After this sweet repast, the seneschal's lady took kindly to her siesta after the French fashion, while Bruyn took his according to the Saracen. But by the said siesta she learned how the good youth of the page had a better taste than that of the old seneschal, and at night she buried herself in the sheets far away from her husband, whom she found strong and stale. And from sleeping and waking up in the day, from taking siestas and saying litanies, the seneschal's wife felt growing within her that treasure for which she had so often and so ardently sighed; but now she liked more the commencement than the fructifying of it.
You may be sure that Rene knew how to read, not only in books, but in the eyes of his sweet lady, for whom he would have leaped into a flaming pile, had it been her wish he should do so. When well and amply, more than a hundred times, the train had been laid by them, the little lady became anxious about her soul and the future of her friend the page. Now one rainy day, as they were playing at touch-tag, like two children, innocent from head to foot, Blanche, who was always caught, said to him—
"Come here, Rene; do you know that while I have only committed venial sins because I was asleep, you have committed mortal ones?"
"Ah, Madame!" said he, "where then will God stow away all the damned if that is to sin!"
Blanche burst out laughing, and kissed his forehead.
"Be quiet, you naughty boy; it is a question of paradise, and we must live there together if you wish always to be with me."
"Oh, my paradise is here."
"Leave off," said she. "You are a little wretch—a scapegrace who does not think of that which I love—yourself! You do not know that I am with child, and that in a little while I shall be no more able to conceal it than my nose. Now, what will the abbot say? What will my lord say? He will kill you if he puts himself in a passion. My advice is little one, that you go to the abbot of Marmoustiers, confess your sins to him, asking him to see what had better be done concerning my seneschal.
"Alas," said the artful page, "if I tell the secret of our joys, he will put his interdict upon our love."
"Very likely," said she; "but thy happiness in the other world is a thing so precious to me."
"Do you wish it my darling?"
"Yes," replied she rather faintly.
"Well, I will go, but sleep again that I may bid you adieu."
And the couple recited the litany of Farewells as if they had both foreseen that their love must finish in its April. And on the morrow, more to save his dear lady than to save himself, and also to obey her, Rene de Jallanges set out towards the great monastery.
HOW THE SAID LOVE-SIN WAS REPENTED OF AND LED TO GREAT MOURNING.
"Good God!" cried the abbot, when the page had chanted the Kyrie eleison of his sweet sins, "thou art the accomplice of a great felony, and thou has betrayed thy lord. Dost thou know page of darkness, that for this thou wilt burn through all eternity? and dost thou know what it is to lose forever the heaven above for a perishable and changeful moment here below? Unhappy wretch! I see thee precipitated for ever in the gulfs of hell unless thou payest to God in this world that which thou owest him for such offence."
Thereupon the good old abbot, who was of that flesh of which saints are made, and who had great authority in the country of Touraine, terrified the young man by a heap of representations, Christian discourses, remembrances of the commandments of the Church, and a thousand eloquent things—as many as a devil could say in six weeks to seduce a maiden—but so many that Rene, who was in the loyal fervour of innocence, made his submission to the good abbot. The said abbot, wishing to make forever a good and virtuous man of this child, now in a fair way to be a wicked one, commanded him first to go and prostrate himself before his lord, to confess his conduct to him, and then if he escaped from this confession, to depart instantly for the Crusades, and go straight to the Holy Land, where he should remain fifteen years of the time appointed to give battle to the Infidels.
"Alas, my reverend father," said he, quite unmoved, "will fifteen years be enough to acquit me of so much pleasure? Ah! If you knew, I have had joy enough for a thousand years."
"God will be generous. Go," replied the old abbot, "and sin no more. On this account, ego te absolvo."
Poor Rene returned thereupon with great contrition to the castle of Roche-Corbon and the first person he met was the seneschal, who was polishing up his arms, helmets, gauntlets, and other things. He was sitting on a great marble bench in the open air, and was amusing himself by making shine again the splendid trappings which brought back to him the merry pranks in the Holy Land, the good jokes, and the wenches, et cetera. When Rene fell upon his knees before him, the good lord was much astonished.
"What is it?" said he.
"My lord," replied Rene, "order these people to retire."
Which the servants having done, the page confessed his fault, recounting how he had assailed his lady in her sleep, and that for certain he had made her a mother in imitation of the man and the saint, and came by order of the confessor to put himself at the disposition of the offended person. Having said which, Rene de Jallanges cast down his lovely eyes, which had produced all the mischief, and remained abashed, prostrate without fear, his arms hanging down, his head bare, awaiting his punishment, and humbling himself to God. The seneschal was not so white that he could not become whiter, and now he blanched like linen newly dried, remaining dumb with passion. And this old man who had not in his veins the vital force to procreate a child, found in this moment of fury more vigour than was necessary to undo a man. He seized with his hairy right hand his heavy club, lifted it, brandished it and adjusted it so easily you could have thought it a bowl at a game of skittles, to bring it down upon the pale forehead of the said Rene, who knowing that he was greatly in fault towards his lord, remained placid, and stretching his neck, thought that he was about to expiate his sin for his sweetheart in this world and in the other.
But his fair youth, and all the natural seductions of this sweet crime, found grace before the tribunal of the heart of this old man, although Bruyn was still severe, and throwing his club away on to a dog who was catching beetles, he cried out, "May a thousand million claws, tear during all eternity, all the entrails of him, who made him, who planted the oak, that made the chair, on which thou hast antlered me—and the same to those who engendered thee, cursed page of misfortune! Get thee to the devil, whence thou camest—go out from before me, from the castle, from the country, and stay not here one moment more than is necessary, otherwise I will surely prepare for thee a death by slow fire that shall make thee curse twenty times an hour thy villainous and ribald partner!"
Hearing the commencement of these little speeches of the seneschal, whose youth came back in his oaths, the page ran away, escaping the rest: and he did well. Bruyn, burning with a fierce rage, gained the gardens speedily, reviling everything by the way, striking and swearing; he even knocked over three large pans held by one of his servants, was carrying the mess to the dogs, and he was so beside himself that he would have killed a labourer for a "thank you." He soon perceived his unmaidenly maiden, who was looking towards the road to the monastery, waiting for the page, and unaware that she would never see him again.
"Ah, my lady! By the devil's red three-pronged fork, am I a swallower of tarradiddles and a child, to believe that you are so fashioned that a page can behave in this manner and you not know it? By the death! By the head! By the blood!"
"Hold!" she replied, seeing that the mine was sprung, "I knew it well enough, but as you had not instructed me in these matters I thought that I was dreaming!"
The great ire of the seneschal melted like snow in the sun, for the direst anger of God himself would have vanished at a smile from Blanche.
"May a thousand millions of devils carry off this alien child! I swear that—"
"There! there! do not swear," said she. "If it is not yours, it is mine; and the other night did you not tell me you loved everything that came from me?"
Thereupon she ran on with such a lot of arguments, hard words, complaints, quarrels, tears, and other paternosters of women; such as —firstly the estates would not have to be returned to the king; that never had a child been brought more innocently into the world, that this, that that, a thousand things; until the good cuckold relented, and Blanche, seizing a propitious interruption said—
"And where it is the page?"
"Gone to the devil!"
"What, have you killed him?" said she. She turned pale and tottered.
Bruyn did not know what would become of him when he saw thus fall all the happiness of his old age, and he would to save her have shown her this page. He ordered him to be sought, but Rene had run off at full speed, fearing he should be killed; and departed for the lands beyond the seas, in order to accomplish his vow of religion. When Blanche had learned from the above-mentioned abbot the penitence imposed upon her well beloved, she fell into a state of great melancholy, saying at times, "Where is he, the poor unfortunate, who is in the middle of great dangers for love of me?"
And always kept on asking, like a child who gives its mother no rest until its request be granted it. At these lamentations the poor seneschal, feeling himself to blame, endeavoured to do a thousand things, putting one out of the question, in order to make Blanche happy; but nothing was equal to the sweet caresses of the page. However, she had one day the child so much desired. You may be sure that was a fine festival for the good cuckold, for the resemblance to the father was distinctly engraved upon the face of this sweet fruit of love. Blanche consoled herself greatly, and picked up again a little of her old gaiety and flower of innocence, which rejoiced the aged hours of the seneschal. From constantly seeing the little one run about, watching its laughs answer those of the countess, he finished by loving it, and would have been in a great rage with anyone who had not believed him its father.
Now as the adventure of Blanche and her page had not been carried beyond the castle, it was related throughout Touraine that Messire Bruyn had still found himself sufficiently in funds to afford a child. Intact remained the virtue of Blanche, and by the quintessence of instruction drawn by her from the natural reservoir of women, she recognised how necessary it was to be silent concerning the venial sin with which her child was covered. So she became modest and good, and was cited as a virtuous person. And then to make use of him she experimented on the goodness of her good man, and without giving him leave to go further than her chin, since she looked upon herself as belonging to Rene, Blanche, in return for the flowers of age which Bruyn offered her, coddled him, smiled upon him, kept him merry, and fondled him with pretty ways and tricks, which good wives bestow upon the husbands they deceive; and all so well, that the seneschal did not wish to die, squatted comfortably in his chair, and the more he lived the more he became partial to life. But to be brief, one night he died without knowing where he was going, for he said to Blanche, "Ho! ho! My dear, I see thee no longer! Is it night?"
It was the death of the just, and he had well merited it as a reward for his labours in the Holy Land.
Blanche held for his death a great and true mourning, weeping for him as one weeps for one's father. She remained melancholy, without wishing to lend her ear to the music of a second wedding, for which she was praised by all good people, who knew not that she had a husband in her heart, a life in hope; but she was the greater part of her time a widow in fact and widow in heart, because hearing no news of her lover at the Crusades, the poor Countess reputed him dead, and during certain nights seeing him wounded and lying at full length, she would wake up in tears. She lived thus for fourteen years in the remembrance of one day of happiness. Finally, one day when she had with her certain ladies of Touraine, and they were talking together after dinner, behold her little boy, who was at that time about thirteen and a half, and resembled Rene more than it is allowable for a child to resemble his father, and had nothing of the Sire Bruyn about him but his name—behold the little one, a madcap and pretty like his mother, who came in from the garden, running, perspiring, panting, jumping, scattering all things in his way, after the uses and customs of infancy, and who ran straight to his well-beloved mother, jumping into her lap, and interrupting the conversation, cried out—
"Oh, mother I want to speak to you, I have seen in the courtyard a pilgrim, who squeezed me very tight."
"Ah!" cried the chatelaine, hurrying towards one of the servants who had charge of the young count and watched over his precious days, "I have forbidden you ever to leave my son in the hands of strangers, not even in those of the holiest man in the world. You quit my service."
"Alas! my lady," replied the old equerry, quite overcome, "this one wished him no harm for he wept while kissing him passionately."
"He wept?" said she; "ah! it's the father."
Having said which, she leaned her head of upon the chair in which she was sitting, and which you may be sure was the chair in which she has sinned.
Hearing these strange words the ladies was so surprised that at first they did not perceive that the seneschal's widow was dead, without its ever been known if her sudden death was caused by her sorrow at the departure of her lover, who, faithful to his vow, did not wish to see her, or from great joy at his return and the hope of getting the interdict removed which the Abbot of Marmoustiers had placed upon their loves. And there was a great mourning for her, for the Sire de Jallanges lost his spirits when he saw his lady laid in the ground, and became a monk of Marmoustiers, which at that time was called by some Maimoustier, as much as to say Maius Monasterium, the largest monastery, and it was indeed the finest in all France.
THE KING'S SWEETHEART
There lived at this time at the forges of the Pont-aux-Change, a goldsmith whose daughter was talked about in Paris on account of her great beauty, and renowned above all things for her exceeding gracefulness. There were those who sought her favours by the usual tricks of love and, but others offered large sums of money to the father to give them his daughter in lawful wedlock, the which pleased him not a little.
One of his neighbours, a parliamentary advocate, who by selling his cunning devices to the public had acquired as many lands as a dog has fleas, took it into his head to offer the said father a domain in consideration of his consent to this marriage, which he ardently desired to undertake. To this arrangement our goldsmith was nothing loth. He bargained away his daughter, without taking into consideration the fact that her patched-up old suitor had the features of an ape and had scarcely a tooth in his jaws. The smell which emanated from his mouth did not however disturb his own nostrils, although he was filthy and high flavoured, as are all those who pass their lives amid the smoke of chimneys, yellow parchment, and other black proceedings. Immediately this sweet girl saw him she exclaimed, "Great Heaven! I would rather not have him."
"That concerns me not," said the father, who had taken a violent fancy to the proffered domain. "I give him to you for a husband. You must get on as well as you can together. That is his business now, and his duty is to make himself agreeable to you."
"Is it so?" said she. "Well then, before I obey your orders I'll let him know what he may expect."
And the same evening, after supper, when the love-sick man of law was pleading his cause, telling her he was mad for her, and promising her a life of ease and luxury, she taking him up, quickly remarked—
"My father had sold me to you, but if you take me, you will make a bad bargain, seeing that I would rather offer myself to the passers-by than to you. I promise you a disloyalty that will only finish with death—yours or mine."
Then she began to weep, like all young maidens will before they become experienced, for afterwards they never cry with their eyes. The good advocate took this strange behaviour for one of those artifices by which the women seek to fan the flames of love and turn the devotion of their admirers into the more tender caress and more daring osculation that speaks a husband's right. So that the knave took little notice of it, but laughing at the complaints of the charming creature, asked her to fix the day.
"To-morrow," replied she, "for the sooner this odious marriage takes place, the sooner I shall be free to have gallants and to lead the gay life of those who love where it pleases them."
Thereupon the foolish fellow—as firmly fixed as a fly in a glue pot —went away, made his preparations, spoke at the Palace, ran to the High Court, bought dispensations, and conducted his purchase more quickly than he ever done one before, thinking only of the lovely girl. Meanwhile the king, who had just returned from a journey, heard nothing spoken of at court but the marvellous beauty of the jeweller's daughter who had refused a thousand crowns from this one, snubbed that one; in fact, would yield to no one, but turned up her nose at the finest young men of the city, gentlemen who would have forfeited their seat in paradise only to possess one day, this little dragon of virtue.
The good king, was a judge of such game, strolled into the town, past the forges, and entered the goldsmith's shop, for the purpose of buying jewels for the lady of his heart, but at the same time to bargain for the most precious jewel in the shop. The king not taking a fancy to the jewels, or they not being to his taste, the good man looked in a secret drawer for a big white diamond.
"Sweetheart," said he, to the daughter, while her father's nose was buried in the drawer, "sweetheart, you were not made to sell precious stones, but to receive them, and if you were to give me all the little rings in the place to choose from, I know one that many here are mad for; that pleases me; to which I should ever be subject and servant; and whose price the whole kingdom of France could never pay."
"Ah! sire!" replied the maid, "I shall be married to-morrow, but if you will lend me the dagger that is in your belt, I will defend my honour, and you shall take it, that the gospel made be observed wherein it says, 'Render unto Caesar the things which be Caesar's' . . ."
Immediately the king gave her the little dagger, and her brave reply rendered him so amorous that he lost his appetite. He had an apartment prepared, intending to lodge his new lady-love in the Rue a l'Hirundelle, in one of his palaces.
And now behold my advocate, in a great hurry to get married, to the disgust of his rivals, the leading his bride to the altar to the clang of bells and the sound of music, so timed as to provoke the qualms of diarrhoea. In the evening, after the ball, comes he into the nuptial chamber, where should be reposing his lovely bride. No longer is she a lovely bride—but a fury—a wild she-devil, who, seated in an armchair, refuses her share of her lord's couch, and sits defiantly before the fire warming at the same time her ire and her calves. The good husband, quite astonished, kneels down gently before her, inviting her to the first passage of arms in that charming battle which heralds a first night of love; but she utters not a word, and when he tries to raise her garment, only just to glance at the charms that have cost him so dear, she gives him a slap that makes his bones rattle, and refuses to utter a syllable.
This amusement, however, by no means displeased our friend the advocate, who saw at the end of his troubles that which you can as well imagine as he did; so played he his share of the game manfully, taking cheerfully the punishment bestowed upon him. By so much hustling about, scuffling, and struggling he managed at last to tear away a sleeve, to slit a petticoat, until he was able to place his hand upon his own property. This bold endeavour brought Madame to her feet and drawing the king's dagger, "What would you with me?" she cried.
"Everything," answered he.
"Ha! I should be a great fool to give myself against my inclination! If you fancied you would find my virtue unarmed you made a great error. Behold the poniard of the king, with which I will kill you if you make the semblance of a step towards me."
So saying, she took a cinder, and having still her eyes upon her lord she drew a circle on the floor, adding, "These are the confines of the king's domain. Beware how you pass them."
The advocate, with whose ideas of love-making the dagger sadly interfered, stood quite discomfited, but at the same time he heard the cruel speech of his tormentor he caught sight through the slits and tears in her robe of a sweet sample of a plump white thigh, and such voluptuous specimens of hidden mysteries, et cetera, that death seemed sweet to him if he could only taste of them a little. So that he rushed within the domain of the king, saying, "I mind not death." In fact he came with such force that his charmer fell backwards onto the bed, but keeping her presence of mind she defended herself so gallantly that the advocate enjoyed no further advantage than a knock at the door that would not admit him, and he gained as well a little stab from the poniard which did not wound him deeply, so that it did not cost him very dearly, his attack upon the realm of his sovereign. But maddened with this slight advantage, he cried, "I cannot live without the possession of that lovely body, and those marvels of love. Kill me then!" And again he attacked the royal preserves. The young beauty, whose head was full of the king, was not even touched by this great love, said gravely, "If you menace me further, it is not you but myself I will kill." She glared at him so savagely that the poor man was quite terrified, and commenced to deplore the evil hour in which he had taken her to wife, and thus the night which should have been so joyous, was passed in tears, lamentations, prayers, and ejaculations. In vain he tempted her with promises; she should eat out of gold, she should be a great lady, he would buy houses and lands for her. Oh! if she would only let him break one lance with her in the sweet conflict of love, he would leave her for ever and pass the remainder of his life according to her fantasy. But she, still unyielding, said she would permit him to die, and that was the only thing he could do to please her.
"I have not deceived you," said she. "Agreeable to my promise, I shall give myself to the king, making you a present of the peddler, chance passers, and street loungers with whom I threatened you."
When the day broke she put on her wedding garments and waited patiently till the poor husband had to depart to his office client's business, and then ran out into the town to seek the king. But she had not gone a bow-shot from the house before one of the king's servants who had watched the house from dawn, stopped her with the question—
"Do you seek the king?"
"Yes," said she.
"Good; then allow me to be your good friend," said the subtle courtier. "I ask your aid and protection, as now I give you mine."
With that he told her what sort of a man the king was, which was his weak side, that he was passionate one day and silent the next, that she would luxuriously lodged and well kept, but that she must keep the king well in hand; in short, he chatted so pleasantly that the time passed quickly until she found herself in the Hotel de l'Hirundelle where afterwards lived Madame d'Estampes. The poor husband shed scalding tears, when he found his little bird had flown, and became melancholy and pensive. His friends and neighbours edified his ears with as many taunts and jeers as Saint Jacques had the honour of receiving in Compostella, but the poor fellow took it so to heart, that at last they tried rather to assuage his grief. These artful compeers by a species of legal chicanery, decreed that the good man was not a cuckold, seeing that his wife had refused a consummation, and if the planter of horns had been anyone but the king, the said marriage might have been dissolved; but the amorous spouse was wretched unto death at my lady's trick. However, he left her to the king, determining one day to have her to himself, and thinking that a life-long shame would not be too dear a payment for a night with her. One must love well to love like that, eh? and there are many worldly ones, who mock at such affection. But he, still thinking of her, neglected his cases and his clients, his robberies and everything. He went to the palace like a miser searching for a lost sixpence, bowed down, melancholy, and absent-minded, so much so, that one day he relieved himself against the robe of a counsellor, believing all the while he stood against a wall. Meanwhile the beautiful girl was loved night and day by the king, who could not tear himself from her embraces, because in amorous play she was so excellent, knowing as well how to fan the flame of love as to extinguish it—to-day snubbing him, to-morrow petting him, never the same, and with it a thousand little tricks to charm the ardent lover.
A lord of Bridore killed himself through her, because she would not receive his embraces, although he offered her his land, Bridore in Touraine. Of these gallants of Touraine, who gave an estate for one tilt with love's lance, there are none left. This death made the fair one sad, and since her confessor laid the blame of it upon her, she determined for the future to accept all domains and secretly ease their owner's amorous pains for the better saving of their souls from perdition. 'Twas thus she commenced to build up that great fortune which made her a person of consideration in the town. By this means she prevented many gallant gentlemen from perishing, playing her game so well, and inventing such fine stories, that his Majesty little guessed how much she aided him in securing the happiness of his subjects. The fact is, she has such a hold over him that she could have made him believe the floor was the ceiling, which was perhaps easier for him to think than anyone else seeing that at the Rue d'Hirundelle my lord king passed the greater portion of his time embracing her always as though he would see if such a lovely article would wear away: but he wore himself out first, poor man, seeing that he eventually died from excess of love. Although she took care to grant her favours only to the best and noblest in the court, and that such occasions were rare as miracles, there were not wanting those among her enemies and rivals who declared that for 10,000 crowns a simple gentleman might taste the pleasures of his sovereign, which was false above all falseness, for when her lord taxed her with it, did she not reply, "Abominable wretches! Curse the devils who put this idea in your head! I never yet did have man who spent less than 30,000 crowns upon me."
The king, although vexed could not repress a smile, and kept her on a month to silence scandal. And last, la demoiselle de Pisseleu, anxious to obtain her place, brought about her ruin. Many would have liked to be ruined in the same way, seeing she was taken by a young lord, was happy with him, the fires of love in her being still unquenched. But to take up the thread again. One day that the king's sweetheart was passing through the town in her litter to buy laces, furs, velvets, broideries, and other ammunition, and so charmingly attired, and looking so lovely, that anyone, especially the clerks, would have believed the heavens were open above them, behold, her good man, who comes upon her near the old cross. She, at that time lazily swinging her charming little foot over the side of the litter, drew in her head as though she had seen an adder. She was a good wife, for I know some who would have proudly passed their husbands, to their shame and to the great disrespect of conjugal rights.
"What is the matter?" asked one M. de Lannoy, who humbly accompanied her.
"Nothing," she whispered; "but that person is my husband. Poor man, how changed he looks. Formerly he was the picture of a monkey; today he is the very image of a Job."
The poor advocate stood opened-mouthed. His heart beat rapidly at the sight of that little foot—of that wife so wildly loved.
Observing which, the Sire de Lannoy said to him, with courtly innocence—
"If you are her husband, is that any reason you should stop her passage?"
At this she burst out laughing, and the good husband instead of killing her bravely, shed scalding tears at that laugh which pierced his heart, his soul, his everything, so much that he nearly tumbled over an old citizen whom the sight of the king's sweetheart had driven against the wall. The aspect of this weak flower, which had been his in the bud, but far from him had spread its lovely leaves; of the fairy figure, the voluptuous bust—all this made the poor advocate more wretched and more mad for her than it is possible to express in words. You must have been madly in love with a woman who refuses your advances thoroughly to understand the agony of this unhappy man. Rare indeed is it to be so infatuated as he was. He swore that life, fortune, honour—all might go, but that for once at least he would be flesh-to-flesh with her, and make so grand a repast off her dainty body as would suffice him all his life. He passed the night saying, "oh yes; ah! I'll have her!" and "Curses am I not her husband?" and "Devil take me," striking himself on the forehead and tossing about. There are chances and occasions which occur so opportunely in this world that little-minded men refuse them credence, saying they are supernatural, but men of high intellect know them to be true because they could not be invented. One of the chances came to the poor advocate, even the day after that terrible one which had been so sore a trial to him. One of his clients, a man of good renown, who had his audiences with the king, came one morning to the advocate, saying that he required immediately a large sum of money, about 12,000 crowns. To which the artful fellow replied, 12,000 crowns were not so often met at the corner of a street as that which often is seen at the corner of the street; that besides the sureties and guarantees of interest, it was necessary to find a man who had about him 12,000 crowns, and that those gentlemen were not numerous in Paris, big city as it was, and various other things of a like character the man of cunning remarked.
"Is it true, my lord, the you have a hungry and relentless creditor?" said he.
"Yes, yes," replied the other, "it concerns the mistress of the king. Don't breathe a syllable; but this evening, in consideration of 20,000 crowns and my domain of Brie, I shall take her measure."
Upon this the advocate blanched, and the courtier perceived he touched a tender point. As he had only lately returned from the wars, he did not know that the lovely woman adored by the king had a husband.
"You appear ill," he said.
"I have a fever," replied the knave. "But is it to her that you give the contract and the money?"
"Who then manages the bargain? Is it she also?"
"No," said the noble; "her little arrangements are concluded through a servant of hers, the cleverest little ladies'-maid that ever was. She's sharper than mustard, and these nights stolen from the king have lined her pockets well."
"I know a Lombard who would accommodate you. But nothing can be done; of the 12,000 crowns you shall not have a brass farthing if this same ladies'-maid does not come here to take the price of the article that is so great an alchemist that turns blood into gold, by Heaven!"
"It will be a good trick to make her sign the receipt," replied the lord, laughing.
The servant came faithfully to the rendezvous with the advocate, who had begged the lord to bring her. The ducats looked bright and beautiful. There they lay all in a row, like nuns going to vespers. Spread out upon the table they would have made a donkey smile, even if he were being gutted alive; so lovely, so splendid, were those brave noble young piles. The good advocate, however, had prepared this view for no ass, for the little handmaiden look longingly at the golden heap, and muttered a prayer at the sight of them. Seeing which, the husband whispered in her ear his golden words, "These are for you."
"Ah!" said she; "I have never been so well paid."
"My dear," replied the dear man, "you shall have them without being troubled with me;" and turning her round, "Your client has not told you who I am, eh? No? Learn then, I am the husband of the lady whom the king has debauched, and whom you serve. Carry her these crowns, and come back here. I will hand over yours to you on a condition which will be to your taste."
The servant did as she was bidden, and being very curious to know how she could get 12,000 crowns without sleeping with the advocate, was very soon back again.
"Now, my little one," said he, "here are 12,000 crowns. With this sum I could buy lands, men, women, and the conscience of three priests at least; so that I believe if I give it to you I can have you, body, soul, and toe nails. And I shall have faith in you like an advocate, I expect that you will go to the lord who expects to pass the night with my wife, and you will deceive him, by telling him that the king is coming to supper with her, and that to-night he must seek his little amusements elsewhere. By so doing I shall be able to take his place and the king's."
"But how?" said she.
"Oh!" replied he; "I have bought you, you and your tricks. You won't have to look at these crowns twice without finding me a way to have my wife. In bringing this conjunction about you commit no sin. It is a work of piety to bring together two people whose hands only been put one in to the other, and that by the priest."
"By my faith, come," said she; "after supper the lights will be put out, and you can enjoy Madame if you remain silent. Luckily, on these joyful occasions she cries more than she speaks, and asks questions with her hands alone, for she is very modest, and does not like loose jokes, like the ladies of the Court."
"Oh," cried the advocate, "look, take the 12,000 crowns, and I promise you twice as much more if I get by fraud that which belongs to me by right."
Then he arranged the hour, the door, the signal, and all; and the servant went away, bearing with her on the back of the mules the golden treasure wrung by fraud and trickery from the widow and the orphan, and they were all going to that place where everything goes—save our lives, which come from it. Now behold my advocate, who shaves himself, scents himself, goes without onions for dinner that his breath may be sweet, and does everything to make himself as presentable as a gallant signor. He gives himself the airs of a young dandy, tries to be lithe and frisky and to disguise his ugly face; he might try all he knew, he always smelt of the musty lawyer. He was not so clever as the pretty washerwoman of Portillon who one day wishing to appear at her best before one of her lovers, got rid of a disagreeable odour in a manner well known to young women of an inventive turn of mind. But our crafty fellow fancied himself the nicest man in the world, although in spite of his drugs and perfumes he was really the nastiest. He dressed himself in his thinnest clothes although the cold pinched him like a rope collar and sallied forth, quickly gaining the Rue d'Hirundelle. There he had to wait some time. But just as he was beginning to think he had been made a fool of, and just as it was quite dark, the maid came down and opened alike the door to him and good husband slipped gleefully into the king's apartment. The girl locked him carefully in a cupboard that was close to his wife's bed, and through a crack he feasted his eyes upon her beauty, for she undressed herself before the fire, and put on a thin nightgown, through which her charms were plainly visible. Believing herself alone with her maid she made those little jokes that women will when undressing. "Am I not worth 20,000 crowns to-night? Is that overpaid with a castle in Brie?"
And saying this she gently raised two white supports, firm as rocks, which had well sustained many assaults, seeing they had been furiously attacked and had not softened. "My shoulders alone are worth a kingdom; no king could make their equal. But I am tired of this life. That which is hard work is no pleasure." The little maid smiled, and her lovely mistress said to her, "I should like to see you in my place." Then the maid laughed, saying—
"Be quiet, Madame, he is there."
"The real one."
"Chut!" said Madame.
And her maid told her the whole story, wishing to keep her favour and the 12,000 crowns as well.
"Oh well, he shall have his money's worth. I'll give his desires time to cool. If he tastes me may I lose my beauty and become as ugly as a monkey's baby. You get into bed in my place and thus gain the 12,000 crowns. Go and tell him that he must take himself off early in the morning in order that I may not find out your trick upon me, and just before dawn I will get in by his side."
The poor husband was freezing and his teeth were chattering, and the chambermaid coming to the cupboard on pretence of getting some linen, said to him, "Your hour of bliss approaches. Madame to-night has made grand preparations and you will be well served. But work without whistling, otherwise I shall be lost."
At last, when the good husband was on the point of perishing with cold, the lights were put out. The maid cried softly in the curtains to the king's sweetheart, that his lordship was there, and jumped into bed, while her mistress went out as if she had been the chambermaid. The advocate, released from his cold hiding-place, rolled rapturously into the warm sheets, thinking to himself, "Oh! this is good!" To tell the truth, the maid gave him his money's worth—and the good man thought of the difference between the profusion of the royal houses and the niggardly ways of the citizens' wives. The servant laughing, played her part marvellously well, regaling the knave with gentle cries, shiverings, convulsions and tossings about, like a newly-caught fish on the grass, giving little Ah! Ahs! in default of other words; and as often as the request was made by her, so often was it complied with by the advocate, who dropped of to sleep at last, like an empty pocket. But before finishing, the lover who wished to preserve a souvenir of this sweet night of love, by a dextrous turn, plucked out one of his wife's hairs, where from I know not, seeing I was not there, and kept in his hand this precious gauge of the warm virtue of that lovely creature. Towards the morning, when the cock crew, the wife slipped in beside her husband, and pretended to sleep. Then the maid tapped gently on the happy man's forehead, whispering in his ear, "It is time, get into your clothes and off you go—it's daylight." The good man grieved to lose his treasure, and wished to see the source of his vanished happiness.
"Oh! Oh!" said he, proceeding to compare certain things, "I've got light hair, and this is dark."
"What have you done?" said the servant; "Madame will see she has been duped."
"Ah!" said she, with an air of disdain, "do you not know, you who knows everything, that that which is plucked dies and discolours?" and thereupon roaring with laughter at the good joke, she pushed him out of doors. This became known. The poor advocate, named Feron, died of shame, seeing that he was the only one who had not his own wife while she, who was from this was called La Belle Feroniere, married, after leaving the king, a young lord, Count of Buzancois. And in her old days she would relate the story, laughingly adding, that she had never scented the knave's flavour.
This teaches us not to attach ourselves more than we can help to wives who refuse to support our yoke.
THE DEVIL'S HEIR
There once was a good old canon of Notre Dame de Paris, who lived in a fine house of his own, near St. Pierre-aux-Boeufs, in the Parvis. This canon had come a simple priest to Paris, naked as a dagger without its sheath. But since he was found to be a handsome man, well furnished with everything, and so well constituted, that if necessary he was able to do the work of many, without doing himself much harm, he gave himself up earnestly to the confessing of ladies, giving to the melancholy a gentle absolution, to the sick a drachm of his balm, to all some little dainty. He was so well known for his discretion, his benevolence, and other ecclesiastical qualities, that he had customers at Court. Then in order not to awaken the jealousy of the officials, that of the husbands and others, in short, to endow with sanctity these good and profitable practices, the Lady Desquerdes gave him a bone of St. Victor, by virtue of which all the miracles were performed. And to the curious it was said, "He has a bone which will cure everything;" and to this, no one found anything to reply, because it was not seemly to suspect relics. Beneath the shade of his cassock, the good priest had the best of reputations, that of a man valiant under arms. So he lived like a king. He made money with holy water; sprinkled it and transmitted the holy water into good wine. More than that, his name lay snugly in all the et ceteras of the notaries, in wills or in caudicils, which certain people have falsely written codicil, seeing that the word is derived from cauda, as if to say the tail of the legacy. In fact, the good old Long Skirts would have been made an archbishop if he had only said in joke, "I should like to put on a mitre for a handkerchief in order to have my head warmer." Of all the benefices offered to him, he chose only a simple canon's stall to keep the good profits of the confessional. But one day the courageous canon found himself weak in the back, seeing that he was all sixty-eight years old, and had held many confessionals. Then thinking over all his good works, he thought it about time to cease his apostolic labours, the more so, as he possessed about one hundred thousand crowns earned by the sweat of his body. From that day he only confessed ladies of high lineage, and did it very well. So that it was said at Court that in spite of the efforts of the best young clerks there was still no one but the Canon of St. Pierre-aux-Boeufs to properly bleach the soul of a lady of condition. Then at length the canon became by force of nature a fine nonagenarian, snowy about the head, with trembling hands, but square as a tower, having spat so much without coughing, that he coughed now without being able to spit; no longer rising from his chair, he who had so often risen for humanity; but drinking dry, eating heartily, saying nothing, but having all the appearance of a living Canon of Notre Dame. Seeing the immobility of the aforesaid canon; seeing the stories of his evil life which for some time had circulated among the common people, always ignorant; seeing his dumb seclusion, his flourishing health, his young old age, and other things too numerous to mention—there were certain people who to do the marvellous and injure our holy religion, went about saying that the true canon was long since dead, and that for more than fifty years the devil had taken possession of the old priest's body. In fact, it seemed to his former customers that the devil could only by his great heat have furnished these hermetic distillations, that they remembered to have obtained on demand from this good confessor, who always had le diable au corps. But as this devil had been undoubtedly cooked and ruined by them, and that for a queen of twenty years he would not have moved, well-disposed people and those not wanting in sense, or the citizens who argued about everything, people who found lice in bald heads, demanded why the devil rested under the form of a canon, went to the Church of Notre Dame at the hours when the canons usually go, and ventured so far as to sniff the perfume of the incense, taste the holy water, and a thousand other things. To these heretical propositions some said that doubtless the devil wished to convert himself, and others that he remained in the shape of the canon to mock at the three nephews and heirs of this said brave confessor and make them wait until the day of their own death for the ample succession of this uncle, to whom they paid great attention every day, going to look if the good man had his eyes open, and in fact found him always with his eye clear, bright, and piercing as the eye of a basilisk, which pleased them greatly, since they loved their uncle very much—in words. On this subject an old woman related that for certain the canon was the devil, because his two nephews, the procureur and the captain, conducting their uncle at night, without a lamp, or lantern, returning from a supper at the penitentiary's, had caused him by accident to tumble over a heap of stones gathered together to raise the statue of St. Christopher. At first the old man had struck fire in falling, but was, amid the cries of his dear nephews and by the light of the torches they came to seek at her house found standing up as straight as a skittle and as gay as a weaving whirl, exclaiming that the good wine of the penitentiary had given him the courage to sustain this shock and that his bones were exceedingly hard and had sustained rude assaults. The good nephews believing him dead, were much astonished, and perceived that the day that was to dispatch their uncle was a long way off, seeing that at the business stones were of no use. So that they did not falsely call him their good uncle, seeing that he was of good quality. Certain scandalmongers said that the canon found so many stones in his path that he stayed at home not to be ill with the stone, and the fear of worse was the cause of his seclusion.
Of all these sayings and rumours, it remains that the old canon, devil or not, kept his house, and refused to die, and had three heirs with whom he lived as with his sciaticas, lumbagos, and other appendage of human life. Of the said three heirs, one was the wickedest soldier ever born of a woman, and he must have considerably hurt her in breaking his egg, since he was born with teeth and bristles. So that he ate, two-fold, for the present and the future, keeping wenches whose cost he paid; inheriting from his uncle the continuance, strength, and good use of that which is often of service. In great battles, he endeavoured always to give blows without receiving them, which is, and always will be, the only problem to solve in war, but he never spared himself there, and, in fact, as he had no other virtue except his bravery, he was captain of a company of lancers, and much esteemed by the Duke of Burgoyne, who never troubled what his soldiers did elsewhere. This nephew of the devil was named Captain Cochegrue; and his creditors, the blockheads, citizens, and others, whose pockets he slit, called him the Mau-cinge, since he was as mischievous as strong; but he had moreover his back spoilt by the natural infirmity of a hump, and it would have been unwise to attempt to mount thereon to get a good view, for he would incontestably have run you through.
The second had studied the laws, and through the favour of his uncle had become a procureur, and practised at the palace, where he did the business of the ladies, whom formerly the canon had the best confessed. This one was called Pille-grue, to banter him upon his real name, which was Cochegrue, like that of his brother the captain. Pille-grue had a lean body, seemed to throw off very cold water, was pale of face, and possessed a physiognomy like a polecat.
This notwithstanding, he was worth many a penny more than the captain, and had for his uncle a little affection, but since about two years his heart had cracked a little, and drop by drop his gratitude had run out, in such a way that from time to time, when the air was damp, he liked to put his feet into his uncle's hose, and press in advance the juice of this good inheritance. He and his brother, the soldier found their share very small, since loyally, in law, in fact, in justice, in nature, and in reality, it was necessary to give the third part of everything to a poor cousin, son of another sister of the canon, the which heir, but little loved by the good man, remained in the country, where he was a shepherd, near Nanterre.
The guardian of beasts, an ordinary peasant, came to town by the advice of his two cousins, who placed him in their uncle's house, in the hope that, as much by his silly tricks and his clumsiness, his want of brain, and his ignorance, he would be displeasing to the canon, who would kick him out of his will. Now this poor Chiquon, as the shepherd was named, had lived about a month alone with his old uncle, and finding more profit or more amusement in minding an abbot than looking after sheep, made himself the canon's dog, his servant, the staff of his old age, saying, "God keep you," when he passed wind, "God save you," when he sneezed, and "God guard you," when he belched; going to see if it rained, where the cat was, remaining silent, listening, speaking, receiving the coughs of the old man in his face, admiring him as the finest canon there ever was in the world, all heartily and in good faith, knowing that he was licking him after the manner of animals who clean their young ones; and the uncle, who stood in no need of learning which side the bread was buttered, repulsed poor Chiquon, making him turn about like a die, always calling him Chiquon, and always saying to his other nephews that this Chiquon was helping to kill him, such a numskull was he. Thereupon, hearing this, Chiquon determined to do well by his uncle, and puzzled his understanding to appear better; but as he had a behind shaped like a pair of pumpkins, was broad shouldered, large limbed, and far from sharp, he more resembled old Silenus than a gentle Zephyr. In fact, the poor shepherd, a simple man, could not reform himself, so he remained big and fat, awaiting his inheritance to make himself thin.
One evening the canon began discoursing concerning the devil and the grave agonies, penances, tortures, etc., which God will get warm for the accursed, and the good Chiquon hearing it, began to open his eyes as wide as the door of an oven, at the statement, without believing a word of it.
"What," said the canon, "are you not a Christian?"
"In that, yes," answered Chiquon.
"Well, there is a paradise for the good; is it not necessary to have a hell for the wicked?"
"Yes, Mr. Canon; but the devil's of no use. If you had here a wicked man who turned everything upside down; would you not kick him out of doors?"
"Oh, well, mine uncle; God would be very stupid to leave in the this world, which he has so curiously constructed, an abominable devil whose special business it is to spoil everything for him. Pish! I recognise no devil if there be a good God; you may depend upon that. I should very much like to see the devil. Ha, ha! I am not afraid of his claws!"
"And if I were of your opinion I should have no care of my very youthful years in which I held confessions at least ten times a day."
"Confess again, Mr. Canon. I assure you that will be a precious merit on high."
"There, there! Do you mean it?"
"Yes, Mr. Canon."
"Thou dost not tremble, Chiquon, to deny the devil?"
"I trouble no more about it than a sheaf of corn."
"The doctrine will bring misfortune upon you."
"By no means. God will defend me from the devil because I believe him more learned and less stupid than the savans make him out."
Thereupon the two other nephews entered, and perceiving from the voice of the canon that he did not dislike Chiquon very much, and that the jeremiads which he had made concerning him were simple tricks to disguise the affection which he bore him, looked at each other in great astonishment.
Then, seeing their uncle laughing, they said to him—
"If you will make a will, to whom will you leave the house?
"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 Chiquon's."
"No," replied the canon, smiling, "because I shall have made my will in proper form, the inheritance will be to the sharpest of you three; I am so near to the future, that I can therein see clearly your destinies."
And the wily canon cast upon Chiquon a glance full of malice, like a decoy bird would have thrown upon a little one to draw him into her net. The fire of his flaming eye enlightened the shepherd, who from that moment had his understanding and his ears all unfogged, and his brain open, like that of a maiden the day after her marriage. The procureur and the captain, taking these sayings for gospel prophecies, made their bow and went out from the house, quite perplexed at the absurd designs of the canon.
"What do you think of Chiquon?" said Pille-grue to Mau-cinge.
"I think, I think," said the soldier, growling, "that I think of hiding myself in the Rue d'Hierusalem, to put his head below his feet; he can pick it up again if he likes."
"Oh, oh!" said the procureur, "you have a way of wounding that is easily recognised, and people would say 'It's Cochegrue.' As for me, I thought to invite him to dinner, after which, we would play at putting ourselves in a sack in order to see, as they do at Court, who could walk best thus attired. Then having sewn him up, we could throw him into the Seine, at the same time begging him to swim."
"This must be well matured," replied the soldier.
"Oh! it's quite ripe," said the advocate. "The cousin gone to the devil, the heritage would then be between us two."
"I'm quite agreeable," said the fighter, "but we must stick as close together as the two legs of the same body, for if you are fine as silk, I as strong as steel, and daggers are always as good as traps —you hear that, my good brother."
"Yes," said the advocate, "the cause is heard—now shall it be the thread or the iron?"
"Eh? ventre de Dieu! is it then a king that we are going to settle? For a simple numskull of a shepherd are so many words necessary? Come! 20,000 francs out of the Heritage to the one of us who shall first cut him off: I'll say to him in good faith, 'Pick up your head.'"
"And I, 'Swim my friend,'" cried the advocate, laughing like the gap of a pourpoint.
And then they went to supper, the captain to his wench, and the advocate to the house of a jeweller's wife, of whom he was the lover.
Who was astonished? Chiquon! The poor shepherd heard the planning of his death, although the two cousins had walked in the parvis, and talked to each other as every one speaks at church when praying to God. So that Chiquon was much coupled to know if the words had come up or if his ears had gone down.
"Do you hear, Mister Canon?"
"Yes," said he, "I hear the wood crackling in the fire."
"Ho, ho!" replied Chiquon, "if I don't believe in the devil, I believe in St. Michael, my guardian angel; I go there where he calls me."
"Go, my child," said the canon, "and take care not to wet yourself, nor to get your head knocked off, for I think I hear more rain, and the beggars in the street are not always the most dangerous beggars."
At these words Chiquon was much astonished, and stared at the canon; found his manner gay, his eye sharp, and his feet crooked; but as he had to arrange matters concerning the death which menaced him, he thought to himself that he would always have leisure to admire the canon, or to cut his nails, and he trotted off quickly through the town, as a little woman trots towards her pleasure.
His two cousins having no presumption of the divinatory science, of which shepherds have had many passing attacks, had often talked before him of their secret goings on, counting him as nothing.
Now one evening, to amuse the canon, Pille-grue had recounted to him how had fallen in love with him a wife of a jeweller on whose head he had adjusted certain carved, burnished, sculptured, historical horns, fit for the brow of a prince. The good lady was to hear him, a right merry wench, quick at opportunities, giving an embrace while her husband was mounting the stairs, devouring the commodity as if she was swallowing a a strawberry, only thinking of love-making, always trifling and frisky, gay as an honest woman who lacks nothing, contenting her husband, who cherished her so much as he loved his own gullet; subtle as a perfume, so much so, that for five years she managed so well with his household affairs, and her own love affairs, that she had the reputation of a prudent woman, the confidence of her husband, the keys of the house, the purse, and all.
"And when do you play upon this gentle flute?" said the canon.
"Every evening and sometimes I stay all the night."
"But how?" said the canon, astonished.
"This is how. There is a room close to, a chest into which I get. When the good husband returns from his friend the draper's, where he goes to supper every evening, because often he helps the draper's wife in her work, my mistress pleads a slight illness, lets him go to bed alone, and comes to doctor her malady in the room where the chest is. On the morrow, when my jeweller is at his forge, I depart, and as the house has one exit on to the bridge, and another into the street, I always come to the door when the husband is not, on the pretext of speaking to him of his suits, which commence joyfully and heartily, and I never let them come to an end. It is an income from cuckoldom, seeing that in the minor expenses and loyal costs of the proceedings, he spends as much as on the horses in his stable. He loves me well, as all good cuckolds should love the man who aids them, to plant, cultivate, water and dig the natural garden of Venus, and he does nothing without me."
Now these practices came back again to the memory of the shepherd, who was illuminated by the light issuing from his danger, and counselled by the intelligence of those measures of self-preservation, of which every animal possesses a sufficient dose to go to the end of his ball of life. So Chiquon gained with hasty feet the Rue de la Calandre, where the jeweller should be supping with his companion, and after having knocked at the door, replied to question put to him through the little grill, that he was a messenger on state secrets, and was admitted to the draper's house. Now coming straight to the fact, he made the happy jeweller get up from his table, led him to a corner, and said to him: "If one of your neighbours had planted a horn on your forehead and he was delivered to you, bound hand and foot, would you throw him into the river?"
"Rather," said the jeweller, "but if you are mocking me I'll give you a good drubbing."
"There, there!" replied Chiquon, "I am one of your friends and come to warn you that as many times as you have conversed with the draper's wife here, as often has your own wife been served the same way by the advocate Pille-grue, and if you will come back to your forge, you will find a good fire there. On your arrival, he who looks after your you-know-what, to keep it in good order, gets into the big clothes chest. Now make a pretence that I have bought the said chest of you, and I will be upon the bridge with a cart, waiting your orders."
The said jeweller took his cloak and his hat, and parted company with his crony without saying a word, and ran to his hole like a poisoned rat. He arrives and knocks, the door is opened, he runs hastily up the stairs, finds two covers laid, sees his wife coming out of the chamber of love, and then says to her, "My dear, here are two covers laid."
"Well, my darling are we not two?"
"No," said he, "we are three."
"Is your friend coming?" said she, looking towards the stairs with perfect innocence.
"No, I speak of the friend who is in the chest."
"What chest?" said she. "Are you in your sound senses? Where do you see a chest? Is the usual to put friends in chests? Am I a woman to keep chests full of friends? How long have friends been kept in chests? Are you come home mad to mix up your friends with your chests? I know no other friend then Master Cornille the draper, and no other chest than the one with our clothes in."
"Oh!" said the jeweller, "my good woman, there is a bad young man, who has come to warn me that you allow yourself to be embraced by our advocate, and that he is in the chest."
"I!" said she, "I would not put up with his knavery, he does everything the wrong way."
"There, there, my dear," replied the jeweller, "I know you to be a good woman, and won't have a squabble with you about this paltry chest. The giver of the warning is a box-maker, to whom I am about to sell this cursed chest that I wish never again to see in my house, and for this one he will sell me two pretty little ones, in which there will not be space enough even for a child; thus the scandal and the babble of those envious of your virtue will be extinguished for want of nourishment."
"You give me great pleasure," said she; "I don't attach any value to my chest, and by chance there is nothing in it. Our linen is at the wash. It will be easy to have the mischievous chest taken away tomorrow morning. Will you sup?"
"Not at all," said he, "I shall sup with a better appetite without the chest."
"I see," said she, "that you won't easily get the chest out of your head."
"Halloa, there!" said the jeweller to his smiths and apprentices; "come down!"
In the twinkling of an eye his people were before him. Then he, their master, having briefly ordered the handling of the said chest, this piece of furniture dedicated to love was tumbled across the room, but in passing the advocate, finding his feet in the air to the which he was not accustomed, tumbled over a little.
"Go on," said the wife, "go on, it's the lid shaking."
"No, my dear, it's the bolt."
And without any other opposition the chest slid gently down the stairs.
"Ho there, carrier!" said the jeweller, and Chiquon came whistling his mules, and the good apprentices lifted the litigious chest into the cart.
"Hi, hi!" said the advocate.
"Master, the chest is speaking," said an apprentice.
"In what language?" said the jeweller, giving him a good kick between two features that luckily were not made of glass. The apprentice tumbled over on to a stair in a way that induced him to discontinue his studies in the language of chests. The shepherd, accompanied by the good jeweller, carried all the baggage to the water-side without listening to the high eloquence of the speaking wood, and having tied several stones to it, the jeweller threw it into the Seine.
"Swim, my friend," cried the shepherd, in a voice sufficiently jeering at the moment when the chest turned over, giving a pretty little plunge like a duck.
Then Chiquon continued to proceed along the quay, as far as the Rue-du-port, St. Laudry, near the cloisters of Notre Dame. There he noticed a house, recognised the door, and knocked loudly.
"Open," said he, "open by order of the king."
Hearing this an old man who was no other than the famous Lombard, Versoris, ran to the door.
"What is it?" said he.
"I am sent by the provost to warn you to keep good watch tonight," replied Chiquon, "as for his own part he will keep his archers ready. The hunchback who has robbed you has come back again. Keep under arms, for he is quite capable of easing you of the rest."
Having said this, the good shepherd took to his heels and ran to the Rue des Marmouzets, to the house where Captain Cochegrue was feasting with La Pasquerette, the prettiest of town-girls, and the most charming in perversity that ever was; according to all the gay ladies, her glance was sharp and piercing as the stab of a dagger. Her appearance was so tickling to the sight, that it would have put all Paradise to rout. Besides which she was as bold as a woman who has no other virtue than her insolence. Poor Chiquon was greatly embarrassed while going to the quarter of the Marmouzets. He was greatly afraid that he would be unable to find the house of La Pasquerette, or find the two pigeons gone to roost, but a good angel arranged there speedily to his satisfaction. This is how. On entering the Rue des Marmouzets he saw several lights at the windows and night-capped heads thrust out, and good wenches, gay girls, housewives, husbands, and young ladies, all of them are just out of bed, looking at each other as if a robber were being led to execution by torchlight.
"What's the matter?" said the shepherd to a citizen who in great haste had rushed to the door with a chamber utensil in his hand.
"Oh! it's nothing," replied the good man. "We thought it was the Armagnacs descending upon the town, but it's only Mau-cinge beating La Pasquerette."
"Where?" asked the shepherd.
"Below there, at that fine house where the pillars have the mouths of flying frogs delicately carved upon them. Do you hear the varlets and the serving maids?"
And in fact there was nothing but cries of "Murder! Help! Come some one!" and in the house blows raining down and the Mau-cinge said with his gruff voice:
"Death to the wench! Ah, you sing out now, do you? Ah, you want your money now, do you? Take that—"
And La Pasquerette was groaning, "Oh! oh! I die! Help! Help! Oh! oh!" Then came the blow of a sword and the heavy fall of a light body of the fair girl sounded, and was followed by a great silence, after which the lights were put out, servants, waiting women, roysterers, and others went in again, and the shepherd who had come opportunely mounted the stairs in company with them, but on beholding in the room above broken glasses, slit carpets, and the cloth on the floor with the dishes, everyone remained at a distance.
The shepherd, bold as a man with but one end in view, opened the door of the handsome chamber where slept La Pasquerette, and found her quite exhausted, her hair dishevelled, and her neck twisted, lying upon a bloody carpet, and Mau-cinge frightened, with his tone considerably lower, and not knowing upon what note to sing the remainder of his anthem.
"Come, my little Pasquerette, don't pretend to be dead. Come, let me put you tidy. Ah! little minx, dead or alive, you look so pretty in your blood I'm going to kiss you." Having said which the cunning soldier took her and threw her upon the bed, but she fell there all of a heap, and stiff as the body of a man that had been hanged. Seeing which her companion found it was time for his hump to retire from the game; however, the artful fellow before slinking away said, "Poor Pasquerette, how could I murder so good of girl, and one I loved so much? But, yes, I have killed her, the thing is clear, for in her life never did her sweet breast hang down like that. Good God, one would say it was a crown at the bottom of a wallet. Thereupon Pasquerette opened her eyes and then bent her head slightly to look at her flesh, which was white and firm, and she brought herself to life by a box on the ears, administered to the captain.
"That will teach you to beware of the dead," said she, smiling.
"And why did he kill you, my cousin?" asked the shepherd.
"Why? Tomorrow the bailiffs seize everything that's here, and he who has no more money than virtue, reproached me because I wished to be agreeable to a handsome gentlemen, who would save me from the hands of justice.
"Pasquerette, I'll break every bone in your skin."
"There, there!" said Chiquon, whom the Mau-cinge had just recognised, "is that all? Oh, well, my good friend, I bring you a large sum."
"Where from?" asked the captain, astonished.
"Come here, and let me whisper in your ear—if 30,000 crowns were walking about at night under the shadow of a pear-tree, would you not stoop down to pluck them, to prevent them spoiling?"
"Chiquon, I'll kill you like a dog if you are making game of me, or I will kiss you there where you like it, if you will put me opposite 30,000 crowns, even when it shall be necessary to kill three citizens at the corner of the Quay."
"You will not even kill one. This is how the matter stands. I have for a sweetheart in all loyalty, the servant of the Lombard who is in the city near the house of our good uncle. Now I have just learned on sound information that this dear man has departed this morning into the country after having hidden under a pear-tree in his garden a good bushel of gold, believing himself to be seen only by the angels. But the girl who had by chance a bad toothache, and was taking the air at her garret window, spied the old crookshanks, without wishing to do so, and chattered of it to me in fondness. If you will swear to give me a good share I will lend you my shoulders in order that you may climb on to the top of the wall and from there throw yourself into the pear-tree, which is against the wall. There, now do you say that I am a blockhead, an animal?"
"No, you are a right loyal cousin, an honest man, and if you have ever to put an enemy out off the way, I am there, ready to kill even one of my own friends for you. I am no longer your cousin, but your brother. Ho there! sweetheart," cried Mau-cinge to La Pasquerette, "put the tables straight, wipe up your blood, it belongs to me, and I'll pay you for it by giving you a hundred times as much of mine as I have taken of thine. Make the best of it, shake the black dog, off your back, adjust your petticoats, laugh, I wish it, look to the stew, and let us recommence our evening prayer where we left it off. Tomorrow I'll make thee braver than a queen. This is my cousin whom I wish to entertain, even when to do so it were necessary to turn the house out of windows. We shall get back everything tomorrow in the cellars. Come, fall to!"
Thus, and in less time than it takes a priest to say his Dominus vobiscum, the whole rookery passed from tears to laughter as it had previously from laughter to tears. It is only in these houses of ill-fame that love is made with the blow of a dagger, and where tempests of joy rage between four walls. But these are things ladies of the high-neck dress do not understand.
The said captain Cochegrue was gay as a hundred schoolboys at the breaking up of class, and made his good cousin drink deeply, who spilled everything country fashion, and pretended to be drunk, spluttering out a hundred stupidities, as, that "tomorrow he would buy Paris, would lend a hundred thousand crowns to the king, that he would be able to roll in gold;" in fact, talked so much nonsense that the captain, fearing some compromising avowal and thinking his brain quite muddled enough, led him outside with the good intention, instead of sharing with him, of ripping Chiquon open to see if he had not a sponge in his stomach, because he had just soaked in a big quart of the good wine of Suresne. They went along, disputing about a thousand theological subjects which got very much mixed up, and finished by rolling quietly up against the garden where were the crowns of the Lombard. Then Cochegrue, making a ladder of Chiquon's broad shoulders, jumped on to the pear-tree like a man expert in attacks upon towns, but Versoris, who was watching him, made a blow at his neck, and repeated it so vigorously that with three blows fell the upper portion of the said Cochegrue, but not until he had heard the clear voice of the shepherd, who cried to him, "Pick up your head, my friend." Thereupon the generous Chiquon, in whom virtue received its recompense, thought it would be wise to return to the house of the good canon, whose heritage was by the grace of God considerably simplified. Thus he gained the Rue St. Pierre-Aux-Boeufs with all speed, and soon slept like a new-born baby, no longer knowing the meaning of the word "cousin-german." Now, on the morrow he rose according to the habit of shepherds, with the sun, and came into his uncle's room to inquire if he spat white, if he coughed, if he had slept well; but the old servant told him that the canon, hearing the bells of St Maurice, the first patron of Notre Dame, ring for matins, he had gone out of reverence to the cathedral, where all the Chapter were to breakfast with the Bishop of Paris; upon which Chiquon replied: "Is his reverence the canon out of his senses thus to disport himself, to catch a cold, to get rheumatism? Does he wish to die? I'll light a big fire to warm him when he returns;" and the good shepherd ran into the room where the canon generally sat, and to his great astonishment beheld him seated in his chair.
"Ah, ah! What did she mean, that fool of a Bruyette? I knew you were too well advised to be shivering at this hour in your stall."
The canon said not a word. The shepherd who was like all thinkers, a man of hidden sense, was quite aware that sometimes old men have strange crotchets, converse with the essence of occult things, and mumble to themselves discourses concerning matters not under consideration; so that, from reverence and great respect for the secret meditations of the canon, he went and sat down at a distance, and waited the termination of these dreams; noticing, silently the length of the good man's nails, which looked like cobbler's awls, and looking attentively at the feet of his uncle, he was astonished to see the flesh of his legs so crimson, that it reddened his breeches and seemed all on fire through his hose.
He is dead, thought Chiquon. At this moment the door of the room opened, and he still saw the canon, who, his nose frozen, came back from church.
"Ho, ho!" said Chiquon, "my dear Uncle, are you out of your senses? Kindly take notice that you ought not to be at the door, because you are already seated in your chair in the chimney corner, and that it is impossible for there to be two canons like you in the world."
"Ah! Chiquon, there was a time when I could have wished to be in two places at once, but such is not the fate of a man, he would be too happy. Are you getting dim-sighted? I am alone here."
Then Chiquon turned his head towards the chair, and found it empty; and much astonished, as you will easily believe, he approached it, and found on the seat a little pat of cinders, from which ascended a strong odour of sulphur.
"Ah!" said he merrily, "I perceive that the devil has behaved well towards me—I will pray God for him."
And thereupon he related naively to the canon how the devil had amused himself by playing at providence, and had loyally aided him to get rid of his wicked cousins, the which the canon admired much, and thought very good, seeing that he had plenty of good sense left, and often had observed things which were to the devil's advantage. So the good old priest remarked that 'as much good was always met with in evil as evil in good, and that therefore one should not trouble too much after the other world, the which was a grave heresy, which many councils have put right'.
And this was how the Chiquons became rich, and were able in these times, by the fortunes of their ancestors, to help to build the bridge of St. Michael, where the devil cuts a very good figure under the angel, in memory of this adventure now consigned to these veracious histories.
THE MERRIE JESTS OF KING LOUIS THE ELEVENTH
King Louis The Eleventh was a merry fellow, loving a good joke, and —the interests of his position as king, and those of the church on one side—he lived jovially, giving chase to soiled doves as often as to hares, and other royal game. Therefore, the sorry scribblers who have made him out a hypocrite, showed plainly that they knew him not, since he was a good friend, good at repartee, and a jollier fellow than any of them.
It was he who said when he was in a merry mood, that four things are excellent and opportune in life—to keep warm, to drink cool, to stand up hard, and to swallow soft. Certain persons have accused him of taking up with a dirty trollops; this is a notorious falsehood, since all his mistresses, of whom one was legitimised, came of good houses and had notable establishments. He did not go in for waste and extravagance, always put his hand upon the solid, and because certain devourers of the people found no crumbs at his table, they have all maligned him. But the real collector of facts know that the said king was a capital fellow in private life, and even very agreeable; and before cutting off the heads of his friends, or punishing them—for he did not spare them—it was necessary that they should have greatly offended him, and his vengeance was always justice; I have only seen in our friend Verville that this worthy sovereign ever made a mistake; but one does not make a habit, and even for this his boon companion Tristan was more to blame than he, the king. This is the circumstance related by the said Verville, and I suspect he was cracking a joke. I reproduce it because certain people are not familiar with the exquisite work of my perfect compatriot. I abridge it and only give the substance, the details being more ample, of which facts the savans are not ignorant.
Louis XI. had given the Abbey of Turpenay (mentioned in 'Imperia') to a gentleman who, enjoying the revenue, had called himself Monsieur de Turpenay. It happened that the king being at Plessis-les-Tours, the real abbot, who was a monk, came and presented himself before the king, and presented also a petition, remonstrating with him that, canonically and a monastically, he was entitled to the abbey and that the usurping gentleman wronged of his right, and therefore he called upon his majesty to have justice done to him. Nodding his peruke, the king promised to render him contented. This monk, importunate as are all hooded animals, came often at the end of the king's meals, who, bored with the holy water of the convent, called friend Tristan and said to him: "Old fellow, there is here a Turpenay who angers me, rid the world of him for me." Tristan, taking a frock for a monk, or a monk for a frock, came to this gentleman, whom all the court called Monsieur de Turpenay, and having accosted him managed to lead him to one side, and taking him by the button-hole gave him to understand that the king desired he should die. He tried to resist, supplicating and supplicating to escape, but in no way could he obtain a hearing. He was delicately strangled between the head and shoulders, so that he expired; and, three hours afterwards, Tristan told the king that he was discharged. It happened five days afterwards, which is the space in which souls come back again, that the monk came into the room where the king was, and when he saw him he was much astonished. Tristan was present: the king called him, and whispered into his ear—
"You have not done that which I told you to."
"Saving your Grace I have done it. Turpenay is dead."
"Eh? I meant this monk."
"I understood the gentleman!"
"What, is it done then?"
"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!"