Droll Stories, Complete
Honore de Balzac
Part 7 out of 9
lamp shining through the silversmith's window, and the good man
tapping, sculpting, rounding, distilling, modeling, and finishing,
with his apprentices, his door closed and his ears open. Poverty
engendered hard work, hard work engendered his wonderful virtue, and
his virtue engendered his great wealth. Take this to heart, ye
children of Cain who eat doubloons and micturate water. If the good
silversmith felt himself possessed with wild desires, which now in one
way, now another, seize upon an unhappy bachelor when the devil tries
to get hold of him, making the sign of the cross, the Touranian
hammered away at his metal, drove out the rebellious spirits from his
brain by bending down over the exquisite works of art, little
engravings, figures of gold and silver forms, with which he appeased
the anger of his Venus. Add to this that this Touranian was an artless
man, of simple understanding, fearing God above all things, then
robbers, next to that of nobles, and more than all, a disturbance.
Although if he had two hands, he never did more than one thing at a
time. His voice was as gentle as that of a bridegroom before marriage.
Although the clergy, the military, and others gave him no reputation
for knowledge, he knew well his mother's Latin, and spoke it correctly
without waiting to be asked. Latterly the Parisians had taught him to
walk uprightly, not to beat the bush for others, to measure his
passions by the rule of his revenues, not to let them take his leather
to make other's shoes, to trust no one farther then he could see them,
never to say what he did, and always to do what he said; never to
spill anything but water; to have a better memory than flies usually
have; to keep his hands to himself, to do the same with his purse; to
avoid a crowd at the corner of a street, and sell his jewels for more
than they cost him; all things, the sage observance of which gave him
as much wisdom as he had need of to do business comfortably and
pleasantly. And so he did, without troubling anyone else. And watching
this good little man unobserved, many said,
"By my faith, I should like to be this jeweller, even were I obliged
to splash myself up to the eyes with the mud of Paris during a hundred
years for it."
They might just as well have wished to be king of France, seeing that
the silversmith had great powerful nervous arms, so wonderfully strong
that when he closed his fist the cleverest trick of the roughest
fellow could not open it; from which you may be sure that whatever he
got hold of he stuck to. More than this, he had teeth fit to masticate
iron, a stomach to dissolve it, a duodenum to digest it, a sphincter
to let it out again without tearing, and shoulders that would bear a
universe upon them, like that pagan gentleman to whom the job was
confided, and whom the timely arrival of Jesus Christ discharged from
the duty. He was, in fact, a man made with one stroke, and they are
the best, for those who have to be touched are worth nothing, being
patched up and finished at odd times. In short, Master Anseau was a
thorough man, with a lion's face, and under his eyebrows a glance that
would melt his gold if the fire of his forge had gone out, but a
limpid water placed in his eyes by the great Moderator of all things
tempered this great ardour, without which he would have burnt up
everything. Was he not a splendid specimen of a man?
With such a sample of his cardinal virtues, some persist in asking why
the good silversmith remained as unmarried as an oyster, seeing that
these properties of nature are of good use in all places. But these
opinionated critics, do they know what it is to love? Ho! Ho! Easy!
The vocation of a lover is to go, to come, to listen, to watch, to
hold his tongue, to talk, to stick in a corner, to make himself big,
to make himself little, to agree, to play music, to drudge, to go to
the devil wherever he may be, to count the gray peas in the dovecote,
to find flowers under the snow, to say paternosters to the moon, to
pat the cat and pat the dog, to salute the friends, to flatter the
gout, or the cold of the aunt, to say to her at opportune moments "You
have good looks, and will yet write the epitaph of the human race." To
please all the relations, to tread on no one's corns, to break no
glasses, to waste no breath, to talk nonsense, to hold ice in his
hand, to say, "This is good!" or, "Really, madam, you are very
beautiful so." And to vary that in a hundred different ways. To keep
himself cool, to bear himself like a nobleman, to have a free tongue
and a modest one, to endure with a smile all the evils the devil may
invent on his behalf, to smother his anger, to hold nature in control,
to have the finger of God, and the tail of the devil, to reward the
mother, the cousin, the servant; in fact, to put a good face on
everything. In default of which the female escapes and leaves you in a
fix, without giving a single Christian reason. In fact, the lover of
the most gentle maid that God ever created in a good-tempered moment,
had he talked like a book, jumped like a flea, turned about like dice,
played like King David, and built for the aforesaid woman the
Corinthian order of the columns of the devil, if he failed in the
essential and hidden thing which pleases his lady above all others,
which often she does not know herself and which he has need to know,
the lass leaves him like a red leper. She is quite right. No one can
blame her for so doing. When this happens some men become
ill-tempered, cross, and more wretched than you can possibly imagine.
Have not many of them killed themselves through this petticoat tyranny?
In this matter the man distinguishes himself from the beast, seeing that
no animal ever yet lost his senses through blighted love, which proves
abundantly that animals have no souls. The employment of a lover is
that of a mountebank, of a soldier, of a quack, of a buffoon, of a
prince, of a ninny, of a king, of an idler, of a monk, of a dupe, of a
blackguard, of a liar, of a braggart, of a sycophant, of a numskull,
of a frivolous fool, of a blockhead, of a know-nothing, of a knave. An
employment from which Jesus abstained, in imitation of whom folks of
great understanding likewise disdain it; it is a vocation in which a
man of worth is required to spend above all things, his time, his
life, his blood, his best words, besides his heart, his soul, and his
brain; things to which the women are cruelly partial, because directly
their tongues begin to go, they say among themselves that if they have
not the whole of a man they have none of him. Be sure, also, that
there are cats, who, knitting their eyebrows, complain that a man does
but a hundred things for them, for the purpose of finding out if there
be a hundred, at first seeing that in everything they desire the most
thorough spirit of conquest and tyranny. And this high jurisprudence
has always flourished among the customs of Paris, where the women
receive more wit at their baptism than in any other place in the
world, and thus are mischievous by birth.
But our silversmith, always busy at his work, burnishing gold and
melting silver, had no time to warm his love or to burnish and make
shine his fantasies, nor to show off, gad about, waste his time in
mischief, or to run after she-males. Now seeing that in Paris virgins
do not fall into the beds of young men any more than roast pheasants
into the streets, not even when the young men are royal silversmiths,
the Touranian had the advantage of having, as I have before observed,
a continent member in his shirt. However, the good man could not close
his eyes to the advantage of nature with which were so amply furnished
the ladies with whom he dilated upon the value of his jewels. So it
was that, after listening to the gentle discourse of the ladies, who
tried to wheedle and to fondle him to obtain a favour from him, the
good Touranian would return to his home, dreamy as a poet, wretched as
a restless cuckoo, and would say to himself, "I must take to myself a
wife. She would keep the house tidy, keep the plates hot for me, fold
the clothes for me, sew my buttons on, sing merrily about the house,
tease me to do everything according to her taste, would say to me as
they all say to their husbands when they want a jewel, 'Oh, my own
pet, look at this, is it not pretty?' And every one in the quarter
will think of my wife and then of me, and say 'There's a happy man.'
Then the getting married, the bridal festivities, to fondle Madame
Silversmith, to dress her superbly, give her a fine gold chain, to
worship her from crown to toe, to give her the whole management of the
house, except the cash, to give her a nice little room upstairs, with
good windows, pretty, and hung around with tapestry, with a wonderful
chest in it and a fine large bed, with twisted columns and curtains of
yellow silk. He would buy her beautiful mirrors, and there would
always be a dozen or so of children, his and hers, when he came home
to greet him." Then wife and children would vanish into the clouds. He
transferred his melancholy imaginings to fantastic designs, fashioned
his amorous thoughts into grotesque jewels that pleased their buyers
well, they not knowing how many wives and children were lost in the
productions of the good man, who, the more talent he threw into his
art, the more disordered he became. Now if God had not had pity upon
him, he would have quitted this world without knowing what love was,
but would have known it in the other without that metamorphosis of the
flesh which spares it, according to Monsieur Plato, a man of some
authority, but who, not being a Christian, was wrong. But, there!
these preparatory digressions are the idle digressions and fastidious
commentaries which certain unbelievers compel a man to wind about a
tale, swaddling clothes about an infant when it should run about stark
naked. May the great devil give them a clyster with his red-hot
three-pronged fork. I am going on with my story now without further
This is what happened to the silversmith in the one-and-fortieth year
of his age. One Sabbath-day while walking on the left bank of the
Seine, led by an idle fancy, he ventured as far as that meadow which
has since been called the Pre-aux-Clercs and which at that time was in
the domain of the abbey of St. Germain, and not in that of the
University. There, still strolling on the Touranian found himself in
the open fields, and there met a poor young girl who, seeing that he
was well-dressed, curtsied to him, saying "Heaven preserve you,
monseigneur." In saying this her voice had such sympathetic sweetness
that the silversmith felt his soul ravished by this feminine melody,
and conceived an affection for the girl, the more so as, tormented
with ideas of marriage as he was, everything was favourable thereto.
Nevertheless, as he had passed the wench by he dared not go back,
because he was as timid as a young maid who would die in her
petticoats rather than raise them for her pleasure. But when he was a
bowshot off he bethought him that he was a man who for ten years had
been a master silversmith, had become a citizen, and was a man of
mark, and could look a woman in the face if his fancy so led him, the
more so as his imagination had great power over him. So he turned
suddenly back, as if he had changed the direction of his stroll, and
came upon the girl, who held by an old cord her poor cow, who was
munching grass that had grown on the border of a ditch at the side of
"Ah, my pretty one," said he, "you are not overburdened with the goods
of this world that you thus work with your hands upon the Lord's Day.
Are you not afraid of being cast into prison?"
"Monseigneur," replied the maid, casting down her eyes, "I have
nothing to fear, because I belong to the abbey. The Lord Abbot has
given me leave to exercise the cow after vespers."
"You love your cow, then, more than the salvation of your soul?"
"Ah, monseigneur, our beast is almost the half of our poor lives."
"I am astonished, my girl, to see you poor and in rags, clothed like a
fagot, running barefoot about the fields on the Sabbath, when you
carry about you more treasures than you could dig up in the grounds of
the abbey. Do not the townspeople pursue, and torment you with love?"
"Oh, never monseigneur. I belong to the abbey", replied she, showing
the jeweller a collar on her left arm like those that the beasts of
the field have, but without the little bell, and at the same time
casting such a deplorable glance at our townsman that he was stricken
quite sad, for by the eyes are communicated contagions of the heart
when they are strong.
"And what does this mean?" he said, wishing to hear all about it.
And he touched the collar, upon which was engraved the arms of the
abbey very distinctly, but which he did not wish to see.
"Monseigneur, I am the daughter of an homme de corps; thus whoever
unites himself to me by marriage, will become a bondsman, even if he
were a citizen of Paris, and would belong body and goods to the abbey.
If he loved me otherwise, his children would still belong to the
domain. For this reason I am neglected by everyone, abandoned like a
poor beast of the field. But what makes me most unhappy is, that
according to the pleasure of monseigneur the abbot, I shall be coupled
at some time with a bondsman. And if I were less ugly than I am, at
the sight of my collar the most amorous would flee from me as from the
So saying, she pulled her cow by the cord to make it follow her.
"And how old are you?" asked the silversmith.
"I do not know, monseigneur; but our master, the abbot, has kept
This great misery touched the heart of the good man, who had in his
day eaten the bread of sorrow. He regulated his pace to the girl's,
and they went together towards the water in painful silence. The good
man gazed at the fine forehead, the round red arms, the queen's waist,
the feet dusty, but made like those of a Virgin Mary; and the sweet
physiognomy of this girl, who was the living image of St. Genevieve,
the patroness of Paris, and the maidens who live in the fields. And
make sure that this Joseph suspected the pretty white of this sweet
girl's breasts, which were by a modest grace carefully covered with an
old rag, and looked at them as a schoolboy looks at a rosy apple on a
hot day. Also, may you depend upon it that these little hillocks of
nature denoted a wench fashioned with delicious perfection, like
everything that the monks possess. Now, the more it was forbidden our
silversmith to touch them, the more his mouth watered for these fruits
of love. And his heart leaped almost into his mouth.
"You have a fine cow," said he.
"Would you like a little milk?" replied she. "It is so warm these
early days of May. You are far from the town."
In truth, the sky was a cloudless blue, and glared like a forge.
Everything was radiant with youth, the leaves, the air, the girls, the
lads; everything was burning, was green, and smelt like balm. This
naive offer, made without the hope of recompense, though a byzant
would not have paid for the special grace of this speech; and the
modesty of the gesture with which the poor girl turned to him gained
the heart of the jeweller, who would have liked to be able to put this
bondswoman into the skin of a queen, and Paris at her feet.
"Nay, my child, I thirst not for milk, but for you, whom I would have
leave to liberate."
"That cannot be, and I shall die the property of the abbey. For years
we have lived so, from father to son, from mother to daughter. Like my
ancestors, I shall pass my days on this land, as will also my
children, because the abbot cannot legally let us go."
"What!" said the Touranian; "has no gallant been tempted by your
bright eyes to buy your liberty, as I bought mine from the king?"
"It would cost too dear; thus it is those whom at first sight I
please, go as they came."
"And you have never thought of gaining another country in company of a
lover on horseback on a fleet courser?"
"Oh yes. But, monseigneur, if I were caught I should be hanged at
least; and my gallant, even were he a lord, would lose more than one
domain over it, besides other things. I am not worth so much; besides,
the abbey has arms longer than my feet are swift. So I live on in
perfect obedience to God, who has placed me in this plight."
"What is your father?"
"He tends the vines in the gardens of the abbey."
"And your mother?"
"She is a washerwoman."
"And what is your name?"
"I have no name, dear sir. My father was baptised Etienne, my mother
is Etienne, and I am Tiennette, at your service."
"Sweetheart," said the jeweller, "never has woman pleased me as you
please me; and I believe that your heart contains a wealth of
goodness. Now, since you offered yourself to my eyes at the moment
when I was firmly deliberating upon taking a companion, I believe that
I see in you a sign from heaven! And if I am not displeasing to you, I
beg you to accept me as your friend."
Immediately the maid lowered her eyes. These words were uttered in
such a way, in so grave a tone, so penetrating a manner, that the said
Tiennette burst into tears.
"No, monseigneur, I should be the cause of a thousand
unpleasantnesses, and of your misfortune. For a poor bondsmaid, the
conversation has gone far enough."
"Ho!" cried Anseau; "you do not know, my child, the man you are
The Touranian crossed himself, joined his hands, and said--
"I make a vow to Monsieur the Saint Eloi, under whose invocation are
the silversmiths, to fashion two images of pure silver, with the best
workmanship I am able to perform. One shall be a statue of Madame the
Virgin, to this end, to thank her for the liberty of my dear wife; and
the other for my said patron, if I am successful in my undertaking to
liberate the bondswoman Tiennette here present, and for which I rely
upon his assistance. Moreover, I swear by my eternal salvation, to
persevere with courage in this affair, to spend therein all I process,
and only to quit it with my life. God has heard me," said he. "And
you, little one," he added, turning towards the maid.
"Ha! monseigneur, look! My cow is running about the fields," cried
she, sobbing at the good man's knees. "I will love you all my life;
but withdraw your vow."
"Let us to look after the cow," said the silversmith, raising her,
without daring yet to kiss her, although the maid was well disposed to
"Yes," said she, "for I shall be beaten."
And behold now the silversmith, scampering after the cursed cow, who
gave no heed to their amours; she was taken by the horns, and held in
the grip of the Touranian, who for a trifle would have thrown her in
the air, like a straw.
"Adieu, my sweet one! If you go into the town, come to my house, over
against St Leu's Church. I am called Master Anseau, and am silversmith
to the King of France, at the sign of St. Eloi. Make me a promise to
be in this field the next Lord's-Day; fail not to come, even should it
"Yes, dear Sir. For this I would leap the walls, and, in gratitude,
would I be yours without mischief, and cause you no sorrow, at the
price of my everlasting future. Awaiting the happy moment, I will pray
God for you with all my heart."
And then she remained standing like a stone saint, moving not, until
she could see the good citizen no longer, and he went away with
lagging steps, turning from time to time further to gaze upon her. And
when he was far off, and out of her sight, she stayed on, until
nightfall, lost in meditation, knowing not if she had dreamed that
which had happened to her. Then she went back to the house, where she
was beaten for staying out, but felt not the blows. The good
silversmith could neither eat nor drink, but closed his workshop,
possessed of this girl, thinking of nothing but this girl, seeing
everywhere the girl; everything to him being to possess this girl. Now
when the morrow was come, he went with great apprehension towards the
abbey to speak to the lord abbot. On the road, however, he suddenly
thought of putting himself under the protection of one of the king's
people, and with this idea returned to the court, which was then held
in the town. Being esteemed by all for his prudence, and loved for his
little works and kindnesses, the king's chamberlain--for whom he had
once made, for a present to a lady of the court, a golden casket set
with precious stones and unique of its kind--promised him assistance,
had a horse saddled for himself, and a hack for the silversmith, with
whom he set out for the abbey, and asked to see the abbot, who was
Monseigneur Hugon de Sennecterre, aged ninety-three. Being come into
the room with the silversmith, waiting nervously to receive his
sentence, the chamberlain begged the abbot to sell him in advance a
thing which was easy for him to sell, and which would be pleasant to
To which the abbot replied, looking at the chamberlain--
"That the canons inhibited and forbade him thus to engage his word."
"Behold, my dear father," said the chamberlain, "the jeweller of the
Court who has conceived a great love for a bondswoman belonging to
your abbey, and I request you, in consideration of my obliging you in
any such desire as you may wish to see accomplished, to emancipate
"Which is she?" asked the abbot of the citizen.
"Her name is Tiennette," answered the silversmith, timidly.
"Ho! ho!" said the good old Hugon, smiling. "The angler has caught us
a good fish! This is a grave business, and I know not how to decide by
"I know, my father, what those words mean," said that chamberlain,
knitting his brows.
"Fine sir," said the abbot, "know you what this maid is worth?"
The abbot ordered Tiennette to be fetched, telling his clerk to dress
her in her finest clothes, and to make her look as nice as possible.
"Your love is in danger," said that chamberlain to the silversmith,
pulling him on one side. "Dismiss this fantasy. You can meet anywhere,
even at Court, with women of wealth, young and pretty, who would
willingly marry you. For this, if need be, the king would assist you
by giving you some title, which in course of time would enable you to
found a good family. Are you sufficiently well furnished with crowns
to become the founder of a noble line?"
"I know not, monseigneur," replied Anseau. "I have put money by."
"Then see if you cannot buy the manumission of this maid. I know the
monks. With them money does everything."
"Monseigneur," said the silversmith to the abbot, coming towards him,
"you have the charge and office representing here below the goodness
of God, who is often clement towards us, and has infinite treasures of
mercy for our sorrows. Now, I will remember you each evening and each
morning in my prayers, and never forget that I received my happiness
at your hands, if you aid me to gain this maid in lawful wedlock,
without keeping in servitude the children born of this union. And for
this I will make you a receptacle for the Holy Eucharist, so
elaborate, so rich with gold, precious stones and winged angels, that
no other shall be like it in all Christendom. It shall remain unique,
it shall dazzle your eyesight, and shall be so far the glory of your
altar, that the people of the towns and foreign nobles shall rush to
it, so magnificent shall it be."
"My son," replied the abbot "have you lost your senses? If you are so
resolved to have this wench for a legal wife, your goods and your
person belong to the Chapter of the abbey."
"Yes, monseigneur, I am passionately in love with this girl, and more
touched with her misery and her Christian heart than even with her
perfections; but I am," said he, with tears in his eyes, "still more
astonished at your harshness, and I say it although I know that my
fate is in your hands. Yes, monseigneur, I know the law; and if my
goods fall to your domain, if I become a bondsman, if I lose my house
and my citizenship, I will still keep that engine, gained by my
labours and my studies, on which lies there," cried he, striking his
forehead "in a place of which no one, save God, can be lord but
myself. And your whole abbey could not pay for the special creations
which proceed therefrom. You may have my body, my wife, my children,
but nothing shall get you my engine; nay, not even torture, seeing
that I am stronger than iron is hard, and more patient than sorrow is
So saying, the silversmith, enraged by the calmness of the abbot, who
seemed resolved to acquire for the abbey the good man's doubloons,
brought down his fist upon an oaken chair and shivered it into
fragments, for it split as under the blow of a mace.
"Behold, monseigneur, what kind of servant you will have, and of an
artificer of things divine you will make a mere cart-horse."
"My son," replied the abbot, "you have wrongfully broken my chair, and
lightly judged my mind. This wench belongs to the abbey and not to me.
I am the faithful servant of the rights and customs of this glorious
monastery; although I might grant this woman license to bear free
children, I am responsible for this to God and to the abbey. Now,
since there was here an altar, bondsmen and monks, _id est_, from time
immemorial, there has never occurred the case of a citizen becoming
the property of the abbey by marriage with a bondswoman. Now,
therefore, is there need to exercise the right, and to make use of it
so that it would not be lost, weakened, worn out, or fallen into
disuse, which would occasion a thousand difficulties. And this is of
higher advantage to the State and to the abbey than your stones,
however beautiful they be, seeing that we have treasure wherewith to
buy rare jewels, and that no treasure can establish customs and laws.
I call upon the king's chamberlain to bear witness to the infinite
pains which his majesty takes every day to fight for the establishment
of his orders."
"That is to close my mouth," said the chamberlain.
The silversmith, who was not a great scholar, remained thoughtful.
Then came Tiennette, clean as a new pin, her hair raised up, dressed
in a robe of white wool with a blue sash, with tiny shoes and white
stockings; in fact, so royally beautiful, so noble in her bearing was
she, that the silversmith was petrified with ecstasy, and the
chamberlain confessed he had never seen so perfect a creature.
Thinking there was too much danger in this sight for the poor
jeweller, he led him into the town, and begged him to think no further
of the affair, since the abbey was not likely to liberate so good a
bait for the citizens and nobles of the Parisian stream. In fact, the
Chapter let the poor lover know that if he married this girl he must
resolve to yield up his goods and his house to the abbey, consider
himself a bondsman, both he and the children of the aforesaid
marriage; although, by a special grace, the abbey would let him his
house on the condition of his giving an inventory of his furniture and
paying a yearly rent, and coming during eight days to live in a shed
adjoining the domain, thus performing an act of service. The
silversmith, to whom everyone spoke of the cupidity of the monks, saw
clearly that the abbot would incommutably maintain this order, and his
soul was filled with despair. At one time he determined to burn down
the monastery; at another, he proposed to lure the abbot into a place
where he could torment him until he had signed a charter for
Tiennette's liberation; in fact a thousand ideas possessed his brain,
and as quickly evaporated. But after much lamentation he determined to
carry off the girl, and fly with her into her a sure place from which
nothing could draw him, and made his preparations accordingly; for
once out of the kingdom, his friends or the king could better tackle
the monks and bring them to reason. The good man counted, however,
without his abbot, for going to the meadows, he found Tiennette no
more there, and learned that she was confined in the abbey, and with
much rigour, that to get at her it would be necessary to lay siege to
the monastery. Then Master Anseau passed his time in tears,
complaints, and lamentations; and all the city, the townspeople, and
housewives, talked of his adventure, the noise of which was so great,
that the king sent for the old abbot to court, and demanded of him why
he did not yield under the circumstances to the great love of the
silversmith, and why he did not put into practice Christian charity.
"Because, monseigneur," replied the priest, "all rights are knit
together like the pieces of a coat of mail, and if one makes default,
all fail. If this girl was taken from us against our wish, and if the
custom were not observed, your subjects would soon take off your
crown, and raise up in various places violence and sedition, in order
to abolish the taxes and imposts that weigh upon the populace."
The king's mouth was closed. Everyone was eager to know the end of
this adventure. So great was the curiosity that certain lords wagered
that the Touranian would desist from his love, and the ladies wagered
to the contrary. The silversmith having complained to the queen that
the monks had hidden his well-beloved from his sight, she found the
deed detestable and horrible; and in consequence of her commands to
the lord abbot it was permitted to the Touranian to go every day into
the parlour of the abbey, where came Tiennette, but under the control
of an old monk, and she always came attired in great splendour like a
lady. The two lovers had no other license than to see each other, and
to speak to each other, without being able to snatch the smallest atom
of pleasure, and always grew their love more powerful.
One day Tiennette discoursed thus with her lover--"My dear lord, I
have determined to make you a gift of my life, in order to relieve
your suffering, and in this wise; in informing myself concerning
everything I have found a means to set aside the rights of the abbey,
and to give you all the joy you hope for from my fruition."
"The ecclesiastical judge has ruled that as you become a bondsman only
by accession, and because you were not born a bondsman, your servitude
will cease with the cause that makes you a serf. Now, if you love me
more than all else, lose your goods to purchase our happiness, and
espouse me. Then when you have had your will of me, when you have
hugged me and embraced me to your heart's content, before I have
offspring will I voluntarily kill myself, and thus you become free
again; at least you will have the king on your side, who, it is said,
wishes you well. And without doubt, God will pardon me that I cause my
own death, in order to deliver my lord spouse."
"My dear Tiennette," cried the jeweller, "it is finished--I will be a
bondsman, and thou wilt live to make my happiness as long as my days.
In thy company, the hardest chains will weigh but lightly, and little
shall I reck the want of gold, when all my riches are in thy heart,
and my only pleasure in thy sweet body. I place myself in the hands of
St. Eloi, will deign in this misery to look upon us with pitying eyes,
and guard us from all evils. Now I shall go hence to a scrivener to
have the deeds and contracts drawn up. At least, dear flower of my
days, thou shalt be gorgeously attired, well housed, and served like a
queen during thy lifetime, since the lord abbot leaves me the earnings
of my profession."
Tiennette, crying and laughing, tried to put off her good fortune and
wished to die, rather than reduce to slavery a free man; but the good
Anseau whispered such soft words to her, and threatened so firmly to
follow her to the tomb, that she agreed to the said marriage, thinking
that she could always free herself after having tasted the pleasures
When the submission of the Touranian became known in the town, and
that for his sweetheart he yielded up his wealth and his liberty,
everyone wished to see him. The ladies of the court encumbered
themselves with jewels, in order to speak with him, and there fell
upon him as from the clouds women enough to make up for the time he
had been without them; but if any of them approached Tiennette in
beauty, none had her heart. To be brief, when the hour of slavery and
love was at hand, Anseau remolded all of his gold into a royal crown,
in which he fixed all his pearls and diamonds, and went secretly to
the queen, and gave it to her, saying, "Madame, I know not how to
dispose of my fortune, which you here behold. Tomorrow everything that
is found in my house will be the property of the cursed monks, who
have had no pity on me. Then deign, madame, to accept this. It is a
slight return for the joy which, through you, I have experienced in
seeing her I love; for no sum of money is worth one of her glances. I
do not know what will become of me, but if one day my children are
delivered, I rely upon your queenly generosity."
"Well said, good man," cried the king. "The abbey will one day need my
aid and I will not lose the remembrance of this."
There was a vast crowd at the abbey for the nuptials of Tiennette, to
whom the queen presented the bridal dress, and to whom the king
granted a licence to wear every day golden rings in her ears. When the
charming pair came from the abbey to the house of Anseau (now serf)
over against St. Leu, there were torches at the windows to see them
pass, and a double line in the streets, as though it were a royal
entry. The poor husband had made himself a collar of gold, which he
wore on his left arm in token of his belonging to the abbey of St.
Germain. But in spite of his servitude the people cried out, "Noel!
Noel!" as to a new crowned king. And the good man bowed to them
gracefully, happy as a lover, and joyful at the homage which every one
rendered to the grace and modesty of Tiennette. Then the good
Touranian found green boughs and violets in crowns in his honour; and
the principal inhabitants of the quarter were all there, who as a
great honour, played music to him, and cried to him, "You will always
be a noble man in spite of the abbey." You may be sure that the happy
pair indulged an amorous conflict to their hearts' content; that the
good man's blows were vigorous; and that his sweetheart, like a good
country maiden, was of a nature to return them. Thus they lived
together a whole month, happy as the doves, who in springtime build
their nest twig by twig. Tiennette was delighted with the beautiful
house and the customers, who came and went away astonished at her.
This month of flowers past, there came one day, with great pomp, the
good old Abbot Hugon, their lord and master, who entered the house,
which then belonged not the jeweller but to the Chapter, and said to
the two spouses:--
"My children, you are released, free and quit of everything; and I
should tell you that from the first I was much struck with the love
which united you one to the other. The rights of the abbey once
recognised, I was, so far as I was concerned, determined to restore
you to perfect enjoyment, after having proved your loyalty by the test
of God. And this manumission will cost you nothing." Having thus said,
he gave them each a little tap with his hand on the cheek. And they
fell about his knees weeping tears of joy for such good reasons. The
Touranian informed the people of the neighbourhood, who picked up in
the street the largesse, and received the predictions of the good
Then it was with great honour, Master Anseau held the reins of his
mule, so far as the gate of Bussy. During the journey the jeweller,
who had taken a bag of silver, threw the pieces to the poor and
suffering, crying, "Largesse, largesse to God! God save and guard the
abbot! Long live the good Lord Hugon!" And returning to his house he
regaled his friends, and had fresh wedding festivities, which lasted a
fortnight. You can imagine that the abbot was reproached by the
Chapter, for his clemency in opening the door for such good prey to
escape, so that when a year after the good man Hugon fell ill, his
prior told him that it was a punishment from Heaven because he had
neglected the sacred interests of the Chapter and of God.
"If I have judged that man aright," said the abbot, "he will not
forget what he owes us."
In fact, this day happening by chance to be the anniversary of the
marriage, a monk came to announce that the silversmith supplicated his
benefactor to receive him. Soon he entered the room where the abbot
was, and spread out before him two marvellous shrines, which since
that time no workman has surpassed, in any portion of the Christian
world, and which were named "Vow of a Steadfast Love." These two
treasures are, as everyone knows, placed on the principal altar of the
church, and are esteemed as an inestimable work, for the silversmith
had spent therein all his wealth. Nevertheless, this wealth, far from
emptying his purse, filled it full to overflowing, because so rapidly
increased his fame and his fortune that he was able to buy a patent of
nobility and lands, and he founded the house of Anseau, which has
since been held in great honour in fair Touraine.
This teaches us to have always recourse to God and the saints in all
the undertakings of life, to be steadfast in all things, and, above
all, that a great love triumphs over everything, which is an old
sentence; but the author has rewritten it because it is a most
CONCERNING A PROVOST WHO DID NOT RECOGNISE THINGS
In the good town of Bourges, at the time when that lord the king
disported himself there, who afterwards abandoned his search after
pleasure to conquer the kingdom, and did indeed conquer it, lived
there a provost, entrusted by him with the maintenance of order, and
called the provost-royal. From which came, under the glorious son of
the said king, the office of provost of the hotel, in which behaved
rather harshly my lord Tristan of Mere, of whom these tales oft make
mention, although he was by no means a merry fellow. I give this
information to the friends who pilfer from old manuscripts to
manufacture new ones, and I show thereby how learned these Tales
really are, without appearing to be so. Very well, then, this provost
was named Picot or Picault, of which some made picotin, picoter, and
picoree; by some Pitot or Pitaut, from which comes _pitance_; by
others in Languedoc, Pichot from which comes nothing comes worth
knowing; by these Petiot or Petiet; by those Petitot and Petinault, or
Petiniaud, which was the masonic appellation; but at Bourges he was
called Petit, a name which was eventually adopted by the family, which
has multiplied exceedingly, for everywhere you find "_des Petits_,"
and so he will be called Petit in this narrative. I have given this
etymology in order to throw a light on our language, and show how our
citizens have finished by acquiring names. But enough of science.
This said provost, who had as many names as there were provinces into
which the court went, was in reality a little bit of a man, whose
mother had given him so strange a hide, that when he wanted to laugh
he used to stretch his cheeks like a cow making water, and this smile
at court was called the provost's smile. One day the king, hearing
this proverbial expression used by certain lords, said jokingly--
"You are in error, gentlemen, Petit does not laugh, he's short of skin
below the mouth."
But with his forced laugh Petit was all the more suited to his
occupation of watching and catching evil-doers. In fact, he was worth
what he cost. For all malice, he was a bit of a cuckold, for all vice,
he went to vespers, for all wisdom he obeyed God, when it was
convenient; for all joy he had a wife in his house; and for all change
in his joy he looked for a man to hang, and when he was asked to find
one he never failed to meet him; but when he was between the sheets he
never troubled himself about thieves. Can you find in all Christendom
a more virtuous provost? No! All provosts hang too little, or too
much, while this one just hanged as much as was necessary to be a
This good fellow had for his wife in legitimate marriage, and much to
the astonishment of everyone, the prettiest little woman in Bourges.
So it was that often, while on his road to the execution, he would ask
God the same question as several others in the town did--namely, why
he, Petit, he the sheriff, he the provost royal, had to himself,
Petit, provost royal and sheriff, a wife so exquisitely shapely, said
dowered with charms, that a donkey seeing her pass by would bray with
delight. To this God vouchsafed no reply, and doubtless had his
reasons. But the slanderous tongues of the town replied for him, that
the young lady was by no means a maiden when she became the wife of
Petit. Others said she did not keep her affections solely for him. The
wags answered, that donkeys often get into fine stables. Everyone had
taunts ready which would have made a nice little collection had anyone
gathered them together. From them, however, it is necessary to take
nearly four-fourths, seeing that Petit's wife was a virtuous woman,
who had a lover for pleasure and a husband for duty. How many were
there in the town as careful of their hearts and mouths? If you can
point out one to me, I'll give you a kick or a half-penny, whichever
you like. You will find some who have neither husband nor lover.
Certain females have a lover and no husband. Ugly women have a husband
and no lover. But to meet with a woman who, having one husband and one
lover, keeps to the deuce without trying for the trey, there is the
miracle, you see, you greenhorns, blockheads, and dolts! Now then, put
the true character of this virtuous woman on the tablets of your
memory, go your ways, and let me go mine.
The good Madame Petit was not one of those ladies who are always on
the move, running hither and thither, can't keep still a moment, but
trot about, worrying, hurrying, chattering, and clattering, and had
nothing in them to keep them steady, but are so light that they run
after a gastric zephyr as after their quintessence. No; on the
contrary, she was a good housewife, always sitting in her chair or
sleeping in her bed, ready as a candlestick, waiting for her lover
when her husband went out, receiving the husband when the lover had
gone. This dear woman never thought of dressing herself only to annoy
and make other wives jealous. Pish! She had found a better use for the
merry time of youth, and put life into her joints in order to make the
best use of it. Now you know the provost and his good wife.
The provost's lieutenant in duties matrimonial, duties which are so
heavy that it takes two men to execute them, was a noble lord, a
landowner, who disliked the king exceedingly. You must bear this in
mind, because it is one of the principal points of the story. The
Constable, who was a thorough Scotch gentleman, had seen by chance
Petit's wife, and wished to have a little conversation with her
comfortably, towards the morning, just the time to tell his beads,
which was Christianly honest, or honestly Christian, in order to argue
with her concerning the things of science or the science of things.
Thinking herself quite learned enough, Madame Petit, who was, as has
been stated, a virtuous, wise, and honest wife, refused to listen to
the said constable. After certain arguments, reasonings, tricks and
messages, which were of no avail, he swore by his great black
_coquedouille_ that he would rip up the gallant although he was a man
of mark. But he swore nothing about the lady. This denotes a good
Frenchman, for in such a dilemma there are certain offended persons
who would upset the whole business of three persons by killing four.
The constable wagered his big black _coquedouille_ before the king and
the lady of Sorel, who were playing cards before supper; and his
majesty was well pleased, because he would be relieved of this noble,
that displeased him, and that without costing him a Thank You.
"And how will you manage the affair?" said Madame de Sorel to him,
with a smile.
"Oh, oh!" replied the constable. "You may be sure, madame, I do not
wish to lose my big black coquedouille."
"What was, then, this great coquedouille?"
"Ha, ha! This point is shrouded in darkness to a degree that would
make you ruin your eyes in ancient books; but it was certainly
something of great importance. Nevertheless, let us put on our
spectacles, and search it out. _Douille_ signifies in Brittany, a
girl, and _coque_ means a cook's frying pan. From this word has come
into France that of _coquin_--a knave who eats, licks, laps, sucks,
and fritters his money away, and gets into stews; is always in hot
water, and eats up everything, leads an idle life, and doing this,
becomes wicked, becomes poor, and that incites him to steal or beg.
From this it may be concluded by the learned that the great
coquedouille was a household utensil in the shape of a kettle used for
"Well," continued the constable, who was the Sieur of Richmond, "I
will have the husband ordered to go into the country for a day and a
night, to arrest certain peasants suspected of plotting treacherously
with the English. Thereupon my two pigeons, believing their man
absent, will be as merry as soldiers off duty; and, if a certain thing
takes place, I will let loose the provost, sending him, in the king's
name, to search the house where the couple will be, in order that he
may slay our friend, who pretends to have this good cordelier all to
"What does this mean?" said the Lady of Beaute.
"Friar . . . fryer . . . an _equivoque_," answered the king, smiling.
"Come to supper," said Madame Agnes. "You are bad men, who with one
word insult both the citizens' wives and a holy order."
Now, for a long time, Madame Petit had longed to have a night of
liberty, during which she might visit the house of the said noble,
where she could make as much noise as she liked, without waking the
neighbours, because at the provost's house she was afraid of being
overheard, and had to content herself well with the pilferings of
love, little tastes, and nibbles, daring at the most only to trot,
while what she desired was a smart gallop. On the morrow, therefore,
the lady's-maid went off about midday to the young lord's house, and
told the lover--from whom she received many presents, and therefore in
no way disliked him--that he might make his preparations for pleasure,
and for supper, for that he might rely upon the provost's better half
being with him in the evening both hungry and thirsty.
"Good!" said he. "Tell your mistress I will not stint her in anything
The pages of the cunning constable, who were watching the house,
seeing the gallant prepare for his gallantries, and set out the
flagons and the meats, went and informed their master that everything
had happened as he wished. Hearing this, the good constable rubbed his
hands thinking how nicely the provost would catch the pair. He
instantly sent word to him, that by the king's express commands he was
to return to town, in order that he might seize at the said lord's
house an English nobleman, with whom he was vehemently suspected to be
arranging a plot of diabolical darkness. But before he put this order
into execution, he was to come to the king's hotel, in order that he
might understand the courtesy to be exercised in this case. The
provost, joyous at the chance of speaking to the king, used such
diligence that he was in town just at that time when the two lovers
were singing the first note of their evening hymn. The lord of
cuckoldom and its surrounding lands, who is a strange lord, managed
things so well, that madame was only conversing with her lord lover at
the time that her lord spouse was talking to the constable and the
king; at which he was pleased, and so was his wife--a case of concord
rare in matrimony.
"I was saying to monseigneur," said the constable to the provost, as
he entered the king's apartment, "that every man in the kingdom has a
right to kill his wife and her lover if he finds them in an act of
infidelity. But his majesty, who is clement, argues that he has only a
right to kill the man, and not the woman. Now what would you do, Mr.
Provost, if by chance you found a gentleman taking a stroll in that
fair meadow of which laws, human and divine, enjoin you alone to
cultivate the verdure?"
"I would kill everything," said the provost; "I would scrunch the five
hundred thousand devils of nature, flower and seed, and send them
flying, the pips and apples, the grass and the meadow, the woman and
"You would be in the wrong," said the king. "That is contrary to the
laws of the Church and of the State; of the State, because you might
deprive me of a subject; of the Church, because you would be sending
an innocent to limbo unshriven."
"Sire, I admire your profound wisdom, and I clearly perceive you to be
the centre of all justice."
"We can then only kill the knight--Amen," said constable, "Kill the
horseman. Now go quickly to the house of the suspected lord, but
without letting yourself be bamboozled, do not forget what is due to
The provost, believing he would certainly be Chancellor of France if
he properly acquitted himself of the task, went from the castle into
the town, took his men, arrived at the nobleman's residence, arranged
his people outside, placed guards at all the doors, opened noiselessly
by order of the king, climbs the stairs, asks the servants in which
room their master is, puts them under arrest, goes up alone, and
knocks at the door of the room where the two lovers are tilting in
love's tournament, and says to them--
"Open, in the name of our lord the king!"
The lady recognised her husband's voice, and could not repress a
smile, thinking that she had not waited for the king's orders to do
what she had done. But after laughter came terror. Her lover took his
cloak, threw it over him, and came to the door. There, not knowing
that his life was in peril, he declared that he belonged to the court
and to the king's household.
"Bah!" said the provost. "I have a strict order from the king; and
under pain of being treated as a rebel, you are bound instantly to
Then the lord went out to him, still holding the door.
"What do you want here?"
"An enemy of our lord the king, whom we command you to deliver into
our hands, otherwise you must follow me with him to the castle."
This, thought the lover, is a piece of treachery on the part of the
constable, whose proposition my dear mistress treated with scorn. We
must get out of this scrape in some way. Then turning towards the
provost, he went double or quits on the risk, reasoning thus with the
"My friend, you know that I consider you but as gallant a man as it is
possible for a provost to be in the discharge of his duty. Now, can I
have confidence in you? I have here with me the fairest lady of the
court. As for Englishmen, I have not sufficient of one to make the
breakfast of the constable, M. de Richmond, who sends you here. This
is (to be candid with you) the result of a bet made between myself and
the constable, who shares it with the King. Both have wagered that
they know who is the lady of my heart; and I have wagered to the
contrary. No one more than myself hates the English, who took my
estates in Piccadilly. Is it not a knavish trick to put justice in
motion against me? Ho! Ho! my lord constable, a chamberlain is worth
two of you, and I will beat you yet. My dear Petit, I give you
permission to search by night and by day, every nook and cranny of my
house. But come in here alone, search my room, turn the bed over, do
what you like. Only allow me to cover with a cloth or a handkerchief
this fair lady, who is at present in the costume of an archangel, in
order that you may not know to what husband she belongs."
"Willingly," said the provost. "But I am an old bird, not easily
caught with chaff, and would like to be sure that it is really a lady
of the court, and not an Englishman, for these English have flesh as
white and soft as women, and I know it well, because I've hanged so
many of them."
"Well then," said the lord, "seeing of what crime I am suspected, from
which I am bound to free myself, I will go and ask my lady-love to
consent for a moment to abandon her modesty. She is too fond of me to
refuse to save me from reproach. I will beg her to turn herself over
and show you a physiognomy, which will in no way compromise her, and
will be sufficient to enable you to recognise a noble woman, although
she will be in a sense upside down."
"All right," said the provost.
The lady having heard every word, had folded up all her clothes, and
put them under the bolster, had taken off her chemise, that her
husband should not recognise it, had twisted her head up in a sheet,
and had brought to light the carnal convexities which commenced where
her spine finished.
"Come in, my friend," said the lord.
The provost looked up the chimney, opened the cupboard, the clothes'
chest, felt under the bed, in the sheets, and everywhere. Then he
began to study what was on the bed.
"My lord," said he, regarding his legitimate appurtenances, "I have
seen young English lads with backs like that. You must forgive me
doing my duty, but I must see otherwise."
"What do you call otherwise?" said the lord.
"Well, the other physiognomy, or, if you prefer it, the physiognomy of
"Then you will allow madame to cover herself and arrange only to show
you sufficient to convince you," said the lover, knowing that the lady
had a mark or two easy to recognise. "Turn your back a moment, so that
my dear lady may satisfy propriety."
The wife smiled at her lover, kissed him for his dexterity, arranging
herself cunningly; and the husband seeing in full that which the jade
had never let him see before, was quite convinced that no English
person could be thus fashioned without being a charming Englishwoman.
"Yes, my lord," he whispered in the ear of his lieutenant, "this is
certainly a lady of the court, because the towns-women are neither so
well formed nor so charming."
Then the house being thoroughly searched, and no Englishman found, the
provost returned, as the constable had told him, to the king's
"Is he slain?" said the constable.
"He who grafted horns upon your forehead."
"I only saw a lady in his couch, who seemed to be greatly enjoying
herself with him."
"You, with your own eyes, saw this woman, cursed cuckold, and you did
not kill your rival?"
"It was not a common woman, but a lady of the court."
"You saw her?"
"And verified her in both cases."
"What do you mean by those words?" cried the king, who was bursting
"I say, with all the respect due to your Majesty, that I have verified
the over and the under."
"You do not, then, know the physiognomies of your own wife, you old
fool without memory! You deserve to be hanged."
"I hold those features of my wife in too great respect to gaze upon
them. Besides she is so modest that she would die rather than expose
an atom of her body."
"True," said the king; "it was not made to be shown."
"Old coquedouille! that was your wife," said the constable.
"My lord constable, she is asleep, poor girl!"
"Quick, quick, then! To horse! Let us be off, and if she be in your
house I'll forgive you."
Then the constable, followed by the provost, went to the latter's
house in less time than it would have taken a beggar to empty the
"Hullo! there, hi!"
Hearing the noise made by the men, which threatened to bring the walls
about their ears, the maid-servant opened the door, yawning and
stretching her arms. The constable and the provost rushed into the
room, where, with great difficulty, they succeeded in waking the lady,
who pretended to be terrified, and was so soundly asleep that her eyes
were full of gum. At this the provost was in great glee, saying to the
constable that someone had certainly deceived him, that his wife was a
virtuous woman, and was more astonished than any of them at these
proceedings. The constable turned on his heel and departed. The good
provost began directly to undress to get to bed early, since this
adventure had brought his good wife to his memory. When he was
harnessing himself, and was knocking off his nether garments, madame,
still astonished, said to him--
"Oh, my dear husband, what is the meaning of all this uproar--this
constable and his pages, and why did he come to see if I was asleep?
Is it to be henceforward part of a constable's duty to look after
our . . ."
"I do not know," said the provost, interrupting her, to tell her what
had happened to him.
"And you saw without my permission a lady of the court! Ha! ha! heu!
Then she began to moan, to weep, and to cry in such a deplorable
manner and so loudly, that her lord was quite aghast.
"What's the matter, my darling? What is it? What do you want?"
"Ah! You won't love me any more are after seeing how beautiful court
"Nonsense, my child! They are great ladies. I don't mind telling you
in confidence; they are great ladies in every respect."
"Well," said she, "am I nicer?"
"Ah," said he, "in a great measure. Yes!"
"They have, then, great happiness," said she, sighing, "when I have so
much with so little beauty."
Thereupon the provost tried a better argument to argue with his good
wife, and argued so well that she finished by allowing herself to be
convinced that Heaven has ordained that much pleasure may be obtained
from small things.
This shows us that nothing here below can prevail against the Church
ABOUT THE MONK AMADOR, WHO WAS A GLORIOUS ABBOT OF TURPENAY
One day that it was drizzling with rain--a time when the ladies remain
gleefully at home, because they love the damp, and can have at their
apron strings the men who are not disagreeable to them--the queen was
in her chamber, at the castle of Amboise, against the window curtains.
There, seated in her chair, she was working at a piece of tapestry to
amuse herself, but was using her needle heedlessly, watching the rain
fall into the Loire, and was lost in thought, where her ladies were
following her example. The king was arguing with those of his court
who had accompanied him from the chapel--for it was a question of
returning to dominical vespers. His arguments, statements, and
reasonings finished, he looked at the queen, saw that she was
melancholy, saw that the ladies were melancholy also, and noted the
fact that they were all acquainted with the mysteries of matrimony.
"Did I not see the Abbot of Turpenay here just now?" said he.
Hearing these words, there advanced towards the king the monk, who, by
his constant petitions, rendered himself so obnoxious to Louis the
Eleventh, that that monarch seriously commanded his provost-royal to
remove him from his sight; and it has been related in the first volume
of these Tales, how the monk was saved through the mistake of Sieur
Tristan. The monk was at this time a man whose qualities had grown
rapidly, so much so that his wit had communicated a jovial hue to his
face. He was a great favourite with the ladies, who crammed him with
wine, confectioneries, and dainty dishes at the dinners, suppers, and
merry-makings, to which they invited him, because every host likes
those cheerful guests of God with nimble jaws, who say as many words
as they put away tit-bits. This abbot was a pernicious fellow, who
would relate to the ladies many a merry tale, at which they were only
offended when they had heard them; since, to judge them, things must
"My reverend father," said the king, "behold the twilight hour, in
which ears feminine may be regaled with certain pleasant stories, for
the ladies can laugh without blushing, or blush without laughing, as
it suits them best. Give us a good story--a regular monk's story. I
shall listen to it, i'faith, with pleasure, because I want to be
amused, and so do the ladies."
"We only submit to this, in order to please your lordship," said the
queen; "because our good friend the abbot goes a little too far."
"Then," replied the king, turning towards the monk, "read us some
Christian admonition, holy father, to amuse madame."
"Sire, my sight is weak, and the day is closing."
"Give us a story, then, that stops at the girdle."
"Ah, sire!" said the monk, smiling, "the one I am thinking of stops
there; but it commences at the feet."
The lords present made such gallant remonstrances and supplications to
the queen and her ladies, that, like the good Bretonne that she was,
she gave the monk a gentle smile, and said--
"As you will, my father; but you must answer to God for our sins."
"Willingly, madame; if it be your pleasure to take mine, you will be a
Everyone laughed, and so did queen. The king went and sat by his dear
wife, well beloved by him, as everyone knows. The courtiers received
permission to be seated--the old courtiers, of course, understood; for
the young ones stood, by the ladies' permission, beside their chairs,
to laugh at the same time as they did. Then the Abbot of Turpenay
gracefully delivered himself of the following tale, the risky passages
of which he gave in a low, soft, flute-like voice:--
About a hundred years ago at the least, there occurred great quarrels
in Christendom because there were two popes at Rome, each one
pretending to be legitimately elected, which caused great annoyance to
the monasteries, abbeys, and bishoprics, since, in order to be
recognised by as many as possible, each of the two popes granted
titles and rights to each adherent, the which made double owners
everywhere. Under these circumstances, the monasteries and abbeys that
were at war with their neighbours would not recognise both the popes,
and found themselves much embarrassed by the other, who always gave
the verdict to the enemies of the Chapter. This wicked schism brought
about considerable mischief, and proved abundantly that error is worse
in Christianity than the adultery of the Church.
Now at this time, when the devil was making havoc among our
possessions, the most illustrious abbey of Turpenay, of which I am at
present the unworthy ruler, had a heavy trial on concerning the
settlements of certain rights with the redoubtable Sire de Cande, an
idolatrous infidel, a relapsed heretic, and most wicked lord. This
devil, sent upon earth in the shape of a nobleman, was, to tell the
truth, a good soldier, well received at court, and a friend of the
Sieur Bureau de la Riviere; who was a person to whom the king was
exceedingly partial--King Charles the Fifth, of glorious memory.
Beneath the shelter of the favour of this Sieur de la Riviere, Lord of
Cande did exactly as he pleased in the valley of the Indre, where he
used to be master of everything, from Montbazon to Usse. You may be
sure that his neighbours were terribly afraid of him, and to save
their skulls let him have his way. They would, however, have preferred
him under the ground to above it, and heartily wished him bad luck;
but he troubled himself little about that. In the whole valley the
noble abbey alone showed fight to this demon, for it has always been a
doctrine of the Church to take into her lap the weak and suffering,
and use every effort to protect the oppressed, especially those whose
rights and privileges are menaced.
For this reason this rough warrior hated monks exceedingly, especially
those of Turpenay, who would not allow themselves to be robbed of
their rights either by force or stratagem. He was well pleased at the
ecclesiastical schism, and waited the decision of our abbey,
concerning which pope they should choose, to pillage them, being quite
ready to recognise the one to whom the abbot of Turpenay should refuse
his obedience. Since his return to his castle, it was his custom to
torment and annoy the priests whom he encountered upon his domains in
such a manner, that a poor monk, surprised by him on his private road,
which was by the water-side, perceived no other method of safety then
to throw himself into the river, where, by a special miracle of the
Almighty, whom the good man fervently invoked, his gown floated him on
the Indre, and he made his way comfortably to the other side, which he
attained in full view of the lord of Cande, who was not ashamed to
enjoy the terrors of a servant of God. Now you see of what stuff this
horrid man was made. The abbot, to whom at that time, the care of our
glorious abbey was committed, led a most holy life, and prayed to God
with devotion; but he would have saved his own soul ten times, of such
good quality was his religion, before finding a chance to save the
abbey itself from the clutches of this wretch. Although he was very
perplexed, and saw the evil hour at hand, he relied upon God for
succour, saying that he would never allow the property of the Church
to be touched, and that He who had raised up the Princess Judith for
the Hebrews, and Queen Lucretia for the Romans, would keep his most
illustrious abbey of Turpenay, and indulged in other equally sapient
remarks. But his monks, who--to our shame I confess it--were
unbelievers, reproached him with his happy-go-lucky way of looking at
things, and declared that, to bring the chariot of Providence to the
rescue in time, all the oxen in the province would have to be yoked
it; that the trumpets of Jericho were no longer made in any portion of
the world; that God was disgusted with His creation, and would have
nothing more to do with it: in short, a thousand and one things that
were doubts and contumelies against God.
At this desperate juncture there rose up a monk named Amador. This
name had been given him by way of a joke, since his person offered a
perfect portrait of the false god Aegipan. He was like him, strong in
the stomach; like him, had crooked legs; arms hairy as those of a
saddler, a back made to carry a wallet, a face as red as the phiz of a
drunkard, glistening eyes, a tangled beard, was hairy faced, and so
puffed out with fat and meat that you would have fancied him in an
interesting condition. You may be sure that he sung his matins on the
steps of the wine-cellar, and said his vespers in the vineyards of
Lord. He was as fond of his bed as a beggar with sores, and would go
about the valley fuddling, faddling, blessing the bridals, plucking
the grapes, and giving them to the girls to taste, in spite of the
prohibition of the abbot. In fact, he was a pilferer, a loiterer, and
a bad soldier of the ecclesiastical militia, of whom nobody in the
abbey took any notice, but let him do as he liked from motives of
Christian charity, thinking him mad.
Amador, knowing that it was a question of the ruin of the Abbey, in
which he was as snug as a bug in a rug, put up his bristles, took
notice of this and of that, went into each of the cells, listened in
the refectory, shivered in his shoes, and declared that he would
attempt to save the abbey. He took cognisance of the contested points,
received from the abbot permission to postpone the case, and was
promised by the whole Chapter the Office of sub-prior if he succeeded
in putting an end to the litigation. Then he set off across the
country, heedless of the cruelty and ill-treatment of the Sieur de
Cande, saying that he had that within his gown which would subdue him.
He went his way with nothing but the said gown for his viaticum: but
then in it was enough fat to feed a dwarf. He selected to go to the
chateau, a day when it rained hard enough to fill the tubs of all the
housewives, and arrived without meeting a soul, in sight of Cande, and
looking like a drowned dog, stepped bravely into the courtyard, and
took shelter under a sty-roof to wait until the fury of the elements
had calmed down, and placed himself boldly in front of the room where
the owner of the chateau should be. A servant perceiving him while
laying the supper, took pity on him, and told him to make himself
scarce, otherwise his master would give him a horsewhipping, just to
open the conversation, and asked him what made him so bold as to enter
a house where monks were hated more than a red leper.
"Ah!" said Amador, "I am on my way to Tours, sent thither by my lord
abbot. If the lord of Cande were not so bitter against the poor
servant of God, I should not be kept during such a deluge in the
courtyard, but in the house. I hope that he will find mercy in his
hour of need."
The servant reported these words to his master, who at first wished to
have the monk thrown into the big trough of the castle among the other
filth. But the lady of Cande, who had great authority over her spouse,
and was respected by him, because through her he expected a large
inheritance, and because she was a little tyrannical, reprimanded him,
saying, that it was possible this monk was a Christian; that in such
weather thieves would succour an officer of justice; that, besides, it
was necessary to treat him well to find out to what decision the
brethren of Turpenay had come with regard to the schism business, and
that her advice was put an end by kindness and not by force to the
difficulties arisen between the abbey and the domain of Cande, because
no lord since the coming of Christ had ever been stronger than the
Church, and that sooner or later the abbey would ruin the castle;
finally, she gave utterance to a thousand wise arguments, such as
ladies use in the height of the storms of life, when they have had
about enough of them. Amador's face was so piteous, his appearance so
wretched, and so open to banter, that the lord, saddened by the
weather, conceived the idea of enjoying a joke at his expense,
tormenting him, playing tricks on him, and of giving him a lively
recollection of his reception at the chateau. Then this gentleman, who
had secret relations with his wife's maid, sent this girl, who was
called Perrotte, to put an end to his ill-will towards the luckless
Amador. As soon as the plot had been arranged between them, the wench,
who hated monks, in order to please her master, went to the monk, who
was standing under the pigsty, assuming a courteous demeanour in order
the better to please him, said--
"Holy father, the master of the house is ashamed to see a servant of
God out in the rain when there is room for him indoors, a good fire in
the chimney, and a table spread. I invite you in his name and that of
the lady of the house to step in."
"I thank the lady and lord, not for their hospitality which is a
Christian thing, but for having sent as an ambassador to me, a poor
sinner, an angel of such delicate beauty that I fancy I see the Virgin
over our altar."
Saying which, Amador raised his nose in the air, and saluted with the
two flakes of fire that sparkled in his bright eyes the pretty
maidservant, who thought him neither so ugly nor so foul, nor so
bestial; when, following Perrotte up the steps, Amador received on the
nose, cheeks, and other portions of his face a slash of the whip,
which made him see all the lights of the Magnificat, so well was the
dose administered by the Sieur de Cande, who, busy chastening his
greyhounds pretended not see the monk. He requested Amador to pardon
him this accident, and ran after the dogs who had caused the mischief
to his guest. The laughing servant, who knew what was coming, had
dexterously kept out of the way. Noticing this business, Amador
suspected the relations of Perrotte and the chevalier, concerning whom
it is possible that the lasses of the valley had already whispered
something into his ear. Of the people who were then in the room not
one made room for the man of God, who remained right in the draught
between the door and the window, where he stood freezing until the
moment when the Sieur de Cande, his wife, and his aged sister,
Mademoiselle de Cande, who had the charge of the young heiress of the
house, aged about sixteen years, came and sat in their chairs at the
head of the table, far from the common people, according to the old
custom usual among the lords of the period, much to their discredit.
The Sieur de Cande, paying no attention to the monk, let him sit at
the extreme end of the table, in a corner, where two mischievous lads
had orders to squeeze and elbow him. Indeed these fellows worried his
feet, his body, and his arms like real torturers, poured white wine
into his goblet for water, in order to fuddle him, and the better to
amuse themselves with him; but they made him drink seven large jugfuls
without making belch, break wind, sweat or snort, which horrified them
exceedingly, especially as his eye remained as clear as crystal.
Encouraged, however, by a glance from their lord, they still kept
throwing, while bowing to him, gravy into his beard, and wiping it dry
in a manner to tear every hair of it out. The varlet who served a
caudle baptised his head with it, and took care to let the burning
liquor trickle down poor Amador's backbone. All this agony he endured
with meekness, because the spirit of God was in him, and also the hope
of finishing the litigation by holding out in the castle.
Nevertheless, the mischievous lot burst out into such roars of
laughter at the warm baptism given by the cook's lad to the soaked
monk, even the butler making jokes at his expense, that the lady of
Cande was compelled to notice what was going on at the end of the
table. Then she perceived Amador, who had a look of sublime
resignation upon his face, and was endeavouring to get something out
of the big beef bones that had been put upon his pewter platter. At
this moment the poor monk, who had administered a dexterous blow of
the knife to a big ugly bone, took it into his hairy hands, snapped it
in two, sucked the warm marrow out of it, and found it good.
"Truly," said she to herself, "God has put great strength into this
At the same time she seriously forbade the pages, servants, and others
to torment the poor man, to whom out of mockery they had just given
some rotten apples and maggoty nuts. He, perceiving that the old lady
and her charge, the lady and the servants had seen him manoeuvring the
bone, pushed backed his sleeve, showed the powerful muscles of his
arm, placed nuts near his wrist on the bifurcation of the veins, and
crushed them one by one by pressing them with the palm of his hand so
vigorously that they appeared like ripe medlars. He also crunched them
between his teeth, white as the teeth of a dog, husk, shell, fruit,
and all, of which he made in a second a mash which he swallowed like
honey. He crushed them between two fingers, which he used like
scissors to cut them in two without a moment's hesitation.
You may be sure that the women were silent, that the men believed the
devil to be in the monk; and had it not been for his wife and the
darkness of the night, the Sieur de Cande, having the fear of God
before his eyes, would have kicked him out of the house. Everyone
declared that the monk was a man capable of throwing the castle into
the moat. Therefore, as soon as everyone had wiped his mouth, my lord
took care to imprison this devil, whose strength was terrible to
behold, and had him conducted to a wretched little closet where
Perrotte had arranged her machine in order to annoy him during the
night. The tom-cats of the neighbourhood had been requested to come
and confess to him, invited to tell him their sins in embryo towards
the tabbies who attracted their affections, and also the little pigs
for whom fine lumps of tripe had been placed under the bed in order to
prevent them becoming monks, of which they were very desirous, by
disgusting them with the style of libera, which the monk would sing to
them. At every movement of poor Amador, who would find short
horse-hair in the sheets, he would bring down cold water on to the bed,
and a thousand other tricks were arranged, such are usually practised
in castles. Everyone went to bed in expectation of the nocturnal revels
of the monk, certain that they would not be disappointed, since he had
been lodged under the tiles at the top of a little tower, the guard of
the door of which was committed to dogs who howled for a bit of him.
In order to ascertain what language the conversations with the cats
and pigs would be carried on, the Sire came to stay with his dear
Perrotte, who slept in the next room.
As soon as he found himself thus treated, Amador drew from his bag a
knife, and dexterously extricated himself. Then he began to listen in
order to find out the ways of the place, and heard the master of the
house laughing with his maid-servant. Suspecting their manoeuvres, he
waited till the moment when the lady of the house should be alone in
bed, and made his way into her room with bare feet, in order that his
sandals should not be in his secrets. He appeared to her by the light
of the lamp in the manner in which monks generally appear during the
night--that is, in a marvellous state, which the laity find it
difficult long to sustain; and the thing is an effect of the frock,
which magnifies everything. Then having let her see that he was all a
monk, he made the following little speech--
"Know, madame, that I am sent by Jesus and the Virgin Mary to warn you
to put an end to the improper perversities which are taking place--to
the injury of your virtue, which is treacherously deprived of your
husband's best attention, which he lavishes upon your maid. What is
the use of being a lady if the seigneurial dues are received
elsewhere. According to this, your servant is the lady and you are the
servant. Are not all the joys bestowed upon her due to you? You will
find them all amassed in our Holy Church, which is the consolation of
the afflicted. Behold in me the messenger, ready to pay these debts if
you do not renounce them."
Saying this, the good monk gently loosened his girdle in which he was
incommoded, so much did he appear affected by the sight of those
beauties which the Sieur de Cande disdained.
"If you speak truly, my father, I will submit to your guidance," said
she, springing lightly out of bed. "You are for sure, a messenger of
God, because you have been in a single day that which I had not
noticed here for a long time."
Then she went, accompanied by Amador, whose holy robe she did not fail
to run her hand over, and was so struck when she found it real, that
she hoped to find her husband guilty; and indeed she heard him talking
about the monk in her servant's bed. Perceiving this felony, she went
into a furious rage and opened her mouth to resolve it into words--
which is the usual method of women--and wished to kick up the devil's
delight before handing the girl over to justice. But Amador told her
that it would be more sensible to avenge herself first, and cry out
"Avenge me quickly, then, my father," said she, "that I may begin to
Thereupon the monk avenged her most monastically with a good and ample
vengeance, that she indulged in as a drunkard who puts his lips to the
bunghole of a barrel; for when a lady avenges herself, she should get
drunk with vengeance, or not taste it at all. And the chatelaine was
revenged to that degree that she could not move; since nothing
agitates, takes away the breath, and exhausts, like anger and
vengeance. But although she were avenged, and doubly and trebly
avenged, yet would she not forgive, in order that she might reserve
the right of avenging herself with the monk, now here, now there.
Perceiving this love for vengeance, Amador promised to aid her in it
as long as her ire lasted, for he informed her that he knew in his
quality of a monk, constrained to meditate long on the nature of
things, an infinite number of modes, methods, and manners of
Then he pointed out to her canonically what a Christian thing it is to
revenge oneself, because all through the Holy Scriptures God declares
Himself, above all things, to be a God of vengeance; and moreover,
demonstrates to us, by his establishment in the infernal regions, how
royally divine a thing vengeance is, since His vengeance is eternal.
From which it followed, that women with monks ought to revenge
themselves, under pain of not being Christians and faithful servants
of celestial doctrines.
This dogma pleased the lady much, and she confessed that she had never
understood the commandments of the Church, and invited her
well-beloved monk to enlighten her thoroughly concerning them. Then
the chatelaine, whose vital spirits had been excited by the vengeance
which had refreshed them, went into the room where the jade was
amusing herself, and by chance found her with her hand where she, the
chatelaine, often had her eye--like the merchants have on their most
precious articles, in order to see that they were not stolen. They
were--according to President Lizet, when he was in a merry mood--a
couple taken in flagrant delectation, and looked dumbfounded, sheepish
and foolish. The sight that met her eyes displeased the lady beyond
the power of words to express, as it appeared by her discourse, of
which to roughness was similar to that of the water of a big pond when
the sluice-gates were opened. It was a sermon in three heads,
accompanied with music of a high gamut, varied in tones, with many
sharps among the keys.
"Out upon virtue! my lord; I've had my share of it. You have shown me
that religion in conjugal faith is an abuse; this is then the reason
that I have no son. How many children have you consigned to this
common oven, this poor-box, this bottomless alms-purse, this leper's
porringer, the true cemetery of the House of Cande? I will know if I
am childless from a constitutional defect, or through your fault. I
will have handsome cavaliers, in order that I may have an heir. You
can get the bastards, I the legitimate children."
"My dear," said the bewildered lord, "don't shout so."
"But," replied the lady, "I will shout, and shout to make myself
heard, heard by the archbishop, heard by the legate, by the king, by
my brothers, who will avenge this infamy for me."
"Do not dishonour your husband!"
"This is dishonour then? You are right; but, my lord, it is not
brought about by you, but by this hussy, whom I will have sewn up in a
sack, and thrown into the Indre; thus your dishonour will be washed
away. Hi! there," she called out.
"Silence, madame!" said the sire, as shamefaced as a blind man's dog;
because this great warrior, so ready to kill others, was like a child
in the hands of his wife, a state of affairs to which soldiers are
accustomed, because in them lies the strength and is found all the
dull carnality of matter; while, on the contrary, in woman is a subtle
spirit and a scintillation of perfumed flame that lights up paradise
and dazzles the male. This is the reason that certain women govern
their husbands, because mind is the master of matter.
(At this the ladies began to laugh, as did also the king).
"I will not be silent," said the lady of Cande (said the abbot,
continuing his tale); "I have been too grossly outraged. This, then,
is the reward of the wealth that I brought you, and of my virtuous
conduct! Did I ever refuse to obey you even during Lent, and on fast
days? Am I so cold as to freeze the sun? Do you think that I embrace
by force, from duty, or pure kindness of heart! Am I too hallowed for
you to touch? Am I a holy shrine? Was there need of a papal brief to
kiss me? God's truth! have you had so much of me that you are tired?
Am I not to your taste? Do charming wenches know more than ladies? Ha!
perhaps it is so, since she has let you work in the field without
sowing. Teach me the business; I will practice it with those whom I
take into my service, for it is settled that I am free. That is as we
should be. Your society was wearisome, and the little pleasure I
derived from it cost me too dear. Thank God! I am quit of you and your
whims, because I intend to retire to a monastery." . . . She meant to
say a convent, but this avenging monk had perverted her tongue.
"And I shall be more comfortable in this monastery with my daughter,
than in this place of abominable wickedness. You can inherit from your
wench. Ha, ha! The fine lady of Cande! Look at her!"
"What is the matter?" said Amador, appearing suddenly upon the scene.
"The matter is, my father," replied she, "that my wrongs cry aloud for
vengeance. To begin with, I shall have this trollop thrown into the
river, sewn up in a sack, for having diverted the seed of the House of
Cande from its proper channel. It will be saving the hangman a job.
For the rest I will--"
"Abandon your anger, my daughter," said the monk. "It is commanded us
by the Church to forgive those who trespass against us, if we would
find favour in the side of Heaven, because you pardon those who also
pardon others. God avenges himself eternally on those who have avenged
themselves, but keeps in His paradise those who have pardoned. From
that comes the jubilee, which is a day of great rejoicing, because all
debts and offences are forgiven. Thus it is a source of happiness to
pardon. Pardon! Pardon! To pardon is a most holy work. Pardon
Monseigneur de Cande, who will bless you for your gracious clemency,
and will henceforth love you much; This forgiveness will restore to
you the flower of youth; and believe, my dear sweet young lady, that
forgiveness is in certain cases the best means of vengeance. Pardon
your maid-servant, who will pray heaven for you. Thus God, supplicated
by all, will have you in His keeping, and will bless you with male
lineage for this pardon."
Thus saying, the monk took the hand of the sire, placed it in that of
the lady, and added--
"Go and talk over the pardon."
And then he whispered into the husband's ears this sage advice--
"My lord, use your best argument, and you will silence her with it,
because a woman's mouth it is only full of words when she is empty
elsewhere. Argue continually, and thus you will always have the upper
hand of your wife."
"By the body of the Jupiter! There's good in this monk after all,"
said the seigneur, as he went out.
As soon as Amador found himself alone with Perrotte he spoke to her,
"You are to blame, my dear, for having wished to torment a poor
servant of God; therefore are you now the object of celestial wrath,
which will fall upon you. To whatever place you fly it will always
follow you, will seize upon you in every limb, even after your death,
and will cook you like a pasty in the oven of hell, where you will
simmer eternally, and every day you will receive seven hundred
thousand million lashes of the whip, for the one I received through
"Ah! holy Father," said the wench, casting herself at the monk's feet,
"you alone can save me, for in your gown I should be sheltered from
the anger of God."
Saying this, she raised the robe to place herself beneath it, and
"By my faith! monks are better than knights."
"By the sulphur of the devil! You are not acquainted with the monks?"
"No," said Perrotte.
"And you don't know the service that monks sing without saying a
Thereupon the monk went through this said service for her, as it is
sung on great feast days, with all the grand effects used in
monasteries, the psalms well chanted in f major, the flaming tapers,
and the choristers, and explained to her the _Introit_, and also the
_ite missa est_, and departed, leaving her so sanctified that the
wrath of heaven would have great difficulty in discovering any portion
of the girl that was not thoroughly monasticated.
By his orders, Perrotte conducted him to Mademoiselle de Cande, the
lord's sister, to whom he went in order to learn if it was her desire
to confess to him, because monks came so rarely to the castle. The
lady was delighted, as would any good Christian have been, at such a
chance of clearing out her conscience. Amador requested her to show
him her conscience, and she having allowed him to see that which he
considered the conscience of old maids, he found it in a bad state,
and told her that the sins of women were accomplished there; that to
be for the future without sin it was necessary to have the conscience
corked up by a monk's indulgence. The poor ignorant lady having
replied that she did not know where these indulgences were to be had,
the monk informed her that he had a relic with him which enabled him
to grant one, that nothing was more indulgent than this relic, because
without saying a word it produced infinite pleasures, which is the
true, eternal and primary character of an indulgence. The poor lady
was so pleased with this relic, the virtue of which she tried in
various ways, that her brain became muddled, and she had so much faith
in it that she indulged as devoutly in indulgences as the Lady of
Cande had indulged in vengeances. This business of confession woke up
the younger Demoiselle de Cande, who came to watch the proceedings.
You may imagine that the monk had hoped for this occurrence, since his
mouth had watered at the sight of this fair blossom, whom he also
confessed, because the elder lady could not hinder him from bestowing
upon the younger one, who wished it, what remained of the indulgences.
But, remember, this pleasure was due to him for the trouble he had
taken. The morning having dawned, the pigs having eaten their tripe,
and the cats having become disenchanted with love, and having watered
all the places rubbed with herbs, Amador went to rest himself in his
bed, which Perrotte had put straight again. Every one slept, thanks to
the monk, so long, that no one in the castle was up before noon, which
was the dinner hour. The servants all believed the monk to be a devil
who had carried off the cats, the pigs, and also their masters. In
spite of these ideas however, every one was in the room at meal time.
"Come, my father," said the chatelaine, giving her arm to the monk,
whom she put at her side in the baron's chair, to the great
astonishment of the attendants, because the Sire of Cande said not a
word. "Page, give some of this to Father Amador," said madame.
"Father Amador has need of so and so," said the Demoiselle de Cande.
"Fill up Father Amador's goblet," said the sire.
"Father Amador has no bread," said the little lady.
"What do you require, Father Amador?" said Perrotte.
It was Father Amador here, and Father Amador there. He was regaled
like a little maiden on her wedding night.
"Eat, father," said madame; "you made such a bad meal yesterday."
"Drink, father," said the sire. "You are, s'blood! the finest monk I
have ever set eyes on."
"Father Amador is a handsome monk," said Perrotte.
"An indulgent monk," said the demoiselle.
"A beneficent monk," said the little one.
"A great monk," said the lady.
"A monk who well deserves his name," said the clerk of the castle.
Amador munched and chewed, tried all the dishes, lapped up the
hypocras, licked his chops, sneezed, blew himself out, strutted and
stamped about like a bull in a field. The others regarded him with
great fear, believing him to be a magician. Dinner over, the Lady of
Cande, the demoiselle, and the little one, besought the Sire of Cande
with a thousand fine arguments, to terminate the litigation. A great
deal was said to him by madame, who pointed out to him how useful a
monk was in a castle; by mademoiselle, who wished for the future to
polish up her conscience every day; by the little one, who pulled her
father's beard, and asked that this monk might always be at Cande. If
ever the difference were arranged, it would be by the monk: the monk
was of a good understanding, gentle and virtuous as a saint; it was a
misfortune to be at enmity with a monastery containing such monks. If
all the monks were like him, the abbey would always have everywhere
the advantage of the castle, and would ruin it, because this monk was
very strong. Finally, they gave utterance to a thousand reasons, which
were like a deluge of words, and were so pluvially showered down that
the sire yielded, saying, that there would never be a moment's peace
in the house until matters were settled to the satisfaction of the
women. Then he sent for the clerk, who wrote down for him, and also
for the monk. Then Amador surprised them exceedingly by showing them
the charters and the letters of credit, which would prevent the sire
and his clerk delaying this agreement. When the Lady of Cande saw them
about to put an end to this old case, she went to the linen chest to
get some fine cloth to make a new gown for her dear Amador. Every one
in the house had noticed how this old gown was worn, and it would have
been a great shame to leave such a treasure in such a worn-out case.
Everyone was eager to work at the gown. Madame cut it, the servant put
the hood on, the demoiselle sewed it, and the little demoiselle worked
at the sleeves. And all set so heartily to work to adorn the monk,
that the robe was ready by supper time, as was also the charter of
agreement prepared and sealed by the Sire de Cande.
"Ah, my father!" said the lady, "if you love us, you will refresh
yourself after your merry labour by washing yourself in a bath that I
have had heated by Perrotte."
Amador was then bathed in scented water. When he came out he found a
new robe of fine linen and lovely sandals ready for him, which made
him appear the most glorious monk in the world.
Meanwhile the monks of Turpenay fearing for Amador, had ordered two of
their number to spy about the castle. These spies came round by the
moat, just as Perrotte threw Amador's greasy old gown, with other
rubbish, into it. Seeing which, they thought that it was all over with
the poor madman. They therefore returned, and announced that it was
certain Amador had suffered martyrdom in the service of the abbey.
Hearing which the abbot ordered them to assemble in the chapel and
pray to God, in order to assist this devoted servant in his torments.
The monk having supped, put his charter into his girdle, and wished to
return to Turpenay. Then he found at the foot of the steps madame's
mare, bridled and saddled, and held ready for him by a groom. The lord
had ordered his men-at-arms to accompany the good monk, so that no
accident might befall him. Seeing which, Amador pardoned the tricks of
the night before, and bestowed his benediction upon every one before
taking his departure from this converted place. Madame followed him
with her eyes, and proclaimed him a splendid rider. Perrotte declared
that for a monk he held himself more upright in the saddle than any of
the men-at-arms. Mademoiselle de Cande sighed. The little one wished
to have him for her confessor.
"He has sanctified the castle," said they, when they were in the room
When Amador and his suite came to the gates of the abbey, a scene of
terror ensued, since the guardian thought that the Sire de Cande had
had his appetite for monks whetted by the blood of poor Amador, and
wished to sack the abbey. But Amador shouted with his fine bass voice,
and was recognised and admitted into the courtyard; and when he
dismounted from madame's mare there was enough uproar to make the
monks as a wild as April moons. They gave vent to shouts of joy in the
refectory, and all came to congratulate Amador, who waved the charter
over his head. The men-at-arms were regaled with the best wine in the
cellars, which was a present made to the monks of Turpenay by those of
Marmoustier, to whom belonged the lands of Vouvray. The good abbot
having had the document of the Sieur de Cande read, went about
"On these divine occasions there always appears the finger of God, to
whom we should render thanks."
As the good abbot kept on at the finger of God, when thanking Amador,
the monk, annoyed to see the instrument of their delivery thus
diminished, said to him--
"Well, say that it is the arm, my father, and drop the subject."
The termination of the trial between the Sieur de Cande and the abbey
of Turpenay was followed by a blessing which rendered him devoted to
the Church, because nine months after he had a son. Two years
afterwards Amador was chosen as abbot by the monks, who reckoned upon
a merry government with a madcap. But Amador become an abbot, became
steady and austere, because he had conquered his evil desires by his
labours, and recast his nature at the female forge, in which is that
fire which is the most perfecting, persevering, persistent,
perdurable, permanent, perennial, and permeating fire that there ever
was in the world. It is a fire to ruin everything, and it ruined so
well the evil that was in Amador, that it left only that which it
could not eat--that is, his wit, which was as clear as a diamond,
which is, as everyone knows, a residue of the great fire by which our
globe was formerly carbonised. Amador was then the instrument chosen
by Providence to reform our illustrious abbey, since he put everything
right there, watched night and day over his monks, made them all rise
at the hours appointed for prayers, counted them in chapel as a
shepherd counts his sheep, kept them well in hand, and punished their
faults severely, that he made them most virtuous brethren.
This teaches us to look upon womankind more as the instruments of our
salvation than of our pleasure. Besides which, this narrative teaches
us that we should never attempt to struggle with the Churchmen.
The king and the queen had found this tale in the best taste; the
courtiers confessed that they had never heard a better; and the ladies
would all willingly have been the heroines of it.
BERTHA THE PENITENT
HOW BERTHA REMAINED A MAIDEN IN THE MARRIED STATE
About the time of the first flight of the Dauphin, which threw our
good Sire, Charles the Victorious, into a state of great dejection,
there happened a great misfortune to a noble House of Touraine, since
extinct in every branch; and it is owing to this fact that this most
deplorable history may now be safely brought to light. To aid him in
this work the author calls to his assistance the holy confessors,
martyrs, and other celestial dominations, who, by the commandments of
God, were the promoters of good in this affair.
From some defect in his character, the Sire Imbert de Bastarnay, one
of the most landed lords in our land of Touraine, had no confidence in
the mind of the female of man, whom he considered much too animated,
on account of her numerous vagaries, and it may be he was right. In
consequence of this idea he reached his old age without a companion,
which was certainly not to his advantage. Always leading a solitary
life, this said man had no idea of making himself agreeable to others,
having only been mixed up with wars and the orgies of bachelors, with
whom he did not put himself out of the way. Thus he remained stale in
his garments, sweaty in his accoutrements, with dirty hands and an
apish face. In short, he looked the ugliest man in Christendom. As far
as regards his person only though, since so far as his heart, his
head, and other secret places were concerned, he had properties which
rendered him most praiseworthy. An angel (pray believe this) would
have walked a long way without meeting an old warrior firmer at his
post, a lord with more spotless scutcheon, of shorter speech, and more
Certain people have stated, they have heard that he gave sound advice,
and was a good and profitable man to consult. Was it not a strange
freak on the part of God, who plays sometimes jokes on us, to have
granted so many perfections to a man so badly apparelled?
When he was sixty in appearance, although only fifty in years, he
determined to take unto himself a wife, in order to obtain lineage.
Then, while foraging about for a place where he might be able to find
a lady to his liking, he heard much vaunted, the great merits and
perfections of a daughter of the illustrious house of Rohan, which at
that time had some property in the province. The young lady in
question was called Bertha, that being her pet name. Imbert having
been to see her at the castle of Montbazon, was, in consequence of the
prettiness and innocent virtue of the said Bertha de Rohan, seized
with so great a desire to possess her, that he determined to make her
his wife, believing that never could a girl of such lofty descent fail
in her duty. This marriage was soon celebrated, because the Sire de
Rohan had seven daughters, and hardly knew how to provide for them
all, at a time when people were just recovering from the late wars,
and patching up their unsettled affairs. Now the good man Bastarnay
happily found Bertha really a maiden, which fact bore witness to her
proper bringing up and perfect maternal correction. So immediately the
night arrived when it should be lawful for him to embrace her, he got
her with a child so roughly that he had proof of the result two months
after marriage, which rendered the Sire Imbert joyful to a degree. In
order that we may here finish with this portion of the story, let us
at once state that from this legitimate grain was born the Sire de
Bastarnay, who was Duke by the grace of Louis the Eleventh, his
chamberlain, and more than that, his ambassador in the countries of
Europe, and well-beloved of this most redoubtable lord, to whom he
was never faithless. His loyalty was an heritage from his father, who
from his early youth was much attached to the Dauphin, whose fortunes
he followed, even in the rebellions, since he was a man to put Christ
on the cross again if it had been required by him to do so, which is
the flower of friendship rarely to be found encompassing princes and
great people. At first, the fair lady of Bastarnay comported herself
so loyally that her society caused those thick vapours and black
clouds to vanish, which obscured the mind of this great man, the
brightness of the feminine glory. Now, according to the custom of
unbelievers, he passed from suspicion to confidence so thoroughly,
that he yielded up the government of his house to the said Bertha,
made her mistress of his deeds and actions, queen of his honour,
guardian of his grey hairs, and would have slaughtered without a
contest any one who had said an evil word concerning this mirror of
virtue, on whom no breath had fallen save the breath issued from his
conjugal and marital lips, cold and withered as they were. To speak
truly on all points, it should be explained, that to this virtuous
behaviour considerably aided the little boy, who during six years
occupied day and night the attention of his pretty mother, who first
nourished him with her milk, and made of him a lover's lieutenant,
yielding to him her sweet breasts, which he gnawed at, hungry, as
often as he would, and was, like a lover, always there. This good
mother knew no other pleasures than those of his rosy lips, had no
other caresses that those of his tiny little hands, which ran about
her like the feet of playful mice, read no other book than that in his
clear baby eyes, in which the blue sky was reflected, and listened to
no other music than his cries, which sounded in her ears as angels'
whispers. You may be sure that she was always fondling him, had a
desire to kiss him at dawn of day, kissed him in the evening, would
rise in the night to eat him up with kisses, made herself a child as
he was a child, educated him in the perfect religion of maternity;
finally, behaved as the best and happiest mother that ever lived,
without disparagement to our Lady the Virgin, who could have had
little trouble in bringing up our Saviour, since he was God.
This employment and the little taste which Bertha had for the blisses
of matrimony much delighted the old man, since he would have been
unable to return the affection of a too amorous wife, and desired to
practice economy, to have the wherewithal for a second child.
After six years had passed away, the mother was compelled to give her
son into the hands of the grooms and other persons to whom Messire de
Bastarnay committed the task to mould him properly, in order that his
heir should have an heritage of the virtues, qualities and courage of
the house, as well as the domains and the name. Then did Bertha shed
many tears, her happiness being gone. For the great heart of this
mother it was nothing to have this well-beloved son after others, and
during only certain short fleeting hours. Therefore she became sad and
melancholy. Noticing her grief, the good man wished to bestow upon her
another child and could not, and the poor lady was displeased thereat,
because she declared that the making of a child wearied her much and
cost her dear. And this is true, or no doctrine is true, and you must
burn the Gospels as a pack of stories if you have not faith in this
This, nevertheless, to certain ladies (I did not mention men, since
they have a smattering of the science), will still seem an untruth.
The writer has taken care here to give the mute reasons for this
strange antipathy; I mean the distastes of Bertha, because I love the
ladies above all things, knowing that for want of the pleasure of
love, my face would grow old and my heart torment me. Did you ever
meet a scribe so complacent and so fond of the ladies as I am? No; of
course not. Therefore, do I love them devotedly, but not so often as I
could wish, since I have oftener in my hands my goose-quill than I
have the barbs with which one tickles their lips to make them laugh
and be merry in all innocence. I understand them, and in this way.
The good man Bastarnay was not a smart young fellow of an amorous
nature, and acquainted with the pranks of the thing. He did not
trouble himself much about the fashion in which he killed a soldier so
long as he killed him; that he would have killed him in all ways
without saying a word in battle, is, of course, understood. The
perfect heedlessness in the matter of death was in accordance with the
nonchalance in the matter of life, the birth and manner of begetting a
child, and the ceremonies thereto appertaining. The good sire was
ignorant of the many litigious, dilatory, interlocutory and
proprietary exploits and the little humourings of the little fagots
placed in the oven to heat it; of the sweet perfumed branches gathered
little by little in the forests of love, fondlings, coddlings,
huggings, nursing, the bites at the cherry, the cat-licking, and other
little tricks and traffic of love which ruffians know, which lovers
preserve, and which the ladies love better than their salvation,
because there is more of the cat than the woman in them. This shines
forth in perfect evidence in their feminine ways. If you think it
worth while watching them, examine them attentively while they eat:
not one of them (I am speaking of women, noble and well-educated) puts
her knife in the eatables and thrusts it into her mouth, as do
brutally the males; no, they turn over their food, pick the pieces
that please them as they would gray peas in a dovecote; they suck the
sauces by mouthfuls; play with their knife and spoon as if they are
only ate in consequence of a judge's order, so much do they dislike to
go straight to the point, and make free use of variations, finesse,
and little tricks in everything, which is the especial attribute of
these creatures, and the reason that the sons of Adam delight in them,
since they do everything differently to themselves, and they do well.
You think so too. Good! I love you.
Now then, Imbert de Bastarnay, an old soldier, ignorant of the tricks
of love, entered into the sweet garden of Venus as he would into a
place taken by assault, without giving any heed to the cries of the
poor inhabitants in tears, and placed a child as he would an arrow in
the dark. Although the gentle Bertha was not used to such treatment
(poor child, she was but fifteen), she believed in her virgin faith,
that the happiness of becoming a mother demanded this terrible,
dreadful bruising and nasty business; so during his painful task she
would pray to God to assist her, and recite _Aves_ to our Lady,
esteeming her lucky, in only having the Holy Ghost to endure. By this
means, never having experienced anything but pain in marriage, she
never troubled her husband to go through the ceremony again. Now
seeing that the old fellow was scarcely equal to it--as has been
before stated--she lived in perfect solitude, like a nun. She hated
the society of men, and never suspected that the Author of the world
had put so much joy in that from which she had only received infinite
misery. But she loved all the more her little one, who had cost her so
much before he was born. Do not be astonished, therefore, that she
held aloof from that gallant tourney in which it is the mare who
governs her cavalier, guides him, fatigues him, and abuses him, if he
stumbles. This is the true history of certain unhappy unions,
according to the statement of the old men and women, and the certain
reason of the follies committed by certain women, who too late
perceive, I know not how, that they have been deceived, and attempt to
crowd into a day more time than it will hold, to have their proper
share of life. That is philosophical, my friends. Therefore study well
this page, in order that you may wisely look to the proper government
of your wives, your sweethearts, and all females generally, and
particularly those who by chance may be under your care, from which
God preserve you.
Thus a virgin in deed, although a mother, Bertha was in her
one-and-twentieth year a castle flower, the glory of her good man,
and the honour of the province. The said Bastarnay took great pleasure
in beholding this child come, go, and frisk about like a willow-switch,
as lively as an eel, as innocent as her little one, and still most
sensible and of sound understanding; so much so that he never
undertook any project without consulting her about it, seeing that if
the minds of these angels have not been disturbed in their purity,
they give a sound answer to everything one asks of them. At this time
Bertha lived near the town of Loches, in the castle of her lord, and
there resided, with no desire to do anything but look after her
household duties, after the old custom of the good housewives, from
which the ladies of France were led away when Queen Catherine and the
Italians came with their balls and merry-makings. To these practices
Francis the First and his successors, whose easy ways did as much harm
to the State of France as the goings on of the Protestants lent their
aid. This, however, has nothing to do with my story.
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