rome that she should
die it if she were deserted by this gentleman, and would cause
herself, like Queen Cleopatra, to be bitten by an asp. She declared
openly that she had bidden an eternal adieu her to her former gay
life, and would show the whole world what virtue was by abandoning her
empire for this Villiers de l'Ile Adam, whose servant she would rather
be than reign of Christendom. The English cardinal remonstrated with
the pope that this love for one, in the heart of a woman who was the
joy of all, was an infamous depravity, and that he ought with a brief
in partibus, to annul this marriage, which robbed the fashionable
world of its principal attraction. But the love of this poor woman,
who had confessed the miseries of her life, was so sweet a thing, and
so moved the most dissipated heart, that she silenced all clamour, and
everyone forgave her her happiness. One day, during Lent, Imperia made
her people fast, and ordered them to go and confess, and return to
God. She herself went and fell at the pope's feet, and there showed
such penitence, that she obtained from him remission of all her sins,
believing that the absolution of the pope would communicate to her
soul that virginity which she was grieved at being unable to offer her
lover. It is impossible to help thinking that there was some virtue in
the ecclesiastical piscina, for the poor cadet was so smothered with
love that he fancied himself in Paradise, and left the negotiations of
the King of France, left his love for Mademoiselle de Montmorency—in
fact, left everything to marry Madame Imperia, in order that he might
live and die with her. Such was the effect of the learned ways of this
great lady of pleasure directly she turned her science to the root of
a virtuous love. Imperia bade adieu to her admirers at a royal feast,
given in honour of her wedding, which was a wonderful ceremony, at
which all the Italian princes were present. She had, it is said, a
million gold crowns; in spite of the vastness of this sum, every one
far from blaming L'Ile Adam, paid him many compliments, because it was
evident that neither Madame Imperia nor her young husband thought of
anything but one. The pope blessed their marriage, and said that it
was a fine thing to see the foolish virgin returning to God by the
road of marriage.
But during that last night in which it would be permissible for all to
behold the Queen of Beauty, who was about to become a simple
chatelaine of the kingdom of France, there were a great number of men
who mourned for the merry nights, the suppers, the masked balls, the
joyous games, and the melting hours, when each one emptied his heart
to her. Everyone regretted the ease and freedom which had always been
found in the residence of this lovely creature, who now appeared more
tempting than she had ever done in her life, for the fervid heat of
her great love made her glisten like a summer sun. Much did they
lament the fact that she had had the sad fantasy to become a
respectable woman. To these Madame de l'Ile Adam answered jestingly,
that after twenty-four years passed in the service of the public, she
had a right to retire. Others said to her, that however distant the
sun was, people could warm themselves in it, while she would show
herself no more. To these she replied that she would still have smiles
to bestow upon those lords who would come and see how she played the
role of a virtuous woman. To this the English envoy answered, he
believed her capable of pushing virtue to its extreme point. She gave
a present to each of her friends, and large sums to the poor and
suffering of Rome; besides this, she left to the convent where her
daughter was to have been, and to the church she had built, the wealth
she had inherited from Theodora, which came from the cardinal of
When the two spouses set out they were accompanied a long way by
knights in mourning, and even by the common people, who wished them
every happiness, because Madame Imperia had been hard on the rich
only, and had always been kind and gentle with the poor. This lovely
queen of love was hailed with acclamations throughout the journey in
all the towns of Italy where the report of her conversion had spread,
and where everyone was curious to see pass, a case so rare as two such
spouses. Several princes received this handsome couple at their
courts, saying it was but right to show honour to this woman who had
the courage to renounce her empire over the world of fashion, to
become a virtuous woman. But there was an evil-minded fellow, one my
lord Duke of Ferrara, who said to l'Ile Adam that his great fortune
had not cost him much. At this first offence Madame Imperia showed
what a good heart she had, for she gave up all the money she had
received from her lovers, to ornament the dome of St. Maria del Fiore,
in the town of Florence, which turned the laugh against the Sire
d'Este, who boasted that he had built a church in spite of the empty
condition of his purse. You may be sure he was reprimanded for this
joke by his brother the cardinal.
The fair Imperia only kept her own wealth and that which the Emperor
had bestowed upon her out of pure friendship since his departure, the
amount of which was however, considerable. The cadet of l'Ile Adam had
a duel with the duke, in which he wounded him. Thus neither Madame de
l'Ile Adam, nor her husband could be in any way reproached. This piece
of chivalry caused her to be gloriously received in all places she
passed through, especially in Piedmont, where the fetes were splendid.
Verses which the poet then composed, such as sonnets, epithalamias,
and odes, have been given in certain collections; but all poetry was
weak in comparison with her, who was, according to an expression of
Monsieur Boccaccio, poetry herself.
The prize in this tourney of fetes and gallantry must be awarded to
the good Emperor of the Romans, who, knowing of the misbehaviour of
the Duke of Ferrara, dispatched an envoy to his old flame, charged
with Latin manuscripts, in which he told her that he loved her so much
for herself, that he was delighted to know that she was happy, but
grieved to know that all her happiness was not derived from him; that
he had lost his right to make her presents, but that, if the king of
France received her coldly, he would think it an honour to acquire a
Villiers to the holy empire, and would give him such principalities as
he might choose from his domains. The fair Imperia replied that she
was extremely obliged to the Emperor, but that had she to suffer
contumely upon contumely in France, she still intended there to finish
HOW THIS MARRIAGE ENDED
Not knowing if it she would be received or not, the lady of l'Ile Adam
would not go to court, but lived in the country, where her husband
made a fine establishment, purchasing the manor of
Beaumont-le-Vicomte, which gave rise to the equivoque upon his name,
made by our well-beloved Rabelais, in his most magnificent book. He
acquired also the domain of Nointel, the forest of Carenelle, St.
Martin, and other places in the neighbourhood of the l'Ile Adam, where
his brother Villiers resided. These said acquisitions made him the most
powerful lord in the l'Ile de France and county of Paris. He built a
wonderful castle near Beaumont, which was afterwards ruined by the
English, and adorned it with the furniture, foreign tapestries, chests,
pictures, statues, and curiosities, of his wife, who was a great
connoisseur, which made this place equal to the most magnificent
The happy pair led a life so envied by all, that nothing was talked
about in Paris and at Court but this marriage, the good fortune of the
Sire de Beaumont, and, above all, of the perfect, loyal, gracious, and
religious life of his wife, who from habit many still called Madame
Imperia; who was no longer proud and sharp as steel, but had the
virtues and qualities of a respectable woman, and was an example in
many things to a queen. She was much beloved by the Church on account
of her great religion, for she had never once forgotten God, having,
as she once said, spent much of her time with churchmen, abbots,
bishops, and cardinals, who had sprinkled her well with holy water,
and under the curtains worked her eternal salvation.
The praises sung in honour of this lady had such an effect, that the
king came to Beauvoisis to gaze upon this wonder, and did the sire the
honour to sleep at Beaumont, remained there three days, and had a
royal hunt there with the queen and the whole Court. You may be sure
that he was surprised, as were also the queen, the ladies, and the
Court, at the manners of this superb creature, who was proclaimed a
lady of courtesy and beauty. The king first, then the queen, and
afterwards every individual member of the company, complemented l'Ile
Adam on having chosen such a wife. The modesty of the chatelaine did
more than pride would have accomplished; for she was invited to court,
and everywhere, so imperious was her great heart, so tyrannic her
violent love for her husband. You may be sure that her charms, hidden
under the garments of virtue, were none the less exquisite. The king
gave the vacant post of lieutenant of the Ile de France and provost of
Paris to his ancient ambassador, giving him the title of Viscount of
Beaumont, which established him as governor of the whole province, and
put him on an excellent footing at court. But this was the cause of a
great wound in Madame's heart, because a wretch, jealous of this
unclouded happiness, asked her, playfully, if Beaumont had ever spoken
to her of his first love, Mademoiselle de Montmorency, who at that
time was twenty-two years of age, as she was sixteen at the time the
marriage took place in Rome—the which young lady loved l'Ile Adam so
much that she remained a maiden, would listen to no proposals of
marriage, and was dying of a broken heart, unable to banish her
perfidious lover from her remembrance and was desirous of entering the
convent of Chelles. Madame Imperia, during the six years of her
marriage, had never heard this name, and was sure from this fact that
she was indeed beloved. You can imagine that this time had been passed
as a single day, that both believed that they had only been married
the evening before, and that each night was as a wedding night, and
that if business took the knight out of doors, he was quite
melancholy, being unwilling ever to have her out of his sight, and she
was the same with him.
The king, who was very partial to the viscount, also made a remark to
him which stung him to the quick, when he said, "You have no
To which Beaumont replied, with the face of a man whose raw place you
have touched with your finger, "Monsiegneur, my brother has; thus our
line is safe."
Now it happened that his brother's two children died suddenly—one
from a fall from his horse at a tournament and the other from illness.
Monsieur l'Ile Adam the elder was so stricken with grief at these two
deaths that he expired soon after, so much did he love his two sons.
By this means the manor of Beaumont, the property at Carenelle, St.
Martin, Nointel, and the surrounding domains, were reunited to the
manor of l'Ile Adam, and the neighbouring forests, and the cadet
became the head of the house. At this time Madame was forty-five, and
was still fit to bear children; but alas! she conceived not. As soon
as she saw the lineage of l'Ile Adam destroyed, she was anxious to
Now, as during the seven years which had elapsed she had never once
had the slightest hint of pregnancy, she believed, according to the
statement of a clever physician whom she sent for from Paris, that
this barrenness proceeded from the fact, that both she and her
husband, always more lovers than spouses, allowed pleasure to
interfere with business, and by this means engendering was prevented.
Then she endeavoured to restrain her impetuosity, and to take things
coolly, because the physician had explained to her that in a state of
nature animals never failed to breed, because the females employed
none of those artifices, tricks, and hanky-pankies with which women
accommodate the olives of Poissy, and for this reason they thoroughly
deserved the title of beasts. She promised him no longer to play with
such a serious affair, and to forget all the ingenious devices in
which she had been so fertile. But, alas! although she kept as quiet
as that German woman who lay so still that her husband embraced her to
death, and then went, poor baron, to obtain absolution from the pope,
who delivered his celebrated brief, in which he requested the ladies
of Franconia to be a little more lively, and prevent a repetition of
such a crime. Madame de l'Ile Adam did not conceive, and fell into a
state of great melancholy.
Then she began to notice how thoughtful had become her husband, l'Ile
Adam, whom she watched when he thought she was not looking, and who
wept that he had no fruit of his great love. Soon this pair mingled
their tears, for everything was common to the two in this fine
household, and as they never left the other, the thought of the one
was necessarily the thought of the other. When Madame beheld a poor
person's child she nearly died of grief, and it took her a whole day
to recover. Seeing this great sorrow, l'Ile Adam ordered all children
to be kept out of his wife's sight, and said soothing things to her,
such as that children often turned out badly; to which she replied,
that a child made by those who loved so passionately would be the
finest child in the world. He told her that her sons might perish,
like those of his poor brother; to which she replied, that she would
not let them stir further from her petticoats than a hen allows her
chickens. In fact, she had an answer for everything.
Madame caused a woman to be sent for who dealt in magic, and who was
supposed to be learned in these mysteries, who told her that she had
often seen women unable to conceive in spite of every effort, but yet
they had succeeded by studying the manners and customs of animals.
Madame took the beasts of the fields for her preceptors, but she did
not increase in size; her flesh still remained firm and white as
marble. She returned to the physical science of the master doctors of
Paris, and sent for a celebrated Arabian physician, who had just
arrived in France with a new science. Then this savant, brought up in
the school of one Sieur Averroes, entered into certain medical
details, and declared that the loose life she had formerly led had for
ever ruined her chance of obtaining offspring. The physical reasons
which he assigned were so contrary to the teaching of the holy books
which establish the majesty of man, made in the image of his creator,
and so contrary to the system upheld by sound sense and good doctrine,
that the doctors of Paris laughed them to scorn. The Arabian physician
left the school where his master, the Sieur Averroes, was unknown.
The doctors told Madame, who had come to Paris, that she was to keep
on as usual, since she had had during her gay life the lovely
Theodora, by the cardinal of Ragusa, and that the right of having
children remained with women as long as their blood circulated, and
all that she had to do was to multiply the chances of conception. This
advice appeared to her so good that she multiplied her victories, but
it was only multiplying her defeats, since she obtained the flowers of
love without its fruits.
The poor afflicted woman wrote then to the pope, who loved her much,
and told him of her sorrows. The good pope replied to her with a
gracious homily, written with his own hand, in which he told her that
when human science and things terrestrial had failed, we should turn
to Heaven and implore the grace of God. Then she determined to go with
naked feet, accompanied by her husband, to Notre Dame de Liesse,
celebrated for her intervention in similar cases, and made a vow to
build a magnificent cathedral in gratitude for the child. But she
bruised and injured her pretty feet, and conceived nothing but a
violent grief, which was so great that some of her lovely tresses fell
off and some turned white.
At last the faculty of making children was taken from her, which
brought on the vapours consequent upon hypochondria, and caused her
skin to turn yellow. She was then forty-nine years of age, and lived
in her castle of l'Ile Adam, where she grew as thin as a leper in a
lazar-house. The poor creature was all the more wretched because l'Ile
Adam was still amorous, and as good as gold to her, who failed in her
duty, because she had formerly been too free with the men, and was
now, according to her own disdainful remark, only a cauldron to cook
"Ha!" said she, one evening when these thoughts were tormenting her.
"In spite of the Church, in spite of the king, in spite of everything,
Madame de l'Ile Adam is still the wicked Imperia!"
She fell into a violent passion when she saw this handsome gentleman
have everything a man can desire, great wealth, royal favour,
unequalled love, matchless wife, pleasure such as none other could
produce, and yet fail in that which is dearest to the head of the
house—namely, lineage. With this idea in her head, she wished to die,
thinking how good and noble he had been to her, and how much she
failed in her duty in not giving him children, and in being
henceforward unable to do so. She hid her sorrow in the secret
recesses of her heart, and conceived a devotion worthy her great love.
To put into practice this heroic design she became still more amorous,
took extreme care of her charms, and made use of learned precepts to
maintain her bodily perfection, which threw out an incredible lustre.
About this time the Sieur de Montmorency conquered the repulsion his
daughter entertained for marriage, and her alliance with one Sieur de
Chatillon was much talked about. Madame Imperia, who lived only three
leagues distant from Montmorency, one day sent her husband out hunting
in the forests, and set out towards the castle where the young lady
lived. Arrived in the grounds she walked about there, telling a
servant to inform her mistress that a lady had a most important
communication to make to her, and that she had come to request an
audience. Much interested by the account which she received by the
beauty, courtesy, and manners of the unknown lady, Mademoiselle de
Montmorency went in great haste into the gardens, and there met her
rival, whom she did not know.
"My dear," said the poor woman, weeping to find the young maiden as
beautiful as herself, "I know that they are trying to force you into a
marriage with Monsieur de Chatillon, although you still love Monsieur
de l'Ile Adam. Have confidence in the prophecy that I here make you,
that he whom you have loved, and who only was false to you through a
snare into which an angel might have fallen, will be free from the
burden of his old wife before the leaves fall. Thus the constancy of
your love will have its crown of flowers. Now have the courage to
refuse this marriage they are arranging for you, and you may yet clasp
your first and only love. Pledge me your word to love and cherish
l'Ile Adam, who is the kindest of men; never to cause him a moment's
anguish, and tell him to reveal to you all the secrets of love
invented by Madame Imperia, because, in practicing them, being young,
you will be easily able to obliterate the remembrance of her from his
Mademoiselle de Montmorency was so astonished that she could make no
answer, and let this queen of beauty depart, and believed her to be a
fairy, until a workman told her that the fairy was Madame de l'Ile
Adam. Although the adventure was inexplicable, she told her father
that she would not give her consent to the proposed marriage until
after the autumn, so much is it in the nature of Love to ally itself
with Hope, in spite of the bitter pills which this deceitful and
gracious, companion gives her to swallow like bull's eyes. During the
months when the grapes are gathered, Imperia would not let l'Ile Adam
leave her, and was so amorous that one would have imagined she wished
to kill him, since l'Ile Adam felt as though he had a fresh bride in
his arms every night. The next morning the good woman requested him to
keep the remembrance of these joys in his heart.
Then, to know what her lover's real thoughts on the subject were she
said to him, "Poor l'Ile Adam, we were very silly to marry—a lad like
you, with your twenty-three years, and an old woman close to 40."
He answered her, that his happiness was such that he was the envy of
every one, that at her age her equal did not exist among the younger
women, and that if ever she grew old he would love her wrinkles,
believing that even in the tomb she would be lovely, and her skeleton
To these answers, which brought the tears into her eyes, she one
morning answered maliciously, that Mademoiselle de Montmorency was
very lovely and very faithful. This speech forced l'Ile Adam to tell
her that she pained him by telling him of the only wrong he had ever
committed in his life—the breaking of the troth pledged to his first
sweetheart, all love for whom he had since effaced from his heart.
This candid speech made her seize him and clasp him to her heart,
affected at the loyalty of his discourse on a subject from which many
would have shrunk.
"My dear love," said she, "for a long time past I have been suffering
from a retraction of the heart, which has always since my youth been
dangerous to my life, and in this opinion the Arabian physician
coincides. If I die, I wish you to make the most binding oath a knight
can make, to wed Mademoiselle Montmorency. I am so certain of dying,
that I leave my property to you only on condition that this marriage
Hearing this, l'Ile Adam turned pale, and felt faint at the mere
thought of an eternal separation from his good wife.
"Yes, dear treasure of love," continued she. "I am punished by God
there where my sins were committed, for the great joys that I feel
dilate my heart, and have, according to the Arabian doctor, weakened
the vessels which in a moment of excitement will burst; but I have
always implored God to take my life at the age in which I now am,
because I would not see my charms marred by the ravages of time."
This great and noble woman saw then how well she was beloved. This is
how she obtained the greatest sacrifice of love that ever was made
upon this earth. She alone knew what a charm existed in the embraces,
fondlings, and raptures of the conjugal bed, which were such that poor
l'Ile Adam would rather have died than allow himself to be deprived of
the amorous delicacies she knew so well how to prepare. At this
confession made by her that, in the excitement of love her heart would
burst, the chevalier cast himself at her knees, and declared that to
preserve her life he would never ask her for love, but would live
contented to see her only at his side, happy at being able to touch
but the hem of her garment.
She replied, bursting into tears, "that she would rather die than lose
one iota of his love; that she would die as she had lived, since
luckily she could make a man embrace her when such was her desire
without having to put her request into words."
Here it must be stated that the cardinal of Ragusa had given her as a
present an article, which this holy joker called in articulo mortis.
It was a tiny glass bottle, no bigger than a bean, made at Venice, and
containing a poison so subtle that by breaking it between the teeth
death came instantly and painlessly. He had received it from Signora
Tophana, the celebrated maker of poisons of the town of Rome.
Now this tiny bottle was under the bezel of a ring, preserved from all
objects that could break it by certain plates of gold. Poor Imperia
put it into her mouth several times without being able to make up her
mind to bite it, so much pleasure did she take in the moment that she
believed to be her last. Then she would pass before her in mental
review all her methods of enjoyment before breaking the glass, and
determined that when she felt the most perfect of all joys she would
bite the bottle.
The poor creature departed this life on the night on the first day of
October. Then was there heard a great clamour in the forests and in
the clouds, as if the loves had cried aloud, "The great Noc is dead!"
in imitation of the pagan gods who, at the coming of the Saviour of
men, fled into the skies, saying, "the great Pan is slain!" A cry
which was heard by some persons navigating the Eubean Sea, and
preserved by a Father of the Church.
Madame Imperia died without being spoiled in shape, so much had God
made her the irreproachable model of a woman. She had, it was said, a
magnificent tint upon her flesh, caused by the proximity of the
flaming wings of Pleasure, who cried and groaned over her corpse. Her
husband mourned for her most bitterly, never suspecting that she had
died to deliver him from a childless wife, for the doctor who embalmed
her said not a word concerning the cause of her death. This great
sacrifice was discovered six years after marriage of l'Ile Adam with
Mademoiselle de Montmorency, because she told him all about the visit
of Madame Imperia. The poor gentleman immediately fell into a state of
great melancholy and finished by dying, being unable to banish the
remembrance of those joys of love which it was beyond the power of a
novice to restore to him; thereby did he prove the truth of that which
was said at that time, that this woman would never die in a heart
where she had once reigned.
This teaches us that virtue is well understood by those who have
practised vice; for among the most modest women few would thus have
sacrificed life, in whatever high state of religion you look for them.
Oh! mad little one, thou whose business it is to make the house merry,
again hast thou been wallowing, in spite of a thousand prohibitions,
in that slough of melancholy, whence thou hast already fished out
Bertha, and come back with thy tresses dishevelled, like a girl who
has been ill-treated by a regiment of soldiers! Where are thy golden
aiglets and bells, thy filigree flowers of fantastic design? Where
hast thou left thy crimson head-dress, ornamented with precious
gewgaws that cost a minot of pearls?
Why spoil with pernicious tears thy black eyes, so pleasant when
therein sparkles the wit of a tale, that popes pardon thee thy sayings
for the sake of thy merry laughter, feel their souls caught between
the ivory of thy teeth, have their hearts drawn by the rose point of
thy sweet tongue, and would barter the holy slipper for a hundred of
the smiles that hover round thy vermillion lips? Laughing lassie, if
thou wouldst remain always fresh and young, weep no more; think of
riding the brideless fleas, of bridling with the golden clouds thy
chameleon chimeras, of metamorphosing the realities of life into
figures clothed with the rainbow, caparisoned with roseate dreams, and
mantled with wings blue as the eyes of the partridge. By the Body and
the Blood, by the Censer and the Seal, by the Book and the Sword, by
the Rag and the Gold, by the Sound and the Colour, if thou does but
return once into that hovel of elegies where eunuchs find ugly women
for imbecile sultans, I'll curse thee; I'll rave at thee; I'll make
thee fast from roguery and love; I'll—
Phist! Here she is astride a sunbeam with a volume that is ready to
burst with merry meteors! She plays in their prisms, tearing about so
madly, so wildly, so boldly, so contrary to good sense, so contrary to
good manners, so contrary to everything, that one has to touch her
with long feathers, to follow her siren's tail in the golden facets
which trifle among the artifices of these new pearls of laughter. Ye
gods! but she is sporting herself in them like a hundred schoolboys in
a hedge full of blackberries, after vespers. To the devil with the
magister! The volume is finished! Out upon work! What ho! my jovial
friends; this way!