THE TALES OF
Margaret, Queen of Navarre
Newly Translated into English from the Authentic Text
OF M. LE ROUX DE LINCY WITH
AN ESSAY UPON THE HEPTAMERON
GEORGE SAINTSBURY, M.A.
Also the Original Seventy-three Full Page Engravings
Designed by S. FREUDENBERG
And One Hundred and Fifty Head and Tail Pieces
IN FIVE VOLUMES
VOLUME THE FOURTH
LONDON: PRINTED FOR THE SOCIETY OF ENGLISH BIBLIOPHILISTS
[Margaret, Queen of Navarre, from a crayon drawing by Clouet, preserved at the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris]
CONTENTS OF VOLUME IV.
Tale XXXI. Punishment of the wickedness of a Friar who sought to lie with a gentleman's wife.
Tale XXXII. How an ambassador of Charles VIII., moved by the repentance of a German lady, whom her husband compelled to drink out of her lover's skull, reconciled husband and wife together.
Tale XXXIII. The hypocrisy of a priest who, under the cloak of sanctity, had lain with his own sister, is discovered and punished by the wisdom of the Count of Angouleme.
Tale XXXIV. The terror of two Friars who believed that a butcher intended to murder them, whereas the poor man was only speaking of his Pigs.
Tale XXXV. How a husband's prudence saves his wife from the risks she incurred while thinking to yield to merely a spiritual love.
Tale XXXVI. The story of the President of Grenoble, who saves the honour of his house by poisoning his wife with a salad.
Tale XXXVII. How the Lady of Loue regained her husband's affection.
Tale XXXVIII. The kindness of a townswoman of Tours to a poor farm-woman who is mistress to her husband, makes the latter so ashamed of his faithlessness that he returns to his wife.
Tale XXXIX. How the Lord of Grignaulx rid one of his houses of a pretended ghost.
Tale XL. The unhappy history of the Count de Jossebelin's sister, who shut herself up in a hermitage because her brother caused her husband to be slain.
Tale XLI. Just punishment of a Grey Friar for the unwonted penance that he would have laid upon a maiden.
Tale XLII. The virtuous resistance made by a young woman of Touraine causes a young Prince that is in love with her, to change his desire to respect, and to bestow her honourably in marriage.
Tale XLIII. How a little chalk-mark revealed the hypocrisy of a lady called Jambicque, who was wont to hide the pleasures she indulged in, beneath the semblance of austerity.
Tale XLIV. (A). Through telling the truth, a Grey Friar receives as alms from the Lord of Sedan two pigs instead of one.
Tale XLIV. (B). Honourable conduct of a young citizen of Paris, who, after suddenly enjoying his sweetheart, at last happily marries.
Tale XLV. Cleverness of an upholsterer of Touraine, who, to hide that he has given the Innocents to his serving-maid, contrives to give them afterwards to his wife.
Tale XLVI. (A). Wicked acts of a Grey Friar of Angouleme called De Vale, who fails in his purpose with the wife of the Judge of the Exempts, but to whom a mother in blind confidence foolishly abandons her daughter.
Tale XLVI. (B). Sermons of the Grey Friar De Valles, at first against and afterwards on behalf of husbands that beat their wives.
Tale XLVII. The undeserved jealousy of a gentleman of Le Perche towards another gentleman, his friend, leads the latter to deceive him.
Tale XLVIII. Wicked act of a Grey Friar of Perigord, who, while a husband was dancing at his wedding, went and took his place with the bride.
Tale XLIX. Story of a foreign Countess, who, not content with having King Charles as her lover, added to him three lords, to wit, Astillon, Durassier and Valnebon.
Tale L. Melancholy fortune of Messire John Peter, a gentleman of Cremona, who dies just when he is winning the affection of the lady he loves.
Appendix to Vol. IV.
PAGE ENGRAVINGS CONTAINED IN VOLUME IV.
Tale XXXI. The Wicked Friar Captured.
Tale XXXII. Bernage observing the German Lady's Strange Penance.
Tale XXXIII. The Execution of the Wicked Priest and his Sister.
Tale XXXIV. The Grey Friar imploring the Butcher to Spare his Life.
Tale XXXV. The Lady embracing the Supposed Friar.
Tale XXXVI. The Clerk entreating Forgiveness of the President.
Tale XXXVII. The Lady of Loue bringing her Husband the Basin of Water.
Tale XXXVIII. The Lady of Tours questioning her Husband's Mistress.
Tale XXXIX. The Lord of Grignaulx catching the Pretended Ghost.
Tale XL. The Count of Jossebelin murdering his Sister's Husband.
Tale XLI. The Beating of the Wicked Grey Friar.
Tale XLII. The Girl refusing the Gift of the Young Prince.
Tale XLIII. Jambicque repudiating her Lover.
Tale XLIV. (B). The Lovers returning from their Meeting in the Garden.
Tale Tale XLV. The Man of Tours and his Serving-maid in the Snow.
Tale XLVI. (B). The Young Man beating his Wife.
Tale XLVII. The Gentleman reproaching his Friend for his Jealousy.
Tale XLVIII. The Grey Friars Caught and Punished.
Tale XLIX. The Countess facing her Lovers.
Tale L. The Lady killing herself on the Death of her Lover.
On the Fourth Day are chiefly told Tales of the virtuous patience and long suffering of Ladies to win over their husbands; and of the prudence that Men have used towards Women to save the honour of their families and lineage.
The Lady Oisille, as was her excellent custom, rose up on the morrow very much earlier than the others, and meditating upon her book of Holy Scripture, awaited the company which, little by little, assembled together again. And the more slothful of them excused themselves in the words of the Bible, saying, "I have a wife, and therefore could not come so quickly." (1) In this wise it came to pass that Hircan and his wife Parlamente found the reading of the lesson already begun. Oisille, however, knew right well how to pick out the passage in the Scriptures, which reproves those who neglect the hearing of the Word, and she not only read the text, but also addressed to them such excellent and pious exhortations that it was impossible to weary of listening to her.
1 "I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come."—St. Luke xiv. 20.—M.
The reading ended, Parlamente said to her—
"I felt sorry for my slothfulness when I came in, but since my error has led you to speak to me in such excellent fashion, my laziness has profited me double, for I have had rest of body by sleeping longer, and satisfaction of spirit by hearing your godly discourse." "Well," said Oisille, "let us for penance go to mass and pray Our Lord to give us both will and power to fulfil His commandments; and then may He command us according to His own good pleasure."
As she was saying these words, they reached the church, where they piously heard mass. And afterwards they sat down to table, where Hircan failed not to laugh at the slothfulness of his wife. After dinner they withdrew to rest and study their parts, (2) and when the hour was come, they all found themselves at the wonted spot.
2 Meaning what they had to relate. The French word is rolle from rotulus.—M.
Then Oisille asked Hircan to whom he would give his vote to begin the day.
"If my wife," said he, "had not begun yesterday, I should have given her my vote, for although I always thought that she loved me more than any man alive, she has further proved to me this morning that she loves me better than God or His Word, seeing that she neglected your excellent reading to bear me company. However, since I cannot give my vote to the discreetest lady of the company, I will present it to Geburon, who is the discreetest among the men; and I beg that he will in no wise spare the monks."
"It was not necessary to beg that of me," said Geburon; "I was not at all likely to forget them. Only a short while ago I heard Monsieur de Saint-Vincent, Ambassador of the Emperor, tell a story of them which is well worthy of being rememorated and I will now relate it to you."
[The Wicked Friar Captured]
A monastery of Grey Friars was burned down, with the monks that were in it, as a perpetual memorial of the cruelty practised by one among them that was in love with a lady.
In the lands subject to the Emperor Maximilian of Austria (1) there was a monastery of Grey Friars that was held in high repute, and nigh to it stood the house of a gentleman who was so kindly disposed to these monks that he could withhold nothing from them, in order to share in the benefits of their fastings and disciplines. Among the rest there was a tall and handsome friar whom the said gentleman had taken to be his confessor, and who had as much authority in the gentleman's house as the gentleman himself. This friar, seeing that the gentleman's wife was as beautiful and prudent as it was possible to be, fell so deeply in love with her that he lost all appetite for both food and drink, and all natural reason as well. One day, thinking to work his end, he went all alone to the house, and not finding the gentleman within, asked the lady whither he was gone. She replied that he was gone to an estate where he proposed remaining during two or three days, but that if the friar had business with him, she would despatch a man expressly to him. The friar said no to this, and began to walk to and fro in the house like one with a weighty matter in his mind.
1 Maximilian I., grandfather of Charles V. and Ferdinand I., and Emperor of Germany from 1494 to 1519.—Ed.
When he had left the room, the lady said to one of her women (and there were but two) "Go after the good father and find out what he wants, for I judge by his countenance that he is displeased."
The serving-woman went to the courtyard and asked the friar whether he desired aught, whereat he answered that he did, and, drawing her into a corner, he took a dagger which he carried in his sleeve, and thrust it into her throat. Just after he had done this, there came into the courtyard a mounted servant who had been gone to receive the rent of a farm. As soon as he had dismounted he saluted the friar, who embraced him, and while doing so thrust the dagger into the back part of his neck. And thereupon he closed the castle gate.
The lady, finding that her serving-woman did not return, was astonished that she should remain so long with the friar, and said to the other—
"Go and see why your fellow-servant does not come back."
The woman went, and as soon as the good father saw her, he drew her aside into a corner and did to her as he had done to her companion. Then, finding himself alone in the house, he came to the lady, and told her that he had long been in love with her, and that the hour was now come when she must yield him obedience.
The lady, who had never suspected aught of this, replied—
"I am sure, father, that were I so evilly inclined, you would be the first to cast a stone at me."
"Come out into the courtyard," returned the monk, "and you will see what I have done."
When she beheld the two women and the man lying dead, she was so terrified that she stood like a statue, without uttering a word. The villain, who did not seek merely an hour's delight, would not take her by force, but forthwith said to her—
"Mistress, be not afraid; you are in the hands of him who, of all living men, loves you the most."
So saying, he took off his long robe, beneath which he wore a shorter one, which he gave to the lady, telling her that if she did not take it, she should be numbered with those whom she saw lying lifeless before her eyes.
More dead than alive already, the lady resolved to feign obedience, both to save her life, and to gain time, as she hoped, for her husband's return. At the command of the friar, she set herself to put off her head-dress as slowly as she was able; and when this was done, the friar, heedless of the beauty of her hair, quickly cut it off. Then he caused her to take off all her clothes except her chemise, and dressed her in the smaller robe he had worn, he himself resuming the other, which he was wont to wear; then he departed thence with all imaginable speed, taking with him the little friar he had coveted so long.
But God, who pities the innocent in affliction, beheld the tears of this unhappy lady, and it so happened that her husband, having arranged matters more speedily than he had expected, was now returning home by the same road by which she herself was departing. However, when the friar perceived him in the distance, he said to the lady—
"I see your husband coming this way. I know that if you look at him he will try to take you out of my hands. Go, then, before me, and turn not your head in his direction; for, if you make the faintest sign, my dagger will be in your throat before he can deliver you."
As he was speaking, the gentleman came up, and asked him whence he was coming.
"From your house," replied the other, "where I left my lady in good health, and waiting for you."
The gentleman passed on without observing his wife, but a servant who was with him, and who had always been wont to foregather with one of the friar's comrades named Brother John, began to call to his mistress, thinking, indeed, that she was this Brother John. The poor woman, who durst not turn her eyes in the direction of her husband, answered not a word. The servant, however, wishing to see her face, crossed the road, and the lady, still without making any reply, signed to him with her eyes, which were full of tears.
The servant then went after his master and said—"Sir, as I crossed the road I took note of the friar's companion. He is not Brother John, but is very like my lady, your wife, and gave me a pitiful look with eyes full of tears."
The gentleman replied that he was dreaming, and paid no heed to him; but the servant persisted, entreating his master to allow him to go back, whilst he himself waited on the road, to see if matters were as he thought. The gentleman gave him leave, and waited to see what news he would bring him. When the friar heard the servant calling out to Brother John, he suspected that the lady had been recognised, and with a great, iron-bound stick that he carried, he dealt the servant so hard a blow in the side that he knocked him off his horse. Then, leaping upon his body, he cut his throat.
The gentleman, seeing his servant fall in the distance, thought that he had met with an accident, and hastened back to assist him. As soon as the friar saw him, he struck him also with the iron-bound stick, just as he had struck the servant, and, flinging him to the ground, threw himself upon him. But the gentleman being strong and powerful, hugged the friar so closely that he was unable to do any mischief, and was forced to let his dagger fall. The lady picked it up, and, giving it to her husband, held the friar with all her strength by the hood. Then her husband dealt the friar several blows with the dagger, so that at last he cried for mercy and confessed his wickedness. The gentleman was not minded to kill him, but begged his wife to go home and fetch their people and a cart, in which to carry the friar away. This she did, throwing off her robe, and running as far as her house in nothing but her shift, with her cropped hair.
The gentleman's men forthwith hastened to assist their master to bring away the wolf that he had captured. And they found this wolf in the road, on the ground, where he was seized and bound, and taken to the house of the gentleman, who afterwards had him brought before the Emperor's Court in Flanders, when he confessed his evil deeds.
And by his confession and by proofs procured by commissioners on the spot, it was found that a great number of gentlewomen and handsome wenches had been brought into the monastery in the same fashion as the friar of my story had sought to carry off this lady; and he would have succeeded but for the mercy of Our Lord, who ever assists those that put their trust in Him. And the said monastery was stripped of its spoils and of the handsome maidens that were found within it, and the monks were shut up in the building and burned with it, as an everlasting memorial of this crime, by which we see that there is nothing more dangerous than love when it is founded upon vice, just as there is nothing more gentle or praiseworthy when it dwells in a virtuous heart. (2)
2 Queen Margaret states (ante, p. 5) that this tale was told by M. de St.-Vincent, ambassador of Charles V., and seems to imply that the incident recorded in it was one of recent occurrence. The same story may be found, however, in most of the collections of early fabliaux. See OEuvres de Rutebeuf, vol. i. p. 260 (Frere Denise), Legrand d'Aussy's Fabliaux, vol. iv. p. 383, and the Recueil complet des Fabliaux, Paris, 1878, vol. iii. p. 253. There is also some similarity between this tale and No. LX. of the Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles. Estienne quotes it in his Apologie pour Herodote, L'Estoile in his Journal du regne de Henri III. (anno 1577), Malespini uses it in his Ducento Novelle (No. 75), and it suggested to Lafontaine his Cordeliers de Catalogne.—L. and M.
"I am very sorry, ladies, that truth does not provide us with stories as much to the credit of the Grey Friars as it does to the contrary. It would be a great pleasure to me, by reason of the love that I bear their Order, if I knew of one in which I could really praise them; but we have vowed so solemnly to speak the truth that, after hearing it from such as are well worthy of belief, I cannot but make it known to you. Nevertheless, I promise you that, whenever the monks shall accomplish a memorable and glorious deed, I will be at greater pains to exalt it than I have been in relating the present truthful history."
"In good faith, Geburon," said Oisille, "that was a love which might well have been called cruelty."
"I am astonished," said Simontault, "that he was patient enough not to take her by force when he saw her in her shift, and in a place where he might have mastered her."
"He was not an epicure, but a glutton," said Saffredent. "He wanted to have his fill of her every day, and so was not minded to amuse himself with a mere taste."
"That was not the reason," said Parlamente. "Understand that a lustful man is always timorous, and the fear that he had of being surprised and robbed of his prey led him, wolf-like, to carry off his lamb that he might devour it at his ease."
"For all that," said Dagoucin, "I cannot believe that he loved her, or that the virtuous god of love could dwell in so base a heart."
"Be that as it may," said Oisille, "he was well punished, and I pray God that like attempts may meet with the same chastisement. But to whom will you give your vote?"
"To you, madam," replied Geburon; "you will, I know, not fail to tell us a good story."
"Since it is my turn," said Oisille, "I will relate to you one that is indeed excellent, seeing that the adventure befel in my own day, and before the eyes of him who told it to me. You are, I am sure, aware that death ends all our woes, and this being so, it may be termed our happiness and tranquil rest. It is, therefore, a misfortune if a man desires death and cannot obtain it, and so the most grievous punishment that can be given to a wrongdoer is not death, but a continual torment, great enough to render death desirable, but withal too slight to bring it nearer. And this was how a husband used his wife, as you shall hear."
[Bernage observing the German Lady's Strange Penance]
[Illustration: 017.jpg Page Image
Bernage, learning in what patience and humility a German lady submitted to the strange penance laid upon her for her unchastity by her husband, so persuaded the latter that he forgot the past, showed pity to his wife, and, taking her back again, afterwards had by her some very handsome children.
King Charles, eighth of the name, sent into Germany a gentleman called Bernage, Lord of Sivray, near Amboise, (1) who to make good speed spared not to travel both by day and night. In this wise he came very late one evening to a gentleman's castle, where he asked for lodging, a request which was not granted him without great difficulty.
1 Bernage, Bernaige, or Vernaiges, as the name is diversely written in the MSS. of the Heptameron, was in 1495 equerry to Charles VIII., a post which brought him an annual salary of 300 livres.—See Godefroy's Histoire de Charles VIII., p. 705. Civray, near Chenonceaux, on the Cher, was a fief of the barony of Amboise. In 1483 we find a certain John Goussart doing homage for it to the crown.—Archives Nationales, Section Domaniale, cote 3801.—L.
However, when the gentleman came to know that he was servant to so great a King, he went to him and begged him not to take the churlishness of his servants in bad part, since he was obliged to keep his house thus closed on account of certain of his wife's kinsfolk who sought to do him hurt. Bernage then told him the nature of his mission, wherein the gentleman offered to serve the interests of the King his master, so far as in him lay; and he forthwith led Bernage into the house, where he lodged and entertained him honourably.
It was the hour for supper, and the gentleman led him into a handsome room, hung with beautiful tapestry, where, as soon as the meats were served, he saw come from behind the hangings the most beautiful woman it were possible to behold; though her head was shorn and she was dressed in black garments of the German fashion.
After the gentleman had washed his hands with Bernage, water was borne to the lady, who also washed hers and then sat down at the end of the table without speaking to the gentleman, or he to her. The Lord de Bernage looked very closely at her, and thought her one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen, except that her face was very pale, and its expression very sad.
After eating a little, she asked for drink, which was brought to her by a servant in a most marvellous vessel, for it was a death's head, the eyeholes of which were closed with silver; and from this she drank two or three times. When she had supped, the lady washed her hands, made a reverence to the lord of the house, and retired again behind the tapestry without speaking to any one. Bernage was exceedingly amazed at this strange sight, and became very melancholy and thoughtful.
The gentleman, who perceived this, then said to him—
"I perceive that you are astonished at what you have seen at this table; but for the sake of the excellence that I find in you I will explain the matter, so that you may not think I could show such cruelty without reasons of great weight. The lady whom you saw is my wife; I loved her more than ever man loved woman, insomuch that in order to marry her I forgot all fear, and brought her hither in defiance of her relations. On her part, she showed me so many tokens of love that I would have risked ten thousand lives in bringing her hither, to her delight and mine. And here we lived for a while in such peace and gladness that I deemed myself the happiest gentleman in Christendom.
"But it came to pass, upon my undertaking a journey which my honour compelled me to make, she forgot her honour, conscience and love for me to such a degree as to fall in love with a young gentleman whom I had brought up in this house, and this I thought I could perceive when I returned home again. Nevertheless, the love I bore her was so great that I was not able to mistrust her, until at last experience opened my eyes and made me see what I dreaded more than death, whereupon my love for her was turned to frenzy and despair in such wise that I watched her closely, and one day, while feigning to walk abroad, I hid myself in the room in which she now dwells.
"Thither she withdrew soon after my departure, and sent for the young gentleman, whom I saw come in with such familiarity as should have been mine alone. But when I saw him about to get upon the bed beside her, I sprang out, seized him in her very arms, and slew him. And as my wife's crime seemed to me so great that death would not suffice to punish it, I laid upon her a penalty which she must hold, I think, to be more bitter than death; and this penalty was to shut her up in the room to which she was wont to retire to take her greatest pleasures in the company of him for whom she had more love than she had for me; and there I further placed in a cupboard all her lover's bones, hanging there even as precious things are hung up in a cabinet.
"That she may not lose the memory of this villain I cause her to be served with his skull, (2) in place of a cup, when she is eating and drinking at table, and this always in my presence, so that she may behold, alive, him whom her guilt has made her mortal enemy, and dead, through love of her, him whose love she did prefer to mine. And in this wise, at dinner and at supper, she sees the two things that must be most displeasing to her, to wit, her living enemy, and her dead lover; and all this through her own great sinfulness.
2 It will be remembered that the Lombard King Alboin forced his wife Rosamond to drink his health out of a goblet which had been made from the skull of her father Cunimond, sovereign of the Gepidae. To revenge herself for this affront, Rosamond caused her husband to be murdered one night during his sleep in his palace at Pavia.—Ed.
"In other matters I treat her as I do myself, save that she goes shorn; for an array of hair beseems not the adulterous, nor a veil the unchaste.
"For this reason is her hair cut, showing that she has lost the honour of virginity and purity. Should it please you to take the trouble to see her, I will lead you to her."
To this Bernage willingly consented, and going-downstairs they found her in a very handsome apartment, seated all alone in front of the fire. The gentleman drew aside a curtain that hung in front of a large cupboard, wherein could be seen hanging a dead man's bones. Bernage greatly longed to speak to the lady, but durst not do so for fear of the husband. The gentleman, perceiving this, thereupon said to him—
"If it be your pleasure to say anything to her, you will see what manner of grace and speech is hers."
Then said Bernage to her—"Lady, your patience is as great as your torment. I hold you to be the most unhappy woman alive."
With tears in her eyes, and with the humblest grace imaginable, the lady answered—
"Sir, I acknowledge my offence to have been so great that all the woes that the lord of this house (for I am not worthy to call him husband) may be pleased to lay upon me are nothing in comparison with the grief I feel at having offended him."
So saying, she began to weep bitterly. The gentleman took Bernage by the arm and led him away.
On the following morning Bernage took his leave, in order to proceed on the mission that the King had given him. However, in bidding the gentleman farewell, he could not refrain from saying to him—
"Sir, the love I bear you, and the honour and friendship that you have shown me in your house, constrain me to tell you that, having regard to the deep penitence of your unhappy wife, you should, in my opinion, take compassion upon her. You are, moreover, young and have no children, and it would be a great pity that so fair a lineage should come to an end, and that those who, perhaps, have no love for you, should become your heirs."
The gentleman, who had resolved that he would never more speak to his wife, pondered a long time on the discourse held to him by the Lord de Bernage, and at last recognised that he had spoken truly, and promised him that, if his wife should continue in her present humility, he would at some time have pity upon her.
Accordingly Bernage departed on his mission, and when he had returned to his master, the King, he told him the whole story, which the Prince, upon inquiry, found to be true. And as Bernage among other things had made mention of the lady's beauty, the King sent his painter, who was called John of Paris, (3) that he might make and bring him a living portrait of her, which, with her husband's consent, he did. And when she had long done penance, the gentleman, in his desire to have offspring, and in the pity that he felt for his wife who had submitted to this penance with so much humility, took her back again and afterwards had by her many handsome children. (4)
3 John Perreal, called "Jehan de Paris," was one of the most famous painters of the reigns of Charles VIII. and Louis XII. At the end of 1496 we find him resident at Lyons, and there enjoying considerable celebrity. From October 1498 to November 1499 he figures in the roll of officers of the royal household, as valet of the wardrobe, with a salary of 240 livres. In the royal stable accounts for 1508 he appears as receiving ten livres to defray the expense of keeping a horse during June and July that year. He is known to have painted the portrait and planned the obsequies of Philibert of Savoy in 1509; to have been sent to England in 1514 to paint a portrait of the Princess Mary, sister of Henry VIII., who married Louis XII.; and in 1515 to have had charge of all the decorative work connected with Louis XII.'s obsequies. In his Legende des Venitiens (1509) John Le Maire de Belges praises Perreal's skill both in landscape and portrait painting, and describes him as a most painstaking and hardworking artist. He had previously referred to him in his Temple d'Honneur et de Vertu (1504) as being already at that period painter to the King. In the roll of the officers of Francis I.'s household (1522) Perreal's name takes precedence of that of the better known Jehannet Clouet, but it does not appear in that of 1529, about which time he would appear to have died. Shortly before that date he had designed some curious initial letters for the famous Parisian printer and bookseller, Tory. The Claud Perreal, "Lyonnese," whom Clement Marot commemorates in his 36th Rondeau would appear to have been a relative, possibly the son, of "Jehan de Paris."—See Leon de La Borde's Renaissance des Arts, vol. i., Pericaud aine's Notice sur Jean de Paris, Lyons, 1858, and more particularly E. M. Bancel's Jehan Perreal dit Jean de Paris, peintre et valet-de-chambre des rois Charles VIII. Louis XII., &c. Paris, Launette, 1884.—L. and M.
4 Brantome refers to this tale, as an example of marital cruelty, in his Vies des Dames Galantes, Lalanne's edition, vol. ix. p. 38.—L.
"If, ladies, all those whom a like adventure has befallen, were to drink out of similar vessels, I greatly fear that many a gilt cup would be turned into a death's head. May God keep us from such a fortune, for if His goodness do not restrain us, there is none among us but might do even worse; but if we trust in Him He will protect those who confess that they are not able to protect themselves. Those who confide in their own strength are in great danger of being tempted so far as to be constrained to acknowledge their frailty. Many have stumbled through pride in this way, while those who were reputed less discreet have been saved with honour. The old proverb says truly, 'Whatsoever God keeps is well kept.'"
"The punishment," said Parlamente, "was in my opinion a most reasonable one, for, just as the offence was more than death, so ought the punishment to have been."
"I am not of your opinion," said Ennasuite. "I would rather see the bones of all my lovers hanging up in my cabinet than die on their account. There is no misdeed that cannot be repaired during life, but after death there is no reparation possible."
"How can shame be repaired?" said Longarine. "You know that, whatever a woman may do after a misdeed of that kind, she cannot repair her honour."
"I pray you," said Ennasuite, "tell me whether the Magdalen has not now more honour among men than her sister who continued a virgin?" (5)
5 Martha, sister of Lazarus and Mary Magdalen.—M.
"I acknowledge," said Longarine, "that we praise her for the great love she bore to Jesus Christ and for her deep repentance; yet the name of sinner clings to her."
"I do not care what name men may give me," said Ennasuite, "if only God forgive me, and my husband do the same. There is nothing for which I should be willing to die."
"If the lady loved her husband as she ought," said Dagoucin, "I am amazed that she did not die of sorrow on looking at the bones of the man whom her guilt had slain."
"Why, Dagoucin," returned Simontault, "have you still to learn that women know neither love nor even grief?"
"Yes, I have still to learn it," said Dagoucin, "for I have never made trial of their love, through fear of finding it less than I desired."
"Then you live on faith and hope," said Nomerfide, "as the plover does on air. (6) You are easily fed."
6 This popular error was still so prevalent in France in the last century, that Buffon, in his Natural History, took the trouble to refute it at length.—B. J.
"I am content," he replied, "with the love that I feel within myself, and with the hope that there is the like in the hearts of the ladies. If I knew that my hopes were true, I should have such gladness that I could not endure it and live."
"Keep clear of the plague," said Geburon; "as for the other sickness you mention, I will warrant you against it. But I should like to know to whom the Lady Oisille will give her vote?"
"I give it," she said, "to Simontault, who I know will be sparing of none."
"That," he replied, "is as much as to say that I am somewhat given to slander; however, I will show you that reputed slanderers have spoken the truth. I am sure, ladies, that you are not so foolish as to believe all the tales that you are told, no matter what show of sanctity they may possess, if the proof of them be not clear beyond doubt. Many an abuse lurks even under the guise of a miracle, and for this reason I am minded to tell you the story of a miracle that will prove no less to the honour of a pious Prince than to the shame of a wicked minister of the Church."
[The Execution of the Wicked Priest and his Sister]
The hypocrisy of a priest who, under the cloak of sanctity, had got his sister with child, was discovered by the wisdom of the Count of Angouleme, by whose command they both were visited with punishment by law. (1)
Count Charles of Angouleme, father of King Francis, a pious Prince and one that feared God, happened to be at Coignac when he was told that in a village called Cherues, (2) not far away, there dwelt a maiden who lived a marvellously austere life, and who, for all that, was now great with child. She made no secret of the matter, but assured every one that she had never known a man and that she could not tell how such a fortune should have befallen her, unless indeed it were the work of the Holy Ghost. This explanation the people readily received, and knowing as they all did how virtuous she had been from her youth up, and how she had never given a single token of worldliness, they believed and deemed her a second Virgin Mary. She used to fast not only on the days commanded by the Church, but, from natural devotion, several times a week also; and she never stirred from the church whenever there was a service going on there. For these reasons she was held in such great repute among all the vulgar that every one came to see her as though she were a miracle, and those who succeeded in touching her dress deemed themselves fortunate indeed.
1 This tale is historical, the incidents must have occurred between 1480 and 1490.—L.
2 Cherves-de-Cognac, now a large village of nearly 3000 inhabitants, within four miles of Cognac. The church, where some of the incidents recorded in the tale occurred, is still in existence. It dates from the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and is surmounted by three cupolas.—Eu.
The priest of the parish was her brother; he was a man advanced in years and of very austere life, and was loved and reverenced by his parishioners, who held him for a holy man. He treated his sister with such harshness as to keep her shut up in a house, to the great discontent of all the people; and so greatly was the matter noised abroad that, as I have told you, the story reached the ear of the Count. He perceived that the people were being deceived, and, wishing to set them right, sent a Master of Requests and an Almoner, two very worthy men, to learn the truth. These repaired to the spot and inquired into the matter with all possible diligence, addressing themselves for information to the priest, who, being weary of the whole affair, begged them to be present at an examination which he hoped to hold on the morrow.
Early the next morning the said priest chanted mass, his sister, who was now far gone with child, being present on her knees; and when mass was over, the priest took the "Corpus Domini," and in presence of the whole congregation said to his sister—
"Unhappy woman that you are, here is He who suffered death and agony for you, and in His presence I ask you whether, as you have ever affirmed to me, you are indeed a virgin?"
She boldly replied that she was.
"How is it possible that you can be with child and yet be still a virgin?"
"I can give no reason," she replied, "except that the grace of the Holy Ghost has wrought within me according to His good pleasure; nevertheless, I cannot deny the grace that God has shown me in preserving me a virgin without ever a thought of marriage."
Forthwith her brother said to her—
"I offer you the precious Body of Jesus Christ, which you will take to your damnation if it be not as you say; and the gentlemen here present on behalf of my lord the Count shall be witnesses thereof."
The maiden, who was nearly thirty years of age, (3) then swore as follows:—
"I take this Body of Our Lord, here present, to my damnation in the presence of you, gentlemen, and of you, my brother, if ever man has touched me any more than yourself."
And with these words she received the Body of Our Lord.
Having witnessed this, the Master of Requests and the Almoner went away quite confounded, for they thought that no lie was possible with such an oath. And they reported the matter to the Count, and tried to persuade him even as they were themselves persuaded. But he was a man of wisdom, (4) and, after pondering a long time, bade them again repeat the terms of the oath. And after weighing them well, he said—
"She has told you the truth and yet she has deceived you. She said that no man had ever touched her any more than her brother had done, and I feel sure that her brother has begotten this child and now seeks to hide his wickedness by a monstrous deception. We, however, who believe that Jesus Christ has come, can look for none other. Go, therefore, and put the priest in prison; I am sure that he will confess the truth."
3 In the MS. followed for this edition, as well as in Boaistuau's-version of the Heptameron, the age is given as "thirteen." We borrow the word "thirty" from MS. 1518 (Bethune).—L.
4 Charles of Angouleme, father of King Francis and Queen Margaret, had received for the times a most excellent education, thanks to the solicitude of his father, Count John the Good, who further took upon himself to "instruct him in morality, showing him by a good example how to live virtuously and honestly, and teaching him to pray God and obey His commandments."—Vie de tres illustre et vertueux Prince Jean, Comte d'Angouleme, by Jean du Port, Angouleme, 1589, p. 66. That Count Charles profited by this teaching is shown in the above tale.—ED.
This was done according to his command, though not without serious remonstrances concerning the putting of this virtuous man to open shame.
Albeit, as soon as the priest had been taken, he made confession of his wickedness, and told how he had counselled his sister to speak as she had done in order to conceal the life they had led together, not only because the excuse was one easy to be made, but also because such a false statement would enable them to continue living honoured by all. And when they set before him his great wickedness in taking the Body of Our Lord for her to swear upon, he made answer that he had not been so daring, but had used a wafer that was unconsecrated and unblessed.
Report was made of the matter to the Count of Angouleme, who commanded that the law should take its course. They waited until the sister had been delivered, and then, after she had been brought to bed of a fine male child, they burned brother and sister together. And all the people marvelled exceedingly at finding beneath the cloak of holiness so horrible a monster, and beneath a pious and praiseworthy life indulgence in so hateful a crime.
"By this you see, ladies, how the faith of the good Count was not lessened by outward signs and miracles. He well knew that we have but one Saviour, who, when He said 'Consummatum est,' (5) showed that no room was left for any successor to work our salvation."
5 "When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said, It is finished."—St. John xix. 30.—M.
"It was indeed," said Oisille, "great daring and extreme hypocrisy to throw the cloak of Godliness and true Christianity over so enormous a sin."
"I have heard," said Hircan, "that such as under pretext of a commission from the King do cruel and tyrannous deeds, receive a double punishment for having screened their own injustice behind the justice of the Crown. In the same way, we see that although hypocrites prosper for a time beneath the cloak of God and holiness, yet, when the Lord God lifts His cloak, they find themselves exposed and bare, and then their foul and abominable nakedness is deemed all the more hideous for having had so honourable a covering."
"Nothing can be pleasanter," said Nomerfide, "than to speak forth frankly the thoughts that are in the heart."
"Yes, for profit's sake," (6) replied Longarine. "I have no doubt that you give your opinion according to your temper."
6 This sentence is rather obscure in the MSS., and we have adopted the reading suggested by M. Frank. M. Lacroix, however, was of opinion that the sentence should run, "Yes, for mirth's sake."—M.
"I will tell you what it is," said Nomerfide. "I find that fools, when they are not put to death, live longer than wise folk, and the only reason that I know for this, is that they do not conceal their passions. If they be angry, they strike; if they be merry, they laugh: whereas those that aim at wisdom conceal their imperfections with such exceeding care that they end by thoroughly corrupting their hearts."
"I think you are right," said Geburon, "and that hypocrisy, whether towards God, man or Nature, is the cause of all our ills."
"It would be a glorious thing," said Parlamente, "if our hearts were so filled with faith in Him, who is all virtue and all joy, that we could freely show them to every one."
"That will come to pass," said Hircan, "when all the flesh has left our bones."
"Yet," said Oisille, "the Spirit of God, which is stronger than Death, is able to mortify our hearts without changing or destroying the body."
"Madam," returned Saffredent, "you speak of a gift of God that is not as yet common among mankind."
"It is common," said Oisille, "among those that have faith, but as this is a matter not to be understood by such as are fleshly minded, let us see to whom Simontault will give his vote."
"I will give it," said Simontault, "to Nomerfide, for, since her heart is merry, her words cannot be sad."
"Truly," said Nomerfide, "since you desire to laugh, I will give you reason to do so. That you may learn how hurtful are ignorance and fear, and how the lack of comprehension is often the cause of much woe, I will tell you what happened to two Grey Friars, who, through failing to understand the words of a butcher, thought that they were about to die."
[The Grey Friar imploring the Butcher to Spare his Life]
Two Grey Friars, while listening to secrets that did not concern them, misunderstood the language of a butcher and endangered their lives. (1)
Between Nyort and Fors there is a village called Grip, (2) which belongs to the Lord of Fors.
1 This story is evidently founded upon fact; the incidents must have occurred prior to 1530.—L.
2 Gript, a little village on the Courance, eight miles south of Niort (Deux-Sevres), produces some of the best white wine in this part of France. Its church of St. Aubin stood partly in the diocese of Poitiers, partly in that of Saintes, the altar being in the former, and the door in the latter one. This is the only known instance of the kind in France. Fors, a few miles distant from Gript, was a fief which Catherine, daughter of Artus de Vivonne, brought in marriage to James Poussart, knight, who witnessed the Queen of Navarre's marriage contract, signing himself, "Seigneur de Fors, Bailly du Berry." He is often mentioned in the Queen's letters.—See Genin's Lettres de Marguerite, &c, pp. 243-244, 258-259, 332.—L. and M.
It happened one day that two Grey Friars, on their way from Nyort, arrived very late at this place, Grip, and lodged in the house of a butcher. Now, as there was nothing between their host's room and their own but a badly joined partition of wood, they had a mind to listen to what the husband might say to his wife when he was in bed with her, and accordingly they set their ears close to the head of their host's bed. He, having no thought of his lodgers, spoke privately with his wife concerning their household, and said to her—
"I must rise betimes in the morning, sweetheart, and see after our Grey Friars. One of them is very fat, and must be killed; we will salt him forthwith and make a good profit off him."
And although by "Grey Friars" he meant his pigs, the two poor brethren, on hearing this plot, felt sure that they themselves were spoken of, (3) and so waited with great fear and trembling for the dawn.
3 The butcher doubtless called his pigs "Grey Friars" in allusion to the latter's gluttony and uncleanly habits. Pigs are even nowadays termed moines (monks) by the peasantry in some parts of France. Moreover, the French often render our expression "fat as a pig" by "fat as a monk."—Ed.
One of them was very fat and the other rather lean. The fat one wished to confess himself to his companion, saying that a butcher who had lost the love and fear of God would think no more of slaughtering him than if he were an ox or any other beast; and adding that as they were shut up in their room and could not leave it without passing through that of their host, they must needs look upon themselves as dead men, and commend their souls to God. But the younger Friar, who was not so overcome with fear as his comrade, made answer that, as the door was closed against them, they must e'en try to get through the window, for, whatever befel them, they could meet with nothing worse than death; to which the fat Friar agreed.
The young one then opened the window, and, finding that it was not very high above the ground, leaped lightly down and fled as fast and as far as he could, without waiting for his companion. The latter attempted the same hazardous jump, but in place of leaping, fell so heavily by reason of his weight, that one of his legs was sorely hurt, and he could not rise from the ground.
Finding himself forsaken by his companion and being unable to follow him, he looked around him to see where he might hide, and could espy nothing save a pigsty, to which he dragged himself as well as he could. And as he opened the door to hide himself within, out rushed two huge pigs, whose place the unhappy Friar took, closing the little door upon himself, and hoping that, when he heard the sound of passers-by, he would be able to call out and obtain assistance.
As soon as the morning was come, however, the butcher got ready his big knives, and bade his wife bear him company whilst he went to slaughter his fat pig. And when he reached the sty in which the Grey Friar lay concealed, he opened the little door and began to call at the top of his voice—
"Come out, Master Grey Friar, come out! I intend to have some of your chitterlings to-day."
The poor Friar, who was not able to stand upon his leg, crawled on all-fours out of the sty, crying for mercy as loud as he could. But if the hapless Friar was in great terror, the butcher and his wife were in no less; for they thought that St. Francis was wrathful with them for calling a beast a Grey Friar, and therefore threw themselves upon their knees asking pardon of St. Francis and his Order. Thus, the Friar was crying to the butcher for mercy on the one hand, and the butcher to the Friar on the other, in such sort that a quarter of an hour went by before they felt safe from each other.
Perceiving at last that the butcher intended him no hurt, the good father told him the reason why he had hidden himself in the sty. Then was their fear turned to laughter, except, indeed, that the poor Friar's leg was too painful to suffer him to be merry. However, the butcher brought him into the house, where he caused the hurt to be carefully dressed.
His comrade, who had deserted him in his need, ran all night long, and in the morning came to the house of the Lord of Fors, where he lodged a complaint against the butcher, whom he suspected of killing his companion, seeing that the latter had not followed him. The Lord of Fors forthwith sent to Grip to learn the truth, and this, when known, was by no means the cause of tears. And he failed not to tell the story to his mistress the Duchess of Angouleme, mother of King Francis, first of that name. (4)
4 Many modern stories and anecdotes have been based on this amusing tale.—Ed.
"You see, ladies, how bad a thing it is to listen to secrets that do not concern us, and to misunderstand what other people say."
"Did I not know," said Simontault, "that Nomer-fide would give us no cause to weep, but rather to laugh? And I think that we have all done so very heartily."
"How comes it," said Oisille, "that we are more ready to be amused by a piece of folly than by something wisely done?"
"Because," said Hircan, "the folly is more agreeable to us, for it is more akin to our own nature, which of itself is never wise. And like is fond of like, the fool of folly, and the wise man of discretion. But I am sure," he continued, "that no one, whether foolish or wise, could help laughing at this story."
"There are some," said Geburon, "whose hearts are so bestowed on the love of wisdom that, whatever they may hear, they cannot be made to laugh. They have a gladness of heart and a moderate content such as nought can move."
"Who are they?" asked Hircan.
"The philosophers of olden days," said Geburon. "They were scarcely sensible of either sadness or joy, or at least they gave no token of either, so great a virtue did they deem the conquest of themselves and their passions. I too think, as they did, that it is well to subdue a wicked passion, but a victory over a natural passion, and one that tends to no evil, appears useless in my eyes."
"And yet," added Geburon, "the ancients held it for a great virtue."
"It is not maintained," said Saffredent, "that they all were wise. They had more of the appearance of sense and virtue than of the reality."
"Nevertheless, you will find that they rebuke everything bad," said Geburon. "Diogenes himself, even, trod on the bed of Plato, who was too fond (5) of rare and precious things for his taste, and this in order to show that he despised Plato's vanity and greed, and would put them under foot. 'I trample with contempt,' said he, 'upon the pride of Plato.'"
"But you have not told all," said Saffredent, "for Plato retorted that he did so from pride of another kind."
"In truth," said Parlamente, "it is impossible to accomplish the conquest of ourselves without extraordinary pride. And this is the vice that we should fear most of all, for it springs from the death and destruction of all the virtues."
"Did I not read to you this morning," said Oisille, "that those who thought themselves wiser than other men, since by the sole light of reason they had come to recognise a God, creator of all things, were made more ignorant and irrational not only than other men, but than the very brutes, and this because they did not ascribe the glory to Him to whom it was due, but thought that they had gained the knowledge they possessed by their own endeavours? For having erred in their minds by ascribing to themselves that which pertains to God alone, they manifested their errors by disorder of body, forgetting and perverting their natural sex, as St. Paul to-day doth tell us in the Epistle that he wrote to the Romans." (6)
5 The French word here is curieux, which in Margaret's time implied one fond of rare and precious things.—B. J
6 Romans i. 26, 27.—Ed.
"There is none among us," said Parlamente, "but will confess, on reading that Epistle, that outward sin is but the fruit of infelicity dwelling within, which, the more it is hidden by virtue and marvels, is the more difficult to pluck out."
"We men," said Hircan, "are nearer to salvation than you are, for we do not conceal our fruits, and so the root is readily known; whereas you, who dare not display the fruit, and who do so many seemingly fair deeds, are hardly aware of the root of pride that is growing beneath so brave a surface."
"I acknowledge," said Longarine, "that if the Word of God does not show us by faith the leprosy of unbelief that lurks in the heart, yet God is very merciful to us when He allows us to fall into some visible wrongdoing whereby the hidden plague may be made manifest. Happy are they whom faith has so humbled that they have no need to test their sinful nature by outward acts."
"But just look where we are now," said Simontault. "We started from a foolish tale, and we are now fallen into philosophy and theology. Let us leave these disputes to such as are more fitted for such speculation, and ask Nomerfide to whom she will give her vote."
"I give it," she said, "to Hircan, but I commend to him the honour of the ladies."
"You could not have commended it in a better place," said Hircan, "for the story that I have ready is just such a one as will please you. It will, nevertheless, teach you to acknowledge that the nature of men and women is of itself prone to vice if it be not preserved by Him to whom the honour of every victory is due. And to abate the pride that you display when a story is told to your honour, I will tell you one of a different kind that is strictly true."
[The Lady embracing the Supposed Friar]
The affection of a lady of Pampeluna—who, thinking that there was no danger in spiritual love, had striven to insinuate herself into the good graces of a Grey Friar—was subdued by her husband's prudence in such wise that, without telling her that he knew aught of the matter, he brought her mortally to hate that which she had most dearly loved, and wholly to devote herself to him.
In the town of Pampeluna there lived a lady who was accounted beautiful and virtuous, as well as the chastest and most pious in the land. She loved her husband, and was so obedient to him that he had entire trust in her. This lady was constantly present at Divine service and at sermons, and she used to persuade her husband and children to be hearers with her. She had reached the age of thirty years, at which women are wont to claim discretion rather than beauty, when on the first day of Lent she went to the church to receive the emblem of death. (1) Here she found that the sermon was beginning, the preacher being a Grey Friar, a man esteemed holy by all the people on account of his great austerity and goodness of life, which made him thin and pale, yet not to such a point as to prevent him from being one of the handsomest men imaginable.
The lady listened piously to his sermon, her eyes being fixed on this reverend person, and her ears and mind ready to hearken to what he said. And so it happened that the sweetness of his words passed through the lady's ears even to her heart, while the comeliness and grace of his countenance passed through her eyes and so smote her soul that she was as one entranced. When the sermon was over, she looked carefully to see where the Friar would celebrate mass, (2) and there she presented herself to take the ashes from his hand. The latter was as fair and white as any lady's, and this pious lady paid more attention to it than to the ashes which it gave her.
1 To receive the ashes on Ash Wednesday.—M.
2 That is, in which of the chapels. A friar would not officiate at the high altar.—Ed.
Feeling persuaded that a spiritual love such as this, with any pleasure that she might derive from it, could not wound her conscience, she failed not to go and hear the sermon every day and to take her husband with her; and they both gave such great praise to the preacher, that they spoke of nought beside at table or elsewhere. At last this supposed spiritual fire became so carnal that the poor lady's heart in which it glowed began to consume her whole body; and just as she had been slow to feel the flame, so did she now swiftly kindle, and feel all the delights of passion, before she knew that she even was in love. Being thus surprised by her enemy, Love, she offered no further resistance to his commands. But the worst was that the physician who might have cured her ills was ignorant of her distemper; for which reason, banishing the dread she should have had of making known her foolishness to a man of wisdom, and her vice and wickedness to a man of virtue and honour, she proceeded to write to him of the love she bore him, doing this, to begin with, as modestly as she could. And she gave her letter to a little page, telling him what he had to do, and saying that he was to be careful above all things that her husband should not see him going to the monastery of the Grey Friars.
The page, desiring to take the shortest way, passed through a street in which his master was sitting in a shop. Seeing him pass, the gentleman came out to observe whither he was going, and when the page perceived him, he was quite confused, and hid himself in a house. Noticing this, his master followed him, took him by the arm and asked him whither he was bound. Finding also that he had a terrified look and made but empty excuses, he threatened to beat him soundly if he did not confess the truth.
"Alas, sir," said the poor page, "if I tell you, my lady will kill me."
The gentleman, suspecting that his wife was making some bargain without his knowledge, promised the page that he should come by no hurt, and should be well rewarded, if he told the truth; whereas, if he lied, he should be thrown into prison for life. Thereupon the little page, eager to have the good and to avoid the evil, told him the whole story, and showed him the letter that his mistress had written to the preacher. At this her husband was the more astonished and grieved, as he had all his life long been persuaded of the faithfulness of his wife, in whom he had never discovered a fault.
Nevertheless, being a prudent man, he concealed his anger, and so that he might fully learn his wife's intention, he sent a reply as though from the preacher, thanking her for her goodwill, and declaring that his was as great towards her. The page, having sworn to his master that he would conduct the matter with discretion, (3) brought the counterfeit letter to his mistress, who was so greatly rejoiced by it that her husband could see that her countenance was changed; for, instead of growing lean from the fasts of Lent, she now appeared fairer and fresher than before they began.
3 This is borrowed from MS. 1520. In our MS. the passage runs, "The page having shown his master how to conduct this affair," &c.—L.
It was now mid-Lent, but no thought of the Passion or Holy Week prevented the lady from writing her frenzied fancies to the preacher according to her wont; and when he turned his eyes in her direction, or spoke of the love of God, she thought that all was done or said for love of her; and so far as her eyes could utter her thoughts, she did not spare them.
The husband never failed to return her similar answers, but after Easter he wrote to her in the preacher's name, begging her to let him know how he could secretly see her. She, all impatient for the meeting, advised her husband to go and visit some estates of theirs in the country, and this he agreed to do, hiding himself, however, in the house of a friend. Then the lady failed not to write to the preacher that it was time he should come and see her, since her husband was in the country.
The gentleman, wishing thoroughly to try his wife's heart, then went to the preacher, and begged him for the love of God to lend him his robe. The preacher, who was a man of worth, replied that the rules of his Order forbade it, and that he would never lend his robe for a masquerade. (4) The gentleman assured him, however, that he would make no evil use of it, and that he wanted it for a matter necessary to his happiness and his salvation. Thereupon the Friar, who knew the other to be a worthy and pious man, lent it to him; and with this robe, which covered his face so that his eyes could not be seen, the gentleman put on a false beard and a false nose, each similar to the preacher's. He also made himself of the same height by means of cork. (5)
4 This may be compared with the episode of Tappe-coue or Tickletoby in Pantagruel:—"Villon, to dress an old clownish father grey-beard, who was to represent God the Father [at the performance of a mystery], begged of Friar Stephen Tickletoby, sacristan to the Franciscan Friars of the place, to lend him a cope and a stole. Tickletoby refused him, alleging that by their provincial statutes it was rigorously forbidden to give or lend anything to players. Villon replied that the statute reached no further than farces, drolls, antics, loose and dissolute games.... Tickletoby, however, peremptorily bid him provide himself elsewhere, if he would, and not to hope for anything out of his monastical wardrobe.... Villon gave an account of this to the players as of a most abominable action; adding that God would shortly revenge himself and make an example of Tickletoby."— Urquhart's Works of Rabelais, Pantagruel, (Book IV. xiii.)—M.
5 In Boaistuau's edition the sentence runs, "and by putting some cork in his shoes made himself of the same height as the preacher."—L.
Thus garmented, he repaired in the evening to his wife's apartment, where she was very piously awaiting him. The poor fool did not tarry for him to come to her, but ran to embrace him like a woman bereft of reason. Keeping his face bent down lest he should be recognised, he then began making the sign of the cross, and pretended to flee from her, saying the while nothing but—
"Alas, father," said the lady, "you are indeed right, for there is no stronger temptation than that which proceeds from love. But for this you have promised me a remedy; and I pray you, now that we have time and opportunity, to take pity upon me."
So saying, she strove to embrace him, but he ran all round the room, making great signs of the cross, and still crying—
However, when he found that she was urging him too closely, he took a big stick that he had beneath his cloak and beat her so sorely as to end her temptation, and that without being recognised by her. Then he immediately went and returned the robe to the preacher, assuring him that it had brought him good fortune.
On the morrow, pretending to come from a distance, he returned home and found his wife in bed, when, as though he knew nothing of her sickness, he asked her the cause of it; and she replied that it was a catarrh, and that she could move neither hand nor foot. The husband, who was much inclined to laugh, made as though he were greatly grieved, and as if to cheer her told her that he had bidden the saintly preacher to supper that evening. But she quickly replied—
"God forbid, sweetheart, that you should ever invite such folk. They bring misfortune into every house they visit."
"Why, sweet," said the husband, "how is this? You have always greatly praised this man, and for my own part I believe that if there be a holy man on earth, it is he."
"They are good in church and when preaching," answered the lady, "but in our houses they are very antichrists. I pray you, sweet, let me not see him, for with my present sickness it would be enough to kill me."
"Since you do not wish to see him," returned the husband, "you shall not do so, but I must have him here to supper."
"Do what you will," she replied, "but let me not see him, for I hate such folk as I do the devil."
After giving supper to the good father, the husband said to him—
"Father, I believe you to be so beloved of God, that He will refuse you no request. I therefore entreat you to take pity on my poor wife, who for a week past has been possessed by the evil spirit in such a way, that she tries to bite and scratch every one. She cares for neither cross nor holy water, but I verily believe that if you will lay your hand upon her the devil will come forth, and I therefore earnestly entreat you to do so."
"My son," said the good father, "all things are possible to a believer. Do you, then, firmly believe that God in His goodness never refuses those that in faith seek grace from Him?"
"I do, father," said the gentleman.
"Be also assured, my son," said the friar, "that He can do what He will, and that He is even as powerful as He is good. Let us go, then, strong in faith to withstand this roaring lion, and to pluck from him his prey, whom God has purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son."
Accordingly, the gentleman led this worthy man to where his wife lay on a little bed. She, thinking that it was the Friar who had beaten her, was much astonished to see him there and exceedingly wrathful; however, her husband being present, she cast down her eyes, and remained dumb.
"As long as I am with her," said the husband to the holy man, "the devil scarcely torments her. But sprinkle some holy water upon her as soon as I am gone, and you will soon see how the evil spirit does his work."
The husband left them alone together, and waited at the door to see how they would behave. When the lady saw no one with her but the good father, she began to cry out like a woman bereft of reason, calling him rascal, villain, murderer, betrayer. At this, the good father, thinking that she was surely possessed by an evil spirit, tried to put his hands upon her head, in order to utter his prayers upon it; but she scratched and bit him in such a fashion, that he was obliged to speak at a greater distance, whence, throwing a great deal of holy water upon her, he pronounced many excellent prayers.
When the husband saw that the Friar had done his duty, he came into the room and thanked him for his trouble. At his entrance his wife ceased her cursings and revilings, and meekly kissed the cross in the fear she had of him. But the holy man, having seen her in so great a frenzy, firmly believed that Our Lord had cast out the devil in answer to his prayer, and he went away, praising God for this wonderful miracle.
The husband, seeing that his wife was well punished for her foolish fancy, did not tell her of what he had done. He was content to have subdued her affection by his own prudence, and to have so dealt with her that she now hated mortally what she had formerly loved, and, loathing her folly, devoted herself to her husband and household more completely than she had ever done before.
"In this story, ladies, you see the good sense of a husband and the frailty of a woman of repute. I think that if you look carefully into this mirror you will no longer trust to your own strength, but will learn to have recourse to Him who holds your honour in His hand."
"I am well pleased," said Parlamente, "to find you become a preacher to the ladies, and I should be even more so if you would make these fine sermons to all those with whom you speak."
"Whenever you are willing to listen to me," said Hircan, "I promise you that I will say as much."
"In other words," said Simontault, "when you are not present, he will speak in a different fashion."
"He will do as he pleases," said Parlamente, "but for my content I wish to believe that he always speaks in this way. At all events, the example he has brought forward will be profitable to those who believe that spiritual love is not dangerous. In my opinion it is more so than any other."
"Yet," said Oisille, "it seems to me that to love a worthy, virtuous and God-fearing man is in nowise a matter for scorn, and that one cannot but be the better for it."
"Madam," said Parlamente, "I pray you believe that no one can be more simple or more easily deceived than a woman who has never loved. For in itself love is a passion that seizes upon the heart before one is aware of it, and so pleasing a passion is it that, if it can make use of virtue as a cloak, it will scarcely be recognised before some mischief has come of it."
"What mischief," asked Oisille, "can come of loving a worthy man?"
"Madam," said Parlamente, "there are a good many men that are esteemed worthy, but to be worthy in respect of the ladies, and to be careful for their honour and conscience—not one such man as that could, I think, be found in these days. Those who think otherwise, and put their trust in men, find at last that they have been deceived, and, having begun such intimacy with obedience to God, will often end it with obedience to the devil. I have known many who, under pretext of speaking about God, began an intimacy from which they could not withdraw when at last they wished to do so, being held in subjection by this semblance of virtue. A vicious love perishes of its own nature, and cannot continue in a good heart, but virtuous love has bonds of silk so fine that one is caught in them before they are seen."
"According to you," said Ennasuite, "no woman should ever love a man; but your law is too harsh a one to last."
"I know that," said Parlamente, "but none the less must I desire that every one were as content with her own husband as I am with mine."
Ennasuite, who felt that these words touched her, changed colour and said—
"You ought to believe every one the same at heart as yourself, unless, indeed, you think yourself more perfect than all others."
"Well," said Parlamente, "to avoid dispute, let us see to whom Hircan will give his vote."
"I give it," Hircan replied, "to Ennasuite, in order to make amends to her for what my wife has said."
"Then, since it is my turn," said Ennasuite, "I will spare neither man nor woman, that all may fare alike. I see right well that you are unable to subdue your hearts to acknowledge the virtue and goodness of men, for which reason I am obliged to resume the discourse with a story like to the last."
[The Clerk entreating Forgiveness of the President]
By means of a salad a President of Grenoble avenged himself upon one of his clerks with whom his wife was smitten, and so saved the honour of his house.
In the town of Grenoble there dwelt a President whose name I shall not mention, but he was not a Frenchman. (1) He had a very beautiful wife, and they lived in great tranquillity together.
1 The personage referred to is Jeffroy Charles or Carles, Chief President of the Parliament of Grenoble, and President of the Senate of Turin; his wife's name was Margaret du Mottet; she came of a very old family of Embrun. Some interesting particulars concerning President Charles, supplied by that erudite scholar M. Jules Roman, will be found in the Appendix to the present volume (A).—Ed.
This lady, finding that her husband was now old, fell in love with a young clerk, called Nicholas. When the President went to the court in the morning, Nicholas used to enter his room and take his place. This was observed by a servant of the President's who had served his master well for thirty years, and in his faithfulness he could not refrain from speaking to him of the matter.
The President, being a prudent man, would not lightly believe the story, but said that the servant wished to create contention between himself and his wife. If the matter, said he, were really as the servant declared, he could easily prove it to him, and if proof were not given he would believe that it was a lie contrived in order to destroy the love existing between himself and his wife. The servant promised that he would show him the truth of what he had said, and one morning, as soon as the President was gone to the court and Nicholas had entered the room, he sent one of his fellow-servants to tell his master to come, while he himself remained watching at the door lest Nicholas should come out.
As soon as the President saw the sign that was made to him by one of his servants, he pretended to be ill, left the court and hastened home. Here he found his old servant at the door, and was assured by him that Nicholas was inside and had only just gone in.
"Do not stir from this door," said his lord to him, "for, as you are aware, there is no other means of going into or out of the room, except indeed by way of a little closet of which I myself alone carry the key."
The President entered the room and found his wife and Nicholas in bed together. The clerk, clad in nothing but his shirt, threw himself at his feet to entreat forgiveness, while his wife began to weep.
Then said the President—
"Though you have done a deed the enormity of which you may yourself judge, I am yet unwilling that my house should be dishonoured on your account, and the daughters I have had by you made to suffer. Wherefore," he continued, "cease to weep, I command you, and hearken to what I am going to do; and do you, Nicholas, hide yourself in my closet and make not a single sound."
When this was done, he opened the door, and calling his old servant, said to him—
"Did you not assure me that you would show me Nicholas in company with my wife? Trusting in your word, I came hither in danger of killing my poor wife, and I have found nothing of what you told me. I have searched the whole room, as I will show you."
So saying, he caused his servant to look under the beds and in every quarter. The servant, finding nothing, was greatly astonished, and said to his master—
"The devil must have made away with him, for I saw him go in, and he did not come out through the door. But I can see that he is not here."
Then said his master to him—
"You are a wicked servant to try to create contention in this way between my wife and me. I dismiss you, and will pay you what I owe you for your services to me, and more besides; but be speedily gone, and take care that you are not in the town twenty-four hours from now."
The President paid him for five or six years in advance, and, knowing him to be a faithful servant, resolved to reward him still further.
When the servant was gone weeping away, the President made Nicholas come forth from the closet, and after telling them both what he thought of their wickedness, he commanded them to give no hint of the matter to anyone. He also charged his wife to dress more bravely than was her wont, and to attend all assemblies, dances and feasts; and he told Nicholas to make more merry than before, but, as soon as he whispered to him, "Begone," to see that he was out of the town before three hours were over. Having arranged matters in this way, he returned to the court, none being any the wiser. And for a fortnight, contrary to his wont, he entertained his friends and neighbours, and after the banquet had the tabourers, so that the ladies might dance.
One day, seeing that his wife was not dancing, he commanded Nicholas to lead her out. The clerk, thinking that the past had been forgotten, did so gladly, but when the dance was over, the President, under pretence of charging him with some household matter, whispered to him, "Begone, and come back no more." And albeit Nicholas was grieved to leave his mistress, yet was he no less glad that his life was spared.
When the President had convinced all his kinsfolk and friends and the whole countryside of the deep love that he bore his wife, he went into his garden one fine day in the month of May to gather a salad, of such herbs that his wife did not live for twenty-four hours after eating of them; whereupon he made such a great show of mourning that none could have suspected him of causing her death; and in this way he avenged himself upon his enemy, and saved the honour of his house. (2)
2 Whilst admitting the historical basis of this story, M. Le Roux de Lincy conceives it to be the same as No. xlvii. of the Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles, printed half-a-century before the Heptameron was written. Beyond the circumstance, however, that in both cases a judge is shown privily avenging himself on his wife for her infidelity, there is no resemblance between the two tales. There is good reason for believing that Queen Margaret's narrative is based on absolute fact, and not on the story in the Cent Nouvelles. Both tales have often been imitated. See for instance Bonaventure Despericr's Contes, Nouvelles, et joyeux Devis (tale xcii., or, in some editions, xc. ); Les Heures de Recreation de Louis Guicciardini, p. 28; G. Giraldi Cinthio's Hecatommithi, overro cento Novelle, &c. (dec. iii. nov. vi. ); Malespini's Ducento Novelle (part ii. nov. xvi.); Verboquet's Les Delices, &c, 1623, p. 23; and Shirley's Love's Cruelly. These tales also inspired some of the Spanish dramatists, notably Calderon.—Ed. and L.
"I do not mean by this, ladies, to praise the President's conscience, but rather to bring out the frailty of a woman and the great patience and prudence of a man. And I beg you, ladies, be not angered by the truth, which sometimes speaks as loudly against ourselves as against the men; for vice and virtue are common alike to men and women."
"If all those," said Parlamente, "who have fallen in love with their servants were obliged to eat salads of that kind, I know some who would be less fond of their gardens than they are at present, and who would pluck up the herbs to get rid of such as restore the honour of a family by compassing the death of a wanton mother."
Hircan, who guessed why she had said this, angrily replied—"A virtuous woman should never judge another guilty of what she would not do herself."
"Knowledge is not judgment nor yet foolishness," returned Parlamente. "However, this poor woman paid the penalty that many others have deserved, and I think that the President, when desirous of vengeance, comported himself with wondrous prudence and wisdom."
"And with great malevolence, also," said Longarine. "'Twas a slow and cruel vengeance, and showed he had neither God nor conscience before his eyes."
"Why, what would you have had him do," said Hircan, "to revenge himself for the greatest wrong that a woman can deal to a man?"
"I would have had him kill her in his wrath," she replied. "The doctors say that since the first impulses of passion are not under a man's control, such a sin may be forgiven; so it might have obtained pardon." "Yes," said Geburon, "but his daughters and descendants would have always borne the stain."
"He ought not to have killed her at all," said Longarine, "for, when his wrath was past, she might have lived with him in virtue, and nothing would ever have been said about the matter."
"Do you think," said Saffredent, "that he was appeased merely because he concealed his anger? For my part, I believe that he was as wrathful on the last day, when he made his salad, as he had been on the first, for there are persons whose first impulses have no rest until their passion has worked its will. I am well pleased you say that the theologians deem such sins easy to be pardoned, for I am of their opinion."
"It is well to look to one's words," said Longarine, "in presence of persons so dangerous as you. What I said is to be understood of passion when it is so strong that it suddenly seizes upon all the senses, and reason can find no place."
"It is so," said Saffredent, "that I understood your words, and I thence conclude that, whatever a man may do, he can commit only venial sin if he be deeply in love. I am sure that, if Love hold him fast bound, Reason can never gain a hearing, whether from his heart or from his understanding. And if the truth be told, there is not one among us but has had knowledge of such passion; and not merely do I think that sin so committed is readily pardoned, but I even believe that God is not angered by it, seeing that such love is a ladder whereby we may climb to the perfect love of Himself. And none can attain to this save by the ladder of earthly love, (3) for, as St. John says, 'He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?'" (4)
3 All this passage is borrowed, almost word for word, from Castiglione's Libro del Cortegiano. See ante, vol. i. p. 10.—B.J.
4 i John iv. 20.—M.
"There is not a passage in Scripture," said Oisille, "too good for you to turn to your own purposes. But beware of doing like the spider, which transforms sound meat into poison. Be advised that it is a perilous matter to quote Scripture out of place and without cause."
"Do you call speaking the truth out of place and without cause?" said Saffredent. "You hold, then, that when, in speaking to you unbelieving women, we call God to our assistance, we take His name in vain; but if there be any sin in this, you alone must bear the blame, for it is your unbelief that compels us to seek out all the oaths that we can think of. And in spite of it all, we cannot kindle the flame of charity in your icy hearts."
"That," said Longarine, "proves that you all speak falsely. If truth were in your words, it is strong enough to make you be believed. Yet there is danger lest the daughters of Eve should hearken too readily to the serpent."
"I see clearly," said Saffredent, "that women are not to be conquered by men. So I shall be silent, and see to whom Ennasuite will give her vote."
"I give it," she said, "to Dagoucin, for I think he would not willingly speak against the ladies."
"Would to God," said Dagoucin, "that they were as well disposed towards me as I am towards them. To show you that I have striven to honour the virtuous among them by recalling their good deeds, I will now tell you the story of such a one. I will not deny, ladies, that the patience of the gentleman at Pampeluna, and of the President at Grenoble was great, but then it was equalled in magnitude by their vengeance. Moreover, when we seek to praise a virtuous man, we ought not so to exalt a single virtue as to make of it a cloak for the concealment of grievous vice; for none are praiseworthy save such as do virtuous things from the love of virtue alone, and this I hope to prove by telling you of the patient virtue of a lady whose goodness had no other object save the honour of God and the salvation of her husband."
[The Lady of Loue bringing her Husband the Basin of Water]
The Lady of Loue so influenced her husband by her great patience and longsuffering, that she drew him from his evil ways, and they lived afterwards in greater love than before.
There was a lady of the house of Loue (1) who was so prudent and virtuous, that she was loved and esteemed by all her neighbours. Her husband trusted her, as well he might, with all his affairs, and she managed them with such wisdom that his house came, by her means, to be one of the wealthiest and best appointed in either the land of Anjou or Touraine.
1 Loue is in Anjou, in the department of the Sarthe, being the chief locality of a canton of the arrondissement of Le Mans. The Lady of Loue referred to may be either Philippa de Beaumont-Bressuire, wife of Peter de Laval, knight, Lord of Loue, Benars, &c.; or her daughter-in-law, Frances de Maille, who in or about 1500 espoused Giles de Laval, Lord of Loue. Philippa is known to have died in 1525, after bearing her husband five children. She had been wedded fifty years. However, the subject of this story is the same as that of the Lady of Langallier, or Languillier (also in Anjou), which will be found in chapter xvii. of Le Livre du Chevalier de la Tour-Landry, an English translation of which, made in the reign of Henry VI., was edited in 1868 by Mr. Thomas Wright for the Early English Text Society.—See also Le Roux de Lincy's Femmes celebres de l'ancienne France, vol i. p. 356. Particulars concerning the Laval- Loue family will be found in Duchesne's Histoire de la Maison de Montmorency.—L. and M.
In this fashion she lived a great while with her husband, to whom she bore several handsome children; but then, as happiness is always followed by its opposite, hers began to be lessened. Her husband, finding virtuous ease to be unendurable, laid it aside to seek for toil, and made it his wont to rise from beside his wife as soon as she was asleep, and not to return until it was nearly morning. The lady of Loue took this conduct ill, and falling into a deep unrest, of which she was fain to give no sign, neglected her household matters, her person and her family, like one that deemed herself to have lost the fruit of her toils, to wit, her husband's exceeding love, for the preserving of which there was no pain that she would not willingly have endured. But having lost it, as she could see, she became careless of everything else in the house, and the lack of her care soon brought mischief to pass.
Her husband, on the one part, spent with much extravagance, while, on the other, she had ceased to control the management, so that ere long affairs fell into such great disorder, that the timber began to be felled, and the lands to be mortgaged.
One of her kinsfolk that had knowledge of her distemper, rebuked her for her error, saying that if love for her husband did not lead her to care for the advantage of his house, she should at least have regard to her poor children. Hereat her pity for them caused her to recover herself, and she tried all means to win back her husband's love.
In this wise she kept good watch one night, and, when he rose from beside her, she also rose in her nightgown, let make her bed, and said her prayers until her husband returned. And when he came in, she went to him and kissed him, and brought him a basin full of water that he might wash his hands. He was surprised at this unwonted behaviour, and told her that there was no need for her to rise, since he was only coming from the latrines; whereat she replied that, although it was no great matter, it was nevertheless a seemly thing to wash one's hands on coming from so dirty and foul a place, intending by these words to make him perceive and abhor the wickedness of his life. But for all that he did not mend his ways, and for a full year the lady continued to act in this way to no purpose.
Accordingly, seeing that this behaviour served her naught, one day, while she was waiting for her husband, who tarried longer than ordinary, she had a mind to go in search of him, and, passing from room to room, found him at last in a closet at the back of the house, lying asleep by the side of the ugliest, vilest, and filthiest serving-woman they had.
Thereupon, thinking she would teach him to leave so excellent a wife for so filthy and vile a woman, she took some straw and set it on fire in the middle of the room; but on seeing that it would as soon kill her husband as awaken him, she plucked him by the arm, crying out—
If the husband was ashamed and sorry at being found by so virtuous a wife in company with such a slut, he certainly had good reason for it. Then said his wife to him—
"For a year, sir, have I tried by gentle and patient means to draw you from this wickedness, and to show you that whilst washing the outside you should also cleanse that which is within. Finding that all I could do was of no avail, I have sought assistance from that clement which brings all things to an end, and I promise you, sir, that, if this do not mend you, I know not whether I shall a second time be able to deliver you from the danger as I have now done. I pray you remember that the deepest despair is that caused by love, and that if I had not had the fear of God before my eyes I could not have endured so much."
The husband, glad to get off so easily, promised that he would never again cause her any pain on his account. This the lady was very willing to believe, and with her husband's consent turned away the servant who had so offended her. And from that time forth they lived most lovingly together, so that even the errors of the past, by the good that had resulted from them, served but to increase their happiness.
"Should God give you such husbands, ladies, I pray you despair not until you have fully tried all means to win them back. There are twenty-four hours in the day in which a man may change his mind, and a wife who has gained her husband over by patience and longsuffering should deem herself more fortunate than if fate and her kinsfolk had given her one more perfect."
"It is an example," said Oisille, "that all married women ought to follow."
"Follow it who will," said Parlamente; "for my own part, I should find it impossible to be patient so long. Although in every condition patience is a seemly virtue, yet I think that in wedded life it finally produces ill-will. For, when suffering is caused you by your partner, you are compelled to keep yourself as much apart from him as possible; and from such estrangement there springs up contempt for the faithless one; and this contempt gradually lessens love, for a thing is loved in proportion as it is esteemed."
"But there is a danger," said Ennasuite, "that the impatient wife may meet with a passionate husband who, instead of patience, will bring her pain."
"And what more," said Parlamente, "could a husband do than was done by the husband in the story?"
"What more?" said Ennasuite. "Why, beat his wife soundly, and make her lie in the smaller bed, and his sweetheart in the larger." (2)
2 At this period, and for some time afterwards, there were usually two beds in the master's room, a large one for himself and his wife, and a small one in which slept a trusty servant, male or female. These little beds are shown in some of the designs engraved by Abraham Bosse in the seventeenth century.—L.
"It is my belief," said Parlamente, "that a true woman would be less grieved by being beaten in anger than by being contemned for one of less worth than herself. After enduring the severance of love, nothing that her husband could do would be able to cause her any further pain. And in this wise the story says that the trouble she took to regain him was for the sake of her children—which I can well believe."
"And do you think that it showed great patience on her part," said Nomerfide, "to kindle a fire beneath the bed on which her husband was sleeping."
"Yes," said Longarine; "for when she saw the smoke she waked him, and herein, perhaps, was she most to blame; for the ashes of such a husband as hers would to my thinking have been good for the making of lye."
"You are cruel, Longarine," said Oisille, "but those are not the terms on which you lived with your own husband."
"No," said Longarine, "for, God be thanked, he never gave me cause. I have reason to regret him all my life long, not to complain of him."
"But if he had behaved in such a manner towards you," said Nomerfide, "what would you have done?"
"I loved him so dearly," said Longarine, "that I believe I should have killed him, and myself as well. To die after taking such a vengeance would have been sweeter to me than to live faithfully with the faithless."
"So far as I can see," said Hircan, "you do not love your husbands except for your own sakes. If they are what you want them to be, you are very fond of them; but if they fall into the slightest error towards you, they lose on a Saturday the toil of an entire week. Thus you are minded to rule, and I for my part will consent to it provided, however, that all other husbands agree."
"It is reasonable," said Parlamente, "that man should rule us as our head, but not that he should forsake us or treat us ill."
"God has provided so wisely," said Oisille, "both for man and for woman, that I hold marriage, if it be not abused, to be the goodliest and securest condition imaginable, and I am sure that, whatever they may seem to do, all here present think the same. And if the man claims to be wiser than the woman, he will be the more severely blamed should the fault come from him. But enough of such talk. Let us now see to whom Dagoucin will give his vote."