The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Tales Of The Heptameron, Vol. V. (of V.), by
Margaret, Queen Of Navarre

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Title: The Tales Of The Heptameron, Vol. V. (of V.)

Author: Margaret, Queen Of Navarre

Illustrator: Freudenberg and Dunker

Translator: George Saintsbury: From The Authentic Text
Of M. Le Roux De Lincy With An Essay Upon The Heptameron by the Translator

Release Date: February 7, 2006 [EBook #17705]
Last Updated: September 9, 2016

Language: English

Character set encoding: UTF-8


Produced by David Widger

cover (92K)

spines (63K)



Margaret, Queen of Navarre

Newly Translated into English from the Authentic Text



Also the Original Seventy-three Full Page Engravings
Designed by S. FREUDENBERG

And One Hundred and Fifty Head and Tail Pieces




   Volume I.       Volume II.       Volume III.       Volume IV.   


[Margaret, Queen of Navarre, from a crayon drawing by Clouet, preserved at the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris]


































List of Illustrations



005a.jpg the Duke of Urbino Sending The Maiden to Prison for Carrying Messages

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014.jpg Tailpiece

015a.jpg the Gentleman and his Friend Annoyed by The Smell of Sugar

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023a.jpg the Lord Des Cheriots Flying from The Prince’s Servant

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037a.jpg the Lady Watching The Shadow Faces Kissing

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043a.jpg the Servant Selling The Horse With The Cat

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051a.jpg the Grey Friar Introducing his Comrade to The Lady and Her Daughter

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061.jpg Tailpiece

063a.jpg the English Lord Seizing The Lady’s Glove

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071a. The Gentleman Mocked by The Ladies when Returning from The False Tryst

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078.jpg Tailpiece

079a. The Lady Discovering Her Husband With The Waiting-woman

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090.jpg Tailpiece

091a. The Chanter of Blois Delivering his Mistress from The Grave

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099.jpg Tailpiece

105a. The Lady Returning to Her Lover, The Canon of Autun

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117.jpg Tailpiece

119a. The Gentleman’s Spur Catching in The Sheet

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124.jpg Tailpiece

125a. The King Asking The Young Lord to Join his Banquet

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132.jpg Tailpiece

133a. The Lady Swooning in The Arms of The Gentleman Of Valencia Who Had Become a Monk

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141.jpg Tailpiece

143a. The Old Woman Startled by The Waking of The Soldier

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147.jpg Tailpiece

149a. The Old Serving-woman Explaining Her Mistake To The Duke and Duchess of Vendôme

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155a. The Wife Reading to Her Husband on The Desert Island

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163a. The Apothecary’s Wife Giving The Dose of Cantharides To Her Husband

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168.jpg Tailpiece

169a. The Wife Discovering Her Husband in The Hood Of Their Serving-maid

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174.jpg Tailpiece

175a. The Gentleman Killing Himself on The Death of his Mistress

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213.jpg Tailpiece

219a. The Saddler’s Wife Cured by The Sight of Her Husband Caressing the Serving-maid

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224.jpg Tailpiece

225a. The Monk Conversing With The Nun While Shrouding A Dead Body

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232.jpg Tailpiece




Tale LI. Cruelty of the Duke of Urbino, who, contrary to the promise he had given to the Duchess, hanged a poor lady that had consented to convey letters to his son’s sweetheart, the sister of the Abbot of Farse.

Tale LII. Merry trick played by the varlet of an apothecary at Alençon on the Lord de la Tirelière and the lawyer Anthony Bacheré, who, thinking to breakfast at his expense, find that they have stolen from him something very different to a loaf of sugar.

Tale LIII. Story of the Lady of Neufchâtel, a widow at the Court of Francis I., who, through not admitting that she has plighted her troth to the Lord des Cheriots, plays him an evil trick through the means of the Prince of Belhoste.

Tale LIV. Merry adventure of a serving-woman and a gentleman named Thogas, whereof his wife has no suspicion.

Tale LV. The widow of a merchant of Saragossa, not wishing to lose the value of a horse, the price of which her husband had ordered to be given to the poor, devises the plan of selling the horse for one ducat only, adding, however, to the bargain a cat at ninety-nine.

Tale LVI. Notable deception practised by an old Grey Friar of Padua, who, being charged by a widow to find a husband for her daughter, did, for the sake of getting the dowry, cause her to marry a young Grey Friar, his comrade, whose condition, however, was before long discovered.

Tale LVII. Singular behaviour of an English lord, who is content merely to keep and wear upon his doublet the glove of a lady whom he loves.

Tale LVIII. A lady at the Court of Francis I., wishing to prove that she has no commerce with a certain gentleman who loves her, gives him a pretended tryst and causes him to pass for a thief.

Tale LIX. Story of the same lady, who, learning that her husband is in love with her waiting-woman, contrives to surprise him and impose her own terms upon him.

Tale LX. A man of Paris, thinking his wife to be well and duly deceased, marries again, but at the end of fifteen years is forced to take his first wife back, although she has been living meantime with one of the chanters of Louis XII.



Tale LXI. Great kindness of a husband, who consents to take back his wife twice over, spite of her wanton love for a Canon of Autun.

Tale LXII. How a lady, while telling a story as of another, let her tongue trip in such a way as to show that what she related had happened to herself.

Tale LXIII. How the honourable behaviour of a young lord, who feigns sickness in order to be faithful to his wife, spoils a party in which he was to have made one with the King, and in this way saves the honour of three maidens of Paris.

Tale LXIV. Story of a gentleman of Valencia in Spain, whom a lady drove to such despair that he became a monk, and whom afterwards she strove in vain to win back to herself.

Tale LXV. Merry mistake of a worthy woman, who in the church of St. John of Lyons mistakes a sleeping soldier for one of the statues on a tomb, and sets a lighted candle on his forehead.

Tale LXVI. How an old serving-woman, thinking to surprise a Prothonotary with a lady, finds herself insulting Anthony de Bourbon and his wife Jane d’Albret.

Tale LXVII. How the Sire de Robertval, granting a traitor his life at the prayers of the man’s wife, set them both down on a desert island, and how, after the husband’s death, the wife was rescued and brought back to La Rochelle.

Tale LXVIII. The wife of an apothecary at Pau, hearing her husband give some powder of cantharides to a woman who was godmother with himself, secretly administered to him such a dose of the same drug that he nearly died.

Tale LXIX. How the wife of one of the King’s Equerries surprised her husband muffled in the hood of their servant-maid, and bolting meal in her stead.

Tale LXX. Of the love of a Duchess of Burgundy for a gentleman who rejects her advances, for which reason she accuses him to the Duke her husband, and the latter does not believe his oaths till assured by him that he loves the Lady du Vergier. Then the Duchess, having drawn knowledge of this amour from her husband, addresses to the Lady du Vergier in public, an allusion that causes the death of both lovers; and the Duke, in despair at his own lack of discretion, stabs the Duchess himself.



Tale LXXI. The wife of a saddler of Amboise is saved on her deathbed through a fit of anger at seeing her husband fondle a servant-maid.

Tale LXXII. Kindness of the Duchess of Alençon to a poor nun whom she meets at Lyons, on her way to Rome, there to confess to the Pope how a monk had wronged her, and to obtain his Holiness’s pardon.


On the Sixth Day are related the deceits practised
by Man on Woman, Woman on Man, or
Woman on Woman, through
greed, revenge, and


In the morning the Lady Oisille went earlier than was her wont to make ready for her reading in the hall, but the company being advised of this, and eager to hearken to her excellent instruction, used such despatch in dressing themselves that she had not long to wait. Perceiving their fervour, she set about reading them the Epistle of St. John the Evangelist, which is full of naught but love, in the same wise as, on the foregoing days, she had expounded to them St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. The company found this fare so much to their taste, that, although they tarried a half-hour longer than on the other days, it seemed to them as if they had not remained there a quarter of an hour altogether. From thence they proceeded to the contemplation of the mass, when one and all commended themselves to the Holy Ghost in order that they might that day be enabled to satisfy their merry audience; and, after they had broken their fast and taken a little rest, they set out to resume their accustomed diversion.

And the Lady Oisille asking who should begin the day, Longarine made answer—

“I give my vote to Madame Oisille; she has this day read to us so beauteous a lesson, that she can but tell us some story apt to crown the glory which she won this morning.”

“I am sorry,” said Oisille, “that I cannot tell you aught so profitable this afternoon as I did in the morning. But at least the purport of my story shall not depart from the teaching of Holy Scripture, where it is written, ‘Trust not in princes, nor in the sons of men, in whom is not our salvation.’ (1) And that this truth may not be forgotten by you for lack of an example, I will tell you a tale which is quite true, and the memory of which is so fresh that the eyes of those that saw the piteous sight are scarcely yet dried.”

005a.jpg the Duke of Urbino Sending The Maiden to Prison for Carrying Messages Between his Son and His Sweetheart

[The Duke of Urbino sending the Maiden to Prison for carrying
Messages between his Son and his Sweetheart]

005.jpg Page Image


     Because he would not have his son make a poor marriage, the
     Duke of Urbino, contrary to the promise given to his wife,
     hanged a young maiden by whom his son was wont to inform his
     sweetheart of the love he bore her.

The Duke of Urbino, called the Prefect, (1) the same that married the sister of the first Duke of Mantua, had a son of between eighteen and twenty years of age, who was in love with a girl of an excellent and honourable house, sister to the Abbot of Farse. (2) And since, according to the custom of the country, he was not free to converse with her as he wished, he obtained the aid of a gentleman in his service, who was in love with a very beautiful and virtuous young damsel in the service of his mother. By means of this damsel he informed his sweetheart of the deep affection that he bore her; and the poor girl, thinking no harm, took pleasure in doing him service, believing his purpose to be so good and virtuous that she might honourably be the carrier of his intentions. But the Duke, who had more regard for the profit of his house than for any virtuous affection, was in such great fear lest these dealings should lead his son (3) into marriage, that he caused a strict watch to be kept; whereupon he was informed that the poor damsel had been concerned in carrying some letters from his son to the lady he loved. On hearing this he was in great wrath, and resolved to take the matter in hand.

     1  This is Francesco Maria I., della Rovere, nephew to Pope
     Julius II., by whom he was created Prefect of Rome. Brought
     up at the French Court, he became one of the great captains
     of the period, especially distinguishing himself in the
     command of the Venetian forces during the earlier part of
     his career. He married Leonora Ypolita Gonzaga, daughter of
     Francesco II., fourth Marquis of Mantua, respecting whom see
     ante, vol. iii., notes to Tale XIX. It was Leonora rather
     than her husband who imparted lustre to the Court of Urbino
     at this period by encouraging arts and letters. Among those
     who flourished there were Raffaelle and Baldassare
     Castiglione. Francesco Maria, born in March 1491, died in
     1538 from the effects—so it is asserted by several
     contemporary writers—of a poisonous lotion which a Mantuan
     barber had dropped into his ear. His wife, who bore him two
     sons (see post, note 3), died at the age of 72, in 1570.—L.
     and Ed.

     2  The French words are Abbé de Farse. Farse would appear
     to be a locality, as abbots were then usually designated by
     the names of their monasteries; still it may be intended for
     the Abbot’s surname, and some commentators, adopting this
     view, have suggested that the proper reading would be

     3  The Duke’s two sons were Federigo, born in March 1511,
     and Guidobaldo, born in April 1514. The former according to
     all authorities died when “young,” and probably long before
     reaching man’s estate. Dennistoun, in his searching Memoirs
     of the Dukes of Urbino (London, 1851), clearly shows that
     for many years prior to Francesco Maria’s death his second
     son Guidobaldo was the only child remaining to him. Already
     in 1534, when but twenty years old, Guidobaldo was regarded
     as his father’s sole heir and successor. In that year
     Francesco Maria forced the young man to marry Giulia Varana,
     a child of eleven, in order that he might lay claim to her
     father’s state of Camerino and annex it to the duchy. There
     is no record of Guidobaldo having ever engaged in any such
     intrigue as related by Queen Margaret in the above tale,
     still it must be to him that she refers, everything pointing
     to the conclusion that his brother Federigo died in
     childhood. Guidobaldo became Duke of Urbino on his father’s

He could not, however, conceal his anger so well that the maiden was not advised of it, and knowing his wickedness, which was in her eyes as great as his conscience was small, she felt a wondrous dread. Going therefore to the Duchess, she craved leave to retire somewhere out of the Duke’s sight until his passion should be past; but her mistress replied that, before giving her leave to do so, she would try to find out her husband’s will in the matter.

Very soon, however, the Duchess heard the Duke’s evil words concerning the affair, and, knowing his temper, she not only gave the maiden leave, but advised her to retire into a convent until the storm was over. This she did as secretly as she could, yet not so stealthily but that the Duke was advised of it. Thereupon, with pretended cheerfulness of countenance, he asked his wife where the maiden was, and she, believing him to be well aware of the truth, confessed it to him. He feigned to be vexed thereat, saying that the girl had no need to behave in that fashion, and that for his part he desired her no harm. And he requested his wife to cause her to come back again, since it was by no means well to have such matters noised abroad.

The Duchess replied that, if the poor girl was so unfortunate as to have lost his favour, it were better for a time that she should not come into his presence; however, he would not hearken to her reasonings, but commanded her to bid the maiden return.

The Duchess failed not to make the Duke’s will known to the maiden; but the latter, who could not but feel afraid, entreated her mistress that she might not be compelled to run this risk, saying that she knew the Duke was not so ready to forgive her as he feigned to be. Nevertheless, the Duchess assured her that she should take no hurt, and pledged her own life and honour for her safety.

The girl, who well knew that her mistress loved her, and would not lightly deceive her, trusted in her promise, believing that the Duke would never break a pledge when his wife’s honour was its warranty. And accordingly she returned to the Duchess.

As soon as the Duke knew this, he failed not to repair to his wife’s apartment. There, as soon as he saw the maiden, he said to his wife, “So such-a-one has returned,” and turning to his gentlemen, he commanded them to arrest her and lead her to prison.

At this the poor Duchess, who by the pledging of her word had drawn the maiden from her refuge, was in such despair that, falling upon her knees before her husband, she prayed that for love of herself and of his house he would not do so foul a deed, seeing that it was in obedience to himself that she had drawn the maiden from her place of safety.

But no prayer that she could utter availed to soften his hard heart, or to overcome his stern resolve to be avenged. Without making any reply, he withdrew as speedily as possible, and, foregoing all manner of trial, and forgetting God and the honour of his house, he cruelly caused the hapless maiden to be hanged.

I cannot undertake to recount to you the grief of the Duchess; it was such as beseemed a lady of honour and a tender heart on beholding one, whom she would fain have saved, perish through trust in her own plighted faith. Still less is it possible to describe the deep affliction of the unhappy gentleman, the maiden’s lover, who failed not to do all that in him lay to save his sweetheart’s life, offering to give his own for hers; but no feeling of pity moved the heart of this Duke, whose only happiness was that of avenging himself on those whom he hated. (4)

     4  That Francesco-Maria was a man of a hasty, violent
     temperament is certain. Much that Guicciardini relates of
     him was doubtless penned in a spirit of resentment, for
     during the time the historian lived at Urbino the Duke
     repeatedly struck him, and on one occasion felled him to the
     ground, with the sneering remark, “Your business is to
     confer with pedants.” On the other hand, however, there is
     independent documentary evidence in existence—notably
     among the Urbino MSS. in the Vatican library—which shows
     that Francesco-Maria in no wise recoiled from shedding
     blood. He was yet in his teens when it was reported to him
     that his sister—the widow of Venanzio of Camerino, killed
     by Caesar Borgia—had secretly married a certain Giovanni
     Andrea of Verona and borne him a son. Watching his
     opportunity, Francesco-Maria set upon the unfortunate Andrea
     one day in the ducal chamber and then and there killed him,
     though not without resistance, for Andrea only succumbed
     after receiving four-and-twenty stabs with his murderer’s
     poignard (Urbino MSS. Vat. No. 904). A few years later, in
     1511, Francesco-Maria assassinated the Papal Legate
     Alidosio, Cardinal Archbishop of Pavia, whom he encountered
     in the environs of Bologna riding his mule and followed by a
     hundred light horse. Nevertheless Urbino, with only a small
     retinue, galloped up to him, plunged a dagger into his
     stomach and fled before the soldiery could intervene. From
     these examples it will be seen that, although history has
     preserved no record of the affair related by Queen Margaret,
     her narrative may well be a true one.—Ed.

Thus, in spite of every law of honour, was the innocent maiden put to death by this cruel Duke, to the exceeding sorrow of all that knew her.

“See, ladies, what are the effects of wickedness when this is combined with power.”

“I had indeed heard,” said Longarine, “that the Italians were prone to three especial vices; but I should not have thought that vengeance and cruelty would have gone so far as to deal a cruel death for so slight a cause.”

“Longarine,” said Saffredent, laughing, “you have told us one of the three vices, but we must also know the other two.”

“If you did not know them,” she replied, “I would inform you, but I am sure that you know them all.”

“From your words,” said Saffredent, “it seems that you deem me very vicious.”

“Not so,” said Longarine, “but you so well know the ugliness of vice that, better than any other, you are able to avoid it.”

“Do not be amazed,” said Simontault, “at this act of cruelty. Those who have passed through Italy have seen such incredible instances, that this one is in comparison but a trifling peccadillo.”

“Ay, truly,” said Geburon. “When Rivolta was taken by the French, (5) there was an Italian captain who was esteemed a knightly comrade, but on seeing the dead body of a man who was only his enemy in that being a Guelph he was opposed to the Ghibellines, he tore out his heart, broiled it on the coals and devoured it. And when some asked him how he liked it, he replied that he had never eaten so savoury or dainty a morsel. Not content with this fine deed, he killed the dead man’s wife, and tearing out the fruit of her womb, dashed it against a wall. Then he filled the bodies both of husband and wife with oats and made his horses eat from them. Think you that such a man as that would not surely have put to death a girl whom he suspected of offending him?”

     5  Rivolta or Rivoli was captured by the French under Louis
     XII. in 1509. An instance of savagery identical in character
     with that mentioned by “Geburon” had already occurred at the
     time of Charles VIII.‘s expedition to Naples, when the
     culprit, a young Italian of good birth, was seized and
     publicly executed.—Ed.

“It must be acknowledged,” said Ennasuite, “that this Duke of Urbino was more afraid that his son might make a poor marriage than desirous of giving him a wife to his liking.”

“I think you can have no doubt,” replied Simon-tault, “that it is the Italian nature to love unnaturally that which has been created only for nature’s service.”

“Worse than that,” said Hircan, “they make a god of things that are contrary to nature.”

“And there,” said Longarine, “you have another one of the sins that I meant; for we know that to love money, excepting so far as it be necessary, is idolatry.”

Parlamente then said that St. Paul had not forgotten the vices of the Italians, and of all those who believe that they exceed and surpass others in honour, prudence and human reason, and who trust so strongly to this last as to withhold from God the glory that is His due. Wherefore the Almighty, jealous of His honour, renders’ those who believe themselves possessed of more understanding than other men, more insensate even than wild the beasts, causing them to show by their unnatural deeds that their sense is reprobate.

Longarine here interrupted Parlamente to say that this was indeed the third sin to which the Italians were prone.

“By my faith,” said Nomerfide, “this discourse is very pleasing to me, for, since those that possess the best trained and acutest understandings are punished by being made more witless even than wild beasts, it must follow that such as are humble, and low, and of little reach, like myself, are filled with the wisdom of angels.”

“I protest to you,” said Oisille, “that I am not far from your opinion, for none is more ignorant than he who thinks he knows.”

“I have never seen a mocker,” said Geburon, “that was not mocked, a deceiver that was not deceived, or a boaster that was not humbled.”

“You remind me,” said Simontault, “of a deceit which, had it been of a seemly sort, I would willingly have related.”

“Well,” said Oisille, “since we are here to utter truth, I give you my vote that you may tell it to us whatsoever its nature may be.”

“Since you give place to me,” said Simontault, “I will tell it you.”

014.jpg Tailpiece

015a.jpg the Gentleman and his Friend Annoyed by The Smell of That Which They Thought Was Sugar

[The Gentleman and his Friend annoyed by The Smell of that
which they Thought was Sugar]

015.jpg Page Image


     An apothecary s man, espying behind him an advocate who was
     to plague him, and on whom he desired to be revenged,
     dropped from his sleeve a lump of frozen ordure, wrapped in
     paper like a sugar-loaf, which a gentleman who was with the
     advocate picked up and hid in his bosom, and then went to
     breakfast at a tavern, whence he came forth with all the
     cost and shame that he had thought to bring upon the poor

Near the town of Alençon there lived a gentleman called the Lord of La Tireliere, who one morning came from his house to the town afoot, both because the distance was not great and because it was freezing hard. (1) When he had done his business, he sought out a crony of his, an advocate named Anthony Bacheré, and, after speaking with him of his affairs, he told him that he should much like to meet with a good breakfast, but at somebody else’s expense. While thus discussing, they sat themselves down in front of an apothecary’s shop, where there was a varlet who listened to them, and who forthwith resolved to give them their breakfast.

     1  The phraseology of this story varies considerably in the
     different MSS. of the Heptameron. In No. 1520, for
     instance, the tale begins as follows: “In the town of
     Alençon, in the time of the last Duke Charles, there was an
     advocate, a merry companion, fond of breakfasting o’
     mornings. One day, whilst he sat at his door, he saw pass a
     gentleman called the Lord of La Tilleriere, who, by reason
     of the extreme cold, had come on foot from his house to the
     town in order to attend to certain business there, and in
     doing so had not forgotten to put on his great robe, lined
     with fox-skin. And when he saw the advocate, who was much
     such a man as himself, he told him that he had completed his
     business, and had nothing further to do, except it were to
     find a good breakfast. The advocate made answer that they
     could find breakfasts enough and to spare, provided they had
     some one to defray the cost, and, taking the other under the
     arm, he said to him, ‘Come, gossip, we may perhaps find some
     fool who will pay the reckoning for us both.’ Now behind
     them was an apothecary’s man, an artful and inventive
     fellow, whom this advocate was always plaguing,” &c.—L.

He went out from his shop into a street whither all repaired on needful occasions, (2) and there found a large lump of ordure standing on end, and so well frozen that it looked like a small loaf of fine sugar. Forthwith he wrapped it in handsome white paper, in the manner he was wont to use for the attraction of customers, and hid it in his sleeve.

     2  In olden time, as shown in the Mémoires de l’Académie de
     Troyes, there were in most French towns streets specially
     set aside for the purpose referred to. At Alençon, in Queen
     Margaret’s time, there was a street called the Rue des
     Fumiers, as appears from a report dated March 8, 1564
     (Archives of the Orne, Series A). Probably it is to this
     street that she alludes. (Communicated by M. L. Duval,
     archivist of the department of the Orne).—M.

Afterwards he came and passed in front of the gentleman and the advocate, and, letting the sugar-loaf (3) fall near them, as if by mischance, went into a house whither he had pretended to be carrying it.

The Lord of La Tirelière (4) hastened back with all speed to pick up what he thought to be a sugar-loaf, and just as he had done so the apothecary’s man also came back looking and asking for his sugar everywhere.

     3  M. Duval, archivist of the Orne, states that La
     Tirelière, which is situated near St. Germain-du-Corbois,
     within three miles of Alençon, is an old gentilhommière or
     manor-house, surrounded by a moat. It was originally a
     simple vavassonrie held in fief from the Counts and Dukes
     of Alençon by the Pantolf and Crouches families, and in the
     seventeenth century was merged into the marquisate of

     4  Sugar was at this period sold by apothecaries, and was a
     rare and costly luxury. There were loaves of various sizes,
     but none so large as those of the present time.—M.

The gentleman, thinking that he had cleverly tricked him, then went in haste to a tavern with his crony, to whom he said—

“Our breakfast has been paid for at the cost of that varlet.”

When he was come to the tavern he called for good bread, good wine and good meat, for he thought that he had wherewith to pay. But whilst he was eating, as he began to grow warm, his sugar-loaf in its turn began to thaw and melt, and filled the whole room with the smell peculiar to it, whereupon he, who carried it in his bosom, grew wroth with the waiting-woman, and said to her—

“You are the filthiest folks that ever I knew in this town, for either you or your children have strewn all this room with filth.”

“By St. Peter!” replied the woman, “there is no filth here unless you have brought it in yourselves.”

Thereupon they rose, by reason of the great stench that they smelt, and went up to the fire, where the gentleman drew out of his bosom a handkerchief all dyed with the melted sugar, and on opening his robe, lined with fox-skin, found it to be quite spoiled.

And all that he was able to say to his crony was this—

“The rogue whom we thought to deceive has deceived us instead.”

Then they paid their reckoning and went away as vexed as they had been merry on their arrival, when they fancied they had tricked the apothecary’s varlet. (5)

     5  In MS. 1520, this tale ends in the following manner:—
     “They were no sooner in the street than they perceived the
     apothecary’s man going about and making inquiry of every one
     whether they had not seen a loaf of sugar wrapped in paper.
     They [the advocate and his companion] sought to avoid him,
     but he called aloud to the advocate, ‘If you have my loaf of
     sugar, sir, I beg that you will give it back to me, for ‘tis
     a double sin to rob a poor servant.’ His shouts brought to
     the spot many people curious to witness the dispute, and the
     true circumstances of the case were so well proven, that the
     apothecary’s man was as glad to have been robbed as the
     others were vexed at having committed such a nasty theft.
     However, they comforted themselves with the hope that they
     might some day give him tit for tat.”—Ed.

“Often, ladies, do we see the like befall those who delight in using such cunning. If the gentleman had not sought to eat at another’s expense, he would not have drunk so vile a beverage at his own. It is true, ladies, that my story is not a very clean one, but you gave me license to speak the truth, and I have done so in order to show you that no one is sorry when a deceiver is deceived.”

“It is commonly said,” replied Hircan, “that words have no stink, yet those for whom they are intended do not easily escape smelling them.”

“It is true,” said Oisille, “that such words do not stink, but there are others which are spoken of as nasty, and which are of such evil odour that they disgust the soul even more than the body is disgusted when it smells such a sugar-loaf as you described in the tale.”

“I pray you,” said Hircan, “tell me what words you know of so foul as to sicken both the heart and soul of a virtuous woman.”

“It would indeed be seemly,” replied Oisille, “that I should tell you words which I counsel no woman to utter.”

“By that,” said Saffredent, “I quite understand what those terms are. They are such as women desirous of being held discreet do not commonly employ. But I would ask all the ladies present why, when they dare not utter them, they are so ready to laugh at them when they are used in their presence.”

Then said Parlamente—

“We do not laugh because we hear such pretty expressions, though it is indeed true that every one is disposed to laugh on seeing anybody stumble or on hearing any one utter an unfitting word, as often happens. The tongue will trip and cause one word to be used for another, even by the discreetest and most excellent speakers. But when you men talk viciously, not from ignorance, but by reason of your own wickedness, I know of no virtuous woman who does not feel a loathing for such speakers, and who would not merely refuse to hearken to them, but even to remain in their company.”

“That is very true,” responded Geburon. “I have frequently seen women make the sign of the cross on hearing certain words spoken, and cease not in doing so after these words had been uttered a second time.”

“But how many times,” said Simontault, “have they put on their masks (6) in order to laugh as freely as they pretended to be angry?”

“Yet it were better to do this,” said Parlamente, “than to let it be seen that the talk pleased them.”

“Then,” said Dagoucin, “you praise a lady’s hypocrisy no less than her virtue?”

“Virtue would be far better,” said Longarine, “but, when it is lacking, recourse must be had to hypocrisy, just as we use our slippers (7) to disguise our littleness. And it is no small matter to be able to conceal our imperfections.”

     8  Tourets-de-nez. See ante, vol. iii. p. 27, note 5.—Ed.

     7  High-heeled slippers or mules were then worn.—B. J.

“By my word,” said Hircan, “it were better sometimes to show some slight imperfection than to cover it so closely with the cloak of virtue.”

“It is true,” said Ennasuitc, “that a borrowed garment brings the borrower as much dishonour when he is constrained to return it as it brought him honour whilst it was being worn, and there is a lady now living who, by being too eager to conceal a small error, fell into a greater.”

“I think,” said Hircan, “that I know whom you mean; in any case, however, do not pronounce her name.”

“Ho! ho!” said Geburon [to Ennasuite], “I give you my vote on condition that when you have related the story you will tell us the names. We will swear never to mention them.”

“I promise it,” said Knnasuite, “for there is nothing that may not be told in all honour.”

022.jpg Tailpiece

023a.jpg the Lord Des Cheriots Flying from The Prince’s Servant

[The Lord des Cheriots flying from the Prince’s Servant]

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     By her dissimulation the Lady of Neufchastel caused the
     Prince of Belhoste to put her to such proof that it turned
     to her dishonour.

King Francis the First was once at a handsome and pleasant castle, whither he had gone with a small following, both for the purpose of hunting and in order to take some repose. With him in his train was a certain Prince of Belhoste, (1) as worshipful, virtuous, discreet and handsome a Prince as any at Court. The wife he had married did not belong to a family of high rank, yet he loved her as dearly and treated her as well as it were possible for a husband to do, and also trusted in her. And when he was in love with anybody he never concealed it from her, knowing that she had no other will than his own.

     1  The Bibliophile Jacob surmises that this personage may be
     one of the Italian grandees at that period in the service of
     France, in which case the allusion may be to John
     Caraccioli, Prince of Melphes, created a marshal of France
     in 1544. Queen Margaret, however, makes no mention of her
     Prince being a foreigner. “Belhoste” is of course a
     fictitious name invented to replace that which the Prince
     really bore, and admits of so many interpretations that its
     meaning in the present instance cannot well be determined.
     From the circumstance, however, that the Prince’s wife was
     of inferior birth to himself, it is not impossible that the
     personage referred to may be either Charles de Bourbon,
     Prince of La Roche-sur-Yonne and Duke of Beaupréau, or John
     VIII., Lord of Créqui, Canaples and Pontdormi, and Prince of
     Poix. The former, who married Philippa de Montespedon, widow
     of René de Montéjan, and a lady of honour to Catherine de’
     Medici when Dauphiness, took a prominent part in the last
     wars of Francis I.‘s reign, and survived till 1565. The
     latter, generally known at Court by the name of Canaples,
     was a gentleman of the chamber and an especial favourite of
     Francis I. Brantôme says of him in his Homines Illustres
     that he was “a valiant lord and the strongest man of arms
     that in those days existed in all Christendom, for he broke
     a lance, no matter its strength, as easily as though it were
     a mere switch, and few were able to withstand him.” In 1525
     the Prince of Poix married a Demoiselle d’Acigné or Assigny,
     of petite noblesse, who in 1532 became a lady of honour to
     Queen Eleanor. She died in 1558, surviving her husband by
     three years. See Rouard’s rare Notice dun Recueil de
     Crayons à la Bibliothèque Méjanes d’Aix, Paris, 1863.—Ed.

Now this Prince conceived a deep affection for a widow lady called Madame de Neufchastel, (2) who was reputed the most beautiful woman it were possible to see; and if the Prince of Bel-hoste loved her well, his wife loved her no less, and would often send and bid her to dinner, for she deemed her so discreet and honourable, that, instead of being grieved by her husband’s love for her, she rejoiced to see him address his attentions to one so full of honour and virtue.

     2  M. Lacroix thinks that this lady may be Jane de Hochberg,
     only daughter of Philip, sovereign Count of Neufchâtel.
     According to the custom of the time, she was commonly called
     Madame de Neufchâtel, despite her marriage with Louis
     d’Orléans, Duke of Longueville. She died in 1543, after a
     lengthy widowhood. We consider the accuracy of M. Lacroix’s
     surmise to be extremely doubtful, for the names of both the
     men figuring in the story are obviously altered so as to
     conceal their identity, and it is therefore not likely that
     Queen Margaret would designate the lady by her real name,
     and thus publish her shame to the world. The Madame de
     Neufchâtel she speaks of may really have been a Madame de
     Châteauneuf, Châteauvieux or Maisonneuve; or we may again be
     in presence of Margaret’s lady of honour, the widowed
     Blanche de Chastillon, née de Tournon, to whom frequent
     reference has been made.—Ed.

This affection lasted for a great while, the Prince of Belhoste caring for all the lady’s affairs as though they were his own, and his wife doing no less. By reason, however, of her beauty many great lords and gentlemen earnestly sought the lady’s favour, some only for love’s sake, others for sake of the ring, for, besides being beautiful, she was also very rich.

Among the rest was a young gentleman, called the Lord des Cheriots, (3) who wooed her so ardently that he was never absent from her levee and couchée, and was also with her as much as possible during the day. This did not please the Prince of Belhoste, who thought that a man of such poor estate, and so lacking in grace, did not deserve an honourable and gracious reception, and he often made remonstrances about it to the lady. She, however, being one of Eve’s daughters, (4) excused herself by saying that she spoke with every one in general, and that their own affection was the better concealed, since she never spoke more with one than with another.

     3  “Des Cheriots” (occasionally Des Cheriotz in the MS.) may
     be a play upon the name of D’Escars, sometimes written Des
     Cars. According to La Curne de Ste. Palaye car as well as
     char signified chariot. The D’Escars dukedom is modern,
     dating from 1815, and in the time of Francis I. the family
     was of small estate. Some members of it may well have filled
     inferior offices about the court, as in 1536 a Demoiselle
     Suzanne d’Escars married Geoffrey de Pompadour, who was both
     a prothonotary and cupbearer to Francis I., and lived to
     become Governor of the Limousin under Charles IX.—M. and

     4  We take this expression from MS. 1520. Ours says, “a
     daughter of the Duke,” which is evidently an error.—L.

Albeit, after some time, this Lord des Cheriots so pressed her that, more through his importunity than through love, she promised to marry him, begging him, however, not to urge her to reveal the marriage until her daughters were wedded. After this the gentleman was wont to go with untroubled conscience to her chamber at whatsoever hour he chose, and none but a waiting-woman and a serving-man had knowledge of the matter.

When the Prince perceived that the gentleman was growing more and more familiar in the house of her whom he so dearly loved, he took it in ill-part, and could not refrain from saying to the lady—

“I have always prized your honour like that of my own sister, and you are aware of the honourable manner in which I have addressed you, and the happiness that I have in loving a lady as discreet and virtuous as yourself; but did I think that another who deserves it not could win by importunity that which I am not willing to crave, contrary to your own desire, this would be unendurable to me, and in the like degree dishonouring to you. I tell you this because you are beautiful and young, and although hitherto of good repute, are now beginning to gain a very evil fame. Even though he be not your equal in birth or fortune, and have less influence, knowledge and address, yet it were better to have married him than to give all men matter for suspicion. I pray you, therefore, tell me whether you are resolved to love him, for I will not have him as fellow of mine. I would rather leave you altogether to him, and put away from me the feelings that I have hitherto borne you.”

The poor lady, fearful of losing his affection, thereupon began to weep, and vowed to him that she would rather die than wed the gentleman of whom he had spoken, but (she added) he was so importunate that she could not help his entering her chamber at a time when every one else did so.

“Of such times as those,” said the Prince, “I do not speak, for I can go as well as he, and see all what you are doing. But I have been told that he goes after you are in bed, and this I look upon as so extraordinary that, if you should continue in this mode of life without declaring him to be your husband, you will be disgraced more than any woman that ever lived.”

She swore to him with all the oaths she could utter that the other was neither her husband nor her lover, but only as importunate a gentleman as there well could be.

“Since he is troublesome to you,” said the Prince, “I promise you that I will rid you of him.”

“What!” asked the lady. “Would you kill him?”

“No, no,” said the Prince, “but I will give him to understood that it is not in such a place as this, not in such a house as the King’s, that ladies are to be put to shame. And I swear to you by the faith of the lover that I am, that if, after I have spoken with him, he does not correct himself, I will correct him in such a manner as to make him a warning to others.”

So saying he went away, and on leaving the room failed not to meet the Lord des Cheriots on his way in. To him he spoke after the fashion that you have heard, assuring him that the first time he was found there after an hour at which gentlemen might reasonably visit the ladies, he would give him such a fright as he would ever remember. And he added that the lady was of too noble a house to be trifled with after such a fashion.

The gentleman protested that he had never been in the room except in the same manner as the rest, and, if the Prince should find him there, he gave him full leave to do his worst.

One day afterwards, when the gentleman believed the Prince’s words to have been forgotten, he went to see his lady in the evening, and remained sufficiently late.

The Prince [that same evening] told his wife that Madame de Neufchastel had a severe cold, upon hearing which the worthy lady begged that he would visit her on behalf of them both, and make excuse for herself, since she could not go by reason of a certain matter that she must needs attend to in her room.

The Prince waited until the King was in bed, and then went to give the lady good-evening, but as he was going up a stairway he met a serving-man coming down, who, on being asked how his mistress did, swore that she was in bed and asleep.

The Prince went down the stairway, but, suspecting that the servant had lied, looked behind and saw him going back again with all speed. He walked about the courtyard in front of the door to see whether the servant would return. A quarter of an hour later he perceived him come down again and look all about to see who was in the courtyard.

Forthwith the Prince was convinced that the Lord des Cheriots was in the lady’s chamber, but through fear of himself durst not come down, and he therefore again walked about for a long-while.

At last, observing that the lady’s room had a casement which was not at all high up, and which looked upon a little garden, he remembered the proverb which says, “When the door fails the window avails,” and he thereupon called a servant of his own, and said to him—

“Go into the garden there behind, and, if you see a gentleman come down from the window, draw your sword as soon as he reaches the ground, clash it against the wall, and cry out, ‘Slay! slay!’ Be careful, however, that you do not touch him.”

The servant went whither his master had sent him, and the Prince walked about until three hours after midnight.

When the Lord des Cheriots heard that the Prince was still in the yard, he resolved to descend by the window, and, having first thrown clown his cloak, he then, by the help of his good friends, leapt into the garden. As soon as the servant saw him, he failed not to make a noise with his sword, at the same time crying, “Slay! slay!” Upon this the poor gentleman, believing it was his [the servant’s] master, was in such great fear that, without thinking of his cloak, he fled as quickly as he was able.

He met the archers of the watch, who wondered greatly to see him running in this fashion, but he durst say nothing to them, except to beg them to open him the gate [of the castle], or else to lodge him with themselves until morning. And this, as they had not the keys, they did.

Then the Prince went to bed, and, finding his wife asleep, awoke her saying—

“Guess, my wife, what hour it is.‘’

“I have not heard the clock strike since I went to bed,” she replied.

“It is three hours after midnight,” said he.

“If that be so,” said his wife, “where have you been all this time? I greatly fear that your health will be the worse for it.”

“Sweetheart,” said the Prince, “watching will never make me ill when I am engaged in preventing those who try to deceive me from going to sleep.”

So saying, he began to laugh so heartily that his wife begged him to tell her of the matter. This he did at length, showing her the wolf’s skin (4) which his servant had brought him. After making merry at the expense of the hapless lovers, they went to sleep in gentle tranquillity, while the other two passed the night in torment, fearing and dreading lest the affair should be revealed.

However, the gentleman, knowing right well that he could not use concealment with the Prince, came to him in the morning when he was dressing to beg that he would not expose him, and would give orders for the return of his cloak.

The Prince pretended that he knew nothing of the matter, and put such a face on it that the gentleman was wholly at a loss what to think. But in the end he received a rating that he had not expected, for the Prince assured him that, if ever he went to the lady’s room again, he would tell the King of it, and have him banished the Court.

“I pray you, ladies, judge whether it had not been better for this poor lady to have spoken freely to him who did her the honour of loving and esteeming her, instead of leading him by her dissimulation to prove her in a way that brought her so much shame.”

“She knew,” said Geburon, “that if she confessed the truth she would wholly lose his favour, and this she on no account desired to do.”

“It seems to me,” said Longarine, “that when she had chosen a husband to her liking, she ought not to have feared the loss of any other man’s affection.”

“I am sure,” said Parlamente, “that if she had dared to reveal her marriage, she would have been quite content with her husband; but she wished to hide it until her daughters were wed, and so she would not abandon so good a means of concealment.”

“It was not for that reason,” said Saffredent, “but because the ambition of women is so great that they are never satisfied with having only one lover. I have heard that the discreetest of them are glad to have three—one, namely, for honour, one for profit, and one for delight. Each of the three thinks himself loved the best, but the first two are as servants to the last.”

“You speak,” said Oisille, “of such women as have neither love nor honour.”

“Madam,” said Saffredent, “there are some of the kind that I describe, whom you reckon among the most honourable in the land.”

“You may be sure,” said Hircan, “that a crafty woman will be able to live where all others die of hunger.”

“And,” said Longarine, “when their craftiness is discerned, ‘tis death.”

“Nay, ‘tis life,” said Simontault, “for they deem it no small glory to be reputed more crafty than their fellows. And the reputation of ‘crafty,’ gained thus at their own expense, brings lovers more readily under subjection to them than does their beauty, for one of the greatest delights shared by those who are in love is to conduct the affair slyly.”

“You speak,” said Ennasuite, “of wanton love, for the honourable has no need of concealment.”

“Ah!” said Dagoucin, “I pray you put that thought out of your head. The more precious the drug, the less should it be exposed to the air, because of the perverseness of those who trust only to outward signs. These are not different in the case of honourable and faithful affection than in any other case, so they must none the less be hidden when the love is virtuous than when it is the opposite, if one would avoid the evil opinion of those who cannot believe that a man may love a lady in all honour, and who, being themselves slaves to pleasure, think every one else the same. If we were all of good faith, look and speech would be without concealment, at least toward those who would rather die than take them in an evil sense.”

“I protest to you, Dagoucin,” said Hircan, “that your philosophy is too deep for any man here to understand or believe. You would have us think that men are angels, or stones, or devils.”

“I am well aware,” said Dagoucin, “that men are men and subject to every passion, but there are some, nevertheless, who would rather die than that their mistresses should, for their delight, do aught against their consciences.”

“To die means a great deal,” said Geburon. “I would not believe that of them were it uttered by the lips of the austerest monk alive.”

“Nay, I believe,” said Hircan, “that there is none but desires the very opposite. But they make pretence of disliking the grapes when these hang too high to be gathered.”

“Still,” said Nomcrfide, “I am sure that the Prince’s wife was very glad to find that her husband was learning to know women.”

“I assure you it was not so,” said Ennasuite. “She was very sorry on account of the love that she bore the lady.”

“I would as soon,” said Saffredent, “have the lady who laughed when her husband kissed her maid.”

“In sooth,” said Ennasuite, “you shall tell us the story. I give place to you.”

“Although the story is very short,” said Saffredent, “I will still relate it, for I would rather make you laugh than speak myself at length.”

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037a.jpg the Lady Watching The Shadow Faces Kissing

[The Lady watching the Shadow Faces Kissing]

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     Thogas’s wife, believing that her husband loved none but
     herself, was pleased that her serving-woman should amuse
     him, and laughed when in her presence he kissed the girl
     before her eyes, and with her knowledge.

Between the Pyrenees Mountains and the Alps, there dwelt a gentleman named Thogas, (1) who had a wife and children, with a very beautiful house, and so much wealth and pleasure at his hand, that there was reason he should live in contentment, had it not been that he was subject to great pain beneath the roots of the hair, in such wise that the doctors advised him to sleep no longer with his wife. She, whose chief thought was for her husband’s life and health, readily consented, and caused her bed to be set in another corner of the room directly opposite her husband’s, so that they could neither of them put out their heads without seeing each other.

     1  We are unable to trace any family named Thogas, which is
     probably a fictitious appellation. Read backwards with the
     letter h omitted it forms Sagot, whilst if the syllables be
     transposed it suggests Guasto, a well-known Basque or
     Navarrese name.—Ed.

This lady had two serving-women, and often when the lord and his lady were in bed, they would each take some diverting book to read, whilst the serving-women held candles, the younger, that is, for the gentleman, and the other for his wife.

The gentleman, finding that the maid was younger and handsomer than her mistress, took such great pleasure in observing her that he would break off his reading in order to converse with her. His wife could hear this very plainly, but believing that her husband loved none but herself, she was well pleased that her servants should amuse him.

It happened one evening, however, when they had read longer than was their wont, that the lady looked towards her husband’s bed where was the young serving-maid holding the candle. Of her she could see nothing but her back, and of her husband nothing at all excepting on the side of the chimney, which jutted out in front of his bed, and the white wall of which was bright with the light from the candle. And upon this wall she could plainly see the shadows both of her husband and of her maid; whether they drew apart, or came near together or laughed, it was all as clear to her as though she had veritably beheld them.

The gentleman, using no precaution since he felt sure that his wife could not see them, kissed her maid, and on the first occasion his wife suffered this to pass without uttering a word. But when she saw that the shadows frequently returned to this fellowship, she feared that there might be some reality beneath it all, and burst into a loud laugh, whereat the shadows were alarmed and separated.

The gentleman then asked his wife why she was laughing so heartily, so that he might have a share in her merriment.

“Husband,” she replied, “I am so foolish that I laugh at my own shadow.”

Inquire as he might, she would never acknowledge any other reason, but, nevertheless, he thenceforward refrained from kissing such shadow-faces.

“That is the story of which I was reminded when I spoke of the lady who loved her husband’s sweetheart.”

“By my faith,” said Ennasuite, “if my maid had treated me in that fashion, I should have risen and extinguished the candle upon her nose.”

“You are indeed terrible,” said Hircan, “but it had been well done if your husband and the maid had both turned upon you and beaten you soundly. There should not be so much ado for a kiss; and ‘twould have been better if his wife had said nothing about it, and had suffered him to take his pastime, which might perchance have cured his complaint.”

“Nay,” said Parlamente, “she was afraid that the end of the pastime would make him worse.”

“She was not one of those,” said Oisille, “against whom our Lord says, ‘We have mourned to you and ye have not lamented, we have sung to you and ye have not danced,’ (2) for when her husband was ill, she wept, and when he was merry, she laughed. In the same fashion every virtuous woman ought to share the good and evil, the joy and the sadness of her husband, and serve and obey him as the Church does Jesus Christ.”

     2  “They are like unto children sitting in the market-place,
     and calling one to another, and saying, We have piped unto
     you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned to you, and ye
     have not wept.”—St. Luke vii. 32.—M.

“Then, ladies,” said Parlamente, “our husbands should be to us what Christ is to the Church.”

“So are we,” said Saffredent, “and, if it were possible, something more; for Christ died but once for His Church, whereas we die daily for our wives.”

“Die!” said Longarine. “Methinks that you and the others here present are now worth more crowns than you were worth pence before you were wed.”

“And I know why,” said Saffredent; “it is because our worth is often tried. Still our shoulders are sensible of having worn the cuirass so long.”

“If,” said Ennasuite, “you had been obliged to wear harness for a month and lie on the hard ground, you would greatly long to regain the bed of your excellent wife, and wear the cuirass of which you now complain. But it is said that everything can be endured except ease, and that none know what rest is until they have lost it. This foolish woman, who laughed when her husband was merry, was fond of taking her rest under any circumstances.”

“I am sure,” said Longarine, “that she loved her rest better than her husband, since she took nothing that he did to heart.”

“She did take to heart,” said Parlamente, “those things which might have been hurtful to his conscience and his health, but she would not dwell upon trifles.”

“When you speak of conscience,” said Simontault “you make me laugh. ‘Tis a thing to which I would have no woman give heed.”

“It would be a good thing,” said Nomerfide, “if you had a wife like one who, after her husband’s death, proved that she loved her money better than her conscience.”

“I pray you,” said Saffredent, “tell us that tale. I give you my vote.”

“I had not intended,” said Nomcrfide, “to relate so short a story, but, since it is suited to the occasion, I will do so.”

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043a.jpg the Servant Selling The Horse With The Cat

[The Servant selling the Horse with the Cat]

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     A merchant’s widow, whilst carrying out her husband’s will,
     interpreted its purport to the advantage of herself and her
     children. (1)

In the town of Safagossa there lived a rich merchant, who, finding his death draw nigh, and himself no longer able to retain possession of his goods—-which he had perchance gathered together by evil means—thought that if he made a little present to God, he might thus after his death make part atonement for his sins, just as though God sold His pardon for money. Accordingly, when he had settled matters in respect of his house, he declared it to be his desire that a fine Spanish horse which he possessed should be sold for as much as it would bring, and the money obtained for it be distributed among the poor. And he begged his wife that she would in no wise fail to sell the horse as soon as he was dead, and distribute the money in the manner he had commanded.

     1  Whether the incidents here related be true or not, it is
     probable that this was a story told to Queen Margaret at the
     time of her journey to Spain in 1525. It will have been
     observed (ante, pp. 36 and 42) that both the previous tale
     and this one are introduced into the Heptameron in a semi-
     apologetic fashion, as though the Queen had not originally
     intended that her work should include such short, slight
     anecdotes. However, already at this stage—the fifty-fifth
     only of the hundred tales which she proposed writing—she
     probably found fewer materials at her disposal than she had
     anticipated, and harked back to incidents of her earlier
     years, which she had at first thought too trifling to
     record. Still, slight as this story may be, it is not
     without point. The example set by the wife of the Saragossa
     merchant has been followed in modern times in more ways than

When the burial was over and the first tears were shed, the wife, who was no more of a fool than Spanish women are used to be, went to the servant who with herself had heard his master declare his desire, and said to him—

“Methinks I have lost enough in the person of a husband I loved so dearly, without afterwards losing his possessions. Yet would I not disobey his word, but rather better his intention; for the poor man, led astray by the greed of the priests, thought to make a great sacrifice to God in bestowing after his death a sum of money, not a crown of which, as you well know, he would have given in his lifetime to relieve even the sorest need. I have therefore bethought me that we will do what he commanded at his death, and in still better fashion than he himself would have done if had he lived a fortnight longer. But no living person must know aught of the matter.”

When she had received the servant’s promise to keep it secret, she said to him—

“You will go and sell the horse, and when you are asked, ‘How much?’ you will reply, ‘A ducat.’ I have, however, a very fine cat which I also wish to dispose of, and you will sell it with the horse for ninety-nine ducats, so that cat and horse together will bring in the hundred ducats for which my husband wished to sell the horse alone.”

The servant readily fulfilled his mistress’s command. While he was walking the horse about the market-place, and holding the cat in his arms, a gentleman, who had seen the horse before, and was desirous of possessing it, asked the servant what price he sought.

“A ducat,” replied the man.

“I pray you,” said the gentleman, “do not mock me.”

“I assure you, sir,” said the servant, “that it will cost you only a ducat. It is true that the cat must be bought at the same time, and for the cat I must have nine and ninety ducats.”

Forthwith, the gentleman, thinking the bargain a reasonable one, paid him one ducat for the horse, and the remainder as was desired of him, and took his goods away.

The servant, on his part, went off with the money, with which his mistress was right well pleased, and she failed not to give the ducat that the horse had brought to the poor Mendicants, (2) as her husband had commanded, and the remainder she kept for the needs of herself and her children. (3)

     2  The allusion is not to the ordinary beggars who then, as
     now, swarmed in Spain, but to the Mendicant friars.—Ed.

     3  In Boaistuau’s and Gruget’s editions of the Heptameron
     the dialogue following this tale is replaced by matter of
     their own invention. They did not dare to reproduce Queen
     Margaret’s bold opinions respecting the clergy, the monastic
     orders, &c., at a time when scores of people, including even
     Counsellors of Parliament, were being burnt at the stake for
     heresy.—L. and Ed.

“What think you? Was she not far more prudent than her husband, and did she not think less of her conscience than of the advantage of her household?”

“I think,” said Parlamente, “that she did love her husband; but, seeing that most men wander in their wits when at the point of death, and knowing his intentions, she tried to interpret them to her children’s advantage. And therein I hold her to have been very prudent.”

“What!” said Geburon. “Do you not hold it a great wrong not to carry out the last wishes of departed friends?”

“Assuredly I do,” said Parlamente; “that is to say if the testator be in his right mind, and not raving.”

“Do you call it raving to give one’s goods to the Church and the poor Mendicants?”

“I do not call it raving,” said Parlamente, “if a man distribute what God has given into his hands among the poor; but to make alms of another person’s goods is, in my opinion, no great wisdom. You will commonly see the greatest usurers build the handsomest and most magnificent chapels imaginable, thinking they may appease God with ten thousand ducats’ worth of building for a hundred thousand ducats’ worth of robbery, just as though God did not know how to count.”

“In sooth,” said Oisille, “I have many a time wondered how they can think to appease God for things which He Himself rebuked when He was on earth, such as great buildings, gildings, pictures and paint. If they really understood the passage in which God says to us that the only offering He requires from us is a contrite and humble heart, (4) and the other in which St. Paul says we are the temples of God wherein He desires to dwell, (5) they would be at pains to adorn their consciences while yet alive, and would not wait for the hour when man can do nothing more, whether good or evil, nor (what is worse) charge those who remain on earth to give their alms to folk upon whom, during their lifetime, they did not deign to look. But He who knows the heart cannot be deceived, and will judge them not according to their works, but according to their faith and charity towards Himself.”

     4  “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and
     a contrite heart, O God, thou will not despise.”—Psalm
     li. 17.—Ed.

     5  “For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath
     said, I will dwell in them and walk in them,” &c.—2
     Corinthians vi. 16.—Ed.

“Why is it, then,” said Geburon, “that these Grey Friars and Mendicants talk to us at our death of nothing but bestowing great benefits upon their monasteries, assuring us that they will put us into Paradise whether we will or not?”

“How now, Geburon?” said Hircan. “Have you forgotten the wickedness you related to us of the Grey Friars, that you ask how such folk find it possible to lie? I declare to you that I do not think that there can be greater lies than theirs. Those, indeed, who speak on behalf of the whole community are not to be blamed, but there are some among them who forget their vows of poverty in order to satisfy their own greed.”

“Methinks, Hircan,” said Nomerfide, “you must know some such tale, and if it be worthy of this company, I pray you tell it us.”

“I will,” said Hircan, “although it irks me to speak of such folk. Methinks they are of the number of those of whom Virgil says to Dante, ‘Pass on and heed them not.’ (6) Still, to show you that they have not laid aside their passions with their worldly garments, I will tell you of something that once came to pass.”

     6  Non ragioniam di lor, ma guarda e passa (Dante’s
     Purgatorio, iii. 51). The allusion is to the souls of
     those who led useless and idle lives on earth, supporting
     neither the Divinity by the observance of virtue, nor the
     spirit of evil by the practice of vice. They are thus cast
     out both from heaven and hell.—Ed.

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051a.jpg the Grey Friar Introducing his Comrade to The Lady and Her Daughter

[The Grey Friar introducing his Comrade to the Lady and her Daughter]

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     A pious lady had recourse to a Grey Friar for his advice in
     providing her daughter with a good husband, for whom she
     proposed making it so profitable a match that the worthy
     father, hoping to get the money she intended for her son-in-
     law, married her daughter to a young comrade of his own. The
     latter came every evening to sup and lie with his wife, and
     in the morning returned in the garb of a scholar to his
     convent. But one day while he was chanting mass, his wife
     perceived him and pointed him out to her mother; who,
     however, could not believe that it was he until she had
     pulled off his coif while he was in bed, and from his tonsure
     learned the whole truth, and the deceit used by her father

A French lady, whilst sojourning at Padua, was informed that there was a Grey Friar in the Bishop’s prison there, and finding that every one spoke jestingly about him, she inquired the reason. She was told that this Grey Friar, who was an old man, had been confessor to a very honourable and pious widow lady, mother of only one daughter, whom she loved so dearly as to be at all pains to amass riches for her, and to find her a good husband. Now, seeing that her daughter was grown up, she was unceasingly anxious to find her a husband who might live with them in peace and quiet, a man, that is, of a good conscience, such as she deemed herself to possess. And since she had heard some foolish preacher say that it were better to do evil by the counsel of theologians than to do well through belief in the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, she had recourse to her father confessor, a man already old, a doctor of theology and one who was held to lead a holy life by the whole town, for she felt sure that, with his counsel and good prayers, she could not fail to find peace both for herself and for her daughter. After she had earnestly begged him to choose for her daughter such a husband as he knew a woman that loved God and her honour ought to desire, he replied that first of all it was needful to implore the grace of the Holy Spirit with prayer and fasting, and then, God guiding his judgment, he hoped to find what she required.

So the Friar retired to think over the matter; and whereas he had heard from the lady that she had got five hundred ducats together to give to her daughter’s husband, and that she would take upon herself the charge of maintaining both husband and wife with lodgment, furniture and clothes, he bethought himself that he had a young comrade of handsome figure and pleasing countenance, to whom he might give the fair maiden, the house, the furniture, maintenance and food, whilst he himself kept the five hundred ducats to gratify his burning greed. And when he spoke to his comrade of the matter, he found that they were both of one mind upon it.

He therefore returned to the lady and said—“I verily believe that God has sent his angel Raphael to me as he did to Tobit, to enable me to find a perfect husband for your daughter. I have in my house the most honourable gentleman in Italy, who has sometimes seen your daughter and is deeply in love with her. And so to-day, whilst I was at prayer, God sent him to me, and he told me of his desire for the marriage, whereupon, knowing his lineage and kindred and notable descent, I promised him to speak to you on the matter. There is, indeed, one defect in him, of which I alone have knowledge, and it is this. Wishing to save one of his friends whom another man was striving to slay, he drew his sword in order to separate them; but it chanced that his friend slew the other, and thus, although he himself had not dealt a blow, yet inasmuch as he had been present at a murder and had drawn his sword, he became a fugitive from his native town. By the advice of his kinsfolk he came hither in the garb of a scholar, and he dwells here unknown until his kinsfolk shall have ended the matter; and this he hopes will shortly be done. For this reason, then, it would be needful that the marriage should be performed in secret, and that you should suffer him to go in the daytime to the public lectures and return home every evening to sup and sleep.”

“Sir,” replied the worthy woman, “I look upon what you tell me as of great advantage to myself, for I shall at least have by me what I most desire in the world.”

Thereupon the Grey Friar brought his comrade, bravely attired with a crimson satin doublet, and the lady was well pleased with him. And as soon as he was come the betrothal took place, and, immediately after midnight, a mass was said and they were married. Then they went to bed together until daybreak, when the bridegroom told his wife that to escape discovery he must needs return to the college.

After putting on his crimson satin doublet and his long robe, without forgetting his coif of black silk, he bade his wife, who was still in bed, good-bye, promising that he would come every evening to sup with her, but that at dinner they must not wait for him. So he went away and left his wife, who esteemed herself the happiest woman alive to have found so excellent a match. And the young wedded Friar returned to the old father and brought him the five hundred ducats, as had been agreed between them when arranging the marriage.

In the evening he failed not to return and sup with her, who believed him to be her husband, and so well did he make himself liked by her and by his mother-in-law, that they would not have exchanged him for the greatest Prince alive.

This manner of life continued for some time, but God in His kindness takes pity upon those that are deceived without fault of their own, and so in His mercy and goodness it came to pass that one morning the lady and her daughter felt a great desire to go and hear mass at St. Francis, (1) and visit their good father confessor through whose means they deemed themselves so well provided, the one with a son-in-law and the other with a husband.

     1  The church of the Grey Friars’ monastery, St Francis
     being their patron.—B. J.

It chanced that they did not find the confessor aforesaid nor any other that they knew, and, while waiting to see whether the father would come, they were pleased to hear high mass, which was just beginning. And whilst the young wife was giving close heed to the divine service and its mystery, she was stricken with astonishment on seeing the Priest turn himself about to pronounce the Dominus vobiscum, for it seemed to her that it was her husband or else his very fellow. She uttered, however, not a word, but waited till he should turn round again, when, looking still more carefully at him, she had no doubt that it was indeed he. Then she twitched her mother, who was deep in contemplation, and said—

“Alas! madam, what is it that I see?”

“What is it?” said her mother.

“That is my husband,” she replied, “who is singing mass, or else ‘tis one as like him as can be.”

“I pray you, my daughter,” replied the mother, who had not carefully observed him, “do not take such a thought into your head. It is impossible that men who are so holy should have practised such deceit. You would sin grievously against God if you believed such a thing.”

Nevertheless the mother did not cease looking at him, and when it came to the Ite missa est she indeed perceived that no two sons of the same mother were ever so much alike. Yet she was so simple that she would fain have said, “O God, save me from believing what I see.” Since her daughter was concerned in the matter, however, she would not suffer it to remain in uncertainty, and resolved to learn the truth.

When evening was come, and the husband (who had perceived nothing of them) was about to return, the mother said to her daughter—

“We shall now, if you are willing, find out the truth concerning your husband. When he is in bed I will go to him, and then, while he is not thinking, you will pluck off his coif from behind, and we shall see whether he be tonsured like the Friar who said mass.”

As it was proposed, so was it done. As soon as the wicked husband was in bed, the old lady came and took both his hands as though in sport—her daughter took off his coif, and there he was with his fine tonsure. At this both mother and daughter were as greatly astonished as might be, and forthwith they called their servants to seize him and bind him fast till the morning, nor did any of his excuses or fine speeches avail him aught.

When day was come, the lady sent for her confessor, making as though she had some great secret to tell him, whereupon he came with all speed, and then, reproaching him for the deceit that he had practised on her, she had him seized like the other. Afterwards she sent for the officers of justice, in whose hands she placed them both. It is to be supposed that if the judges were honest men they did not suffer the offence to go unpunished. (2)

     2  There is some little resemblance between this tale and
     the 36th of Morlini’s Novello, De monacho qui duxit

“From this story, ladies, you will see that those who have taken vows of poverty are not free from the temptation of covetousness, which is the cause of so many ills.”

“Nay, of so many blessings,” said Saffredent, “for with the five hundred ducats that the old woman would have stored up there was made much good cheer, while the poor maiden, who had been longing for a husband, was thus enabled to have two, and to speak with more knowledge as to the truth of all hierarchies.”

“You always hold the falsest opinions,” said Oisille, “that ever I knew. You think that all women are of your own temper.”

“Not so, madam, with your good leave,” said Saffredent. “I would give much that they were as easily satisfied as we are.”

“That is a wicked speech,” said Oisille, “and there is not one present but knows the contrary, and that what you say is untrue. The story that has just been told proves the ignorance of poor women and the wickedness of those whom we regard as better than the rest of your sex; for neither mother nor daughter would do aught according to their own fancy, but subjected desire to good advice.”

“Some women are so difficult,” said Longarine, “that they think they ought to have angels instead of men.”

“And for that reason,” said Simontault, “they often meet with devils, more especially those who, instead of trusting to God’s grace, think by their own good sense, or that of others, that they may in this world find some happiness, though this is granted by none save God, from whom alone it can come.”

“How now, Simontault!” said Oisille. “I did not think that you knew so much good.”

“Madam,” said Simontault, “‘tis a pity that I have not been proved, for I see that through lack of knowledge you have already judged ill of me. Yet I may well practise a Grey Friar’s trade, since a Grey Friar has meddled with mine.”

“So you call it your trade,” said Parlamente, “to deceive women? Thus out of your mouth are you judged.”

“Had I deceived a hundred thousand,” said Simontault, “I should yet not have avenged the woes that I have endured for the sake of one alone.”

“I know,” said Parlamente, “how often you complain of women; yet, for all that, we see you so merry and hearty that it is impossible to believe that you have endured all the woes you speak of. But the ‘Compassionless Fair One’ (3) replies that—

     “‘Tis as well to say as much
     To draw some comfort thence.’”

     3  La belle Dame sans mercy, by Alain Chartier.—Ed.

“You quote a truly notable theologian,” said Simontault, “one who is not only froward himself, but makes all the ladies so, who have read and followed his teaching.”

“Yet his teaching,” said Parlamente, “is as profitable for youthful dames as any that I know.”

“If it were indeed true,” said Simontault, “that the ladies were without compassion, we might as well let our horses rest and our armour grow rusty until the next war, and think of nothing but household affairs. And, I pray you, tell me whether it is an excellence in a lady to have the reputation of being without pity, or charity, or love, or mercy.”

“Without charity or love,” said Parlamente, “they should not be, but the word ‘mercy’ sounds so ill among women that they cannot use it without wounding their honour; for properly speaking ‘mercy’ means to grant a favour sought, and we well know what the favour is that men desire.”

“May it please you, madam,” said Simontault, “there are some men who are so reasonable that they crave nought but speech.”

“You remind me,” said Parlamente, “of one who was content with a glove.”

“We must know who this easy lover was,” said Hircan, “and so this time I give my vote to you.”

“It will give me pleasure to tell the tale,” said Parlamente, “for it is full of virtue.”

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063a.jpg the English Lord Seizing The Lady’s Glove

[The English Lord seizing the Lady’s Glove]

063.jpg Page Image


     An English lord for seven years loved a lady without ever
     venturing to let her know of it, until one day, when
     observing her in a meadow, he lost all colour and control of
     feature through a sudden throbbing of the heart that came
     upon him. Then she, showing her compassion, at his request
     placed her gloved hand upon his heart, whereupon he pressed
     it so closely, whilst declaring to her the love he had so
     long borne her, that she withdrew it, leaving in its place
     her glove. And this glove he afterwards enriched with gems
     and fastened upon his doublet above his heart, and showed
     himself so graceful and virtuous a lover that he never
     sought any more intimate favour of her.

King Louis the Eleventh (1) sent the Lord de Montmorency to England as his ambassador, and so welcome was the latter in that country that the King and all the Princes greatly esteemed and loved him, and even made divers of their private affairs known to him in order to have his counsel upon them.

     1  Some of the MS. say Louis XII., but we cannot find that
     either the eleventh or twelfth Louis sent any Montmorency as
     ambassador to England. Ripault-Desormeaux states, however,
     in his history of this famous French family, that William de
     Montmorency, who, after fighting in Italy under Charles
     VIII. and Louis XII., became, governor of the Orléanais and
     chevalier d’honneur to Louise of Savoy was one of the
     signatories of the treaty concluded with Henry VIII. of
     England, after the-battle of Pavia in 1525. We know that
     Louise, as Regent of France, at that time sent John Brinon
     and John Joachim de Passano as ambassadors to England, and
     possibly William de Montmorency accompanied them, since
     Desormeaux expressly states that he guaranteed the loyal
     observance of the treaty then negotiated. William was the
     father of Anne, the famous Constable of France, and died May
     24, 1531. “Geburon,” in the dialogue following the above
     tale, mentions that he had well known the Montmorency
     referred to, and speaks of him as of a person dead and gone.
     It is therefore scarcely likely that Queen Margaret alludes
     to Francis de Montmorency, Lord of La Rochepot, who was only
     sent on a mission to England in 1546, and survived her by
     many years.—L. and Ed.

One day, at a banquet that the King gave to him, he was seated beside a lord (2) of high lineage, who had on his doublet a little glove, such as women wear, fastened with hooks of gold and so adorned upon the finger-seams with diamonds, rubies, emeralds and pearls, that it was indeed a glove of great price.

     2  The French word is Millor (Milord) and this is probably
     one of the earliest instances of its employment to designate
     a member of the English aristocracy. In such of the Cent
     Nouvelles Nouvelles in which English nobles figure, the
     latter are invariably called seigneurs or chevaliers,
     and addressed as Monseigneur, Later on, when Brantôme
     wrote, the term un milord anglais had become quite common,
     and he frequently makes use of it in his various works.
     English critics have often sneered at modern French writers
     for employing the expression, but it will be seen from this
     that they have simply followed a very old tradition.—Ed.

The Lord de Montmorency looked at it so often that the English lord perceived he was minded to inquire why it was so choicely ordered; so, deeming its story to be greatly to his own honour, he thus began—

“I can see that you think it strange I should have so magnificently arrayed a simple glove, and on my part I am still more ready to tell you the reason, for I deem you an honest gentleman and one who knows what manner of passion love is, so that if I did well in the matter you will praise me for it, and if not, make excuse for me, knowing that every honourable heart must obey the behests of love. You must know, then, that I have all my life long loved a lady whom I love still, and shall love even when I am dead, but, as my heart was bolder to fix itself worthily than were my lips to speak, I remained for seven years without venturing to make her any sign, through fear that, if she perceived the truth, I should lose the opportunities I had of often being in her company; and this I dreaded more than death. However, one day, while I was observing her in a meadow, a great throbbing of the heart came upon me, so that I lost all colour and control of feature. Perceiving this, she asked me what the matter was, and I told her that I felt an intolerable pain of the heart. She, believing it to be caused by a different sickness than love, showed herself pitiful towards me, which prompted me to beg her to lay her hand upon my heart and see how it was beating. This, more from charity than from any other affection, she did, and while I held her gloved hand against my heart, it began to beat and strain in such wise, that she felt that I was speaking the truth. Then I pressed her hand to my breast, saying—

“‘Alas, madam, receive the heart which would fain break forth from my breast to leap into the hand of her from whom I look for indulgence, life and pity, and which now constrains me to make known to you the love that I have so long concealed, for neither my heart nor I can now control this potent God.’

“When she heard those words, she deemed them very strange. She wished to withdraw her hand, but I held it fast, and the glove remained in her cruel hand’s place; and having neither before nor since had any more intimate favour from her, I have fastened this glove upon my heart as the best plaster I could give it. And I have adorned it with the richest rings I have, though the glove itself is wealth that I would not exchange for the kingdom of England, for I deem no happiness on earth so great as to feel it on my breast.”

The Lord de Montmorency, who would have rather had a lady’s hand than her glove, praised his very honourable behaviour, telling him that he was the truest lover he had ever known, and was worthy of better treatment, since he set so much value upon so slight a thing; though perchance, if he had obtained aught better than the glove, the greatness of his love might have made him die of joy. With this the English lord agreed, not suspecting that the Lord de Montmorency was mocking him. (3)

     3  Alluding to this story, Brantôme writes as follows in his
     Dames Galantes: “You have that English Milord in the
     Hundred Tales of the Queen of Navarre, who wore his
     mistress’s glove at his side, beautifully adorned. I myself
     have known many gentlemen who, before wearing their silken
     hose, would beg their ladies and mistresses to try them on
     and wear them for some eight or ten days, rather more than
     less, and who would then themselves wear them in extreme
     veneration and contentment, both of mind and body.”—
     Lalanne’s OEuvres de Brantôme, vol. ix. p. 309.—L.

“If all men were so honourable as this one, the ladies might well trust them, since the cost would be merely a glove.”

“I knew the Lord de Montmorency well,” said Geburon, “and I am sure that he would not have cared to fare after the English fashion. Had he been contented with so little, he would not have been so successful in love as he was, for the old song says—

     ‘Of a cowardly lover
     No good is e’er heard.’”

“You may be sure,” said Saffredent, “that the poor lady withdrew her hand with all speed, when she felt the beating of his heart, because she thought that he was about to die, and people say that there is nothing women loathe more than to touch dead bodies.” (4)

     4  Most of this sentence, deficient in our MS., is taken
     from MS. No. 1520.—L.

“If you had spent as much time in hospitals as in taverns,” said Ennasuite, “you would not speak in that way, for you would have seen women shrouding dead bodies, which men, bold as they are, often fear to touch.”

“It is true,” said Saffredent, “that there is none upon whom penance has been laid but does the opposite of that wherein he formerly had delight, like a lady I once saw in a notable house, who, to atone for her delight in kissing one she loved, was found at four o’clock in the morning kissing the corpse of a gentleman who had been killed the day before, and whom she had never liked more than any other. Then every one knew that this was a penance for past delights. But as all the good deeds done by women are judged ill by men, I am of opinion that, dead or alive, there should be no kissing except after the fashion that God commands.”

“For my part,” said Hircan, “I care so little about kissing women, except my own wife, that I will assent to any law you please, yet I pity the young folk whom you deprive of this trifling happiness, thus annulling the command of St. Paul, who bids us kiss in osculo sancto.” (5)

     5  Romans xvi. 16; 1 Corinthians xvi. 20; 2
     Corinthians xiii. 12; I Thessalonians v. 26. Also 1
     Peter v. 14.—M.

“If St. Paul had been such a man as you are,” said Nomerfide, “we should indeed have required proof of the Spirit of God that spoke in him.”

“In the end,” said Geburon, “you will doubt Holy Scripture rather than give up one of your petty affectations.”

“God forbid,” said Oisille, “that we should doubt Holy Scripture, but we put small faith in your lies. There is no woman but knows what her belief should be, namely, never to doubt the Word of God or believe the word of man.”

“Yet,” said Simontauit, “I believe that there are more men deceived by women than [women] by men. The slenderness of women’s love towards us keeps them from believing our truths, whilst our exceeding love towards them makes us trust so completely in their falsehoods, that we are deceived before we suspect such a thing to be possible.”

“Methinks,” said Parlamente, “you have been hearing some fool complain of being duped by a wanton woman, for your words carry but little weight, and need the support of an example. If, therefore, you know of one, I give you my place that you may tell it to us. I do not say that we are bound to believe you on your mere word, but it will assuredly not make our ears tingle to hear you speak ill of us, since we know what is the truth.”

“Well, since it is for me to speak,” said Dagoucin, “‘tis I who will tell you the tale.”

070.jpg Tailpiece

071a. The Gentleman Mocked by The Ladies when Returning from The False Tryst

[The Gentleman Mocked by the Ladies When Returning From The False Tryst]

071.jpg Page Image


     A gentleman, through putting too much trust in the
     truthfulness of a lady whom he had offended by forsaking her
     for others just when she was most in love with him, was, by
     a false tryst, deceived by her, and bemocked by the whole

At the Court of King Francis the First there was a lady (1) of excellent wit, who, by her grace, virtue and pleasantness of speech, had won the hearts of several lovers. With these she right well knew how to pass the time, but without hurt to her honour, conversing with them in such pleasant fashion that they knew not what to think, for those who were the most confident were reduced to despair, whilst those that despaired the most became hopeful. Nevertheless, while fooling most of them, she could not help greatly loving one whom she called her cousin, a name which furnished a pretext for closer fellowship.

     1  M. de Lincy surmises that Margaret is referring to
     herself both here and in the following tale, which concerns
     the same lady. His only reason for the supposition, however,
     is that the lady’s views on certain love matters are akin to
     those which the Queen herself professed.—Ed.

However, as there is nothing in this world of firm continuance, their friendship often turned to anger and then was renewed in stronger sort than ever, so that the whole Court could not but be aware of it.

One day the lady, both to let it be seen that she was wholly void of passion, and to vex him, for love of whom she had endured much annoyance, showed him a fairer countenance than ever she had done before. Thereupon the gentleman, who lacked boldness neither in love nor in war, began hotly to press the suit that he many a time previously had addressed to her.

She, pretending to be wholly vanquished by pity, promised to grant his request, and told him that she would with this intent go into her room, which was on a garret floor, where she knew there was nobody. And as soon as he should see that she was gone he was to follow her without fail, for he would find her ready to give proof of the good-will that she bore him.

The gentleman, believing what she said, was exceedingly well pleased, and began to amuse himself with the other ladies until he should see her gone, and might quickly follow her. But she, who lacked naught of woman’s craftiness, betook herself to my Lady Margaret, daughter of the King, and to the Duchess of Montpensier, (2) to whom she said—

“I will if you are willing, show you the fairest diversion you have ever seen.”

     2  The former is Margaret of France, Duchess of Savoy and
     Berry. Born in June 1523, she died in September 1574.—
     Queen Margaret was her godmother. When only three years old,
     she was promised in marriage to Louis of Savoy, eldest son
     of Duke Charles III., and he dying, she espoused his younger
     brother, Emmanuel Philibert, in July 1549. Graceful and
     pretty as a child (see ante, vol. i. p. xlviii.), she
     became, thanks to the instruction of the famous Michael de
     l’ Hôpital, one of the most accomplished women of her time,
     and Brantôme devotes an article to her in his Dames
     Illustres (Lalanne, v. viii. pp. 328-37). See also Hilarion
     de Coste’s Éloges et Vies des Reines, Princesses, &c.,
     Paris, 1647, vol. ii. p. 278.

     The Duchess of Montpensier, also referred to above, is
     Jacqueline de Longwick (now Longwy), Countess of Bar-sur-
     Seine, daughter of J. Ch. de Longwick, Lord of Givry, and of
     Jane, bâtarde of Angoulême. In 1538 Jacqueline was
     married to Louis II. de Bourbon, Duke of Montpensier. She
     gained great influence at the French Court, both under
     Francis I. and afterwards, and De Thou says of her that she
     was possessed of great wit and wisdom, far superior to the
     century in which she lived. She died in August 1561, and was
     the mother of Francis I., Duke of Montpensier, sometimes
     called the Dauphin of Auvergne, who fought at Jarnac,
     Moncontour, Arques, and Ivry, against Henry of Navarre.—L.,
     B. J. and Ed.

They, being by no means enamoured of melancholy, begged that she would tell them what it was.

“You know such a one,” she replied, “as worthy a gentleman as lives, and as bold. You are aware how many ill turns he has done me, and that, just when I loved him most, he fell in love with others, and so caused me more grief than I have ever suffered to be seen. Well, God has now afforded me the means of taking revenge upon him.

“I am forthwith going to my own room, which is overhead, and immediately afterwards, if it pleases you to keep watch, you will see him follow me. When he has passed the galleries, and is about to go up the stairs, I pray you come both to the window and help me to cry ‘Thief!’ You will then see his rage, which, I am sure, will not become him badly, and, even if he does not revile me aloud, I am sure he will none the less do so in his heart.”

This plan was not agreed to without laughter, for there was no gentleman that tormented the ladies more than he did, whilst he was so greatly liked and esteemed by all, that for nothing in the world would any one have run the risk of his raillery.

It seemed, moreover, to the two Princesses that they would themselves share in the glory which the other lady looked to win over this gentleman.

Accordingly, as soon as they saw the deviser of the plot go out, they set themselves to observe the gentleman’s demeanour. But little time went by before he shifted his quarters, and, as soon as he had passed the door, the ladies went out into the gallery, in order that they might not lose sight of him.

Suspecting nothing, he wrapped his cloak about his neck, so as to hide his face, and went down the stairway to the court, but, seeing some one whom he did not desire to have for witness, he came back by another way, and then went down into the court a second time. The ladies saw everything without being perceived by him, and when he reached the stairway, by which he thought he might safely reach his sweetheart’s chamber, they went to the window, whence they immediately perceived the other lady, who began crying out ‘Thief!’ at the top of her voice; whereupon the two ladies below answered her so loudly that their voices were heard all over the castle.

I leave you to imagine with what vexation the gentleman fled to his lodgings. He was not so well muffled as not to be known by those who were in the mystery, and they often twitted him with it, as did even the lady who had done him this ill turn, saying that she had been well revenged upon him.

It happened, however, that he was so ready with his replies and evasions as to make them believe that he had quite suspected the plan, and had only consented to visit the lady in order to furnish them with some diversion, for, said he, he would not have taken so much trouble for her sake, seeing that his love for her had long since flown. The ladies would not admit the truth of this, so that the point is still in doubt; nevertheless, it is probable that he believed the lady. And since he was so wary and so bold that few men of his age and time could match and none could surpass him (as has been proved by his very brave and knightly death), (3) you must, it seems to me, confess that men of honour love in such wise as to be often duped, by placing too much trust in the truthfulness of the ladies.

     3  This naturally brings Bonnivet to mind, though of course
     the gay, rash admiral was not the only Frenchman of the time
     who spent his life in making love and waging war.—Ed.

“In good faith,” said Ennasuite, “I commend this lady for the trick she played; for when a man is loved by a lady and forsakes her for another, her vengeance cannot be too severe.”

“Yes,” said Parlamente, “if she is loved by him; but there are some who love men without being certain that they are loved in return, and when they find that their sweethearts love elsewhere, they call them fickle. It therefore happens that discreet women are never deceived by such talk, for they give no heed or belief even to those people who speak truly, lest they should prove to be liars, seeing that the true and the false speak but one tongue.”

“If all women were of your opinion,” said Simon-tault, “the gentlemen might pack up their prayers at once; but, for all that you and those like you may say, we shall never believe that women are as unbelieving as they are fair. And in this wise we shall live as content as you would fain render us uneasy by your maxims.”

“Truly,” said Longarine, “knowing as I well do who the lady is that played that fine trick upon the gentleman, it is impossible for me not to believe in any craftiness on her part. Since she did not spare her husband, ‘twere fitting she should not spare her lover.”

“Her husband, say you?” said Simontault. “You know, then, more than I do, and so, since you wish it, I give you my place that you may tell us your opinion of the matter.”

“And since you wish it,” said Longarine, “I will do so.”

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079a. The Lady Discovering Her Husband With The Waiting-woman

[The Lady discovering her Husband with the Waiting-woman]

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     This same lady, finding that her husband took it ill that
     she should have lovers with whom she amused herself without
     hurt to her honour, kept close watch upon him, and so
     discovered how pleasantly he addressed himself to one of her
     waiting-women. This woman she gained upon, made her consent
     to what her husband solicited, and then surprised him in
     such error that to atone for it, he was forced to confess
     that he deserved greater punishment than herself; by which
     means she was afterwards able to live as her fancy listed.

The lady of your story was wedded to a rich gentleman of high and ancient lineage, and had married him on account of the great affection that they bore to one another.

Being a woman most pleasant of speech, she by no means concealed from her husband that she had lovers whom she made game of for her pastime, and, at first, her husband shared in her pleasure. But at last this manner of life became irksome to him, for on the one part he took it ill that she should hold so much converse with those that were no kinsfolk or friends of his own, and on the other, he was greatly vexed by the expense to which he was put in sustaining her magnificence and in following the Court.

He therefore withdrew to his own house as often as he was able, but so much company came thither to see him that the expenses of his household became scarcely any less, for, wherever his wife might be, she always found means to pass her time in sports, dances, and all such matters as youthful dames may use with honour. And when sometimes her husband told her, laughing, that their expenses were too great, she would reply that she promised never to make him a “coqu” or cuckold, but only a “coquin,” that is, a beggar; for she was so exceedingly fond of dress, that she must needs have the bravest and richest at the Court. (1) Her husband took her thither as seldom as possible, but she did all in her power to go, and to this end behaved in a most loving fashion towards her husband, who would not willingly have refused her a much harder request.

     1  As Queen Margaret was by no means over fond of gorgeous
     apparel and display, this passage is in contradiction with
     M. de Lincy’s surmise that the lady of this and the
     preceding tale may be herself. In any case the narrative
     could only apply to the period of her first marriage, and
     this was in no wise a love-match. Yet we are told at the
     outset of the above story that the lady and gentleman had
     married on account of the great affection between them. On
     the other hand, these details may have been introduced the
     better to conceal the identity of the persons referred to.—

Now one day, when she had found that all her devices could not induce him to make this journey to the Court, she perceived that he was very pleasant in manner with a chamber-woman (2) she had, and thereupon thought she might turn the matter to her own advantage. Taking the girl apart, she questioned her cleverly, using both wiles and threats, in such wise that the girl confessed that, ever since she had been in the house, not a day had passed on which her master had not sought her love; but (she added) she would rather die than do aught against God and her honour, more especially after the honour which the lady had done her in taking her into her service, for this would make such wickedness twice as great.

     2  The French expression here is femme de chambre à
     chaperon. The chaperon in this instance was a cap with a
     band of velvet worn across it as a sign of gentle and even
     noble birth. The attendant referred to above would therefore
     probably be a young woman of good descent, constrained by
     circumstances to enter domestic service.—B. J. and Ed.

On hearing of her husband’s unfaithfulness, the lady immediately felt both grief and joy. Her grief was that her husband, despite all his show of loving her, should be secretly striving to put her to so much shame in her own household, and this when she believed herself far more beautiful and graceful than the woman whom he sought in her stead. But she rejoiced to think that she might surprise her husband in such manifest error that he would no longer be able to reproach her with her lovers, nor with her desire to dwell at Court; and, to bring this about, she begged the girl gradually to grant her husband what he sought upon certain conditions that she made known to her.

The girl was minded to make some difficulty, but when her mistress warranted the safety both of her life and of her honour, she consented to do whatever might be her pleasure.

The gentleman, on continuing his pursuit of the girl, found her countenance quite changed towards him, and therefore urged his suit more eagerly than had been his wont; but she, knowing by heart the part she had to play, made objection of her poverty, and said that, if she complied with his desire, she would be turned away by her mistress, in whose service she looked to gain a good husband.

The gentleman forthwith replied that she need give no thought to any such matters, since he would bestow her in marriage more profitably than her mistress would be able to do, and further, would contrive the matter so secretly that none would know of it.

Upon this they came to an agreement, and, on considering what place would be most suited for such a fine business, the girl said that she knew of none better or more remote from suspicion than a cottage in the park, where there was a chamber and a bed suitable for the occasion.

The gentleman, who would not have thought any place unsuitable, was content with the one she named, and was very impatient for the appointed day and hour to come.

The girl kept her word to her mistress, and told her in full the whole story of the plan, and how it was to be put into execution on the morrow after dinner. She would not fail, said she, to give a sign when the time came to go to the cottage, and she begged her mistress to be watchful, and in no wise fail to be present at the appointed hour, in order to save her from the danger into which her obedience was leading her.

This her mistress swore, begging her to be without fear, and promising that she would never forsake her, but would protect her from her husband’s wrath.

When the morrow was come and dinner was over, the gentleman was more pleasant with his wife than ever, and although this was not very agreeable to her, she dissembled so well that he did not perceive the truth.

After dinner she asked him how he was minded to pass away the time, and he answered that he knew of nothing better than to play at “cent.” (3) Forthwith everything was made ready for the game, but the lady pretended that she did not care to take part in it, and would find diversion enough in looking at the players.

     3  This is probably a reference to the card game now called
     piquet, usually played for a hundred points. It is one of
     the oldest of its kind. See Rabelais’ Gargantua, book i.
     chap, xxii.—L.

Just before he sat down to play, the gentleman failed not to ask the girl to remember her promise to him, and while he was playing she passed through the room, making a sign to her mistress which signified that she was about to set out on the pilgrimage she had to make. The sign was clearly seen by the lady, but her husband perceived nothing of it.

An hour later, however, one of his servants made him a sign from a distance, whereupon he told his wife that his head ached somewhat, and that he must needs rest and take the air. She, knowing the nature of his sickness as well as he did himself, asked him whether she should play in his stead, and he consented, saying that he would very soon return. However, she assured him that she could take his place for a couple of hours without weariness.

So the gentleman withdrew to his room, and thence by an alley into his park.

The lady, who knew another and shorter way, waited for a little while, and then, suddenly feigning to be seized with colic, gave her hand at play to another.

As soon as she was out of the room, she put off her high-heeled shoes and ran as quickly as she could to the place, where she had no desire that the bargain should be struck without her. And so speedily did she arrive, that, when she entered the room by another door, her husband was but just come in. Then, hiding herself behind the door, she listened to the fair and honest discourse that he held to her maid. But when she saw that he was coming near to the criminal point, she seized him from behind, saying—

“Nay, I am too near that you should take another.”

It is needless to ask whether the gentleman was in extreme wrath, both at being balked of the delight he had looked to obtain, and at having his wife, whose affection he now greatly feared to lose for ever, know more of him than he desired. He thought, however, that the plot had been contrived by the girl, and (without speaking to his wife) he ran after her with such fury that, had not his wife rescued her from his hands, he would have killed her. He declared that she was the wickedest jade he had ever known, and that, if his wife had waited to see the end, she would have found that he was only mocking her, for, instead of doing what she expected, he would have chastised her with rods.

But his wife, knowing what words of the sort were worth, set no value upon them, and addressed such reproaches to him that he was in great fear lest she should leave him. He promised her all that she asked, and, after her sage reproaches, confessed that it was wrong of him to complain that she had lovers; since a fair and honourable woman is none the less virtuous for being loved, provided that she do or say nothing contrary to her honour; whereas a man deserves heavy punishment when he is at pains to pursue a woman that loves him not, to the wronging of his wife and his own conscience. He would therefore, said he, never more prevent his wife from going to Court, nor take it ill that she should have lovers, for he knew that she spoke with them more in jest than in affection.

This talk was not displeasing to the lady, for it seemed to her that she had gained an important point. Nevertheless she spoke quite to the contrary, pretending that she had no delight in going to Court, since she no longer possessed his love, without which all assemblies were displeasing to her; and saying that a woman who was truly loved by her husband, and who loved him in return, as she did, carried with her a safe-conduct that permitted her to speak with one and all, and to be derided by none.

The poor gentleman was at so much pains to assure her of the love he bore her, that at last they left the place good friends. That they might not again fall into such trouble, he begged her to turn away the girl through whom he had undergone so much distress. This she did, but did it by bestowing her well and honourably in marriage, and at her husband’s expense.

And, to make the lady altogether forget his folly, the gentleman soon took her to Court, in such style and so magnificently arrayed that she had good reason to be content.

“This, ladies, was what made me say I did not find the trick she played upon one of her lovers a strange one, knowing, as I did, the trick she had played upon her husband.”

“You have described to us a very cunning wife and a very stupid husband,” said Hircan. “Having advanced so far, he ought not to have come to a standstill and stopped on so fair a road.”

“And what should he have done?” said Longarine.

“What he had taken in hand to do,” said Hircan, “for his wife was no less wrathful with him for his intention to do evil than she would have been had he carried the evil into execution. Perchance, indeed, she would have respected him more if she had seen that he was a bolder gallant.”

“That is all very well,” said Ennasuite, “but where will you find a man to face two women at once? His wife would have defended her rights and the girl her virginity.”

“True,” said Hircan, “but a strong bold man does not fear to assail two that are weak, nor will he ever fail to vanquish them.”

“I readily understand,” said Ennasuite, “that if he had drawn his sword he might have killed them both, but otherwise I cannot see that he had any means of escape. I pray you, therefore, tell us what you would have done?”

“I should have taken my wife in my arms,” said Hircan, “and have carried her out. Then I should have had my own way with her maid by love or by force.”

“‘Tis enough, Hircan,” said Parlamente, “that you know how to do evil.”

“I am sure, Parlamente,” he replied, “that I do not scandalise the innocence in whose presence I speak, and by what I have said I do not mean that I support a wicked deed. But I wonder at the attempt, which was in itself worthless, and at the attempter, who, for fear rather than for love of his wife, failed to complete it. I praise a man who loves his wife as God ordains; but when he does not love her, I think little of him for fearing her.”

“Truly,” replied Parlamente, “if love did not render you a good husband, I should make small account of what you might do through fear.”

“You are quite safe, Parlamente,” said Hircan, “for the love I bear you makes me more obedient than could the fear of either death or hell.”

“You may say what you please,” said Parlamente, “but I have reason to be content with what I have seen and known of you. As for what I have not seen, I have never wished to make guess or still less inquiry.”

“I think it great folly,” said Nomerfide, “for women to inquire so curiously concerning their husbands, or husbands concerning their wives. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof, without giving so much heed to the morrow.”

“Yet it is sometimes needful,” said Oisille, “to inquire into matters that may touch the honour of a house in order to set them right, though not to pass evil judgment upon persons, seeing that there is none who does not fail.”

“Many,” said Geburon, “have at divers times fallen into trouble for lack of well and carefully inquiring into the errors of their wives.”

“I pray you,” said Longarine, “if you know any such instance, do not keep it from us.”

“I do indeed know one,” said Geburon, “and since you so desire, I will relate it.”

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091a. The Chanter of Blois Delivering his Mistress from The Grave

[The Chanter of Blois delivering his Mistress from the Grave]

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     A man of Paris, through not making good inquiry concerning
     his wife, whom he believed dead, though she was indeed
     making good cheer with a chanter to the King, married a
     second wife, whom, after having several children by her and
     consorting with her for fourteen or fifteen years, he was
     constrained to leave, in order to take his first wife back

In the city of Paris there was a man who was so good-natured that he would have scrupled to believe a man abed with his wife, even if he had seen him with his own eyes. This poor man married a woman whose conduct was as bad as could be; nevertheless he perceived nothing of it, and treated her as though she were the most virtuous woman alive. One day, however, when King Louis XII. came to Paris, his wife surrendered herself to one of the choir-men of the aforesaid sovereign, and when she found that the King was leaving Paris and that she would no longer be able to see the singer, she resolved to follow him and forsake her husband. To this the chanter agreed, and brought her to a house that he had near Blois, (1) where for a long while they lived together. The poor husband, finding that he had lost his wife, sought her everywhere; and at last it was told him that she was gone away with the chanter.

Wishing to recover the lost ewe which he had so badly watched, he wrote many letters to her begging her to return to him, and saying that he would take her back if she were willing to be a virtuous woman. But she took such great delight in listening to the songs of the chanter, that she had forgotten her husband’s voice, and gave no heed to all his excellent words, but mocked at them.

Therefore the husband, in great wrath, gave her to know that, since she would return to him in no other way, he would demand her in legal fashion of the Church. (2) The wife, dreading that if the law should take the matter in hand she and her chanter would fare badly, devised a stratagem worthy of such a woman as herself. Feigning sickness, she sent for some honourable women of the town to come and see her, and this they willingly did, hoping that her illness might be a means of withdrawing her from her evil life, with which purpose they addressed the sagest admonitions to her. Thereupon she, whilst pretending to be grievously sick, made a show of weeping and acknowledging her sinfulness in such sort that she gained the pity of the whole company, who quite believed that she was speaking from the bottom of her heart. And, finding her thus subdued and sorry, they began to comfort her, telling her that God was in no wise so terrible as many preachers represented Him, and that He would never refuse to show her mercy.

     1  Louis XII.‘s favourite place of residence.—Ed.

     2  Implying the Officialité or episcopal court.—B. J.

After this excellent discourse, they sent for a virtuous man to come and confess her, and on the morrow the priest of the parish came to administer the Holy Sacrament. This she received so piously, that all the virtuous women of the town who were present wept to see her devoutness, praising God, who of His goodness had in this wise shown compassion upon this poor creature.

Afterwards she pretended that she could no longer take food, whereupon the extreme unction was brought by the priest and received by her with many pious signs; for (as they thought) she was scarcely able to speak. She continued thus for a great while, and it seemed as though she were gradually losing her sight, hearing and other senses, whereat there came from all a cry of “Jesus!” As night was at hand and the ladies were far from home, they all withdrew; and just as they were leaving the house it was told them that she was dead, whereupon, saying their De profundis for her, they returned to their houses.

The priest asked the chanter where he would have her buried, and the other replied that she had desired to be buried in the cemetery, and that it would be well to bring her there at night. So the poor unfortunate was shrouded by a serving-woman, who was careful not to hurt her, and then by brave torchlight she was carried to the grave that the chanter had caused to be made.

When the body passed in front of the houses of those who had been present when she received the extreme unction, they all came forth and followed her to the tomb; and there she was soon left by women and priests alike. The chanter, however, did not go away, but, as soon as he saw the company some distance off, he and the serving-woman opened the grave wherein was his sweetheart more alive than ever, and he sent her secretly to his house, where for a long time he kept her concealed.

The husband, who was in pursuit of her, came as far as Blois to demand justice, when he found that she was dead and buried according to the testimony of all the ladies of Blois. They told him, too, what a good end she had made, and the worthy man was rejoiced to think that his wife’s soul was in Paradise, and himself rid of her wicked body.

In this wise well content, he betook himself back to Paris, where he married a beautiful and virtuous young woman, and a good housewife, by whom he had several children, and with whom he lived for fourteen or fifteen years. But at last rumour, which can keep nothing hid, advised him that his wife was not dead, but was still dwelling with the wicked chanter. The poor man concealed the matter as well as he was able, pretending to know nothing about it, and hoping that it was a lie. But his wife, who was a discreet woman, was told of it, and such was her anguish at the tidings that she was like to die of grief. Had it been possible without offence to her conscience, she would gladly have concealed her misfortune, but it was not possible. The Church immediately took the affair in hand, and first of all separated them from each other until the truth of the matter should be known.

Then was this poor man obliged to leave the good and go after the bad, and in this wise he came to Blois shortly after Francis the First had become king. Here he found Queen Claude and my Lady the Regent, (3) to whom he made his complaint, asking for her whom he would gladly not have found, but whom, to the great compassion of the whole company, he was now obliged to see.

     3  This shows that the incidents of the tale occurred in the
     summer or autumn of 1515, when Francis I. was absent in
     Italy conducting the campaign which resulted in the victory
     of Marignano and the surrender of Milan.—Ed.

When his wife was brought before him, she strove for a long while to maintain that he was not her husband, which he would willingly have believed had he been able. More disappointed than abashed, she told him that she would rather die than go back with him, and at this he was well pleased; but the ladies in whose presence she spoke in this unseemly fashion condemned her to return, and so rated the chanter with many a threat, that he was obliged to tell his ugly sweetheart to go back with her husband, and to declare that he himself would never see her more.

Rejected thus on all sides, the poor unfortunate withdrew to a home in which she was fated to meet with better treatment from her husband than she had deserved.

“You see, ladies, why I say that if the poor husband had been more watchful over his wife, he would not thus have lost her. A thing that is well guarded is difficult to lose, but heedlessness makes the thief.”

“‘Tis a strange thing,” said Hircan, “how strong love is just where it seems most unreasonable.”

“I have heard,” said Simontault, “that it were easier to break two marriages than to sunder the love of a priest and his serving-maid.”

“I believe it,” said Ennasuite; “for those who bind others together in marriage, are so well able to tie the knot that nought but death can destroy it. Theologians, moreover, hold that spiritual language is of more effect than any other, and in consequence spiritual love surpasses any other kind.”

“It is a thing that I cannot forgive in ladies,” said Dagoucin, “when they forsake an honourable husband or a lover for a priest, however handsome and worthy the latter may be.”

“I pray you, Dagoucin,” said Hircan, “intermeddle not with our Holy Mother Church. Be assured that ‘tis a great delight for timorous and secret-loving women to sin with those who can absolve them; for there are some who are more ashamed to confess a thing than to do it.”

“You speak,” said Oisille, “of those who have no knowledge of God, and who think not that secret matters are one day revealed in presence of the Company of Heaven. But I think that it is not for confession’s sake that they go after confessors; for the Enemy has so blinded them that they are more concerned to attach themselves where they think there is most concealment and security, than anxious to obtain absolution for the wickedness of which they do not repent.”

“Repent, say you?” said Saffredent. “Nay, they deem themselves holier than other women. I am sure that there are some who deem it honourable in themselves that they are constant in such love.”

“You speak in such a manner,” said Oisille to Saffredent, “that I think you know of some one of that kind. I pray you, therefore, begin the Day tomorrow by telling us what you know. But now the last bell for vespers is already ringing; for our friends the monks went off as soon as they had heard the tenth tale, and left us to finish our discussions among ourselves.”

At these words they all rose and came to the church, where they found the monks awaiting them. Then, after hearing vespers, they all supped together, talking the while of many excellent stories. After supper they went, according to their wont, to disport themselves somewhat in the meadow, and then retired to rest, in order that their memories might be the sounder on the morrow.

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On the Seventh Day relation is made
of such as have done
quite contrary to
their duty
or desire


In the morning the Lady Oisille failed not to administer to them wholesome nutriment, which she did by reading of the acts and virtuous deeds of the glorious knights and apostles of Jesus Christ, as related by St. Luke, telling them withal that these relations should suffice to make them long for the return of such a time, and to make them weep for the uncomeliness of this age as compared with that. When she had sufficiently read and expounded to them the beginning of this excellent book, she begged them to go to the church in such union as that in which the Apostles were wont to pray, seeking of God the mercy which is never refused to those who ask for it in faith. Her counsel was approved by all, and they came to the church just as the Mass of the Holy Spirit was beginning; this seemed to them very apt to the occasion, and they hearkened to the service in great devotion.

Afterwards they went to dinner, where they called to mind the apostolic life, and took such great delight in it that it was as though their undertaking had been forgotten. But Nomerfide, who was the youngest, noticed this, and said, “The Lady Oisille has made us so devout that we are letting slip the hour at which we are wont to withdraw, in order to make ready for the relating of our tales.”

Her words caused the whole company to rise, and, after they had been for a while in their rooms, they failed not to repair to the meadow as on the day before. When they were seated at their ease, the Lady Oisille said to Saffredent, “Although I am certain that you will say nothing to the advantage of women, yet I must call upon you to tell the tale that you had in readiness yester evening.”

“I protest, madam,” replied Saffredent, “against winning the repute of a slanderer through telling the truth, or losing the favour of virtuous ladies through relating the deeds of the wanton. I have felt what it is to lack their presence, and had I equally lacked their fair favours, I had not been alive to-day.”

So saying, he turned his eyes away from her who was the cause of his happiness and of his woe; and, looking upon Ennasuite, caused her to blush as deeply as though his words had been directed to her. Yet was he none the less understood by her whom he desired should understand him. The Lady Oisille then assured him that he might freely speak the truth at the cost of any person concerned; whereupon he thus began:—

105a. The Lady Returning to Her Lover, The Canon of Autun

[The Lady returning to her Lover, the Canon of Autun]

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     A husband is reconciled with his wife after she had lived
     during fourteen or fifteen years with a Canon of Autun.

Near the town of Autun there lived a very beautiful woman, who was tall, fair, and as handsome of feature as any I have ever seen. She was married to an honest man who seemed somewhat younger than herself, and who loved and treated her well enough to give her reason for content.

A little while after they were married, he took her to the town of Autun, where he had business; and while he was engaged with the law, his wife would go to the church to pray God for him.

She repaired so often to this holy place that a very rich Canon fell in love with her, and wooed her so urgently that the unhappy creature gave herself up to him. Her husband had no suspicion of this, however, for he gave more thought to the guarding of his property than of his wife.

When the time for departure was come, and they must needs return to their home, which was full seven leagues from the town, great was the woman’s sorrow. But the Canon promised that he would often go and see her, and this he did, pretending to be making some journey which led him past the house. The gentleman, however, was not so foolish as not to perceive the truth, and he so skilfully contrived matters, that when the Canon came thither he no longer met the wife, who was too well hidden by her husband to allow of his having any speech with her. The wife, knowing her husband’s jealousy, gave no sign that this was displeasing to her; nevertheless, she resolved to set things to rights, for she felt herself as it were in hell, deprived as she was of the sight of her God.

One day, when her husband was abroad, she found a means to occupy her servants, both men and women, after such a fashion that she was left alone in the house. Immediately, she took what was needful, and, with no company save that of the wanton love she carried with her, she repaired on foot to Autun. Here she arrived none too late to be recognised by her Canon, who kept her shut up in hiding for more than a year, and this in spite of the monitions and excommunications that were procured against him by her husband.

The latter, finding that he had no other remedy, at last complained to the Bishop, who had an Archdeacon, as worthy a man as any at that time in France. This Archdeacon himself searched with great diligence through all the Canon’s houses, until he discovered the one in which the woman was being kept in concealment, whereupon he cast her into prison, and laid heavy penance upon the Canon.

The husband, knowing that his wife had been recovered by the counsels of the Archdeacon and divers other excellent persons, was content to take her back on her swearing to him that she would live for the future as beseemed a virtuous woman.

This the worthy man in his deep love for her readily believed, and, bringing her back to his house, he treated her as honourably as before, except that he gave her two old serving-women who never left her, one or other of them being at all times with her.

But, however kindly her husband might use her, the wicked love she bore towards the Canon caused her to regard all rest as torment. And although she was a very beautiful woman and her husband a man of excellent constitution, vigorous and strong, she never had any children by him, her heart being always seven leagues away from her body; this, however, she concealed so well that it seemed to her husband that, like himself, she had wholly forgotten the past.

But in her great wickedness she was not so minded; for, just when she saw her husband most in love with her and having least suspicion, she pretended to fall ill, and continued in this pretence until her husband was in wondrous distress, and anxious to spare nought that might relieve her.

However, she played her part so exceedingly well that he, and all in the house, thought that she was sick unto death, and was growing by degrees weaker and weaker. Finding that her husband was no less grieved than he should have been glad, she begged of him that he would authorise her to make her will, and this with tears he did.

Having power of bequest, although she had no children, she gave to her husband what she could, craving at the same time his forgiveness for her wrong-doing towards him. Then she sent for the priest, confessed herself, and received the Holy Sacrament of the Altar with such devoutness, that all wept to see so glorious an end.

When the evening was come, she begged her husband to send for the extreme unction, saying that, as she was growing very weak, she was in fear lest she might not live to receive it. Her husband in all haste caused it to be brought by the priest, and she, by receiving it with very great humility, prompted every one to praise her.

After she had got through her brave mysteries, she told her husband that, having through God’s grace received all that the Church commands, she felt great peace of conscience, and would fain take some rest; and she begged him to do the like, seeing that he had great need of it after all his weeping and watching with her.

When her husband was gone, and all his servants with him, the poor old women, who had so long watched her in health and now had no fear of losing her except by death, went contentedly and comfortably to bed. As soon as she heard them asleep and loudly snoring, she rose in nothing but her shift, and went out of the room, listening to hear if any one was yet astir in the house. Taking every precaution, she then (as she well knew how) let herself out through a little garden-gate that was not shut, and, barefooted and in her shift, journeyed all night long towards Autun and the saint, who had preserved her from death.

It happened, however, that as the distance was great, she could not accomplish the whole of it before daylight overtook her. Looking then all along the road, she perceived two horsemen who were galloping at full speed, and thinking that it might be her husband in search of her, she hid herself entirely in a marsh, with her head among the reeds. As her husband (for he it was) passed close beside her, he spoke to a servant who was with him, in tones of deep despair, saying—

“Ah, the wicked woman! Who could have thought that so foul and abominable a deed could be hidden under cloak of the holy sacraments of the Church.”

“If Judas,” replied the servant, “feared not to betray his Master when he was receiving the like, a woman’s treachery is but small matter for wonder.”

At this point the husband passed on, and his wife remained among the rushes, in greater gladness at having deceived and escaped him than she had ever felt at home in a good bed but in subjection.

The poor husband sought her through all the town of Autun, but learning for certain that she had not entered it, he retraced his steps, complaining unceasingly of her and of his loss, and threatening her with nothing short of death if he should find her. Of this she had as little fear in her mind as she had of cold in her body, although the place and season might well have caused her to repent of her evil journey. And any one who did not know how the fire of hell inflames those that are filled with it, must needs wonder how it was that this unhappy woman could so leave a warm bed and continue for a whole day in the piercing cold.

Yet she neither lost courage nor gave up the journey, but, as soon as night was come, went forward once more. Just as the gate at Autun was being closed, this pilgrim arrived thither and repaired straight to the shrine of her saint, who was in great wonder at her coming, and could scarcely believe that it was indeed she. But when he had carefully looked at her and examined her at all points, he found that, unlike a spirit, she was really possessed of bone and flesh, and so became convinced that she was no ghost.

And thenceforward they agreed so well together that she dwelt with the Canon for fourteen or fifteen years.

Although for a time she lived in concealment, in the end she lost all fear, and (what is worse) became so exceedingly proud of her lover that at church she would set herself before most of the honourable women of the town, wives of officials and others. Moreover, she had children by the Canon, and among others a daughter who was married to a rich merchant, and who had so magnificent a wedding that all the women of the town murmured exceedingly, yet were powerless to set the affair to rights.

Now it happened that at this time Queen Claude, wife of King Francis, passed through the town of Autun, having with her my Lady the Regent, mother of the King aforesaid, and the Duchess of Alençon, her daughter. (1) One of the Queen’s waiting-women, named Perrette, came to the Duchess and said—

“Madam, I pray you listen to me, and you will do a better deed than if you went to hear the whole day’s service at the church.”

     1  This would have occurred in the late autumn of 1515, when
     the Court journeyed southward to meet Francis I. on his
     return from the Marignano campaign.—Ed.

The Duchess gave ready heed, knowing that nought but good counsel could come from her. Then Perrette forthwith told her how she had taken a young girl to help her in washing the Queen’s linen, and how, on asking the news of the town, she had heard from her the vexation which all the honourable women endured at seeing the Canon’s mistress go before them, together with some of the history of the wicked woman’s life.

The Duchess went immediately to the Queen and my Lady the Regent, and told them the story; and they, without any form of law, sent for the unhappy woman. The latter sought no concealment, for her shame was turned to pride at being mistress in the household of so rich a man; and hence, with no feeling of confusion or disgrace, she presented herself before the ladies aforesaid, who were so abashed by her hardihood that at first they knew not what to say. After a time, however, my Lady the Regent rebuked her in a fashion which would have made a right-thinking woman weep, though this unhappy creature did not do so, but with great boldness said—

“I pray you, ladies, let my honour go unscathed, for, God be praised, I have lived so well and virtuously with the Canon that no person alive can say aught against me. And let it not be thought that I am living in opposition to the will of God, since, for three years past, the Canon has not come near me, and we live together as chastely and as lovingly as two little angels, without any speech or wish between us to the contrary. And any one separating us will commit a great sin, for the worthy man, who is nigh eighty years old, will not live long without me, who am forty-five.”

You may imagine how the ladies then comported themselves, and what remonstrance they all made with her; but, in spite of the words that were spoken, and her own age, and the honourable indignation of those present, her obstinacy was not softened. That she might be the more effectually humbled, they sent for the good Archdeacon of Autun, and he condemned her to lie in prison for a year, faring on bread and water. The ladies further sent for her husband, and he, after hearing their excellent exhortations, was content to take her back again after she should have performed her penance.

But when she found that she was a prisoner, and that the Canon was resolved to have her back no more, she thanked the ladies for having taken a devil off her shoulders, and showed such deep and perfect contrition that her husband, instead of waiting until the year should have expired, came and asked her of the Archdeacon before a fortnight was over; and since then they have lived together in all peace and affection.

“You see, ladies, how the chains of St. Peter are by wicked ministers converted into those of Satan, which it is so hard to break that even the sacraments, which cast out devils from the body, are here the means of making them abide longer in the conscience; for the best things, when abused, bring about most evil.”

“Truly,” said Oisille, “this woman was a very wicked one, but at the same time she was well punished by her appearance before such judges as the ladies you have named. The mere glance of the Lady Regent had such power that never was there a woman, however virtuous, that did not dread being found unworthy in her sight. Those who were looked upon kindly by her deemed that they had earned a high honour, knowing as they did that none but virtuous women were favoured by her.” (2)

     2  We are asked to believe that Oisille is none other than
     the Lady Regent (Louise of Savoy), but is it likely she
     would thus speak of herself? We can scarcely conceive Queen
     Margaret perpetrating such a flagrant anachronism.—Ed.

“It were indeed a fine thing,” said Hircan, “that there should be greater dread of a woman’s eyes than of the Holy Sacrament, which, if it be not received in faith and charity, brings with it eternal damnation.”

“Those,” said Parlamente, “who are not inspired by God are, I promise you, in greater dread of the temporal than of the spiritual powers. And I believe that the poor creature was brought to mend her ways rather by her imprisonment and the thought of seeing her Canon no more, than by any remonstrance that might have been made to her.”

“Nay,” said Simontault, “you have forgotten the chief cause of her return to her husband, which was that the Canon was eighty years old, whilst her husband was younger than herself; so the worthy lady had the best of all her bargains. Had the Canon been young, she would not have been willing to forsake him, and the admonitions of the ladies would have been as ineffectual as the sacraments.”

“Further,” said Nomerfide, “I think she did well not to confess her sin so readily; such an offence ought to be humbly acknowledged to God, but stoutly denied before men. Even though it be true, still, by deception and swearing, doubt may be cast upon it.”

“Not so,” said Longarine. “A sin can scarcely be so secret that it will not become revealed, unless God in His pity conceal it, as in the case of those who for love of Himself have truly repented.”

“And what,” said Hircan, “will you say of those women who have no sooner done a deed of folly than they tell some one about it?”

“I think that a strange thing,” answered Longarine, “and a sign that sin is not displeasing to them. If, as I said, a sin is not covered by the mercy of God, it cannot be denied before men; there are many who, delighting in such talk, glory to make their vices known, whilst others who contradict themselves in this way become their own accusers.”

“If you know any such instance,” said Saffredent, “I give you my place and beg you to tell it us.”

“Listen then,” said Longarine.

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119a. The Gentleman’s Spur Catching in The Sheet

[The Gentleman’s Spur catching in the Sheet]

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     A lady’s tongue tripped so awkwardly whilst she was telling
     a story, as if of another, to a dame of high degree, that
     her honour thenceforward bore a stain which she could never

In the time of King Francis the First there lived a lady of the blood royal, who was endowed with honour, virtue and beauty, and well knew how to tell a story with grace and to laugh at such as might be told to her. (1) This lady being at one of her houses, all her subjects and neighbours came to see her; for she was as much liked as it were possible for woman to be.

     1  M. de Lincy thinks that this lady may be Louise of Savoy,
     who was very fond of listening to stories of an equivocal
     character. This, it may be pointed out, is one of the
     reasons why the commentators of the Heptameron suppose her
     to be Oisille, though the latter in the conversational
     passages following the tales displays considerable prudery
     and devoutness. That Louise was a woman of extremely amorous
     tendency is well known; we need, indeed, no better proof of
     it than her unseemly passion for the Constable de Bourbon
     when she was five-and-forty years of age. If she be the lady
     of royal blood spoken of above, the incidents of the tale
     may have occurred in the Bourbonnais, a considerable portion
     of which passed into her hands after the flight of the
     Constable from France. It will be noted that allusion is
     made to the lady’s subjects, showing that she exercised a
     feudal sway. As one of the commentators of the Heptameron
     has pointed out, Queen Margaret always saw her mother—that
     “donna terribilissima!” as De Lussy called her—in such an
     ideal light that M. de Lincy’s surmise may well be a correct
     one despite the attributes of honour, virtue and beauty
     bestowed on the lady whom she speaks of.—Ed.

Among others there came a lady who hearkened whilst the rest told every story they could think of in order to amuse the Princess. This lady then resolved that she would not be behind the others, and accordingly said—

“Madam, I will tell you a fine story, but you must promise me not to speak of it.”

Then she forthwith continued—

“The story, madam, is on my conscience a perfectly true one, and concerns a married lady who lived in all honour with her husband, although he was old and she was young. A gentleman who was her neighbour, seeing her married to this old man, fell in love with her, and importuned her for several years; but never received of her any reply save such as a virtuous woman should make. One day the gentleman bethought him that if he could take her at a disadvantage she might perchance be less harsh towards him, and, after he had for a long while weighed the danger that he might run, his love for the lady wholly banished his fears, and he resolved to find a time and place. He kept excellent watch, and so one morning, when the lady’s husband was going to another of his houses, and leaving at daybreak by reason of the heat, the young gallant came to the house, where he found the lady asleep in her bed, and perceived that the serving-women were gone out of the room.

“Then, without having sense enough to fasten the door, he got into the lady’s bed all booted and spurred as he was, and when she awoke, she was as distressed as she could possibly be. But in spite of any remonstrance that she could make to him, he took her by force, saying that if she should make the matter known he would tell every one that she had sent for him; and at this the lady was so greatly afraid that she durst not cry out. Afterwards, on some of her women coming in, he rose in haste and would have been perceived by none if his spur, which had become fastened in the upper sheet, had not drawn it right off, leaving the lady quite naked in her bed.”

So far the lady had told the story as if of another, but at the end she involuntarily said—

“Never was a woman so confounded as I was, when I found myself lying quite naked.”

At these last words the lady, who had hitherto hearkened to the story without laughing, could not refrain from doing so, and said—

“By what I can see, you are well qualified to tell the tale.”

The poor lady tried in every possible way to clear her honour, but it was already flown so far away that she was never able to recall it.

“I assure you, ladies, that had she felt any deep displeasure in doing such a deed, she would have desired to forget it. But, as I have told you, sin will of itself be discovered before it could otherwise be known, unless it be hidden by the mantle which, as David says, makes man blessed.”

“In good sooth,” said Ennasuite, “she was the greatest fool I have ever heard of, to make the others laugh at her own expense.”

“I do not deem it strange,” said Parlamente, “that the word should follow the deed, for it is easier to say than to do.”

“Why,” said Geburon, “what sin had she committed? She was asleep in her bed, he threatened her with shame and death; Lucrèce, who is so highly praised, did just the same.”

“That is true,” said Parlamente, “and I confess that there is none too righteous to fall. But when one has felt great offence in the deed, the same holds good of the recollection; and whereas Lucrèce to efface the latter killed herself, this foolish woman tried to make others laugh.”

“Nevertheless,” said Nomerfide, “it seems that she was a virtuous woman, seeing that she had been many times entreated but would never consent, so that the gentleman must needs resort to treachery and force in order to wrong her.”

“What!” said Parlamente. “Do you think that a woman has answered for her honour, when she gives herself up after refusing two or three times? There would then be many virtuous women among those that are deemed the opposite, for many of them have been known to refuse for a long while those to whom their hearts had been given, some doing this through fear for their honour, and others in order to make themselves still more ardently loved and esteemed. No account, therefore, should be made of a woman unless she stands firm to the end. But if a man refuse a beautiful girl, do you regard that as great virtue?”

“Truly,” said Oisille, “if a young and lusty man so refused, I should hold it worthy of high praise, but none the less difficult of belief.”

“Yet,” said Dagoucin, “I know one who refused to partake in amours that were sought after by all his comrades.”

“I pray you,” said Longarine, “take my place and tell us the tale, yet remember that you must here utter the truth.”

“I promise you,” said Dagoucin, “that I will tell it in all its simplicity, without any colouring or disguise.”

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125a. The King Asking The Young Lord to Join his Banquet

[The King asking the Young Lord to join his Banquet]

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     A gentleman’s refusal of an amour that was sought after by
     all his comrades, was imputed to him as great virtue, and
     his wife loved him and esteemed him in consequence far more
     than before. (1)

In the city of Paris there lived four girls, of whom two were sisters, and such was their beauty, youth and freshness, that they were run after by all the gallants. A gentleman, however, who at that time held the office of Provost of Paris (2) from the King, seeing that his master was young, of an age to desire such company, so cleverly contrived matters with all four of the damsels that each, thinking herself intended for the King, agreed to what the aforesaid Provost desired. This was that they should all of them be present at a feast to which he invited his master.

     1  This story, omitted by Boaistuau, was included in
     Gruget’s edition of the Heptameron.—L.

     2  This is John de la Barre, already alluded to in Tale I.
     The Journal d’un Bourgeois de Paris tells us that he was
     born in Paris of poor parents, and became a favourite of
     Francis I., who appointed him Bailiff of the capital,
     without requiring him to pay any of the dues attaching to
     the office. From the roll of the royal household for 1522,
     we also find that he was then a gentleman of the bed chamber
     with 1200 livres salary, master of the wardrobe (a post
     worth 200 livres) and governor of the pages, for the board
     and clothing of whom he received 5000 livres annually. In
     1526 he became Provost as well as Bailiff of Paris, the two
     offices then being amalgamated. He was further created Count
     of Etampes, and acquired the lordship of Veretz, best
     remembered by its associations with the murder of Paul Louis
     Courier. La Barre fought at Pavia, was taken prisoner with
     the King, and remained his constant companion during his
     captivity. Several letters of his, dating from this period
     and of great historical interest, are still extant; some of
     them have been published by Champollion-Figeac (Captivité
     de François Ier) and Génin (Lettres de Marguerite, &c).
     Under date 1533 (o. s.) the “Bourgeois de Paris” writes in
     his Journal: “At the beginning of March there died in
     Paris, at the house of Monsieur Poncher, Monsieur le Prévost
     de Paris, named de La Barre.... The King was then in Paris,
     at his chateau of the Louvre, and there was great pomp at
     the obsequies; and he was borne to his lordship of Veretz,
     near Tours, that he might be buried there.” Numerous
     particulars concerning La Barre will also be found in M. de
     Laborde’s Comptes des Bâtiments du Roi au XVIeme Siècle.—
     L. and Ed.

He told the latter his plan, which was approved both by the Prince and by two other great personages of the Court, all three agreeing together to share in the spoil.

While they were looking for a fourth comrade, there arrived a handsome and honourable lord who was ten years younger than the others. He was invited to the banquet, but although he accepted with a cheerful countenance, in his heart he had no desire for it. For on the one part he had a wife who was the mother of handsome children, and with whom he lived in great happiness, and in such peacefulness that on no account would he have had her suspect evil of him. And on the other hand he was the lover of one of the handsomest ladies of her time in France, whom he loved and esteemed so greatly that all other women seemed to him ugly beside her.

In his early youth, before he was married, he had found it impossible to gaze upon and associate with other women, however beautiful they might be; for he took more delight in gazing upon his sweetheart, and in perfectly loving her, than in having all that another might have given him.

This lord, then, went to his wife and told her secretly of the enterprise that his master had in hand, saying that he would rather die than do what he had promised. For (he told her) just as there was no living man whom he would not venture to attack in anger, although he would rather die than commit a causeless and wilful murder unless his honour compelled him to it; even so, unless driven by extreme love, such as may serve to blind virtuous men, he would rather die than break his marriage vow to gratify another.

On hearing these words of his, and finding that so much honour dwelt in one so young, his wife loved and esteemed him more than she had ever done before, and inquired how he thought he might best excuse himself, since Princes often frown on those who do not praise what they like.

“I have always heard,” he replied, “that a wise man has a journey or a sickness in his sleeve for use in time of need. I have therefore resolved that I will feign a grievous sickness four or five days beforehand, and in this matter your countenance may render me true service.”

“Tis a worthy and holy hypocrisy,” said his wife, “and I will not fail to serve you with the saddest face I can command; for he who can avoid offending God and angering the Prince is fortunate indeed.”

As it was resolved, so was it done, and the King was very sorry to hear from the wife of her husband’s sickness. This, however, lasted no long time; for, on account of certain business which arose, the King disregarded his pleasure to attend to his duty, and betook himself away from Paris.

However, one day, remembering their unfinished undertaking, he said to the young lord:—

“We were very foolish to leave so suddenly without seeing the four girls who are declared to be the fairest in my kingdom.”

“I am very glad,” replied the young lord, “that you failed in the matter, for I was in great fear that, by reason of my sickness, I should be the only one to miss so pleasant an adventure.”

By reason of this answer the King never suspected the dissimulation of the young lord, who was thenceforward loved by his wife more dearly than he had ever been before.

Hereupon Parlamente began to laugh, and could not hold from saying—

“He would have loved his wife better if he had done this for love of her alone. But in any case he is worthy of great praise.”

“It seems to me,” said Hircan, “that it is no great merit in a man to keep his chastity for love of his wife, inasmuch as there are many reasons which in a manner compel him to do so. In the first place, God commands it; his marriage vow binds him to it, and, further, surfeited nature is not liable to temptation or desire as necessity is. But when the unfettered love that a man bears towards a mistress of whom he has no delight, and no other happiness save that of seeing her and speaking with her, and from whom he often receives harsh replies—when this love is so loyal and steadfast that nothing can ever make it change, I say that such chastity is not simply praiseworthy but miraculous.”

“‘Tis no miracle in my opinion,” said Oisille, “for when the heart is plighted, nothing is impossible to the body.”

“True,” said Hircan; “to bodies which have become those of angels.”

“I do not speak only of those,” said Oisille, “who by the grace of God are wholly transformed into Himself, but of the grosser spirits that we see here below among men. And, if you give heed, you will find that those who have set their hearts and affections upon seeking after the perfection of the sciences, have forgotten not only the lust of the flesh, but even the most needful matters, such as food and drink; for so long as the soul is stirred within the body, so long does the flesh continue as though insensible. Thence comes it that those who love handsome, honourable and virtuous women have such happiness of spirit in seeing them and speaking with them, that the flesh is lulled in all its desires. Those who cannot feel this happiness are the carnally-minded, who, wrapped in their exceeding fatness, cannot tell whether they have a soul or not. But, when the body is in subjection to the spirit, it is as though heedless of the failings of the flesh, and the beliefs of such persons may render them insensible of the same. I knew a gentleman who, to show that he loved his mistress more dearly than did any other man, proved it to all his comrades by holding his bare fingers in the flame of a candle. And then, with his eyes fixed upon his mistress, he remained firm until he had burned himself to the bone, and yet said that he had felt no hurt.”

“Methinks,” said Geburon, “that the devil whose martyr he was ought to have made a St. Lawrence of him; for there are few whose love-flame is hot enough to keep them from fearing that of the smallest taper. But if a lady had suffered me to endure so much hurt for her sake, I should either have sought a rich reward or else have taken my love away from her.”

“So,” said Parlamente, “you would have your hour after the lady had had hers? That was what was done by a gentleman of the neighbourhood of Valencia in Spain, whose story was told to me by a captain, a right worthy man.”

“I pray you, madam,” said Dagoucin, “take my place and tell it us, for I am sure that it must be a good one.”

“This story, ladies,” said Parlamente, “will teach you both to think twice when you are inclined to give a refusal and to lay aside the thought that the present will always continue; and so, knowing that it is subject to mutation, you will have a care for the time to come.”

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133a. The Lady Swooning in The Arms of The Gentleman Of Valencia Who Had Become a Monk

[The Lady Swooning in the Arms of the Gentleman of Valencia who had become a Monk]

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     After a lady had for the space of five or six years made
     trial of the love that a certain gentleman bore her, she
     desired to have a still stronger proof of it, and reduced
     him to such despair that he turned monk, on which account
     she was not able to win him back again when she would fain
     have done so.

In the city of Valencia there lived a gentleman, who for the space of five or six years had loved a lady so perfectly that the honour and conscience of neither of them had taken any hurt; for his intent was to have her as his wife, and this was reasonable, seeing that he was handsome, rich and of good descent. But, before he became her lover, he first inquired concerning her own mind, whereupon she declared herself willing to marry according to the counsels of her kinsfolk. The latter, being come together for the purpose, deemed the marriage a very reasonable one provided that the maiden was herself disposed to it; but she—whether because she thought to do better or because she wished to hide her love for him—-made some difficulty, and the company separated, not without regret at having failed to conclude a match so well suited to both parties.

The most grieved of all was the poor gentleman, who would have borne his misfortune with patience had he thought that the fault lay with the kinsfolk and not with her; but he knew the truth, and the knowledge was to him worse than death. So, without speaking to his sweetheart or to any other person, he withdrew to his own house, and, after setting his affairs in order, betook himself to a solitary spot, where he strove to forget his love and change it wholly to that love of our Lord which were truly a higher duty than the other.

During this time he received no tidings of his mistress or her kindred, and he therefore resolved that, since he had failed to obtain the happiest life he could hope for, he would choose the most austere and disagreeable that he could imagine. With this sad intent, which might well have been called despair, he went and became a monk in the monastery of St. Francis. This monastery was not far from the dwellings of divers of his kinsfolk, who, on hearing of his desperate condition, did all that in them lay to hinder his purpose; but this was so firmly rooted in his heart that it was not possible to turn him from it.

Nevertheless, as the source of his distemper was known to them, they determined to seek the cure, and so repaired to her who was the cause of his sudden devoutness. She was greatly astonished and grieved by this mischance, for, in refusing for a time, she had thought only to test his affection, not to lose it for ever. Seeing now the evident risk that she ran of doing this last, she sent him a letter, which, ill-translated, was as follows:—

     “Since love, if tested not full needfully,
     Steadfast and faithful is not shown to be,
     By length of time my heart would that assay
     Whereon itself was set to love alway—
     To wit, a husband with that true love filled
     Such as no lapsing time has ever killed.
     This, then, was the sole reason that I drew
     My kin to hinder for a year or two
     That closest tie which lasts till life is not,
     And whereby woe is oftentimes begot.
     Yet sought I not to have you wholly sent
     Away; such was in no wise my intent,
     For none save you could I have e’er adored
     Or looked to as my husband and my lord.
     But woe is me, what tidings reach mine ear!
     That you, to lead the cloistered life austere,
     Are gone with speech to none; whereat the pain
     That ever holds me, now can brook no rein,
     But forces me mine own estate to slight
     For that which yours aforetime was of right;
     To seek him out who once sought me alone,
     And win him who myself has sometimes won.
     Nay then, my love, life of the life in me,
     For loss of whom I fain would cease to be,
     Turn hither, graciously, those eyes of pain
     And trace those wandering footsteps back again.
     Leave the grey robe and its austerity,
     Come back and taste of that felicity
     Which often you desired, and which to-day
     Time has nor slain, nor swept away.
     For you alone I’ve kept myself; and I,
     Lacking your presence, cannot choose but die.
     Come back then; in your sweetheart have belief,
     And for past memories find cool relief
     In holy marriage-ties. Ah! then, my dear,
     To me, not to your pride give ready ear,
     And rest of this assured, I had no thought
     To give, sweetheart, to you offence in aught,
     But only yearned your faithfulness to prove
     And then to make you happy with my love.
     But now that through this trial, free from scathe,
     Are come your steadfastness and patient faith,
     And all that loyal love to me is known,
     Which at the last has made me yours alone,
     Come, my beloved, take what is your due
     And wholly yield to me, as I to you!”

This letter, brought by a friend of hers with every remonstrance that it was possible to make, was received and read by the gentleman friar with such sadness of countenance, such sighs and such tears, that it seemed as though he would drown and burn the poor epistle. But he made no reply to it, except to tell the messenger that the mortification of his exceeding passion had cost him so dear as to have taken from him both the wish to live and the fear to die. He therefore requested her who had been the cause of this, that since she had not chosen to satisfy his passionate longings, she would, now that he was rid of them, abstain from tormenting him, and rest content with the evil which was past. For that evil he could find no remedy but the choice of an austere life, which by continual penance might bring him to forget his grief, and, by fasts and disciplines, subdue his body, till the thought of death should be to him but a sovereign consolation. Above all, he begged that he might never hear of her, since he found the mere remembrance of her name a purgatory not to be endured.

The gentleman went back with this mournful reply, and reported it to the maiden who did not hear it without intolerable sorrow. But Love, which will not suffer the spirit utterly to fail, gave her the thought that, if she could see him, her words and presence might be of more effect than the writing. She therefore, with her father and the nearest of her kin, went to the monastery where he abode. She had left nothing in her box that might set off her beauty, for she felt sure that, could he but once look at her and hear her, the fire that had so long dwelt in both their hearts must of necessity be kindled again in greater strength than before.

Coming thus into the monastery towards the end of vespers, she sent for him to come to her in a chapel that was in the cloister. He, knowing not who it was that sought him, went in all ignorance to the sternest battle in which he had ever been. When she saw him so pale and wan that she could hardly recognise him, yet filled with grace, in no whit less winning than of yore, Love made her stretch out her arms to embrace him, whilst her pity at seeing him in such a plight so enfeebled her heart, that she sank swooning to the floor.

The poor monk, who was not void of brotherly charity, lifted her up and set her upon a seat in the chapel. Although he had no less need of aid than she had, he feigned to be unaware of her passion, and so strengthened his heart in the love of God against the opportunities now present with him, that, judging by his countenance, he seemed not to know what was actually before him. Having recovered from her weakness, she turned upon him her beautiful, piteous eyes, which were enough to soften a rock, and began to utter all such discourse as she believed apt to draw him from the place in which he now was. He replied as virtuously as he was able; but at last, finding that his heart was being softened by his sweetheart’s abundant tears, and perceiving that Love, the cruel archer whose pains he long had known, was ready with his golden dart to deal him fresh and more deadly wounds, he fled both from Love and from his sweetheart, like one whose only resource lay, indeed, in flight.

When he was shut up in his room, not desiring to let her go without some settlement of the matter, he wrote her a few words in Spanish, which seem to me so excellent in their matter that I would not by translating them mar their grace. These were brought to her by a little novice, who found her still in the chapel and in such despair that, had it been lawful, she too would have remained there and turned friar. But when she saw the words, which were these—

     “Volvete don venesti, anima mia,
     Que en las tristas vidas es la mia,” (1)

she knew that all hope was gone, and she resolved to follow the advice of him and her friends, and so returned home, there to lead a life as melancholy as that of her lover in his monastery was austere.

     1  “Return whence thou earnest, my soul,
     for among the sad lives is mine.”’

“You see, ladies, what vengeance the gentleman took upon his harsh sweetheart, who, thinking to try him, reduced him to such despair that, when she would have regained him, she could not do so.”

“I am sorry,” said Nomerfide, “that he did not lay aside his gown and marry her. It would, I think, have been a perfect marriage.”

“In good sooth,” said Simontault, “I think he was very wise. Anyone who well considers what marriage is will deem it no less grievous than a monkish life. Moreover, being so greatly weakened by fasts and abstinence, he feared to take upon him a burden of that kind which lasts all through life.”

“Methinks,” said Hircan, “she wronged so feeble a man by tempting him to marriage, for ‘tis too much for the strongest man alive; but had she spoken to him of love, free from any obligation but that of the will, there is no friar’s cord that would not have been untied. However, since she sought to draw him out of purgatory by offering him hell, I think that he was quite right to refuse her, and to let her feel the pain that her own refusal had cost him.”

“By my word,” said Ennasuite, “there are many who, thinking to do better than their fellows, do either worse or else the very opposite of what they desire.”

“Truly,” said Geburon, “you remind me—though, indeed, the matter is not greatly to the point—of a woman who did the opposite of what she desired, and so caused a great uproar in the church of St. John of Lyons.”

“I pray you,” said Parlamente, “take my place and tell us about it.”

“My story,” said Geburon, “will not be so long or so piteous as the one we have heard from Parlamente.”

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143a. The Old Woman Startled by The Waking of The Soldier

[The Old Woman startled by the Waking of the Soldier]

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     Though the priests of St. John of Lyons would fain have
     concealed it, the falsity of a miracle was brought to light
     through an old woman’s folly becoming known. (1)

In the church of St. John of Lyons there is a very dark chapel, and inside it a stone tomb with figures of great personages raised life-like upon it, whilst several men-at-arms lie all around it.

     1  We believe that the incident here narrated occurred early
     in 1525, when Margaret is known to have been at Lyons. She
     and her husband (on his return from Pavia) resided there at
     the house of the Obédiencier de St. Just, and it was in the
     church of St. Just that the Duke of Alençon was buried.
     Doubtless it was during his illness that the novena
     alluded to in the final tale of the Heptameron was
     performed by Queen Margaret at the church of St. John of
     Lyons, where the two most important chapels, according to
     Quincarnon’s Antiquités et la fondation de la Métropole
     des Gaules, &c., Lyons, 1673, were the Most Holy Eucharist,
     or Bourbon chapel, built in 1449 by Charles de Bourbon,
     Primate of Gaul, and the Holy Sepulchre, or Good Friday
     chapel, erected at the beginning of the fifteenth century by
     Philip de Turey, Archbishop of Lyons. Unfortunately the
     church of St. John was in 1652 devastated by the Huguenots,
     who in their insensate fury destroyed almost all the tombs.
     It is therefore now impossible to identify the chapel and
     tomb to which the Queen of Navarre refers in the above
     story, though her allusion to the dimness of the light would
     incline us to place the incident she recounts in the
     Chapelle du St. Sépulcre.—L. and Ed.

One day a soldier, walking in the church at the very height of summer, felt inclined to sleep, and, looking at this dark, cool chapel, resolved to go and guard the tomb in sleep like the rest; (2) and accordingly he lay down beside them. Now it chanced that a very pious old woman came in while his sleep was the soundest, and having performed her devotions, holding a lighted taper in her hand, she sought to fix this taper to the tomb. Finding that the sleeping man was nearest to her, she tried to set it upon his forehead, thinking that it was of stone; but the wax would not stick to such stone as this, whereupon the worthy dame, believing that the reason of it was the coldness of the statue, applied the flame to the sleeper’s forehead, that she might the better fix the taper on it. At this, however, the statue, which was not without feeling, began to cry out.

     2  Meaning the recumbent statues of the men-at-arms.—Ed.

The good woman was then in exceeding fear, and set herself to shout, “A miracle! a miracle!” until all who were in the church ran, some to ring the bells, and the rest to view the miracle. The good woman forthwith took them to see the statue that had stirred, whereupon many found food for laughter; though the greater number were unable to feel any content, inasmuch as they had really determined to make profit out of the tomb, and to gain as much money by it as by the crucifix on their pulpit, which is said to have spoken. (3) But when the woman’s folly became known the farce came to an end. If all knew of their follies, they would not be accounted holy nor their miracles true. And I would beg you, ladies, to see henceforward to what saints you offer your candles. (4)

     3  The crucifix in the church of St. John was mainly of
     silver, and, according to Quincarnon, at the time of a
     Huguenot outbreak at Lyons it was thrown to the ground by a
     Calvinist minister named Ruffy, who, after reducing it to
     fragments, carried all the precious metal away with him.—M.

     4  The latter portion of this story and all the dialogue
     that follows it are omitted by Boaistuau in his edition.
     Gruget inserted the dialogue, but he did not dare to print
     the passage respecting the talking crucifix.—L.

“‘Tis notable,” said Hircan, “that, whatever the matter in question may be, women always do wrong.”

“Is it wrong,” asked Nomerfide, “to bring candles to a tomb?”

“Yes,” said Hircan, “if the flame be turned against a man’s forehead; for nothing good should be called good if it be attended with evil. You may be sure that the poor woman thought she had made a fine gift to God with her little candle.”

“I look not to the gift,” said Oisille, “but to the heart that offers it. Perhaps this worthy woman had more love for God than those who offer great torches; for, as the Gospel says, she gave of her need.”

“Still, I no not believe,” said Saffredent, “that God, who is sovereign wisdom, can be pleased with the foolishness of women. Although simplicity is pleasing to Him, I see from the Scriptures that He despises the ignorant; and if He commands us to be as harmless as the dove, He none the less commands us to be wise like the serpent.”

“For my part,” said Oisille, “I do not call the woman ignorant who brings her candle or burning taper into the presence of God, and makes amends for her wrongdoing on bended knees before her sovereign Lord, confessing her unworthiness and with steadfast hope seeking pity and salvation.”

“Would to God,” said Dagoucin, “that all understood it in the same way as you; but I do not believe that these poor fools do it with the intent you say.”

“The women,” said Oisille, “who are least able to speak are just those who are most sensible of the love and will of God; wherefore ‘tis well to judge none but ourselves.”

Ennasuite laughed and said—“‘Tis no wonderful thing to have frightened a sleeping varlet, since women of as lowly condition have frightened noble Princes, without putting fire to their foreheads.”

“I am sure,” said Geburon, “that you know some such story, which you are willing to relate; wherefore, if it please you, you shall take my place.”

“The tale will not be a long one,” said Ennasuite, “but, could I recount it just as it happened, you would have no desire to weep.”

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149a. The Old Serving-woman Explaining Her Mistake To The Duke and Duchess of Vendôme

[The Old Serving-woman explaining her Mistake
to the Duke and Duchess of Vendôme]

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     The Duke of Vendôme and the Princess of Navarre, whilst
     resting together one afternoon, were surprised by an old
     serving-woman, who took them for a prothonotary and a damsel
     between whom she suspected some affection; and, through this
     fine justicement, a matter, of which intimates were
     ignorant, was made known to strangers.

In the year when the Duke of Vendôme married the Princess of Navarre, (1) the King and Queen, their parents, after feasting at Vendôme, went with them into Guienne, and, visiting a gentleman’s house where there were many honourable and beautiful ladies, the newly married pair danced so long in this excellent company that they became weary, and, withdrawing to their chamber, lay down in their clothes upon the bed and fell asleep, doors and windows being shut and none remaining with them.

     1  It was in October 1548, some eighteen months after Henry
     II. had succeeded Francis I., that Anthony de Bourbon, Duke
     of Vendôme, who after the King’s children held the first
     rank in France, was married at Moulins to Margaret’s
     daughter Jane of Navarre. The Duke was then thirty and Jane
     twenty years old. “I never saw so joyous a bride,” wrote
     Henry II. to Montmorency, “she never does anything but
     laugh.” She was indeed well pleased with the match, the
     better so, perhaps, as her husband had settled 100,000
     livres on her, a gift which was the more acceptable by
     reason of her extravagant tastes and love of display. Ste.
     Marthe, in his Oraison Funèbre on Queen Margaret, speaks
     of her daughter’s marriage as “a most fortunate
     conjunction,” and refers to her son-in-law as “the most
     valiant and magnanimous Prince Anthony, Duke of Vendôme,
     whose admirable virtues have so inclined all France to love
     and revere him, that princes and nobles, the populace, the
     great and the humble alike, no sooner hear his name
     mentioned than they forthwith wish him and beg God to bestow
     on him all possible health and prosperity.”—Ed

Just, however, when their sleep was at its soundest, they were awakened by their door being opened from without, and the Duke drew the curtain and looked to see who it might be, suspecting indeed that it was one of his friends who was minded to surprise him. But he perceived a tall, old bed-chamber woman come in and walk straight up to their bed, where, for the darkness of the room, she could not recognise them. Seeing them, however, quite close together, she began to cry out—

“Thou vile and naughty wanton! I have long suspected thee to be what thou art, yet for lack of proof spoke not of it to my mistress. But now thy vileness is so clearly shown that I shall in no sort conceal it; and thou, foul renegade, who hast wrought such shame in this house by the undoing of this poor wench, if it were not for the fear of God, I would e’en cudgel thee where thou liest. Get up, in the devil’s name, get up, for methinks even now thou hast no shame.”

The Duke of Vendôme and the Princess hid their faces against each other in order to have the talk last longer, and they laughed so heartily that they were not able to utter a word. Finding that for all her threats they were not willing to rise, the serving-woman came closer in order to pull them by the arms. Then she at once perceived both from their faces and from their dress that they were not those whom she sought, and, recognising them, she flung herself upon her knees, begging them to pardon her error in thus robbing them of their rest.

But the Duke of Vendôme was not content to know so little, and rising forthwith, he begged the old woman to say for whom she had taken them. This at first she was not willing to do; but at last, after he had sworn to her never to reveal it, she told him that there was a girl in the house with whom a prothonotary (2) was in love, and that she had long kept a watch on them, since it pleased her little to see her mistress trusting in a man who was working this shame towards her. She then left the Prince and Princess shut in as she had found them, and they laughed for a long while over their adventure. And, although they afterwards told the story they would never name any of the persons concerned.

     2  The office of apostolic prothonotary was instituted by
     Pope Clement I., there being at first twelve such officers,
     whose duty was to write the lives of the saints and other
     apostolic records. Gradually their number so increased, that
     in the fifteenth century the title of prothonotary had come
     to be merely an honorary dignity, conferred as a matter of
     course on doctors of theology of noble family, or otherwise
     of note. In the role of Francis I.‘s household for 1522, we
     find but one prothonotary mentioned, but in that for 1529
     there are twelve. More than one of them might have been
     called un letrado que no tenia muchas letras, as Brantôme
     wrote of Thomas de Lescun, Prothonotary of Foix and
     afterwards Marshal of France. “In those days,” adds the
     author of Les Grands Capitaines Français, “it was usual
     for prothonotaries and even for those of good family not to
     have much learning, but to enjoy themselves, hunt, make love
     and seduce the wives of the poor gentlemen who were gone to
     the wars.”—OEuvres complètes de Brantôme, 8vo edit., vol.
     ii. p. 144.—L. and Ed.

“You see, ladies, how the worthy dame, whilst thinking to do a fine deed of justice, made known to strange princes a matter of which the servants of the house had never heard.”

“I think I know,” said Parlamente, “in whose house it was, and who the prothonotary is; for he has governed many a lady’s house, and when he cannot win the mistress’s favour he never fails to have that of one of the maids. In other matters, however, he is an honourable and worthy man.”

“Why do you say ‘in other matters’?” said Hircan. “Tis for that very behaviour that I deem him so worthy a man.”

“I can see,” said Parlamente, “that you know the sickness and the sufferer, and that, if he needed excuse, you would not fail him as advocate. Yet I would not trust myself to a man who could not contrive his affairs without having them known to the serving-women.”

“And do you imagine,” said Nomerfide, “that men care whether such a matter be known if only they can compass their end? You may be sure that, even if none spoke of it but themselves, it would still of necessity be known.”

“They have no need,” said Hircan angrily, “to say all that they know.”

“Perhaps,” she replied, blushing, “they would not say it to their own advantage.”

“Judging from your words,” said Simontault, “it would seem that men delight in hearing evil spoken about women, and I am sure that you reckon me among men of that kind. I therefore greatly wish to speak well of one of your sex, in order that I may not be held a slanderer by all the rest.”

“I give you my place,” said Ennasuite, “praying you withal to control your natural disposition, so that you may acquit yourself worthily in our honour.”

Forthwith Simontault began—

“Tis no new thing, ladies, to hear of some virtuous act on your part which, methinks, should not be hidden but rather written in letters of gold, that it may serve women as an example, and give men cause for admiration at seeing in the weaker sex that from which weakness is prone to shrink. I am prompted, therefore, to relate something that I heard from Captain Robertval and divers of his company.”

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155a. The Wife Reading to Her Husband on The Desert Island

[The Wife Reading to her Husband on the Desert Island]

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     A poor woman risked her own life to save that of her
     husband, whom she forsook not until death.

The Captain Robertval aforesaid once made a voyage across the seas to the island of Canadas, (1) himself being chief in command by the appointment of the King, his master. And there, if the air of the country were good, he had resolved to dwell and to build towns and castles. With this work he made such a beginning as is known to all; and to people the country with Christians he took with him all kinds of artificers, among whom was a most wicked man, who betrayed his master and put him in danger of being captured by the natives. But God willed that his attempt should be discovered before any evil befell the Captain, who, seizing the wicked traitor, was minded to punish him as he deserved. And this he would have done but for the man’s wife, who had followed her husband through the perils of the deep and would not now leave him to die, but with many tears so wrought upon the Captain and all his company that, for pity of her and for the sake of the services she had done them, her request was granted. In consequence, husband and wife were left together on a small island in the sea, inhabited only by wild beasts, and were suffered to take with them such things as were needful.

     1  Canada had been discovered by Cabot in 1497; and in 1535
     James Cartier sailed up the St. Lawrence and, taking
     possession of the country in the name of Francis I., called
     it La Nouvelle France. Seven years later a gentleman of
     Picardy, named John Francis de La Roque, Lord of Robertval,
     accompanying Cartier, established a colony on the Isle
     Royale, and subsequently built the fort of Charlebourg. One
     of his pilots, named Alphonse of Saintonge, meanwhile
     reconnoitred the coasts both of Canada and Labrador. About
     this time (1542) the incidents related in the above tale
     must have occurred.—L.

The poor folk, finding themselves all alone and surrounded by wild and cruel beasts, had no recourse but to God, who had ever been this poor woman’s steadfast hope; and, since she found all her consolation in Him, she carried the New Testament with her for safeguard, nourishment and consolation, and in it read unceasingly. Further, she laboured with her husband to make them a little dwelling as best they might, and when the lions (2) and other animals came near to devour them, the husband with his arquebuss and she with stones made so stout a defence that not only were the beasts afraid to approach, but often some were slain that were very good for food. And on this flesh and the herbs of the land, they lived for some time after their bread failed them.

     2  This mention of lions on a small desert island in the
     Canadian seas would be rather perplexing did we not know how
     great at that time was the general ignorance on most matters
     connected with natural history. Possibly the allusion may be
     to the lion marin, as the French call the leonine seal.
     This, however, is anything but an aggressive animal.
     Curiously enough, Florimond de Rémond, the sixteenth century
     writer, speaks of a drawing of a “marine lion” given to him
     “by that most illustrious lady Margaret Queen of Navarre, to
     whom it had been presented by a Spanish gentleman, who was
     taking a second copy of it to the Emperor Charles V., then
     in Spain.”—Ed.

At last, however, the husband could no longer endure this nutriment, and by reason of the waters that they drank became so swollen that in a short while he died, and this without any service or consolation save from his wife, she being both his doctor and his confessor; and when he had joyously passed out of the desert into the heavenly country, the poor woman, left now in solitude, buried him in the earth as deeply as she was able. Nevertheless the beasts quickly knew of it, and came to eat the dead body; but the poor woman, firing with the arquebuss from her cabin, saved her husband’s flesh from finding such a grave.

Leading thus in regard to her body the life of a brute, and in regard to her soul the life of an angel, she passed her time in reading, meditations, prayers and orisons, having a glad and happy mind in a wasted and half-dead body. But He who never forsakes His own, and who manifests His power when others are in despair, did not suffer the virtue that he had put into this woman to be unknown by men, but willed that it should be made manifest to His own glory. He therefore brought things so to pass, that after some time, when one of the ships of the armament was passing by the island, those that were looking that way perceived some smoke, which reminded them of the persons who had been left there, and they resolved to go and see what God had done with them.

The poor woman, seeing the ship draw nigh, dragged herself to the shore, and there they found her on their arrival. After giving praise to God, she brought them to her poor cottage and showed them on what she had lived during her abode in that place. This would have seemed to them impossible of belief, but for their knowledge that God is as powerful to feed His servants in a desert as at the greatest banquet in the world. As the poor woman could not continue in such a spot, they took her with them straight to La Rochelle, where, their voyage ended, they arrived. And when they had made known to the inhabitants the faithfulness and endurance of this woman, she was very honourably received by all the ladies, who gladly sent their daughters to her to learn to read and write. In this honest calling she maintained herself for the rest of her life, having no other desire save to admonish every one to love and trust Our Lord, and setting forth as an example the great compassion that He had shown towards her.

“Now, ladies, you cannot say I do not praise the virtues which God has given you, and which show the more when possessed by one of lowly condition.”

“Why, we are not sorry,” said Oisille, “to hear you praise the mercies of Our Lord, for in truth all virtue comes from Him; but we must confess that man assists in the work of God as little as women. Neither can by heart or will do more than plant. God alone giveth the increase.”

“If you have studied Scripture,” said Saffredent, “you know that St. Paul says that Apollos planted and he himself watered; (3) but he does not speak of women as having set hand to the work of God.”

     3  The text is just the contrary: “I have planted, Apollos
     watered; but God gave the increase.”—I Corinthians iii.

“You would follow,” said Parlamente, “the opinion of those wicked men who take a passage of Scripture that is in their favour and leave one that is against them. If you had read St. Paul to the end, you would have found that he commends himself to the ladies, who greatly laboured with him in the work of the Gospel.”

“However that may be,” said Longarine, “the woman in the story is well worthy of praise both for the love she bore her husband, on whose behalf she risked her own life, and for the faith she had in God, who, as we see, did not forsake her.”

“I think,” said Ennasuite, “as far as the first is concerned, that there is no woman present but would do as much to save her husband’s life.”

“I think,” said Parlamente, “that some husbands are such brutes that the women who live with them should not find it strange to live among their fellows.”

Ennasuite, who took these words to herself, could not refrain from saying—

“Provided the beasts did not bite me, their company would be more pleasant to me than that of men, who are choleric and intolerable. But I abide by what I have said, that, if my husband were in a like danger, I should not leave him to die.”

“Beware,” said Nomerfide, “of loving too fondly, for excess of love will deceive both him and you. There is a medium in all things, and through lack of knowledge love often gives birth to hate.”

“Methinks,” said Simontault, “you have not carried your discourse so far without having an instance to confirm it. If, then, you know such a one, I give you my place that you may tell it to us.”

“Well,” said Nomerfide, “the tale shall, as is my wont, be a short and a merry one.”

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163a. The Apothecary’s Wife Giving The Dose of Cantharides To Her Husband

[The Apothecary’s Wife giving the Dose of Cantharides
to her Husband]

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     An apothecary’s wife, finding that her husband made no
     great account of her, and wishing to be better loved by him,
     followed the advice that he had given to a “commère” (1) of
     his, whose sickness was of the same kind as her own; but she
     prospered not so well as the other, and instead of love
     reaped hate.

     1  Mr W. Kelly has pointed out (Bohn’s Heptameron, p. 395)
     that in France the godfather and godmother of a child are
     called in reference to each other compère and commère, terms
     implying mutual relations of an extremely friendly kind. “The
     same usage exists in all Catholic countries,” adds Mr Kelly,
     “and one of the novels of the Decameron is founded on a
     very general opinion in Italy that an amorous connection
     between a compadre and his commadre partook almost of
     the nature of incest.”

In the town of Pau in Beam there was an apothecary whom men called Master Stephen. He had married a virtuous wife and a thrifty, with beauty enough to content him. But just as he was wont to taste different drugs, so did he also with women, that he might be the better able to speak of all kinds. His wife was greatly tormented by this, and at last lost all patience; for he made no account of her except by way of penance during Holy Week.

One day when the apothecary was in his shop, and his wife had hidden herself behind him to listen to what he might say, a woman, who was “commère” to the apothecary, and was stricken with the same sickness as his own wife, came in, and, sighing, said to him—

“Alas, good godfather, I am the most unhappy woman alive. I love my husband better than myself, and do nothing but think of how I may serve and obey him; but all my labour is wasted, for he prefers the wickedest, foulest, vilest woman in the town to me. So, godfather, if you know of any drug that will change his humour, prithee give it me, and, if I be well treated by him, I promise to reward you by all means in my power.”

The apothecary, to comfort her, said that he knew of a powder which, if she gave it to her husband with his broth or roast, after the fashion of Duke’s powder, (2) would induce him to entertain her in the best possible manner. The poor woman, wishing to behold this miracle, asked him what the powder was, and whether she could have some of it. He declared that there was nothing like powder of cantharides, of which he had a goodly store; and before they parted she made him prepare this powder, and took as much of it as was needful for her purpose. And afterwards she often thanked the apothecary, for her husband, who was strong and lusty, and did not take too much, was none the worse for it.

     2  Boaistuau and Gruget call this preparation poudre de
     Dun, as enigmatical an appellation as poudre de Duc. As
     for the specific supplied by the apothecary, the context
     shows that this was the same aphrodisiac as the Marquis de
     Sades put to such a detestable use at Marseilles in 1772,
     when, after fleeing from justice, he was formally sentenced
     to death, and broken, in effigy, upon the wheel. See P.
     Lacroix’s Curiosités de l’histoire de France, IIème Série,
     Paris, 1858.—Ed.

The apothecary’s wife heard all this talk, and thought within herself that she had no less need of the recipe than her husband’s “commère.” Observing, therefore, the place where her husband put the remainder of the powder, she resolved that she would use some of it when she found an opportunity; and this she did within three or four days. Her husband, who felt a coldness of the stomach, begged her to make him some good soup, but she replied that a roast with Duke’s powder would be better for him; whereupon he bade her go quickly and prepare it, and take cinnamon and sugar from the shop. This she did, not forgetting also to take the remainder of the powder given to the “commère,” without any heed to dose, weight or measure.

The husband ate the roast, and thought it very good. Before long, however, he felt its effects, and sought to soothe them with his wife, but this he found was impossible, for he felt all on fire, in such wise that he knew not which way to turn. He then told his wife that she had poisoned him, and demanded to know what she had put into the roast. She forthwith confessed the truth, telling him that she herself required the recipe quite as much as his “commère.” By reason of his evil plight, the poor apothecary could belabour her only with hard words; however, he drove her from his presence, and sent to beg the Queen of Navarre’s apothecary (3) to come and see him. This the Queen’s apothecary did, and whilst giving the other all the remedies proper for his cure (which in a short time was effected) he rebuked him very sharply for his folly in counselling another to use drugs that he was not willing to take himself, and declared that his wife had only done her duty, inasmuch as she had desired to be loved by her husband.

     3  It was from her apothecary no doubt that Queen Margaret
     heard this story.—Ed.

Thus the poor man was forced to endure the results of his folly in patience, and to own that he had been justly punished in being brought into such derision as he had proposed for another.

“Methinks, ladies, this woman’s love was as indiscreet as it was great.”

“Do you call it loving her husband,” said Hircan, “to give him pain for the sake of the delight that she herself looked to have?”

“I believe,” said Longarine, “she only desired to win back her husband’s love, which she deemed to have gone far astray; and for the sake of such happiness there is nothing that a woman will not do.” “Nevertheless,” said Geburon, “a woman ought on no account to make her husband eat or drink anything unless, either through her own experience or that of learned folk, she be sure that it can do him no harm. Ignorance, however, must be excused, and hers was worthy of excuse; for the most blinding passion is love, and the most blinded of persons is a woman, since she has not strength enough to conduct so weighty a matter wisely.”

“Geburon,” said Oisille, “you are departing from your own excellent custom so as to make yourself of like mind with your fellows; but there are women who have endured love and jealousy in patience.”

“Ay,” said Hircan, “and pleasantly too; for the most sensible are those who take as much amusement in laughing at their husbands’ doings, as their husbands take in secretly deceiving them. If you will make it my turn, so that the Lady Oisille may close the day, I will tell you a story about a wife and her husband who are known to all of us here.”

“Begin, then,” said Nomerfide; and Hircan, laughing, began thus:—

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169a. The Wife Discovering Her Husband in The Hood Of Their Serving-maid

[The Wife discovering her Husband in the
Hood of their Serving-maid]

169.jpg Page Image


     On finding her husband bolting meal in the garb of her
     serving-woman, whom he was awaiting in the hope that he
     would obtain from her what he desired, a certain lady showed
     such good sense that she was content to laugh and make merry
     at his folly.

At the castle of Odoz (1) in Bigorre, there dwelt one Charles, equerry to the King and an Italian by birth, who had married a very virtuous and honourable woman. After bearing him many children, she was now grown old, whilst he also was not young. And he lived with her in all peacefulness and affection, for although he would at times speak with his serving-women, his excellent wife took no notice of this, but quietly dismissed them whenever she found that they were becoming too familiar in her house.

     1  The scene of this tale is laid at the castle where
     Margaret died. Ste. Marthe in his Oraison funèbre,
     pronounced at Alençon fifteen days after the Queen’s death,
     formally states that she expired at Odos near Tarbes. He is
     not likely to have been mistaken, so that Brantome’s
     assertion that the Queen died at Audos in Beam may be
     accepted as incorrect (ante, vol. i. p. lxxxviii.). It is
     further probable that the above tale was actually written at
     Odos (ante, vol. i. p. lxxxvi.), but the authenticity of
     the incidents is very doubtful, as there is an extremely
     similar story in the Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles (No, xvii.
     Le Conseiller au bluteau), in which the hero of the
     adventure is a “great clerk and knight who presided over the
     Court of Accounts in Paris.” For subsequent imitations see
     Malespini’s Ducento Novelle (No. xcvii.) and Les Joyeuses
     Adventures et Nouvelles Recreations (No. xix.)—L. and Ed.

One day she hired a discreet and worthy girl, telling her of her husband’s temper and her own, and how she was wont to turn away such girls whom she found to be wantons. This maid, wishing to continue in her mistress’s service and esteem, resolved to remain a virtuous woman; and although her master often spoke to her, she on her part gave no heed to his words save that she repeated them to her mistress, and they thus both derived much diversion from his folly.

One day the maid was in a back room bolting meal, and wearing her “sarot,” a kind of hood which, after the fashion of that country, not only formed a coif but covered the whole of the back and shoulders. Her master, finding her in this trim, came and urged her very pressingly, and, although she would not have done such a thing even to save her life, she pretended to consent, and asked leave to go first and see whether her mistress was engaged in some such manner that they might not be surprised together. To this he agreed; whereupon she begged him to put her hood upon his head and to continue bolting whilst she was away, in order that her mistress might still hear the noise of the bolter. And this he gladly did, in the hope of obtaining what he sought.

The maid, who was by no means inclined to melancholy, ran off to her mistress and said to her—

“Come and see your good husband, whom I have taught to bolt in order to be rid of him.”

The wife made all speed to behold this new serving-woman, and when she saw her husband with the hood upon his head and the bolter in his hands, she began to laugh so exceedingly, clapping her hands the while, that she was scarce able to say to him—

“How much dost want a month, wench, for thy labour?”

The husband, on hearing this voice, realised that he had been deceived, and, throwing down both what he was holding and wearing, he ran at the girl, calling her a thousand bad names. Had his wife not set herself in front of the maid, he would have given her wage enough for her quarter; but at last all was settled to the content of the parties concerned, and thenceforward they lived together without quarrelling. (2)

     2  The Italian Charles, equerry to the King, to whom the
     leading part is assigned in Queen Margaret’s tale, may have
     been Charles de San Severino, who figures among the
     equerries with a salary of 200 livres, in the roll of the
     royal household for 1522. The San Severino family, one of
     the most prominent of Naples, had attached itself to the
     French cause at the time of the expedition of Charles VIII.,
     whom several of its members followed to France. In 1522 we
     find a “Monsieur de Saint-Severin” holding the office of
     first maître d’hôtel to Francis I., and over a course of
     several years his son figures among the enfants
     d’honneur.—B. J. and Ed.

“What say you, ladies, of this wife? Was she not sensible to make sport of her husband’s sport?”

“‘Twas no sport,” said Saffredent, “for the husband who failed in his purpose.”

“I believe,” said Ennasuite, “that he had more delight in laughing with his wife, than at killing himself at his age with his serving-woman.”

“Still, I should be sorely vexed,” said Simontault, “to be discovered so bravely coifed.”

“I have heard,” said Parlamente, “that it was not your wife’s fault that she did not once discover you in very much the same attire in spite of all your craft, and that since then she has known no repose.”

“Rest content with what befalls your own house,” said Simontault, “without inquiring into what befalls mine. Nevertheless, my wife has no reason to complain of me, and even did I act as you say, she would never have occasion to notice it through any lack of what she might need.”

“Virtuous women,” said Longarine, “require nothing but the love of their husbands, which alone can satisfy them. Those who seek a brutish satisfaction will never find it where honour enjoins.”

“Do you call it brutish,” asked Geburon, “if a wife desires that her husband should give her her due?”

“I say,” said Longarine, “that a chaste woman, whose heart is filled with true love, is more content to be perfectly loved than to have all the delights that the body can desire.”

“I am of your opinion,” said Dagoucin, “but my lords here will neither hear it nor confess it. I think if mutual love cannot satisfy a woman, her husband alone will not do so; for unless she live in the love that is honourable for a woman, she must be tempted by the infernal lustfulness of brutes.”

“In truth,” said Oisille, “you remind me of a lady who was both handsome and well wedded, but who, through not living in that honourable love, became more carnal than swine and more cruel than lions.”

“I ask you, madam,” said Simontault, “to end the day by telling us her story.”

“That I cannot do,” said Oisille, “and for two reasons. The first is that it is exceedingly long; and the second, that it does not belong to our own day. It is written indeed by an author worthy of belief; but we are sworn to relate nothing that has been written.”

“That is true,” said Parlamente; “but I believe I know the story you mean, and it is written in such old language that methinks no one present except ourselves has ever heard of it. It will therefore be looked upon as new.”

Upon this the whole company begged her to tell it without fear for its length, seeing that a full hour was yet left before vespers. So, at their request, the Lady Oisille thus began:—

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175a. The Gentleman Killing Himself on The Death of his Mistress

[The Gentleman Killing Himself on the Death of his Mistress]

175.jpg Page Image


     The Duchess of Burgundy, not content with the love that her
     husband bore her, conceived so great an affection for a
     young gentleman that, when looks and glances were not
     sufficient to inform him of her passion, she declared it to
     him in words which led to an evil ending. (1)

     1  This story is borrowed from an old fabliau, known under
     the title of the Châtelaine de Vergy, which will be found
     in the Recueil de Barbazan (vol iv.) and in Legrand
     d’Aussy’s Fabliaux (vol iii.). Margaret calls the lady
     Madame du Vergier (literally the lady of the orchard) in her
     tale. Bandello imitated the same fabliau in his Novelle
     (1554; part iv. nov. v.), but gave it a different ending.
     Belleforest subsequently adapted it for his Histoires
     Tragiques. Margaret’s tale may also be compared with No.
     lxii. of the Cento Novelle antiche, p. 84 of the edition
     of Florence, 1825.—L. and M.

In the Duchy of Burgundy there was a Duke who was a very honourable and handsome Prince. He had married a wife whose beauty pleased him so greatly that it kept him from knowledge of her character, and he took thought only how he might please her, whilst she made excellent show of returning his affection. Now the Duke had in his household a gentleman filled with all the perfection that could be sought for in a man. He was loved by all, more especially by the Duke, who had reared him from childhood near his own person; and, finding him possessed of such excellent qualities, the Duke loved him exceedingly and trusted him with all such matters as one of his years could understand.

The Duchess, who had not the heart of a virtuous woman and Princess, and was not content with the love that her husband bore her and the good treatment that she had at his hands, often observed this gentleman, and so much to her liking did she find him, that she loved him beyond measure. This she strove unceasingly to make known to him, as well by soft and piteous glances as by sighs and passionate looks.

But the gentleman, whose inclinations had ever been to virtue alone, could not perceive wickedness in a lady who had so little excuse for it, and so the glances and looks of the poor wanton bore no fruit save her own frenzied despair. This at last drove her to extremes, and forgetting that she was a woman fit to be entreated and yet to refuse, and a Princess made to be worshipped by such lovers and yet to hold them in scorn, she acted with the spirit of a man transported by passion, with a view to rid herself of the fire which she could no longer endure.

Accordingly, one day when her husband was gone to the council, at which the gentleman by reason of his youth was not present, she beckoned him to come to her, which he did, thinking that she had some command to give him. But leaning on his arm, like a woman wearied with repose, she brought him to walk in a gallery, where she said to him—

“I marvel that you who are so handsome and young, and full of excellent grace, have lived in this company, where are so many beautiful ladies, and yet have been lover or true knight to none.” Then, looking at him as graciously as she was able, she waited for his reply.

“Madam,” he said, “if I were worthy that your Highness should stoop to think of me, you would have still greater reason to marvel at seeing a man so little worthy of love as I am, offer his service where it would be rejected or scorned.”

On hearing this discreet reply, the Duchess felt she loved him more than before. She vowed to him that there was not a lady at her Court who would not be only too happy to have such a knight, and that he might well make an adventure of the sort, since there was no danger but he would come out of it with honour. The gentleman kept his eyes downcast, not daring to meet her looks, which were hot enough to melt ice; but, just as he was trying to excuse himself, the Duke sent for the Duchess to come to the council on some matter that concerned her, and thither with much regret she went. The gentleman never afterwards made the slightest sign of having understood a word of what she had said to him, at which she was exceedingly distressed and vexed; and she knew not to what cause to impute her failure, unless it were to the foolish fear of which she deemed the gentleman to be possessed.

A few days afterwards, finding that he gave no sign of understanding what she had said, she resolved on her part to set aside all fear or shame, and to tell him of her love. She felt sure that beauty such as hers could not be otherwise than well received, although she would fain have had the honour of being wooed. However, she set her honour on one side for her pleasure’s sake, and after she had several times attempted the same fashion of discourse as at first, but without receiving any reply to her liking, she one day plucked the gentleman by the sleeve, and told him that she must speak to him on certain matters of weight. The gentleman went with the humility and reverence that were her due to a deep window into which she had withdrawn; and, on perceiving that no one in the room could see her, she began in a trembling voice, that halted between desire and fear, to continue her former discourse, rebuking him for not yet having chosen some lady in the company, and promising him that, no matter who it might be, she would help him to win kindly treatment.

The gentleman, who was no less vexed than astonished by her words, replied—

“Madam, my heart is so tender, that, were I once refused, I should never again have joy in this world; and I know myself to be of such little worth that no lady at this Court would deign to accept my suit.”

The Duchess blushed, and, imagining that at last he was indeed won, vowed to him that she knew the most beautiful lady in the company would, if he were willing, joyfully receive him, and afford him perfect happiness.

“Alas! madam,” he replied, “I do not think that there is any woman in this company so unfortunate and so blind as to find me worthy of her love.”

The Duchess, finding that he would not understand her, drew the veil of her passion somewhat aside, and, by reason of the fears which the gentleman’s virtue caused her, spoke to him in the form of a question.

“If fortune,” she said, “had so far favoured you that it was myself who bore you this goodwill, what would you say?”

The gentleman, who thought that he was dreaming when he heard her speak in this wise, dropped on his knee, and replied—

“Madam, when God by His favour enables me to have both the favour of the Duke, my master, and your own, I shall deem myself the happiest man alive; for ‘tis the reward I crave for the loyal service of one who, more than any other, is bound to give his life in the service of you both. And I am sure, madam, that the love you bear my Lord aforesaid is attended with such chastity and nobleness that, apart from myself, who am but a worm of the earth, not even the greatest Prince and most perfect man to be found could break the union that exists between you. For my own part, my Lord has brought me up from childhood, and made me what I am, and to save my life I could not entertain towards any wife, daughter, sister or mother of his any thought contrary to what is due from a loyal and faithful servant.”

The Duchess would not allow him to continue, but finding that she was in danger of obtaining a dishonourable refusal, she suddenly interrupted him, and said—

“Wicked and boastful fool, who seeks any such thing from you? Do you think that your good looks win you the love of the very flies in the air? Nay, if you were presumptuous enough to address yourself to me, I would show you that I love, and seek to love, none but my husband. What I have said to you was spoken only for my amusement, to try you and laugh at you, as I do at all foolish lovers.”

“Madam,” said the gentleman, “I believed, and do still believe, that it is as you say.”

Then, without listening further, she withdrew in haste to her own apartment, and, finding that she was followed by her ladies, went into her closet, where she sorrowed after a fashion that cannot be described. On the one part, the love wherein she had failed caused her mortal sadness; on the other, her anger, both against herself for having entered upon such foolish talk and against the gentleman for his discreet reply, drove her into such fury that at one moment she wished to make away with herself, and at another, to live that she might avenge herself on one whom she now regarded as her deadly enemy.

When she had wept for a long while, she made pretence of being ill, in order that she might not be present at the Duke’s supper, at which the gentleman was commonly in waiting. The Duke, who loved his wife better than he did himself, came to see her; but the more effectually to work her end, she told him that she believed herself to be with child, and that her pregnancy had caused a rheum to come upon her eyes, which gave her much pain. So passed two or three days, during which the Duchess kept her bed in sadness and melancholy, until at last the Duke thought that something further must be the matter. He therefore came at night to sleep with her; but, finding that for all he could do he could in no sort check her sighs, he said to her—

“You know, sweetheart, that I love you as dearly as my life, and that if yours were lacking I could not endure my own. If therefore you would preserve my health, I pray you tell me what causes you to sigh after this manner; for I cannot believe that such unhappiness can come only because you are with child.”

The Duchess, finding that her husband was disposed to her just as she could have wished him to be, thought that the time was come to seek vengeance for her affliction; and embracing the Duke, she began to weep, and said—

“Alas, my lord, my greatest unhappiness is to see you deceived by those on whom is so deep an obligation to guard your substance and your honour.”

The Duke, on hearing this, was very desirous of knowing why she spoke in that manner, and earnestly begged her to make the truth known to him without fear. After refusing several times, she said—

“I shall never wonder, my lord, that foreigners make war on Princes, when those who are in duty most bound to them, wage upon them a war so cruel that loss of territory were nothing in comparison. I say this, my lord, in reference to a certain gentleman” (naming her enemy) “who, though reared by your own hand and treated more like a son than a servant, has made a cruel and base attempt to ruin the honour of your wife, in which is also bound up the honour of your house and your children. Although for a long time he showed me such looks as pointed to his wicked purpose, yet my heart, which only cares for you, understood nothing of them; and so at last he declared himself in words to which I returned a reply such as beseemed my condition and my chastity. Nevertheless, I now so hate him that I cannot endure to look at him, and for this cause I have continued in my own apartment and lost the happiness of fellowship with you. I entreat you, my lord, keep not this pestilence near your person; for, after such a crime, he might fear lest I should tell you of it, and so attempt worse. This, my lord, is the cause of my sorrow, and methinks it were right and fitting that you should deal with it forthwith.”

The Duke, who on the one hand loved his wife and felt himself grievously affronted, and on the other loved his servant, whose faithfulness he had so fully tried that he could scarce believe this falsehood against him, was in great distress and filled with anger. Repairing to his own room, he sent word to the gentleman to come no more into his presence, but to withdraw to his lodging for a time. The gentleman, being ignorant of the cause of this, was grieved exceedingly, for he knew that he had deserved the opposite of such unworthy treatment. Aware, then, of his own innocence in heart and deed, he sent a comrade to speak to the Duke and take him a letter, humbly entreating that if any evil report had caused his banishment, his master would be pleased to suspend judgment until he had heard from himself the truth of the matter, when it would be found that he had been guilty of no offence.

When the Duke saw this letter, his anger was somewhat abated. He secretly sent for the gentleman to his own room, and with wrathful countenance said—

“I could never have thought that the care I took to rear you as my own child would be changed into regret at having so highly advanced you; but you have attempted what was more hurtful to me than loss of life or substance, and have sought to assail the honour of one who is half myself, and so bring infamy on my house and name. You may be assured that this outrage is so wounding to my heart that, were it not for my doubt whether it be true or not, you would have already been at the bottom of the water, and so have received in secret due punishment for the wrong that in secret you intended against me.”

The gentleman was in no wise dismayed by this discourse, but, ignorant as he was of the truth, spoke forth with confidence and entreated the Duke to name his accuser, since such a charge should be justified rather with the lance than with the tongue.

“Your accuser,” said the Duke, “carries no weapon but chastity. Know, then, that none other but my wife has told me this, and she begged me to take vengeance upon you.”

The poor gentleman, though he then perceived the lady’s great wickedness, would not accuse her.

“My lord,” he replied, “my lady may say what she will. You know her better than I do, and you are aware if ever I saw her when out of your sight, save only on one occasion, when she spoke but little with me. You have, moreover, as sound a judgment as any Prince alive; wherefore I pray you, my lord, judge whether you have ever seen aught in me to cause any suspicion; and remember love is a fire that cannot be hidden so as never to be known of by those who have had a like distemper. So I pray you, my lord, to believe two things of me: first, that my loyalty to you is such that were my lady, your wife, the fairest being in the world, love would never avail to make me stain my honour and fidelity; and secondly, that even were she not your wife, I should be least in love with her of all the women I have ever known, since there are many others to whom I would sooner plight my troth.”

On hearing these words of truth, the Duke began to be softened, and said—

“I assure you, on my part, that I did not believe it. Do, therefore, according to your wont, in the assurance that, if I find the truth to be on your side, I will love you yet better than before. But if it be not so, your life is in my hands.”

The gentleman thanked him and offered to submit to any pain or penalty if he were found guilty.

The Duchess, on seeing the gentleman again in waiting as had formerly been his wont, could not endure it in patience, but said to her husband—

“‘Twould be no more than you deserve, my lord, if you were poisoned, since you put more trust in your deadly enemies than in your friends.”

“I pray you, sweetheart, do not torment yourself in this matter,” said the Duke. “If I find that you have told me true, I promise you he shall not live four and twenty hours. But he has sworn to the contrary, and I have myself never perceived any such fault, and so I cannot believe it without complete proof.”

“In good sooth, my lord,” she replied, “your goodness renders his wickedness the greater. What more complete proof would you have than this, that no love affair has ever been imputed to him? Believe me, my lord, were it not for the lofty purpose that he took into his head of being my lover, he would not have continued so long without a mistress; for never did a young man live solitary as he does in such good company, unless he had fixed his heart so high as to be content merely with his own vain hope. Since, then, you think that he is not hiding the truth from you, put him, I beg you, on oath as regards his love. If he loves another, I am content that you should believe him, and if not, you will know that what I say is true.”

The Duke thought his wife’s reasonings very good, and, taking the gentleman into the country with him, said—

“My wife continues still of the same mind, and has set before me an argument that causes me grave suspicion against you. It is deemed strange that you who are so gallant and young have never been known to love, and this makes me think that you have such affection for her as she says, and that the hope it gives you renders you content to think of no other woman. As a friend, therefore, I pray you, and as a master I command you to tell me whether you are in love with any lady on earth.”

Although the gentleman would have fain concealed his passion yet as he loved his life, he was obliged, on seeing his master’s jealousy, to swear to him that he did indeed love one whose beauty was so great, that the beauty of the Duchess or of any lady of the Court would be simply ugliness beside it. But he entreated that he might never be compelled to name her, since the agreement between himself and his sweetheart was of such a nature that it could not be broken excepting by whichever of them should be the first to make it known.

The Duke promised not to urge him, and being quite satisfied with him, treated him with more kindness than ever before. The Duchess perceived this, and set herself with her wonted craft to find out the reason. The Duke did not hide it from her; whereupon strong jealousy sprang up beside her desire for vengeance, and she begged her husband to command the gentleman to name his sweetheart. She assured him that the story was a lie, and that the course she urged was the best means of testing it. If the gentleman, said she, did not name her whom he deemed so beautiful, and his master believed him on his mere word, he would indeed be the most foolish Prince alive.

The poor Duke, whose wife directed his thoughts at her pleasure, went to walk alone with the gentleman, and told him that he was in even greater trouble than before; for he was greatly minded to believe that he had been given an excuse to keep him from suspecting the truth. This was a greater torment to him than ever; and he therefore begged the gentleman, as earnestly as he was able, to name her whom he loved so dearly. The poor gentleman entreated that he might not be made to commit so great an offence against his mistress as to break the promise he had given her and had kept so long, and thus lose in a day all that he had preserved for seven years. And he added that he would rather suffer death than in this wise wrong one who had been true to him.

The Duke, finding that he would not tell him, became deeply jealous, and with a wrathful countenance exclaimed—

“Well, choose one of two things: either tell me whom you love more than any other, or else go into banishment from the territories over which I rule, under pain of a cruel death if you be found within them after a week is over.”

If ever heart of loyal servant was torn with anguish, it was so with that of this poor gentleman, who might well have said, Angustiæ sunt mihi undique, for on the one part he saw that by telling the truth he would lose his mistress, if she learned that he had failed in his promise to her; while, if he did not confess it, he would be banished from the land in which she dwelt, and be no more able to see her. Hard pressed in this manner on all sides, there came upon him a cold sweat, as on one whose sorrow was bringing him near to death. The Duke, observing his looks, concluded that he loved no other lady than the Duchess, and was enduring this suffering because he was able to name none other. He therefore said to him with considerable harshness—

“If what you say were true, you would not have so much trouble in telling me; but methinks ‘tis your crime that is tormenting you.”

The gentleman, piqued by these words, and impelled by the love that he bore his master, resolved to tell him the truth, believing that he was too honourable a man ever, on any account, to reveal it. Accordingly, throwing himself upon his knees, and clasping his hands, he said—

“My lord, the duty that I owe to you and the love that I bear you constrain me more than the fear of any death. I can see that you imagine and judge falsely concerning me, and, to take this trouble from you, I am resolved to do that to which no torment had compelled me. But I pray you, my lord, swear to me by the honour of God, and promise me by your own faith as a Prince and a Christian, that you will never reveal the secret which, since it so pleases you, I am obliged to tell.”

Upon this the Duke swore to him with all the oaths he could think of that he would never reveal aught of it to any living being, whether by speech, or writing, or feature. Then the young man, feeling confidence in so virtuous a Prince as he knew his master to be, began the building up of his misfortune, and said—

“It is now seven years, my lord, since knowing your niece, the Lady du Vergier, to be a widow and without kindred, I set myself to win her favour. But, since I was of too lowly a birth to wed her, I contented myself with being received by her as her true knight, as indeed I have been. And it has pleased God that the affair has hitherto been contrived with much discretion, so that neither man nor woman knows of it save ourselves alone, and now, my lord, you also. I place my life and honour in your hands, entreating you to keep the matter secret and to esteem your niece none the less; for I think that under heaven there is no more perfect being.”

If ever man was rejoiced it was the Duke, for, knowing as he did the exceeding beauty of his niece, he now had no doubt that she was more pleasing than his wife. However, being unable to understand how so great a mystery could have been contrived, he begged the gentleman to tell him how it was that he was able to see her. The gentleman related to him then that his lady’s chamber looked upon a garden, and that, on the days when he was to visit her, a little gate was left open through which he went in on foot until he heard the barking of a little dog which the lady used to loose in the garden when all her women were withdrawn. Then he went and conversed with her all night long, and, in parting from her, would appoint a day on which he would return; and this appointment, unless for some weighty reason, he never failed to keep. The Duke, who was the most inquisitive man alive, and who had made love in no small degree in his day, wished both to satisfy his suspicions and to fully understand so strange a business; and he therefore begged the gentleman to take him, not as a master but as a companion, the next time he went thither. To this the gentleman, having gone so far already, consented, saying that he had an appointment for that very day; at which the Duke was as glad as if he had gained a kingdom. Making pretence of retiring to rest in his closet, he caused two horses to be brought for himself and the gentleman, and they travelled all night long from Argilly, where the Duke lived, to Le Vergier. (2)

     2  At Argilly the Dukes of Burgundy had a castle, which was
     destroyed during the religious wars at the close of the
     sixteenth century. The place is now a small village in the
     arrondissement of Nuits, Côte d’Or. As the crow flies, it is
     some ten miles distant from the ruins of the castle of
     Vergy, which stands on a steep height, at an altitude of
     over 1600 ft., within five miles from Nuits. The castle,
     which can only be reached on one side of the hill, by a
     narrow, winding and precipitous pathway, is known to have
     been in existence already in the tenth century, when the
     Lords of Vergy were Counts of Chalons, Beaune, and Nuits.
     They appear to have engaged in a struggle for supremacy with
     the princes of the first Ducal house of Burgundy, but in
     1193 Alix de Vergy espoused Duke Eudes III., to whom she
     brought, as dower, the greater part of the paternal
     inheritance. The castle of Vergy was dismantled by Henry
     IV., and the existing ruins are of small extent. Some
     antiquaries believe the fortress to have been originally
     built by the Romans.—B.J. and L.

Then they left their horses without the wall, and the gentleman brought the Duke into the garden through the little gate, begging him to remain behind a walnut-tree, whence he might see whether he had been told the truth or not.

They had been but a short time in the garden when the little dog began to bark, and the gentleman walked towards the tower, where his lady failed not to come and meet him. She kissed him, saying that it seemed a thousand years since she had seen him, and then they went into the chamber and shut the door behind them.

Having seen the whole of the mystery, the Duke felt more than satisfied. Nor had he a great while to wait, for the gentleman told his mistress that he must needs return sooner than was his wont, since the Duke was to go hunting at four o’clock, and he durst not fail to attend him.

The lady, who set honour before delight, would not keep him from fulfilling his duty; for what she prized most in their honourable affection was that it was kept secret from all.

So the gentleman departed an hour after midnight, and his lady in cloak and kerchief went with him, yet not so far as she wished, for, fearing lest she should meet the Duke, he obliged her to return. Then he mounted with the Duke and returned to the castle of Argilly, his master unceasingly swearing to him on the way that he would die rather than ever reveal his secret. Moreover, he then put so much trust in the gentleman, and had so much love for him, that no one in his Court stood higher in his favour. The Duchess grew furious at this, but the Duke forbade her ever to speak to him about the gentleman again, saying that he now knew the truth about him and was well pleased, since the lady in question was more worthy of love than herself. These words deeply pierced the heart of the Duchess, and she fell into a sickness that was worse than fever.

The Duke went to see her in order to comfort her, but there was no means of doing this except by telling her the name of this beautiful and dearly loved lady. She pressed him urgently to do this, until at last the Duke went out of the room, saying—

“If you speak to me again after this fashion, we shall part one from the other.”

These words increased the sickness of the Duchess, and she pretended that she felt her infant stirring, at which the Duke was so rejoiced that he came and lay beside her. But, just when she saw him most loving towards her, she turned away, and said—

“I pray you, my lord, since you have no love for either wife or child, leave us to die together.”

With these words she gave vent to many tears and lamentations, and the Duke was in great fear lest she should lose her child. He therefore took her in his arms and begged her to tell him what she would have, since he possessed nothing that was not also hers.

“Ah, my lord,” she replied, weeping, “what hope can I have that you would do a hard thing for me, when you will not do the easiest and most reasonable in the world, which is to name to me the mistress of the wickedest servant you ever had? I thought that you and I had but one heart, one soul, and one flesh. But now I see that you look upon me as a stranger, seeing that your secrets, which should be known to me, are hidden from me as though I were a stranger. Alas! my lord, you have told me many weighty and secret matters, of which you have never known me to speak, you have proved my will to be like to your own, and you cannot doubt but that I am less myself than you. And if you have sworn never to tell the gentleman’s secret to another, you will not break your oath in telling it to me, for I am not and cannot be other than yourself. I have you in my heart, I hold you in my arms, I have in my womb a child in whom you live, and yet I may not have your heart as you have mine. The more faithful and true I am to you, the more cruel and stern are you to me, so that a thousand times a day do I long by a sudden death to rid my child of such a father and myself of such a husband. And I hope that this will be ere long, since you set a faithless servant before a wife such as 1 am to you, and before the life of the mother of your child, which will perish because I cannot have of you that which I most desire to know.”

So saying, she embraced and kissed her husband, and watered his face with her tears, uttering the while such lamentations and sighs that the good Prince feared to lose wife and child together, and resolved to tell her all the truth of the matter. Nevertheless, he first swore to her that if ever she revealed it to a living being she should die by his own hand; and she agreed to and accepted this punishment. Then the poor, deceived husband told her all that he had seen from beginning to end, and she made show of being well pleased. In her heart she was minded very differently, but through fear of the Duke she concealed her passion as well as she was able.

Now on a certain great feast-day the Duke held his Court, to which he had bidden all the ladies of that country, and among the rest his niece. When the dances began, all did their duty save the Duchess, who, tormented by the sight of her niece’s beauty and grace, could neither make merry nor prevent her spleen from being perceived. At last she called all the ladies, and making them scat themselves around her, began to talk of love; and seeing that the Lady du Vergier said nothing, she asked her, with a heart which jealousy was rending—

“And you, fair niece, is it possible that your beauty has found no lover or true knight?”

“Madam,” replied the Lady du Vergier, “my beauty has not yet made such a conquest. Since my husband’s death I have sought to love none but his children, with whom I deem myself happy.”

“Fair niece, fair niece,” replied the Duchess, with hateful spleen, “there is no love so secret that it is not known, and no little dog so well broken in and trained that it cannot be heard to bark.”

I leave you to imagine, ladies, what sorrow the poor Lady du Vergier felt in her heart on finding a matter, so long concealed, thus made known to her great dishonour. Her honour, which had been so carefully guarded and was now wofully lost, tortured her, but still more so her suspicion that her lover had failed in his promise to her. This she did not think he could have done, unless it were that he loved some lady fairer than herself, to whom his love had constrained him to make the whole matter known. Yet so great was her discretion that she gave no sign, but replied laughing to the Duchess that she did not understand the language of animals. However, beneath this prudent concealment her heart was filled with sadness, so that she rose up, and, passing out of the chamber, entered a closet in sight of the Duke, who was walking up and down.

Having thus reached a place where she believed herself to be alone, the poor lady let herself fall helplessly upon a bed, whereat a damsel, who had sat down beside it to sleep, rose up and drew back the curtains to see who this might be. Finding that it was the Lady du Vergier, who believed herself to be alone, she durst say nothing to her, but listened, making as little noise as she was able. And in a stifled voice the poor Lady du Vergier began to lament, saying—

“O unhappy one, what words have I heard? to what decree of death have I hearkened? what final sentence have I received? O best beloved of men, is this the reward of my chaste, honourable and virtuous love? O my heart, hast thou made so parlous an election, and chosen for the most loyal the most faithless, for the truest the most false, for the discreetest the most slanderous? Alas! can it be that a thing hidden from every human eye has been revealed to the Duchess? Alas, my little dog, so well taught and the sole instrument of my love and virtuous affection, it was not you who betrayed me, it was he whose voice is louder than a dog’s bark, and whose heart is more thankless than any brute’s. Tis he who, contrary to his oath and promise, has made known the happy life which, wronging none, we so long have led together. O my beloved, the love of whom alone has entered into my heart, and preserved my life, must you now be declared my deadly foe, while mine honour is given to the winds, my body to the dust, and my soul to its everlasting abode? Is the beauty of the Duchess so exceeding great that, like the beauty of Circe, it has bewitched and transformed you? Has she turned you from virtue to vice, from goodness to wickedness, from being a man to be a beast of prey? O my beloved, though you have failed in your promise to me, yet will I keep mine to you, and, now that our love has been revealed, will never see you more. Nevertheless, I cannot live without your presence, and so I gladly yield to my exceeding sorrow, and will seek for it no cure either in reason or in medicine. Death alone shall end it, and death will be sweeter to me than life on earth without lover, honour or happiness. Neither war nor death has robbed me of my lover; no sin or fault of mine has robbed me of my honour; neither error nor demerit of mine has made me lose my joy. ‘Tis cruel fate that has rendered the most favoured of men thankless, and has caused me to receive the contrary of that which I deserved.

“Ah, my Lady Duchess, what delight it was to you to taunt me with my little dog! Rejoice, then, in the happiness you owe to me alone; taunt her who thought by careful concealment and virtuous love to be free from any taunt. Ah! how those words have bruised my heart! how they have made me blush for shame and pale for jealousy! Alas, my heart, I feel that thou art indeed undone! The wicked love that has discovered me burns thee; jealousy of thee and evil intent towards thee are to thee as ice and death; while wrath and sorrow do not suffer me to comfort thee. Alas, poor soul, that in adoring the creature didst forget the Creator, thou must return into the hands of Him from whom vain love tore thee away. Have trust, my soul, that thou wilt find in Him a Father kinder than was the lover for whose sake thou hast so often forgotten Him. O my God, my Creator, Thou who art the true and perfect love, by whose grace the love I bore to my beloved has been stained by no blemish save that of too great an affection, I implore Thee in mercy to receive the soul-and spirit of one who repents that she has broken thy first and most just commandment. And, through the merits of Him whose love passeth all understanding, forgive the error into which excess of love has led me, for in Thee alone do I put my perfect trust. And farewell, O my beloved, whose empty name doth break my very heart.”

With these words she fell backward, and her face grew pallid, her lips blue, and her extremities cold.

Just at this moment the gentleman she loved came into the hall, and, seeing the Duchess dancing with the ladies, looked everywhere for his sweetheart. Not finding her, he went into the chamber of the Duchess, and there found the Duke, who was walking up and down, and who, guessing his purpose, whispered in his ear—

“She went into that closet, and methought she was ill.”

The gentleman asked whether he would be pleased to let him go in, and the Duke begged him to do so. When he entered the closet he found the Lady du Vergier, come to the last stage of her mortal life; whereat, throwing his arms about her, he said—

“What is this, sweetheart? Would you leave me?”

The poor lady, hearing the voice that she knew so well, recovered a little strength and opened her eyes to look upon him who was the cause of her death; but at this look her love and anguish waxed so great that, with a piteous sigh, she yielded up her soul to God.

The gentleman, more dead than the dead woman herself, asked the damsel who was there how this sickness had come upon his sweetheart, and she told him all the words that she had heard. Then the gentleman knew that the Duke had revealed the secret to his wife, and felt such frenzy that, whilst embracing his sweetheart’s body, he for a long time watered it with his tears, saying—

“O traitorous, wicked and unhappy lover that I am! why has not the punishment of my treachery fallen upon me, and not upon her who is innocent? Why was I not struck by a bolt from heaven on the day when my tongue revealed the secret and virtuous love between us? Why did not the earth open to swallow up this traitor to his troth? O tongue, mayest thou be punished as was the tongue of the wicked rich man in hell!

“O heart, too fearful of death and banishment, mayest thou be torn continually by eagles as was the heart of Ixion! (3)

     3  Queen Margaret’s memory plainly failed her here.—Ed.

“Alas, sweetheart, the greatest of all the greatest woes has fallen upon me! I thought to keep you, but I have lost you; I thought to see you for a long time and to abide with you in sweet and honourable content, yet now I embrace your dead body, and you passed away in sore displeasure with me, with my heart and with my tongue. O most loyal and faithful of women, I do confess myself the most disloyal, fickle and faithless of all men. Gladly would I complain of the Duke in whose promise I trusted, hoping thus to continue our happy life; but alas! I should have known that none could keep our secret better than I kept it myself. The Duke had more reason in telling his secret to his wife than I in telling mine to him. I accuse none but myself of the greatest wickedness that was ever done between lovers. I ought to have submitted to be cast into the moat as he threatened to do with me; at least, sweetheart, you would then have lived in widowhood and I have died a glorious death in observing the law that true love enjoins. But through breaking it I am now in life, and you, through perfectness of love, are dead; for your pure, clear heart could not bear to know the wickedness of your lover.

“O my God! why didst Thou endow me with so light a love and so ignorant a heart? Why didst thou not create me as the little dog that faithfully served his mistress? Alas, my little friend, the joy your bark was wont to give me is turned to deadly sorrow, now that another than we twain has heard your voice. Yet, sweetheart, neither the love of the Duchess nor of any living woman turned me aside, though indeed that wicked one did often ask and entreat me. ‘Twas by my ignorance, which thought to secure our love for ever, that I was overcome. Yet for that ignorance am I none the less guilty; for I revealed my sweetheart’s secret and broke my promise to her, and for this cause alone do I see her lying dead before my eyes. Alas, sweetheart, death will to me be less cruel than to you, whose love has ended your innocent life. Methinks it would not deign to touch my faithless and miserable heart; for life with dishonour and the memory of that which I have lost through guilt would be harder to bear than ten thousand deaths. Alas, sweetheart, had any dared to slay you through mischance or malice, I should quickly have clapped hand to sword to avenge you; ‘tis therefore right that I should not pardon the murderer who has caused your death by a more wicked act than any sword-thrust. Did I know a viler executioner than myself, I would entreat him to put your traitorous lover to death. O Love! I have offended thee from not having known how to love, and therefore thou wilt not succour me as thou didst succour her who kept all thy laws. ‘Tis not right that I should die after so honourable a manner; but ‘tis well that I should die by mine own hand. I have washed your face, sweet, with my tears, and with my tongue have craved your forgiveness; and now it only remains for my hand to make my body like unto yours, and send my soul whither yours will go, in the knowledge that a virtuous and honourable love can never end, whether in this world or in the next.”

Rising up from the body he then, like a frenzied man beside himself, drew his dagger and with great violence stabbed himself to the heart. Then he again took his sweetheart in his arms, kissing her with such passion that it seemed as though he were seized rather with love than with death.

The damsel, seeing him deal himself the blow, ran to the door and called for help. The Duke, on hearing the outcry, suspected misfortune to those he loved, and was the first to enter the closet, where he beheld the piteous pair. He sought to separate them, and, if it were possible, to save the gentleman; but the latter clasped his sweetheart so fast that he could not be taken from her until he was dead. Nevertheless he heard the Duke speaking to him and saying—“Alas! what is the cause of this?” To which, with a glance of fury, he replied—“My tongue, my lord, and yours.” So saying, he died, with his face close pressed to that of his mistress.

The Duke, wishing to know more of the matter, made the damsel tell him what she had seen and heard; and this she did at full length, sparing nothing. Then the Duke, finding that he was himself the cause of all this woe, threw himself upon the two dead lovers, and, with great lamentation and weeping, kissed both of them several times and asked their forgiveness. And after that he rose up in fury, and drew the dagger from the gentleman’s body; and, just as a wild boar, wounded with a spear, rushes headlong against him that has dealt the blow, so did the Duke now seek out her who had wounded him to the bottom of his soul. He found her dancing in the hall, and more merry than was her wont at the thought of the excellent vengeance she had wreaked on the Lady du Vergier.

The Duke came upon her in the midst of the dance, and said—

“You took the secret upon your life, and upon your life shall fall the punishment.”

So saying, he seized her by the head-dress and stabbed her with the dagger in the breast. All the company were astonished, and it was thought that the Duke was out of his mind; but, having thus worked his will, he brought all his retainers together in the hall and told them the virtuous and pitiful story of his niece, and the evil that his wife had wrought her. And those who were present wept whilst they listened.

Then the Duke ordered that his wife should be buried in an abbey which he founded partly to atone for the sin that he had committed in killing her; and he caused a beautiful tomb to be built, in which the bodies of his niece and the gentleman were laid together, with an epitaph setting forth their tragic story. And the Duke undertook an expedition against the Turks, in which God so favoured him, that he brought back both honour and profit. On his return, he found his eldest son now able to govern his possessions, and so left all to him, and went and became a monk in the abbey where his wife and the two lovers were buried. And there did he spend his old age happily with God.

“Such, ladies, is the story which you begged me to relate, and which, as I can see from your eyes, you have not heard without compassion. It seems to me that you should take example by it, and beware of placing your affections upon men; for, however honourable or virtuous these affections may be, in the end they have always an aftertaste of evil. You see how St. Paul would not that even married people should so deeply love each other; (4) for the more our hearts are set upon earthly things, the more remote are they from heavenly affection, and the harder is the tie to be broken. I therefore pray you, ladies, ask God for His Holy Spirit, who will so fire your hearts with the love of God, that when death comes, you will not be pained at leaving that which you love too well in this world.”

     4  I Corinthians vii. 32-5.—M.

“If their love,” said Geburon, “was as honourable as you describe, why was it needful to keep it so secret?”

“Because,” said Parlamente, “the wickedness of men is so great, that they can never believe deep love to be allied with honour, but judge men and women to be wicked according to their own passions. Hence, if a woman has a dear friend other than one of her nearest kinsfolk, she must speak with him in secret if she would speak long with him; for a woman’s honour is attacked, whether she love virtuously or viciously, since people judge only from appearances.”

“But,” said Geburon, “when a secret of that kind is revealed, people think far worse of it.”

“I grant you that,” said Longarine; “and so it is best not to love at all.”

“We appeal from that sentence,” said Dagoucin, “for, did we believe the ladies to be without love, we would fain be ourselves without life. I speak of those who live but to win love: and, even if they secure it not, yet the hope of it sustains them and prompts them to do a thousand honourable deeds, until old age changes their fair sufferings to other pains. But, did we think that ladies were without love, it were needful we should turn traders instead of soldiers, and instead of winning fame, think only of hea’ping up riches.”

“You would say, then,” said Hircan, “that, were there no women, we should all be dastards, as though we had no courage save such as they put into us. But I am of quite the opposite opinion, and hold that nothing weakens a man’s courage so much as to consort with women or love them too much. For this reason the Jews would not suffer a man to go to the war within a year after his marriage, lest love for his wife should draw him back from the dangers that he ought to seek.” (5)

     5  See Deuteronomy xx. 5, 6, 7; and the comments thereon
     of Rabelais (book iii. ch. vi.).—M.

“I consider that law,” said Saffredent, “to have been without reason, for nothing will more readily make a man leave his home than marriage. The war without is not harder of endurance than the war within; and I think that, to make men desirous of going into foreign lands instead of lingering by their hearths, it were only needful to marry them.”

“It is true,” said Ennasuite, “that marriage takes from them the care of their houses; for they trust in their wives, and for their own part think only of winning fame, feeling certain that their wives will give due heed to the profit.”

“However that may be,” replied Saffredent, “I am glad that you are of my opinion.”

“But,” said Parlamente, “you are not discussing what is chiefly to be considered, and that is why the gentleman, who was the cause of all the misfortune, did not as quickly die of grief as she who was innocent.”

Nomerfide replied—

“‘Twas because women love more truly than men.”

“Nay,” said Simontault, “‘twas because the jealousy and spitefulness of women make them die without knowing the reason, whereas men are led by their prudence to inquire into the truth of the matter. When this has been learnt through their sound sense, they display their courage, as this gentleman did; for, as soon as he understood the reason of his sweetheart’s misfortune, he showed how truly he loved her and did not spare his own life.”

“Yet,” said Ennasuite, “she died of true love, for her steadfast and loyal heart could not endure to be so deceived.”

“It was her jealousy,” said Simontault, “which would not yield to reason, so that she believed evil of her lover of which he was not guilty at all. Moreover, her death was matter of necessity, for she could not prevent it, whilst her lover’s death was voluntary, after he had recognised his own wrongdoing.”

“Still,” said Nomerfide, “the love must needs be great that causes such deep sorrow.”

“Have no fear of it,” said Hircan, “for you will never die of that kind of fever.”

“Nor,” said Nomerfide, “will you ever kill yourself after recognising your error.”

Here Parlamente, who suspected that the dispute was being carried on at her own expense, said, laughing—

“‘Tis enough that two persons should have died of love, without two others fighting for the same cause. And there is the last bell sounding for vespers, which will have us gone whether you be willing or not.”

By her advice the whole company then rose and went to hear vespers, not forgetting in their fervent prayers the souls of those true lovers, for whom, also, the monks, of their charity, said a De profundis. As long as supper lasted there was no talk save of the Lady du Vergier, and then, when they had spent a little time together, they withdrew to their several apartments, and so brought to an end the Seventh Day.

213.jpg Tailpiece


On the Eighth Day relation is made
of the greatest yet truest
folliesthat each
can remember


When morning was come they inquired whether their bridge (1) were being well advanced, and found that it might be finished in two or three days. These were not welcome tidings to some among the company, for they would gladly have had the work last a longer time, so as to prolong the happiness that they enjoyed in this pleasant mode of life. Finding, however, that only two or three such days were left, they resolved to turn them to account, and begged the Lady Oisille to give them their spiritual nourishment as had been her wont. This she forthwith did, but she detained them longer than usual, for before setting forth she desired to finish reading the canonical writings of St. John; and so well did she acquit herself of this, that it seemed as if the Holy Spirit in all His love and sweetness spoke by her mouth. Glowing with this heavenly flame, they went to hear high mass, and afterwards dined together, again speaking of the past day, and doubting whether they could make another as fair.

     1  The allusion is to the bridge over the Gave spoken of in
     the General Prologue (ante, vol. i. p. 25-6).—M.

In order to set about it, they retired to their own rooms until it was time to repair to their Chamber of Accounts on the Board of Green Grass, where they found the monks already arrived and in their places.

When all were seated, the question was put, who should begin; and Saffredent said—

“You did me the honour to have me begin on two days. Methinks we should act wrongly towards the ladies if one of them did not also begin on two.”

“It were then needful,” said the Lady Oisille, “either that we should continue here for a great while, or else that a gentleman and a lady of the company should forego the beginning of a day.”

“For my part,” said Dagoucin, “had I been chosen, I would have given my place to Saffredent.”

“And I,” said Nomerfide, “to Parlamente, for I have been so wont to serve that I know not how to command.”

To this all agreed, and Parlamente thus began—

“Ladies, the days that are past have been filled with so many tales of wisdom, that I would beg you to fill this one with the greatest (yet most real) follies that we can remember. So, to lead the way, I will begin.”

219a. The Saddler’s Wife Cured by The Sight of Her Husband Caressing the Serving-maid

[The Saddler’s Wife Cured by the sight of her Husband
Caressing the Serving-maid]

219.jpg Page Image


     A saddler’s wife, who was grievously sick, was made whole
     and recovered the power of speech, which for the space of
     two days site had lost, on seeing her husband holding his
     serving-maid too familiarly on the bed whilst she herself
     was drawing to her end.

In the town of Amboise there lived one Brimbaudier, (1) saddler to the Queen of Navarre, and a man whose colour of feature showed him to be by nature rather a servant of Bacchus than a priest of Diana. He had married a virtuous woman who controlled his household very discreetly, and with whom he was well content.

     1  Boaistuau gives the name as Bruribandier, and Gruget
     transforms it into Borribaudier. M, Pifteau, after examining
     the MSS., is doubtful whether Brimbaudier is the correct
     reading. Bromardier, which in old French meant a tippler
     (Ducange, Briemardum), would have been an appropriate name
     for the individual referred to.—Ed.

One day it was told him that his good wife was sick and in great danger, at which tidings he was in the greatest trouble imaginable. He went with all speed to her aid, and found her so low, poor woman, that she had more need of a confessor than a doctor. Thereupon he made the most pitiful lamentation that could be, but to represent it well ‘twere needful to speak thickly as he did, (2) and better still to paint one’s face like his.

     2  Curiously enough, the transcriber of MS. No. 1520
     attempts to give some idea of the husband’s pronunciation by
     transforming all his r’s into l’s. Here is an example: “Je
     pelz ma povle femme, que fesai-ze, moi malhureux?... M’amie
     je me meuls, je suis pis que tlepassé... je ne sçai que
     faize,” &c.—L.

When he had done all that he could for her, she asked for the cross, and it was brought. On seeing this, the good man flung himself upon a bed in despair, crying and saying in his thick speech—

“Ah God! I am losing my poor wife! What shall I do, unhappy man that I am?”

After uttering many such complaints, he perceived that there was no one in the room but a young servant-maid, passably fair and buxom, and he called to her in a whisper.

“Sweetheart,” he said, “I am dying. I am more than dead to see your mistress dying in this manner. I know not what to do or say, except that I commend myself to you, and beg you to care for my house and my children. Take therefore the keys from my side, and order the household, for I myself can attend to nothing more.”

The poor girl had pity on him and comforted him, begging him not to despair, so that, if she must lose her mistress, she might not also lose her good master.

“Sweetheart,” he replied, “‘tis all of no avail, for I am indeed dying. See yourself how cold my face is; bring your cheeks close to mine and warm them.”

With this he laid his hand upon her breast. She tried to make some difficulty, but he begged her to have no fear, since they must indeed see each other more closely. And speaking in this wise, he took her in his arms and threw her upon the bed.

Then his wife, whose only company was the cross and the holy water, and who had not spoken for two days, began to cry out as loudly as her feeble voice enabled her—

“Ah! ah! ah! I am not dead yet!” And threatening them with her hand, she repeated—“Villain! monster! I am not dead yet!”

On hearing her voice, the husband and maid rose up, but she was in such a rage against them that her anger consumed the catarrhal humour that had prevented her from speaking, and she poured upon them all the abuse that she could think of. And from that hour she began to mend, though not without often reproaching her husband for the little love he bore her. (3)

     3  This story was imitated by Noël du Fail de La Hérissaye
     in his Contes d’Eutrapel (ch. v. De la Goutte), where
     the hero of the incident is called Glaume Esnaut de
     Tremeril. “It is said,” writes Du Fail, “that the wife of
     that rascal Glaume of Tremeril when at the point of death,
     on seeing Glaume too familiar with her serving-woman,
     recovered her senses, saying, ‘Ah! wicked man, I am not yet
     so low as you thought. By God’s grace, mistress baggage, you
     shall go forth at once.’” Curiously enough, the 1585 edition
     of the Contes d’Eutrapel was printed at Rennes for Noël
     Glame, virtually the same name as Glaume.—M.

“By this you see, ladies, the hypocrisy of men, and how a little consolation will make them forget their sorrow for their wives.”

“How do you know,” said Hircan, “that he had not heard that such was the best remedy his wife could have? Since his kindly treatment availed not to cure her, he wished to try whether the opposite would prove any better, and the trial was a very fortunate one. But I marvel that you who are a woman should have shown how the constitution of your sex is brought to amendment rather by foul means than by fair.”

“Without doubt,” said Longarine, “behaviour of that kind would make me rise not merely from my bed, but from a grave such as that yonder.”

“And what wrong did he do her,” asked Saffre-dent, “by comforting himself when he thought that she was dead? It is known that the marriage-tie lasts only through life, and that when this is ended it is loosed.”

“Ay,” said Oisille, “loosed from oath and bond, but a good heart is never loosed from love. The husband you have told us of was indeed quick to forget his grief, since he could not wait until his wife had breathed her last.”

“What I think strangest of all,” said Nomerfide, “is that, when death and the cross were before his eyes, he should not have lost all desire to offend against God.”

“A brave argument!” said Simontault. “You would therefore not be surprised to see a man act wantonly provided he were a good distance from the church and cemetery?”

“You may laugh at me as much as you please,” said Nomerfide; “nevertheless the contemplation of death must greatly chill a heart, however young it may be.”

“I should indeed be of the same opinion as yourself,” said Dagoucin, “if I had not heard a Princess say the opposite.”

“In other words.” said Parlamente, “she told some story about it. If it be so, I will give you my place that you may relate it to us.”

Then Dagoucin began as follows:—

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225a. The Monk Conversing With The Nun While Shrouding A Dead Body

[The Monk Conversing with the Nun while Shrouding a Dead Body]

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     Whilst engaged in the last deed of charity, the shrouding
     of a dead body, a monk did also engage with a nun in the
     deeds of the flesh, and made her big with child. (1)

In one of the finest towns of France after Paris there stood an hospital (2) richly endowed—namely, with a Prioress and fifteen or sixteen nuns, while in another building there was a Prior and seven or eight monks. Every day the monks said mass, but the nuns only their paternosters and the Hours of Our Lady, for they were occupied in tending the sick.

     1  Gruget first printed this tale, which was not given by

     2  It is impossible to say what town and hospital Margaret
     here refers to. Lyons is the scene of the latter part of the
     story; and we are inclined to think that the earlier
     incidents may have occurred at Dijon, where there was a
     famous hospital under ecclesiastical management, founded by
     Eudes III., seventh Duke of Burgundy.—L. and Ed.

One day it chanced that a poor man died, and the nuns, being all assembled with him, after giving him every remedy for his health, sent for one of their monks to confess him. Then, finding that he was growing weaker, they gave him the extreme unction, after which he little by little lost the power of speech.

But as he was a long time in passing away, and it seemed that he could still hear, the nuns continued speaking to him with the most comforting words they knew, until at last they grew weary, and, finding that night was come and that it was late, retired one after another to rest. Thus, to shroud the body, there remained only one of the youngest of the nuns, with a monk whom she feared more than the Prior or any other, by reason of the severity that he displayed in both speech and life.

When they had duly uttered their Hours in the poor man’s ear, they perceived that he was dead, and thereupon laid him out. Whilst engaged on this last deed of charity, the monk began to speak of the wretchedness of life, and the blessedness of death; and in such discourse they continued until after midnight.

The poor girl listened attentively to the monk’s pious utterances, looking at him the while with tears in her eyes; and so pleasing were these to him that, whilst speaking of the life to come, he began to embrace her as though he longed to bear her away in his arms to Paradise.

The poor girl, listening to his discourse and deeming him the most pious of the community, ventured not to say him nay.

Perceiving this, the wicked monk, whilst still speaking of God, accomplished with her the work which the devil suddenly put into their hearts—for before there had been no question of such a thing. He assured her, however, that secret sin was not imputed to men by God, and that two persons who had no ties, could do no wrong in this manner, when no scandal came of it; and, to avoid all scandal, he told her to be careful to confess to none but himself.

So they parted each from the other, she going first. And as she passed through a chapel dedicated to Our Lady, she was minded to make her prayer as was her wont. But when she began with the words, “Mary, Virgin,” she remembered that she had lost the title of virginity not through force or love, but through foolish fear; and she began to weep so bitterly that it seemed as if her heart must break.

The monk, hearing the sighing from a distance, suspected her repentance, which might make him lose his delight, and to prevent this, he came and, finding her prostrate before the image, began to rebuke her harshly, telling her that if she had any scruples of conscience she should confess herself to him, and that she need not so act again unless she desired; for she might behave in either way without sin. The foolish nun, thinking to make atonement to God, confessed herself to the monk; but in respect of penance he swore to her that she did no sin in loving him, and that holy water would suffice to wash away such a peccadillo.

Believing in him more than in God, she again some time afterwards yielded to him, and so became big with child. At this she was in deep grief, and entreated the Prioress to have the monk turned away from his monastery, saying that she knew him to be so crafty that he would not fail to seduce her. The Abbess and the Prior, who understood each other, laughed at her, saying that she was big enough to defend herself against a man, and that the monk she spoke of was too virtuous to do such a deed.

At last, urged by the prickings of her conscience, she craved license to go to Rome, for she thought that, by confessing her sin at the Pope’s feet, she might recover her virginity. This the Prior and Prioress very readily granted her, for they were more willing that she should become a pilgrim contrary to the rules of her order, than be shut up in the convent with her present scruples. They feared also that in her despair she might denounce the life that was led among them, and so gave her money for her journey.

But God brought it to pass that when she came to Lyons, my lady the Duchess of Alençon, afterwards Queen of Navarre, being one evening after vespers in the roodloft of the church of St. John, whither she came secretly to perform a novena with three or four of her women, (3) heard someone mounting the stairway whilst she was kneeling before the crucifix. By the light of the lamp she saw it was a nun, and in order that she might hear her devotions, the Duchess thereupon withdrew to the corner of the altar. The nun, who believed herself to be alone, knelt down and, beating her breast, began weeping so sorrowfully that it was piteous to hear her; and all the while she cried naught but this—“Alas! my God, take pity on this poor sinner.”

     3  See ante, Tale LXV., note i.

The Duchess, wishing to learn what it meant, went up to her and said, “Dear heart, what ails you, and whence do you come, and what brings you to this place?”

The poor nun, who did not know her, replied, “Ah, sweet, my woe is such that I have no help but in God; and I pray that He may bring me to speak with the Duchess of Alençon. To her alone will I tell the matter, for I am sure that, if it be possible, she will set it right.”

“Dear heart,” then said the Duchess, “you may speak to me as you would to her, for I am one of her nearest friends.”

“Forgive me,” said the nun; “she alone must know my secret.”

Then the Duchess told her that she might speak freely, since she had indeed found her whom she sought. Forthwith the poor woman threw herself at her feet, and, after she had wept, related what you have heard concerning her hapless fortune. The Duchess consoled her so well, that whilst she took not from her everlasting repentance for her sin, she put from her mind the journeying to Rome, and then sent her back to her priory with letters to the Bishop of the place to have that shameful monk turned away.

“I have this story from the Duchess herself, and from it you may see, ladies, that Nomerfide’s prescription is not good for all, since these persons fell into lewdness even while touching and laying out the dead.”

“‘Twas a device,” said Hircan, “that methinks no man ever used before, to talk of death and engage in the deeds of life.”

“‘Tis no deed of life,” said Oisille, “to sin, for it is well known that sin begets death.”

“You may be sure,” said Saffredent, “that these poor folk gave no thought to any such theology; but just as the daughters of Lot made their father drunk so that the human race might be preserved, so these persons wished to repair what death had spoiled, and to replace the dead body by a new one. I therefore can see no harm in the matter except the tears of the poor nun, who was always weeping and always returning to the cause of her tears.”

“I have known many of the same kind,” said Hircan, “who wept for their sins and laughed at their pleasures both together.”

“I think I know whom you mean,” said Parlamente, “and their laughter has lasted so great a while that ‘twere time the tears should begin.”

“Hush!” said Hircan. “The tragedy that has begun with laughter is not ended yet.”

“To change the subject,” said Parlamente, “it seems to me that Dagoucin departed from our purpose. We were to tell only merry tales, and his was very piteous.”

“You said,” replied Dagoucin, “that you would only tell of follies, and I think that herein I have not been lacking. But, that we may hear a more pleasant story, I give my vote to Nomerfide, in the hope that she will make amends for my error.”

“I have indeed,” she answered, “a story ready which is worthy to follow yours; for it speaks of monks and death. So I pray you give good heed.”

Here end the Tales and Novels of the late Queen of Navarre, that is, all that can be recovered of them.

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In his introductory essay to this translation of the Heptameron, Mr. George Saintsbury has called attention to the researches of various commentators who have laboured to identify the supposed narrators of Queen Margaret’s tales. As it may be fairly assumed that the setting of the work is pure invention on the Queen’s part, the researches in question can scarcely serve any useful purpose. Still they appear to have had considerable attraction for several erudite editors, whose opinions, occasionally alluded to in our notes, we will here briefly summarise for the information of those whom the matter may interest:—

OISILLE, a widow lady of long experience, is supposed by Messrs. de Lincy, Lacroix, Génin, Frank, de Montaiglon and Miss Mary Robinson to be Louise of Savoy. In some MSS. the name is written Osyle, the anagram of Loyse, in which fashion Louise was spelt in old French. It may be pointed out, en passant, that Brantôme’s grandmother, the Sénéchale of Poitou, whose connection with the Heptameron is recorded, was also named Louise (see ante, vol. i. p. lxxxii.).

PARLAMENTE, wife of Hircan, is supposed by the same commentators to be Queen Margaret herself; this is assumed mainly because the views which Parlamente expresses on religion, philosophy, men and women, are generally in accord with those which the Queen is known to have professed.

HIRCAN, in M. de Lincy’s opinion, might be the Duke of Alençon, Margaret’s first husband. Messrs. Frank and Mont-aiglon, following M. Lacroix, prefer to identify him as Henry d’Albret, King of Navarre. They conjecture the name of Hircan to be derived from Ilanricus, a not uncommon fashion of spelling Henricus. It might, however, simply come from hircus, a he-goat, for Hircan is a man of gross, sensual tastes.

LONGARINE, a young widow, is supposed by M. de Lincy to be Blanche de Chastillon, née de Tournon (concerning whom see ante, vol. i. p. 84, n. 7, and p. 120 et seq.; vol. iv. p. 144, n. 2; and vol. v. p. 25, n. 2). M. Frank, however, thinks she is Aimée Motier de la Fayette, lady of Longray, widow of Francis de Silly, Bailiff of Caen, and gouvernante to Queen Margaret’s daughter, Jane of Navarre. Miss Robinson shares this opinion, but M. de Montaiglon thinks that Longarine would rather be Aimée Motier de la Fayette’s daughter Frances, married to Frederic d’Almenesches, of one of the branches of the house of Foix.

SIMONTAULT (occasionally Symontaut), a young knight, is thought by M. de Lincy to be Henry d’Albret, Margaret’s second husband, who was of an extremely amorous disposition, and much younger than herself. Messrs. Frank and de Montaiglon, however, fancy Simontault to have been Francis, Baron de Bourdeilles, father of Brantôme. It is admitted, however, that if this be the case, it is curious that Brantôme should not have alluded to it in any of his writings, whereas he does speak both of his mother and of his grandmother in connection with the Heptameron.

ENNASUITE (occasionally Ennasuitte or Ennasuicte, and in some MSS. Emarsuite), is supposed by Messrs. de Lincy, Frank, and de Montaiglon to be Anne de Vivonne, wife of Francis de Bourdeilles and mother of Brantôme (see ante, vol. iv. p. 144, n. 2). It is pointed out that the name may be transformed into the three words Anne et suite.

DAGOUCIN, a young gentleman, is thought by M. Frank to be Nicholas Dangu (see ante, vol. i. p. 20, n. 4, and p. 40, n. 3), who became Chancellor to the King of Navarre. M. Lacroix, however, fancies this personage to be a Count d’Agoust.

GEBURON, apparently an elderly man, would in M. Frank’s opinion be the Seigneur de Burye, a captain of the Italian wars to whom Brantôme (his cousin-german) alludes in his writings. The name of de Burye is also found in a list of the personages present at Queen Margaret’s funeral. M. de Montaiglon shares M. Frank’s views.

NOMERFIDE, so M. de Lincy suggests, may have been the famous Frances de Foix, Countess of Chateaubriand; but M. Frank opines that she is a Demoiselle de Fimarcon or Fiédmarcon (Lat. Feudimarco), who in 1525 married John de Montpczat, called “Captain Carbon,” one of the exquisites of the famous Field of the cloth of gold. Miss Robinson, however, fancies that Nomerfide is Isabel d’Albret, sister of Margaret’s second husband, and wife of René de Rohan.

SAFFREDENT, so M. de Lincy thinks, may be Admiral de Bonnivet; M. Frank suggests John de Montpezat; and Miss Robinson René de Rohan, who, after his father Peter de Rohan-Gié (husband of Rolandine, see ante, vol. iii., Tale XXI, notes 2 and 15), had been killed at Pavia, was for some years entrusted to Queen Margaret’s care. As Miss Robinson points out, Saffredent literally means greedy tooth or sweet tooth.

Those who may be desirous of studying and comparing these various attempts at identification, will find all the evidence and arguments of any value set forth in the writings of M. Frank, M. de Montaiglon and Miss Robinson, which are specified in the Bibliography annexed to this appendix.—Ed.


Fourteen MS. copies of the Heptameron are known to exist. Twelve of these are at the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, one is at the town library of Orleans, and one in the Vatican library. We also have some record of four other copies which were in private libraries at the end of the last century.

The twelve MSS. at the Bibliothèque Nationale are the following:—

I. (No. 1511 in the catalogue). A folio volume bound in red morocco, bearing the Béthune arms. This MS. is on ruled paper, and only one leaf, the last, is missing.

II. (No. 1512). A small folio, calf gilt, 350 leaves, from Colbert’s library. The handwriting is that of the middle of the sixteeenth century, and is the same throughout; the last page bearing the signature “Doulcet.” This supplied the text followed in the present translation.

III. (No. 1513). A small folio, half-bound in red morocco, stamped with King Louis Philippe’s monogram. It contains only twenty-eight of the tales.

IV. (No. 1514). A large quarto, calf, from the De Mesmes library. Contains only thirty-four of the tales.

V. (No. 1515). A small folio from Colbert’s library, bound in calf, in Groslier’s style. The text is complete, but there are numerous interlinear and marginal corrections and additions, in the same handwriting as MS. VII.

VI. (Nos. 1516 to 1519). Four quarto vols., red morocco, Béthune arms. The first prologue is deficient, as is also the last leaf of tale lxxi.

VII. (No. 1520). A folio vol., calf and red morocco, stamped with fleurs-de-lys and the monogram of Louis XVIII. This MS. on stout ruled paper, in a beautiful italic handwriting of the end of the sixteenth century, is complete. Unfortunately Queen Margaret’s phraseology has been considerably modified, though, on the other hand, the copyist has inserted a large number of different readings, as marginal notes, which render his work of great value. It is frequently quoted in the present translation.

VIII. (No. 1523). A folio vol., calf, from the De La Marre library. The first two leaves are deficient, and the text ends with the fifth tale of Day IV.

IX. (No. 1522). A small folio, bound in parchment, from the De La Marre library. Only the tales of the first four days are complete, and on folio 259 begins a long poem called Les Prisons, the work probably of William Filandrier, whom Queen Margaret protected. On the first folio of the volume is the inscription, in sixteenth-century handwriting: Pour ma sour Marie Philander. The poem Les Prisons is quoted on pp. xxxviii.-ix. vol. i. of the present work. It concludes with an epitaph on Margaret, dated 1549.

X. (No. 1524). A folio vol. from Colbert’s library, bound in red and yellow morocco, on which is painted, on a blue ground, a vine laden with grapes twining round the trunk of a tree. On either side and in gold letters is the device, Sin e doppo la morte (until and after death). Following the title-page, on which the work is called “The Decameron of the most high and most illustrious Princess, Madame Margaret of France,” is a curious preface signed “Adrian de Thou,” and dated “Paris, August 8, 1553.” This Adrian de Thou, Lord of Hierville and canon of Notre Dame de Paris, counsellor and clerk of the Paris Parliament, was the fourth son of Augustine de Thou and uncle to James Augustus de Thou, the historian. He died in October 1570. His MS. of the Heptameron, a most beautiful specimen of caligraphy, contains a long table of various readings and obscure passages; this was consulted in preparing the text for the present translation. The titles to the tales have also been borrowed from this MS.; they were composed by De Thou himself, and figure in no other MS. copy.

XI. (No. 1525). A small folio, calf, from Colbert’s library, very incomplete and badly written, but containing the Miroir de Jésu Crist crucifié, the last poem Queen Margaret composed (see ante, vol. i. p. lxxxvi.).

XII. (No. 2155). A small quarto, red morocco, from the library of Mazarin, whose escutcheon has been cut off. The text, which is complete and correct, excepting that a portion of the prologue has been accidentally transposed, is followed by an epitaph on the Queen. The handwriting throughout is that of the end of the sixteenth century.

The other MSS. of the Heptameron are the following:—

XIII. (Orleans town library, No. 352). A folio vol. of 440 pp. It is doubtful whether this MS. is of the sixteenth or seventeenth century. It bears the title L’Heptaméron des Nouvelles, &c. There are numerous deficiencies in the text.

XIV. (Vatican library, No. 929; from the library of Queen Christina of Sweden). A folio vol., calf, 95 leaves, handwriting of the end of the sixteenth century. This only contains fifteen of the stories.

XV. (present possessor unknown). A folio vol., red morocco; text (ending with tale lxix. ) in sixteenth-century handwriting, with illuminated initial letters to each tale. Catalogue des livres de feue Mme. la Comtesse de Verrue, Paris, G. Martin, 1737.

XVI. (possessor unknown). MS. supposed to be the original, a large folio, handwriting of the period, antique binding, containing the seventy-two tales. Catalogue des livres, &c., du cabinet de M. Filheul, &c., Paris, Chardin, 1779, pp. xxi. and 280.

XVII. (possessor unknown). A folio vol., blue morocco, gilt. No. 1493 in the catalogue of the Bibliothèque de Simon Bernard, chez Barrois, Paris, 1734; and No. 213 in a Catalogue de manuscrits intéressants qui seront vendus... en la maison de M. Gueret, notaire, Paris, Debure fils jeune, 1776.

XVIII. (possessor unknown). A folio vol., blue morocco, gilt, stamped with the arms of France, from the Randon de Boisset library; the seventy-two tales complete, a very fine copy. Catalogue des livres de la bibliothèqzie de l’Abbé Rive, Marseilles, 1793. (This MS. should not be confounded with No. xvii. See L. J. Hubaud’s Dissertation sur les Contes de la Reine de Navarre, Marseilles, 1850.)

The following are the editions of Queen Margaret’s tales issued from the press from the sixteenth century to the present time. The list has been prepared with great care, and we believe it to be as complete a one as can be furnished; it includes several editions not mentioned in Brunet’s Manual:—

I. Histoires des Amans Fortunez dédiées à très illustre princesse, Mme. Marguerite de Bourbon, etc., par Pierre Boaistuau, dit Launoy, Paris, 1558, 40. The authorisation to print and publish was accorded to Vincent Sertenas, and the work was issued by three different booksellers; some copies bearing the name of Gilles Robinot, others that of Jean Cavyller, and others that of Gilles Gilles.

This, the first edition of the Queen’s work, contains only sixty-seven of the tales, which are not divided into days or printed in their proper sequence; the prologues, moreover, are deficient, and all the bold passages on religious and philosophical questions, &c, in the conversational matter following the stories, are suppressed.

II. L’Heptaméron des Nouvelles de tris illustre et très excellente Princesse Marguerite de Valois, Royne de Navarre, &c., dédié à très illustre et très vertueuse Princesse Jeanne, Royne de Navarre, par Claude Gruget, parisien, Paris, Vincent Certena, or Jean Caveillier, 1559.

This contains all the Queen’s tales excepting Nos. xi., xliv., and xlvi., which Gruget replaced by others, probably written by himself. The other stories are placed in their proper order, but none of the names and passages suppressed by Boaistuau are restored. The phraseology of the MSS., moreover, is still further modified and polished.

The text adopted by Boaistuau and Gruget was followed, with a few additional modifications, in all the editions issued during the later years of the sixteenth century. Most of these are badly printed and contain numerous typographical errors:—

III. L’Heptamêron des Nouvelles, &c. Reprint of Gruget’s edition, sold by Vincent Sertenas, Gilles Robinot & Gilles Gille, and printed by Benoist Prévost, Paris, 1560.

IV. L’Heptamêron des Nouvelles, &c., 1560, 16mo. (No bookseller’s or printer’s name appears in this edition. )

V. L’Heptamêron, &c. (Gruget). Guill. Rouillé, Lyons, 1561, small 12mo; Gilles Gilles, Paris, 1561, 16mo.

VI. The same. Norment & Bruneau, and Gilles Gilles, Paris, 1567, 16mo.

VII. The same. Louys Cloquemin, Lyons, 1572, 16mo (reprinted in 1578 and 1581).

VIII. The same. Michel de Roigny, Paris, 1574, 16mo (round letters).

IX. The same. Gab. Buon, Paris, 1581, 16mo.

X. The same. Abel L’Angelier, Paris, 1581, 18mo.

XI. The same. Jean Osmont, Rouen, 1598, 578 pp., sin. 12mo (good type).

XII. The same. Romain Beauvais, Rouen, 1598, 589 pp. 12mo.

In the seventeenth century the Heptameron was frequently reprinted, Gruget’s text, with a few changes, being still followed until 1698, when it occurred to some obscure literary man to put the tales into so-called beau langage. At the same time the title of Heptameron, devised by Gruget, was discarded (see post, No. XVI.).

XIII. L’Heptaméron, &c., printed by Ch. Chappellein, Paris, 1607, 18mo.

XIV. The same. Sur Pimprimé à Paris, J. Bessin (Holland), 1615, sm. l2mo (reprinted in 1698, 2. vols. 12mo).

XV. The same. David du Petit-Val, Rouen, 1625, 12mo.

XVI. Contes et Nouvelles de Marguerite de Valois, Reine de Navarre, mis en beau langage. Gallet, Amsterdam, 1698, 2 vols, sm. 8vo. This edition is valued not for its beau langage, but for the copperplate engravings illustrating it. These are coarsely executed, and are attributed to Roman de Hooge, but do not bear his name. A reprint of the edition appeared at Amsterdam in 1700.

XVII. The same. Gallet, Amsterdam, 1708, 2 vols. sm. 8vo. Virtually a reprint, but with several of the Roman de Hooge plates deficient, and replaced by others signed Harrewyn.

XVIII. The same. La Haye (Chartres), 1733, 2 vols. sm. 12mo.

XIX. The same. Londres, 1744, 2 vols. 12mo.

XX. Heptaméron Français, ou les Nouvelles de Marguerite, Reine de Navarre; chez la Nouvelle Société Typographique, Berne, 1780-1, 3 vols. 8vo. On some copies the title is simply, Nouvelles de Marguerite, etc., Berne, 1781; on others Béat Louis Walthard is designated as the publisher.

For this edition were executed the copperplate engravings, designed by Freudenberg and Dunker, which illustrate the present translation. It was at first intended to issue the work in parts, but after parts i. and ii. had been published (at 4 livres each) the project was abandoned. A few copies of these two parts are in existence; they bear the date 1778. Freudenberg began his designs in the previous year, and finished them in 1780.

This edition is greatly prized for its illustrations; the text, however, largely modified by Jean Rodolphe de Sinner, is without value. The work was reissued at Paris in 1784 (8 vols, in 8vo, some copies 18mo), at Berne in 1792, and again in Paris in 1807 (8 vols. 18mo).

The following new editions of the Heptameron have appeared during the present century:—

XXI. Contes et Nouvelles de Marguerite, &c. Dauthereau, Paris, 1828, 5 vols. 32mo. (Collection des romans français et étrangers.)

XXII. L’Heptamêron, ou Histoire des Amants fortunés, &c, ancien texte publié par C. Gruget.., revu, corrigé et publié avec des notes, &c., par le bibliophile Jacob. Gosselin (Bibliothèque d’Élite), Paris, 1841, 12mo. In this edition the Bibliophile Jacob (M. P. Lacroix) but slightly modified Gruget’s text, and his annotation was comparatively insignificant. His work was reproduced in a volume of the Panthéon Littéraire: Les vieux Conteurs français, Paris, 1841, 1. 8vo. (double cols.).

XXIII. Heptaméron des Nouvelles de... Margtierile d’Angouléme... publiée sur les manuscrits par la Société des Bibliophiles Français (Le Roux de Lincy, editor), Paris, 1853-4, 3 vols. sm. 18mo.

In this edition the real text of the tales was printed for the first time, M. de Lincy having carefully examined the best MSS. for this purpose. The present English translation is based upon his work. Copies of the “Bibliophiles Français” edition, which contains a portrait of the Queen, a facsimile of a miniature, and an engraving showing her arms and device, cannot be purchased, when in fair condition, for less than £6 in Paris.

XXIV. L’Heptaméron des Nouvelles, etc.... avec des notes et une notice par P. L. Jacob, Bibliophile (Paul Lacroix). Adolphe Delahays, Bibliothèque Gauloise, Paris, 1858, 18mo.

In this edition M. Lacroix, following M. de Lincy’s example, went to the MSS. for his text, which he annotated with care and erudition. All his notes of any importance are reproduced in the present translation. The edition of 1858 was reprinted in 1875.

XXV. L’Heptaméron, &c. Gamier frères, Paris, n.d., 1 vol. 18mo. This was long the “popular” edition in France. The text, which is considerably modernised, is of no value.

XXVI. Les sept Journées de la Reine de Navarre, suivies de la huitième. Paris, Librairie des Bibliophiles (Jouaust), 1872, 4 vols. l6mo.

In this edition Gruget’s text is followed; the notes, &c, are by M. Lacroix. The work is prized for its illustrations (a portrait and eight etchings) by Leopold Flameng. It was originally issued in eight parts. The value of the copies varies according to the paper on which they are printed. Those on India or Whatman paper, with a duplicate set of the engravings, command high prices. The text has been reissued by the same firm in two cr. 8vo vols, under the title of L’Heptaméron des contes, etc.

XXVII. L’Heptaméron des Nouvelles, &c, preface, notes, &c, by Benjamin Pifteau, in the Nouvelle Collection Jannet, Alphonse Lemerre, Paris, 1875, 2 vols. l6mo.

This, undoubtedly the best of all the cheap editions, has been reprinted by Marpon & Flammarion, Paris, n.d. The text is from the MSS.; the notes are mainly abbreviated from those of MM. de Lincy and Lacroix. M. Pifteau supplies an introduction and glossary.

XXVIII. L’Heptaméron, &c., publié avec Introduction, Notes et Glossaire par Félix Frank. Liseux, Paris, 1879, 3 vols. 12mo.

This, from the literary point of view, is one of the most important of modern editions. The text is not taken from the same MS. as was followed by M. de Lincy. The tales are preceded by a lengthy introduction, in which the editor discusses Queen Margaret’s work and seeks to identify the supposed narrators of her tales. He has frequently been quoted in the notes to this translation.

XXIX. L’Heptaméron, &c, avec notes, variantes et glossaire par F. Dillaye et notice par A. France. A. Lemerre, Paris, 1879.

A handy edition based on the MSS. The notes embody the substance of M. de Lincy’s and M. Lacroix’s researches with additional particulars supplied by M. Dillaye, who has been quoted in the course of the present work.

XXX. L’Heptaméron, &c., publié stir les manuscrits avec les notes de MM. Le Poux de Lincy et Anatole de Montaiglon. Auguste Eudes, Paris, 1880, 8 vols. 1. 8vo and 4 vols. cr. 8vo.

The edition in 8 vols, (two copies of which on parchment were issued at £44 each; and twelve on Japanese paper at £20 each) is illustrated with the Freudenberg plates; that in 4 vols, contains the text only. The text is the same as that of No. XXIII.; but with additional notes, prefatory matter, &c. The copyright attaching to this edition was acquired for the present work, in which all M. de Montaiglon’s important notes are reproduced.

Among the English translations of the Heptameron are the following:—

Heptameron, or the History of the Fortunate Lovers, translated by R. Codrington, London, 1654, 12mo. (Dedicated to Thomas Stanley, the translator of Anacreon and editor of Æschylus, and based on Boaistuau’s defective text.)

The Heptameron of Margaret, Queen of Navarre, nota first translated from the original text, by Walter K. Kelly. Bohn (extra volume), London, 1855. This has been several times reprinted. The translation is a very free rendering of M. de Lincy’s text; many passages are deficient.

The Heptameron, &c., translated from the original French by Arthur Machen. Privately printed (G. Redway), London, 1886, 1 vol. 1. 8vo. A scholarly translation, not annotated; illustrated with the etchings by Flameng (see ante, edition xxv.).

The Fortunate Lovers, twenty-seven novels of the Queen of Navarre, translated by Arthur Machen, edited with notes and introduction by A. Mary F. Robinson. G. Redway, London, 1887, 8vo. Etched frontispiece by G. P. Jacomb Hood. This only contains such of the tales as the lady-editor considered unobjectionable. In her introduction she sketches the life of Queen Margaret and discusses the identity of the supposed narrators of the tales. Some of the notes are original, but the majority are based upon the researches of French commentators.—Ed.

   Volume I.       Volume II.       Volume III.       Volume IV.   

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(of V.), by Margaret, Queen Of Navarre


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