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Title: Droll Stories — Volume 1
Author: Balzac, Honoré de, 1799-1850
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Droll Stories — Volume 1" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



                           DROLL STORIES

               COLLECTED FROM THE ABBEYS OF TOURAINE

                              VOLUME I
                        THE FIRST TEN TALES

                                 BY

                          HONORE DE BALZAC



                              CONTENTS

TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE

THE FIRST TEN TALES

PROLOGUE
THE FAIR IMPERIA
THE VENIAL SIN
   HOW THE GOOD MAN BRUYN TOOK A WIFE
   HOW THE SENESCHAL STRUGGLED WITH HIS WIFE'S MODESTY
   THAT WHICH IS ONLY A VENIAL SIN
   HOW AND BY WHOM THE SAID CHILD WAS PROCURED
   HOW THE SAID LOVE-SIN WAS REPENTED OF AND LED TO GREAT MOURNING
THE KING'S SWEETHEART
THE DEVIL'S HEIR
THE MERRIE JESTS OF KING LOUIS THE ELEVENTH
THE HIGH CONSTABLE'S WIFE
THE MAID OF THILOUSE
THE BROTHER-IN-ARMS
THE VICAR OF AZAY-LE-RIDEAU
THE REPROACH
EPILOGUE



                         TRANSLATORS PREFACE

When, in March, 1832, the first volume of the now famous _Contes
Drolatiques_ was published by Gosselin of Paris, Balzac, in a short
preface, written in the publisher's name, replied to those attacks
which he anticipated certain critics would make upon his hardy
experiment. He claimed for his book the protection of all those to
whom literature was dear, because it was a work of art--and a work of
art, in the highest sense of the word, it undoubtedly is. Like
Boccaccio, Rabelais, the Queen of Navarre, Ariosto, and Verville, the
great author of _The Human Comedy_ has painted an epoch. In the fresh
and wonderful language of the Merry Vicar Of Meudon, he has given us a
marvellous picture of French life and manners in the sixteenth
century. The gallant knights and merry dames of that eventful period
of French history stand out in bold relief upon his canvas. The
background in these life-like figures is, as it were, "sketched upon
the spot." After reading the _Contes Drolatiques_, one could almost find
one's way about the towns and villages of Touraine, unassisted by map
or guide. Not only is this book a work of art from its historical
information and topographical accuracy; its claims to that distinction
rest upon a broader foundation. Written in the nineteenth century in
imitation of the style of the sixteenth, it is a triumph of literary
archaeology. It is a model of that which it professes to imitate; the
production of a writer who, to accomplish it, must have been at once
historian, linguist, philosopher, archaeologist, and anatomist, and
each in no ordinary degree. In France, his work has long been regarded
as a classic--as a faithful picture of the last days of the moyen age,
when kings and princesses, brave gentlemen and haughty ladies laughed
openly at stories and jokes which are considered disgraceful by their
more fastidious descendants. In England the difficulties of the
language employed, and the quaintness and peculiarity of its style,
have placed it beyond the reach of all but those thoroughly acquainted
with the French of the sixteenth century. Taking into consideration
the vast amount of historical information enshrined in its pages, the
archaeological value which it must always possess for the student, and
the dramatic interest of its stories, the translator has thought that
an English edition of Balzac's chef-d'oeuvre would be acceptable to
many. It has, of course, been impossible to reproduce in all its
vigour and freshness the language of the original. Many of the quips
and cranks and puns have been lost in the process of Anglicising.
These unavoidable blemishes apart, the writer ventures to hope that he
has treated this great masterpiece in a reverent spirit, touched it
with no sacrilegious hand, but, on the contrary, given as close a
translation as the dissimilarities of the two languages permit. With
this idea, no attempt had been made to polish or round many of the
awkwardly constructed sentences which are characteristic of this
volume. Rough, and occasionally obscure, they are far more in keeping
with the spirit of the original than the polished periods of modern
romance. Taking into consideration the many difficulties which he has
had to overcome, and which those best acquainted with the French
edition will best appreciate, the translator claims the indulgence of
the critical reader for any shortcomings he may discover. The best
plea that can be offered for such indulgence is the fact that,
although _Les Contes Drolatiques_ was completed and published in 1837,
the present is the first English version ever brought before the
public.

London, January, 1874



                          FIRST TEN TALES



                              PROLOGUE

This is a book of the highest flavour, full of right hearty merriment,
spiced to the palate of the illustrious and very precious tosspots and
drinkers, to whom our worthy compatriot, Francois Rabelais, the
eternal honour of Touraine, addressed himself. Be it nevertheless
understood, the author has no other desire than to be a good
Touranian, and joyfully to chronicle the merry doings of the famous
people of this sweet and productive land, more fertile in cuckolds,
dandies and witty wags than any other, and which has furnished a good
share of men of renown in France, as witness the departed Courier of
piquant memory; Verville, author of _Moyen de Parvenir_, and others
equally well known, among whom we will specially mention the Sieur
Descartes, because he was a melancholy genius, and devoted himself
more to brown studies than to drinks and dainties, a man of whom all
the cooks and confectioners of Tours have a wise horror, whom they
despise, and will not hear spoken of, and say, "Where does he live?"
if his name is mentioned. Now this work is the production of the
joyous leisure of good old monks, of whom there are many vestiges
scattered about the country, at Grenadiere-les-St.-Cyr, in the village
of Sacche-les-Azay-le-Rideau, at Marmoustiers, Veretz, Roche-Cobon,
and the certain storehouses of good stories, which storehouses are the
upper stories of old canons and wise dames, who remember the good old
days when they could enjoy a hearty laugh without looking to see if
their hilarity disturbed the sit of your ruffle, as do the young women
of the present day, who wish to take their pleasure gravely--a custom
which suits our Gay France as much as a water jug would the head of a
queen. Since laughter is a privilege granted to man alone, and he has
sufficient causes for tears within his reach, without adding to them
by books, I have considered it a thing most patriotic to publish a
drachm of merriment for these times, when weariness falls like a fine
rain, wetting us, soaking into us, and dissolving those ancient
customs which make the people to reap public amusement from the
Republic. But of those old pantagruelists who allowed God and the king
to conduct their own affairs without putting of their finger in the
pie oftener than they could help, being content to look on and laugh,
there are very few left. They are dying out day by day in such manner
that I fear greatly to see these illustrious fragments of the ancient
breviary spat upon, staled upon, set at naught, dishonoured, and
blamed, the which I should be loath to see, since I have and bear
great respect for the refuse of our Gallic antiquities.

Bear in mind also, ye wild critics, you scrapers-up of words, harpies
who mangle the intentions and inventions of everyone, that as children
only do we laugh, and as we travel onward laughter sinks down and dies
out, like the light of the oil-lit lamp. This signifies, that to laugh
you must be innocent, and pure of a heart, lacking which qualities you
purse your lips, drop your jaws, and knit your brow, after the manner
of men hiding vices and impurities. Take, then, this work as you would
take a group of statue, certain features of which an artist could
omit, and he would be the biggest of all big fools if he puts leaves
upon them, seeing that these said works are not, any more than is this
book, intended for nunneries. Nevertheless, I have taken care, much to
my vexation, to weed from the manuscripts the old words, which, in
spite of their age, were still strong, and which would have shocked
the ears, astonished the eyes, reddened the cheeks and sullied the
lips of trousered maidens, and Madame Virtue with three lovers; for
certain things must be done to suit the vices of the age, and a
periphrase is much more agreeable than the word. Indeed, we are old,
and find long trifles, better than the short follies of our youth,
because at that time our taste was better. Then spare me your
slanders, and read this rather at night than in the daytime and give
it not to young maidens, if there be any, because this book is
inflammable. I will now rid you of myself. But I fear nothing from
this book, since it is extracted from a high and splendid source, from
which all that has issued has had a great success, as is amply proved
by the royal orders of the Golden Fleece, of the Holy Ghost, of the
Garter, of the Bath, and by many notable things which have been taken
therefrom, under shelter of which I place myself.

_Now make ye merry, my hearties, and gayly read with ease of body and
rest of reins, and may a cancer carry you if you disown me after
having read me._

These words are those of our good Master Rabelais, before whom we must
also stand, hat in hand, in token of reverence and honour to him,
prince of all wisdom, and king of Comedy.



                          THE FAIR IMPERIA

The Archbishop of Bordeaux had added to his suite when going to the
Council at Constance quite a good-looking little priest of Touraine
whose ways and manner of speech was so charming that he passed for a
son of La Soldee and the Governor. The Archbishop of Tours had
willingly given him to his confrere for his journey to that town,
because it was usual for archbishops to make each other presents, they
well knowing how sharp are the itchings of theological palms. Thus
this young priest came to the Council and was lodged in the
establishment of his prelate, a man of good morals and great science.

Philippe de Mala, as he was called, resolved to behave well and
worthily to serve his protector, but he saw in this mysterious Council
many men leading a dissolute life and yet not making less, nay
--gaining more indulgences, gold crowns and benefices than all the
other virtuous and well-behaved ones. Now during one night--dangerous
to his virtue--the devil whispered into his ear that he should live
more luxuriously, since every one sucked the breasts of our Holy Mother
Church and yet they were not drained, a miracle which proved beyond
doubt the existence of God. And the priest of Touraine did not
disappoint the devil. He promised to feast himself, to eat his
bellyful of roast meats and other German delicacies, when he could do
so without paying for them as he was poor. As he remained quite
continent (in which he followed the example of the poor old archbishop
who sinned no longer because he was unable to, and passed for a
saint,) he had to suffer from intolerable desires followed by fits of
melancholy, since there were so many sweet courtesans, well developed,
but cold to the poor people, who inhabited Constance, to enlighten the
understanding of the Fathers of the Council. He was savage that he did
not know how to make up to these gallant sirens, who snubbed
cardinals, abbots, councillors, legates, bishops, princes and
margraves just as if they have been penniless clerks. And in the
evening, after prayers, he would practice speaking to them, teaching
himself the breviary of love. He taught himself to answer all possible
questions, but on the morrow if by chance he met one of the aforesaid
princesses dressed out, seated in a litter and escorted by her proud
and well-armed pages, he remained open-mouthed, like a dog in the act
of catching flies, at the sight of sweet countenance that so much
inflamed him. The secretary of a Monseigneur, a gentleman of Perigord,
having clearly explained to him that the Fathers, procureurs, and
auditors of the Rota bought by certain presents, not relics or
indulgences, but jewels and gold, the favour of being familiar with
the best of these pampered cats who lived under the protection of the
lords of the Council; the poor Touranian, all simpleton and innocent
as he was, treasured up under his mattress the money given him by the
good archbishop for writings and copying--hoping one day to have
enough just to see a cardinal's lady-love, and trusting to God for the
rest. He was hairless from top to toe and resembled a man about as
much as a goat with a night-dress on resembles a young lady, but
prompted by his desires he wandered in the evenings through the
streets of Constance, careless of his life, and, at the risk of having
his body halberded by the soldiers, he peeped at the cardinals
entering the houses of their sweethearts. Then he saw the wax-candles
lighted in the houses and suddenly the doors and the windows closed.
Then he heard the blessed abbots or others jumping about, drinking,
enjoying themselves, love-making, singing _Alleluia_ and applauding the
music with which they were being regaled. The kitchen performed
miracles, the Offices said were fine rich pots-full, the Matins sweet
little hams, the Vespers luscious mouthful, and the Lauhes delicate
sweetmeats, and after their little carouses, these brave priests were
silent, their pages diced upon the stairs, their mules stamped
restively in the streets; everything went well--but faith and religion
was there. That is how it came to pass the good man Huss was burned.
And the reason? He put his finger in the pie without being asked. Then
why was he a Huguenot before the others?

To return, however to our sweet little Philippe, not unfrequently did
he receive many a thump and hard blow, but the devil sustained him,
inciting him to believe that sooner or later it would come to his turn
to play the cardinal to some lovely dame. This ardent desire gave him
the boldness of a stag in autumn, so much so that one evening he
quietly tripped up the steps and into one of the first houses in
Constance where often he had seen officers, seneschals, valets, and
pages waiting with torches for their masters, dukes, kings, cardinals
and archbishops.

"Ah!" said he, "she must be very beautiful and amiable, this one."

A soldier well armed allowed him to pass, believing him to belong to
the suite of the Elector of Bavaria, who had just left, and that he
was going to deliver a message on behalf of the above-mentioned
nobleman. Philippe de Mala mounted the stairs as lightly as a
greyhound in love, and was guided by delectable odour of perfume to
certain chamber where, surrounded by her handmaidens, the lady of the
house was divesting herself of her attire. He stood quite dumbfounded
like a thief surprised by sergeants. The lady was without petticoat or
head-dress. The chambermaid and the servants, busy taking off her
stockings and undressing her, so quickly and dextrously had her
stripped, that the priest, overcome, gave vent to a long Ah! which had
the flavour of love about it.

"What want _you_, little one?" said the lady to him.

"To yield my soul to you," said he, flashing his eyes upon her.

"You can come again to-morrow," said she, in order to be rid of him.

To which Philippe replied, blushing, "I will not fail."

Then she burst out laughing. Philippe, struck motionless, stood quite
at his ease, letting wander over her his eyes that glowed and sparkled
with the flame of love. What lovely thick hair hung upon her ivory
white back, showing sweet white places, fair and shining between the
many tresses! She had upon her snow-white brow a ruby circlet, less
fertile in rays of fire than her black eyes, still moist with tears
from her hearty laugh. She even threw her slipper at a statue gilded
like a shrine, twisting herself about from very ribaldry and allowed
her bare foot, smaller than a swan's bill, to be seen. This evening
she was in a good humour, otherwise she would have had the little
shaven-crop put out by the window without more ado than her first
bishop.

"He has fine eyes, Madame," said one of her handmaids.

"Where does he comes from?" asked another.

"Poor child!" cried Madame, "his mother must be looking for him. Show
him his way home."

The Touranian, still sensible, gave a movement of delight at the sight
of the brocaded bed where the sweet form was about to repose. This
glance, full of amorous intelligence, awoke the lady's fantasy, who,
half laughing and half smitten, repeated "To-morrow," and dismissed
him with a gesture which the Pope Jehan himself would have obeyed,
especially as he was like a snail without a shell, since the Council
had just deprived him of the holy keys.

"Ah! Madame, there is another vow of chastity changed into an amorous
desire," said one of her women; and the chuckles commenced again thick
as hail.

Philippe went his way, bumping his head against a wall like a hooded
rook as he was. So giddy had he become at the sight of this creature,
even more enticing than a siren rising from the water. He noticed the
animals carved over the door and returned to the house of the
archbishop with his head full of diabolical longings and his entrails
sophisticated.

Once in his little room he counted his coins all night long, but could
make no more than four of them; and as that was all his treasure, he
counted upon satisfying the fair one by giving her all he had in the
world.

"What is it ails you?" said the good archbishop, uneasy at the groans
and "oh! ohs!" of his clerk.

"Ah! my Lord," answered the poor priest, "I am wondering how it is
that so light and sweet a woman can weigh so heavily upon my heart."

"Which one?" said the archbishop, putting down his breviary which he
was reading for others--the good man.

"Oh! Mother of God! You will scold me, I know, my good master, my
protector, because I have seen the lady of a cardinal at the least,
and I am weeping because I lack more than one crown to enable me to
convert her."

The archbishop, knitting the circumflex accent that he had above his
nose, said not a word. Then the very humble priest trembled in his
skin to have confessed so much to his superior. But the holy man
directly said to him, "She must be very dear then--"

"Ah!" said he, "she has swallowed many a mitre and stolen many a
cross."

"Well, Philippe, if thou will renounce her, I will present thee with
thirty angels from the poor-box."

"Ah! my lord, I should be losing too much," replied the lad,
emboldened by the treat he promised himself.

"Ah! Philippe," said the good prelate, "thou wilt then go to the devil
and displease God, like all our cardinals," and the master, with
sorrow, began to pray St. Gatien, the patron saint of Innocents, to
save his servant. He made him kneel down beside him, telling him to
recommend himself also to St. Philippe, but the wretched priest
implored the saint beneath his breath to prevent him from failing if
on the morrow that the lady should receive him kindly and mercifully;
and the good archbishop, observing the fervour of his servant, cried
out him, "Courage little one, and Heaven will exorcise thee."

On the morrow, while Monsieur was declaiming at the Council against
the shameless behaviour of the apostles of Christianity, Philippe de
Mala spent his angels--acquired with so much labour--in perfumes,
baths, fomentations, and other fooleries. He played the fop so well,
one would have thought him the fancy cavalier of a gay lady. He
wandered about the town in order to find the residence of his heart's
queen; and when he asked the passers-by to whom belonged the aforesaid
house, they laughed in his face, saying--

"Whence comes this precious fellow that has not heard of La Belle
Imperia?"

He was very much afraid he and his angels were gone to the devil when
he heard the name, and knew into what a nice mess he had voluntarily
fallen.

Imperia was the most precious, the most fantastic girl in the world,
although she passed for the most dazzling and the beautiful, and the
one who best understood the art of bamboozling cardinals and softening
the hardiest soldiers and oppressors of the people. She had brave
captains, archers, and nobles, ready to serve her at every turn. She
had only to breathe a word, and the business of anyone who had
offended her was settled. A free fight only brought a smile to her
lips, and often the Sire de Baudricourt--one of the King's Captains
--would ask her if there were any one he could kill for her that day
--a little joke at the expense of the abbots. With the exception of the
potentates among the high clergy with whom Madame Imperia managed to
accommodate her little tempers, she ruled everyone with a high hand in
virtue of her pretty babble and enchanting ways, which enthralled the
most virtuous and the most unimpressionable. Thus she lived beloved
and respected, quite as much as the real ladies and princesses, and
was called Madame, concerning which the good Emperor Sigismund replied
to a lady who complained of it to him, "That they, the good ladies,
might keep to their own proper way and holy virtues, and Madame
Imperia to the sweet naughtiness of the goddess Venus"--Christian
words which shocked the good ladies, to their credit be it said.

Philippe, then thinking over it in his mind that which on the
preceding evening he had seen with his eyes, doubted if more did not
remain behind. Then was he sad, and without taking bite or sup,
strolled about the town waiting the appointed hour, although he was
well-favoured and gallant enough to find others less difficult to
overcome than was Madame Imperia.

The night came; the little Touranian, exalted with pride caparisoned
with desire, and spurred by his "alacks" and "alases" which nearly
choked him, glided like an eel into the domicile of the veritable
Queen of the Council--for before her bowed humbly all the authority,
science, and wisdom of Christianity. The major domo did not know him,
and was going to bundle him out again, when one of the chamber-women
called him from the top of the stairs--"Eh, M. Imbert, it is Madame's
young fellow," and poor Philippe, blushing like a wedding night, ran
up the stairs, shaking with happiness and delight. The servant took
him by the hand and led into the chamber where sat Madame, lightly
attired like a brave woman who awaits her conqueror.

The dazzling Imperia was seated near a table covered with a shaggy
cloth ornamented with gold, and with all the requisites for a dainty
carouse. Flagons of wine, various drinking glasses, bottles of the
hippocras, flasks full of good wine of Cyprus, pretty boxes full of
spices, roast peacocks, green sauces, little salt hams--all that would
gladden the eyes of the gallant if he had not so madly loved Madame
Imperia.

She saw well that the eyes of the young priest were all for her.
Although accustomed to the curl-paper devotion of the churchmen, she
was well satisfied that she had made a conquest of the young priest
who all day long had been in her head.

The windows had been closed; Madame was decked out in a manner fit to
do honours to a prince of the Empire. Then the rogue, beatified by the
holy beauty of Imperia, knew that Emperor, burgraf, nay, even a
cardinal about to be elected pope, would willingly for that night have
changed places with him, a little priest who, beneath his gown, had
only the devil and love.

He put on a lordly air, and saluted her with a courtesy by no means
ungraceful; and then the sweet lady said to him, regaling with a
piercing glance--

"Come and sit close to me, that I may see if you have altered since
yesterday."

"Oh yes," said he.

"And how?" said she.

"Yesterday," replied the artful fellow, "I loved you; today, we love
each other, and from a poor sinner I have become richer than a king."

"Oh, little one, little one!" cried she, merrily; "yes, you are indeed
changed, for from a young priest I see well you have turned into an
old devil."

And side by side they sat down before a large fire, which helped to
spread their ecstasy around. They remained always ready to begin
eating, seeing that they only thought of gazing into each other's
eyes, and never touched a dish. Just as they were beginning to feel
comfortable and at their ease, there came a great noise at Madame's
door, as if people were beating against it, and crying out.

"Madame," cried the little servant hastily, "here's another of them."

"Who is it?" cried she in a haughty manner, like a tyrant, savage at
being interrupted.

"The Bishop of Coire wishes to speak with you."

"May the devil take him!" said she, looking at Philippe gently.

"Madame he has seen the light through the chinks, and is making a
great noise."

"Tell him I have the fever, and you will be telling him no lie, for I
am ill of this little priest who is torturing my brain."

But just as she had finished speaking, and was pressing with devotion
the hand of Philippe who trembled in his skin, appeared the fat Bishop
of Coire, indignant and angry. The officers followed him, bearing a
trout canonically dressed, fresh from the Rhine, and shining in a
golden platter, and spices contained in little ornamental boxes, and a
thousand dainties, such as liqueurs and jams, made by the holy nuns at
his Abbey.

"Ah, ah!" said he, with his deep voice, "I haven't time to go to the
devil, but you must give me a touch of him in advance, eh! my little
one."

"Your belly will one day make a nice sheath for a sword," replied she,
knitting her brows above her eyes, which from being soft and gentle
had become mischievous enough to make one tremble.

"And this little chorus singer is here to offer that?" said the
bishop, insolently turning his great rubicund face towards Philippe.

"Monseigneur, I'm here to confess Madame."

"Oh, oh, do you not know the canons? To confess the ladies at this
time of night is a right reserved to bishops, so take yourself off; go
and herd with simple monks, and never come back here again under pain
of excommunication."

"Do not move," cried the blushing Imperia, more lovely with passion
than she was with love, because now she was possessed both with
passion and love. "Stop, my friend. Here you are in your own house."
Then he knew that he was really loved by her.

"It is it not in the breviary, and an evangelical regulation, that you
should be equal with God in the valley of Jehoshaphat?" asked she of
the bishop.

"'Tis is an invention of the devil, who has adulterated the holy
book," replied the great numskull of a bishop in a hurry to fall to.

"Well then, be equal now before me, who am here below your goddess,"
replied Imperia, "otherwise one of these days I will have you
delicately strangled between the head and shoulders; I swear it by the
power of my tonsure which is as good as the pope's." And wishing that
the trout should be added to the feast as well as the sweets and other
dainties, she added, cunningly, "Sit you down and drink with us." But
the artful minx, being up to a trick or two, gave the little one a
wink which told him plainly not to mind the German, whom she would
soon find a means to be rid of.

The servant-maid seated the Bishop at the table, and tucked him up,
while Philippe, wild with rage that closed his mouth, because he saw
his plans ending in smoke, gave the archbishop to more devils than
ever were monks alive. Thus they got halfway through the repast, which
the young priest had not yet touched, hungering only for Imperia, near
whom he was already seated, but speaking that sweet language which the
ladies so well understand, that has neither stops, commas, accents,
letters, figures, characters, notes, nor images. The fat bishop,
sensual and careful enough of the sleek, ecclesiastical garment of
skin for which he was indebted to his late mother, allowed himself to
be plentifully served with hippocras by the delicate hand of Madame,
and it was just at his first hiccough that the sound of an approaching
cavalcade was heard in the street. The number of horses, the "Ho, ho!"
of the pages, showed plainly that some great prince hot with love, was
about to arrive. In fact, a moment afterwards the Cardinal of Ragusa,
against whom the servants of Imperia had not dared to bar the door,
entered the room. At this terrible sight the poor courtesan and her
young lover became ashamed and embarrassed, like fresh cured lepers;
for it would be tempting the devil to try and oust the cardinal, the
more so as at that time it was not known who would be pope, three
aspirants having resigned their hoods for the benefit of Christianity.
The cardinal, who was a cunning Italian, long bearded, a great
sophist, and the life and soul of the Council, guessed, by the
feeblest exercise of the faculties of his understanding, the alpha and
omega of the adventure. He only had to weigh in his mind one little
thought before he knew how to proceed in order to be able to
hypothecate his manly vigour. He arrived with the appetite of a hungry
monk, and to obtain its satisfaction he was just the man to stab two
monks and sell his bit of the true cross, which were wrong.

"Hulloa! friend," said he to Philippe, calling him towards him. The
poor Tourainian, more dead than alive, and expecting the devil was
about to interfere seriously with his arrangements, rose and said,
"What is it?" to the redoubtable cardinal.

He taking him by the arm led him to the staircase, looked him in the
white of the eye and said without any nonsense--"Ventredieu! You are a
nice little fellow, and I should not like to have to let your master
know the weight of your carcass. My revenge might cause me certain
pious expenses in my old age, so choose to espouse an abbey for the
remainder of your days, or to marry Madame to-night and die tomorrow."

The poor little Tourainian in despair murmured, "May I come back when
your passion is over?"

The cardinal could scarcely keep his countenance, but he said sternly,
"Choose the gallows or a mitre."

"Ah!" said the priest, maliciously; "a good fat abbey."

Thereupon the cardinal went back into the room, opened an escritoire,
and scribbled upon a piece of parchment an order to the envoy of
France.

"Monseigneur," said the Tourainian to him while he was spelling out
the order, "you will not get rid of the Bishop of Coire so easily as
you have got rid of me, for he has as many abbeys as the soldiers have
drinking shops in the town; besides, he is in the favour of his lord.
Now I fancy to show you my gratitude for this so fine Abbey I owe you
good piece of advice. You know how fatal has been and how rapidly
spread this terrible pestilence which has cruelly harassed Paris. Tell
him that you have just left the bedside of your old friend the
Archbishop of Bordeaux; thus you will make him scutter away like straw
before a whirl-wind.

"Oh, oh!" cried the cardinal, "thou meritest more than an abbey. Ah,
Ventredieu! my young friend, here are 100 golden crowns for thy
journey to the Abbey of Turpenay, which I won yesterday at cards, and
of which I make you a free gift."

Hearing these words, and seeing Philippe de Mala disappear without
giving her the amorous glances she expected, the beautiful Imperia,
puffing like a dolphin, denounced all the cowardice of the priest. She
was not then a sufficiently good Catholic to pardon her lover
deceiving her, by not knowing how to die for her pleasure. Thus the
death of Philippe was foreshadowed in the viper's glance she cast at
him to insult him, which glance pleased the cardinal much, for the
wily Italian saw he would soon get his abbey back again. The
Touranian, heeding not the brewing storm avoided it by walking out
silently with his ears down, like a wet dog being kicked out of a
Church. Madame drew a sigh from her heart. She must have had her own
ideas of humanity for the little value she held in it. The fire which
possessed her had mounted to her head, and scintillated in rays about
her, and there was good reason for it, for this was the first time
that she had been humbugged by priest. Then the cardinal smiled,
believing it was all to his advantage: was not he a cunning fellow?
Yes, he was the possessor of a red hat.

"Ah, ah! my friend," said he to the Bishop, "I congratulate myself on
being in your company, and I am glad to have been able to get rid of
that little wretch unworthy of Madame, the more so as if you had gone
near him, my lovely and amiable creature, you would have perished
miserably through the deed of a simple priest."

"Ah! How?"

"He is the secretary of the Archbishop of Bordeaux. The good man was
seized this morning with the pestilence."

The bishop opened his mouth wide enough to swallow a Dutch cheese.

"How do you know that?" asked he.

"Ah!" said the cardinal, taking the good German's hand, "I have just
administered to him, and consoled him; at this moment the holy man has
a fair wind to waft him to paradise."

The Bishop of Coire demonstrated immediately how light fat man are;
for when men are big-bellied, a merciful providence, in the
consideration of their works, often makes their internal tubes as
elastic as balloons. The aforesaid bishop sprang backwards with one
bound, burst into a perspiration and coughed like a cow who finds
feathers mixed with her hay. Then becoming suddenly pale, he rushed
down the stairs without even bidding Madame adieu. When the door had
closed upon the bishop, and he was fairly in the street, the Cardinal
of Ragusa began laughing fit to split his sides.

"Ah! my fair one, am I not worthy to be Pope, and better than that,
thy lover this evening?"

But seeing Imperia thoughtful he approached her to take her in his
arms, and pet her after the usual fashion of cardinals, men who
embrace better than all others, even the soldiers, because they are
lazy, and do not spare their essential properties.

"Ha!" said she, drawing back, "you wish to cause my death, you
ecclesiastical idiot. The principal thing for you is to enjoy
yourself; my sweet carcass, a thing accessory. Your pleasure will be
my death, and then you'll canonise me perhaps? Ah, you have the
plague, and you would give it to me. Go somewhere else, you brainless
priest. Ah! touch me not," said she, seeing him about to advance, "or
I will stab you with this dagger."

And the clever hussy drew from her armoire a little dagger, which she
knew how to use with great skill when necessary.

"But my little paradise, my sweet one," said the other, laughing,
"don't you see the trick? Wasn't it necessary to be get rid of that
old bullock of Coire?"

"Well then, if you love me, show it" replied she. "I desire that you
leave me instantly. If you are touched with the disease my death will
not worry you. I know you well enough to know at what price you will
put a moment of pleasure at your last hour. You would drown the earth.
Ah, ah! you have boasted of it when drunk. I love only myself, my
treasures, and my health. Go, and if tomorrow your veins are not
frozen by the disease, you can come again. Today, I hate you, good
cardinal," said she, smiling.

"Imperia!" cried the cardinal on his knees, "my blessed Imperia, do
not play with me thus."

"No," said she, "I never play with blessed and sacred things."

"Ah! ribald woman, I will excommunicate thee tomorrow."

"And now you are out of your cardinal sense."

"Imperia, cursed daughter of Satan! Oh, my little beauty--my love--!"

"Respect yourself more. Don't kneel to me, fie for shame!"

"Wilt thou have a dispensation in articulo mortis? Wilt thou have my
fortune--or better still, a bit of the veritable true Cross?--Wilt
thou?"

"This evening, all the wealth of heaven above and earth beneath would
not buy my heart," said she, laughing. "I should be the blackest of
sinners, unworthy to receive the Blessed Sacrament if I had not my
little caprices."

"I'll burn the house down. Sorceress, you have bewitched me. You shall
perish at the stake. Listen to me, my love,--my gentle Dove--I promise
you the best place in heaven. Eh? No. Death to you then--death to the
sorceress."

"Oh, oh! I will kill you, Monseigneur."

And the cardinal foamed with rage.

"You are making a fool of yourself," said she. "Go away, you'll tire
yourself."

"I shall be pope, and you shall pay for this!"

"Then you are no longer disposed to obey me?"

"What can I do this evening to please you?"

"Get out."

And she sprang lightly like a wagtail into her room, and locked
herself in, leaving the cardinal to storm that he was obliged to go.
When the fair Imperia found herself alone, seated before the fire, and
without her little priest, she exclaimed, snapping angrily the gold
links of her chain, "By the double triple horn on the devil, if the
little one has made me have this row with the Cardinal, and exposed me
to the danger of being poisoned tomorrow, unless I pay him over to my
heart's content, I will not die till I have seen him burned alive
before my eyes. Ah!" said she, weeping, this time real tears, "I lead
a most unhappy life, and the little pleasure I have costs me the life
of a dog, let alone my salvation."

As she finished this jeremiad, wailing like a calf that is being
slaughtered, she beheld the blushing face of the young priest, who had
hidden himself, peeping at her from behind her large Venetian mirror.

"Ah!" said she, "Thou art the most perfect monk that ever dwelt in
this blessed and amorous town of Constance. Ah, ah! Come my gentle
cavalier, my dear boy, my little charm, my paradise of delectation,
let me drink thine eyes, eat thee, kill thee with my love. Oh! my
ever-flourishing, ever-green, sempiternal god; from a little monk I
would make a king, emperor, pope, and happier than either. There, thou
canst put anything to fire and sword, I am thine, and thou shalt see
it well; for thou shalt be all a cardinal, even when to redden thy
hood I shed all my heart's blood." And with her trembling hands all
joyously she filled with Greek wine the golden cup, brought by the
Bishop of Coire, and presented it to her sweetheart, whom she served
upon her knee, she whose slipper princes found more to their taste
than that of the pope.

But he gazed at her in silence, with his eye so lustrous with love,
that she said to him, trembling with joy "Ah! be quiet, little one.
Let us have supper."



                           THE VENIAL SIN


HOW THE GOOD MAN BRUYN TOOK A WIFE.

Messire Bruyn, he who completed the Castle of Roche-Corbon-les-Vouvray,
on the banks of the Loire, was a boisterous fellow in his
youth. When quite little, he squeezed young ladies, turned the house
out of windows, and played the devil with everything, when he was
called upon to put his Sire the Baron of Roche-Corbon some few feet
under the turf. Then he was his own master, free to lead a life of
wild dissipation, and indeed he worked very hard to get a surfeit of
enjoyment. Now by making his crowns sweat and his goods scarce,
draining his land, and a bleeding his hogsheads, and regaling frail
beauties, he found himself excommunicated from decent society, and had
for his friends only the plunderers of towns and the Lombardians. But
the usurers turned rough and bitter as chestnut husks, when he had no
other security to give them than his said estate of Roche-Corbon,
since the Rupes Carbonis was held from our Lord the king. Then Bruyn
found himself just in the humour to give a blow here and there, to
break a collar-bone or two, and quarrel with everyone about trifles.
Seeing which, the Abbot of Marmoustiers, his neighbour, and a man
liberal with his advice, told him that it was an evident sign of
lordly perfection, that he was walking in the right road, but if he
would go and slaughter, to the great glory of God, the Mahommedans who
defiled the Holy Land, it would be better still, and that he would
undoubtedly return full of wealth and indulgences into Touraine, or
into Paradise, whence all barons formerly came.

The said Bruyn, admiring the great sense of the prelate, left the
country equipped by the monastery, and blessed by the abbot, to the
great delight of his friends and neighbours. Then he put to the sack
enough many towns of Asia and Africa, and fell upon the infidels
without giving them warning, burning the Saracens, the Greeks, the
English, and others, caring little whether they were friends or
enemies, or where they came from, since among his merits he had that
of being in no way curious, and he never questioned them until after
he had killed them. At this business, agreeable to God, to the King
and to himself, Bruyn gained renown as a good Christian and loyal
knight, and enjoyed himself thoroughly in these lands beyond the seas,
since he more willingly gave a crown to the girls than to the poor,
although he met many more poor people than perfect maids; but like a
good Touranian he made soup of anything. At length, when he was
satiated with the Turks, relics, and other blessings of the Holy Land,
Bruyn, to the great astonishment of the people of Vouvrillons,
returned from the Crusades laden with crowns and precious stones;
rather differently from some who, rich when they set out, came back
heavy with leprosy, but light with gold. On his return from Tunis, our
Lord, King Philippe, made him a Count, and appointed him his seneschal
in our country and that of Poitou. There he was greatly beloved and
properly thought well of, since over and above his good qualities he
founded the Church of the Carmes-Deschaulx, in the parish of
Egrignolles, as the peace-offering to Heaven for the follies of his
youth. Thus was he cardinally consigned to the good graces of the
Church and of God. From a wicked youth and reckless man, he became a
good, wise man, and discreet in his dissipations and pleasures; rarely
was in anger, unless someone blasphemed God before him, the which he
would not tolerate because he had blasphemed enough for every one in
his wild youth. In short, he never quarrelled, because, being
seneschal, people gave up to him instantly. It is true that he at that
time beheld all his desires accomplished, the which would render even
an imp of Satan calm and tranquil from his horns to his heels. And
besides this he possessed a castle all jagged at the corners, and
shaped and pointed like a Spanish doublet, situated upon a bank from
which it was reflected in the Loire. In the rooms were royal
tapestries, furniture, Saracen pomps, vanities, and inventions which
were much admired by people of Tours, and even by the archbishop and
clerks of St. Martin, to whom he sent as a free gift a banner fringed
with fine gold. In the neighbourhood of the said castle abounded fair
domains, wind-mills, and forests, yielding a harvest of rents of all
kinds, so that he was one of the strongest knights-banneret of the
province, and could easily have led to battle for our lord the king a
thousand men. In his old days, if by chance his bailiff, a diligent
man at hanging, brought before him a poor peasant suspected of some
offence, he would say, smiling--

"Let this one go, Brediff, he will count against those I
inconsiderately slaughtered across the seas"; oftentimes, however, he
would let them bravely hang on a chestnut tree or swing on his
gallows, but this was solely that justice might be done, and that the
custom should not lapse in his domain. Thus the people on his lands
were good and orderly, like fresh veiled nuns, and peaceful since he
protected them from the robbers and vagabonds whom he never spared,
knowing by experience how much mischief is caused by these cursed
beasts of prey. For the rest, most devout, finishing everything
quickly, his prayers as well as good wine, he managed the processes
after the Turkish fashion, having a thousand little jokes ready for
the losers, and dining with them to console them. He had all the
people who had been hanged buried in consecrated ground like godly
ones, some people thinking they had been sufficiently punished by
having their breath stopped. He only persecuted the Jews now and then,
and when they were glutted with usury and wealth. He let them gather
their spoil as the bees do honey, saying that they were the best of
tax-gatherers. And never did he despoil them save for the profit and
use of the churchmen, the king, the province, or himself.

This jovial way gained for him the affection and esteem of every one,
great and small. If he came back smiling from his judicial throne, the
Abbot of Marmoustiers, an old man like himself, would say, "Ho, ha!
messire, there is some hanging on since you laugh thus!" And when
coming from Roche-Corbon to Tours he passed on horseback along the
Fauborg St. Symphorien, the little girls would say, "Ah! this is the
justice day, there is the good man Bruyn," and without being afraid
they would look at him astride on a big white hack, that he had
brought back with him from the Levant. On the bridge the little boys
would stop playing with the ball, and would call out, "Good day, Mr.
Seneschal" and he would reply, jokingly, "Enjoy yourselves, my
children, until you get whipped." "Yes, Mr. Seneschal."

Also he made the country so contented and so free from robbers that
during the year of the great over-flowing of the Loire there were only
twenty-two malefactors hanged that winter, not counting a Jew burned
in the Commune of Chateau-Neuf for having stolen a consecrated wafer,
or bought it, some said, for he was very rich.

One day, in the following year about harvest time, or mowing time, as
we say in Touraine, there came Egyptians, Bohemians, and other
wandering troupes who stole the holy things from the Church of St.
Martin, and in the place and exact situation of Madam the Virgin, left
by way of insult and mockery to our Holy Faith, an abandoned pretty
little girl, about the age of an old dog, stark naked, an acrobat, and
of Moorish descent like themselves. For this almost nameless crime it
was equally decided by the king, people, and the churchmen that the
Mooress, to pay for all, should be burned and cooked alive in the
square near the fountain where the herb market is. Then the good man
Bruyn clearly and dextrously demonstrated to the others that it would
be a thing most profitable and pleasant to God to gain over this
African soul to the true religion, and if the devil were lodged in
this feminine body the faggots would be useless to burn him, as said
the said order. To which the archbishop sagely thought most canonical
and conformable to Christian charity and the gospel. The ladies of the
town and other persons of authority said loudly that they were cheated
of a fine ceremony, since the Mooress was crying her eyes out in the
jail and would certainly be converted to God in order to live as long
as a crow, if she were allowed to do so, to which the seneschal
replied that if the foreigner would wholly commit herself to the
Christian religion there would be a gallant ceremony of another kind,
and that he would undertake that it should be royally magnificent,
because he would be her sponsor at the baptismal font, and that a
virgin should be his partner in the affair in order the better to
please the Almighty, while himself was reputed never to have lost the
bloom or innocence, in fact to be a coquebin. In our country of
Touraine thus are called the young virgin men, unmarried or so
esteemed to distinguish them from the husbands and the widowers, but
the girls always pick them without the name, because they are more
light-hearted and merry than those seasoned in marriage.

The young Mooress did not hesitate between the flaming faggots and the
baptismal water. She much preferred to be a Christian and live than be
Egyptian and be burned; thus to escape a moment's baking, her heart
would burn unquenched through all her life, since for the greater
surety of her religion she was placed in the convent of nuns near
Chardonneret, where she took the vow of sanctity. The said ceremony
was concluded at the residence of the archbishop, where on this
occasion, in honour of the Saviour or men, the lords and ladies of
Touraine hopped, skipped and danced, for in this country the people
dance, skip, eat, flirt, have more feasts and make merrier than any in
the whole world. The good old seneschal had taken for his associate
the daughter of the lord of Azay-le-Ridel, which afterwards became
Azay-le-Brusle, the which lord being a Crusader was left before Acre,
a far distant town, in the hands of a Saracen who demanded a royal
ransom for him because the said lord was of high position.

The lady of Azay having given his estate as security to the Lombards
and extortioners in order to raise the sum, remained, without a penny
in the world, awaiting her lord in a poor lodging in the town,
without a carpet to sit upon, but proud as the Queen of Sheba and
brave as a mastiff who defends the property of his master. Seeing this
great distress the seneschal went delicately to request this lady's
daughter to be the godmother of the said Egyptian, in order that he
might have the right of assisting the Lady of Azay. And, in fact, he
kept a heavy chain of gold which he had preserved since the
commencement of the taking of Cyprus, and the which he determined to
clasp about the neck of his pretty associate, but he hung there at the
same time his domain, and his white hairs, his money and his horses;
in short, he placed there everything he possessed, directly he had
seen Blanche of Azay dancing a pavan among the ladies of Tours.
Although the Moorish girl, making the most of her last day, had
astonished the assembly by her twists, jumps, steps, springs, and
elevations and artistic efforts, Blanche had the advantage of her, as
everyone agreed, so virginally and delicately did she dance.

Now Bruyn, admiring this gentle maiden whose toes seemed to fear the
boards, and who amused herself so innocently for her seventeen years
--like a grasshopper trying her first note--was seized with an old
man's desire; a desire apoplectic and vigorous from weakness, which
heated him from the sole of foot to the nape of his neck--for his head
had too much snow on the top of it to let love lodge there. Then the
good man perceived that he needed a wife in his manor, and it appeared
more lonely to him than it was. And what then was a castle without a
chatelaine? As well have a clapper without its bell. In short, a wife
was the only thing that he had to desire, so he wished to have one
promptly, seeing that if the Lady of Azay made him wait, he had just
time to pass out of this world into the other. But during the
baptismal entertainment, he thought little of his severe wounds, and
still less of the eighty years that had stripped his head; he found
his eyes clear enough to see distinctly his young companion, who,
following the injunctions of the Lady of Azay, regaled him well with
glance and gesture, believing there could be no danger near so old a
fellow, in such wise that Blanche--naive and nice as she was in
contradistinction to the girls of Touraine, who are as wide-awake as a
spring morning--permitted the good man first to kiss her hand, and
afterwards her neck, rather low-down; at least so said the archbishop
who married them the week after; and that was a beautiful bridal, and
a still more beautiful bride.

The said Blanche was slender and graceful as no other girl, and still
better than that, more maidenly than ever maiden was; a maiden all
ignorant of love, who knew not why or what it was; a maiden who
wondered why certain people lingered in their beds; a maiden who
believed that children were found in parsley beds. Her mother had thus
reared her in innocence, without even allowing her to consider, trifle
as it was, how she sucked in her soup between her teeth. Thus she was
a sweet flower, and intact, joyous and innocent; an angel, who needed
but the wings to fly away to Paradise. When she left the poor lodging
of her weeping mother to consummate her betrothal at the cathedral of
St. Gatien and St. Maurice, the country people came to a feast their
eyes upon the bride, and on the carpets which were laid down all along
the Rue de la Scellerie, and all said that never had tinier feet
pressed the ground of Touraine, prettier eyes gazed up to heaven, or a
more splendid festival adorned the streets with carpets and with
flowers. The young girls of St. Martin and of the boroughs of
Chateau-Neuf, all envied the long brown tresses with which doubtless
Blanche had fished for a count, but much more did they desire the gold
embroidered dress, the foreign stones, the white diamonds, and the
chains with which the little darling played, and which bound her for
ever to the said seneschal. The old soldier was so merry by her side,
that his happiness showed itself in his wrinkles, his looks, and his
movements. Although he was hardly as straight as a billhook, he held
himself so by the side of Blanche, that one would have taken him for a
soldier on parade receiving his officer, and he placed his hand on his
diaphragm like a man whose pleasure stifles and troubles him.
Delighted with the sound of the swinging bells, the procession, the
pomps, and the vanities of the said marriage, which was talked of long
after the episcopal rejoicings, the women desired a harvest of Moorish
girls, a deluge of old seneschals, and baskets full of Egyptian
baptisms. But this was the only one that ever happened in Touraine,
seeing that the country is far from Egypt and from Bohemia. The Lady
of Azay received a large sum of money after the ceremony, which
enabled her to start immediately for Acre to go to her spouse,
accompanied by the lieutenant and soldiers of the Count of
Roche-Corbon, who furnished them with everything necessary. She set out
on the day of the wedding, after having placed her daughter in the hands
of the seneschal, enjoining him to treat her well; and later on she
returned with the Sire d'Azay, who was leprous, and she cured him,
tending him herself, running the risk of being contaminated, the which
was greatly admired.

The marriage ceremony finished and at an end--for it lasted three
days, to the great contentment of the people--Messire Bruyn with great
pomp led the little one to his castle, and, according to the custom of
husbands, had her put solemnly to bed in his couch, which was blessed
by the Abbot of Marmoustiers; then came and placed himself beside her
in the great feudal chamber of Roche-Corbon, which had been hung with
green blockade and ribbon of golden wire. When old Bruyn, perfumed all
over, found himself side by side with his pretty wife, he kissed her
first upon the forehead, and then upon the little round, white breast,
on the same spot where she had allowed him to clasp the fastenings of
the chain, but that was all. The old fellow had too great confidence
in himself in fancying himself able to accomplish more; so then he
abstained from love in spite of the merry nuptial songs, the
epithalamiums and jokes which were going on in the rooms beneath where
the dancing was still kept up. He refreshed himself with a drink of
the marriage beverage, which according to custom, had been blessed and
placed near them in a golden cup. The spices warned his stomach well
enough, but not the heart of his dead ardour. Blanche was not at all
astonished at the demeanour of her spouse, because she was a virgin in
mind, and in marriage she saw only that which is visible to the eyes
of young girls--namely dresses, banquets, horses, to be a lady and
mistress, to have a country seat, to amuse oneself and give orders;
so, like the child that she was, she played with the gold tassels on
the bed, and marvelled at the richness of the shrine in which her
innocence should be interred. Feeling, a little later in the day, his
culpability, and relying on the future, which, however, would spoil a
little every day that with which he pretended to regale his wife, the
seneschal tried to substitute the word for the deed. So he entertained
his wife in various ways, promised her the keys of his sideboards, his
granaries and chests, the perfect government of his houses and domains
without any control, hanging round her neck "the other half of the
loaf," which is the popular saying in Touraine. She became like a
young charger full of hay, found her good man the most gallant fellow
in the world, and raising herself upon her pillow began to smile, and
beheld with greater joy this beautiful green brocaded bed, where
henceforward she would be permitted, without any sin, to sleep every
night. Seeing she was getting playful, the cunning lord, who had not
been used to maidens, but knew from experience the little tricks that
women will practice, seeing that he had much associated with ladies of
the town, feared those handy tricks, little kisses, and minor
amusements of love which formerly he did not object to, but which at
the present time would have found him cold as the obit of a pope. Then
he drew back towards the end of the bed, afraid of his happiness, and
said to his too delectable spouse, "Well, darling, you are a
seneschal's wife now, and very well seneschaled as well."

"Oh no!" said she.

"How no!" replied he in great fear; "are you not a wife?"

"No!" said she. "Nor shall I be till I have had a child."

"Did you while coming here see the meadows?" began again the old
fellow.

"Yes," said she.

"Well, they are yours."

"Oh! Oh!" replied she laughing, "I shall amuse myself much there
catching butterflies."

"That's a good girl," says her lord. "And the woods?"

"Ah! I should not like to be there alone, you will take me there.
But," said she, "give me a little of that liquor which La Ponneuse has
taken such pains to prepare for us."

"And why, my darling? It would put fire in your body."

"Oh! That's what I should like," said she, biting her lip with
vexation, "because I desire to give you a child as soon as possible;
and I'm sure that liquor is good for the purpose."

"Ah! my little one," said the seneschal, knowing by this that Blanche
was a virgin from head to foot, "the goodwill of God is necessary for
this business, and women must be in a state of harvest."

"And when should I be in a state of harvest?" asked she, smiling.

"When nature so wills it," said he, trying to laugh.

"What is it necessary to do for this?" replied she.

"Ah! A cabalistical and alchemical operation which is very dangerous."

"Ah!" said she, with a dreamy look, "that's the reason why my mother
cried when thinking of the said metamorphosis; but Bertha de Breuilly,
who is so thankful for being made a wife, told me it was the easiest
thing in the world."

"That's according to the age," replied the old lord. "But did you see
at the stable the beautiful white mare so much spoken of in Touraine?"

"Yes, she is very gentle and nice."

"Well, I give her to you, and you can ride her as often as the fancy
takes you."

"Oh, you are very kind, and they did not lie when they told me so."

"Here," continued he, "sweetheart; the butler, the chaplain, the
treasurer, the equerry, the farrier, the bailiff, even the Sire de
Montsoreau, the young varlet whose name is Gauttier and bears my
banner, with his men at arms, captains, followers, and beasts--all are
yours, and will instantly obey your orders under pain of being
incommoded with a hempen collar."

"But," replied she, "this mysterious operation--cannot it be performed
immediately?"

"Oh no!" replied the seneschal. "Because it is necessary above all
things that both the one and the other of us should be in a state of
grace before God; otherwise we should have a bad child, full of sin;
which is forbidden by the canons of the church. This is the reason
that there are so many incorrigible scapegraces in the world. Their
parents have not wisely waited to have their souls pure, and have
given wicked souls to their children. The beautiful and the virtuous
come of immaculate fathers; that is why we cause our beds to be
blessed, as the Abbot of Marmoustiers has done this one. Have you not
transgressed the ordinances of the Church?"

"Oh no," said she, quickly, "I received before Mass absolution for all
my faults and have remained since without committing the slightest
sin."

"You are very perfect," said the cunning lord, "and I am delighted to
have you for a wife; but I have sworn like an infidel."

"Oh! and why?"

"Because the dancing did not finish, and I could not have you to
myself to bring you here and kiss you."

Thereupon he gallantly took her hands and covered them with kisses,
whispering to her little endearments and superficial words of
affection which made her quite pleased and contented.

Then, fatigued with the dance and all the ceremonies, she settled down
to her slumbers, saying to the seneschal--

"I will take care tomorrow that you shall not sin," and she left the
old man quite smitten with her white beauty, amorous of her delicate
nature, and as embarrassed to know how he should be able to keep her
in her innocence as to explain why oxen chew their food twice over.
Although he did not augur to himself any good therefrom, it inflamed
him so much to see the exquisite perfections of Blanche during her
innocent and gentle sleep, that he resolved to preserve and defend
this pretty jewel of love. With tears in his eyes he kissed her sweet
golden tresses, the beautiful eyelids, and her ripe red mouth, and he
did it softly for fear of waking her. There was all his fruition, the
dumb delight which still inflamed his heart without in the least
affecting Blanche. Then he deplored the snows of his leafless old age,
the poor old man, that he saw clearly that God had amused himself by
giving him nuts when his teeth were gone.


HOW THE SENESCHAL STRUGGLED WITH HIS WIFE'S MODESTY.

During the first days of his marriage the seneschal imprinted many
fibs to tell his wife, whose so estimable innocence he abused.
Firstly, he found in his judicial functions good excuses for leaving
her at times alone; then he occupied himself with the peasants of the
neighbourhood, and took them to dress the vines on his lands at
Vouvray, and at length pampered her up with a thousand absurd tales.

At one time he would say that lords did not behave like common people,
that the children were only planted at certain celestial conjunctions
ascertained by learned astrologers; at another that one should abstain
from begetting children on feast days, because it was a great
undertaking; and he observed the feasts like a man who wished to enter
into Paradise without consent. Sometimes he would pretend that if by
chance the parents were not in a state of grace, the children
commenced on the date of St. Claire would be blind, of St. Gatien had
the gout, of St. Agnes were scaldheaded, of St. Roch had the plague;
sometimes that those begotten in February were chilly; in March, too
turbulent; in April, were worth nothing at all; and that handsome boys
were conceived in May. In short, he wished his child to be perfect, to
have his hair of two colours; and for this it was necessary that all
the required conditions should be observed. At other times he would
say to Blanche that the right of a man was to bestow a child upon his
wife according to his sole and unique will, and that if she pretended
to be a virtuous woman she should conform to the wishes of her
husband; in fact it was necessary to await the return of the Lady of
Azay in order that she should assist at the confinement; from all of
which Blanche concluded that the seneschal was annoyed by her
requests, and was perhaps right, since he was old and full of
experience; so she submitted herself and thought no more, except to
herself, of this so much-desired child, that is to say, she was always
thinking of it, like a woman who has a desire in her head, without
suspecting that she was behaving like a gay lady or a town-walker
running after her enjoyment. One evening, by accident, Bruyn spoke of
children, a discourse that he avoided as cats avoid water, but he was
complaining of a boy condemned by him that morning for great misdeeds,
saying for certain he was the offspring of people laden with mortal
sins.

"Alas!" said Blanche, "if you will give me one, although you have not
got absolution, I will correct so well that you will be pleased with
him."

Then the count saw that his wife was bitten by a warm desire, and that
it was time to dissipate her innocence in order to make himself master
of it, to conquer it, to beat it, or to appease and extinguish it.

"What, my dear, you wish to be a mother?" said he; "you do not yet
know the business of a wife, you are not accustomed to being mistress
of the house."

"Oh! Oh!" said she, "to be a perfect countess, and have in my loins a
little count, must I play the great lady? I will do it, and
thoroughly."

Then Blanche, in order to obtain issue, began to hunt the fawns and
stags, leaping the ditches, galloping upon her mare over valleys and
mountain, through the woods and the fields, taking great delight in
watching the falcons fly, in unhooding them and while hunting always
carried them gracefully upon her little wrist, which was what the
seneschal had desired. But in this pursuit, Blanche gained an appetite
of nun and prelate, that is to say, wished to procreate, had her
desires whetted, and could scarcely restrain her hunger, when on her
return she gave play to her teeth. Now by reason of reading the
legends written by the way, and of separating by death the embraces of
birds and wild beasts, she discovered a mystery of natural alchemy,
while colouring her complexion, and superagitating her feeble
imagination, which did little to pacify her warlike nature, and
strongly tickled her desire which laughed, played, and frisked
unmistakably. The seneschal thought to disarm the rebellious virtue of
his wife by making her scour the country; but his fraud turned out
badly, for the unknown lust that circulated in the veins of Blanche
emerged from these assaults more hardy than before, inviting jousts
and tourneys as the herald the armed knight.

The good lord saw then that he had grossly erred and that he was now
upon the horns of a dilemma; also he no longer knew what course to
adopt; the longer he left it the more it would resist. From this
combat, there must result one conquered and one contused--a diabolical
contusion which he wished to keep distant from his physiognomy by
God's help until after his death. The poor seneschal had already great
trouble to follow his lady to the chase, without being dismounted; he
sweated under the weight of his trappings, and almost expired in that
pursuit wherein his frisky wife cheered her life and took great
pleasure. Many times in the evening she wished to dance. Now the good
man, swathed in his heavy clothing, found himself quite worn out with
these exercises, in which he was constrained to participate either in
giving her his hand, when she performed the vaults of the Moorish
girl, or in holding the lighted fagot for her, when she had a fancy to
do the torchlight dance; and in spite of his sciaticas, accretions,
and rheumatisms, he was obliged to smile and say to her some gentle
words and gallantries after all the evolutions, mummeries, and comic
pantomimes, which she indulged in to divert herself; for he loved her
so madly that if she had asked him for an impossibility he would have
sought one for her immediately.

Nevertheless, one fine day he recognised the fact that his frame was
in a state of too great debility to struggle with the vigorous nature
of his wife, and humiliating himself before his wife's virtue he
resolved to let things take their course, relying a little upon the
modesty, religion, and bashfulness of Blanche, but he always slept
with one eye open, for he suspected that God had perhaps made
virginities to be taken like partridges, to be spitted and roasted.
One wet morning, when the weather was that in which the snails make
their tracks, a melancholy time, and suitable to reverie, Blanche was
in the house sitting in her chair in deep thought, because nothing
produces more lively concoctions of the substantive essences, and no
receipt, specific or philter is more penetrating, transpiercing or
doubly transpiercing and titillating than the subtle warmth which
simmers between the nap of the chair and a maiden sitting during
certain weather.

Now without knowing it the Countess was incommoded by her innocence,
which gave more trouble than it was worth to her brain, and gnawed her
all over. Then the good man, seriously grieved to see her languishing,
wished to drive away the thoughts which were ultra-conjugal principles
of love.

"Whence comes your sadness, sweetheart?" said he.

"From shame."

"What then affronts you?"

"The not being a good woman; because I am without a child, and you
without lineage! Is one a lady without progeny? Nay! Look! . . . All
my neighbours have it, and I was married to have it, as you to give it
to me; the nobles of Touraine are all amply furnished with children,
and their wives give them lapfuls, you alone have none, they laugh at
you there. What will become of your name and your fiefs and your
seigniories? A child is our natural company; it is a delight to us to
make a fright of it, to fondle it, to swaddle it, to dress and undress
it, to cuddle it, to sing it lullabies, to cradle it, to get it up, to
put it to bed, and to nourish it, and I feel that if I had only the
half of one, I would kiss it, swaddle it, and unharness it, and I
would make it jump and crow all day long, as the other ladies do."

"Were it not that in giving them birth women die, and that for this
you are still too delicate and too close in the bud, you would already
be a mother," replied the seneschal, made giddy with the flow of
words. "But will you buy one ready-made?--that will cost you neither
pain nor labour."

"But," said she, "I want the pain and labour, without which it will
not be ours. I know very well it should be the fruit of my body,
because at church they say that Jesus was the fruit of the Virgin's
womb."

"Very well, then pray God that it may be so," cried the seneschal,
"and intercede with the Virgin of Egrignolles. Many a lady has
conceived after the neuvaine; you must not fail to do one."

Then the same day Blanche set out towards Notre-Dame de l'Egrignolles,
decked out like a queen riding her beautiful mare, having on her a
robe of green velvet, laced down with fine gold lace, open at the
breast, having sleeves of scarlet, little shoes and a high hat
ornamented with precious stones, and a gold waistband that showed off
her little waist, as slim as a pole. She wished to give her dress to
Madame the Virgin, and in fact promised it to her, for the day of her
churching. The Sire de Montsoreau galloped before her, his eye bright
as that of a hawk, keeping the people back and guarding with his
knights the security of the journey. Near Marmoustiers the seneschal,
rendered sleepy by the heat, seeing it was the month of August,
waggled about in his saddle, like a diadem upon the head of a cow, and
seeing so frolicsome and so pretty a lady by the side of so old a
fellow, a peasant girl, who was squatting near the trunk of a tree and
drinking water out of her stone jug inquired of a toothless old hag,
who picked up a trifle by gleaning, if this princess was going to bury
her dead.

"Nay," said the old woman, "it is our lady of Roche-Corbon, wife of
the seneschal of Poitou and Touraine, in quest of a child."

"Ah! Ah!" said the young girl, laughing like a fly just satisfied;
then pointing to the handsome knight who was at the head of the
procession--"he who marches at the head would manage that; she would
save the wax-candles and the vow."

"Ha! my little one," replied the hag, "I am rather surprised that she
should go to Notre-Dame de l'Egrignolles seeing that there are no
handsome priests there. She might very well stop for a short time
beneath the shadow the belfry of Marmoustiers; she would soon be
fertile, those good fathers are so lively."

"By a nun's oath!" said a tramp walking up, "look; the Sire de
Montsoreau is lively and delicate enough to open the lady's heart, the
more so as he is well formed to do so."

And all commenced a laugh. The Sire de Montsoreau wished to go to them
and hang them in lime-tree by the road as a punishment for their bad
words, but Blanche cried out quickly--

"Oh, sir, do not hang them yet. They have not said all they mean; and
we shall see them on our return."

She blushed, and the Sire de Montsoreau looked at her eagerly, as
though to shoot into her the mystic comprehensions of love, but the
clearing out of her intelligence had already been commenced by the
sayings of the peasants which were fructifying in her understanding
--her innocence was like touchwood, there was only need for a word
to inflame it.

Thus Blanche perceived now the notable and physical differences
between the qualities of her old husband and perfections of the said
Gauttier, a gentleman who was not over affected with his twenty-three
years, but held himself upright as a ninepin in the saddle, and as
wide-awake as the matin chimes, while in contrast to him, slept the
seneschal; he had courage and dexterity there where his master failed.
He was one of those smart fellows whom the jades would sooner wear at
night than a leathern garment, because they then no longer fear the
fleas; there are some who vituperate them, but no one should be
blamed, because every one should sleep as he likes.

So much did the seneschal's lady think, and so imperially well, that
by the time she arrived at the bridge of Tours, she loved Gauttier
secretly, as a maiden loves, without suspecting that it is love. From
that she became a proper woman, that is to say, she desired the good
of others, the best that men have, she fell into a fit of
love-sickness, going at the first jump to the depth of her misery,
seeing that all is flame between the first coveting and the last desire,
and she knew not how she then learned that by the eyes can flow in a
subtle essence, causing such powerful corrosions in all the veins of
the body, recesses of the heart, nerves of the members, roots of the
hair, perspiration of the substance, limbo of the brain, orifices of
the epidermis, windings of the pluck, tubes of the hypochondriac and
other channels which in her was suddenly dilated, heated, tickled,
envenomed, clawed, harrowed, and disturbed, as if she had a basketful
of needles in her inside. This was a maiden's desire, a
well-conditioned desire, which troubled her sight to such a degree that
she no longer saw her old spouse, but clearly the young Gauttier, whose
nature was as ample as the glorious chin of an abbot. When the good
man entered Tours the Ah! Ah! of the crowd woke him up, and he came
with great pomp with his suite to the Church of Notre-Dame de
l'Egrignolles, formerly called la greigneur, as if you said that which
has the most merit. Blanche went into the chapel where children are
asked to God and of the Virgin, and went there alone, as was the
custom, always however in the presence of the seneschal, of his
varlets and the loiterers who remained outside the grill. When the
countess saw the priest come who had charge of the masses said for
children, and who received the said vows, she asked him if there were
many barren women. To which the good priest replied, that he must not
complain, and that the children were good revenue to the Church.

"And do you often see," said Blanche, "young women with such old
husbands as my lord?"

"Rarely," said he.

"But have those obtained offspring?"

"Always," replied the priest smiling.

"And the others whose companions are not so old?"

"Sometimes."

"Oh! Oh!" said she, "there is more certainty then with one like the
seneschal?"

"To be sure," said the priest.

"Why?" said she.

"Madame," gravely replied priest, "before that age God alone
interferes with the affair, after, it is the men."

At this time it was a true thing that all the wisdom had gone to the
clergy. Blanch made her vow, which was a very profitable one, seeing
that her decorations were worth quite two thousand gold crowns.

"You are very joyful!" said the old seneschal to her when on the home
journey she made her mare prance, jump, and frisk.

"Yes, yes!" said she. "There is no longer any doubt about my having a
child, because any one can help me, the priest said: I shall take
Gauttier."

The seneschal wished to go and slay the monk, but he thought that was
a crime which would cost him too much, and he resolved cunningly to
arrange his vengeance with the help of the archbishop; and before the
housetops of Roche-Corbon came in sight he had ordered the Sire de
Montsoreau to seek a little retirement in his own country, which the
young Gauttier did, knowing the ways of the lord. The seneschal put in
the place of the said Gauttier the son of the Sire de Jallanges, whose
fief was held from Roche-Corbon. He was a young boy named Rene,
approaching fourteen years, and he made him a page, awaiting the time
when he should be old enough to be an equerry, and gave the command of
his men to an old cripple, with whom he had knocked about a great deal
in Palestine and other places. Thus the good man believed he would
avoid the horned trappings of cuckoldom, and would still be able to
girth, bridle, and curb the factious innocence of his wife, which
struggled like a mule held by a rope.


THAT WHICH IS ONLY A VENIAL SIN.

The Sunday following the arrival of Rene at the manor of Roche-Corbon,
Blanche went out hunting without her goodman, and when she was in the
forest near Les Carneaux, saw a monk who appeared to be pushing a girl
about more than was necessary, and spurred on her horse, saying to her
people, "Ho there! Don't let him kill her." But when the seneschal's
lady arrived close to them, she turned her horse's head quickly and
the sight she beheld prevented her from hunting. She came back
pensive, and then the lantern of her intelligence opened, and received
a bright light, which made a thousand things clear, such as church and
other pictures, fables, and lays of the troubadours, or the domestic
arrangements of birds; suddenly she discovered the sweet mystery of
love written in all languages, even in that of the Carps'. Is it not
silly thus to seal this science from maidens? Soon Blanche went to
bed, and soon said she to the seneschal--

"Bruyn, you have deceived me, you ought to behave as the monk of the
Carneaux behaved to the girl."

Old Bruyn suspected the adventure, and saw well that his evil hour was
at hand. He regarded Blanche with too much fire in his eyes for the
same ardour to be lower down, and answered her softly--

"Alas! sweetheart, in taking you for my wife I had more love than
strength, and I have taken advantage of your clemency and virtue. The
great sorrow of my life is to feel all my capability in my heart only.
This sorrow hastens my death little by little, so that you will soon
be free. Wait for my departure from this world. That is the sole
request that he makes of you, he who is your master, and who could
command you, but who wishes only to be your prime minister and slave.
Do not betray the honour of my white hairs! Under these circumstances
there have been lords who have slain their wives.

"Alas! you will not kill me?" said she.

"No," replied the old man, "I love thee too much, little one; why,
thou art the flower of my old age, the joy of my soul. Thou art my
well-beloved daughter; the sight of thee does good to mine eyes, and
from thee I could endure anything, be it a sorrow or a joy, provided
that thou does not curse too much the poor Bruyn who has made thee a
great lady, rich and honoured. Wilt thou not be a lovely widow? And
thy happiness will soften the pangs of death."

And he found in his dried-up eyes still one tear which trickled quite
warm down his fir-cone coloured face, and fell upon the hand of
Blanche, who, grieved to behold this great love of her old spouse who
would put himself under the ground to please her, said laughingly--

"There! there! don't cry, I will wait."

Thereupon the seneschal kissed her hands and regaled her with little
endearments, saying with a voice quivering with emotion--

"If you knew, Blanche my darling, how I devour thee in thy sleep with
caresses, now here, now there!" And the old ape patted her with his
two hands, which were nothing but bones. And he continued, "I dared
not waken the cat that would have strangled my happiness, since at
this occupation of love I only embraced with my heart."

"Ah!" replied she, "you can fondle me thus even when my eyes are open;
that has not the least effect upon me."

At these words the poor seneschal, taking the little dagger which was
on the table by the bed, gave it to her, saying with passion--

"My darling, kill me, or let me believe that you love me a little!"

"Yes, yes," said she, quite frightened, "I will try to love you much."

Behold how this young maidenhood made itself master of this old man
and subdued him, for in the name of the sweet face of Venus, Blanche,
endowed with the natural artfulness of women, made her old Bruyn come
and go like a miller's mule.

"My good Bruyn, I want this! Bruyn, I want that--go on Bruyn!" Bruyn!
Bruyn! And always Bruyn in such a way that Bruyn was more worn-out by
the clemency of his wife than he would have been by her unkindness.
She turned his brain wishing that everything should be in scarlet,
making him turn everything topsy-turvy at the least movement of her
eyebrow, and when she was sad the seneschal distracted, would say to
everything from his judicial seat, "Hang him!" Another would have died
like a fly at this conflict with the maid's innocence, but Bruyn was
of such an iron nature that it was difficult to finish him off. One
evening that Blanche had turned the house upside-down, upset the men
and the beasts, and would by her aggravating humour have made the
eternal father desperate--he who has such an infinite treasure of
patience since he endures us--she said to the seneschal while getting
into bed, "My good Bruyn, I have low down fancies, that bite and prick
me; thence they rise into my heart, inflame my brain, incite me
therein to evil deeds, and in the night I dream of the monk of the
Carneaux."

"My dear," replied the seneschal, "these are devilries and temptations
against which the monks and nuns know how to defend themselves. If you
will gain salvation, go and confess to the worthy Abbot of
Marmoustiers, our neighbour; he will advise you well and will holily
direct you in the good way."

"Tomorrow I will go," said she.

And indeed directly it was day, she trotted off to the monastery of
the good brethren, who marvelled to see among them so pretty a lady;
committed more than one sin through her in the evening; and for the
present led her with great ceremony to their reverend abbot.

Blanche found the said good man in a private garden near the high rock
under a flower arcade, and remained stricken with respect at the
countenance of the holy man, although she was accustomed not to think
much of grey hairs.

"God preserve you, Madame; what can you have to seek of one so near
death, you so young?"

"Your precious advice," said she, saluting him with a courtesy; "and
if it will please you to guide so undutiful a sheep, I shall be well
content to have so wise a confessor."

"My daughter," answered the monk, with whom old Bruyn had arranged
this hypocrisy and the part to play, "if I had not the chills of a
hundred winters upon this unthatched head, I should not dare to listen
to your sins, but say on; if you enter paradise, it will be through
me."

Then the seneschal's wife set forth the small fry of her stock in
hand, and when she was purged of her little iniquities, she came to
the postscript of her confession.

"Ah! my father!" said she, "I must confess to you that I am daily
exercised by the desire to have a child. Is it wrong?"

"No," said the abbot.

But she went on, "It is by nature commanded to my husband not to draw
from his wealth to bring about his poverty, as the old women say by
the way."

"Then," replied the priest, "you must live virtuously and abstain from
all thoughts of this kind."

"But I have heard it professed by the Lady of Jallanges, that it was
not a sin when from it one derived neither profit nor pleasure."

"There always is pleasure," said the abbot, "but don't count upon the
child as a profit. Now fix this in your understanding, that it will
always be a mortal sin before God and a crime before men to bring
forth a child through the embraces of a man to whom one is not
ecclesiastically married. Thus those women who offend against the holy
laws of marriage, suffer great penalties in the other world, are in
the power of horrible monsters with sharp and tearing claws, who
thrust them into flaming furnaces in remembrance of the fact that here
below they have warmed their hearts a little more than was lawful."

Thereupon Blanche scratched her ear, and having thought to herself for
a little while, she said to the priest, "How then did the Virgin
Mary?"

"Ah!" replied abbot, "that it is a mystery."

"And what is a mystery?"

"A thing that cannot be explained, and which one ought to believe
without enquiring into it."

"Well then," said she, "cannot I perform a mystery?"

"This one," said the Abbot, "only happened once, because it was the
Son of God."

"Alas! my father, is it then the will of God that I should die, or
that from wise and sound comprehension my brain should be turned? Of
this there is a great danger. Now in me something moves and excites
me, and I am no longer in my senses. I care for nothing, and to find a
man I would leap the walls, dash over the fields without shame and
tear my things into tatters, only to see that which so much excited
the monk of the Carneaux; and during these passions which work and
prick my mind and body, there is neither God, devil, nor husband. I
spring, I run, I smash up the wash-tubs, the pots, the farm
implements, a fowl-house, the household things, and everything, in a
way that I cannot describe. But I dare not confess to you all my
misdeeds, because speaking of them makes my mouth water, and the thing
with which God curses me makes me itch dreadfully. If this folly bites
and pricks me, and slays my virtue, will God, who has placed this
great love in my body, condemn me to perdition?"

At this question it was the priest who scratched his ear, quite
dumbfounded by the lamentations, profound wisdom, controversies and
intelligence that this virginity secreted.

"My daughter," said he, "God has distinguished us from the beasts and
made us a paradise to gain, and for this given us reason, which is a
rudder to steer us against tempests and our ambitious desires, and
there is a means of easing the imaginations of one's brain by fasting,
excessive labours, and other virtues; and instead of frisking and
fretting like a child let loose from school, you should pray to the
virgin, sleep on a hard board, attend to your household duties, and
never be idle."

"Ah! my father, when I am at church in my seat, I see neither the
priest nor the altar, only the infant Jesus, who brings the thing into
my head. But to finish, if my head is turned and my mind wanders, I am
in the lime-twigs of love."

"If thus you were," said the abbot, imprudently, "you would be in the
position of Saint Lidoire, who in a deep sleep one day, one leg here
and one leg there, through the great heat and scantily attired, was
approached by a young man full of mischief, who dexterously seduced
her, and as of this trick the saint was thoroughly ignorant, and much
surprised at being brought to bed, thinking that her unusual size was
a serious malady, she did penance for it as a venial sin, as she had
no pleasure in this wicked business, according to the statement of the
wicked man, who said upon the scaffold where he was executed, that the
saint had in nowise stirred."

"Oh, my father," said she, "be sure that I should not stir more than
she did!"

With this statement she went away prettily and gracefully, smiling and
thinking how she could commit a venial sin. On her return from the
great monastery, she saw in the courtyard of her castle the little
Jallanges, who under the superintendence of an old groom was turning
and wheeling about on a fine horse, bending with the movements of the
animal, dismounting and mounting again with vaults and leaps most
gracefully, and with lissome thighs, so pretty, so dextrous, so
upright as to be indescribable, so much so, that he would have made
the Queen Lucrece long for him, she who killed herself from having
been contaminated against her will.

"Ah!" said Blanche, "if only this page were fifteen, I would go to
sleep comfortably very near to him."

Then, in spite of the too great youth of this charming servitor,
during the collation and supper, she eyed frequently the black hair,
the white skin, the grace of Rene, above all his eyes, where was an
abundance of limpid warmth and a great fire of life, which he was
afraid to shoot out--child that he was.

Now in the evening, as the seneschal's wife sat thoughtfully in her
chair in the corner of the fireplace, old Bruyn interrogated her as to
her trouble.

"I am thinking." said she, "that you must have fought the battles of
love very early, to be thus completely broken up."

"Oh!" smiled he, smiling like all old men questioned upon their
amorous remembrances, "at the age of thirteen and a half I had
overcome the scruples of my mother's waiting woman."

Blanche wished to hear nothing more, but believed the page Rene should
be equally advanced, and she was quite joyous and practised little
allurements on the good man, and wallowed silently in her desire, like
a cake which is being floured.


HOW AND BY WHOM THE SAID CHILD WAS PROCURED.

The seneschal's wife did not think long over the best way quickly to
awaken the love of the page, and had soon discovered the natural
ambuscade in the which the most wary are taken. This is how: at the
warmest hour of the day the good man took his siesta after the Saracen
fashion, a habit in which he had never failed, since his return from
the Holy Land. During this time Blanche was alone in the grounds,
where the women work at their minor occupations, such as broidering
and stitching, and often remained in the rooms looking after the
washing, putting the clothes tidy, or running about at will. Then she
appointed this quiet hour to complete the education of the page,
making him read books and say his prayers. Now on the morrow, when at
the mid-day hour the seneschal slept, succumbing to the sun which
warms with its most luminous rays the slopes of Roche-Corbon, so much
so that one is obliged to sleep, unless annoyed, upset, and
continually roused by a devil of a young woman. Blanche then
gracefully perched herself in the great seignorial chair of her good
man, which she did not find any too high, since she counted upon the
chances of perspective. The cunning jade settled herself dextrously
therein, like a swallow in its nest, and leaned her head maliciously
upon her arm like a child that sleeps; but in making her preparations
she opened fond eyes, that smiled and winked in advance of the little
secret thrills, sneezes, squints, and trances of the page who was
about to lie at her feet, separated from her by the jump of an old
flea; and in fact she advanced so much and so near the square of
velvet where the poor child should kneel, whose life and soul she
trifled with, that had he been a saint of stone, his glance would have
been constrained to follow the flexousities of the dress in order to
admire and re-admire the perfections and beauties of the shapely leg,
which moulded the white stocking of the seneschal's lady. Thus it was
certain that a weak varlet would be taken in the snare, wherein the
most vigorous knight would willingly have succumbed. When she had
turned, returned, placed and displaced her body, and found the
situation in which the page would be most comfortable, she cried,
gently. "Rene!" Rene, whom she knew well was in the guard-room, did
not fail to run in and quickly thrust his brown head between the
tapestries of the door.

"What do you please to wish?" said the page. And he held with great
respect in his hand his shaggy scarlet cap, less red than his fresh
dimpled cheeks.

"Come hither," replied she, under her breath, for the child attracted
her so strongly that she was quite overcome.

And forsooth there were no jewels so sparkling as the eyes of Rene, no
vellum whiter than his skin, no woman more exquisite in shape--and so
near to her desire, she found him still more sweetly formed--and was
certain that the merry frolics of love would radiate well from this
youth, the warm sun, the silence, et cetera.

"Read me the litanies of Madame the Virgin," said she to him, pushing
an open book him on her prieu-dieu. "Let me see if you are well taught
by your master."

"Do you not think the Virgin beautiful?" asked she of him, smiling
when he held the illuminated prayer-book in which glowed the silver
and gold.

"It is a painting," replied he, timidly, and casting a little glance
upon his so gracious mistress.

"Read! read!"

Then Rene began to recite the so sweet and so mystic litanies; but you
may imagine that the "Ora pro nobis" of Blanche became still fainter
and fainter, like the sound of the horn in the woodlands, and when the
page went on, "Oh, Rose of mystery," the lady, who certainly heard
distinctly, replied by a gentle sigh. Thereupon Rene suspected that
his mistress slept. Then he commenced to cover her with his regard,
admiring her at his leisure, and had then no wish to utter any anthem
save the anthem of love. His happiness made his heart leap and bound
into his throat; thus, as was but natural, these two innocents burned
one against the other, but if they could have foreseen never would
have intermingled. Rene feasted his eyes, planning in his mind a
thousand fruitions of love that brought the water into his mouth. In
his ecstasy he let his book fall, which made him feel as sheepish as a
monk surprised at a child's tricks; but also from that he knew that
Blanche was sound asleep, for she did not stir, and the wily jade
would not have opened her eyes even at the greatest dangers, and
reckoned on something else falling as well as the book of prayer.

There is no worse longing than the longing of a woman in certain
condition. Now, the page noticed his lady's foot, which was delicately
slippered in a little shoe of a delicate blue colour. She had
angularly placed it on a footstool, since she was too high in the
seneschal's chair. This foot was of narrow proportions, delicately
curved, as broad as two fingers, and as long as a sparrow, tail
included, small at the top--a true foot of delight, a virginal foot
that merited a kiss as a robber does the gallows; a roguish foot; a
foot wanton enough to damn an archangel; an ominous foot; a devilishly
enticing foot, which gave one a desire to make two new ones just like
it to perpetuate in this lower world the glorious works of God. The
page was tempted to take the shoe from this persuasive foot. To
accomplish this his eyes glowing with the fire of his age, went
swiftly, like the clapper of a bell, from this said foot of
delectation to the sleeping countenance of his lady and mistress,
listening to her slumber, drinking in her respiration again and again,
it did not know where it would be sweetest to plant a kiss--whether on
the ripe red lips of the seneschal's wife or on this speaking foot. At
length, from respect or fear, or perhaps from great love, he chose the
foot, and kissed it hastily, like a maiden who dares not. Then
immediately he took up his book, feeling his red cheeks redder still,
and exercised with his pleasure, he cried like a blind man--"_Janua
coeli,: gate of Heaven_." But Blanche did not move, making sure that
the page would go from foot to knee, and thence to "_Janua coeli,: gate
of Heaven_." She was greatly disappointed when the litanies finished
without any other mischief, and Rene, believing he had had enough
happiness for one day, ran out of the room quite lively, richer from
this hardy kiss than a robber who has robbed the poor-box.

When the seneschal's lady was alone, she thought to herself that this
page would be rather a long time at his task if he amused himself with
the singing of the Magnificat at matins. Then she determined on the
morrow to raise her foot a little, and then to bring to light those
hidden beauties that are called perfect in Touraine, because they take
no hurt in the open air, and are always fresh. You can imagine that
the page, burned by his desire and his imagination, heated by the day
before, awaited impatiently the hour to read in this breviary of
gallantry, and was called; and the conspiracy of the litanies
commenced again, and Blanche did not fail to fall asleep. This time
the said Rene fondled with his hand the pretty limb, and even ventured
so far as to verify if the polished knee and its surroundings were
satin. At this sight the poor child, armed against his desire, so
great was his fear, dared only to make brief devotion and curt
caresses, and although he kissed softly this fair surface, he remained
bashful, the which, feeling by the senses of her soul and the
intelligence of her body, the seneschal's lady who took great care not
to move, called out to him--"Ah, Rene, I am asleep."

Hearing what he believed to be a stern reproach, the page frightened
ran away, leaving the books, the task, and all. Thereupon, the
seneschal's better half added this prayer to the litany--"Holy Virgin,
how difficult children are to make."

At dinner her page perspired all down his back while waiting on his
lady and her lord; but he was very much surprised when he received
from Blanche the most shameless of all glances that ever woman cast,
and very pleasant and powerful it was, seeing that it changed this
child into a man of courage. Now, the same evening Bruyn staying a
little longer than was his custom in his own apartment, the page went
in search of Blanche, and found her asleep, and made her dream a
beautiful dream.

He knocked off the chains that weighed so heavily upon her, and so
plentifully bestowed upon her the sweets of love, that the surplus
would have sufficed to render to others blessed with the joys of
maternity. So then the minx, seizing the page by the head and
squeezing him to her, cried out--"Oh, Rene! Thou hast awakened me!"

And in fact there was no sleep could stand against it, and it is
certain that saints must sleep very soundly. From this business,
without any other mystery, and by a benign faculty which is the
assisting principle of spouses, the sweet and graceful plumage,
suitable to cuckolds, was placed upon the head of the good husband
without his experiencing the slightest shock.

After this sweet repast, the seneschal's lady took kindly to her
siesta after the French fashion, while Bruyn took his according to the
Saracen. But by the said siesta she learned how the good youth of the
page had a better taste than that of the old seneschal, and at night
she buried herself in the sheets far away from her husband, whom she
found strong and stale. And from sleeping and waking up in the day,
from taking siestas and saying litanies, the seneschal's wife felt
growing within her that treasure for which she had so often and so
ardently sighed; but now she liked more the commencement than the
fructifying of it.

You may be sure that Rene knew how to read, not only in books, but in
the eyes of his sweet lady, for whom he would have leaped into a
flaming pile, had it been her wish he should do so. When well and
amply, more than a hundred times, the train had been laid by them, the
little lady became anxious about her soul and the future of her friend
the page. Now one rainy day, as they were playing at touch-tag, like
two children, innocent from head to foot, Blanche, who was always
caught, said to him--

"Come here, Rene; do you know that while I have only committed venial
sins because I was asleep, you have committed mortal ones?"

"Ah, Madame!" said he, "where then will God stow away all the damned
if that is to sin!"

Blanche burst out laughing, and kissed his forehead.

"Be quiet, you naughty boy; it is a question of paradise, and we must
live there together if you wish always to be with me."

"Oh, my paradise is here."

"Leave off," said she. "You are a little wretch--a scapegrace who does
not think of that which I love--yourself! You do not know that I am
with child, and that in a little while I shall be no more able to
conceal it than my nose. Now, what will the abbot say? What will my
lord say? He will kill you if he puts himself in a passion. My advice
is little one, that you go to the abbot of Marmoustiers, confess your
sins to him, asking him to see what had better be done concerning my
seneschal.

"Alas," said the artful page, "if I tell the secret of our joys, he
will put his interdict upon our love."

"Very likely," said she; "but thy happiness in the other world is a
thing so precious to me."

"Do you wish it my darling?"

"Yes," replied she rather faintly.

"Well, I will go, but sleep again that I may bid you adieu."

And the couple recited the litany of Farewells as if they had both
foreseen that their love must finish in its April. And on the morrow,
more to save his dear lady than to save himself, and also to obey her,
Rene de Jallanges set out towards the great monastery.


HOW THE SAID LOVE-SIN WAS REPENTED OF AND LED TO GREAT MOURNING.

"Good God!" cried the abbot, when the page had chanted the Kyrie
eleison of his sweet sins, "thou art the accomplice of a great felony,
and thou has betrayed thy lord. Dost thou know page of darkness, that
for this thou wilt burn through all eternity? and dost thou know what
it is to lose forever the heaven above for a perishable and changeful
moment here below? Unhappy wretch! I see thee precipitated for ever in
the gulfs of hell unless thou payest to God in this world that which
thou owest him for such offence."

Thereupon the good old abbot, who was of that flesh of which saints
are made, and who had great authority in the country of Touraine,
terrified the young man by a heap of representations, Christian
discourses, remembrances of the commandments of the Church, and a
thousand eloquent things--as many as a devil could say in six weeks to
seduce a maiden--but so many that Rene, who was in the loyal fervour
of innocence, made his submission to the good abbot. The said abbot,
wishing to make forever a good and virtuous man of this child, now in
a fair way to be a wicked one, commanded him first to go and prostrate
himself before his lord, to confess his conduct to him, and then if he
escaped from this confession, to depart instantly for the Crusades,
and go straight to the Holy Land, where he should remain fifteen years
of the time appointed to give battle to the Infidels.

"Alas, my reverend father," said he, quite unmoved, "will fifteen
years be enough to acquit me of so much pleasure? Ah! If you knew, I
have had joy enough for a thousand years."

"God will be generous. Go," replied the old abbot, "and sin no more.
On this account, _ego te absolvo_."

Poor Rene returned thereupon with great contrition to the castle of
Roche-Corbon and the first person he met was the seneschal, who was
polishing up his arms, helmets, gauntlets, and other things. He was
sitting on a great marble bench in the open air, and was amusing
himself by making shine again the splendid trappings which brought
back to him the merry pranks in the Holy Land, the good jokes, and the
wenches, et cetera. When Rene fell upon his knees before him, the good
lord was much astonished.

"What is it?" said he.

"My lord," replied Rene, "order these people to retire."

Which the servants having done, the page confessed his fault,
recounting how he had assailed his lady in her sleep, and that for
certain he had made her a mother in imitation of the man and the
saint, and came by order of the confessor to put himself at the
disposition of the offended person. Having said which, Rene de
Jallanges cast down his lovely eyes, which had produced all the
mischief, and remained abashed, prostrate without fear, his arms
hanging down, his head bare, awaiting his punishment, and humbling
himself to God. The seneschal was not so white that he could not
become whiter, and now he blanched like linen newly dried, remaining
dumb with passion. And this old man who had not in his veins the vital
force to procreate a child, found in this moment of fury more vigour
than was necessary to undo a man. He seized with his hairy right hand
his heavy club, lifted it, brandished it and adjusted it so easily you
could have thought it a bowl at a game of skittles, to bring it down
upon the pale forehead of the said Rene, who knowing that he was
greatly in fault towards his lord, remained placid, and stretching his
neck, thought that he was about to expiate his sin for his sweetheart
in this world and in the other.

But his fair youth, and all the natural seductions of this sweet
crime, found grace before the tribunal of the heart of this old man,
although Bruyn was still severe, and throwing his club away on to a
dog who was catching beetles, he cried out, "May a thousand million
claws, tear during all eternity, all the entrails of him, who made
him, who planted the oak, that made the chair, on which thou hast
antlered me--and the same to those who engendered thee, cursed page of
misfortune! Get thee to the devil, whence thou camest--go out from
before me, from the castle, from the country, and stay not here one
moment more than is necessary, otherwise I will surely prepare for
thee a death by slow fire that shall make thee curse twenty times an
hour thy villainous and ribald partner!"

Hearing the commencement of these little speeches of the seneschal,
whose youth came back in his oaths, the page ran away, escaping the
rest: and he did well. Bruyn, burning with a fierce rage, gained the
gardens speedily, reviling everything by the way, striking and
swearing; he even knocked over three large pans held by one of his
servants, was carrying the mess to the dogs, and he was so beside
himself that he would have killed a labourer for a "thank you." He
soon perceived his unmaidenly maiden, who was looking towards the road
to the monastery, waiting for the page, and unaware that she would
never see him again.

"Ah, my lady! By the devil's red three-pronged fork, am I a swallower
of tarradiddles and a child, to believe that you are so fashioned that
a page can behave in this manner and you not know it? By the death! By
the head! By the blood!"

"Hold!" she replied, seeing that the mine was sprung, "I knew it well
enough, but as you had not instructed me in these matters I thought
that I was dreaming!"

The great ire of the seneschal melted like snow in the sun, for the
direst anger of God himself would have vanished at a smile from
Blanche.

"May a thousand millions of devils carry off this alien child! I swear
that--"

"There! there! do not swear," said she. "If it is not yours, it is
mine; and the other night did you not tell me you loved everything
that came from me?"

Thereupon she ran on with such a lot of arguments, hard words,
complaints, quarrels, tears, and other paternosters of women; such as
--firstly the estates would not have to be returned to the king; that
never had a child been brought more innocently into the world, that
this, that that, a thousand things; until the good cuckold relented,
and Blanche, seizing a propitious interruption said--

"And where it is the page?"

"Gone to the devil!"

"What, have you killed him?" said she. She turned pale and tottered.

Bruyn did not know what would become of him when he saw thus fall all
the happiness of his old age, and he would to save her have shown her
this page. He ordered him to be sought, but Rene had run off at full
speed, fearing he should be killed; and departed for the lands beyond
the seas, in order to accomplish his vow of religion. When Blanche had
learned from the above-mentioned abbot the penitence imposed upon her
well beloved, she fell into a state of great melancholy, saying at
times, "Where is he, the poor unfortunate, who is in the middle of
great dangers for love of me?"

And always kept on asking, like a child who gives its mother no rest
until its request be granted it. At these lamentations the poor
seneschal, feeling himself to blame, endeavoured to do a thousand
things, putting one out of the question, in order to make Blanche
happy; but nothing was equal to the sweet caresses of the page.
However, she had one day the child so much desired. You may be sure
that was a fine festival for the good cuckold, for the resemblance to
the father was distinctly engraved upon the face of this sweet fruit
of love. Blanche consoled herself greatly, and picked up again a
little of her old gaiety and flower of innocence, which rejoiced the
aged hours of the seneschal. From constantly seeing the little one run
about, watching its laughs answer those of the countess, he finished
by loving it, and would have been in a great rage with anyone who had
not believed him its father.

Now as the adventure of Blanche and her page had not been carried
beyond the castle, it was related throughout Touraine that Messire
Bruyn had still found himself sufficiently in funds to afford a child.
Intact remained the virtue of Blanche, and by the quintessence of
instruction drawn by her from the natural reservoir of women, she
recognised how necessary it was to be silent concerning the venial sin
with which her child was covered. So she became modest and good, and
was cited as a virtuous person. And then to make use of him she
experimented on the goodness of her good man, and without giving him
leave to go further than her chin, since she looked upon herself as
belonging to Rene, Blanche, in return for the flowers of age which
Bruyn offered her, coddled him, smiled upon him, kept him merry, and
fondled him with pretty ways and tricks, which good wives bestow upon
the husbands they deceive; and all so well, that the seneschal did not
wish to die, squatted comfortably in his chair, and the more he lived
the more he became partial to life. But to be brief, one night he died
without knowing where he was going, for he said to Blanche, "Ho! ho!
My dear, I see thee no longer! Is it night?"

It was the death of the just, and he had well merited it as a reward
for his labours in the Holy Land.

Blanche held for his death a great and true mourning, weeping for him
as one weeps for one's father. She remained melancholy, without
wishing to lend her ear to the music of a second wedding, for which
she was praised by all good people, who knew not that she had a
husband in her heart, a life in hope; but she was the greater part of
her time a widow in fact and widow in heart, because hearing no news
of her lover at the Crusades, the poor Countess reputed him dead, and
during certain nights seeing him wounded and lying at full length, she
would wake up in tears. She lived thus for fourteen years in the
remembrance of one day of happiness. Finally, one day when she had
with her certain ladies of Touraine, and they were talking together
after dinner, behold her little boy, who was at that time about
thirteen and a half, and resembled Rene more than it is allowable for
a child to resemble his father, and had nothing of the Sire Bruyn
about him but his name--behold the little one, a madcap and pretty
like his mother, who came in from the garden, running, perspiring,
panting, jumping, scattering all things in his way, after the uses and
customs of infancy, and who ran straight to his well-beloved mother,
jumping into her lap, and interrupting the conversation, cried out--

"Oh, mother I want to speak to you, I have seen in the courtyard a
pilgrim, who squeezed me very tight."

"Ah!" cried the chatelaine, hurrying towards one of the servants who
had charge of the young count and watched over his precious days, "I
have forbidden you ever to leave my son in the hands of strangers, not
even in those of the holiest man in the world. You quit my service."

"Alas! my lady," replied the old equerry, quite overcome, "this one
wished him no harm for he wept while kissing him passionately."

"He wept?" said she; "ah! it's the father."

Having said which, she leaned her head of upon the chair in which she
was sitting, and which you may be sure was the chair in which she has
sinned.

Hearing these strange words the ladies was so surprised that at first
they did not perceive that the seneschal's widow was dead, without its
ever been known if her sudden death was caused by her sorrow at the
departure of her lover, who, faithful to his vow, did not wish to see
her, or from great joy at his return and the hope of getting the
interdict removed which the Abbot of Marmoustiers had placed upon
their loves. And there was a great mourning for her, for the Sire de
Jallanges lost his spirits when he saw his lady laid in the ground,
and became a monk of Marmoustiers, which at that time was called by
some Maimoustier, as much as to say Maius Monasterium, the largest
monastery, and it was indeed the finest in all France.



THE KING'S SWEETHEART

There lived at this time at the forges of the Pont-aux-Change, a
goldsmith whose daughter was talked about in Paris on account of her
great beauty, and renowned above all things for her exceeding
gracefulness. There were those who sought her favours by the usual
tricks of love and, but others offered large sums of money to the
father to give them his daughter in lawful wedlock, the which pleased
him not a little.

One of his neighbours, a parliamentary advocate, who by selling his
cunning devices to the public had acquired as many lands as a dog has
fleas, took it into his head to offer the said father a domain in
consideration of his consent to this marriage, which he ardently
desired to undertake. To this arrangement our goldsmith was nothing
loth. He bargained away his daughter, without taking into
consideration the fact that her patched-up old suitor had the features
of an ape and had scarcely a tooth in his jaws. The smell which
emanated from his mouth did not however disturb his own nostrils,
although he was filthy and high flavoured, as are all those who pass
their lives amid the smoke of chimneys, yellow parchment, and other
black proceedings. Immediately this sweet girl saw him she exclaimed,
"Great Heaven! I would rather not have him."

"That concerns me not," said the father, who had taken a violent fancy
to the proffered domain. "I give him to you for a husband. You must
get on as well as you can together. That is his business now, and his
duty is to make himself agreeable to you."

"Is it so?" said she. "Well then, before I obey your orders I'll let
him know what he may expect."

And the same evening, after supper, when the love-sick man of law was
pleading his cause, telling her he was mad for her, and promising her
a life of ease and luxury, she taking him up, quickly remarked--

"My father had sold me to you, but if you take me, you will make a bad
bargain, seeing that I would rather offer myself to the passers-by
than to you. I promise you a disloyalty that will only finish with
death--yours or mine."

Then she began to weep, like all young maidens will before they become
experienced, for afterwards they never cry with their eyes. The good
advocate took this strange behaviour for one of those artifices by
which the women seek to fan the flames of love and turn the devotion
of their admirers into the more tender caress and more daring
osculation that speaks a husband's right. So that the knave took
little notice of it, but laughing at the complaints of the charming
creature, asked her to fix the day.

"To-morrow," replied she, "for the sooner this odious marriage takes
place, the sooner I shall be free to have gallants and to lead the gay
life of those who love where it pleases them."

Thereupon the foolish fellow--as firmly fixed as a fly in a glue pot
--went away, made his preparations, spoke at the Palace, ran to the
High Court, bought dispensations, and conducted his purchase more
quickly than he ever done one before, thinking only of the lovely girl.
Meanwhile the king, who had just returned from a journey, heard
nothing spoken of at court but the marvellous beauty of the jeweller's
daughter who had refused a thousand crowns from this one, snubbed that
one; in fact, would yield to no one, but turned up her nose at the
finest young men of the city, gentlemen who would have forfeited their
seat in paradise only to possess one day, this little dragon of
virtue.

The good king, was a judge of such game, strolled into the town, past
the forges, and entered the goldsmith's shop, for the purpose of
buying jewels for the lady of his heart, but at the same time to
bargain for the most precious jewel in the shop. The king not taking a
fancy to the jewels, or they not being to his taste, the good man
looked in a secret drawer for a big white diamond.

"Sweetheart," said he, to the daughter, while her father's nose was
buried in the drawer, "sweetheart, you were not made to sell precious
stones, but to receive them, and if you were to give me all the little
rings in the place to choose from, I know one that many here are mad
for; that pleases me; to which I should ever be subject and servant;
and whose price the whole kingdom of France could never pay."

"Ah! sire!" replied the maid, "I shall be married to-morrow, but if
you will lend me the dagger that is in your belt, I will defend my
honour, and you shall take it, that the gospel made be observed
wherein it says, '_Render unto Caesar the things which be
Caesar's' . . ._"

Immediately the king gave her the little dagger, and her brave reply
rendered him so amorous that he lost his appetite. He had an apartment
prepared, intending to lodge his new lady-love in the Rue a
l'Hirundelle, in one of his palaces.

And now behold my advocate, in a great hurry to get married, to the
disgust of his rivals, the leading his bride to the altar to the clang
of bells and the sound of music, so timed as to provoke the qualms of
diarrhoea. In the evening, after the ball, comes he into the nuptial
chamber, where should be reposing his lovely bride. No longer is she a
lovely bride--but a fury--a wild she-devil, who, seated in an
armchair, refuses her share of her lord's couch, and sits defiantly
before the fire warming at the same time her ire and her calves. The
good husband, quite astonished, kneels down gently before her,
inviting her to the first passage of arms in that charming battle
which heralds a first night of love; but she utters not a word, and
when he tries to raise her garment, only just to glance at the charms
that have cost him so dear, she gives him a slap that makes his bones
rattle, and refuses to utter a syllable.

This amusement, however, by no means displeased our friend the
advocate, who saw at the end of his troubles that which you can as
well imagine as he did; so played he his share of the game manfully,
taking cheerfully the punishment bestowed upon him. By so much
hustling about, scuffling, and struggling he managed at last to tear
away a sleeve, to slit a petticoat, until he was able to place his
hand upon his own property. This bold endeavour brought Madame to her
feet and drawing the king's dagger, "What would you with me?" she
cried.

"Everything," answered he.

"Ha! I should be a great fool to give myself against my inclination!
If you fancied you would find my virtue unarmed you made a great
error. Behold the poniard of the king, with which I will kill you if
you make the semblance of a step towards me."

So saying, she took a cinder, and having still her eyes upon her lord
she drew a circle on the floor, adding, "These are the confines of the
king's domain. Beware how you pass them."

The advocate, with whose ideas of love-making the dagger sadly
interfered, stood quite discomfited, but at the same time he heard the
cruel speech of his tormentor he caught sight through the slits and
tears in her robe of a sweet sample of a plump white thigh, and such
voluptuous specimens of hidden mysteries, et cetera, that death seemed
sweet to him if he could only taste of them a little. So that he
rushed within the domain of the king, saying, "I mind not death." In
fact he came with such force that his charmer fell backwards onto the
bed, but keeping her presence of mind she defended herself so
gallantly that the advocate enjoyed no further advantage than a knock
at the door that would not admit him, and he gained as well a little
stab from the poniard which did not wound him deeply, so that it did
not cost him very dearly, his attack upon the realm of his sovereign.
But maddened with this slight advantage, he cried, "I cannot live
without the possession of that lovely body, and those marvels of love.
Kill me then!" And again he attacked the royal preserves. The young
beauty, whose head was full of the king, was not even touched by this
great love, said gravely, "If you menace me further, it is not you but
myself I will kill." She glared at him so savagely that the poor man
was quite terrified, and commenced to deplore the evil hour in which
he had taken her to wife, and thus the night which should have been so
joyous, was passed in tears, lamentations, prayers, and ejaculations.
In vain he tempted her with promises; she should eat out of gold, she
should be a great lady, he would buy houses and lands for her. Oh! if
she would only let him break one lance with her in the sweet conflict
of love, he would leave her for ever and pass the remainder of his
life according to her fantasy. But she, still unyielding, said she
would permit him to die, and that was the only thing he could do to
please her.

"I have not deceived you," said she. "Agreeable to my promise, I shall
give myself to the king, making you a present of the peddler, chance
passers, and street loungers with whom I threatened you."

When the day broke she put on her wedding garments and waited
patiently till the poor husband had to depart to his office client's
business, and then ran out into the town to seek the king. But she had
not gone a bow-shot from the house before one of the king's servants
who had watched the house from dawn, stopped her with the question--

"Do you seek the king?"

"Yes," said she.

"Good; then allow me to be your good friend," said the subtle
courtier. "I ask your aid and protection, as now I give you mine."

With that he told her what sort of a man the king was, which was his
weak side, that he was passionate one day and silent the next, that
she would luxuriously lodged and well kept, but that she must keep the
king well in hand; in short, he chatted so pleasantly that the time
passed quickly until she found herself in the Hotel de l'Hirundelle
where afterwards lived Madame d'Estampes. The poor husband shed
scalding tears, when he found his little bird had flown, and became
melancholy and pensive. His friends and neighbours edified his ears
with as many taunts and jeers as Saint Jacques had the honour of
receiving in Compostella, but the poor fellow took it so to heart,
that at last they tried rather to assuage his grief. These artful
compeers by a species of legal chicanery, decreed that the good man
was not a cuckold, seeing that his wife had refused a consummation,
and if the planter of horns had been anyone but the king, the said
marriage might have been dissolved; but the amorous spouse was
wretched unto death at my lady's trick. However, he left her to the
king, determining one day to have her to himself, and thinking that a
life-long shame would not be too dear a payment for a night with her.
One must love well to love like that, eh? and there are many worldly
ones, who mock at such affection. But he, still thinking of her,
neglected his cases and his clients, his robberies and everything. He
went to the palace like a miser searching for a lost sixpence, bowed
down, melancholy, and absent-minded, so much so, that one day he
relieved himself against the robe of a counsellor, believing all the
while he stood against a wall. Meanwhile the beautiful girl was loved
night and day by the king, who could not tear himself from her
embraces, because in amorous play she was so excellent, knowing as
well how to fan the flame of love as to extinguish it--to-day snubbing
him, to-morrow petting him, never the same, and with it a thousand
little tricks to charm the ardent lover.

A lord of Bridore killed himself through her, because she would not
receive his embraces, although he offered her his land, Bridore in
Touraine. Of these gallants of Touraine, who gave an estate for one
tilt with love's lance, there are none left. This death made the fair
one sad, and since her confessor laid the blame of it upon her, she
determined for the future to accept all domains and secretly ease
their owner's amorous pains for the better saving of their souls from
perdition. 'Twas thus she commenced to build up that great fortune
which made her a person of consideration in the town. By this means
she prevented many gallant gentlemen from perishing, playing her game
so well, and inventing such fine stories, that his Majesty little
guessed how much she aided him in securing the happiness of his
subjects. The fact is, she has such a hold over him that she could
have made him believe the floor was the ceiling, which was perhaps
easier for him to think than anyone else seeing that at the Rue
d'Hirundelle my lord king passed the greater portion of his time
embracing her always as though he would see if such a lovely article
would wear away: but he wore himself out first, poor man, seeing that
he eventually died from excess of love. Although she took care to
grant her favours only to the best and noblest in the court, and that
such occasions were rare as miracles, there were not wanting those
among her enemies and rivals who declared that for 10,000 crowns a
simple gentleman might taste the pleasures of his sovereign, which was
false above all falseness, for when her lord taxed her with it, did
she not reply, "Abominable wretches! Curse the devils who put this
idea in your head! I never yet did have man who spent less than 30,000
crowns upon me."

The king, although vexed could not repress a smile, and kept her on a
month to silence scandal. And last, la demoiselle de Pisseleu, anxious
to obtain her place, brought about her ruin. Many would have liked to
be ruined in the same way, seeing she was taken by a young lord, was
happy with him, the fires of love in her being still unquenched. But
to take up the thread again. One day that the king's sweetheart was
passing through the town in her litter to buy laces, furs, velvets,
broideries, and other ammunition, and so charmingly attired, and
looking so lovely, that anyone, especially the clerks, would have
believed the heavens were open above them, behold, her good man, who
comes upon her near the old cross. She, at that time lazily swinging
her charming little foot over the side of the litter, drew in her head
as though she had seen an adder. She was a good wife, for I know some
who would have proudly passed their husbands, to their shame and to
the great disrespect of conjugal rights.

"What is the matter?" asked one M. de Lannoy, who humbly accompanied
her.

"Nothing," she whispered; "but that person is my husband. Poor man,
how changed he looks. Formerly he was the picture of a monkey; today
he is the very image of a Job."

The poor advocate stood opened-mouthed. His heart beat rapidly at the
sight of that little foot--of that wife so wildly loved.

Observing which, the Sire de Lannoy said to him, with courtly
innocence--

"If you are her husband, is that any reason you should stop her
passage?"

At this she burst out laughing, and the good husband instead of
killing her bravely, shed scalding tears at that laugh which pierced
his heart, his soul, his everything, so much that he nearly tumbled
over an old citizen whom the sight of the king's sweetheart had driven
against the wall. The aspect of this weak flower, which had been his
in the bud, but far from him had spread its lovely leaves; of the
fairy figure, the voluptuous bust--all this made the poor advocate
more wretched and more mad for her than it is possible to express in
words. You must have been madly in love with a woman who refuses your
advances thoroughly to understand the agony of this unhappy man. Rare
indeed is it to be so infatuated as he was. He swore that life,
fortune, honour--all might go, but that for once at least he would be
flesh-to-flesh with her, and make so grand a repast off her dainty
body as would suffice him all his life. He passed the night saying,
"oh yes; ah! I'll have her!" and "Curses am I not her husband?" and
"Devil take me," striking himself on the forehead and tossing about.
There are chances and occasions which occur so opportunely in this
world that little-minded men refuse them credence, saying they are
supernatural, but men of high intellect know them to be true because
they could not be invented. One of the chances came to the poor
advocate, even the day after that terrible one which had been so sore
a trial to him. One of his clients, a man of good renown, who had his
audiences with the king, came one morning to the advocate, saying that
he required immediately a large sum of money, about 12,000 crowns. To
which the artful fellow replied, 12,000 crowns were not so often met
at the corner of a street as that which often is seen at the corner of
the street; that besides the sureties and guarantees of interest, it
was necessary to find a man who had about him 12,000 crowns, and that
those gentlemen were not numerous in Paris, big city as it was, and
various other things of a like character the man of cunning remarked.

"Is it true, my lord, the you have a hungry and relentless creditor?"
said he.

"Yes, yes," replied the other, "it concerns the mistress of the king.
Don't breathe a syllable; but this evening, in consideration of 20,000
crowns and my domain of Brie, I shall take her measure."

Upon this the advocate blanched, and the courtier perceived he touched
a tender point. As he had only lately returned from the wars, he did
not know that the lovely woman adored by the king had a husband.

"You appear ill," he said.

"I have a fever," replied the knave. "But is it to her that you give
the contract and the money?"

"Yes."

"Who then manages the bargain? Is it she also?"

"No," said the noble; "her little arrangements are concluded through a
servant of hers, the cleverest little ladies'-maid that ever was.
She's sharper than mustard, and these nights stolen from the king have
lined her pockets well."

"I know a Lombard who would accommodate you. But nothing can be done;
of the 12,000 crowns you shall not have a brass farthing if this same
ladies'-maid does not come here to take the price of the article that
is so great an alchemist that turns blood into gold, by Heaven!"

"It will be a good trick to make her sign the receipt," replied the
lord, laughing.

The servant came faithfully to the rendezvous with the advocate, who
had begged the lord to bring her. The ducats looked bright and
beautiful. There they lay all in a row, like nuns going to vespers.
Spread out upon the table they would have made a donkey smile, even if
he were being gutted alive; so lovely, so splendid, were those brave
noble young piles. The good advocate, however, had prepared this view
for no ass, for the little handmaiden look longingly at the golden
heap, and muttered a prayer at the sight of them. Seeing which, the
husband whispered in her ear his golden words, "These are for you."

"Ah!" said she; "I have never been so well paid."

"My dear," replied the dear man, "you shall have them without being
troubled with me;" and turning her round, "Your client has not told
you who I am, eh? No? Learn then, I am the husband of the lady whom
the king has debauched, and whom you serve. Carry her these crowns,
and come back here. I will hand over yours to you on a condition which
will be to your taste."

The servant did as she was bidden, and being very curious to know how
she could get 12,000 crowns without sleeping with the advocate, was
very soon back again.

"Now, my little one," said he, "here are 12,000 crowns. With this sum
I could buy lands, men, women, and the conscience of three priests at
least; so that I believe if I give it to you I can have you, body,
soul, and toe nails. And I shall have faith in you like an advocate, I
expect that you will go to the lord who expects to pass the night with
my wife, and you will deceive him, by telling him that the king is
coming to supper with her, and that to-night he must seek his little
amusements elsewhere. By so doing I shall be able to take his place
and the king's."

"But how?" said she.

"Oh!" replied he; "I have bought you, you and your tricks. You won't
have to look at these crowns twice without finding me a way to have my
wife. In bringing this conjunction about you commit no sin. It is a
work of piety to bring together two people whose hands only been put
one in to the other, and that by the priest."

"By my faith, come," said she; "after supper the lights will be put
out, and you can enjoy Madame if you remain silent. Luckily, on these
joyful occasions she cries more than she speaks, and asks questions
with her hands alone, for she is very modest, and does not like loose
jokes, like the ladies of the Court."

"Oh," cried the advocate, "look, take the 12,000 crowns, and I promise
you twice as much more if I get by fraud that which belongs to me by
right."

Then he arranged the hour, the door, the signal, and all; and the
servant went away, bearing with her on the back of the mules the
golden treasure wrung by fraud and trickery from the widow and the
orphan, and they were all going to that place where everything
goes--save our lives, which come from it. Now behold my advocate, who
shaves himself, scents himself, goes without onions for dinner that
his breath may be sweet, and does everything to make himself as
presentable as a gallant signor. He gives himself the airs of a young
dandy, tries to be lithe and frisky and to disguise his ugly face; he
might try all he knew, he always smelt of the musty lawyer. He was not
so clever as the pretty washerwoman of Portillon who one day wishing
to appear at her best before one of her lovers, got rid of a
disagreeable odour in a manner well known to young women of an
inventive turn of mind. But our crafty fellow fancied himself the
nicest man in the world, although in spite of his drugs and perfumes
he was really the nastiest. He dressed himself in his thinnest clothes
although the cold pinched him like a rope collar and sallied forth,
quickly gaining the Rue d'Hirundelle. There he had to wait some time.
But just as he was beginning to think he had been made a fool of, and
just as it was quite dark, the maid came down and opened alike the
door to him and good husband slipped gleefully into the king's
apartment. The girl locked him carefully in a cupboard that was close
to his wife's bed, and through a crack he feasted his eyes upon her
beauty, for she undressed herself before the fire, and put on a thin
nightgown, through which her charms were plainly visible. Believing
herself alone with her maid she made those little jokes that women
will when undressing. "Am I not worth 20,000 crowns to-night? Is that
overpaid with a castle in Brie?"

And saying this she gently raised two white supports, firm as rocks,
which had well sustained many assaults, seeing they had been furiously
attacked and had not softened. "My shoulders alone are worth a
kingdom; no king could make their equal. But I am tired of this life.
That which is hard work is no pleasure." The little maid smiled, and
her lovely mistress said to her, "I should like to see you in my
place." Then the maid laughed, saying--

"Be quiet, Madame, he is there."

"Who?"

"Your husband."

"Which?"

"The real one."

"Chut!" said Madame.

And her maid told her the whole story, wishing to keep her favour and
the 12,000 crowns as well.

"Oh well, he shall have his money's worth. I'll give his desires time
to cool. If he tastes me may I lose my beauty and become as ugly as a
monkey's baby. You get into bed in my place and thus gain the 12,000
crowns. Go and tell him that he must take himself off early in the
morning in order that I may not find out your trick upon me, and just
before dawn I will get in by his side."

The poor husband was freezing and his teeth were chattering, and the
chambermaid coming to the cupboard on pretence of getting some linen,
said to him, "Your hour of bliss approaches. Madame to-night has made
grand preparations and you will be well served. But work without
whistling, otherwise I shall be lost."

At last, when the good husband was on the point of perishing with
cold, the lights were put out. The maid cried softly in the curtains
to the king's sweetheart, that his lordship was there, and jumped into
bed, while her mistress went out as if she had been the chambermaid.
The advocate, released from his cold hiding-place, rolled rapturously
into the warm sheets, thinking to himself, "Oh! this is good!" To tell
the truth, the maid gave him his money's worth--and the good man
thought of the difference between the profusion of the royal houses
and the niggardly ways of the citizens' wives. The servant laughing,
played her part marvellously well, regaling the knave with gentle
cries, shiverings, convulsions and tossings about, like a newly-caught
fish on the grass, giving little Ah! Ahs! in default of other words;
and as often as the request was made by her, so often was it complied
with by the advocate, who dropped of to sleep at last, like an empty
pocket. But before finishing, the lover who wished to preserve a
souvenir of this sweet night of love, by a dextrous turn, plucked out
one of his wife's hairs, where from I know not, seeing I was not
there, and kept in his hand this precious gauge of the warm virtue of
that lovely creature. Towards the morning, when the cock crew, the
wife slipped in beside her husband, and pretended to sleep. Then the
maid tapped gently on the happy man's forehead, whispering in his ear,
"It is time, get into your clothes and off you go--it's daylight." The
good man grieved to lose his treasure, and wished to see the source of
his vanished happiness.

"Oh! Oh!" said he, proceeding to compare certain things, "I've got
light hair, and this is dark."

"What have you done?" said the servant; "Madame will see she has been
duped."

"But look."

"Ah!" said she, with an air of disdain, "do you not know, you who
knows everything, that that which is plucked dies and discolours?" and
thereupon roaring with laughter at the good joke, she pushed him out
of doors. This became known. The poor advocate, named Feron, died of
shame, seeing that he was the only one who had not his own wife while
she, who was from this was called La Belle Feroniere, married, after
leaving the king, a young lord, Count of Buzancois. And in her old
days she would relate the story, laughingly adding, that she had never
scented the knave's flavour.

This teaches us not to attach ourselves more than we can help to wives
who refuse to support our yoke.



                          THE DEVIL'S HEIR

There once was a good old canon of Notre Dame de Paris, who lived in a
fine house of his own, near St. Pierre-aux-Boeufs, in the Parvis. This
canon had come a simple priest to Paris, naked as a dagger without its
sheath. But since he was found to be a handsome man, well furnished
with everything, and so well constituted, that if necessary he was
able to do the work of many, without doing himself much harm, he gave
himself up earnestly to the confessing of ladies, giving to the
melancholy a gentle absolution, to the sick a drachm of his balm, to
all some little dainty. He was so well known for his discretion, his
benevolence, and other ecclesiastical qualities, that he had customers
at Court. Then in order not to awaken the jealousy of the officials,
that of the husbands and others, in short, to endow with sanctity
these good and profitable practices, the Lady Desquerdes gave him a
bone of St. Victor, by virtue of which all the miracles were
performed. And to the curious it was said, "He has a bone which will
cure everything;" and to this, no one found anything to reply, because
it was not seemly to suspect relics. Beneath the shade of his cassock,
the good priest had the best of reputations, that of a man valiant
under arms. So he lived like a king. He made money with holy water;
sprinkled it and transmitted the holy water into good wine. More than
that, his name lay snugly in all the et ceteras of the notaries, in
wills or in caudicils, which certain people have falsely written
_codicil_, seeing that the word is derived from cauda, as if to say the
tail of the legacy. In fact, the good old Long Skirts would have been
made an archbishop if he had only said in joke, "I should like to put
on a mitre for a handkerchief in order to have my head warmer." Of all
the benefices offered to him, he chose only a simple canon's stall to
keep the good profits of the confessional. But one day the courageous
canon found himself weak in the back, seeing that he was all
sixty-eight years old, and had held many confessionals. Then thinking
over all his good works, he thought it about time to cease his
apostolic labours, the more so, as he possessed about one hundred
thousand crowns earned by the sweat of his body. From that day he only
confessed ladies of high lineage, and did it very well. So that it was
said at Court that in spite of the efforts of the best young clerks
there was still no one but the Canon of St. Pierre-aux-Boeufs to
properly bleach the soul of a lady of condition. Then at length the
canon became by force of nature a fine nonagenarian, snowy about the
head, with trembling hands, but square as a tower, having spat so much
without coughing, that he coughed now without being able to spit; no
longer rising from his chair, he who had so often risen for humanity;
but drinking dry, eating heartily, saying nothing, but having all the
appearance of a living Canon of Notre Dame. Seeing the immobility of
the aforesaid canon; seeing the stories of his evil life which for
some time had circulated among the common people, always ignorant;
seeing his dumb seclusion, his flourishing health, his young old age,
and other things too numerous to mention--there were certain people
who to do the marvellous and injure our holy religion, went about
saying that the true canon was long since dead, and that for more than
fifty years the devil had taken possession of the old priest's body.
In fact, it seemed to his former customers that the devil could only
by his great heat have furnished these hermetic distillations, that
they remembered to have obtained on demand from this good confessor,
who always had le diable au corps. But as this devil had been
undoubtedly cooked and ruined by them, and that for a queen of twenty
years he would not have moved, well-disposed people and those not
wanting in sense, or the citizens who argued about everything, people
who found lice in bald heads, demanded why the devil rested under the
form of a canon, went to the Church of Notre Dame at the hours when
the canons usually go, and ventured so far as to sniff the perfume of
the incense, taste the holy water, and a thousand other things. To
these heretical propositions some said that doubtless the devil wished
to convert himself, and others that he remained in the shape of the
canon to mock at the three nephews and heirs of this said brave
confessor and make them wait until the day of their own death for the
ample succession of this uncle, to whom they paid great attention
every day, going to look if the good man had his eyes open, and in
fact found him always with his eye clear, bright, and piercing as the
eye of a basilisk, which pleased them greatly, since they loved their
uncle very much--in words. On this subject an old woman related that
for certain the canon was the devil, because his two nephews, the
procureur and the captain, conducting their uncle at night, without a
lamp, or lantern, returning from a supper at the penitentiary's, had
caused him by accident to tumble over a heap of stones gathered
together to raise the statue of St. Christopher. At first the old man
had struck fire in falling, but was, amid the cries of his dear
nephews and by the light of the torches they came to seek at her house
found standing up as straight as a skittle and as gay as a weaving
whirl, exclaiming that the good wine of the penitentiary had given him
the courage to sustain this shock and that his bones were exceedingly
hard and had sustained rude assaults. The good nephews believing him
dead, were much astonished, and perceived that the day that was to
dispatch their uncle was a long way off, seeing that at the business
stones were of no use. So that they did not falsely call him their
good uncle, seeing that he was of good quality. Certain scandalmongers
said that the canon found so many stones in his path that he stayed at
home not to be ill with the stone, and the fear of worse was the cause
of his seclusion.

Of all these sayings and rumours, it remains that the old canon, devil
or not, kept his house, and refused to die, and had three heirs with
whom he lived as with his sciaticas, lumbagos, and other appendage of
human life. Of the said three heirs, one was the wickedest soldier
ever born of a woman, and he must have considerably hurt her in
breaking his egg, since he was born with teeth and bristles. So that
he ate, two-fold, for the present and the future, keeping wenches
whose cost he paid; inheriting from his uncle the continuance,
strength, and good use of that which is often of service. In great
battles, he endeavoured always to give blows without receiving them,
which is, and always will be, the only problem to solve in war, but he
never spared himself there, and, in fact, as he had no other virtue
except his bravery, he was captain of a company of lancers, and much
esteemed by the Duke of Burgoyne, who never troubled what his soldiers
did elsewhere. This nephew of the devil was named Captain Cochegrue;
and his creditors, the blockheads, citizens, and others, whose pockets
he slit, called him the Mau-cinge, since he was as mischievous as
strong; but he had moreover his back spoilt by the natural infirmity
of a hump, and it would have been unwise to attempt to mount thereon
to get a good view, for he would incontestably have run you through.

The second had studied the laws, and through the favour of his uncle
had become a procureur, and practised at the palace, where he did the
business of the ladies, whom formerly the canon had the best
confessed. This one was called Pille-grue, to banter him upon his real
name, which was Cochegrue, like that of his brother the captain.
Pille-grue had a lean body, seemed to throw off very cold water, was
pale of face, and possessed a physiognomy like a polecat.

This notwithstanding, he was worth many a penny more than the captain,
and had for his uncle a little affection, but since about two years
his heart had cracked a little, and drop by drop his gratitude had run
out, in such a way that from time to time, when the air was damp, he
liked to put his feet into his uncle's hose, and press in advance the
juice of this good inheritance. He and his brother, the soldier found
their share very small, since loyally, in law, in fact, in justice, in
nature, and in reality, it was necessary to give the third part of
everything to a poor cousin, son of another sister of the canon, the
which heir, but little loved by the good man, remained in the country,
where he was a shepherd, near Nanterre.

The guardian of beasts, an ordinary peasant, came to town by the
advice of his two cousins, who placed him in their uncle's house, in
the hope that, as much by his silly tricks and his clumsiness, his
want of brain, and his ignorance, he would be displeasing to the
canon, who would kick him out of his will. Now this poor Chiquon, as
the shepherd was named, had lived about a month alone with his old
uncle, and finding more profit or more amusement in minding an abbot
than looking after sheep, made himself the canon's dog, his servant,
the staff of his old age, saying, "God keep you," when he passed wind,
"God save you," when he sneezed, and "God guard you," when he belched;
going to see if it rained, where the cat was, remaining silent,
listening, speaking, receiving the coughs of the old man in his face,
admiring him as the finest canon there ever was in the world, all
heartily and in good faith, knowing that he was licking him after the
manner of animals who clean their young ones; and the uncle, who stood
in no need of learning which side the bread was buttered, repulsed
poor Chiquon, making him turn about like a die, always calling him
Chiquon, and always saying to his other nephews that this Chiquon was
helping to kill him, such a numskull was he. Thereupon, hearing this,
Chiquon determined to do well by his uncle, and puzzled his
understanding to appear better; but as he had a behind shaped like a
pair of pumpkins, was broad shouldered, large limbed, and far from
sharp, he more resembled old Silenus than a gentle Zephyr. In fact,
the poor shepherd, a simple man, could not reform himself, so he
remained big and fat, awaiting his inheritance to make himself thin.

One evening the canon began discoursing concerning the devil and
the grave agonies, penances, tortures, etc., which God will get warm
for the accursed, and the good Chiquon hearing it, began to open his
eyes as wide as the door of an oven, at the statement, without
believing a word of it.

"What," said the canon, "are you not a Christian?"

"In that, yes," answered Chiquon.

"Well, there is a paradise for the good; is it not necessary to have a
hell for the wicked?"

"Yes, Mr. Canon; but the devil's of no use. If you had here a wicked
man who turned everything upside down; would you not kick him out of
doors?"

"Yes, Chiquon."

"Oh, well, mine uncle; God would be very stupid to leave in the this
world, which he has so curiously constructed, an abominable devil
whose special business it is to spoil everything for him. Pish! I
recognise no devil if there be a good God; you may depend upon that. I
should very much like to see the devil. Ha, ha! I am not afraid of his
claws!"

"And if I were of your opinion I should have no care of my very
youthful years in which I held confessions at least ten times a day."

"Confess again, Mr. Canon. I assure you that will be a precious merit
on high."

"There, there! Do you mean it?"

"Yes, Mr. Canon."

"Thou dost not tremble, Chiquon, to deny the devil?"

"I trouble no more about it than a sheaf of corn."

"The doctrine will bring misfortune upon you."

"By no means. God will defend me from the devil because I believe him
more learned and less stupid than the savans make him out."

Thereupon the two other nephews entered, and perceiving from the voice
of the canon that he did not dislike Chiquon very much, and that the
jeremiads which he had made concerning him were simple tricks to
disguise the affection which he bore him, looked at each other in
great astonishment.

Then, seeing their uncle laughing, they said to him--

"If you will make a will, to whom will you leave the house?

"To Chiquon."

"And the quit rent of the Rue St. Denys?"

"To Chiquon."

"And the fief of Ville Parisis?"

"To Chiquon."

"But," said the captain, with his big voice, "everything then will be
Chiquon's."

"No," replied the canon, smiling, "because I shall have made my will
in proper form, the inheritance will be to the sharpest of you three;
I am so near to the future, that I can therein see clearly your
destinies."

And the wily canon cast upon Chiquon a glance full of malice, like a
decoy bird would have thrown upon a little one to draw him into her
net. The fire of his flaming eye enlightened the shepherd, who from
that moment had his understanding and his ears all unfogged, and his
brain open, like that of a maiden the day after her marriage. The
procureur and the captain, taking these sayings for gospel prophecies,
made their bow and went out from the house, quite perplexed at the
absurd designs of the canon.

"What do you think of Chiquon?" said Pille-grue to Mau-cinge.

"I think, I think," said the soldier, growling, "that I think of
hiding myself in the Rue d'Hierusalem, to put his head below his feet;
he can pick it up again if he likes."

"Oh, oh!" said the procureur, "you have a way of wounding that is
easily recognised, and people would say 'It's Cochegrue.' As for me, I
thought to invite him to dinner, after which, we would play at putting
ourselves in a sack in order to see, as they do at Court, who could
walk best thus attired. Then having sewn him up, we could throw him
into the Seine, at the same time begging him to swim."

"This must be well matured," replied the soldier.

"Oh! it's quite ripe," said the advocate. "The cousin gone to the
devil, the heritage would then be between us two."

"I'm quite agreeable," said the fighter, "but we must stick as close
together as the two legs of the same body, for if you are fine as
silk, I as strong as steel, and daggers are always as good as traps
--you hear that, my good brother."

"Yes," said the advocate, "the cause is heard--now shall it be the
thread or the iron?"

"Eh? ventre de Dieu! is it then a king that we are going to settle?
For a simple numskull of a shepherd are so many words necessary? Come!
20,000 francs out of the Heritage to the one of us who shall first cut
him off: I'll say to him in good faith, 'Pick up your head.'"

"And I, 'Swim my friend,'" cried the advocate, laughing like the gap
of a pourpoint.

And then they went to supper, the captain to his wench, and the
advocate to the house of a jeweller's wife, of whom he was the lover.

Who was astonished? Chiquon! The poor shepherd heard the planning of
his death, although the two cousins had walked in the parvis, and
talked to each other as every one speaks at church when praying to
God. So that Chiquon was much coupled to know if the words had come up
or if his ears had gone down.

"Do you hear, Mister Canon?"

"Yes," said he, "I hear the wood crackling in the fire."

"Ho, ho!" replied Chiquon, "if I don't believe in the devil, I believe
in St. Michael, my guardian angel; I go there where he calls me."

"Go, my child," said the canon, "and take care not to wet yourself,
nor to get your head knocked off, for I think I hear more rain, and
the beggars in the street are not always the most dangerous beggars."

At these words Chiquon was much astonished, and stared at the canon;
found his manner gay, his eye sharp, and his feet crooked; but as he
had to arrange matters concerning the death which menaced him, he
thought to himself that he would always have leisure to admire the
canon, or to cut his nails, and he trotted off quickly through the
town, as a little woman trots towards her pleasure.

His two cousins having no presumption of the divinatory science, of
which shepherds have had many passing attacks, had often talked before
him of their secret goings on, counting him as nothing.

Now one evening, to amuse the canon, Pille-grue had recounted to him
how had fallen in love with him a wife of a jeweller on whose head he
had adjusted certain carved, burnished, sculptured, historical horns,
fit for the brow of a prince. The good lady was to hear him, a right
merry wench, quick at opportunities, giving an embrace while her
husband was mounting the stairs, devouring the commodity as if she was
swallowing a a strawberry, only thinking of love-making, always
trifling and frisky, gay as an honest woman who lacks nothing,
contenting her husband, who cherished her so much as he loved his own
gullet; subtle as a perfume, so much so, that for five years she
managed so well with his household affairs, and her own love affairs,
that she had the reputation of a prudent woman, the confidence of her
husband, the keys of the house, the purse, and all.

"And when do you play upon this gentle flute?" said the canon.

"Every evening and sometimes I stay all the night."

"But how?" said the canon, astonished.

"This is how. There is a room close to, a chest into which I get. When
the good husband returns from his friend the draper's, where he goes
to supper every evening, because often he helps the draper's wife in
her work, my mistress pleads a slight illness, lets him go to bed
alone, and comes to doctor her malady in the room where the chest is.
On the morrow, when my jeweller is at his forge, I depart, and as the
house has one exit on to the bridge, and another into the street, I
always come to the door when the husband is not, on the pretext of
speaking to him of his suits, which commence joyfully and heartily,
and I never let them come to an end. It is an income from cuckoldom,
seeing that in the minor expenses and loyal costs of the proceedings,
he spends as much as on the horses in his stable. He loves me well, as
all good cuckolds should love the man who aids them, to plant,
cultivate, water and dig the natural garden of Venus, and he does
nothing without me."

Now these practices came back again to the memory of the shepherd, who
was illuminated by the light issuing from his danger, and counselled
by the intelligence of those measures of self-preservation, of which
every animal possesses a sufficient dose to go to the end of his ball
of life. So Chiquon gained with hasty feet the Rue de la Calandre,
where the jeweller should be supping with his companion, and after
having knocked at the door, replied to question put to him through the
little grill, that he was a messenger on state secrets, and was
admitted to the draper's house. Now coming straight to the fact, he
made the happy jeweller get up from his table, led him to a corner,
and said to him: "If one of your neighbours had planted a horn on your
forehead and he was delivered to you, bound hand and foot, would you
throw him into the river?"

"Rather," said the jeweller, "but if you are mocking me I'll give you
a good drubbing."

"There, there!" replied Chiquon, "I am one of your friends and come to
warn you that as many times as you have conversed with the draper's
wife here, as often has your own wife been served the same way by the
advocate Pille-grue, and if you will come back to your forge, you will
find a good fire there. On your arrival, he who looks after your
you-know-what, to keep it in good order, gets into the big clothes
chest. Now make a pretence that I have bought the said chest of you,
and I will be upon the bridge with a cart, waiting your orders."

The said jeweller took his cloak and his hat, and parted company with
his crony without saying a word, and ran to his hole like a poisoned
rat. He arrives and knocks, the door is opened, he runs hastily up the
stairs, finds two covers laid, sees his wife coming out of the chamber
of love, and then says to her, "My dear, here are two covers laid."

"Well, my darling are we not two?"

"No," said he, "we are three."

"Is your friend coming?" said she, looking towards the stairs with
perfect innocence.

"No, I speak of the friend who is in the chest."

"What chest?" said she. "Are you in your sound senses? Where do you
see a chest? Is the usual to put friends in chests? Am I a woman to
keep chests full of friends? How long have friends been kept in
chests? Are you come home mad to mix up your friends with your chests?
I know no other friend then Master Cornille the draper, and no other
chest than the one with our clothes in."

"Oh!" said the jeweller, "my good woman, there is a bad young man,
who has come to warn me that you allow yourself to be embraced by our
advocate, and that he is in the chest."

"I!" said she, "I would not put up with his knavery, he does
everything the wrong way."

"There, there, my dear," replied the jeweller, "I know you to be a
good woman, and won't have a squabble with you about this paltry
chest. The giver of the warning is a box-maker, to whom I am about to
sell this cursed chest that I wish never again to see in my house, and
for this one he will sell me two pretty little ones, in which there
will not be space enough even for a child; thus the scandal and the
babble of those envious of your virtue will be extinguished for want
of nourishment."

"You give me great pleasure," said she; "I don't attach any value to
my chest, and by chance there is nothing in it. Our linen is at the
wash. It will be easy to have the mischievous chest taken away
tomorrow morning. Will you sup?"

"Not at all," said he, "I shall sup with a better appetite without the
chest."

"I see," said she, "that you won't easily get the chest out of your
head."

"Halloa, there!" said the jeweller to his smiths and apprentices;
"come down!"

In the twinkling of an eye his people were before him. Then he, their
master, having briefly ordered the handling of the said chest, this
piece of furniture dedicated to love was tumbled across the room, but
in passing the advocate, finding his feet in the air to the which he
was not accustomed, tumbled over a little.

"Go on," said the wife, "go on, it's the lid shaking."

"No, my dear, it's the bolt."

And without any other opposition the chest slid gently down the
stairs.

"Ho there, carrier!" said the jeweller, and Chiquon came whistling his
mules, and the good apprentices lifted the litigious chest into the
cart.

"Hi, hi!" said the advocate.

"Master, the chest is speaking," said an apprentice.

"In what language?" said the jeweller, giving him a good kick between
two features that luckily were not made of glass. The apprentice
tumbled over on to a stair in a way that induced him to discontinue
his studies in the language of chests. The shepherd, accompanied by
the good jeweller, carried all the baggage to the water-side without
listening to the high eloquence of the speaking wood, and having tied
several stones to it, the jeweller threw it into the Seine.

"Swim, my friend," cried the shepherd, in a voice sufficiently jeering
at the moment when the chest turned over, giving a pretty little
plunge like a duck.

Then Chiquon continued to proceed along the quay, as far as the
Rue-du-port, St. Laudry, near the cloisters of Notre Dame. There he
noticed a house, recognised the door, and knocked loudly.

"Open," said he, "open by order of the king."

Hearing this an old man who was no other than the famous Lombard,
Versoris, ran to the door.

"What is it?" said he.

"I am sent by the provost to warn you to keep good watch tonight,"
replied Chiquon, "as for his own part he will keep his archers ready.
The hunchback who has robbed you has come back again. Keep under arms,
for he is quite capable of easing you of the rest."

Having said this, the good shepherd took to his heels and ran to the
Rue des Marmouzets, to the house where Captain Cochegrue was feasting
with La Pasquerette, the prettiest of town-girls, and the most
charming in perversity that ever was; according to all the gay ladies,
her glance was sharp and piercing as the stab of a dagger. Her
appearance was so tickling to the sight, that it would have put all
Paradise to rout. Besides which she was as bold as a woman who has no
other virtue than her insolence. Poor Chiquon was greatly embarrassed
while going to the quarter of the Marmouzets. He was greatly afraid
that he would be unable to find the house of La Pasquerette, or find
the two pigeons gone to roost, but a good angel arranged there
speedily to his satisfaction. This is how. On entering the Rue des
Marmouzets he saw several lights at the windows and night-capped heads
thrust out, and good wenches, gay girls, housewives, husbands, and
young ladies, all of them are just out of bed, looking at each other
as if a robber were being led to execution by torchlight.

"What's the matter?" said the shepherd to a citizen who in great haste
had rushed to the door with a chamber utensil in his hand.

"Oh! it's nothing," replied the good man. "We thought it was the
Armagnacs descending upon the town, but it's only Mau-cinge beating La
Pasquerette."

"Where?" asked the shepherd.

"Below there, at that fine house where the pillars have the mouths of
flying frogs delicately carved upon them. Do you hear the varlets and
the serving maids?"

And in fact there was nothing but cries of "Murder! Help! Come some
one!" and in the house blows raining down and the Mau-cinge said with
his gruff voice:

"Death to the wench! Ah, you sing out now, do you? Ah, you want your
money now, do you? Take that--"

And La Pasquerette was groaning, "Oh! oh! I die! Help! Help! Oh! oh!"
Then came the blow of a sword and the heavy fall of a light body of
the fair girl sounded, and was followed by a great silence, after
which the lights were put out, servants, waiting women, roysterers,
and others went in again, and the shepherd who had come opportunely
mounted the stairs in company with them, but on beholding in the room
above broken glasses, slit carpets, and the cloth on the floor with
the dishes, everyone remained at a distance.

The shepherd, bold as a man with but one end in view, opened the door
of the handsome chamber where slept La Pasquerette, and found her
quite exhausted, her hair dishevelled, and her neck twisted, lying
upon a bloody carpet, and Mau-cinge frightened, with his tone
considerably lower, and not knowing upon what note to sing the
remainder of his anthem.

"Come, my little Pasquerette, don't pretend to be dead. Come, let me
put you tidy. Ah! little minx, dead or alive, you look so pretty in
your blood I'm going to kiss you." Having said which the cunning
soldier took her and threw her upon the bed, but she fell there all of
a heap, and stiff as the body of a man that had been hanged. Seeing
which her companion found it was time for his hump to retire from the
game; however, the artful fellow before slinking away said, "Poor
Pasquerette, how could I murder so good of girl, and one I loved so
much? But, yes, I have killed her, the thing is clear, for in her life
never did her sweet breast hang down like that. Good God, one would
say it was a crown at the bottom of a wallet. Thereupon Pasquerette
opened her eyes and then bent her head slightly to look at her flesh,
which was white and firm, and she brought herself to life by a box on
the ears, administered to the captain.

"That will teach you to beware of the dead," said she, smiling.

"And why did he kill you, my cousin?" asked the shepherd.

"Why? Tomorrow the bailiffs seize everything that's here, and he who
has no more money than virtue, reproached me because I wished to be
agreeable to a handsome gentlemen, who would save me from the hands of
justice.

"Pasquerette, I'll break every bone in your skin."

"There, there!" said Chiquon, whom the Mau-cinge had just recognised,
"is that all? Oh, well, my good friend, I bring you a large sum."

"Where from?" asked the captain, astonished.

"Come here, and let me whisper in your ear--if 30,000 crowns were
walking about at night under the shadow of a pear-tree, would you not
stoop down to pluck them, to prevent them spoiling?"

"Chiquon, I'll kill you like a dog if you are making game of me, or I
will kiss you there where you like it, if you will put me opposite
30,000 crowns, even when it shall be necessary to kill three citizens
at the corner of the Quay."

"You will not even kill one. This is how the matter stands. I have for
a sweetheart in all loyalty, the servant of the Lombard who is in the
city near the house of our good uncle. Now I have just learned on
sound information that this dear man has departed this morning into
the country after having hidden under a pear-tree in his garden a good
bushel of gold, believing himself to be seen only by the angels. But
the girl who had by chance a bad toothache, and was taking the air at
her garret window, spied the old crookshanks, without wishing to do
so, and chattered of it to me in fondness. If you will swear to give
me a good share I will lend you my shoulders in order that you may
climb on to the top of the wall and from there throw yourself into the
pear-tree, which is against the wall. There, now do you say that I am
a blockhead, an animal?"

"No, you are a right loyal cousin, an honest man, and if you have ever
to put an enemy out off the way, I am there, ready to kill even one of
my own friends for you. I am no longer your cousin, but your brother.
Ho there! sweetheart," cried Mau-cinge to La Pasquerette, "put the
tables straight, wipe up your blood, it belongs to me, and I'll pay
you for it by giving you a hundred times as much of mine as I have
taken of thine. Make the best of it, shake the black dog, off your
back, adjust your petticoats, laugh, I wish it, look to the stew, and
let us recommence our evening prayer where we left it off. Tomorrow
I'll make thee braver than a queen. This is my cousin whom I wish to
entertain, even when to do so it were necessary to turn the house out
of windows. We shall get back everything tomorrow in the cellars.
Come, fall to!"

Thus, and in less time than it takes a priest to say his Dominus
vobiscum, the whole rookery passed from tears to laughter as it had
previously from laughter to tears. It is only in these houses of
ill-fame that love is made with the blow of a dagger, and where
tempests of joy rage between four walls. But these are things ladies
of the high-neck dress do not understand.

The said captain Cochegrue was gay as a hundred schoolboys at the
breaking up of class, and made his good cousin drink deeply, who
spilled everything country fashion, and pretended to be drunk,
spluttering out a hundred stupidities, as, that "tomorrow he would buy
Paris, would lend a hundred thousand crowns to the king, that he would
be able to roll in gold;" in fact, talked so much nonsense that the
captain, fearing some compromising avowal and thinking his brain quite
muddled enough, led him outside with the good intention, instead of
sharing with him, of ripping Chiquon open to see if he had not a
sponge in his stomach, because he had just soaked in a big quart of
the good wine of Suresne. They went along, disputing about a thousand
theological subjects which got very much mixed up, and finished by
rolling quietly up against the garden where were the crowns of the
Lombard. Then Cochegrue, making a ladder of Chiquon's broad shoulders,
jumped on to the pear-tree like a man expert in attacks upon towns,
but Versoris, who was watching him, made a blow at his neck, and
repeated it so vigorously that with three blows fell the upper portion
of the said Cochegrue, but not until he had heard the clear voice of
the shepherd, who cried to him, "Pick up your head, my friend."
Thereupon the generous Chiquon, in whom virtue received its
recompense, thought it would be wise to return to the house of the
good canon, whose heritage was by the grace of God considerably
simplified. Thus he gained the Rue St. Pierre-Aux-Boeufs with all
speed, and soon slept like a new-born baby, no longer knowing the
meaning of the word "cousin-german." Now, on the morrow he rose
according to the habit of shepherds, with the sun, and came into his
uncle's room to inquire if he spat white, if he coughed, if he had
slept well; but the old servant told him that the canon, hearing the
bells of St Maurice, the first patron of Notre Dame, ring for matins,
he had gone out of reverence to the cathedral, where all the Chapter
were to breakfast with the Bishop of Paris; upon which Chiquon
replied: "Is his reverence the canon out of his senses thus to disport
himself, to catch a cold, to get rheumatism? Does he wish to die? I'll
light a big fire to warm him when he returns;" and the good shepherd
ran into the room where the canon generally sat, and to his great
astonishment beheld him seated in his chair.

"Ah, ah! What did she mean, that fool of a Bruyette? I knew you were
too well advised to be shivering at this hour in your stall."

The canon said not a word. The shepherd who was like all thinkers, a
man of hidden sense, was quite aware that sometimes old men have
strange crotchets, converse with the essence of occult things, and
mumble to themselves discourses concerning matters not under
consideration; so that, from reverence and great respect for the
secret meditations of the canon, he went and sat down at a distance,
and waited the termination of these dreams; noticing, silently the
length of the good man's nails, which looked like cobbler's awls, and
looking attentively at the feet of his uncle, he was astonished to see
the flesh of his legs so crimson, that it reddened his breeches and
seemed all on fire through his hose.

He is dead, thought Chiquon. At this moment the door of the room
opened, and he still saw the canon, who, his nose frozen, came back
from church.

"Ho, ho!" said Chiquon, "my dear Uncle, are you out of your senses?
Kindly take notice that you ought not to be at the door, because you
are already seated in your chair in the chimney corner, and that it is
impossible for there to be two canons like you in the world."

"Ah! Chiquon, there was a time when I could have wished to be in two
places at once, but such is not the fate of a man, he would be too
happy. Are you getting dim-sighted? I am alone here."

Then Chiquon turned his head towards the chair, and found it empty;
and much astonished, as you will easily believe, he approached it, and
found on the seat a little pat of cinders, from which ascended a
strong odour of sulphur.

"Ah!" said he merrily, "I perceive that the devil has behaved well
towards me--I will pray God for him."

And thereupon he related naively to the canon how the devil had amused
himself by playing at providence, and had loyally aided him to get rid
of his wicked cousins, the which the canon admired much, and thought
very good, seeing that he had plenty of good sense left, and often had
observed things which were to the devil's advantage. So the good old
priest remarked that 'as much good was always met with in evil as evil
in good, and that therefore one should not trouble too much after the
other world, the which was a grave heresy, which many councils have
put right'.

And this was how the Chiquons became rich, and were able in these
times, by the fortunes of their ancestors, to help to build the bridge
of St. Michael, where the devil cuts a very good figure under the
angel, in memory of this adventure now consigned to these veracious
histories.



            THE MERRIE JESTS OF KING LOUIS THE ELEVENTH

King Louis The Eleventh was a merry fellow, loving a good joke, and
--the interests of his position as king, and those of the church on
one side--he lived jovially, giving chase to soiled doves as often as
to hares, and other royal game. Therefore, the sorry scribblers who
have made him out a hypocrite, showed plainly that they knew him not,
since he was a good friend, good at repartee, and a jollier fellow
than any of them.

It was he who said when he was in a merry mood, that four things are
excellent and opportune in life--to keep warm, to drink cool, to stand
up hard, and to swallow soft. Certain persons have accused him of
taking up with a dirty trollops; this is a notorious falsehood, since
all his mistresses, of whom one was legitimised, came of good houses
and had notable establishments. He did not go in for waste and
extravagance, always put his hand upon the solid, and because certain
devourers of the people found no crumbs at his table, they have all
maligned him. But the real collector of facts know that the said king
was a capital fellow in private life, and even very agreeable; and
before cutting off the heads of his friends, or punishing them--for he
did not spare them--it was necessary that they should have greatly
offended him, and his vengeance was always justice; I have only seen
in our friend Verville that this worthy sovereign ever made a mistake;
but one does not make a habit, and even for this his boon companion
Tristan was more to blame than he, the king. This is the circumstance
related by the said Verville, and I suspect he was cracking a joke. I
reproduce it because certain people are not familiar with the
exquisite work of my perfect compatriot. I abridge it and only give
the substance, the details being more ample, of which facts the savans
are not ignorant.

Louis XI. had given the Abbey of Turpenay (mentioned in 'Imperia') to
a gentleman who, enjoying the revenue, had called himself Monsieur de
Turpenay. It happened that the king being at Plessis-les-Tours, the
real abbot, who was a monk, came and presented himself before the
king, and presented also a petition, remonstrating with him that,
canonically and a monastically, he was entitled to the abbey and that
the usurping gentleman wronged of his right, and therefore he called
upon his majesty to have justice done to him. Nodding his peruke, the
king promised to render him contented. This monk, importunate as are
all hooded animals, came often at the end of the king's meals, who,
bored with the holy water of the convent, called friend Tristan and
said to him: "Old fellow, there is here a Turpenay who angers me, rid
the world of him for me." Tristan, taking a frock for a monk, or a
monk for a frock, came to this gentleman, whom all the court called
Monsieur de Turpenay, and having accosted him managed to lead him to
one side, and taking him by the button-hole gave him to understand
that the king desired he should die. He tried to resist, supplicating
and supplicating to escape, but in no way could he obtain a hearing.
He was delicately strangled between the head and shoulders, so that he
expired; and, three hours afterwards, Tristan told the king that he
was discharged. It happened five days afterwards, which is the space
in which souls come back again, that the monk came into the room where
the king was, and when he saw him he was much astonished. Tristan was
present: the king called him, and whispered into his ear--

"You have not done that which I told you to."

"Saving your Grace I have done it. Turpenay is dead."

"Eh? I meant this monk."

"I understood the gentleman!"

"What, is it done then?"

"Yes, sire,"

"Very well then"--turning towards the monk--"come here, monk." The
monk approached. The king said to him, "Kneel down!" The poor monk
began to shiver in his shoes. But the king said to him, "Thank God
that he has not willed that you should be killed as I had ordered. He
who took your estates has been instead. God has done you justice. Go
and pray God for me, and don't stir out of your convent."

The proves the good-heartedness of Louis XI. He might very well have
hanged the monk, the cause of the error. As for the said gentleman, he
died in the king's service.

In the early days of his sojourn at Plessis-les-Tours king Louis, not
wishing to hold his drinking-bouts and give vent to his rakish
propensities in his chateau, out of respect to her Majesty (a kingly
delicacy which his successors have not possessed) became enamoured of
a lady named Nicole Beaupertuys, who was, to tell the truth, wife of a
citizen of the town. The husband he sent into Ponent, and put the said
Nicole in a house near Chardonneret, in that part which is the Rue
Quincangrogne, because it was a lonely place, far from other
habitations. The husband and the wife were thus both in his service,
and he had by La Beaupertuys a daughter, who died a nun. This Nicole
had a tongue as sharp as a popinjay's, was of stately proportions,
furnished with large beautiful cushions of nature, firm to the touch,
white as the wings of an angel, and known for the rest to be fertile
in peripatetic ways, which brought it to pass that never with her was
the same thing encountered twice in love, so deeply had she studied
the sweet solutions of the science, the manners of accommodating the
olives of Poissy, the expansions of the nerves, and hidden doctrines
of the breviary, the which much delighted the king. She was as gay as
a lark, always laughing and singing, and never made anyone miserable,
which is the characteristic of women of this open and free nature, who
have always an occupation--an equivocal one if you like. The king
often went with the hail-fellows his friends to the lady's house, and
in order not to be seen always went at night-time, and without his
suite. But being always distrustful, and fearing some snare, he gave
to Nicole all the most savage dogs he had in his kennels, beggars that
would eat a man without saying "By your leave," the which royal dogs
knew only Nicole and the king. When the Sire came Nicole let them
loose in the garden, and the door of the house being sufficiently
barred and closely shut, the king put the keys in his pocket, and in
perfect security gave himself up, with his satellites, to every kind
of pleasure, fearing no betrayal, jumping about at will, playing
tricks, and getting up good games. Upon these occasions friend Tristan
watched the neighbourhood, and anyone who had taken a walk on the Mall
of Chardonneret would be rather quickly placed in a position in which
it would have been easy to give the passers-by a benediction with his
feet, unless he had the king's pass, since often would Louis send out
in search of lasses for his friends, or people to entertain him with
the amusements suggested by Nicole or the guests. People of Tours were
there for these little amusements, to whom he gently recommended
silence, so that no one knew of these pastimes until after his death.
The farce of "_Baisez mon cul_" was, it is said, invented by the said
Sire. I will relate it, although it is not the subject of this tale,
because it shows the natural comicality and humour of this merry
monarch. They were at Tours three well known misers: the first was
Master Cornelius, who is sufficiently well known; the second was
called Peccard, and sold the gilt-work, coloured papers, and jewels
used in churches; the third was hight Marchandeau, and was a very
wealthy vine-grower. These two men of Touraine were the founders of
good families, notwithstanding their sordidness. One evening that the
king was with Beaupertuys, in a good humour, having drunk heartily,
joked heartily, and offered early in the evening his prayer in
Madame's oratory, he said to Le Daim his crony, to the Cardinal, La
Balue, and to old Dunois, who were still soaking, "Let us have a good
laugh! I think it will be a good joke to see misers before a bag of
gold without being able to touch it. Hi, there!"

Hearing which, appeared one of his varlets.

"Go," said he, "seek my treasurer, and let him bring hither six
thousand gold crowns--and at once! And you will go and seize the
bodies of my friend Cornelius, of the jeweller of the Rue de Cygnes,
and of old Marchandeau, and bring them here, by order of the king."

Then he began to drink again, and to judiciously wrangle as to which
was the better, a woman with a gamy odour or a woman who soaped
herself well all over; a thin one or a stout one; and as the company
comprised the flower of wisdom it was decided that the best was the
one a man had all to himself like a plate of warm mussels, at that
precise moment when God sent him a good idea to communicate to her.
The cardinal asked which was the most precious thing to a lady; the
first or the last kiss? To which La Beaupertuys replied: "that it was
the last, seeing that she knew then what she was losing, while at the
first she did not know what she would gain." During these sayings, and
others which have most unfortunately been lost, came the six thousand
gold crowns, which were worth all three hundred thousand francs of
to-day, so much do we go on decreasing in value every day. The king
ordered the crowns to be arranged upon a table, and well lighted up,
so that they shone like the eyes of the company which lit up
involuntarily, and made them laugh in spite of themselves. They did
not wait long for the three misers, whom the varlet led in, pale and
panting, except Cornelius, who knew the king's strange freaks.

"Now then, my friends," said Louis to them, "have a good look at the
crowns on the table."

And the three townsmen nibbled at them with their eyes. You may reckon
that the diamond of La Beaupertuys sparkled less than their little
minnow eyes.

"These are yours," added the king.

Thereupon they ceased to admire the crowns to look at each other; and
the guests knew well that old knaves are more expert in grimaces than
any others, because of their physiognomies becoming tolerably curious,
like those of cats lapping up milk, or girls titillated with marriage.

"There," said the king, "all that shall be his who shall say three
times to the two others, '_Baisez mon cul_', thrusting his hand into the
gold; but if he be not as serious as a fly who had violated his
lady-love, if he smile while repeating the jest, he will pay ten crowns
to Madame. Nevertheless he can essay three times."

"That will soon be earned," said Cornelius, who, being a Dutchman, had
his lips as often compressed and serious as Madame's mouth was often
open and laughing. Then he bravely put his hands on the crowns to see
if they were good, and clutched them bravely, but as he looked at the
others to say civilly to them, "_Baisez mon cul_," the two misers,
distrustful of his Dutch gravity, replied, "Certainly, sir," as if he
had sneezed. The which caused all the company to laugh, and even
Cornelius himself. When the vine-grower went to take the crowns he
felt such a commotion in his cheeks that his old scummer face let
little laughs exude from its pores like smoke pouring out of a
chimney, and he could say nothing. Then it was the turn of the
jeweller, who was a little bit of a bantering fellow, and whose lips
were as tightly squeezed as the neck of a hanged man. He seized a
handful of the crowns, looked at the others, even the king, and said,
with a jeering air, "_Baisez mon cul_."

"Is it dirty?" asked the vine-dresser.

"Look and see," replied the jeweller, gravely.

Thereupon the king began to tremble for these crowns, since the said
Peccard began again, without laughing, and for the third time was
about to utter the sacramental word, when La Beaupertuys made a sign
of consent to his modest request, which caused him to lose his
countenance, and his mouth broke up into dimples.

"How did you do it?" asked Dunois, "to keep a grave face before six
thousand crowns?"

"Oh, my lord, I thought first of one of my cases which is tried
tomorrow, and secondly, of my wife who is a sorry plague."

The desire to gain this good round sum made them try again, and the
king amused himself for about an hour at the expression of these
faces, the preparations, jokes, grimaces, and other monkey's
paternosters that they performed; but they were bailing their boats
with a sieve, and for men who preferred closing their fists to opening
them it was a bitter sorrow to have to count out, each one, a hundred
crown to Madame.

When they were gone, and Nicole said boldly to the king, "Sire will
you let me try?"

"Holy Virgin!" replied Louis; "no! I can kiss you for less money."

That was said like a thrifty man, which indeed he always was.

One evening the fat Cardinal La Balue carried on gallantly with words
and actions, a little farther than the canons of the Church permitted
him, with this Beaupertuys, who luckily for herself, was a clever
hussy, not to be asked with impunity how many holes there were in her
mother's chemise.

"Look you here, Sir Cardinal!" said she; "the thing which the king
likes is not to receive the holy oils."

Then came Oliver le Daim, whom she would not listen to either, and to
whose nonsense she replied, that she would ask the king if he wished
her to be shaved.

Now as the said shaver did not supplicate her to keep his proposals
secret, she suspected that these little plots were ruses practised by
the king, whose suspicions had perhaps been aroused by her friends.
Now, for being able to revenge herself upon Louis, she at least
determined to pay out the said lords, to make fools of them, and amuse
the king with the tricks she would play upon them. One evening that
they had come to supper, she had a lady of the city with her, who
wished to speak with the king. This lady was a lady of position, who
wished asked the king pardon for her husband, the which, in
consequence of this adventure, she obtained. Nicole Beaupertuys having
led the king aside for a moment into an antechamber, told him to make
their guests drink hard and eat to repletion; that he was to make
merry and joke with them; but when the cloth was removed, he was to
pick quarrels with them about trifles, dispute their words, and be
sharp with them; and that she would then divert him by turning them
inside out before him. But above all things, he was to be friendly to
the said lady, and it was to appear as genuine, as if she enjoyed the
perfume of his favour, because she had gallantly lent herself to this
good joke.

"Well, gentlemen," said the king, re-entering the room, "let us fall
to; we have had a good day's sport."

And the surgeon, the cardinal, a fat bishop, the captain of the Scotch
Guard, a parliamentary envoy, and a judge loved of the king, followed
the two ladies into the room where one rubs the rust off one's jaw
bones. And there they lined the mold of their doublets. What is that?
It is to pave the stomach, to practice the chemistry of nature, to
register the various dishes, to regale your tripes, to dig your grave
with your teeth, play with the sword of Cain, to inter sauces, to
support a cuckold. But more philosophically it is to make ordure with
one's teeth. Now, do you understand? How many words does it require to
burst open the lid of your understanding?

The king did not fail to distill into his guests this splendid and
first-class supper. He stuffed them with green peas, returning to the
hotch-potch, praising the plums, commending the fish, saying to one,
"Why do you not eat?" to another, "Drink to Madame"; to all of them,
"Gentlemen, taste these lobsters; put this bottle to death! You do not
know the flavour of this forcemeat. And these lampreys--ah! what do
you say to them? And by the Lord! The finest barbel ever drawn from
the Loire! Just stick your teeth into this pastry. This game is my own
hunting; he who takes it not offends me." And again, "Drink, the
king's eyes are the other way. Just give your opinion of these
preserves, they are Madame's own. Have some of these grapes, they are
my own growing. Have some medlars." And while inducing them to swell
out their abdominal protuberances, the good monarch laughed with them,
and they joked and disputed, and spat, and blew their noses, and
kicked up just as though the king had not been with them. Then so much
victuals had been taken on board, so many flagons drained and stews
spoiled, that the faces of the guests were the colour of cardinals
gowns, and their doublets appeared ready to burst, since they were
crammed with meat like Troyes sausages from the top to the bottom of
their paunches. Going into the saloon again, they broke into a profuse
sweat, began to blow, and to curse their gluttony. The king sat
quietly apart; each of them was the more willing to be silent because
all their forces were required for the intestinal digestion of the
huge platefuls confined in their stomachs, which began to wabble and
rumble violently. One said to himself, "I was stupid to eat of that
sauce." Another scolded himself for having indulged in a plate of eels
cooked with capers. Another thought to himself, "Oh! oh! The forcemeat
is serving me out." The cardinal, who was the biggest bellied man of
the lot, snorted through his nostrils like a frightened horse. It was
he who was first compelled to give vent to a loud sounding belch, and
then he soon wished himself in Germany, where this is a form of
salutation, for the king hearing this gastric language looked at the
cardinal with knitted brows.

"What does this mean?" said he, "am I a simple clerk?"

This was heard with terror, because usually the king made much of a
good belch well off the stomach. The other guests determined to get
rid in another way of the vapours which were dodging about in their
pancreatic retorts; and at first they endeavoured to hold them for a
little while in the pleats of their mesenteries. It was then that some
of them puffed and swelled like tax-gatherers. Beaupertuys took the
good king aside and said to him--

"Know now that I have had made by the Church jeweller Peccard, two
large dolls, exactly resembling this lady and myself. Now when
hard-pressed by the drugs which I have put in their goblets, they
desire to mount the throne to which we are now about to pretend to go,
they will always find the place taken; by this means you will enjoy
their writhings."

Thus having said, La Beaupertuys disappeared with the lady to go and
turn the wheel, after the custom of women, and of which I will tell
you the origin in another place. And after an honest lapse of water,
Beaupertuys came back alone, leaving it to be believed that she had
left the lady at the little laboratory of natural alchemy. Thereupon
the king, singling out the cardinal, made him get up, and talked with
him seriously of his affairs, holding him by the tassel of his amice.
To all that the king said, La Balue replied, "Yes, sir," to be
delivered from this favour, and slip out of the room, since the water
was in his cellars, and he was about to lose the key of his back-door.
All the guests were in a state of not knowing how to arrest the
progress of the fecal matter to which nature has given, even more than
to water, the property of finding a certain level. Their substances
modified themselves and glided working downward, like those insects
who demand to be let out of their cocoons, raging, tormenting, and
ungrateful to the higher powers; for nothing is so ignorant, so
insolent as those cursed objects, and they are importunate like all
things detained to whom one owes liberty. So they slipped at every
turn like eels out of a net, and each one had need of great efforts
and science not to disgrace himself before the king. Louis took great
pleasure in interrogating his guests, and was much amused with the
vicissitudes of their physiognomies, on which were reflected the dirty
grimaces of their writhings. The counsellor of justice said to Oliver,
"I would give my office to be behind a hedge for half a dozen
seconds."

"Oh, there is no enjoyment to equal a good stool; and now I am no
longer astonished at sempiternal droppings of a fly," replied the
surgeon.

The cardinal believing that the lady had obtained her receipt from the
bank of deposit, left the tassels of his girdle in the king's hand,
making a start as if he had forgotten to say his prayers, and made his
way towards the door.

"What is the matter with you, Monsieur le Cardinal?" said the king.

"By my halidame, what is the matter with me? It appears that all your
affairs are very extensive, sire!"

The cardinal had slipped out, leaving the others astonished at his
cunning. He proceeded gloriously towards the lower room, loosening a
little the strings of his purse; but when he opened the blessed little
door he found the lady at her functions upon the throne, like a pope
about to be consecrated. Then restraining his impatience, he descended
the stairs to go into the garden. However, on the last steps the
barking of the dogs put him in great fear of being bitten in one of
his precious hemispheres; and not knowing where to deliver himself of
his chemical produce he came back into the room, shivering like a man
who has been in the open air! The others seeing the cardinal return,
imagined that he had emptied his natural reservoirs, unburdened his
ecclesiastical bowels, and believed him happy. Then the surgeon rose
quickly, as if to take note of the tapestries and count the rafters,
but gained the door before anyone else, and relaxing his sphincter in
advance, he hummed a tune on his way to the retreat; arrived there he
was compelled, like La Balue, to murmur words of excuse to this
student of perpetual motion, shutting the door with as promptitude as
he opened it; and he came back burdened with an accumulation which
seriously impeded his private channels. And in the same way went to
guests one after the other, without being able to unburden themselves
of their sauces, as soon again found themselves all in the presence of
Louis the Eleventh, as much distressed as before, looking at each
other slyly, understanding each other better with their tails than
they ever understood with their mouths, for there is never any
equivoque in the transactions of the parts of nature, and everything
therein is rational and of easy comprehension, seeing that it is a
science which we learn at our birth.

"I believe," said the cardinal to the surgeon, "that lady will go on
until to-morrow. What was La Beaupertuys about to ask such a case of
diarrhoea here?"

"She's been an hour working at what I could get done in a minute. May
the fever seize her" cried Oliver le Daim.

All the courtiers seized with colic were walking up and down to make
their importunate matters patient, when the said lady reappeared in
the room. You can believe they found her beautiful and graceful, and
would willingly have kissed her, there where they so longed to go; and
never did they salute the day with more favour than this lady, the
liberator of the poor unfortunate bodies. La Balue rose; the others,
from honour, esteem, and reverence of the church, gave way to the
clergy, and, biding their time, they continued to make grimaces, at
which the king laughed to himself with Nicole, who aided him to stop
the respiration of these loose-bowelled gentlemen. The good Scotch
captain, who more than all the others had eaten of a dish in which the
cook had put an aperient powder, became the victim of misplaced
confidence. He went ashamed into a corner, hoping that before the
king, his mishap might escape detection. At this moment the cardinal
returned horribly upset, because he had found La Beaupertuys on the
episcopal seat. Now, in his torments, not knowing if she were in the
room, he came back and gave vent to a diabolical "Oh!" on beholding
her near his master.

"What do you mean?" exclaimed the king, looking at the priest in a way
to give him the fever.

"Sire," said La Balue, insolently, "the affairs of purgatory are in my
ministry, and I am bound to inform you that there is sorcery going on
in this house."

"Ah! little priest, you wish to make game of me!" said the king.

At these words the company were in a terrible state.

"So you treat me with disrespect?" said the king, which made them turn
pale. "Ho, there! Tristan, my friend!" cried Louis XI. from the
window, which he threw up suddenly, "come up here!"

The grand provost of the hotel was not long before he appeared; and as
these gentlemen were all nobodies, raised to their present position by
the favour of the king, Louis, in a moment of anger, could crush them
at will; so that with the exception of the cardinal who relied upon
his cassock, Tristan found them all rigid and aghast.

"Conduct these gentleman to the Pretorium, on the Mall, my friend,
they have disgraced themselves through over-eating."

"Am I not good at jokes?" said Nicole to him.

"The farce is good, but it is fetid," replied he, laughing.

This royal answer showed the courtiers that this time the king did not
intend to play with their heads, for which they thanked heaven. The
monarch was partial to these dirty tricks. He was not at all a bad
fellow, as the guests remarked while relieving themselves against the
side of the Mall with Tristan, who, like a good Frenchman, kept them
company, and escorted them to their homes. This is why since that time
the citizens of Tours had never failed to defile the Mall of
Chardonneret, because the gentlemen of the court had been there.

I will not leave this great king without committing to writing this
good joke which he played upon La Godegrand, who was an old maid, much
disgusted that she had not, during the forty years she had lived, been
able to find a lid to her saucepan, enraged, in her yellow skin, that
she still was as virgin as a mule. This old maid had her apartments on
the other side of the house which belonged to La Beaupertuys, at the
corner of the Rue de Hierusalem, in such a position that, standing on
the balcony joining the wall, it was easy to see what she was doing,
and hear what she was saying in the lower room where she lived; and
often the king derived much amusement from the antics of the old girl,
who did not know that she was so much within the range of his
majesty's culverin. Now one market day it happened that the king had
caused to be hanged a young citizen of Tours, who had violated a noble
lady of a certain age, believing that she was a young maiden. There
would have been no harm in this, and it would have been a thing
greatly to the credit of the said lady to have been taken for a
virgin; but on finding out his mistake, he had abominably insulted
her, and suspecting her of trickery, had taken it into his head to rob
her of a splendid silver goblet, in payment of the present he had just
made her. This young man had long hair, and was so handsome that the
whole town wished to see him hanged, both from regret and out of
curiosity. You may be sure that at this hanging there were more caps
than hats. Indeed, the said young man swung very well; and after the
fashion and custom of persons hanged, he died gallantly with his lance
couched, which fact made a great noise in the town. Many ladies said
on this subject that it was a murder not to have preserved so fine a
fellow from the scaffold.

"Suppose we were to put this handsome corpse in the bed of La
Godegrand," said La Beaupertuys to the king.

"We should terrify her," replied Louis.

"Not at all, sire. Be sure that she will welcome even a dead man, so
madly does she long for a living one. Yesterday I saw her making love
to a young man's cap placed on the top of a chair, and you would have
laughed heartily at her words and gestures."

Now while this forty-year-old virgin was at vespers, the king sent to
have this young townsman, who had just finished the last scene of his
tragic farce, taken down, and having dressed him in a white shirt, two
officers got over the walls of La Godegrand's garden, and put the
corpse into her bed, on the side nearest the street. Having done this
they went away, and the king remained in the room with the balcony to
it, playing with Beaupertuys, and awaiting an hour at which the old
maid should go to bed. La Godegrand soon came back with a hop, skip,
and jump, as the Tourainians say, from the church of St Martin, from
which she was not far, since the Rue de Hierusalem touches the walls
of the cloister. She entered her house, laid down her prayer-book,
chaplet, and rosary, and other ammunition which these old girls carry,
then poked the fire, and blew it, warmed herself at it, settled
herself in her chair, and played with her cat for want of something
better; then she went to the larder, supping and sighing, and sighing
and supping, eating alone, with her eyes cast down upon the carpet;
and after having drunk, behaved in a manner forbidden in court
society.

"Ah!" the corpse said to her, "'_God bless you_!'"

At this joke of luck of La Beaupertuys, both laughed heartily in their
sleeves. And with great attention this very Christian king watched the
undressing of the old maid, who admired herself while removing her
things--pulling out a hair, or scratching a pimple which had
maliciously come upon her nose; picking her teeth, and doing a
thousand little things which, alas! all ladies, virgins or not, are
obliged to do, much to their annoyance; but without these little
faults of nature, they would be too proud, and one would not be able
to enjoy their society. Having achieved her aquatic and musical
discourse, the old maid got in between the sheets, and yelled forth a
fine, great, ample, and curious cry, when she saw, when she smelt the
fresh vigour of this hanged man and the sweet perfume of his manly
youth; then sprang away from him out of coquetry. But as she did not
know he was really dead, she came back again, believing he was mocking
her, and counterfeiting death.

"Go away, you bad young man!" said she.

But you can imagine that she proffered this requests in a most humble
and gracious tone of voice. Then seeing that he did not move, she
examined him more closely, and was much astonished at this so fine
human nature when she recognised the young fellow, upon whom the fancy
took her to perform some purely scientific experiments in the
interests of hanged persons.

"What is she doing?" said La Beaupertuys to the king.

"She is trying to reanimate him. It is a work of Christian humanity."

And the old girl rubbed and warmed this fine young man, supplicating
holy Mary the Egyptian to aid her to renew the life of this husband
who had fallen so amorously from heaven, when, suddenly looking at the
dead body she was so charitably rubbing, she thought she saw a slight
movement in the eyes; then she put her hand upon the man's heart, and
felt it beat feebly. At length, from the warmth of the bed and of
affection, and by the temperature of old maids, which is by far more
burning then the warm blasts of African deserts, she had the delight
of bringing to life that fine handsome young fellow who by lucky
chance had been very badly hanged.

"See how my executioners serve me!" said Louis, laughing.

"Ah!" said La Beaupertuys, "you will not have him hanged again? he is
too handsome."

"The decree does not say that he shall be hanged twice, but he shall
marry the old woman."

Indeed, the good lady went in a great hurry to seek a master leech, a
good bleeder, who lived in the Abbey, and brought him back directly.
He immediately took his lancet, and bled the young man. And as no
blood came out: "Ah!" said he, "it is too late, the transshipment of
blood in the lungs has taken place."

But suddenly this good young blood oozed out a little, and then came
out in abundance, and the hempen apoplexy, which had only just begun,
was arrested in its course. The young man moved and came more to life;
then he fell, from natural causes, into a state of great weakness and
profound sadness, prostration of flesh and general flabbiness. Now the
old maid, who was all eyes, and followed the great and notable changes
which were taking place in the person of this badly hanged man, pulled
the surgeon by the sleeve, and pointing out to him, by a curious
glance of the eye, the piteous cause, said to him--

"Will he for the future be always like that?"

"Often," replied the veracious surgeon.

"Oh! he was much nicer hanged!"

At this speech the king burst out laughing. Seeing him at the window,
the woman and the surgeon were much frightened, for this laugh seemed
to them a second sentence of death for their poor victim. But the king
kept his word, and married them. And in order to do justice he gave
the husband the name of the Sieur de Mortsauf in the place of the one
he had lost upon the scaffold. As La Godegrand had a very big basket
of crowns, they founded a good family in Touraine, which still exists
and is much respected, since M. de Mortsauf faithfully served Louis
the Eleventh on different occasions. Only he never liked to come
across gibbets or old women, and never again made amorous assignations
in the night.

This teaches us to thoroughly verify and recognise women, and not to
deceive ourselves in the local difference which exists between the old
and the young, for if we are not hanged for our errors of love, there
are always great risks to run.



                     THE HIGH CONSTABLE'S WIFE

The high constable of Armagnac espoused from the desire of a great
fortune, the Countess Bonne, who was already considerably enamoured of
little Savoisy, son of the chamberlain to his majesty King Charles the
Sixth.

The constable was a rough warrior, miserable in appearance, tough in
skin, thickly bearded, always uttering angry words, always busy
hanging people, always in the sweat of battles, or thinking of other
stratagems than those of love. Thus the good soldier, caring little to
flavour the marriage stew, used his charming wife after the fashion of
a man with more lofty ideas; of the which the ladies have a great
horror, since they like not the joists of the bed to be the sole
judges of their fondling and vigorous conduct.

Now the lovely Countess, as soon as she was grafted on the constable,
only nibbled more eagerly at the love with which her heart was laden
for the aforesaid Savoisy, which that gentleman clearly perceived.

Wishing both to study the same music, they would soon harmonise their
fancies, and decipher the hieroglyphic; and this was a thing clearly
demonstrated to the Queen Isabella, that Savoisy's horses were oftener
stabled at the house of her cousin of Armagnac than in the Hotel St.
Pol, where the chamberlain lived, since the destruction of his
residence, ordered by the university, as everyone knows.

This discreet and wise princess, fearing in advance some unfortunate
adventure for Bonne--the more so as the constable was as ready to
brandish his broadsword as a priest to bestow benedictions--the said
queen, as sharp as a dirk, said one day, while coming out from
vespers, to her cousin, who was taking the holy water with Savoisy--

"My dear, don't you see some blood in that water?"

"Bah!" said Savoisy to the queen. "Love likes blood, Madame."

This the Queen considered a good reply, and put it into writing, and
later on, into action, when her lord the king wounded one of her
lovers, whose business you see settled in this narrative.

You know by constant experience, that in the early time of love each
of two lovers is always in great fear of exposing the mystery of the
heart, and as much from the flower of prudence as from the amusement
yielded by the sweet tricks of gallantry they play at who can best
conceal their thoughts, but one day of forgetfulness suffices to inter
the whole virtuous past. The poor woman is taken in her joy as in a
lasso; her sweetheart proclaims his presence, or sometimes his
departure, by some article of clothing--a scarf, a spur, left by some
fatal chance, and there comes a stroke of the dagger that severs the
web so gallantly woven by their golden delights. But when one is full
of days, he should not make a wry face at death, and the sword of a
husband is a pleasant death for a gallant, if there be pleasant
deaths. So may be will finish the merry amours of the constable's
wife.

One morning Monsieur d'Armagnac having lots of leisure time in
consequence of the flight of the Duke of Burgundy, who was quitting
Lagny, thought he would go and wish his lady good day, and attempted
to wake her up in a pleasant enough fashion, so that she should not be
angry; but she sunk in the heavy slumbers of the morning, replied to
the action--

"Leave me alone, Charles!"

"Oh, oh," said the constable, hearing the name of a saint who was not
one of his patrons, "I have a Charles on my head!"

Then, without touching his wife, he jumped out of the bed, and ran
upstairs with his face flaming and his sword drawn, to the place where
slept the countess's maid-servant, convinced that the said servant had
a finger in the pie.

"Ah, ah, wench of hell!" cried he, to commence the discharge of his
passion, "say thy prayers, for I intend to kill thee instantly,
because of the secret practices of Charles who comes here."

"Ah, Monseigneur," replied the woman, "who told you that?"

"Stand steady, that I may rip thee at one blow if you do not confess
to me every assignation given, and in what manner they have been
arranged. If thy tongue gets entangled, if thou falterest, I will
pierce thee with my dagger!"

"Pierce me through!" replied the girl; "you will learn nothing."

The constable, having taken this excellent reply amiss, ran her
through on the spot, so mad was he with rage; and came back into his
wife's chamber and said to his groom, whom, awakened by the shrieks of
the girl, he met upon the stairs, "Go upstairs; I've corrected
Billette rather severely."

Before he reappeared in the presence of Bonne he went to fetch his
son, who was sleeping like a child, and led him roughly into her room.
The mother opened her eyes pretty widely, you may imagine--at the
cries of her little one; and was greatly terrified at seeing him in
the hands of her husband, who had his right hand all bloody, and cast
a fierce glance on the mother and son.

"What is the matter?" said she.

"Madame," asked the man of quick execution, "this child, is he the
fruit of my loins, or those of Savoisy, your lover?"

At this question Bonne turned pale, and sprang upon her son like a
frightened frog leaping into the water.

"Ah, he is really ours," said she.

"If you do not wish to see his head roll at your feet confess yourself
to me, and no prevarication. You have given me a lieutenant."

"Indeed!"

"Who is he?"

"It is not Savoisy, and I will never say the name of a man that I
don't know."

Thereupon the constable rose, took his wife by the arm to cut her
speech with a blow of the sword, but she, casting upon him an imperial
glance, cried--

"Kill me if you will, but touch me not."

"You shall live," replied the husband, "because I reserve you for a
chastisement more ample then death."

And doubting the inventions, snares, arguments, and artifices familiar
to women in these desperate situations, of which they study night and
day the variations, by themselves, or between themselves, he departed
with this rude and bitter speech. He went instantly to interrogate his
servants, presenting to them a face divinely terrible; so all of them
replied to him as they would to God the Father on the Judgment Day,
when each of us will be called to his account.

None of them knew the serious mischief which was at the bottom of
these summary interrogations and crafty interlocutions; but from all
that they said, the constable came to the conclusion that no male in
his house was in the business, except one of his dogs, whom he found
dumb, and to whom he had given the post of watching the gardens; so
taking him in his hands, he strangled him with rage. This fact incited
him by induction to suppose that the other constable came into his
house by the garden, of which the only entrance was a postern opening
on to the water side.

It is necessary to explain to those who are ignorant of it, the
locality of the Hotel d'Armagnac, which had a notable situation near
to the royal houses of St. Pol. On this site has since been built the
hotel of Longueville. Then as at the present time, the residence of
d'Armagnac had a porch of fine stone in Rue St. Antoine, was fortified
at all points, and the high walls by the river side, in face of the
Ile du Vaches, in the part where now stands the port of La Greve, were
furnished with little towers. The design of these has for a long time
been shown at the house of Cardinal Duprat, the king's Chancellor. The
constable ransacked his brains, and at the bottom, from his finest
stratagems, drew the best, and fitted it so well to the present case,
that the gallant would be certain to be taken like a hare in the trap.
"'Sdeath," said he, "my planter of horns is taken, and I have the time
now to think how I shall finish him off."

Now this is the order of battle which this grand hairy captain who
waged such glorious war against Duke Jean-sans-Peur commanded for the
assault of his secret enemy. He took a goodly number of his most loyal
and adroit archers, and placed them on the quay tower, ordering them
under the heaviest penalties to draw without distinction of persons,
except his wife, on those of his household who should attempt to leave
the gardens, and to admit therein, either by night or by day, the
favoured gentleman. The same was done on the porch side, in the Rue St
Antoine.

The retainers, even the chaplain, were ordered not to leave the house
under pain of death. Then the guard of the two sides of the hotel
having been committed to the soldiers of a company of ordnance, who
were ordered to keep a sharp lookout in the side streets, it was
certain that the unknown lover to whom the constable was indebted for
his pair of horns, would be taken warm, when, knowing nothing, he
should come at the accustomed hour of love to insolently plant his
standard in the heart of the legitimate appurtenances of the said lord
count.

It was a trap into which the most expert man would fall unless he was
seriously protected by the fates, as was the good St. Peter by the
Saviour when he prevented him going to the bottom of the sea the day
when they had a fancy to try if the sea were as solid as terra firma.

The constable had business with the inhabitants of Poissy, and was
obliged to be in the saddle after dinner, so that, knowing his
intention, the poor Countess Bonne determined at night to invite her
young gallant to that charming duel in which she was always the
stronger.

While the constable was making round his hotel a girdle of spies and
of death, and hiding his people near the postern to seize the gallant
as he came out, not knowing where he would spring from, his wife was
not amusing herself by threading peas nor seeking black cows in the
embers. First, the maid-servant who had been stuck, unstuck herself
and dragged herself to her mistress; she told her that her outraged
lord knew nothing, and that before giving up the ghost she would
comfort her dear mistress by assuring her that she could have perfect
confidence in her sister, who was laundress in the hotel, and was
willing to let herself be chopped up as small as sausage-meat to
please Madame. That she was the most adroit and roguish woman in the
neighbourhood, and renowned from the council chamber to the Trahoir
cross among the common people, and fertile in invention for the
desperate cases of love.

Then, while weeping for the decease of her good chamber woman, the
countess sent for the laundress, made her leave her tubs and join her
in rummaging the bag of good tricks, wishing to save Savoisy, even at
the price of her future salvation.

First of all the two women determined to let him know their lord and
master's suspicion, and beg him to be careful.

Now behold the good washerwoman who, carrying her tub like a mule,
attempts to leave the hotel. But at the porch she found a man-at-arms
who turned a deaf ear to all the blandishments of the wash-tub. Then
she resolved, from her great devotion, to take the soldier on his weak
side, and she tickled him so with her fondling that he romped very
well with her, although he was armour-plated ready for battle; but
when the game was over he still refused to let her go into the street
and although she tried to get herself a passport sealed by some of the
handsomest, believing them more gallant: neither the archers,
men-at-arms, nor others, dared open for her the smallest entrance of
the house. "You are wicked and ungrateful wretches," said she, "not to
render me a like service."

Luckily at this employment she learned everything, and came back in
great haste to her mistress, to whom she recounted the strange
machinations of the count. The two women held a fresh council and had
not considered, the time it takes to sing _Alleluia_, twice, these
warlike appearances, watches, defences, and equivocal, specious, and
diabolical orders and dispositions before they recognised by the sixth
sense with which all females are furnished, the special danger which
threatened the poor lover.

Madame having learned that she alone had leave to quit the house,
ventured quickly to profit by her right, but she did not go the length
of a bow-shot, since the constable had ordered four of his pages to be
always on duty ready to accompany the countess, and two of the ensigns
of his company not to leave her. Then the poor lady returned to her
chamber, weeping as much as all the Magdalens one sees in the church
pictures, could weep together.

"Alas!" said she, "my lover must then be killed, and I shall never see
him again! . . . he whose words were so sweet, whose manners were so
graceful, that lovely head that had so often rested on my knees, will
now be bruised . . . What! Can I not throw to my husband an empty and
valueless head in place of the one full of charms and worth . . . a
rank head for a sweet-smelling one; a hated head for a head of love."

"Ah, Madame!" cried the washerwoman, "suppose we dress up in the
garments of a nobleman, the steward's son who is mad for me, and
wearies me much, and having thus accoutered him, we push him out
through the postern."

Thereupon the two women looked at each other with assassinating eyes.

"This marplot," said she, "once slain, all those soldiers will fly
away like geese."

"Yes, but will not the count recognise the wretch?"

And the countess, striking her breast, exclaimed, shaking her head,
"No, no, my dear, here it is noble blood that must be spilt without
stint."

Then she thought a little, and jumping with joy, suddenly kissed the
laundress, saying, "Because I have saved my lover's life by your
counsel, I will pay you for his life until death."

Thereupon the countess dried her tears, put on the face of a bride,
took her little bag and a prayer-book, and went towards the Church of
St. Pol whose bells she heard ringing, seeing that the last Mass was
about to be said. In this sweet devotion the countess never failed,
being a showy woman, like all the ladies of the court. Now this was
called the full-dress Mass, because none but fops, fashionables, young
gentlemen and ladies puffed out and highly scented, were to be met
there. In fact no dresses was seen there without armorial bearings,
and no spurs that were not gilt.

So the Countess of Bonne departed, leaving at the hotel the laundress
much astonished, and charged to keep her eyes about her, and came with
great pomp to the church, accompanied by her pages, the two ensigns
and men-at-arms. It is here necessary to say that among the band of
gallant knights who frisked round the ladies in church, the countess
had more than one whose joy she was, and who had given his heart to
her, after the fashion of youths who put down enough and to spare upon
their tablets, only in order to make a conquest of at least one out of
a great number.

Among these birds of fine prey who with open beaks looked oftener
between the benches and the paternosters than towards the altar and
the priests, there was one upon whom the countess sometimes bestowed
the charity of a glance, because he was less trifling and more deeply
smitten than all the others.

This one remained bashful, always stuck against the same pillar, never
moving from it, but readily ravished with the sight alone of this lady
whom he had chosen as his. His pale face was softly melancholy. His
physiognomy gave proof of fine heart, one of those which nourish
ardent passions and plunge delightedly into the despairs of love
without hope. Of these people there are few, because ordinarily one
likes more a certain thing than the unknown felicities lying and
flourishing at the bottommost depths of the soul.

This said gentleman, although his garments were well made, and clean
and neat, having even a certain amount of taste shown in the
arrangement, seemed to the constable's wife to be a poor knight
seeking fortune, and come from afar, with his nobility for his
portion. Now partly from a suspicion of his secret poverty, partly
because she was well beloved by him and a little because he had a good
countenance, fine black hair, and a good figure, and remained humble
and submissive in all, the constable's wife desired for him the favour
of women and of fortune, not to let his gallantry stand idle, and from
a good housewifely idea, she fired his imagination according to her
fantasies, by certain small favours and little looks which serpented
towards him like biting adders, trifling with the happiness of this
young life, like a princess accustomed to play with objects more
precious than a simple knight. In fact, her husband risked the whole
kingdom as you would a penny at piquet. Finally it was only three days
since, at the conclusion of vespers, that the constable's wife pointed
out to the queen this follower of love, said laughingly--

"There's a man of quality."

This sentence remained in the fashionable language. Later it became a
custom so to designate the people of the court. It was to the wife of
the constable d'Armagnac, and to no other source, that the French
language is indebted for this charming expression.

By a lucky chance the countess had surmised correctly concerning this
gentleman. He was a bannerless knight, named Julien de Boys-Bourredon,
who not having inherited on his estate enough to make a toothpick, and
knowing no other wealth than the rich nature with which his dead
mother had opportunely furnished him, conceived the idea of deriving
therefrom both rent and profit at court, knowing how fond ladies are
of those good revenues, and value them high and dear, when they can
stand being looked at between two suns. There are many like him who
have thus taken the narrow road of women to make their way; but he,
far from arranging his love in measured qualities, spend funds and
all, as soon as he came to the full-dress Mass, he saw the triumphant
beauty of the Countess Bonne. Then he fell really in love, which was a
grand thing for his crowns, because he lost both thirst and appetite.
This love is of the worst kind, because it incites you to the love of
diet, during the diet of love; a double malady, of which one is
sufficient to extinguish a man.

Such was the young gentlemen of whom the good lady had thought, and
towards whom she came quickly to invite him to his death.

On entering she saw the poor chevalier, who faithful to his pleasure,
awaited her, his back against a pillar, as a sick man longs for the
sun, the spring-time, and the dawn. Then she turned away her eyes, and
wished to go to the queen and request her assistance in this desperate
case, for she took pity on her lover, but one of the captains said to
her, with great appearance of respect, "Madame, we have orders not to
allow you to speak with man or woman, even though it should be the
queen or your confessor. And remember that the lives of all of us are
at stake."

"Is it not your business to die?" said she.

"And also to obey," replied the soldier.

Then the countess knelt down in her accustomed place, and again
regarding her faithful slave, found his face thinner and more deeply
lined than ever it had been.

"Bah!" said she, "I shall have less remorse for his death; he is half
dead as it is."

With this paraphrase of her idea, she cast upon the said gentleman one
of those warm ogles that are only allowable to princesses and harlots,
and the false love which her lovely eyes bore witness to, gave a
pleasant pang to the gallant of the pillar. Who does not love the warm
attack of life when it flows thus round the heart and engulfs
everything?

Madame recognised with a pleasure, always fresh in the minds of women,
the omnipotence of her magnificent regard by the answer which, without
saying a word, the chevalier made to it. And in fact, the blushes
which empurpled his cheeks spoke better than the best speeches of the
Greek and Latin orators, and were well understood. At this sweet
sight, the countess, to make sure that it was not a freak of nature,
took pleasure in experimentalising how far the virtue of her eyes
would go, and after having heated her slave more than thirty times,
she was confirmed in her belief that he would bravely die for her.
This idea so touched her, that from three repetitions between her
orisons she was tickled with the desire to put into a lump all the
joys of man, and to dissolve them for him in one single glance of
love, in order that she should not one day be reproached with having
not only dissipated the life, but also the happiness of this
gentleman. When the officiating priest turned round to sing the _Off
you go_ to this fine gilded flock, the constable's wife went out by the
side of the pillar where her courtier was, passed in front of him and
endeavoured to insinuate into his understanding by a speaking glance
that he was to follow her, and to make positive the intelligence and
significant interpretation of this gentle appeal, the artful jade
turned round again a little after passing him to again request his
company. She saw that he had moved a little from his place, and dared
not advance, so modest was he, but upon this last sign, the gentleman,
sure of not being over-credulous, mixed with the crowd with little and
noiseless steps, like an innocent who is afraid of venturing into one
of those good places people call bad ones. And whether he walked
behind or in front, to the right or to the left, my lady bestowed upon
him a glistening glance to allure him the more and the better to draw
him to her, like a fisher who gently jerks the lines in order to hook
the gudgeon. To be brief: the countess practiced so well the
profession of the daughters of pleasure when they work to bring grist
into their mills, that one would have said nothing resembled a harlot
so much as a woman of high birth. And indeed, on arriving at the porch
of her hotel the countess hesitated to enter therein, and again turned
her face towards the poor chevalier to invite him to accompany her,
discharging at him so diabolical a glance, that he ran to the queen of
his heart, believing himself to be called by her. Thereupon, she
offered him her hand, and both boiling and trembling from the contrary
causes found themselves inside the house. At this wretched hour,
Madame d'Armagnac was ashamed of having done all these harlotries to
the profit of death, and of betraying Savoisy the better to save him;
but this slight remorse was lame as the greater, and came tardily.
Seeing everything ready, the countess leaned heavily upon her vassal's
arm, and said to him--

"Come quickly to my room; it is necessary that I should speak with
you."

And he, not knowing that his life was in peril, found no voice
wherewith to reply, so much did the hope of approaching happiness
choke him.

When the laundress saw this handsome gentleman so quickly hooked,
"Ah!" said she, "these ladies of the court are best at such work."
Then she honoured this courtier with a profound salutation, in which
was depicted the ironical respect due to those who have the great
courage to die for so little.

"Picard," said the constable's lady, drawing the laundress to her by
the skirt, "I have not the courage to confess to him the reward with
which I am about to pay his silent love and his charming belief in the
loyalty of women."

"Bah! Madame: why tell him? Send him away well contented by the
postern. So many men die in war for nothing, cannot this one die for
something? I'll produce another like him if that will console you."

"Come along," cried the countess, "I will confess all to him. That
will be the punishment for my sins."

Thinking that this lady was arranging with her servant certain
trifling provisions and secret things in order not to be disturbed in
the interview she had promised him, the unknown lover kept at a
discreet distance, looking at the flies. Nevertheless, he thought that
the countess was very bold, but also, as even a hunchback would have
done, he found a thousand reasons to justify her, and thought himself
quite worthy to inspire such recklessness. He was lost in those good
thoughts when the constable's wife opened the door of her chamber, and
invited the chevalier to follow her in. There his noble lady cast
aside all the apparel of her lofty fortune, and falling at the feet of
this gentleman, became a simple woman.

"Alas, sweet sir!" said she, "I have acted vilely towards you. Listen.
On your departure from this house, you will meet your death. The love
which I feel for another has bewildered me, and without being able to
hold his place here, you will have to take it before his murderers.
This is the joy to which I have bidden you."

"Ah!" Replied Boys-Bourredon, interring in the depths of his heart a
dark despair, "I am grateful to you for having made use of me as of
something which belonged to you. . . . Yes, I love you so much that
every day you I have dreamed of offering you in imitation of the
ladies, a thing that can be given but once. Take, then, my life!"

And the poor chevalier, in saying this, gave her one glance to suffice
for all the time he would have been able to look at her through the
long days. Hearing these brave and loving words, Bonne rose suddenly.

"Ah! were it not for Savoisy, how I would love thee!" said she.

"Alas! my fate is then accomplished," replied Boys-Bourredon. "My
horoscope predicted that I should die by the love of a great lady. Ah,
God!" said he, clutching his good sword, "I will sell my life dearly,
but I shall die content in thinking that my decease ensures the
happiness of her I love. I should live better in her memory than in
reality." At the sight of the gesture and the beaming face of this
courageous man, the constable's wife was pierced to the heart. But
soon she was wounded to the quick because he seemed to wish to leave
her without even asking of her the smallest favour.

"Come, that I may arm you," said she to him, making an attempt to kiss
him.

"Ha! my lady-love," replied he, moistening with a gentle tear the fire
of his eyes, "would you render my death impossible by attaching too
great a value to my life?"

"Come," cried she, overcome by this intense love, "I do not know what
the end of all this will be, but come--afterwards we will go and
perish together at the postern."

The same flame leaped in their hearts, the same harmony had struck for
both, they embraced each other with a rapture in the delicious excess
of that mad fever which you know well I hope; they fell into a
profound forgetfulness of the dangers of Savoisy, of themselves, of
the constable, of death, of life, of everything.

Meanwhile the watchman at the porch had gone to inform the constable
of the arrival of the gallant, and to tell him how the infatuated
gentleman had taken no notice of the winks which, during Mass and on
the road, the countess had given him in order to prevent his
destruction. They met their master arriving in great haste at the
postern, because on their side the archers of the quay had whistled to
him afar off, saying to him--

"The Sire de Savoisy has passed in."

And indeed Savoisy had come at the appointed hour, and like all the
lovers, thinking only of his lady, he had not seen the count's spies
and had slipped in at the postern. This collision of lovers was the
cause of the constable's cutting short the words of those who came
from the Rue St. Antoine, saying to them with a gesture of authority,
that they did not think wise to disregard--

"I know that the animal is taken."

Thereupon all rushed with a great noise through this said postern,
crying, "Death to him! death to him!" and men-at-arms, archers, the
constable, and the captains, all rushed full tilt upon Charles
Savoisy, the king's nephew, who they attacked under the countess's
window, where by a strange chance, the groans of the poor young man
were dolorously exhaled, mingled with the yells of the soldiers, at
the same time as passionate sighs and cries were given forth by the
two lovers, who hastened up in great fear.

"Ah!" said the countess, turning pale from terror, "Savoisy is dying
for me!"

"But I will live for you," replied Boys-Bourredon, "and shall esteem
it a joy to pay the same price for my happiness as he has done."

"Hide yourself in the clothes chest," cried the countess; "I hear the
constable's footsteps."

And indeed M. d'Armagnac appeared very soon with a head in his hand,
and putting it all bloody on the mantleshelf, "Behold, Madame," said
he, "a picture which will enlighten you concerning the duties of a
wife towards her husband."

"You have killed an innocent man," replied the countess, without
changing colour. "Savoisy was not my lover."

And with the this speech she looked proudly at the constable with a
face marked by so much dissimulation and feminine audacity, that the
husband stood looking as foolish as a girl who has allowed a note to
escape her below, before a numerous company, and he was afraid of
having made a mistake.

"Of whom were you thinking this morning?" asked he.

"I was dreaming of the king," said she.

"Then, my dear, why not have told me so?"

"Would you have believed me in the bestial passion you were in?"

The constable scratched his ear and replied--

"But how came Savoisy with the key of the postern?"

"I don't know," she said, curtly, "if you will have the goodness to
believe what I have said to you."

And his wife turned lightly on her heel like a weather-cock turned by
the wind, pretending to go and look after the household affairs. You
can imagine that D'Armagnac was greatly embarrassed with the head of
poor Savoisy, and that for his part Boys-Bourredon had no desire to
cough while listening to the count, who was growling to himself all
sorts of words. At length the constable struck two heavy blows over
the table and said, "I'll go and attack the inhabitants of Poissy."
Then he departed, and when the night was come Boys-Bourredon escaped
from the house in some disguise or other.

Poor Savoisy was sorely lamented by his lady, who had done all that a
woman could do to save her lover, and later he was more than wept, he
was regretted; for the countess having related this adventure to Queen
Isabella, her majesty seduced Boys-Bourredon from the service of her
cousin and put him to her own, so much was she touched with the
qualities and firm courage of this gentleman.

Boys-Bourredon was a man whom danger had well recommended to the
ladies. In fact he comported himself so proudly in everything in the
lofty fortune, which the queen had made for him, that having badly
treated King Charles one day when the poor man was in his proper
senses, the courtiers, jealous of favour, informed the king of his
cuckoldom. Boys-Bourredon was in a moment sewn in a sack and thrown
into the Seine, near the ferry at Charenton, as everyone knows. I have
no need add, that since the day when the constable took it into his
head to play thoughtlessly with knives, his good wife utilised so well
the two deaths he had caused and threw them so often in his face, that
she made him as soft as a cat's paw and put him in the straight road
of marriage; and he proclaimed her a modest and virtuous constable's
lady, as indeed she was. As this book should, according to the maxims
of great ancient authors, join certain useful things to the good
laughs which you will find therein and contain precepts of high taste,
I beg to inform you that the quintessence of the story is this: That
women need never lose their heads in serious cases, because the God of
Love never abandons them, especially when they are beautiful, young,
and of good family; and that gallants when going to keep an amorous
assignation should never go there like giddy young men, but carefully,
and keep a sharp look-out near the burrow, to avoid falling into
certain traps and to preserve themselves; for after a good woman the
most precious thing is, certes, a pretty gentleman.



                        THE MAID OF THILOUSE

The lord of Valennes, a pleasant place, of which the castle is not far
from the town of Thilouse, had taken a mean wife, who by reason of
taste or antipathy, pleasure or displeasure, health or sickness,
allowed her good husband to abstain from those pleasures stipulated
for in all contracts of marriage. In order to be just, it should be
stated that the above-mentioned lord was a dirty and ill-favoured
person, always hunting wild animals and not the more entertaining than
is a room full of smoke. And what is more, the said sportsman was all
sixty years of age, on which subject, however, he was a silent as a
hempen widow on the subject of rope. But nature, which the crooked,
the bandy-legged, the blind, and the ugly abuse so unmercifully here
below, and have no more esteem for her than the well-favoured,--since,
like workers of tapestry, they know not what they do,--gives the same
appetite to all and to all the same mouth for pudding. So every beast
finds a mate, and from the same fact comes the proverb, "There is no
pot, however ugly, that does not one day find a cover." Now the lord
of Valennes searched everywhere for nice little pots to cover, and
often in addition to wild, he hunted tame animals; but this kind of
game was scarce in the land, and it was an expensive affair to
discover a maid. At length however by reason of much ferreting about
and much enquiry, it happened that the lord of Valennes was informed
that in Thilouse was the widow of a weaver who had a real treasure in
the person of a little damsel of sixteen years, whom she had never
allowed to leave her apronstrings, and whom, with great maternal
forethought, she always accompanied when the calls of nature demanded
her obedience; she had her to sleep with her in her own bed, watched
over her, got her up in the morning, and put her to such a work that
between the twain they gained about eight pennies a day. On fete days
she took her to the church, scarcely giving her a spare moment to
exchange a merry word with the young people; above all was she strict
in keeping hands off the maiden.

But the times were just then so hard that the widow and her daughter
had only bread enough to save them from dying of hunger, and as they
lodged with one of their poor relations, they often wanted wood in
winter and clothes in summer, owing enough rent to frighten sergeants
of justice, men who are not easily frightened at the debts of others;
in short, while the daughter was increasing in beauty, the mother was
increasing in poverty, and ran into debt on account of her daughter's
virginity, as an alchemist will for the crucible in which his all is
cast. As soon as his plans were arranged and perfect, one rainy day
the said lord of Valennes by a mere chance came into the hovel of the
two spinners, and in order to dry himself sent for some fagots to
Plessis, close by. While waiting for them, he sat on a stool between
the two poor women. By means of the grey shadows and half light of the
cabin, he saw the sweet countenance of the maid of Thilouse; her arms
were red and firm, her breasts hard as bastions, which kept the cold
from her heart, her waist round as a young oak and all fresh and clean
and pretty, like the first frost, green and tender as an April bud; in
fact, she resembled all that is prettiest in the world. She had eyes
of a modest and virtuous blue, with a look more coy than that of the
Virgin, for she was less forward, never having had a child.

Had any one said to her, "Come, let us make love," she would have
said, "Love! What is that?" she was so innocent and so little open to
the comprehensions of the thing.

The good old lord twisted about upon his stool, eyeing the maid and
stretching his neck like a monkey trying to catch nuts, which the
mother noticed, but said not a word, being in fear of the lord to whom
the whole of the country belonged. When the fagot was put into the
grate and flared up, the good hunter said to the old woman, "Ah, ah!
that warms one almost as much as your daughter's eyes."

"But alas, my lord," said she, "we have nothing to cook on that fire."

"Oh yes," replied he.

"What?"

"Ah, my good woman, lend your daughter to my wife, who has need of a
good handmaiden: we will give you two fagots every day."

"Oh, my lord, what could I cook at such a good fire?"

"Why," replied the old rascal, "good broth, for I will give you a
measure of corn in season."

"Then," replied the old hag, "where shall I put it?"

"In your dish," answered the purchaser of innocence.

"But I have neither dish nor flower-bin, nor anything."

"Well I will give you dishes and flower-bins, saucepans, flagons, a
good bed with curtains, and everything."

"Yes," replied the good widow, "but the rain would spoil them, I have
no house."

"You can see from here," replied the lord, "the house of La
Tourbelliere, where lived my poor huntsmen Pillegrain, who was ripped
up by a boar?"

"Yes," said the old woman.

"Well, you can make yourself at home there for the rest of your days."

"By my faith;" cried the mother, letting fall her distaff, "do you
mean what you say?"

"Yes."

"Well, then, what will you give my daughter?"

"All that she is willing to gain in my service."

"Oh! my lord, you are a joking."

"No," said he.

"Yes," said she.

"By St. Gatien, St. Eleuther, and by the thousand million saints who
are in heaven, I swear that--"

"Ah! Well; if you are not jesting I should like those fagots to pass
through the hands of the notary."

"By the blood of Christ and the charms of your daughter am I not a
gentleman? Is not my word good enough?"

"Ah! well I don't say that it is not; but as true as I am a poor
spinner I love my child too much to leave her; she is too young and
weak at present, she will break down in service. Yesterday, in his
sermon, the vicar said that we should have to answer to God for our
children."

"There! There!" said the lord, "go and find the notary."

An old woodcutter ran to the scrivener, who came and drew up a
contract, to which the lord of Valennes then put his cross, not
knowing how to write, and when all was signed and sealed--

"Well, old lady," said he, "now you are no longer answerable to God
for the virtue of your child."

"Ah! my lord, the vicar said until the age of reason, and my child is
quite reasonable." Then turning towards her, she added, "Marie Fiquet,
that which is dearest to you is your honour, and there where you are
going everyone, without counting my lord, will try to rob you of it,
but you see well what it is worth; for that reason do not lose it save
willingly and in proper manner. Now in order not to contaminate your
virtue before God and before man, except for a legitimate motive, take
heed that your chance of marriage be not damaged beforehand, otherwise
you will go to the bad."

"Yes, dear mother," replied the maid.

And thereupon she left the poor abode of her relation, and came to the
chateau of Valennes, there to serve my lady, who found her both pretty
and to her taste.

When the people of Valennes, Sache, Villaines, and other places,
learned the high price given for the maid of Thilouse, the good
housewives recognising the fact that nothing is more profitable than
virtue, endeavoured to nourish and bring up their daughters virtuous,
but the business was as risky as that of rearing silkworms, which are
liable to perish, since innocence is like a medlar, and ripens quickly
on the straw. There were, however, some girls noted for it in
Touraine, who passed for virgins in the convents of the religious, but
I cannot vouch for these, not having proceeded to verify them in the
manner laid down by Verville, in order to make sure of the perfect
virtue of women. However, Marie Fiquet followed the wise counsel of
her mother, and would take no notice of the soft requests, honied
words, or apish tricks of her master, unless they were flavoured with
a promise of marriage.

When the old lord tried to kiss her, she would put her back up like a
cat at the approach of a dog, crying out "I will tell Madame!" In
short at the end of six months he had not even recovered the price of
a single fagot. From her labour Marie Fiquet became harder and firmer.
Sometimes she would reply to the gentle request of her master, "When
you have taken it from me will you give it me back again?"

Another time she would say, "If I were as full of holes as a sieve not
one should be for you, so ugly do I think you."

The good old man took these village sayings for flowers of innocence,
and ceased not make little signs to her, long harangues and a hundred
vows and sermons, for by reason of seeing the fine breasts of the
maid, her plump hips, which at certain movements came into prominent
relief, and by reason of admiring other things capable of inflaming
the mind of a saint, this dear men became enamoured of her with an old
man's passion, which augments in geometrical proportions as opposed to
the passions of young men, because the old men love with their
weakness which grows greater, and the young with their strength which
grows less. In order to leave this headstrong girl no loophole for
refusal, the old lord took into his confidence the steward, whose age
was seventy odd years, and made him understand that he ought to marry
in order to keep his body warm, and that Marie Fiquet was the very
girl to suit him. The old steward, who had gained three hundred pounds
by different services about the house, desired to live quietly without
opening the front door again; but his good master begged him to marry
to please him, assuring him that he need not trouble about his wife.
So the good steward wandered out of sheer good nature into this
marriage. The day of the wedding, bereft of all her reasons, and not
able to find objections to her pursuer, she made him give her a fat
settlement and dowry as the price of her conquest, and then gave the
old knave leave to wink at her as often as he could, promising him as
many embraces as he had given grains of wheat to her mother. But at
his age a bushel was sufficient.

The festivities over, the lord did not fail, as soon as his wife had
retired, to wend his way towards the well-glazed, well-carpeted, and
pretty room where he had lodged his lass, his money, his fagots, his
house, his wheat, and his steward. To be brief, know that he found the
maid of Thilouse the sweetest girl in the world, as pretty as
anything, by the soft light of the fire which was gleaming in the
chimney, snug between the sheets, and with a sweet odour about her, as
a young maiden should have, and in fact he had no regret for the great
price of this jewel. Not being able to restrain himself from hurrying
over the first mouthfuls of this royal morsel, the lord treated her
more as a past master than a young beginner. So the happy man by too
much gluttony, managed badly, and in fact knew nothing of the sweet
business of love. Finding which, the good wench said, after a minute
or two, to her old cavalier, "My lord, if you are there, as I think
you are, give a little more swing to your bells."

From this saying, which became spread about, I know not how, Marie
Fiquet became famous, and it is still said in our country, "She is a
maid of Thilouse," in mockery of a bride, and to signify a
"fricquenelle."

"Fricquenelle" is said of a girl I do not wish you to find in your
arms on your wedding night, unless you have been brought up in the
philosophy of Zeno, which puts up with anything, and there are many
people obliged to be Stoics in this funny situation, which is often
met with, for Nature turns, but changes not, and there are always good
maids of Thilouse to be found in Touraine, and elsewhere. Now if you
asked me in what consists, or where comes in, the moral of this tale?
I am at liberty to reply to the ladies; that the Cent Contes
Drolatiques are made more to teach the moral of pleasure than to
procure the pleasure of pointing a moral. But if it were a used up old
rascal who asked me, I should say to him with all the respect due to
his yellow or grey locks; that God wishes to punish the lord of
Valennes, for trying to purchase a jewel made to be given.



                        THE BROTHERS-IN-ARMS

At the commencement of the reign of King Henry, second of the name,
who loved so well the fair Diana, there existed still a ceremony of
which the usage has since become much weakened, and which has
altogether disappeared, like an infinity of the good things of the
olden times. This fine and noble custom was the choice which all
knights made of a brother-in-arms. After having recognised each other
as two loyal and brave men, each one of this pretty couple was married
for life to the other; both became brothers, the one had to defend the
other in battling against the enemies who threatened him, and at Court
against the friends who slandered him. In the absence of his companion
the other was expected to say to one who should have accused his good
brother of any disloyalty, wickedness or dark felony, "You have lied
by your throat," and so go into the field instantly, so sure was the
one of the honour of the other. There is no need to add, that the one
was always the second of the other in all affairs, good or evil, and
that they shared all good or evil fortune. They were better than the
brothers who are only united by the hazard of nature, since they were
fraternised by the bonds of an especial sentiment, involuntary and
mutual, and thus the fraternity of arms has produced splendid
characters, as brave as those of the ancient Greeks, Romans, or
others. . . . But this is not my subject; the history of these things
has been written by the historians of our country, and everyone knows
them.

Now at this time two young gentlemen of Touraine, of whom one was the
Cadet of Maille, and the other Sieur de Lavalliere, became
brothers-in-arms on the day they gained their spurs. They were leaving
the house of Monsieur de Montmorency, where they had been nourished with
the good doctrines of this great Captain, and had shown how contagious
is valour in such good company, for at the battle of Ravenna they
merited the praises of the oldest knights. It was in the thick of this
fierce fight that Maille, saved by the said Lavalliere, with whom he
had had a quarrel or two, perceived that this gentleman had a noble
heart. As they had each received slashes in the doublets, they
baptised their fraternity with their blood, and were ministered to
together in one and the same bed under the tent of Monsieur de
Montmorency their master. It is necessary to inform you that, contrary
to the custom of his family, which was always to have a pretty face,
the Cadet of Maille was not of a pleasing physiognomy, and had
scarcely any beauty but that of the devil. For the rest he was lithe
as a greyhound, broad shouldered and strongly built as King Pepin, who
was a terrible antagonist. On the other hand, the Sieur de Lavalliere
was a dainty fellow, for whom seemed to have been invented rich laces,
silken hose, and cancellated shoes. His long dark locks were pretty as
a lady's ringlets, and he was, to be brief, a child with whom all the
women would be glad to play. One day the Dauphine, niece of the Pope,
said laughingly to the Queen of Navarre, who did not dislike these
little jokes, "that this page was a plaster to cure every ache," which
caused the pretty little Tourainian to blush, because, being only
sixteen, he took this gallantry as a reproach.

Now on his return from Italy the Cadet of Maille found the slipper of
marriage ready for his foot, which his mother had obtained for him in
the person of Mademoiselle d'Annebaut, who was a graceful maiden of
good appearance, and well furnished with everything, having a splendid
hotel in the Rue Barbette, with handsome furniture and Italian
paintings and many considerable lands to inherit. Some days after the
death of King Francis--a circumstance which planted terror in the
heart of everyone, because his said Majesty had died in consequence of
an attack of the Neapolitan sickness, and that for the future there
would be no security even with princesses of the highest birth--the
above-named Maille was compelled to quit the Court in order to go and
arrange certain affairs of great importance in Piedmont. You may be
sure that he was very loath to leave his good wife, so young, so
delicate, so sprightly, in the midst of the dangers, temptations,
snares and pitfalls of this gallant assemblage, which comprised so
many handsome fellows, bold as eagles, proud of mein, and as fond of
women as the people are partial to Paschal hams. In this state of
intense jealousy everything made him ill at ease; but by dint of much
thinking, it occurred to him to make sure of his wife in the manner
about to be related. He invited his good brother-in-arms to come at
daybreak on the morning of his departure. Now directly he heard
Lavalliere's horse in the courtyard, he leaped out of bed, leaving his
sweet and fair better-half sleeping that gentle, dreamy, dozing sleep
so beloved by dainty ladies and lazy people. Lavalliere came to him,
and the two companions, hidden in the embrasure of the window, greeted
each other with a loyal clasp of the hand, and immediately Lavalliere
said to Maille--

"I should have been here last night in answer to thy summons, but I
had a love suit on with my lady, who had given me an assignation; I
could in no way fail to keep it, but I quitted her at dawn. Shall I
accompany thee? I have told her of thy departure, she has promised me
to remain without any amour; we have made a compact. If she deceives
me--well a friend is worth more than a mistress!"

"Oh! my good brother" replied the Maille, quite overcome with these
words, "I wish to demand of thee a still higher proof of thy brave
heart. Wilt thou take charge of my wife, defend her against all, be
her guide, keep her in check and answer to me for the integrity of my
head? Thou canst stay here during my absence, in the green-room, and
be my wife's cavalier."

Lavalliere knitted his brow and said--

"It is neither thee nor thy wife that I fear, but evil-minded people,
who will take advantage of this to entangle us like skeins of silk."

"Do not be afraid of me," replied Maille, clasping Lavalliere to his
breast. "If it be the divine will of the Almighty that I should have
the misfortune to be a cuckold, I should be less grieved if it were to
your advantage. But by my faith I should die of grief, for my life is
bound up in my good, young, virtuous wife."

Saying which, he turned away his head, in order that Lavalliere should
not perceive the tears in his eyes; but the fine courtier saw this
flow of water, and taking the hand of Maille--

"Brother," said he to him, "I swear to thee on my honour as a man,
that before anyone lays a finger on thy wife, he shall have felt my
dagger in the depth of his veins! And unless I should die, thou shalt
find her on thy return, intact in body if not in heart, because
thought is beyond the control of gentlemen."

"It is then decreed above," exclaimed Maille, "that I shall always be
thy servant and thy debtor!"

Thereupon the comrade departed, in order not to be inundated with the
tears, exclamations, and other expressions of grief which ladies make
use of when saying "Farewell." Lavalliere having conducted him to the
gate of the town, came back to the hotel, waited until Marie
d'Annebaut was out of bed, informed her of the departure of her good
husband, and offered to place himself at her orders, in such a
graceful manner, that the most virtuous woman would have been tickled
with a desire to keep such a knight to herself. But there was no need
of this fine paternoster to indoctrinate the lady, seeing that she had
listened to the discourse of the two friends, and was greatly offended
at her husband's doubt. Alas! God alone is perfect! In all the ideas
of men there is always a bad side, and it is therefore a great science
in life, but an impossible science, to take hold of everything, even a
stick by the right end. The cause of the great difficulty there is in
pleasing the ladies is, that there is it in them a thing which is more
woman than they are, and but for the respect which is due to them, I
would use another word. Now we should never awaken the phantasy of
this malevolent thing. The perfect government of woman is a task to
rend a man's heart, and we are compelled to remain in perfect
submission to them; that is, I imagine, the best manner in which to
solve the most agonising enigma of marriage.

Now Marie d'Annebaut was delighted with the bearing and offers of this
gallant; but there was something in her smile which indicated a
malicious idea, and, to speak plainly, the intention of putting her
young guardian between honour and pleasure; to regale him so with
love, to surround him with so many little attentions, to pursue him
with such warm glances, that he would be faithless to friendship, to
the advantage of gallantry.

Everything was in perfect trim for the carrying out of her design,
because of the companionship which the Sire de Lavalliere would be
obliged to have with her during his stay in the hotel, and as there is
nothing in the world can turn a woman from her whim, at every turn the
artful jade was ready to catch him in a trap.

At times she would make him remain seated near her by the fire, until
twelve o'clock at night, singing soft refrains, and at every
opportunity showed her fair shoulders, and the white temptations of
which her corset was full, and casting upon him a thousand piercing
glances, all without showing in her face the thoughts that surged in
her brain.

At times she would walk with him in the morning, in the gardens of the
hotel, leaning heavily upon his arm, pressing it, sighing, and making
him tie the laces of her little shoes, which were always coming undone
in that particular place. Then it would be those soft words and things
which the ladies understand so well, little attentions paid to a
guest, such as coming in to see if he were comfortable, if his bed
were well made, the room clean, if the ventilation were good, if he
felt any draughts in the night, if the sun came in during the day, and
asking him to forgo none of his usual fancies and habits, saying--

"Are you accustomed to take anything in the morning in bed, such as
honey, milk, or spice? Do the meal times suit you? I will conform mine
to yours: tell me. You are afraid to ask me. Come--"

She accompanied these coddling little attentions with a hundred
affected speeches; for instance, on coming into the room she would
say--

"I am intruding, send me away. You want to be left alone--I will go."
And always was she graciously invited to remain.

And the cunning Madame always came lightly attired, showing samples of
her beauty, which would have made a patriarch neigh, even were he as
much battered by time as must have been Mr. Methusaleh, with his nine
hundred and sixty years.

That good knight being as sharp as a needle, let the lady go on with
her tricks, much pleased to see her occupy herself with him, since it
was so much gained; but like a loyal brother, he always called her
absent husband to the lady's mind.

Now one evening--the day had been very warm--Lavalliere suspecting the
lady's games, told her that Maille loved her dearly, that she had in
him a man of honour, a gentleman who doted on her, and was ticklish on
the score of his crown.

"Why then, if he is so ticklish in this manner, has he placed you
here?"

"Was it not a most prudent thing?" replied he. "Was it not necessary
to confide you to some defender of your virtue? Not that it needs one
save to protect you from wicked men."

"Then you are my guardian?" said she.

"I am proud of it!" exclaimed Lavalliere.

"Ah!" said she, "he has made a very bad choice."

This remark was accompanied by a little look, so lewdly lascivious
that the good brother-in-arms put on, by way of reproach, a severe
countenance, and left the fair lady alone, much piqued at this refusal
to commence love's conflict.

She remained in deep meditation, and began to search for the real
obstacle that she had encountered, for it was impossible that it
should enter the mind of any lady, that a gentleman could despise that
bagatelle which is of such great price and so high value. Now these
thoughts knitted and joined together so well, one fitting into the
other, that out of little pieces she constructed a perfect whole, and
found herself desperately in love; which should teach the ladies never
to play with a man's weapons, seeing that like glue, they always stick
to the fingers.

By this means Marie d'Annebaut came to a conclusion which she should
have known at the commencement--viz., that to keep clear of her
snares, the good knight must be smitten with some other lady, and
looking round her, to see where her young guest could have found a
needle-case to his taste, she thought of the fair Limeuil, one of
Queen Catherine's maids, of Mesdames de Nevers, d'Estree, and de Giac,
all of whom were declared friends of Lavalliere, and of the lot he
must love one to distraction.

From this belief, she added the motive of jealousy to the others which
tempted her to seduce her Argus, whom she did not wish to wound, but
to perfume, kiss his head, and treat kindly.

She was certainly more beautiful, young, and more appetising and
gentle than her rivals; at least, that was the melodious decree of her
imaginations. So, urged on by the chords and springs of conscience,
and physical causes which affect women, she returned to the charge, to
commence a fresh assault upon the heart of the chevalier, for the
ladies like that which is well fortified.

Then she played the pussy-cat, and nestled up close to him, became so
sweetly sociable, and wheedled so gently, that one evening when she
was in a desponding state, although merry enough in her inmost soul,
the guardian-brother asked her--

"What is the matter with you?"

To which she replied to him dreamily, being listened to by him as the
sweetest music--

That she had married Maille against her heart's will, and that she was
very unhappy; that she knew not the sweets of love; that her husband
did not understand her, and that her life was full of tears. In fact,
that she was a maiden in heart and all, since she confessed in
marriage she had experienced nothing but the reverse of pleasure. And
she added, that surely this holy state should be full of sweetmeats
and dainties of love, because all the ladies hurried into it, and
hated and were jealous of those who out-bid them, for it cost certain
people pretty dear; that she was so curious about it that for one good
day or night of love, she would give her life, and always be obedient
to her lover without a murmur; but that he with whom she would sooner
than all others try the experiment would not listen to her; that,
nevertheless, the secret of their love might be kept eternally, so
great was her husband's confidence in him, and that finally if he
still refused it would kill her.

And all these paraphrases of the common canticle known to the ladies
at their birth were ejaculated between a thousand pauses, interrupted
with sighs torn from the heart, ornamented with quiverings, appeals to
heaven, upturned eyes, sudden blushings and clutchings at her hair. In
fact, no ingredient of temptation was lacking in the dish, and at the
bottom of all these words there was a nipping desire which embellished
even its blemishes. The good knight fell at the lady's feet, and
weeping took them and kissed them, and you may be sure the good woman
was quite delighted to let him kiss them, and even without looking too
carefully to see what she was going to do, she abandoned her dress to
him, knowing well that to keep it from sweeping the ground it must be
taken at the bottom to raise it; but it was written that for that
evening she should be good, for the handsome Lavalliere said to her
with despair--

"Ah, madame, I am an unfortunate man and a wretch."

"Not at all," said she.

"Alas, the joy of loving you is denied to me."

"How?" said she.

"I dare not confess my situation to you!"

"Is it then very bad?"

"Ah, you will be ashamed of me!"

"Speak, I will hide my face in my hands," and the cunning madame hid
her face is such a way that she could look at her well-beloved between
her fingers.

"Alas!" said he, "the other evening when you addressed me in such
gracious words, I was so treacherously inflamed, that not knowing my
happiness to be so near, and not daring to confess my flame to you, I
ran to a Bordel where all the gentleman go, and there for love of you,
and to save the honour of my brother whose head I should blush to
dishonour, I was so badly infected that I am in great danger of dying
of the Italian sickness."

The lady, seized with terror, gave vent to the cry of a woman in
labour, and with great emotion, repulsed him with a gentle little
gesture. Poor Lavalliere, finding himself in so pitiable state, went
out of the room, but he had not even reached the tapestries of the
door, when Marie d'Annebaut again contemplated him, saying to herself,
"Ah! what a pity!" Then she fell into a state of great melancholy,
pitying in herself the gentleman, and became the more in love with him
because he was fruit three times forbidden.

"But for Maille," said she to him, one evening that she thought him
handsomer than unusual, "I would willingly take your disease. Together
we should then have the same terrors."

"I love you too well," said the brother, "not to be good."

And he left her to go to his beautiful Limeuil. You can imagine that
being unable to refuse to receive the burning glances of the lady,
during meal times, and the evenings, there was a fire nourished that
warmed them both, but she was compelled to live without touching her
cavalier, otherwise than with her eyes. Thus occupied, Marie
d'Annebaut was fortified at every point against the gallants of the
Court, for there are no bounds so impassable as those of love, and no
better guardian; it is like the devil, he whom it has in its clutches
it surrounds with flames. One evening, Lavalliere having escorted his
friend's wife to a dance given by Queen Catherine, he danced with the
fair Limeuil, with whom he was madly in love. At that time the knights
carried on their amours bravely two by two, and even in troops. Now
all the ladies were jealous of La Limeuil, who at that time was
thinking of yielding to the handsome Lavalliere. Before taking their
places in the quadrille, she had given him the sweetest of
assignations for the morrow, during the hunt. Our great Queen
Catherine, who from political motives fermented these loves and
stirred them up, like pastrycooks make the oven fires burn by poking,
glanced at all the pretty couples interwoven in the quadrille, and
said to her husband--

"When they combat here, can they conspire against you, eh?"

"Ah! but the Protestants?"

"Bah! have them here as well," said she, laughing. "Why, look at
Lavalliere, who is suspected to be a Huguenot; he is converted by my
dear little Limeuil, who does not play her cards badly for a young
lady of sixteen. He will soon have her name down in his list."

"Ah, Madame! do not believe it," said Marie d'Annebaut, "he is ruined
through that same sickness of Naples which made you queen."

At this artless confession, Catherine, the fair Diana, and the king,
who were sitting together, burst out laughing, and the thing ran round
the room. This brought endless shame and mockery upon Lavalliere. The
poor gentleman, pointed at by everyone, soon wished somebody else in
his shoes, for La Limeuil, who his rivals had not been slow laughingly
to warn of her danger, appeared to shrink from her lover, so rapid was
the spread, and so violent the apprehensions of this nasty disease.
Thus Lavalliere found himself abandoned by everyone like a leper. The
king made an offensive remark, and the good knight quitted the
ball-room, followed by poor Marie in despair at the speech. She had in
every way ruined the man she loved: she had destroyed his honour, and
marred his life, since the physicians and master surgeons advance as a
fact, incapable of contradiction, that persons Italianised by this
love sickness, lost through it their greatest attractions, as well as
their generative powers, and their bones went black.

Thus no woman would bind herself in legitimate marriage with the
finest gentlemen in the kingdom if he were only suspected of being one
of those whom Master Frances Rabelais named "his very precious scabby
ones. . . . ."

As the handsome knight was very silent and melancholy, his companion
said to him on the road home from Hercules House, where the fete had
been held--

"My dear lord, I have done you a great mischief."

"Ah, madame!" replied Lavalliere, "my hurt is curable; but into what a
predicament have you fallen? You should not have been aware of the
danger of my love."

"Ah!" said she, "I am sure now always to have you to myself; in
exchange for this great obloquy and dishonour, I will be forever your
friend, your hostess, and your lady-love--more than that, your
servant. My determination is to devote myself to you and efface the
traces of this shame; to cure you by a watch and ward; and if the
learned in these matters declare that the disease has such a hold of
you that it will kill you like our defunct sovereign, I must still
have your company in order to die gloriously in dying of your
complaint. Even then," said she, weeping, "that will not be penance
enough to atone for the wrong I have done you."

These words were accompanied with big tears; her virtuous heart waxed
faint, she fell to the ground exhausted. Lavalliere, terrified, caught
her and placed his hand upon her heart, below a breast of matchless
beauty. The lady revived at the warmth of this beloved hand,
experiencing such exquisite delights as nearly to make her again
unconscious.

"Alas!" said she, "this sly and superficial caress will be for the
future the only pleasure of our love. It will still be a hundred times
better than the joys which poor Maille fancies he is bestowing on me.
. . . Leave your hand there," said she; "verily it is upon my soul,
and touches it."

At these words the knight was in a pitiful plight, and innocently
confessed to the Lady that he experienced so much pleasure at this
touch that the pains of his malady increased, and that death was
preferable to this martyrdom.

"Let us die then," said she.

But the litter was in the courtyard of the hotel, and as the means of
death was not handy, each one slept far from the other, heavily
weighed down with love, Lavalliere having lost his fair Limeuil, and
Marie d'Annebaut having gained pleasures without parallel.

From this affair, which was quite unforeseen, Lavalliere found himself
under the ban of love and marriage and dared no longer appear in
public, and he found how much it costs to guard the virtue of a woman;
but the more honour and virtue he displayed the more pleasure did he
experience in these great sacrifices offered at the shrine of
brotherhood. Nevertheless, his duty was very bitter, very ticklish,
and intolerable to perform, towards the last days of his guard. And in
this way.

The confession of her love, which she believed was returned, the wrong
done by her to her cavalier, and the experience of an unknown
pleasure, emboldened the fair Marie, who fell into a platonic love,
gently tempered with those little indulgences in which there is no
danger. From this cause sprang the diabolical pleasures of the game
invented by the ladies, who since the death of Francis the First
feared the contagion, but wished to gratify their lovers. To these
cruel delights, in order to properly play his part, Lavalliere could
not refuse his sanction. Thus every evening the mournful Marie would
attach her guest to her petticoats, holding his hand, kissing him with
burning glances, her cheek placed gently against his, and during this
virtuous embrace, in which the knight was held like the devil by a
holy water brush, she told him of her great love, which was boundless
since it stretched through the infinite spaces of unsatisfied desire.
All the fire with which the ladies endow their substantial amours,
when the night has no other lights than their eyes, she transferred
into the mystic motions of her head, the exultations of her soul, and
the ecstasies of her heart. Then, naturally, and with the delicious
joy of two angels united by thought alone, they intoned together those
sweet litanies repeated by the lovers of the period in honour of
love--anthems which the abbot of Theleme has paragraphically saved
from oblivion by engraving them on the walls of his Abbey, situated,
according to master Alcofribas, in our land of Chinon, where I have
seen them in Latin, and have translated them for the benefit of
Christians.

"Alas!" said Marie d'Annebaut, "thou art my strength and my life, my
joy and my treasure."

"And you," replied he "you are a pearl, an angel."

"Thou art my seraphim."

"You my soul."

"Thou my God."

"You my evening star and morning star, my honour, my beauty, my
universe."

"Thou my great my divine master."

"You my glory, my faith, my religion."

"Thou my gentle one, my handsome one, my courageous one, my dear one,
my cavalier, my defender, my king, my love."

"You my fairy, the flower of my days, the dream of my nights."

"Thou my thought at every moment."

"You the delights of my eyes."

"Thou the voice of my soul."

"You my light by day."

"Thou my glimmer in the night."

"You the best beloved among women."

"Thou the most adored of men."

"You my blood, a myself better than myself."

"Thou art my heart, my lustre."

"You my saint, my only joy."

"I yield thee the palm of love, and how great so'er mine be, I believe
thou lovest me still more, for thou art the lord."

"No; the palm is yours, my goddess, my Virgin Marie."

"No; I am thy servant, thine handmaiden, a nothing thou canst crush to
atoms."

"No, no! it is I who am your slave, your faithful page, whom you see
as a breath of air, upon whom you can walk as on a carpet. My heart is
your throne."

"No, dearest, for thy voice transfigures me."

"Your regard burns me."

"I see but thee."

"I love but you."

"Oh! put thine hand upon my heart--only thine hand--and thou will see
me pale, when my blood shall have taken the heat of thine."

Then during these struggles their eyes, already ardent, flamed still
more brightly, and the good knight was a little the accomplice of the
pleasure which Marie d'Annebaut took in feeling his hand upon her
heart. Now, as in this light embrace all their strength was put forth,
all their desires strained, all their ideas of the thing concentrated,
it happened that the knight's transport reached a climax. Their eyes
wept warm tears, they seized each other hard and fast as fire seizes
houses; but that was all. Lavalliere had promised to return safe and
sound to his friend the body only, not the heart.

When Maille announced his return, it was quite time, since no virtue
could avoid melting upon this gridiron; and the less licence the
lovers had, the more pleasure they had in their fantasies.

Leaving Marie d'Annebaut, the good companion in arms went as far as
Bondy to meet his friend, to help him to pass through the forest
without accident, and the two brothers slept together, according to
the ancient custom, in the village of Bondy.

There, in their bed, they recounted to each other, one of the
adventures of his journey, the other the gossip of the camp, stories
of gallantry, and the rest. But Maille's first question was touching
Marie d'Annebaut, whom Lavalliere swore to be intact in that precious
place where the honour of husbands is lodged; at which the amorous
Maille was highly delighted.

On the morrow, they were all three re-united, to the great disgust of
Marie, who, with the high jurisprudence of women, made a great fuss
with her good husband, but with her finger she indicated her heart in
an artless manner to Lavalliere, as one who said, "This is thine!"

At supper Lavalliere announced his departure for the wars. Maille was
much grieved at this resolution, and wished to accompany his brother;
that Lavalliere refused him point blank.

"Madame," said he to Marie d'Annebaut, "I love you more than life, but
not more than honour."

He turned pale saying this, and Madame de Maille blanched hearing him,
because never in their amorous dalliance had there been so much true
love as in this speech. Maille insisted on keeping his friend company
as far as Meaux. When he came back he was talking over with his wife
the unknown reasons and secret causes of this departure, when Marie,
who suspected the grief of poor Lavalliere said, "I know: he is
ashamed to stop here because he has the Neapolitan sickness."

"He!" said Maille, quite astonished. "I saw him when we were in bed
together at Bondy the other evening, and yesterday at Meaux. There's
nothing the matter with him; he is as sound as a bell."

The lady burst into tears, admiring this great loyalty, the sublime
resignation to his oath, and the extreme sufferings of this internal
passion. But as she still kept her love in the recesses of her heart,
she died when Lavalliere fell before Metz, as has been elsewhere
related by Messire Bourdeilles de Brantome in his tittle-tattle.



                    THE VICAR OF AZAY-LE-RIDEAU

In those days the priests no longer took any woman in legitimate
marriage, but kept good mistresses as pretty as they could get; which
custom has since been interdicted by the council, as everyone knows,
because, indeed, it was not pleasant that the private confessions of
people should be retold to a wench who would laugh at them, besides
the other secret doctrines, ecclesiastical arrangements, and
speculations which are part and parcel of the politics of the Church
of Rome. The last priest in our country who theologically kept a woman
in his parsonage, regaling her with his scholastic love, was a certain
vicar of Azay-le-Ridel, a place later on most aptly named as
Azay-le-Brule, and now Azay-le-Rideau, whose castle is one of the
marvels of Touraine. Now this said period, when the women were not
averse to the odour of the priesthood, is not so far distant as some
may think, Monsieur D'Orgemont, son of the preceding bishop, still
held the see of Paris, and the great quarrels of the Armagnacs had not
finished. To tell the truth, this vicar did well to have his vicarage
in that age, since he was well shapen, of a high colour, stout, big,
strong, eating and drinking like a convalescent, and indeed, was
always rising from a little malady that attacked him at certain times;
and, later on, he would have been his own executioner, had he
determined to observe his canonical continence. Add to this that he
was a Tourainian, id est, dark, and had in his eyes flame to light,
and water to quench all the domestic furnaces that required lighting
or quenching; and never since at Azay has been such vicar seen! A
handsome vicar was he, square-shouldered, fresh coloured, always
blessing and chuckling, preferred weddings and christenings to
funerals, a good joker, pious in Church, and a man in everything.
There have been many vicars who have drunk well and eaten well; others
who have blessed abundantly and chuckled consumedly; but all of them
together would hardly make up the sterling worth of this aforesaid
vicar; and he alone has worthily filled his post with benedictions,
has held it with joy, and in it has consoled the afflicted, all so
well, that no one saw him come out of his house without wishing to be
in his heart, so much was he beloved. It was he who first said in a
sermon that the devil was not so black as he was painted, and who for
Madame de Cande transformed partridges into fish saying that the perch
of the Indre were partridges of the river, and, on the other hand,
partridges perch in the air. He never played artful tricks under the
cloak of morality, and often said, jokingly, he would rather be in a
good bed then in anybody's will, that he had plenty of everything, and
wanted nothing. As for the poor and suffering, never did those who
came to ask for wool at the vicarage go away shorn, for his hand was
always in his pocket, and he melted (he who in all else was so firm)
at the sight of all this misery and infirmity, and he endeavoured to
heal all their wounds. There have been many good stories told
concerning this king of vicars. It was he who caused such hearty
laughter at the wedding of the lord of Valennes, near Sacche. The
mother of the said lord had a good deal to do with the victuals, roast
meats and other delicacies, of which there was sufficient quantity to
feed a small town at least, and it is true, at the same time, that
people came to the wedding from Montbazon, from Tours, from Chinon,
from Langeais, and from everywhere, and stopped eight days.

Now the good vicar, as he was going into the room where the company
were enjoying themselves, met the little kitchen boy, who wished to
inform Madame that all the elementary substances and fat rudiments,
syrups, and sauces, were in readiness for a pudding of great delicacy,
the secret compilation, mixing, and manipulation of which she wished
herself to superintend, intending it as a special treat for her
daughter-in-law's relations. Our vicar gave the boy a tap on the
cheek, telling him that he was too greasy and dirty to show himself to
people of high rank, and that he himself would deliver the said
message. The merry fellow pushes open the door, shapes the fingers of
his left hand into the form of a sheath, and moves gently therein the
middle finger of his right, at the same time looking at the lady of
Valennes, and saying to her, "Come, all is ready." Those who did not
understand the affair burst out laughing to see Madame get up and go
to the vicar, because she knew he referred to the pudding, and not to
that which the others imagined.

But a true story is that concerning the manner in which this worthy
pastor lost his mistress, to whom the ecclesiastical authorities
allowed no successor; but, as for that, the vicar did not want for
domestic utensils. In the parish everyone thought it an honour to lend
him theirs, the more readily because he was not the man to spoil
anything, and was careful to clean them out thoroughly, the dear man.
But here are the facts. One evening the good man came home to supper
with a melancholy face, because he had just put into the ground a good
farmer, whose death came about in a strange manner, and is still
frequently talked about in Azay. Seeing that he only ate with the end
of his teeth, and turned up his nose at a dish of tripe, which had
been cooked in his own special manner, his good woman said to him--

"Have you passed before the Lombard (see _Master Cornelius, passim_), met
two black crows, or seen the dead man turn in his grave, that you are
so upset?"

"Oh! Oh!"

"Has anyone deceived you?"

"Ha! Ha!"

"Come, tell me!"

"My dear, I am still quite overcome at the death of poor Cochegrue,
and there is not at the present moment a good housewife's tongue or a
virtuous cuckold's lips that are not talking about it."

"And what was it?"

"Listen! This poor Cochegrue was returning from market, having sold
his corn and two fat pigs. He was riding his pretty mare, who, near
Azay, commenced to caper about without the slightest cause, and poor
Cochegrue trotted and ambled along counting his profits. At the corner
of the old road of the Landes de Charlemagne, they came upon a
stallion kept by the Sieur de la Carte, in a field, in order to have a
good breed of horses, because the said animal was fleet of foot, as
handsome as an abbot, and so high and mighty that the admiral who came
to see it, said it was a beast of the first quality. This cursed horse
scented the pretty mare; like a cunning beast, neither neighed nor
gave vent to any equine ejaculation, but when she was close to the
road, leaped over forty rows of vines and galloped after her, pawing
the ground with his iron shoes, discharging the artillery of a lover
who longs for an embrace, giving forth sounds to set the strongest
teeth on edge, and so loudly, that the people of Champy heard it and
were much terrified thereat.

"Cochegrue, suspecting the affair, makes for the moors, spurs his
amorous mare, relying upon her rapid pace, and indeed, the good mare
understands, obeys, and flies--flies like a bird, but a bowshot off
follows the blessed horse, thundering along the road like a blacksmith
beating iron, and at full speed, his mane flying in the wind, replying
to the sound of the mare's swift gallop with his terrible pat-a-pan!
pat-a-pan! Then the good farmer, feeling death following him in the
love of the beast, spurs anew his mare, and harder still she gallops,
until at last, pale and half dead with fear, he reaches the outer yard
of his farmhouse, but finding the door of the stable shut he cries,
'Help here! Wife!' Then he turned round on his mare, thinking to avoid
the cursed beast whose love was burning, who was wild with passion,
and growing more amorous every moment, to the great danger of the
mare. His family, horrified at the danger, did not go to open the
stable door, fearing the strange embrace and the kicks of the
iron-shod lover. At last, Cochegrue's wife went, but just as the good
mare was half way through the door, the cursed stallion seized her,
squeezed her, gave her a wild greeting, with his two legs gripped her,
pinched her and held her tight, and at the same time so kneaded and
knocked about Cochegrue that there was only found of him a shapeless
mass, crushed like a nut after the oil has been distilled from it. It
was shocking to see him squashed alive and mingling his cries with the
loud love-sighs of the horse."

"Oh! the mare!" exclaimed the vicar's good wench.

"What!" said the priest astonished.

"Certainly. You men wouldn't have cracked a plumstone for us."

"There," answered the vicar, "you wrong me." The good man threw her so
angrily upon the bed, attacked and treated her so violently that she
split into pieces, and died immediately without either surgeons or
physicians being able to determine the manner in which the solution of
continuity was arrived at, so violently disjointed were the hinges and
mesial partitions. You can imagine that he was a proud man, and a
splendid vicar as has been previously stated.

The good people of the country, even the women, agreed that he was not
to blame, but that his conduct was warranted by the circumstances.

From this, perhaps, came the proverb so much in use at that time, Que
l'aze le saille! The which proverb is really so much coarser in its
actual wording, that out of respect for the ladies I will not mention
it. But this was not the only clever thing that this great and noble
vicar achieved, for before this misfortune he did such a stroke of
business that no robbers dare ask him how many angels he had in his
pocket, even had they been twenty strong and over to attack him. One
evening when his good woman was still with him, after supper, during
which he had enjoyed his goose, his wench, his wine, and everything,
and was reclining in his chair thinking where he could build a new
barn for the tithes, a message came for him from the lord of Sacche,
who was giving up the ghost and wished to reconcile himself with God,
receive the sacrament, and go through the usual ceremonies. "He is a
good man and loyal lord. I will go." said he. Thereupon he passed into
the church, took the silver box where the blessed bread is, rang the
little bell himself in order not to wake the clerk, and went lightly
and willingly along the roads. Near the Gue-droit, which is a valley
leading to the Indre across the moors, our good vicar perceived a high
toby. And what is a high toby? It is a clerk of St. Nicholas. Well,
what is that? That means a person who sees clearly on a dark night,
instructs himself by examining and turning over purses, and takes his
degrees on the high road. Do you understand now? Well then, the high
toby waited for the silver box, which he knew to be of great value.

"Oh! oh!" said the priest, putting down the sacred vase on a stone at
the corner of the bridge, "stop thou there without moving."

Then he walked up to the robber, tipped him up, seized his loaded
stick, and when the rascal got up to struggle with him, he gutted him
with a blow well planted in the middle of his stomach. Then he picked
up the viaticum again, saying bravely to it: "Ah! If I had relied upon
thy providence, we should have been lost." Now to utter these impious
words on the road to Sacche was mere waste of breath, seeing that he
addressed them not to God, but to the Archbishop of Tours, who have
once severely rebuked him, threatened him with suspension, and
admonished him before the Chapter for having publicly told certain
lazy people that a good harvest was not due to the grace of God, but
to skilled labour and hard work--a doctrine which smelt of the fagot.
And indeed he was wrong, because the fruits of the earth have need
both of one and the other; but he died in this heresy, for he could
never understand how crops could come without digging, if God so
willed it--a doctrine that learned men have since proved to be true,
by showing that formerly wheat grew very well without the aid of man.
I cannot leave this splendid model of a pastor without giving here one
of the acts of his life, which proves with what fervour he imitated
the saints in the division of their goods and mantles, which they gave
formerly to the poor and the passers-by. One day, returning from
Tours, where he had been paying his respects to the official, mounted
on his mule, he was nearing Azay. On the way, just out side Ballan, he
met a pretty girl on foot, and was grieved to see a woman travelling
like a dog; the more so as she was visibly fatigued, and could
scarcely raise one foot before the other. He whistled to her softly,
and the pretty wench turned round and stopped. The good priest, who
was too good a sportsman to frighten the birds, especially the hooded
ones, begged her so gently to ride behind him on his mule, and in so
polite a fashion, that the lass got up; not without making those
little excuses and grimaces that they all make when one invites them
to eat, or to take what they like. The sheep paired off with the
shepherd, the mule jogged along after the fashion of mules, while the
girl slipped now this way now that, riding so uncomfortably that the
priest pointed out to her, after leaving Ballan, that she had better
hold on to him; and immediately my lady put her plump arms around the
waist of her cavalier, in a modest and timorous manner.

"There, you don't slip about now. Are you comfortable?" said the
vicar.

"Yes, I am comfortable. Are you?"

"I?" said the priest, "I am better than that."

And, in fact, he was quite at his ease, and was soon gently warmed in
the back by two projections which rubbed against it, and at last
seemed as though they wished to imprint themselves between his
shoulder blades, which would have been a pity, as that was not the
place for this white merchandise. By degrees the movement of mule
brought into conjunction the internal warmth of these two good riders,
and their blood coursed more quickly through their veins, seeing that
it felt the motion of the mule as well as their own; and thus the good
wench and the vicar finished by knowing each other's thoughts, but not
those of the mule. When they were both acclimatised, he with her and
she with him, they felt an internal disturbance which resolved itself
into secret desires.

"Ah!" said the vicar, turning round to his companion, "here is a fine
cluster of trees which has grown very thick."

"It is too near the road," replied the girl. "Bad boys have cut the
branches, and the cows have eaten the young leaves."

"Are you not married?" asked the vicar, trotting his animal again.

"No," said she.

"Not at all?"

"I'faith! No!"

"What a shame, at your age!"

"You are right, sir; but you see, a poor girl who has had a child is a
bad bargain."

Then the good vicar taking pity on such ignorance, and knowing that
the canons say among other things that pastors should indoctrinate
their flock and show them the duties and responsibilities of this
life, he thought he would only be discharging the functions of his
office by showing her the burden she would have one day to bear. Then
he begged her gently not be afraid, for if she would have faith in his
loyalty no one should ever know of the marital experiment which he
proposed then and there to perform with her; and as, since passing
Ballan the girl had thought of nothing else; as her desire had been
carefully sustained, and augmented by the warm movements of the
animal, she replied harshly to the vicar, "if you talk thus I will get
down." Then the good vicar continued his gentle requests so well that
on reaching the wood of Azay the girl wished to get down, and the
priest got down there too, for it was not across a horse that this
discussion could be finished. Then the virtuous maiden ran into the
thickest part of the wood to get away from the vicar, calling out,
"Oh, you wicked man, you shan't know where I am."

The mule arrived in a glade where the grass was good, the girl tumbled
down over a root and blushed. The good vicar came to her, and there as
he had rung the bell for mass he went through the service for her, and
both freely discounted the joys of paradise. The good priest had it in
his heart to thoroughly instruct her, and found his pupil very docile,
as gentle in mind as soft in the flesh, a perfect jewel. Therefore was
he much aggrieved at having so much abridged the lessons by giving it
at Azay, seeing that he would have been quite willing to recommence
it, like all of precentors who say the same thing over and over again
to their pupils.

"Ah! little one," cried the good man, "why did you make so much fuss
that we only came to an understanding close to Azay?"

"Ah!" said she, "I belong to Bellan."

To be brief, I must tell you that when this good man died in his
vicarage there was a great number of people, children and others, who
came, sorrowful, afflicted, weeping, and grieved, and all exclaimed,
"Ah! we have lost our father." And the girls, the widows, the wives
and little girls looked at each other, regretting him more than a
friend, and said, "He was more than a priest, he was a man!" Of these
vicars the seed is cast to the winds, and they will never be
reproduced in spite of the seminaries.

Why, even the poor, to whom his savings were left, found themselves
still the losers, and an old cripple whom he had succoured hobbled
into the churchyard, crying "I don't die! I don't!" meaning to say,
"Why did not death take me in his place?" This made some of the people
laugh, at which the shade of the good vicar would certainly not have
been displeased.



                            THE REPROACH

The fair laundress of Portillon-les-Tours, of whom a droll saying has
already been given in this book, was a girl blessed with as much
cunning as if she had stolen that of six priests and three women at
least. She did not want for sweethearts, and had so many that one
would have compared them, seeing them around her, to bees swarming of
an evening towards their hive. An old silk dyer, who lived in the Rue
St. Montfumier, and there possessed a house of scandalous
magnificence, coming from his place at La Grenadiere, situated on the
fair borders of St. Cyr, passed on horseback through Portillon in
order to gain the Bridge of Tours. By reason of the warmth of the
evening, he was seized with a wild desire on seeing the pretty
washerwoman sitting upon her door-step. Now as for a very long time he
had dreamed of this pretty maid, his resolution was taken to make her
his wife, and in a short time she was transformed from a washerwoman
into a dyer's wife, a good townswoman, with laces, fine linen, and
furniture to spare, and was happy in spite of the dyer, seeing that
she knew very well how to manage him. The good dyer had for a crony a
silk machinery manufacturer who was small in stature, deformed for
life, and full of wickedness. So on the wedding-day he said to the
dyer, "You have done well to marry, my friend, we shall have a pretty
wife!"; and a thousand sly jokes, such as it is usual to address to a
bridegroom.

In fact, this hunchback courted the dyer's wife, who from her nature,
caring little for badly built people, laughed to scorn the request of
the mechanician, and joked him about the springs, engines, and spools
of which his shop was full. However, this great love of the hunchback
was rebuffed by nothing, and became so irksome to the dyer's wife that
she resolved to cure it by a thousand practical jokes. One evening,
after the sempiternal pursuit, she told her lover to come to the back
door and towards midnight she would open everything to him. Now note,
this was on a winter's night; the Rue St. Montfumier is close to the
Loire, and in this corner there continually blow in winter, winds
sharp as a hundred needle-points. The good hunchback, well muffled up
in his mantle, failed not to come, and trotted up and down to keep
himself warm while waiting for the appointed hour. Towards midnight he
was half frozen, as fidgety as thirty-two devils caught in a stole,
and was about to give up his happiness, when a feeble light passed by
the cracks of the window and came down towards the little door.

"Ah, it is she!" said he.

And this hope warned him once more. Then he got close to the door, and
heard a little voice--

"Are you there?" said the dyer's wife to him.

"Yes."

"Cough, that I may see."

The hunchback began to cough.

"It is not you."

Then the hunchback said aloud--

"How do you mean, it is not I? Do you not recognise my voice? Open the
door!"

"Who's there?" said the dyer, opening the window.

"There, you have awakened my husband, who returned from Amboise
unexpectedly this evening."

Thereupon the dyer, seeing by the light of the moon a man at the door,
threw a big pot of cold water over him, and cried out, "Thieves!
thieves!" in such a manner that the hunchback was forced to run away;
but in his fear he failed to clear the chain stretched across the
bottom of the road and fell into the common sewer, which the sheriff
had not then replaced by a sluice to discharge the mud into the Loire.
In this bath the mechanician expected every moment to breathe his
last, and cursed the fair Tascherette, for her husband's name being
Taschereau, she was so called by way of a little joke by the people of
Tours.

Carandas--for so was named the manufacturer of machines to weave, to
spin, to spool, and to wind the silk--was not sufficiently smitten to
believe in the innocence of the dyer's wife, and swore a devilish hate
against her. But some days afterwards, when he had recovered from his
wetting in the dyer's drain he came up to sup with his old comrade.
Then the dyer's wife reasoned with him so well, flavoured her words
with so much honey, and wheedled him with so many fair promises, that
he dismissed his suspicions.

He asked for a fresh assignation, and the fair Tascherette with the
face of a woman whose mind is dwelling on a subject, said to him,
"Come tomorrow evening; my husband will be staying some days at
Chinonceaux. The queen wishes to have some of her old dresses dyed and
would settle the colours with him. It will take some time."

Carandas put on his best clothes, failed not to keep the appointment,
appeared at the time fixed, and found a good supper prepared,
lampreys, wine of Vouvray, fine white napkins--for it was not
necessary to remonstrate with the dyer's wife on the colour of her
linen--and everything so well prepared that it was quite pleasant to
him to see the dishes of fresh eels, to smell the good odour of the
meats, and to admire a thousand little nameless things about the room,
and La Tascherette fresh and appetising as an apple on a hot day. Now,
the mechanician, excited to excess by these warm preparations, was on
the point of attacking the charms of the dyer's wife, when Master
Taschereau gave a loud knock at the street door.

"Ha!" said madame, "what has happened? Put yourself in the clothes
chest, for I have been much abused respecting you; and if my husband
finds you, he may undo you; he is so violent in his temper."

And immediately she thrust the hunchback into the chest, and went
quickly to her good husband, whom she knew well would be back from
Chinonceaux to supper. Then the dyer was kissed warmly on both his
eyes and on both his ears and he caught his good wife to him and
bestowed upon her two hearty smacks with his lips that sounded all
over the room. Then the pair sat down to supper, talked together and
finished by going to bed; and the mechanician heard all, though
obliged to remain crumpled up, and not to cough or to make a single
movement. He was in with the linen, crushed up as close as a sardine
in a box, and had about as much air as he would have had at the bottom
of a river; but he had, to divert him, the music of love, the sighs of
the dyer, and the little jokes of La Tascherette. At last, when he
fancied his old comrade was asleep, he made an attempt to get out of
the chest.

"Who is there?" said the dyer.

"What is the matter my little one?" said his wife, lifting her nose
above the counterpane.

"I heard a scratching," said the good man.

"We shall have rain to-morrow; it's the cat," replied his wife.

The good husband put his head back upon the pillow after having been
gently embraced by his spouse. "There, my dear, you are a light
sleeper. It's no good trying to make a proper husband of you. There,
be good. Oh! oh! my little papa, your nightcap is on one side. There,
put it on the other way, for you must look pretty even when you are
asleep. There! are you all right?"

"Yes."

"Are you sleep?" said she, giving him a kiss.

"Yes."

In the morning the dyer's wife came softly and let out the
mechanician, who was whiter than a ghost.

"Give me air, give me air!" said he.

And away he ran cured of his love, but with as much hate in his heart
as a pocket could hold of black wheat. The said hunchback left Tours
and went to live in the town of Bruges, where certain merchants had
sent for him to arrange the machinery for making hauberks.

During his long absence, Carandas, who had Moorish blood in his veins,
since he was descended from an ancient Saracen left half dead after
the great battle which took place between the Moors and the French in
the commune of Bellan (which is mentioned in the preceding tale), in
which place are the Landes of Charlemagne, where nothing grows because
of the cursed wretches and infidels there interred, and where the
grass disagrees even with the cows--this Carandas never rose up or lay
down in a foreign land without thinking of how he could give strength
to his desires of vengeance; and he was dreaming always of it, and
wishing nothing less than the death of the fair washerwoman of
Portillon and often would cry out "I will eat her flesh! I will cook
one of her breasts, and swallow it without sauce!" It was a tremendous
hate of good constitution--a cardinal hate--a hate of a wasp or an old
maid. It was all known hates moulded into one single hate, which
boiled itself, concocted itself, and resolved self into an elixir of
wicked and diabolical sentiments, warmed at the fire of the most
flaming furnaces of hell--it was, in fact, a master hate.

Now one fine day, the said Carandas came back into Touraine with much
wealth, that he brought from the country of Flanders, where he had
sold his mechanical secrets. He bought a splendid house in Rue St.
Montfumier, which is still to be seen, and is the astonishment of the
passers-by, because it has certain very queer round humps fashioned
upon the stones of the wall. Carandas, the hater, found many notable
changes at the house of his friend, the dyer, for the good man had two
sweet children, who, by a curious chance, presented no resemblance
either to the mother or to the father. But as it is necessary that
children bear a resemblance to someone, there are certain people who
look for the features of their ancestors, when they are
good-looking--the flatters. So it was found by the good husband that
his two boys were like one of his uncles, formerly a priest at Notre
Dame de l'Egrignolles, but according to certain jokers, these two
children were the living portraits of a good-looking shaven crown
officiating in the Church of Notre Dame la Riche, a celebrated parish
situated between Tours and Plessis. Now, believe one thing, and
inculcate it upon your minds, and when in this book you shall only
have gleaned, gathered, extracted, and learned this one principle of
truth, look upon yourself as a lucky man--namely, that a man can never
dispense with his nose, id est, that a man will always be snotty--that
is to say, he will remain a man, and thus will continue throughout all
future centuries to laugh and drink, to find himself in his shirt
without feeling either better or worse there, and will have the same
occupations. But these preparatory ideas are to better to fix in the
understanding that this two-footed soul will always accept as true
those things which flatter his passions, caress his hates, or serve
his amours: from this comes logic. So it was that, the first day the
above-mentioned Carandas saw his old comrade's children, saw the
handsome priest, saw the beautiful wife of the dyer, saw La
Taschereau, all seated at the table, and saw to his detriment the best
piece of lamprey given with a certain air by La Tascherette to her
friend the priest, the mechanician said to himself, "My old friend is
a cuckold, his wife intrigues with the little confessor, and the
children have been begotten with his holy water. I'll show them that
the hunchbacks have something more than other men."

And this was true--true as it is that Tours has always had its feet in
the Loire, like a pretty girl who bathes herself and plays with the
water, making a flick-flack, by beating the waves with her fair white
hands; for the town is more smiling, merry, loving, fresh, flowery,
and fragrant than all the other towns of the world, which are not
worthy to comb her locks or to buckle her waistband. And be sure if
you go there you will find, in the centre of it, a sweet place, in
which is a delicious street where everyone promenades, where there is
always a breeze, shade, sun, rain, and love. Ha! ha! laugh away, but
go there. It is a street always new, always royal, always imperial--a
patriotic street, a street with two paths, a street open at both ends,
a wide street, a street so large that no one has ever cried, "Out of
the way!" there. A street which does not wear out, a street which
leads to the abbey of Grand-mont, and to a trench, which works very
well with the bridge, and at the end of which is a finer fair ground.
A street well paved, well built, well washed, as clean as a glass,
populous, silent at certain times, a coquette with a sweet nightcap on
its pretty blue tiles--to be short, it is the street where I was born;
it is the queen of streets, always between the earth and sky; a street
with a fountain; a street which lacks nothing to be celebrated among
streets; and, in fact, it is the real street, the only street of
Tours. If there are others, they are dark, muddy, narrow, and damp,
and all come respectfully to salute this noble street, which commands
them. Where am I? For once in this street no one cares to come out of
it, so pleasant it is. But I owed this filial homage, this descriptive
hymn sung from the heart to my natal street, at the corners of which
there are wanting only the brave figures of my good master Rabelais,
and of Monsieur Descartes, both unknown to the people of the country.
To resume: the said Carandas was, on his return from Flanders,
entertained by his comrade, and by all those by whom he was liked for
his jokes, his drollery, and quaint remarks. The good hunchback
appeared cured of his old love, embraced the children, and when he was
alone with the dyer's wife, recalled the night in the clothes-chest,
and the night in the sewer, to her memory, saying to her, "Ha, ha!
what games you used to have with me."

"It was your own fault," said she, laughing. "If you had allowed
yourself by reason of your great love to be ridiculed, made a fool of,
and bantered a few more times, you might have made an impression on
me, like the others." Thereupon Carandas commenced to laugh, though
inwardly raging all the time. Seeing the chest where he had nearly
been suffocated, his anger increased the more violently because the
sweet creature had become still more beautiful, like all those who are
permanently youthful from bathing in the water of youth, which waters
are naught less than the sources of love. The mechanician studied the
proceedings in the way of cuckoldom at his neighbour's house, in order
to revenge himself, for as many houses as there are so many varieties
of manner are there in this business; and although all amours resemble
each other in the same manner that all men resemble each other, it is
proved to the abstractors of true things, that for the happiness of
women, each love has its especial physiognomy, and if there is nothing
that resembles a man so much as a man, there is also nothing differs
from a man so much as a man. That it is, which confuses all things, or
explains the thousand fancies of women, who seek the best men with a
thousand pains and a thousand pleasures, perhaps more the one than the
other. But how can I blame them for their essays, changes, and
contradictory aims? Why, Nature frisks and wriggles, twists and turns
about, and you expect a woman to remain still! Do you know if ice is
really cold? No. Well then, neither do you know that cuckoldom is not
a lucky chance, the produce of brains well furnished and better made
than all the others. Seek something better than ventosity beneath the
sky. This will help to spread the philosophic reputation of this
eccentric book. Oh yes; go on. He who cries "vermin powder," is more
advanced than those who occupy themselves with Nature, seeing that she
is a proud jade and a capricious one, and only allows herself to be
seen at certain times. Do you understand? So in all languages does she
belong to the feminine gender, being a thing essentially changeable
and fruitful and fertile in tricks.

Now Carandas soon recognised the fact that among cuckoldoms the best
understood and the most discreet is ecclesiastical cuckoldom. This is
how the good dyer's wife had laid her plans. She went always towards
her cottage at Grenadiere-les-St.-Cyr on the eve of the Sabbath,
leaving her good husband to finish his work, to count up and check his
books, and to pay his workmen; then Taschereau would join her there on
the morrow, and always found a good breakfast ready and his good wife
gay, and always brought the priest with him. The fact is, this
damnable priest crossed the Loire the night before in a small boat, in
order to keep the dyer's wife warm, and to calm her fancies, in order
that she might sleep well during the night, a duty which young men
understand very well. Then this fine curber of phantasies got back to
his house in the morning by the time Taschereau came to invite him to
spend the day at La Grenadiere, and the cuckold always found the
priest asleep in his bed. The boatman being well paid, no one knew
anything of these goings on, for the lover journeyed the night before
after night fall, and on the Sunday in the early morning. As soon as
Carandas had verified the arrangement and constant practice of these
gallant diversions, he determined to wait for a day when the lovers
would meet, hungry one for the other, after some accidental
abstinence. This meeting took place very soon, and the curious
hunchback saw the boatman waiting below the square, at the Canal St.
Antoine, for the young priest, who was handsome, blonde, slender, and
well-shaped, like the gallant and cowardly hero of love, so celebrated
by Monsieur Ariosto. Then the mechanician went to find the old dyer,
who always loved his wife and always believed himself the only man who
had a finger in her pie.

"Ah! good evening, old friend," said Carandas to Taschereau; and
Taschereau made him a bow.

Then the mechanician relates to him all the secret festivals of love,
vomits words of peculiar import, and pricks the dyer on all sides.

At length, seeing he was ready to kill both his wife and the priest,
Carandas said to him, "My good neighbour, I had brought back from
Flanders a poisoned sword, which will instantly kill anyone, if it
only make a scratch upon him. Now, directly you shall have merely
touched your wench and her paramour, they will die."

"Let us go and fetch it," said the dyer.

Then the two merchants went in great haste to the house of the
hunchback, to get the sword and rush off to the country.

"But shall we find them in flagrante delicto?" asked Taschereau.

"You will see," said the hunchback, jeering his friend. In fact, the
cuckold had not long to wait to behold the joy of the two lovers.

The sweet wench and her well-beloved were busy trying to catch, in a
certain lake that you probably know, that little bird that sometimes
makes his nest there, and they were laughing and trying, and still
laughing.

"Ah, my darling!" said she, clasping him, as though she wished to make
an outline of him on her chest, "I love thee so much I should like to
eat thee! Nay, more than that, to have you in my skin, so that you
might never quit me."

"I should like it too," replied the priest, "but as you can't have me
altogether, you must try a little bit at a time."

It was at this moment that the husband entered, he sword unsheathed
and flourished above him. The beautiful Tascherette, who knew her
lord's face well, saw what would be the fate of her well-beloved the
priest. But suddenly she sprang towards the good man, half naked, her
hair streaming over her, beautiful with shame, but more beautiful with
love, and cried to him, "Stay, unhappy man! Wouldst thou kill the
father of thy children?"

Thereupon the good dyer staggered by the paternal majesty of
cuckoldom, and perhaps also by the fire of his wife's eyes, let the
sword fall upon the foot of the hunchback, who had followed him, and
thus killed him.

This teaches us not to be spiteful.



                              EPILOGUE

Here endeth the first series of these Tales, a roguish sample of the
works of that merry Muse, born ages ago, in our fair land of Touraine,
the which Muse is a good wench, and knows by heart that fine saying of
her friend Verville, written in _Le Moyen de Parvenir_: It is only
necessary to be bold to obtain favours. Alas! mad little one, get thee
to bed again, sleep; thou art panting from thy journey; perhaps thou
hast been further than the present time. Now dry thy fair naked feet,
stop thine ears, and return to love. If thou dreamest other poesy
interwoven with laughter to conclude these merry inventions, heed not
the foolish clamour and insults of those who, hearing the carol of a
joyous lark of other days, exclaim: Ah, the horrid bird!





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