Droll Stories Vol. 1
Honore de Balzac
Part 2 out of 4
neck, thought that he was about to expiate his sin for his sweetheart
in this world and in the other.
But his fair youth, and all the natural seductions of this sweet
crime, found grace before the tribunal of the heart of this old man,
although Bruyn was still severe, and throwing his club away on to a
dog who was catching beetles, he cried out, "May a thousand million
claws, tear during all eternity, all the entrails of him, who made
him, who planted the oak, that made the chair, on which thou hast
antlered me--and the same to those who engendered thee, cursed page of
misfortune! Get thee to the devil, whence thou camest--go out from
before me, from the castle, from the country, and stay not here one
moment more than is necessary, otherwise I will surely prepare for
thee a death by slow fire that shall make thee curse twenty times an
hour thy villainous and ribald partner!"
Hearing the commencement of these little speeches of the seneschal,
whose youth came back in his oaths, the page ran away, escaping the
rest: and he did well. Bruyn, burning with a fierce rage, gained the
gardens speedily, reviling everything by the way, striking and
swearing; he even knocked over three large pans held by one of his
servants, was carrying the mess to the dogs, and he was so beside
himself that he would have killed a labourer for a "thank you." He
soon perceived his unmaidenly maiden, who was looking towards the road
to the monastery, waiting for the page, and unaware that she would
never see him again.
"Ah, my lady! By the devil's red three-pronged fork, am I a swallower
of tarradiddles and a child, to believe that you are so fashioned that
a page can behave in this manner and you not know it? By the death! By
the head! By the blood!"
"Hold!" she replied, seeing that the mine was sprung, "I knew it well
enough, but as you had not instructed me in these matters I thought
that I was dreaming!"
The great ire of the seneschal melted like snow in the sun, for the
direst anger of God himself would have vanished at a smile from
"May a thousand millions of devils carry off this alien child! I swear
"There! there! do not swear," said she. "If it is not yours, it is
mine; and the other night did you not tell me you loved everything
that came from me?"
Thereupon she ran on with such a lot of arguments, hard words,
complaints, quarrels, tears, and other paternosters of women; such as
--firstly the estates would not have to be returned to the king; that
never had a child been brought more innocently into the world, that
this, that that, a thousand things; until the good cuckold relented,
and Blanche, seizing a propitious interruption said--
"And where it is the page?"
"Gone to the devil!"
"What, have you killed him?" said she. She turned pale and tottered.
Bruyn did not know what would become of him when he saw thus fall all
the happiness of his old age, and he would to save her have shown her
this page. He ordered him to be sought, but Rene had run off at full
speed, fearing he should be killed; and departed for the lands beyond
the seas, in order to accomplish his vow of religion. When Blanche had
learned from the above-mentioned abbot the penitence imposed upon her
well beloved, she fell into a state of great melancholy, saying at
times, "Where is he, the poor unfortunate, who is in the middle of
great dangers for love of me?"
And always kept on asking, like a child who gives its mother no rest
until its request be granted it. At these lamentations the poor
seneschal, feeling himself to blame, endeavoured to do a thousand
things, putting one out of the question, in order to make Blanche
happy; but nothing was equal to the sweet caresses of the page.
However, she had one day the child so much desired. You may be sure
that was a fine festival for the good cuckold, for the resemblance to
the father was distinctly engraved upon the face of this sweet fruit
of love. Blanche consoled herself greatly, and picked up again a
little of her old gaiety and flower of innocence, which rejoiced the
aged hours of the seneschal. From constantly seeing the little one run
about, watching its laughs answer those of the countess, he finished
by loving it, and would have been in a great rage with anyone who had
not believed him its father.
Now as the adventure of Blanche and her page had not been carried
beyond the castle, it was related throughout Touraine that Messire
Bruyn had still found himself sufficiently in funds to afford a child.
Intact remained the virtue of Blanche, and by the quintessence of
instruction drawn by her from the natural reservoir of women, she
recognised how necessary it was to be silent concerning the venial sin
with which her child was covered. So she became modest and good, and
was cited as a virtuous person. And then to make use of him she
experimented on the goodness of her good man, and without giving him
leave to go further than her chin, since she looked upon herself as
belonging to Rene, Blanche, in return for the flowers of age which
Bruyn offered her, coddled him, smiled upon him, kept him merry, and
fondled him with pretty ways and tricks, which good wives bestow upon
the husbands they deceive; and all so well, that the seneschal did not
wish to die, squatted comfortably in his chair, and the more he lived
the more he became partial to life. But to be brief, one night he died
without knowing where he was going, for he said to Blanche, "Ho! ho!
My dear, I see thee no longer! Is it night?"
It was the death of the just, and he had well merited it as a reward
for his labours in the Holy Land.
Blanche held for his death a great and true mourning, weeping for him
as one weeps for one's father. She remained melancholy, without
wishing to lend her ear to the music of a second wedding, for which
she was praised by all good people, who knew not that she had a
husband in her heart, a life in hope; but she was the greater part of
her time a widow in fact and widow in heart, because hearing no news
of her lover at the Crusades, the poor Countess reputed him dead, and
during certain nights seeing him wounded and lying at full length, she
would wake up in tears. She lived thus for fourteen years in the
remembrance of one day of happiness. Finally, one day when she had
with her certain ladies of Touraine, and they were talking together
after dinner, behold her little boy, who was at that time about
thirteen and a half, and resembled Rene more than it is allowable for
a child to resemble his father, and had nothing of the Sire Bruyn
about him but his name--behold the little one, a madcap and pretty
like his mother, who came in from the garden, running, perspiring,
panting, jumping, scattering all things in his way, after the uses and
customs of infancy, and who ran straight to his well-beloved mother,
jumping into her lap, and interrupting the conversation, cried out--
"Oh, mother I want to speak to you, I have seen in the courtyard a
pilgrim, who squeezed me very tight."
"Ah!" cried the chatelaine, hurrying towards one of the servants who
had charge of the young count and watched over his precious days, "I
have forbidden you ever to leave my son in the hands of strangers, not
even in those of the holiest man in the world. You quit my service."
"Alas! my lady," replied the old equerry, quite overcome, "this one
wished him no harm for he wept while kissing him passionately."
"He wept?" said she; "ah! it's the father."
Having said which, she leaned her head of upon the chair in which she
was sitting, and which you may be sure was the chair in which she has
Hearing these strange words the ladies was so surprised that at first
they did not perceive that the seneschal's widow was dead, without its
ever been known if her sudden death was caused by her sorrow at the
departure of her lover, who, faithful to his vow, did not wish to see
her, or from great joy at his return and the hope of getting the
interdict removed which the Abbot of Marmoustiers had placed upon
their loves. And there was a great mourning for her, for the Sire de
Jallanges lost his spirits when he saw his lady laid in the ground,
and became a monk of Marmoustiers, which at that time was called by
some Maimoustier, as much as to say Maius Monasterium, the largest
monastery, and it was indeed the finest in all France.
THE KING'S SWEETHEART
There lived at this time at the forges of the Pont-aux-Change, a
goldsmith whose daughter was talked about in Paris on account of her
great beauty, and renowned above all things for her exceeding
gracefulness. There were those who sought her favours by the usual
tricks of love and, but others offered large sums of money to the
father to give them his daughter in lawful wedlock, the which pleased
him not a little.
One of his neighbours, a parliamentary advocate, who by selling his
cunning devices to the public had acquired as many lands as a dog has
fleas, took it into his head to offer the said father a domain in
consideration of his consent to this marriage, which he ardently
desired to undertake. To this arrangement our goldsmith was nothing
loth. He bargained away his daughter, without taking into
consideration the fact that her patched-up old suitor had the features
of an ape and had scarcely a tooth in his jaws. The smell which
emanated from his mouth did not however disturb his own nostrils,
although he was filthy and high flavoured, as are all those who pass
their lives amid the smoke of chimneys, yellow parchment, and other
black proceedings. Immediately this sweet girl saw him she exclaimed,
"Great Heaven! I would rather not have him."
"That concerns me not," said the father, who had taken a violent fancy
to the proffered domain. "I give him to you for a husband. You must
get on as well as you can together. That is his business now, and his
duty is to make himself agreeable to you."
"Is it so?" said she. "Well then, before I obey your orders I'll let
him know what he may expect."
And the same evening, after supper, when the love-sick man of law was
pleading his cause, telling her he was mad for her, and promising her
a life of ease and luxury, she taking him up, quickly remarked--
"My father had sold me to you, but if you take me, you will make a bad
bargain, seeing that I would rather offer myself to the passers-by
than to you. I promise you a disloyalty that will only finish with
death--yours or mine."
Then she began to weep, like all young maidens will before they become
experienced, for afterwards they never cry with their eyes. The good
advocate took this strange behaviour for one of those artifices by
which the women seek to fan the flames of love and turn the devotion
of their admirers into the more tender caress and more daring
osculation that speaks a husband's right. So that the knave took
little notice of it, but laughing at the complaints of the charming
creature, asked her to fix the day.
"To-morrow," replied she, "for the sooner this odious marriage takes
place, the sooner I shall be free to have gallants and to lead the gay
life of those who love where it pleases them."
Thereupon the foolish fellow--as firmly fixed as a fly in a glue pot--
went away, made his preparations, spoke at the Palace, ran to the High
Court, bought dispensations, and conducted his purchase more quickly
than he ever done one before, thinking only of the lovely girl.
Meanwhile the king, who had just returned from a journey, heard
nothing spoken of at court but the marvellous beauty of the jeweller's
daughter who had refused a thousand crowns from this one, snubbed that
one; in fact, would yield to no one, but turned up her nose at the
finest young men of the city, gentlemen who would have forfeited their
seat in paradise only to possess one day, this little dragon of
The good king, was a judge of such game, strolled into the town, past
the forges, and entered the goldsmith's shop, for the purpose of
buying jewels for the lady of his heart, but at the same time to
bargain for the most precious jewel in the shop. The king not taking a
fancy to the jewels, or they not being to his taste, the good man
looked in a secret drawer for a big white diamond.
"Sweetheart," said he, to the daughter, while her father's nose was
buried in the drawer, "sweetheart, you were not made to sell precious
stones, but to receive them, and if you were to give me all the little
rings in the place to choose from, I know one that many here are mad
for; that pleases me; to which I should ever be subject and servant;
and whose price the whole kingdom of France could never pay."
"Ah!, sire!" replied the maid, "I shall be married to-morrow, but if
you will lend me the dagger that is in your belt, I will defend my
honour, and you shall take it, that the gospel made be observed
wherein it says,'Render unto Caesar the things which be
Caesar's' . . ."
Immediately the king gave her the little dagger, and her brave reply
rendered him so amorous that he lost his appetite. He had an apartment
prepared, intending to lodge his new lady-love in the Rue a
l'Hirundelle, in one of his palaces.
And now behold my advocate, in a great hurry to get married, to the
disgust of his rivals, the leading his bride to the altar to the clang
of bells and the sound of music, so timed as to provoke the qualms of
diarrhoea. In the evening, after the ball, comes he into the nuptial
chamber, where should be reposing his lovely bride. No longer is she a
lovely bride--but a fury--a wild she-devil, who, seated in an
armchair, refuses her share of her lord's couch, and sits defiantly
before the fire warming at the same time her ire and her calves. The
good husband, quite astonished, kneels down gently before her,
inviting her to the first passage of arms in that charming battle
which heralds a first night of love; but she utters not a word, and
when he tries to raise her garment, only just to glance at the charms
that have cost him so dear, she gives him a slap that makes his bones
rattle, and refuses to utter a syllable.
This amusement, however, by no means displeased our friend the
advocate, who saw at the end of his troubles that which you can as
well imagine as he did; so played he his share of the game manfully,
taking cheerfully the punishment bestowed upon him. By so much
hustling about, scuffling, and struggling he managed at last to tear
away a sleeve, to slit a petticoat, until he was able to place his
hand upon his own property. This bold endeavour brought Madame to her
feet and drawing the king's dagger, "What would you with me?" she
"Everything," answered he.
"Ha! I should be a great fool to give myself against my inclination!
If you fancied you would find my virtue unarmed you made a great
error. Behold the poniard of the king, with which I will kill you if
you make the semblance of a step towards me."
So saying, she took a cinder, and having still her eyes upon her lord
she drew a circle on the floor, adding, "These are the confines of the
king's domain. Beware how you pass them."
The advocate, with whose ideas of love-making the dagger sadly
interfered, stood quite discomfited, but at the same time he heard the
cruel speech of his tormentor he caught sight through the slits and
tears in her robe of a sweet sample of a plump white thigh, and such
voluptuous specimens of hidden mysteries, et cetera, that death seemed
sweet to him if he could only taste of them a little. So that he
rushed within the domain of the king, saying, "I mind not death." In
fact he came with such force that his charmer fell backwards onto the
bed, but keeping her presence of mind she defended herself so
gallantly that the advocate enjoyed no further advantage than a knock
at the door that would not admit him, and he gained as well a little
stab from the poniard which did not wound him deeply, so that it did
not cost him very dearly, his attack upon the realm of his sovereign.
But maddened with this slight advantage, he cried, "I cannot live
without the possession of that lovely body, and those marvels of love.
Kill me then!" And again he attacked the royal preserves. The young
beauty, whose head was full of the king, was not even touched by this
great love, said gravely, "If you menace me further, it is not you but
myself I will kill." She glared at him so savagely that the poor man
was quite terrified, and commenced to deplore the evil hour in which
he had taken her to wife, and thus the night which should have been so
joyous, was passed in tears, lamentations, prayers, and ejaculations.
In vain he tempted her with promises; she should eat out of gold, she
should be a great lady, he would buy houses and lands for her. Oh! if
she would only let him break one lance with her in the sweet conflict
of love, he would leave her for ever and pass the remainder of his
life according to her fantasy. But she, still unyielding, said she
would permit him to die, and that was the only thing he could do to
"I have not deceived you," said she. "Agreeable to my promise, I shall
give myself to the king, making you a present of the peddler, chance
passers, and street loungers with whom I threatened you."
When the day broke she put on her wedding garments and waited
patiently till the poor husband had to depart to his office client's
business, and then ran out into the town to seek the king. But she had
not gone a bow-shot from the house before one of the king's servants
who had watched the house from dawn, stopped her with the question--
"Do you seek the king?"
"Yes," said she.
"Good; then allow me to be your good friend," said the subtle
courtier. "I ask your aid and protection, as now I give you mine."
With that he told her what sort of a man the king was, which was his
weak side, that he was passionate one day and silent the next, that
she would luxuriously lodged and well kept, but that she must keep the
king well in hand; in short, he chatted so pleasantly that the time
passed quickly until she found herself in the Hotel de l'Hirundelle
where afterwards lived Madame d'Estampes. The poor husband shed
scalding tears, when he found his little bird had flown, and became
melancholy and pensive. His friends and neighbours edified his ears
with as many taunts and jeers as Saint Jacques had the honour of
receiving in Compostella, but the poor fellow took it so to heart,
that at last they tried rather to assuage his grief. These artful
compeers by a species of legal chicanery, decreed that the good man
was not a cuckold, seeing that his wife had refused a consummation,
and if the planter of horns had been anyone but the king, the said
marriage might have been dissolved; but the amorous spouse was
wretched unto death at my lady's trick. However, he left her to the
king, determining one day to have her to himself, and thinking that a
life-long shame would not be too dear a payment for a night with her.
One must love well to love like that, eh? and there are many worldly
ones, who mock at such affection. But he, still thinking of her,
neglected his cases and his clients, his robberies and everything. He
went to the palace like a miser searching for a lost sixpence, bowed
down, melancholy, and absent-minded, so much so, that one day he
relieved himself against the robe of a counsellor, believing all the
while he stood against a wall. Meanwhile the beautiful girl was loved
night and day by the king, who could not tear himself from her
embraces, because in amorous play she was so excellent, knowing as
well how to fan the flame of love as to extinguish it--to-day snubbing
him, to-morrow petting him, never the same, and with it a thousand
little tricks to charm the ardent lover.
A lord of Bridore killed himself through her, because she would not
receive his embraces, although he offered her his land, Bridore in
Touraine. Of these gallants of Touraine, who gave an estate for one
tilt with love's lance, there are none left. This death made the fair
one sad, and since her confessor laid the blame of it upon her, she
determined for the future to accept all domains and secretly ease
their owner's amorous pains for the better saving of their souls from
perdition. 'Twas thus she commenced to build up that great fortune
which made her a person of consideration in the town. By this means
she prevented many gallant gentlemen from perishing, playing her game
so well, and inventing such fine stories, that his Majesty little
guessed how much she aided him in securing the happiness of his
subjects. The fact is, she has such a hold over him that she could
have made him believe the floor was the ceiling, which was perhaps
easier for him to think than anyone else seeing that at the Rue
d'Hirundelle my lord king passed the greater portion of his time
embracing her always as though he would see if such a lovely article
would wear away: but he wore himself out first, poor man, seeing that
he eventually died from excess of love. Although she took care to
grant her favours only to the best and noblest in the court, and that
such occasions were rare as miracles, there were not wanting those
among her enemies and rivals who declared that for 10,000 crowns a
simple gentleman might taste the pleasures of his sovereign, which was
false above all falseness, for when her lord taxed her with it, did
she not reply, "Abominable wretches! Curse the devils who put this
idea in your head! I never yet did have man who spent less than 30,000
crowns upon me."
The king, although vexed could not repress a smile, and kept her on a
month to silence scandal. And last, la demoiselle de Pisseleu, anxious
to obtain her place, brought about her ruin. Many would have liked to
be ruined in the same way, seeing she was taken by a young lord, was
happy with him, the fires of love in her being still unquenched. But
to take up the thread again. One day that the king's sweetheart was
passing through the town in her litter to buy laces, furs, velvets,
broideries, and other ammunition, and so charmingly attired, and
looking so lovely, that anyone, especially the clerks, would have
believed the heavens were open above them, behold, her good man, who
comes upon her near the old cross. She, at that time lazily swinging
her charming little foot over the side of the litter, drew in her head
as though she had seen an adder. She was a good wife, for I know some
who would have proudly passed their husbands, to their shame and to
the great disrespect of conjugal rights.
"What is the matter?" asked one M. de Lannoy, who humbly accompanied
"Nothing," she whispered; "but that person is my husband. Poor man,
how changed he looks. Formerly he was the picture of a monkey; today
he is the very image of a Job."
The poor advocate stood opened-mouthed. His heart beat rapidly at the
sight of that little foot--of that wife so wildly loved.
Observing which, the Sire de Lannoy said to him, with courtly
"If you are her husband, is that any reason you should stop her
At this she burst out laughing, and the good husband instead of
killing her bravely, shed scalding tears at that laugh which pierced
his heart, his soul, his everything, so much that he nearly tumbled
over an old citizen whom the sight of the king's sweetheart had driven
against the wall. The aspect of this weak flower, which had been his
in the bud, but far from him had spread its lovely leaves; of the
fairy figure, the voluptuous bust--all this made the poor advocate
more wretched and more mad for her than it is possible to express in
words. You must have been madly in love with a woman who refuses your
advances thoroughly to understand the agony of this unhappy man. Rare
indeed is it to be so infatuated as he was. He swore that life,
fortune, honour--all might go, but that for once at least he would be
flesh-to-flesh with her, and make so grand a repast off her dainty
body as would suffice him all his life. He passed the night saying,
"oh yes; ah! I'll have her!" and "Curses am I not her husband?" and
"Devil take me," striking himself on the forehead and tossing about.
There are chances and occasions which occur so opportunely in this
world that little-minded men refuse them credence, saying they are
supernatural, but men of high intellect know them to be true because
they could not be invented. One of the chances came to the poor
advocate, even the day after that terrible one which had been so sore
a trial to him. One of his clients, a man of good renown, who had his
audiences with the king, came one morning to the advocate, saying that
he required immediately a large sum of money, about 12,000 crowns. To
which the artful fellow replied, 12,000 crowns were not so often met
at the corner of a street as that which often is seen at the corner of
the street; that besides the sureties and guarantees of interest, it
was necessary to find a man who had about him 12,000 crowns, and that
those gentlemen were not numerous in Paris, big city as it was, and
various other things of a like character the man of cunning remarked.
"Is it true, my lord, the you have a hungry and relentless creditor?"
"Yes, yes," replied the other, "it concerns the mistress of the king.
Don't breathe a syllable; but this evening, in consideration of 20,000
crowns and my domain of Brie, I shall take her measure."
Upon this the advocate blanched, and the courtier perceived he touched
a tender point. As he had only lately returned from the wars, he did
not know that the lovely woman adored by the king had a husband.
"You appear ill," he said.
"I have a fever," replied the knave. "But is it to her that you give
the contract and the money?"
"Who then manages the bargain? Is it she also?"
"No," said the noble; "her little arrangements are concluded through a
servant of hers, the cleverest little ladies'-maid that ever was.
She's sharper than mustard, and these nights stolen from the king have
lined her pockets well."
"I know a Lombard who would accommodate you. But nothing can be done;
of the 12,000 crowns you shall not have a brass farthing if this same
ladies'-maid does not come here to take the price of the article that
is so great an alchemist that turns blood into gold, by Heaven!"
"It will be a good trick to make her sign the receipt," replied the
The servant came faithfully to the rendezvous with the advocate, who
had begged the lord to bring her. The ducats looked bright and
beautiful. There they lay all in a row, like nuns going to vespers.
Spread out upon the table they would have made a donkey smile, even if
he were being gutted alive; so lovely, so splendid, were those brave
noble young piles. The good advocate, however, had prepared this view
for no ass, for the little handmaiden look longingly at the golden
heap, and muttered a prayer at the sight of them. Seeing which, the
husband whispered in her ear his golden words, "These are for you."
"Ah!" said she; "I have never been so well paid."
"My dear," replied the dear man, "you shall have them without being
troubled with me;" and turning her round, "Your client has not told
you who I am, eh? No? Learn then, I am the husband of the lady whom
the king has debauched, and whom you serve. Carry her these crowns,
and come back here. I will hand over yours to you on a condition which
will be to your taste."
The servant did as she was bidden, and being very curious to know how
she could get 12,000 crowns without sleeping with the advocate, was
very soon back again.
"Now, my little one," said he, "here are 12,000 crowns. With this sum
I could buy lands, men, women, and the conscience of three priests at
least; so that I believe if I give it to you I can have you, body,
soul, and toe nails. And I shall have faith in you like an advocate, I
expect that you will go to the lord who expects to pass the night with
my wife, and you will deceive him, by telling him that the king is
coming to supper with her, and that to-night he must seek his little
amusements elsewhere. By so doing I shall be able to take his place
and the king's."
"But how?" said she.
"Oh!" replied he; "I have bought you, you and your tricks. You won't
have to look at these crowns twice without finding me a way to have my
wife. In bringing this conjunction about you commit no sin. It is a
work of piety to bring together two people whose hands only been put
one in to the other, and that by the priest."
"By my faith, come," said she; "after supper the lights will be put
out, and you can enjoy Madame if you remain silent. Luckily, on these
joyful occasions she cries more than she speaks, and asks questions
with her hands alone, for she is very modest, and does not like loose
jokes, like the ladies of the Court."
"Oh," cried the advocate, "look, take the 12,000 crowns, and I promise
you twice as much more if I get by fraud that which belongs to me by
Then he arranged the hour, the door, the signal, and all; and the
servant went away, bearing with her on the back of the mules the
golden treasure wrung by fraud and trickery from the widow and the
orphan, and they were all going to that place where everything
goes--save our lives, which come from it. Now behold my advocate, who
shaves himself, scents himself, goes without onions for dinner that
his breath may be sweet, and does everything to make himself as
presentable as a gallant signor. He gives himself the airs of a young
dandy, tries to be lithe and frisky and to disguise his ugly face; he
might try all he knew, he always smelt of the musty lawyer. He was not
so clever as the pretty washerwoman of Portillon who one day wishing
to appear at her best before one of her lovers, got rid of a
disagreeable odour in a manner well known to young women of an
inventive turn of mind. But our crafty fellow fancied himself the
nicest man in the world, although in spite of his drugs and perfumes
he was really the nastiest. He dressed himself in his thinnest clothes
although the cold pinched him like a rope collar and sallied forth,
quickly gaining the Rue d'Hirundelle. There he had to wait some time.
But just as he was beginning to think he had been made a fool of, and
just as it was quite dark, the maid came down and opened alike the
door to him and good husband slipped gleefully into the king's
apartment. The girl locked him carefully in a cupboard that was close
to his wife's bed, and through a crack he feasted his eyes upon her
beauty, for she undressed herself before the fire, and put on a thin
nightgown, through which her charms were plainly visible. Believing
herself alone with her maid she made those little jokes that women
will when undressing. "Am I not worth 20,000 crowns to-night? Is that
overpaid with a castle in Brie?"
And saying this she gently raised two white supports, firm as rocks,
which had well sustained many assaults, seeing they had been furiously
attacked and had not softened. "My shoulders alone are worth a
kingdom; no king could make their equal. But I am tired of this life.
That which is hard work is no pleasure." The little maid smiled, and
her lovely mistress said to her, "I should like to see you in my
place." Then the maid laughed, saying--
"Be quiet, Madame, he is there."
"The real one."
"Chut!" said Madame.
And her maid told her the whole story, wishing to keep her favour and
the 12,000 crowns as well.
"Oh well, he shall have his money's worth. I'll give his desires time
to cool. If he tastes me may I lose my beauty and become as ugly as a
monkey's baby. You get into bed in my place and thus gain the 12,000
crowns. Go and tell him that he must take himself off early in the
morning in order that I may not find out your trick upon me, and just
before dawn I will get in by his side."
The poor husband was freezing and his teeth were chattering, and the
chambermaid coming to the cupboard on pretence of getting some linen,
said to him, "Your hour of bliss approaches. Madame to-night has made
grand preparations and you will be well served. But work without
whistling, otherwise I shall be lost."
At last, when the good husband was on the point of perishing with
cold, the lights were put out. The maid cried softly in the curtains
to the king's sweetheart, that his lordship was there, and jumped into
bed, while her mistress went out as if she had been the chambermaid.
The advocate, released from his cold hiding-place, rolled rapturously
into the warm sheets, thinking to himself, "Oh! this is good!" To tell
the truth, the maid gave him his money's worth--and the good man
thought of the difference between the profusion of the royal houses
and the niggardly ways of the citizens' wives. The servant laughing,
played her part marvellously well, regaling the knave with gentle
cries, shiverings, convulsions and tossings about, like a newly-caught
fish on the grass, giving little Ah! Ah's! in default of other words;
and as often as the request was made by her, so often was it complied
with by the advocate, who dropped of to sleep at last, like an empty
pocket. But before finishing, the lover who wished to preserve a
souvenir of this sweet night of love, by a dextrous turn, plucked out
one of his wife's hairs, where from I know not, seeing I was not
there, and kept in his hand this precious gauge of the warm virtue of
that lovely creature. Towards the morning, when the cock crew, the
wife slipped in beside her husband, and pretended to sleep. Then the
maid tapped gently on the happy man's forehead, whispering in his ear,
"It is time, get into your clothes and off you go--it's daylight." The
good man grieved to lose his treasure, and wished to see the source of
his vanished happiness.
"Oh! Oh!" said he, proceeding to compare certain things, "I've got
light hair, and this is dark."
"What have you done?" said the servant; "Madame will see she has been
"Ah!" said she, with an air of disdain, "do you not know, you who
knows everything, that that which is plucked dies and discolours?" and
thereupon roaring with laughter at the good joke, she pushed him out
of doors. This became known. The poor advocate, named Feron, died of
shame, seeing that he was the only one who had not his own wife while
she, who was from this was called La Belle Feroniere, married, after
leaving the king, a young lord, Count of Buzancois. And in her old
days she would relate the story, laughingly adding, that she had never
scented the knave's flavour.
This teaches us not to attach ourselves more than we can help to wives
who refuse to support our yoke.
THE DEVIL'S HEIR
There once was a good old canon of Notre Dame de Paris, who lived in a
fine house of his own, near St. Pierre-aux-Boeufs, in the Parvis. This
canon had come a simple priest to Paris, naked as a dagger without its
sheath. But since he was found to be a handsome man, well furnished
with everything, and so well constituted, that if necessary he was
able to do the work of many, without doing himself much harm, he gave
himself up earnestly to the confessing of ladies, giving to the
melancholy a gentle absolution, to the sick a drachm of his balm, to
all some little dainty. He was so well known for his discretion, his
benevolence, and other ecclesiastical qualities, that he had customers
at Court. Then in order not to awaken the jealousy of the officials,
that of the husbands and others, in short, to endow with sanctity
these good and profitable practices, the Lady Desquerdes gave him a
bone of St. Victor, by virtue of which all the miracles were
performed. And to the curious it was said, "He has a bone which will
cure everything;" and to this, no one found anything to reply, because
it was not seemly to suspect relics. Beneath the shade of his cassock,
the good priest had the best of reputations, that of a man valiant
under arms. So he lived like a king. He made money with holy water;
sprinkled it and transmitted the holy water into good wine. More than
that, his name lay snugly in all the et ceteras of the notaries, in
wills or in caudicils, which certain people have falsely written
CODICIL, seeing that the word is derived from cauda, as if to say the
tail of the legacy. In fact, the good old Long Skirts would have been
made an archbishop if he had only said in joke, "I should like to put
on a mitre for a handkerchief in order to have my head warmer." Of all
the benefices offered to him, he chose only a simple canon's stall to
keep the good profits of the confessional. But one day the courageous
canon found himself weak in the back, seeing that he was all sixty-
eight years old, and had held many confessionals. Then thinking over
all his good works, he thought it about time to cease his apostolic
labours, the more so, as he possessed about one hundred thousand
crowns earned by the sweat of his body. From that day he only
confessed ladies of high lineage, and did it very well. So that it was
said at Court that in spite of the efforts of the best young clerks
there was still no one but the Canon of St. Pierre-aux-Boeufs to
properly bleach the soul of a lady of condition. Then at length the
canon became by force of nature a fine nonagenarian, snowy about the
head, with trembling hands, but square as a tower, having spat so much
without coughing, that he coughed now without being able to spit; no
longer rising from his chair, he who had so often risen for humanity;
but drinking dry, eating heartily, saying nothing, but having all the
appearance of a living Canon of Notre Dame. Seeing the immobility of
the aforesaid canon; seeing the stories of his evil life which for
some time had circulated among the common people, always ignorant;
seeing his dumb seclusion, his flourishing health, his young old age,
and other things too numerous to mention--there were certain people
who to do the marvellous and injure our holy religion, went about
saying that the true canon was long since dead, and that for more than
fifty years the devil had taken possession of the old priest's body.
In fact, it seemed to his former customers that the devil could only
by his great heat have furnished these hermetic distillations, that
they remembered to have obtained on demand from this good confessor,
who always had le diable au corps. But as this devil had been
undoubtedly cooked and ruined by them, and that for a queen of twenty
years he would not have moved, well-disposed people and those not
wanting in sense, or the citizens who argued about everything, people
who found lice in bald heads, demanded why the devil rested under the
form of a canon, went to the Church of Notre Dame at the hours when
the canons usually go, and ventured so far as to sniff the perfume of
the incense, taste the holy water, and a thousand other things. To
these heretical propositions some said that doubtless the devil wished
to convert himself, and others that he remained in the shape of the
canon to mock at the three nephews and heirs of this said brave
confessor and make them wait until the day of their own death for the
ample succession of this uncle, to whom they paid great attention
every day, going to look if the good man had his eyes open, and in
fact found him always with his eye clear, bright, and piercing as the
eye of a basilisk, which pleased them greatly, since they loved their
uncle very much--in words. On this subject an old woman related that
for certain the canon was the devil, because his two nephews, the
procureur and the captain, conducting their uncle at night, without a
lamp, or lantern, returning from a supper at the penitentiary's, had
caused him by accident to tumble over a heap of stones gathered
together to raise the statue of St. Christopher. At first the old man
had struck fire in falling, but was, amid the cries of his dear
nephews and by the light of the torches they came to seek at her house
found standing up as straight as a skittle and as gay as a weaving
whirl, exclaiming that the good wine of the penitentiary had given him
the courage to sustain this shock and that his bones were exceedingly
hard and had sustained rude assaults. The good nephews believing him
dead, were much astonished, and perceived that the day that was to
dispatch their uncle was a long way off, seeing that at the business
stones were of no use. So that they did not falsely call him their
good uncle, seeing that he was of good quality. Certain scandalmongers
said that the canon found so many stones in his path that he stayed at
home not to be ill with the stone, and the fear of worse was the cause
of his seclusion.
Of all these sayings and rumours, it remains that the old canon, devil
or not, kept his house, and refused to die, and had three heirs with
whom he lived as with his sciaticas, lumbagos, and other appendage of
human life. Of the said three heirs, one was the wickedest soldier
ever born of a woman, and he must have considerably hurt her in
breaking his egg, since he was born with teeth and bristles. So that
he ate, two-fold, for the present and the future, keeping wenches
whose cost he paid; inheriting from his uncle the continuance,
strength, and good use of that which is often of service. In great
battles, he endeavoured always to give blows without receiving them,
which is, and always will be, the only problem to solve in war, but he
never spared himself there, and, in fact, as he had no other virtue
except his bravery, he was captain of a company of lancers, and much
esteemed by the Duke of Burgoyne, who never troubled what his soldiers
did elsewhere. This nephew of the devil was named Captain Cochegrue;
and his creditors, the blockheads, citizens, and others, whose pockets
he slit, called him the Mau-cinge, since he was as mischievous as
strong; but he had moreover his back spoilt by the natural infirmity
of a hump, and it would have been unwise to attempt to mount thereon
to get a good view, for he would incontestably have run you through.
The second had studied the laws, and through the favour of his uncle
had become a procureur, and practised at the palace, where he did the
business of the ladies, whom formerly the canon had the best
confessed. This one was called Pille-grue, to banter him upon his real
name, which was Cochegrue, like that of his brother the captain.
Pille-grue had a lean body, seemed to throw off very cold water, was
pale of face, and possessed a physiognomy like a polecat.
This notwithstanding, he was worth many a penny more than the captain,
and had for his uncle a little affection, but since about two years
his heart had cracked a little, and drop by drop his gratitude had run
out, in such a way that from time to time, when the air was damp, he
liked to put his feet into his uncle's hose, and press in advance the
juice of this good inheritance. He and his brother, the soldier found
their share very small, since loyally, in law, in fact, in justice, in
nature, and in reality, it was necessary to give the third part of
everything to a poor cousin, son of another sister of the canon, the
which heir, but little loved by the good man, remained in the country,
where he was a shepherd, near Nanterre.
The guardian of beasts, an ordinary peasant, came to town by the
advice of his two cousins, who placed him in their uncle's house, in
the hope that, as much by his silly tricks and his clumsiness, his
want of brain, and his ignorance, he would be displeasing to the
canon, who would kick him out of his will. Now this poor Chiquon, as
the shepherd was named, had lived about a month alone with his old
uncle, and finding more profit or more amusement in minding an abbot
than looking after sheep, made himself the canon's dog, his servant,
the staff of his old age, saying, "God keep you," when he passed wind,
"God save you," when he sneezed, and "God guard you," when he belched;
going to see if it rained, where the cat was, remaining silent,
listening, speaking, receiving the coughs of the old man in his face,
admiring him as the finest canon there ever was in the world, all
heartily and in good faith, knowing that he was licking him after the
manner of animals who clean their young ones; and the uncle, who stood
in no need of learning which side the bread was buttered, repulsed
poor Chiquon, making him turn about like a die, always calling him
Chiquon, and always saying to his other nephews that this Chiquon was
helping to kill him, such a numskull was he. Thereupon, hearing this,
Chiquon determined to do well by his uncle, and puzzled his
understanding to appear better; but as he had a behind shaped like a
pair of pumpkins, was broad shouldered, large limbed, and far from
sharp, he more resembled old Silenus than a gentle Zephyr. In fact,
the poor shepherd, a simple man, could not reform himself, so he
remained big and fat, awaiting his inheritance to make himself thin.
One evening the canon began discoursing concerning the the devil and
the grave agonies, penances, tortures, etc., which God will get warm
for the accursed, and the good Chiquon hearing it, began to open his
eyes as wide as the door of an oven, at the statement, without
believing a word of it.
"What," said the canon, "are you not a Christian?"
"In that, yes," answered Chiquon.
"Well, there is a paradise for the good; is it not necessary to have a
hell for the wicked?"
"Yes, Mr. Canon; but the devil's of no use. If you had here a wicked
man who turned everything upside down; would you not kick him out of
"Oh, well, mine uncle; God would be very stupid to leave in the this
world, which he has so curiously constructed, an abominable devil
whose special business it is to spoil everything for him. Pish! I
recognise no devil if there be a good God; you may depend upon that. I
should very much like to see the devil. Ha, ha! I am not afraid of his
"And if I were of your opinion I should have no care of my very
youthful years in which I held confessions at least ten times a day."
"Confess again, Mr. Canon. I assure you that will be a precious merit
"There, there! Do you mean it?"
"Yes, Mr. Canon."
"Thou dost not tremble, Chiquon, to deny the devil?"
"I trouble no more about it than a sheaf of corn."
"The doctrine will bring misfortune upon you."
"By no means. God will defend me from the devil because I believe him
more learned and less stupid than the savans make him out."
Thereupon the two other nephews entered, and perceiving from the voice
of the canon that he did not dislike Chiquon very much, and that the
jeremiads which he had made concerning him were simple tricks to
disguise the affection which he bore him, looked at each other in
Then, seeing their uncle laughing, they said to him--
"If you will make a will, to whom will you leave the house?
"And the quit rent of the Rue St. Denys?"
"And the fief of Ville Parisis?"
"But," said the captain, with his big voice, "everything then will be
"No," replied the canon, smiling, "because I shall have made my will
in proper form, the inheritance will be to the sharpest of you three;
I am so near to the future, that I can therein see clearly your
And the wily canon cast upon Chiquon a glance full of malice, like a
decoy bird would have thrown upon a little one to draw him into her
net. The fire of his flaming eye enlightened the shepherd, who from
that moment had his understanding and his ears all unfogged, and his
brain open, like that of a maiden the day after her marriage. The
procureur and the captain, taking these sayings for gospel prophecies,
made their bow and went out from the house, quite perplexed at the
absurd designs of the canon.
"What do you think of Chiquon?" said Pille-grue to Mau-cinge.
"I think, I think," said the soldier, growling, "that I think of
hiding myself in the Rue d'Hierusalem, to put his head below his feet;
he can pick it up again if he likes."
"Oh, oh!" said the procureur, "you have a way of wounding that is
easily recognised, and people would say 'It's Cochegrue.' As for me, I
thought to invite him to dinner, after which, we would play at putting
ourselves in a sack in order to see, as they do at Court, who could
walk best thus attired. Then having sewn him up, we could throw him
into the Seine, at the same time begging him to swim."
"This must be well matured," replied the soldier.
"Oh! it's quite ripe," said the advocate. "The cousin gone to the
devil, the heritage would then be between us two."
"I'm quite agreeable," said the fighter, "but we must stick as close
together as the two legs of the same body, for if you are fine as
silk, I as strong as steel, and daggers are always as good as traps--
you hear that, my good brother."
"Yes," said the advocate, "the cause is heard--now shall it be the
thread or the iron?"
"Eh? ventre de Dieu! is it then a king that we are going to settle?
For a simple numskull of a shepherd are so many words necessary? Come!
20,000 francs out of the Heritage to the one of us who shall first cut
him off: I'll say to him in good faith, 'Pick up your head.'"
"And I, 'Swim my friend,'" cried the advocate, laughing like the gap
of a pourpoint.
And then they went to supper, the captain to his wench, and the
advocate to the house of a jeweller's wife, of whom he was the lover.
Who was astonished? Chiquon! The poor shepherd heard the planning of
his death, although the two cousins had walked in the parvis, and
talked to each other as every one speaks at church when praying to
God. So that Chiquon was much coupled to know if the words had come up
or if his ears had gone down.
"Do you hear, Mister Canon?"
"Yes," said he, "I hear the wood crackling in the fire."
"Ho, ho!" replied Chiquon, "if I don't believe in the devil, I believe
in St. Michael, my guardian angel; I go there where he calls me."
"Go, my child," said the canon, "and take care not to wet yourself,
nor to get your head knocked off, for I think I hear more rain, and
the beggars in the street are not always the most dangerous beggars."
At these words Chiquon was much astonished, and stared at the canon;
found his manner gay, his eye sharp, and his feet crooked; but as he
had to arrange matters concerning the death which menaced him, he
thought to himself that he would always have leisure to admire the
canon, or to cut his nails, and he trotted off quickly through the
town, as a little woman trots towards her pleasure.
His two cousins having no presumption of the divinatory science, of
which shepherds have had many passing attacks, had often talked before
him of their secret goings on, counting him as nothing.
Now one evening, to amuse the canon, Pille-grue had recounted to him
how had fallen in love with him a wife of a jeweller on whose head he
had adjusted certain carved, burnished, sculptured, historical horns,
fit for the brow of a prince. The good lady was to hear him, a right
merry wench, quick at opportunities, giving an embrace while her
husband was mounting the stairs, devouring the commodity as if she was
swallowing a a strawberry, only thinking of love-making, always
trifling and frisky, gay as an honest woman who lacks nothing,
contenting her husband, who cherished her so much as he loved his own
gullet; subtle as a perfume, so much so, that for five years she
managed so well with his household affairs, and her own love affairs,
that she had the reputation of a prudent woman, the confidence of her
husband, the keys of the house, the purse, and all.
"And when do you play upon this gentle flute?" said the canon.
"Every evening and sometimes I stay all the night."
"But how?" said the canon, astonished.
"This is how. There is a room close to, a chest into which I get. When
the good husband returns from his friend the draper's, where he goes
to supper every evening, because often he helps the draper's wife in
her work, my mistress pleads a slight illness, lets him go to bed
alone, and comes to doctor her malady in the room where the chest is.
On the morrow, when my jeweller is at his forge, I depart, and as the
house has one exit on to the bridge, and another into the street, I
always come to the door when the husband is not, on the pretext of
speaking to him of his suits, which commence joyfully and heartily,
and I never let them come to an end. It is an income from cuckoldom,
seeing that in the minor expenses and loyal costs of the proceedings,
he spends as much as on the horses in his stable. He loves me well, as
all good cuckolds should love the man who aids them, to plant,
cultivate, water and dig the natural garden of Venus, and he does
nothing without me."
Now these practices came back again to the memory of the shepherd, who
was illuminated by the light issuing from his danger, and counselled
by the intelligence of those measures of self-preservation, of which
every animal possesses a sufficient dose to go to the end of his ball
of life. So Chiquon gained with hasty feet the Rue de la Calandre,
where the jeweller should be supping with his companion, and after
having knocked at the door, replied to question put to him through the
little grill, that he was a messenger on state secrets, and was
admitted to the draper's house. Now coming straight to the fact, he
made the happy jeweller get up from his table, led him to a corner,
and said to him: "If one of your neighbours had planted a horn on your
forehead and he was delivered to you, bound hand and foot, would you
throw him into the river?"
"Rather," said the jeweller, "but if you are mocking me I'll give you
a good drubbing."
"There, there!" replied Chiquon, "I am one of your friends and come to
warn you that as many times as you have conversed with the draper's
wife here, as often has your own wife been served the same way by the
advocate Pille-grue, and if you will come back to your forge, you will
find a good fire there. On your arrival, he who looks after your you-
know-what, to keep it in good order, gets into the big clothes chest.
Now make a pretence that I have bought the said chest of you, and I
will be upon the bridge with a cart, waiting your orders."
The said jeweller took his cloak and his hat, and parted company with
his crony without saying a word, and ran to his hole like a poisoned
rat. He arrives and knocks, the door is opened, he runs hastily up the
stairs, finds two covers laid, sees his wife coming out of the chamber
of love, and then says to her, "My dear, here are two covers laid."
"Well, my darling are we not two?"
"No," said he, "we are three."
"Is your friend coming?" said she, looking towards the stairs with
"No, I speak of the friend who is in the chest."
"What chest?" said she. "Are you in your sound senses? Where do you
see a chest? Is the usual to put friends in chests? Am I a woman to
keep chests full of friends? How long have friends been kept in
chests? Are you come home mad to mix up your friends with your chests?
I know no other friend then Master Cornille the draper, and no other
chest than the one with our clothes in."
"Oh!," said the jeweller, "my good woman, there is a bad young man,
who has come to warn me that you allow yourself to be embraced by our
advocate, and that he is in the chest."
"I!" said she, "I would not put up with his knavery, he does
everything the wrong way."
"There, there, my dear," replied the jeweller, "I know you to be a
good woman, and won't have a squabble with you about this paltry
chest. The giver of the warning is a box-maker, to whom I am about to
sell this cursed chest that I wish never again to see in my house, and
for this one he will sell me two pretty little ones, in which there
will not be space enough even for a child; thus the scandal and the
babble of those envious of your virtue will be extinguished for want
"You give me great pleasure," said she; "I don't attach any value to
my chest, and by chance there is nothing in it. Our linen is at the
wash. It will be easy to have the mischievous chest taken away
tomorrow morning. Will you sup?"
"Not at all," said he, "I shall sup with a better appetite without the
"I see," said she, "that you won't easily get the chest out of your
"Halloa, there!" said the jeweller to his smiths and apprentices;
In the twinkling of an eye his people were before him. Then he, their
master, having briefly ordered the handling of the said chest, this
piece of furniture dedicated to love was tumbled across the room, but
in passing the advocate, finding his feet in the air to the which he
was not accustomed, tumbled over a little.
"Go on," said the wife, "go on, it's the lid shaking."
"No, my dear, it's the bolt."
And without any other opposition the chest slid gently down the
"Ho there, carrier!" said the jeweller, and Chiquon came whistling his
mules, and the good apprentices lifted the litigious chest into the
"Hi, hi!" said the advocate.
"Master, the chest is speaking," said an apprentice.
"In what language?" said the jeweller, giving him a good kick between
two features that luckily were not made of glass. The apprentice
tumbled over on to a stair in a way that induced him to discontinue
his studies in the language of chests. The shepherd, accompanied by
the good jeweller, carried all the baggage to the water-side without
listening to the high eloquence of the speaking wood, and having tied
several stones to it, the jeweller threw it into the Seine.
"Swim, my friend," cried the shepherd, in a voice sufficiently jeering
at the moment when the chest turned over, giving a pretty little
plunge like a duck.
Then Chiqoun continued to proceed along the quay, as far as the Rue-
du-port, St Laudry, near the cloisters of Notre Dame. There he noticed
a house, recognised the door, and knocked loudly.
"Open," said he, "open by order of the king."
Hearing this an old man who was no other than the famous Lombard,
Versoris, ran to the door.
"What is it?" said he.
"I am sent by the provost to warn you to keep good watch tonight,"
replied Chiquon, "as for his own part he will keep his archers ready.
The hunchback who has robbed you has come back again. Keep under arms,
for he is quite capable of easing you of the rest."
Having said this, the good shepherd took to his heels and ran to the
Rue des Marmouzets, to the house where Captain Cochegrue was feasting
with La Pasquerette, the prettiest of town-girls, and the most
charming in perversity that ever was; according to all the gay ladies,
her glance was sharp and piercing as the stab of a dagger. Her
appearance was so tickling to the sight, that it would have put all
Paradise to rout. Besides which she was as bold as a woman who has no
other virtue than her insolence. Poor Chiquon was greatly embarrassed
while going to the quarter of the Marmouzets. He was greatly afraid
that he would be unable to find the house of La Pasquerette, or find
the two pigeons gone to roost, but a good angel arranged there
speedily to his satisfaction. This is how. On entering the Rue des
Marmouzets he saw several lights at the windows and night-capped heads
thrust out, and good wenches, gay girls, housewives, husbands, and
young ladies, all of them are just out of bed, looking at each other
as if a robber were being led to execution by torchlight.
"What's the matter?" said the shepherd to a citizen who in great haste
had rushed to the door with a chamber utensil in his hand.
"Oh! it's nothing," replied the good man. "We thought it was the
Armagnacs descending upon the town, but it's only Mau-cinge beating La
"Where?" asked the shepherd.
"Below there, at that fine house where the pillars have the mouths of
flying frogs delicately carved upon them. Do you hear the varlets and
the serving maids?"
And in fact there was nothing but cries of "Murder! Help! Come some
one!" and in the house blows raining down and the Mau-cinge said with
his gruff voice:
"Death to the wench! Ah, you sing out now, do you? Ah, you want your
money now, do you? Take that--"
And La Pasquerette was groaning, "Oh! oh! I die! Help! Help! Oh! oh!"
Then came the blow of a sword and the heavy fall of a light body of
the fair girl sounded, and was followed by a great silence, after
which the lights were put out, servants, waiting women, roysterers,
and others went in again, and the shepherd who had come opportunely
mounted the stairs in company with them, but on beholding in the room
above broken glasses, slit carpets, and the cloth on the floor with
the dishes, everyone remained at a distance.
The shepherd, bold as a man with but one end in view, opened the door
of the handsome chamber where slept La Pasquerette, and found her
quite exhausted, her hair dishevelled, and her neck twisted, lying
upon a bloody carpet, and Mau-cinge frightened, with his tone
considerably lower, and not knowing upon what note to sing the
remainder of his anthem.
"Come, my little Pasquerette, don't pretend to be dead. Come, let me
put you tidy. Ah! little minx, dead or alive, you look so pretty in
your blood I'm going to kiss you." Having said which the cunning
soldier took her and threw her upon the bed, but she fell there all of
a heap, and stiff as the body of a man that had been hanged. Seeing
which her companion found it was time for his hump to retire from the
game; however, the artful fellow before slinking away said, "Poor
Pasquerette, how could I murder so good of girl, and one I loved so
much? But, yes, I have killed her, the thing is clear, for in her life
never did her sweet breast hang down like that. Good God, one would
say it was a crown at the bottom of a wallet. Thereupon Pasquerette
opened her eyes and then bent her head slightly to look at her flesh,
which was white and firm, and she brought herself to life by a box on
the ears, administered to the captain.
"That will teach you to beware of the dead," said she, smiling.
"And why did he kill you, my cousin?" asked the shepherd.
"Why? Tomorrow the bailiffs seize everything that's here, and he who
has no more money than virtue, reproached me because I wished to be
agreeable to a handsome gentlemen, who would save me from the hands of
"Pasquerette, I'll break every bone in your skin."
"There, there!" said Chiquon, whom the Mau-cinge had just recognised,
"is that all? Oh, well, my good friend, I bring you a large sum."
"Where from?" asked the captain, astonished.
"Come here, and let me whisper in your ear--if 30,000 crowns were
walking about at night under the shadow of a pear-tree, would you not
stoop down to pluck them, to prevent them spoiling?"
"Chiquon, I'll kill you like a dog if you are making game of me, or I
will kiss you there where you like it, if you will put me opposite
30,000 crowns, even when it shall be necessary to kill three citizens
at the corner of the Quay."
"You will not even kill one. This is how the matter stands. I have for
a sweetheart in all loyalty, the servant of the Lombard who is in the
city near the house of our good uncle. Now I have just learned on
sound information that this dear man has departed this morning into
the country after having hidden under a pear-tree in his garden a good
bushel of gold, believing himself to be seen only by the angels. But
the girl who had by chance a bad toothache, and was taking the air at
her garret window, spied the old crookshanks, without wishing to do
so, and chattered of it to me in fondness. If you will swear to give
me a good share I will lend you my shoulders in order that you may
climb on to the top of the wall and from there throw yourself into the
pear-tree, which is against the wall. There, now do you say that I am
a blockhead, an animal?"
"No, you are a right loyal cousin, an honest man, and if you have ever
to put an enemy out off the way, I am there, ready to kill even one of
my own friends for you. I am no longer your cousin, but your brother.
Ho there! sweetheart," cried Mau-cinge to La Pasquerette, "put the
tables straight, wipe up your blood, it belongs to me, and I'll pay
you for it by giving you a hundred times as much of mine as I have
taken of thine. Make the best of it, shake the black dog, off your
back, adjust your petticoats, laugh, I wish it, look to the stew, and
let us recommence our evening prayer where we left it off. Tomorrow
I'll make thee braver than a queen. This is my cousin whom I wish to
entertain, even when to do so it were necessary to turn the house out
of windows. We shall get back everything tomorrow in the cellars.
Come, fall to!"
Thus, and in less time than it takes a priest to say his Dominus
vobiscum, the whole rookery passed from tears to laughter as it had
previously from laughter to tears. It is only in these houses of ill-
fame that love is made with the blow of a dagger, and where tempests
of joy rage between four walls. But these are things ladies of the
high-neck dress do not understand.
The said captain Cochegrue was gay as a hundred schoolboys at the
breaking up of class, and made his good cousin drink deeply, who
spilled everything country fashion, and pretended to be drunk,
spluttering out a hundred stupidities, as, that "tomorrow he would buy
Paris, would lend a hundred thousand crowns to the king, that he would
be able to roll in gold;" in fact, talked so much nonsense that the
captain, fearing some compromising avowal and thinking his brain quite
muddled enough, led him outside with the good intention, instead of
sharing with him, of ripping Chiquon open to see if he had not a
sponge in his stomach, because he had just soaked in a big quart of
the good wine of Suresne. They went along, disputing about a thousand
theological subjects which got very much mixed up, and finished by
rolling quietly up against the garden where were the crowns of the
Lombard. Then Cochegrue, making a ladder of Chiquon's broad shoulders,
jumped on to the pear-tree like a man expert in attacks upon towns,
but Versoris, who was watching him, made a blow at his neck, and
repeated it so vigorously that with three blows fell the upper portion
of the said Cochegrue, but not until he had heard the clear voice of
the shepherd, who cried to him, "Pick up your head, my friend."
Thereupon the generous Chiquon, in whom virtue received its
recompense, thought it would be wise to return to the house of the
good canon, whose heritage was by the grace of God considerably
simplified. Thus he gained the Rue St. Pierre-Aux-Boeufs with all
speed, and soon slept like a new-born baby, no longer knowing the
meaning of the word "cousin-german." Now, on the morrow he rose
according to the habit of shepherds, with the sun, and came into his
uncle's room to inquire if he spat white, if he coughed, if he had
slept well; but the old servant told him that the canon, hearing the
bells of St Maurice, the first patron of Notre Dame, ring for matins,
he had gone out of reverence to the cathedral, where all the Chapter
were to breakfast with the Bishop of Paris; upon which Chiquon
replied: "Is his reverence the canon out of his senses thus to disport
himself, to catch a cold, to get rheumatism? Does he wish to die? I'll
light a big fire to warm him when he returns;" and the good shepherd
ran into the room where the canon generally sat, and to his great
astonishment beheld him seated in his chair.
"Ah, ah! What did she mean, that fool of a Bruyette? I knew you were
too well advised to be shivering at this hour in your stall."
The canon said not a word. The shepherd who was like all thinkers, a
man of hidden sense, was quite aware that sometimes old men have
strange crotchets, converse with the essence of occult things, and
mumble to themselves discourses concerning matters not under
consideration; so that, from reverence and great respect for the
secret meditations of the canon, he went and sat down at a distance,
and waited the termination of these dreams; noticing, silently the
length of the good man's nails, which looked like cobbler's awls, and
looking attentively at the feet of his uncle, he was astonished to see
the flesh of his legs so crimson, that it reddened his breeches and
seemed all on fire through his hose.
He is dead, thought Chiquon. At this moment the door of the room
opened, and he still saw the canon, who, his nose frozen, came back
"Ho, ho!" said Chiquon, "my dear Uncle, are you out of your senses?
Kindly take notice that you ought not to be at the door, because you
are already seated in your chair in the chimney corner, and that it is
impossible for there to be two canons like you in the world."
"Ah! Chiquon, there was a time when I could have wished to be in two
places at once, but such is not the fate of a man, he would be too
happy. Are you getting dim-sighted? I am alone here."
Then Chiquon turned his head towards the chair, and found it empty;
and much astonished, as you will easily believe, he approached it, and
found on the seat a little pat of cinders, from which ascended a
strong odour of sulphur.
"Ah!" said he merrily, "I perceive that the devil has behaved well
towards me--I will pray God for him."
And thereupon he related naively to the canon how the devil had amused
himself by playing at providence, and had loyally aided him to get rid
of his wicked cousins, the which the canon admired much, and thought
very good, seeing that he had plenty of good sense left, and often had
observed things which were to the devil's advantage. So the good old
priest remarked that 'as much good was always met with in evil as evil
in good, and that therefore one should not trouble too much after the
other world, the which was a grave heresy, which many councils have
And this was how the Chiquons became rich, and were able in these
times, by the fortunes of their ancestors, to help to build the bridge
of St. Michael, where the devil cuts a very good figure under the
angel, in memory of this adventure now consigned to these veracious
THE MERRY JESTS OF KING LOUIS THE ELEVENTH
King Louis The Eleventh was a merry fellow, loving a good joke, and--
the interests of his position as king, and those of the church on one
side--he lived jovially, giving chase to soiled doves as often as to
hares, and other royal game. Therefore, the sorry scribblers who have
made him out a hypocrite, showed plainly that they knew him not, since
he was a good friend, good at repartee, and a jollier fellow than any
It was he who said when he was in a merry mood, that four things are
excellent and opportune in life--to keep warm, to drink cool, to stand
up hard, and to swallow soft. Certain persons have accused him of
taking up with a dirty trollops; this is a notorious falsehood, since
all his mistresses, of whom one was legitimised, came of good houses
and had notable establishments. He did not go in for waste and
extravagance, always put his hand upon the solid, and because certain
devourers of the people found no crumbs at his table, they have all
maligned him. But the real collector of facts know that the said king
was a capital fellow in private life, and even very agreeable; and
before cutting off the heads of his friends, or punishing them--for he
did not spare them--it was necessary that they should have greatly
offended him, and his vengeance was always justice; I have only seen
in our friend Verville that this worthy sovereign ever made a mistake;
but one does not make a habit, and even for this his boon companion
Tristan was more to blame than he, the king. This is the circumstance
related by the said Verville, and I suspect he was cracking a joke. I
reproduce it because certain people are not familiar with the
exquisite work of my perfect compatriot. I abridge it and only give
the substance, the details being more ample, of which facts the savans
are not ignorant.
Louis XI. had given the Abbey of Turpenay (mentioned in 'Imperia') to
a gentleman who, enjoying the revenue, had called himself Monsieur de
Turpenay. It happened that the king being at Plessis-les-Tours, the
real abbot, who was a monk, came and presented himself before the
king, and presented also a petition, remonstrating with him that,
canonically and a monastically, he was entitled to the abbey and that
the usurping gentleman wronged of his right, and therefore he called
upon his majesty to have justice done to him. Nodding his peruke, the
king promised to render him contented. This monk, importunate as are
all hooded animals, came often at the end of the king's meals, who,
bored with the holy water of the convent, called friend Tristan and
said to him: "Old fellow, there is here a Turpenay who angers me, rid
the world of him for me." Tristan, taking a frock for a monk, or a
monk for a frock, came to this gentleman, whom all the court called
Monsieur de Turpenay, and having accosted him managed to lead him to
one side, and taking him by the button-hole gave him to understand
that the king desired he should die. He tried to resist, supplicating
and supplicating to escape, but in no way could he obtain a hearing.
He was delicately strangled between the head and shoulders, so that he
expired; and, three hours afterwards, Tristan told the king that he
was discharged. It happened five days afterwards, which is the space
in which souls come back again, that the monk came into the room where
the king was, and when he saw him he was much astonished. Tristan was
present: the king called him, and whispered into his ear--
"You have not done that which I told you to."
"Saving your Grace I have done it. Turpenay is dead."
"Eh? I meant this monk."
"I understood the gentleman!"
"What, is it done then?"
"Very well then"--turning towards the monk--"come here, monk." The
monk approached. The king said to him, "Kneel down!" The poor monk
began to shiver in his shoes. But the king said to him, "Thank God
that he has not willed that you should be killed as I had ordered. He
who took your estates has been instead. God has done you justice. Go
and pray God for me, and don't stir out of your convent."
The proves the good-heartedness of Louis XI. He might very well have
hanged the monk, the cause of the error. As for the said gentleman, he
died in the king's service.
In the early days of his sojourn at Plessis-les-Tours king Louis, not
wishing to hold his drinking-bouts and give vent to his rakish
propensities in his chateau, out of respect to her Majesty (a kingly
delicacy which his successors have not possessed) became enamoured of
a lady named Nicole Beaupertuys, who was, to tell the truth, wife of a
citizen of the town. The husband he sent into Ponent, and put the said
Nicole in a house near Chardonneret, in that part which is the Rue
Quincangrogne, because it was a lonely place, far from other
habitations. The husband and the wife were thus both in his service,
and he had by La Beaupertuys a daughter, who died a nun. This Nicole
had a tongue as sharp as a popinjay's, was of stately proportions,
furnished with large beautiful cushions of nature, firm to the touch,
white as the wings of an angel, and known for the rest to be fertile
in peripatetic ways, which brought it to pass that never with her was
the same thing encountered twice in love, so deeply had she studied
the sweet solutions of the science, the manners of accommodating the
olives of Poissy, the expansions of the nerves, and hidden doctrines
of the breviary, the which much delighted the king. She was as gay as
a lark, always laughing and singing, and never made anyone miserable,
which is the characteristic of women of this open and free nature, who
have always an occupation--an equivocal one if you like. The king
often went with the hail-fellows his friends to the lady's house, and
in order not to be seen always went at night-time, and without his
suite. But being always distrustful, and fearing some snare, he gave
to Nicole all the most savage dogs he had in his kennels, beggars that
would eat a man without saying "By your leave," the which royal dogs
knew only Nicole and the king. When the Sire came Nicole let them
loose in the garden, and the door of the house being sufficiently
barred and closely shut, the king put the keys in his pocket, and in
perfect security gave himself up, with his satellites, to every kind
of pleasure, fearing no betrayal, jumping about at will, playing
tricks, and getting up good games. Upon these occasions friend Tristan
watched the neighbourhood, and anyone who had taken a walk on the Mall
of Chardonneret would be rather quickly placed in a position in which
it would have been easy to give the passers-by a benediction with his
feet, unless he had the king's pass, since often would Louis send out
in search of lasses for his friends, or people to entertain him with
the amusements suggested by Nicole or the guests. People of Tours were
there for these little amusements, to whom he gently recommended
silence, so that no one knew of these pastimes until after his death.
The farce of "Baisez mon cul" was, it is said, invented by the said
Sire. I will relate it, although it is not the subject of this tale,
because it shows the natural comicality and humour of this merry
monarch. They were at Tours three well known misers: the first was
Master Cornelius, who is sufficiently well known; the second was
called Peccard, and sold the gilt-work, coloured papers, and jewels
used in churches; the third was hight Marchandeau, and was a very
wealthy vine-grower. These two men of Touraine were the founders of
good families, notwithstanding their sordidness. One evening that the
king was with Beaupertuys, in a good humour, having drunk heartily,
joked heartily, and offered early in the evening his prayer in
Madame's oratory, he said to Le Daim his crony, to the Cardinal, La
Balue, and to old Dunois, who were still soaking, "Let us have a good
laugh! I think it will be a good joke to see misers before a bag of
gold without being able to touch it. Hi, there!"
Hearing which, appeared one of his varlets.
"Go," said he, "seek my treasurer, and let him bring hither six
thousand gold crowns--and at once! And you will go and seize the
bodies of my friend Cornelius, of the jeweller of the Rue de Cygnes,
and of old Marchandeau, and bring them here, by order of the king."
Then he began to drink again, and to judiciously wrangle as to which
was the better, a woman with a gamy odour or a woman who soaped
herself well all over; a thin one or a stout one; and as the company
comprised the flower of wisdom it was decided that the best was the
one a man had all to himself like a plate of warm mussels, at that
precise moment when God sent him a good idea to communicate to her.
The cardinal asked which was the most precious thing to a lady; the
first or the last kiss? To which La Beaupertuys replied: "that it was
the last, seeing that she knew then what she was losing, while at the
first she did not know what she would gain." During these sayings, and
others which have most unfortunately been lost, came the six thousand
gold crowns, which were worth all three hundred thousand francs of
to-day, so much do we go on decreasing in value every day. The king
ordered the crowns to be arranged upon a table, and well lighted up,
so that they shone like the eyes of the company which lit up
involuntarily, and made them laugh in spite of themselves. They did
not wait long for the three misers, whom the varlet led in, pale and
panting, except Cornelius, who knew the king's strange freaks.
"Now then, my friends," said Louis to them, "have a good look at the
crowns on the table."
And the three townsmen nibbled at them with their eyes. You may reckon
that the diamond of La Beaupertuys sparkled less than their little
"These are yours," added the king.
Thereupon they ceased to admire the crowns to look at each other; and
the guests knew well that old knaves are more expert in grimaces than
any others, because of their physiognomies becoming tolerably curious,
like those of cats lapping up milk, or girls titillated with marriage.
"There," said the king, "all that shall be his who shall say three
times to the two others, 'Baisez mon cul', thrusting his hand into the
gold; but if he be not as serious as a fly who had violated his lady-
love, if he smile while repeating the jest, he will pay ten crowns to
Madame. Nevertheless he can essay three times."
"That will soon be earned," said Cornelius, who, being a Dutchman, had
his lips as often compressed and serious as Madame's mouth was often
open and laughing. Then he bravely put his hands on the crowns to see
if they were good, and clutched them bravely, but as he looked at the
others to say civilly to them, "Baisez mon cul," the two misers,
distrustful of his Dutch gravity, replied, "Certainly, sir," as if he
had sneezed. The which caused all the company to laugh, and even
Cornelius himself. When the vine-grower went to take the crowns he
felt such a commotion in his cheeks that his old scummer face let
little laughs exude from its pores like smoke pouring out of a
chimney, and he could say nothing. Then it was the turn of the
jeweller, who was a little bit of a bantering fellow, and whose lips
were as tightly squeezed as the neck of a hanged man. He seized a
handful of the crowns, looked at the others, even the king, and said,
with a jeering air, "Baisez mon cul."
"Is it dirty?" asked the vine-dresser.
"Look and see," replied the jeweller, gravely.
Thereupon the king began to tremble for these crowns, since the said
Peccard began again, without laughing, and for the third time was
about to utter the sacramental word, when La Beaupertuys made a sign
of consent to his modest request, which caused him to lose his
countenance, and his mouth broke up into dimples.
"How did you do it?" asked Dunois, "to keep a grave face before six
"Oh, my lord, I thought first of one of my cases which is tried
tomorrow, and secondly, of my wife who is a sorry plague."
The desire to gain this good round sum made them try again, and the
king amused himself for about an hour at the expression of these
faces, the preparations, jokes, grimaces, and other monkey's
paternosters that they performed; but they were bailing their boats
with a sieve, and for men who preferred closing their fists to opening
them it was a bitter sorrow to have to count out, each one, a hundred
crown to Madame.
When they were gone, and Nicole said boldly to the king, "Sire will
you let me try?"
"Holy Virgin!" replied Louis; "no! I can kiss you for less money."
That was said like a thrifty man, which indeed he always was.
One evening the fat Cardinal La Balue carried on gallantly with words
and actions, a little farther than the canons of the Church permitted
him, with this Beaupertuys, who luckily for herself, was a clever
hussy, not to be asked with impunity how many holes there were in her
"Look you here, Sir Cardinal!" said she; "the thing which the king
likes is not to receive the holy oils."
Then came Oliver le Daim, whom she would not listen to either, and to
whose nonsense she replied, that she would ask the king if he wished
her to be shaved.
Now as the said shaver did not supplicate her to keep his proposals
secret, she suspected that these little plots were ruses practised by
the king, whose suspicions had perhaps been aroused by her friends.
Now, for being able to revenge herself upon Louis, she at least
determined to pay out the said lords, to make fools of them, and amuse
the king with the tricks she would play upon them. One evening that
they had come to supper, she had a lady of the city with her, who
wished to speak with the king. This lady was a lady of position, who
wished asked the king pardon for her husband, the which, in
consequence of this adventure, she obtained. Nicole Beaupertuys having
led the king aside for a moment into an antechamber, told him to make
their guests drink hard and eat to repletion; that he was to make
merry and joke with them; but when the cloth was removed, he was to
pick quarrels with them about trifles, dispute their words, and be
sharp with them; and that she would then divert him by turning them
inside out before him. But above all things, he was to be friendly to
the said lady, and it was to appear as genuine, as if she enjoyed the
perfume of his favour, because she had gallantly lent herself to this
"Well, gentlemen," said the king, re-entering the room, "let us fall
to; we have had a good day's sport."
And the surgeon, the cardinal, a fat bishop, the captain of the Scotch
Guard, a parliamentary envoy, and a judge loved of the king, followed
the two ladies into the room where one rubs the rust off one's jaw
bones. And there they lined the mold of their doublets. What is that?
It is to pave the stomach, to practice the chemistry of nature, to
register the various dishes, to regale your tripes, to dig your grave
with your teeth, play with the sword of Cain, to inter sauces, to
support a cuckold. But more philosophically it is to make ordure with
one's teeth. Now, do you understand? How many words does it require to
burst open the lid of your understanding?
The king did not fail to distill into his guests this splendid and
first-class supper. He stuffed them with green peas, returning to the
hotch-potch, praising the plums, commending the fish, saying to one,
"Why do you not eat?" to another, "Drink to Madame"; to all of them,
"Gentlemen, taste these lobsters; put this bottle to death! You do not
know the flavour of this forcemeat. And these lampreys--ah! what do
you say to them? And by the Lord! The finest barbel ever drawn from
the Loire! Just stick your teeth into this pastry. This game is my own
hunting; he who takes it not offends me." And again, "Drink, the
king's eyes are the other way. Just give your opinion of these
preserves, they are Madame's own. Have some of these grapes, they are
my own growing. Have some medlars." And while inducing them to swell
out their abdominal protuberances, the good monarch laughed with them,
and they joked and disputed, and spat, and blew their noses, and
kicked up just as though the king had not been with them. Then so much
victuals had been taken on board, so many flagons drained and stews
spoiled, that the faces of the guests were the colour of cardinals
gowns, and their doublets appeared ready to burst, since they were
crammed with meat like Troyes sausages from the top to the bottom of
their paunches. Going into the saloon again, they broke into a profuse
sweat, began to blow, and to curse their gluttony. The king sat
quietly apart; each of them was the more willing to be silent because
all their forces were required for the intestinal digestion of the
huge platefuls confined in their stomachs, which began to wabble and
rumble violently. One said to himself, "I was stupid to eat of that
sauce." Another scolded himself for having indulged in a plate of eels
cooked with capers. Another thought to himself, "Oh! oh! The forcemeat
is serving me out." The cardinal, who was the biggest bellied man of
the lot, snorted through his nostrils like a frightened horse. It was
he who was first compelled to give vent to a loud sounding belch, and
then he soon wished himself in Germany, where this is a form of
salutation, for the king hearing this gastric language looked at the
cardinal with knitted brows.
"What does this mean?" said he, "am I a simple clerk?"
This was heard with terror, because usually the king made much of a
good belch well off the stomach. The other guests determined to get
rid in another way of the vapours which were dodging about in their
pancreatic retorts; and at first they endeavoured to hold them for a
little while in the pleats of their mesenteries. It was then that some
of them puffed and swelled like tax-gatherers. Beaupertuys took the
good king aside and said to him--
"Know now that I have had made by the Church jeweller Peccard, two
large dolls, exactly resembling this lady and myself. Now when hard-
pressed by the drugs which I have put in their goblets, they desire to
mount the throne to which we are now about to pretend to go, they will
always find the place taken; by this means you will enjoy their
Thus having said, La Beaupertuys disappeared with the lady to go and
turn the wheel, after the custom of women, and of which I will tell
you the origin in another place. And after an honest lapse of water,
Beaupertuys came back alone, leaving it to be believed that she had
left the lady at the little laboratory of natural alchemy. Thereupon
the king, singling out the cardinal, made him get up, and talked with
him seriously of his affairs, holding him by the tassel of his amice.
To all that the king said, La Balue replied, "Yes, sir," to be
delivered from this favour, and slip out of the room, since the water
was in his cellars, and he was about to lose the key of his back-door.
All the guests were in a state of not knowing how to arrest the
progress of the fecal matter to which nature has given, even more than
to water, the property of finding a certain level. Their substances
modified themselves and glided working downward, like those insects
who demand to be let out of their cocoons, raging, tormenting, and
ungrateful to the higher powers; for nothing is so ignorant, so
insolent as those cursed objects, and they are importunate like all
things detained to whom one owes liberty. So they slipped at every
turn like eels out of a net, and each one had need of great efforts
and science not to disgrace himself before the king. Louis took great
pleasure in interrogating his guests, and was much amused with the
vicissitudes of their physiognomies, on which were reflected the dirty
grimaces of their writhings. The counsellor of justice said to Oliver,
"I would give my office to be behind a hedge for half a dozen
"Oh, there is no enjoyment to equal a good stool; and now I am no
longer astonished at sempiternal droppings of a fly," replied the
The cardinal believing that the lady had obtained her receipt from the
bank of deposit, left the tassels of his girdle in the king's hand,
making a start as if he had forgotten to say his prayers, and made his
way towards the door.
"What is the matter with you, Monsieur le Cardinal?" said the king.
"By my halidame, what is the matter with me? It appears that all your
affairs are very extensive, sire!"
The cardinal had slipped out, leaving the others astonished at his
cunning. He proceeded gloriously towards the lower room, loosening a
little the strings of his purse; but when he opened the blessed little
door he found the lady at her functions upon the throne, like a pope
about to be consecrated. Then restraining his impatience, he descended
the stairs to go into the garden. However, on the last steps the
barking of the dogs put him in great fear of being bitten in one of
his precious hemispheres; and not knowing where to deliver himself of
his chemical produce he came back into the room, shivering like a man
who has been in the open air! The others seeing the cardinal return,
imagined that he had emptied his natural reservoirs, unburdened his
ecclesiastical bowels, and believed him happy. Then the surgeon rose
quickly, as if to take note of the tapestries and count the rafters,
but gained the door before anyone else, and relaxing his sphincter in
advance, he hummed a tune on his way to the retreat; arrived there he
was compelled, like La Balue, to murmur words of excuse to this
student of perpetual motion, shutting the door with as promptitude as
he opened it; and he came back burdened with an accumulation which
seriously impeded his private channels. And in the same way went to
guests one after the other, without being able to unburden themselves
of their sauces, as soon again found themselves all in the presence of
Louis the Eleventh, as much distressed as before, looking at each
other slyly, understanding each other better with their tails than
they ever understood with their mouths, for there is never any
equivoque in the transactions of the parts of nature, and everything
therein is rational and of easy comprehension, seeing that it is a
science which we learn at our birth.
"I believe," said the cardinal to the surgeon, "that lady will go on
until to-morrow. What was La Beaupertuys about to ask such a case of
"She's been an hour working at what I could get done in a minute. May
the fever seize her" cried Oliver le Daim.
All the courtiers seized with colic were walking up and down to make
their importunate matters patient, when the said lady reappeared in
the room. You can believe they found her beautiful and graceful, and
would willingly have kissed her, there where they so longed to go; and
never did they salute the day with more favour than this lady, the
liberator of the poor unfortunate bodies. La Balue rose; the others,
from honour, esteem, and reverence of the church, gave way to the
clergy, and, biding their time, they continued to make grimaces, at
which the king laughed to himself with Nicole, who aided him to stop
the respiration of these loose-bowelled gentlemen. The good Scotch
captain, who more than all the others had eaten of a dish in which the
cook had put an aperient powder, became the victim of misplaced
confidence. He went ashamed into a corner, hoping that before the
king, his mishap might escape detection. At this moment the cardinal
returned horribly upset, because he had found La Beaupertuys on the
episcopal seat. Now, in his torments, not knowing if she were in the
room, he came back and gave vent to a diabolical "Oh!" on beholding
her near his master.
"What do you mean?" exclaimed the king, looking at the priest in a way
to give him the fever.
"Sire," said La Balue, insolently, "the affairs of purgatory are in my
ministry, and I am bound to inform you that there is sorcery going on
in this house."
"Ah! little priest, you wish to make game of me!" said the king.
At these words the company were in a terrible state.
"So you treat me with disrespect?" said the king, which made them turn
pale. "Ho, there! Tristan, my friend!" cried Louis XI. from the
window, which he threw up suddenly, "come up here!"
The grand provost of the hotel was not long before he appeared; and as
these gentlemen were all nobodies, raised to their present position by
the favour of the king, Louis, in a moment of anger, could crush them
at will; so that with the exception of the cardinal who relied upon
his cassock, Tristan found them all rigid and aghast.
"Conduct these gentleman to the Pretorium, on the Mall, my friend,
they have disgraced themselves through over-eating."
"Am I not good at jokes?" said Nicole to him.
"The farce is good, but it is fetid," replied he, laughing.
This royal answer showed the courtiers that this time the king did not
intend to play with their heads, for which they thanked heaven. The
monarch was partial to these dirty tricks. He was not at all a bad
fellow, as the guests remarked while relieving themselves against the
side of the Mall with Tristan, who, like a good Frenchman, kept them
company, and escorted them to their homes. This is why since that time
the citizens of Tours had never failed to defile the Mall of
Chardonneret, because the gentlemen of the court had been there.
I will not leave this great king without committing to writing this
good joke which he played upon La Godegrand, who was an old maid, much
disgusted that she had not, during the forty years she had lived, been
able to find a lid to her saucepan, enraged, in her yellow skin, that
she still was as virgin as a mule. This old maid had her apartments on
the other side of the house which belonged to La Beaupertuys, at the
corner of the Rue de Hierusalem, in such a position that, standing on
the balcony joining the wall, it was easy to see what she was doing,
and hear what she was saying in the lower room where she lived; and
often the king derived much amusement from the antics of the old girl,
who did not know that she was so much within the range of his
majesty's culverin. Now one market day it happened that the king had
caused to be hanged a young citizen of Tours, who had violated a noble
lady of a certain age, believing that she was a young maiden. There
would have been no harm in this, and it would have been a thing
greatly to the credit of the said lady to have been taken for a
virgin; but on finding out his mistake, he had abominably insulted
her, and suspecting her of trickery, had taken it into his head to rob
her of a splendid silver goblet, in payment of the present he had just
made her. This young man had long hair, and was so handsome that the
whole town wished to see him hanged, both from regret and out of
curiosity. You may be sure that at this hanging there were more caps
than hats. Indeed, the said young man swung very well; and after the
fashion and custom of persons hanged, he died gallantly with his lance
couched, which fact made a great noise in the town. Many ladies said
on this subject that it was a murder not to have preserved so fine a
fellow from the scaffold.
"Suppose we were to put this handsome corpse in the bed of La
Godegrand," said La Beaupertuys to the king.
"We should terrify her," replied Louis.
"Not at all, sire. Be sure that she will welcome even a dead man, so
madly does she long for a living one. Yesterday I saw her making love
to a young man's cap placed on the top of a chair, and you would have
laughed heartily at her words and gestures."
Now while this forty-year-old virgin was at vespers, the king sent to
have this young townsman, who had just finished the last scene of his
tragic farce, taken down, and having dressed him in a white shirt, two
officers got over the walls of La Godegrand's garden, and put the
corpse into her bed, on the side nearest the street. Having done this
they went away, and the king remained in the room with the balcony to
it, playing with Beaupertuys, and awaiting an hour at which the old
maid should go to bed. La Godegrand soon came back with a hop, skip,
and jump, as the Tourainians say, from the church of St Martin, from
which she was not far, since the Rue de Hierusalem touches the walls
of the cloister. She entered her house, laid down her prayer-book,
chaplet, and rosary, and other ammunition which these old girls carry,
then poked the fire, and blew it, warmed herself at it, settled
herself in her chair, and played with her cat for want of something
better; then she went to the larder, supping and sighing, and sighing
and supping, eating alone, with her eyes cast down upon the carpet;
and after having drunk, behaved in a manner forbidden in court
"Ah!" the corpse said to her, 'God bless you!'"
At this joke of luck of La Beaupertuys, both laughed heartily in their
sleeves. And with great attention this very Christian king watched the
undressing of the old maid, who admired herself while removing her
things--pulling out a hair, or scratching a pimple which had
maliciously come upon her nose; picking her teeth, and doing a
thousand little things which, alas! all ladies, virgins or not, are
obliged to do, much to their annoyance; but without these little
faults of nature, they would be too proud, and one would not be able
to enjoy their society. Having achieved her aquatic and musical
discourse, the old maid got in between the sheets, and yelled forth a
fine, great, ample, and curious cry, when she saw, when she smelt the
fresh vigour of this hanged man and the sweet perfume of his manly
youth; then sprang away from him out of coquetry. But as she did not
know he was really dead, she came back again, believing he was mocking
her, and counterfeiting death.
"Go away, you bad young man!" said she.
But you can imagine that she proffered this requests in a most humble
and gracious tone of voice. Then seeing that he did not move, she
examined him more closely, and was much astonished at this so fine
human nature when she recognised the young fellow, upon whom the fancy
took her to perform some purely scientific experiments in the
interests of hanged persons.
"What is she doing?" said La Beaupertuys to the king.
"She is trying to reanimate him. It is a work of Christian humanity."
And the old girl rubbed and warmed this fine young man, supplicating
holy Mary the Egyptian to aid her to renew the life of this husband
who had fallen so amorously from heaven, when, suddenly looking at the
dead body she was so charitably rubbing, she thought she saw a slight
movement in the eyes; then she put her hand upon the man's heart, and
felt it beat feebly. At length, from the warmth of the bed and of
affection, and by the temperature of old maids, which is by far more
burning then the warm blasts of African deserts, she had the delight
of bringing to life that fine handsome young fellow who by lucky
chance had been very badly hanged.
"See how my executioners serve me!" said Louis, laughing.
"Ah!" said La Beaupertuys, "you will not have him hanged again? he is
"The decree does not say that he shall be hanged twice, but he shall
marry the old woman."
Indeed, the good lady went in a great hurry to seek a master leech, a
good bleeder, who lived in the Abbey, and brought him back directly.
He immediately took his lancet, and bled the young man. And as no
blood came out: "Ah!" said he, "it is too late, the transshipment of
blood in the lungs has taken place."
But suddenly this good young blood oozed out a little, and then came
out in abundance, and the hempen apoplexy, which had only just begun,
was arrested in its course. The young man moved and came more to life;
then he fell, from natural causes, into a state of great weakness and
profound sadness, prostration of flesh and general flabbiness. Now the
old maid, who was all eyes, and followed the great and notable changes
which were taking place in the person of this badly hanged man, pulled
the surgeon by the sleeve, and pointing out to him, by a curious
glance of the eye, the piteous cause, said to him--
"Will he for the future be always like that?"
"Often," replied the veracious surgeon.
"Oh! he was much nicer hanged!"
At this speech the king burst out laughing. Seeing him at the window,
the woman and the surgeon were much frightened, for this laugh seemed
to them a second sentence of death for their poor victim. But the king
kept his word, and married them. And in order to do justice he gave
the husband the name of the Sieur de Mortsauf in the place of the one
he had lost upon the scaffold. As La Godegrand had a very big basket
of crowns, they founded a good family in Touraine, which still exists
and is much respected, since M. de Mortsauf faithfully served Louis
the Eleventh on different occasions. Only he never liked to come
across gibbets or old women, and never again made amorous assignations
in the night.
This teaches us to thoroughly verify and recognise women, and not to
deceive ourselves in the local difference which exists between the old
and the young, for if we are not hanged for our errors of love, there
are always great risks to run.
THE HIGH CONSTABLE'S WIFE
The high constable of Armagnac espoused from the desire of a great
fortune, the Countess Bonne, who was already considerably enamoured of
little Savoisy, son of the chamberlain to his majesty King Charles the
The constable was a rough warrior, miserable in appearance, tough in
skin, thickly bearded, always uttering angry words, always busy
hanging people, always in the sweat of battles, or thinking of other
stratagems than those of love. Thus the good soldier, caring little to
flavour the marriage stew, used his charming wife after the fashion of
a man with more lofty ideas; of the which the ladies have a great
horror, since they like not the joists of the bed to be the sole
judges of their fondling and vigorous conduct.
Now the lovely Countess, as soon as she was grafted on the constable,
only nibbled more eagerly at the love with which her heart was laden
for the aforesaid Savoisy, which that gentleman clearly perceived.
Wishing both to study the same music, they would soon harmonise their
fancies, and decipher the hieroglyphic; and this was a thing clearly
demonstrated to the Queen Isabella, that Savoisy's horses were oftener
stabled at the house of her cousin of Armagnac than in the Hotel St.
Pol, where the chamberlain lived, since the destruction of his
residence, ordered by the university, as everyone knows.
This discreet and wise princess, fearing in advance some unfortunate
adventure for Bonne--the more so as the constable was as ready to
brandish his broadsword as a priest to bestow benedictions--the said
queen, as sharp as a dirk, said one day, while coming out from
vespers, to her cousin, who was taking the holy water with Savoisy--
"My dear, don't you see some blood in that water?"
"Bah!" said Savoisy to the queen. "Love likes blood, Madame."
This the Queen considered a good reply, and put it into writing, and
later on, into action, when her lord the king wounded one of her
lovers, whose business you see settled in this narrative.
You know by constant experience, that in the early time of love each
of two lovers is always in great fear of exposing the mystery of the
heart, and as much from the flower of prudence as from the amusement
yielded by the sweet tricks of gallantry they play at who can best
conceal their thoughts, but one day of forgetfulness suffices to inter
the whole virtuous past. The poor woman is taken in her joy as in a
lasso; her sweetheart proclaims his presence, or sometimes his
departure, by some article of clothing--a scarf, a spur, left by some
fatal chance, and there comes a stroke of the dagger that severs the
web so gallantly woven by their golden delights. But when one is full
of days, he should not make a wry face at death, and the sword of a
husband is a pleasant death for a gallant, if there be pleasant
deaths. So may be will finish the merry amours of the constable's
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