Droll Stories, Volume 3
by Honore de Balzac
Previous Part     1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

"Mother, we have paid the debt we owed him!"

Hearing these words, the mother clasped the body of her loved child to her heart, and separated from him never again, for she died of grief, without hearing or heeding the pardon and repentance of Bastarnay.

The strange calamity hastened the last day of the poor old man, who did not live to see the coronation of King Louis the Eleventh. He founded a daily mass in the Church of Roche-Foucauld, where in the same grave he placed mother and son, with a large tombstone, upon which their lives are much honoured in the Latin language.

The morals which any one can deduce from this history are the most profitable for the conduct of life, since this shows how gentlemen should be courteous with the dearly beloveds of their wives. Further, it teaches us that all children are blessings sent by God Himself, and over them fathers, whether true or false, have no right of murder, as was formerly the case at Rome, owing to a heathen and abominable law, which ill became that Christianity which makes us all sons of God.


The Maid of Portillon, who became as everyone knows, La Tascherette, was, before she became a dyer, a laundress at the said place of Portillon, from which she took her name. If any there be who do not know Tours, it may be as well to state that Portillon is down the Loire, on the same side as St. Cyr, about as far from the bridge which leads to the cathedral of Tours as said bridge is distant from Marmoustier, since the bridge is in the centre of the embankment between Portillon and Marmoustier. Do you thoroughly understand?

Yes? Good! Now the maid had there her washhouse, from which she ran to the Loire with her washing in a second and took the ferry-boat to get to St. Martin, which was on the other side of the river, for she had to deliver the greater part of her work in Chateauneuf and other places.

About Midsummer day, seven years before marrying old Taschereau, she had just reached the right age to be loved, without making a choice from any of the lads who pursued her with their intentions. Although there used to come to the bench under her window the son of Rabelais, who had seven boats on the Loire, Jehan's eldest, Marchandeau the tailor, and Peccard the ecclesiastical goldsmith, she made fun of them all, because she wished to be taken to church before burthening herself with a man, which proves that she was an honest woman until she was wheedled out of her virtue. She was one of those girls who take great care not to be contaminated, but who, if by chance they get deceived, let things take their course, thinking that for one stain or for fifty a good polishing up is necessary. These characters demand our indulgence.

A young noble of the court perceived her one day when she was crossing the water in the glare of the noonday sun, which lit up her ample charms, and seeing her, asked who she was. An old man, who was working on the banks, told him she was called the Pretty Maid of Portillon, a laundress, celebrated for her merry ways and her virtue. This young lord, besides ruffles to starch, had many precious draperies and things; he resolved to give the custom of his house to this girl, whom he stopped on the road. He was thanked by her and heartily, because he was the Sire du Fou, the king's chamberlain. This encounter made her so joyful that her mouth was full of his name. She talked about it a great deal to the people of St. Martin, and when she got back to the washhouse was still full of it, and on the morrow at her work her tongue went nineteen to the dozen, and all on the same subject, so that as much was said concerning my Lord du Fou in Portillon as of God in a sermon; that is, a great deal too much.

"If she works like that in cold water, what will she do in warm?" said an old washerwoman. "She wants du Fou; he'll give her du Fou!"

The first time this giddy wench, with her head full of Monsieur du Fou, had to deliver the linen at his hotel, the chamberlain wished to see her, and was very profuse in praises and compliments concerning her charms, and wound up by telling her that she was not at all silly to be beautiful, and therefore he would give her more than she expected. The deed followed the word, for the moment his people were out of the room, he began to caress the maid, who thinking he was about to take out the money from his purse, dared not look at the purse, but said, like a girl ashamed to take her wages—

"It will be for the first time."

"It will be soon," said he.

Some people say that he had great difficulty in forcing her to accept what he offered her, and hardly forced her at all; others that he forced her badly, because she came out like an army flagging on the route, crying and groaning, and came to the judge. It happened that the judge was out. La Portillone awaited his return in his room, weeping and saying to the servant that she had been robbed, because Monseigneur du Fou had given her nothing but his mischief; whilst a canon of the Chapter used to give her large sums for that which M. du Fou wanted for nothing. If she loved a man she would think it wise to do things for him for nothing, because it would be a pleasure to her; but the chamberlain had treated her roughly, and not kindly and gently, as he should have done, and that therefore he owed her the thousand crowns of the canon. Then the judge came in, saw the wench, and wished to kiss her, but she put herself on guard, and said she had come to make a complaint. The judge replied that certainly she could have the offender hanged if she liked, because he was most anxious to serve her. The injured maiden replied that she did not wish the death of her man, but that he should pay her a thousand gold crowns, because she had been robbed against her will.

"Ha! ha!" said the judge, "what he took was worth more than that."

"For the thousand crowns I'll cry quits, because I shall be able to live without washing."

"He who has robbed you, is he well off?"

"Oh yes."

"Then he shall pay dearly for it. Who is it?"

"Monseigneur du Fou."

"Oh, that alters the case," said the judge.

"But justice?" said she.

"I said the case, not the justice of it," replied the judge. "I must know how the affair occurred."

Then the girl related naively how she was arranging the young lord's ruffles in his wardrobe, when he began to play with her skirt, and she turned round saying—

"Go on with you!"

"You have no case," said the judge, "for by that speech he thought that you gave him leave to go on. Ha! ha!"

Then she declared that she had defended herself, weeping and crying out, and that that constitutes an assault.

"A wench's antics to incite him," said the judge.

Finally, La Portillone declared that against her will she had been taken round the waist and thrown, although she had kicked and cried and struggled, but that seeing no help at hand, she had lost courage.

"Good! good!" said the judge. "Did you take pleasure in the affair?"

"No," said she. "My anguish can only be paid for with a thousand crowns."

"My dear," said the judge, "I cannot receive your complaint, because I believe no girl could be thus treated against her will."

"Hi! hi! hi! Ask your servant," said the little laundress, sobbing, "and hear what she'll tell you."

The servant affirmed that there were pleasant assaults and unpleasant ones; that if La Portillone had received neither amusement nor money, either one or the other was due to her. This wise counsel threw the judge into a state of great perplexity.

"Jacqueline," said he, "before I sup I'll get to the bottom of this. Now go and fetch my needle and the red thread that I sew the law paper bags with."

Jacqueline came back with a big needle, pierced with a pretty little hole, and a big red thread, such as the judges use. Then she remained standing to see the question decided, very much disturbed, as was also the complainant at these mysterious preparations.

"My dear," said the judge, "I am going to hold the bodkin, of which the eye is sufficiently large, to put this thread into it without trouble. If you do put it in, I will take up your case, and will make Monseigneur offer you a compromise."

"What's that?" said she. "I will not allow it."

"It is a word used in justice to signify an agreement."

"A compromise is then agreeable with justice?" said La Portillone.

"My dear, this violence has also opened your mind. Are you ready?"

"Yes," said she.

The waggish judge gave the poor nymph fair play, holding the eye steady for her; but when she wished to slip in the thread that she had twisted to make straight, he moved a little, and the thread went on the other side. She suspected the judge's argument, wetted the thread, stretched it, and came back again. The judge moved, twisted about, and wriggled like a bashful maiden; still this cursed thread would not enter. The girl kept trying at the eye, and the judge kept fidgeting. The marriage of the thread could not be consummated, the bodkin remained virgin, and the servant began to laugh, saying to La Portillone that she knew better how to endure than to perform. Then the roguish judge laughed too, and the fair Portillone cried for her golden crowns.

"If you don't keep still," cried she, losing patience; "if you keep moving about I shall never be able to put the thread in."

"Then, my dear, if you had done the same, Monseigneur would have been unsuccessful too. Think, too, how easy is the one affair, and how difficult the other."

The pretty wench, who declared she had been forced, remained thoughtful, and sought to find a means to convince the judge by showing how she had been compelled to yield, since the honour of all poor girls liable to violence was at stake.

"Monseigneur, in order that the bet made the fair, I must do exactly as the young lord did. If I had only had to move I should be moving still, but he went through other performances."

"Let us hear them," replied the judge.

Then La Portillone straightens the thread, and rubs it in the wax of the candle, to make it firm and straight; then she looked towards the eye of the bodkin, held by the judge, slipping always to the right or to the left. Then she began making endearing little speeches, such as, "Ah, the pretty little bodkin! What a pretty mark to aim at! Never did I see such a little jewel! What a pretty little eye! Let me put this little thread into it! Ah, you will hurt my poor thread, my nice little thread! Keep still! Come, my love of a judge, judge of my love! Won't the thread go nicely into this iron gate, which makes good use of the thread, for it comes out very much out of order?" Then she burst out laughing, for she was better up in this game than the judge, who laughed too, so saucy and comical and arch was she, pushing the thread backwards and forwards. She kept the poor judge with the case in his hand until seven o'clock, keeping on fidgeting and moving about like a schoolboy let loose; but as La Portillone kept on trying to put the thread in, he could not help it. As, however, his joint was burning, and his wrist was tired, he was obliged to rest himself for a minute on the side of the table; then very dexterously the fair maid of Portillon slipped the thread in, saying—

"That's how the thing occurred."

"But my joint was burning."

"So was mine," said she.

The judge, convinced, told La Portillone that he would speak to Monseigneur du Fou, and would himself carry the affair through, since it was certain the young lord had embraced her against her will, but that for valid reasons he would keep the affair dark. On the morrow the judge went to the Court and saw Monseigneur du Fou, to whom he recounted the young woman's complaint, and how she had set forth her case. This complaint lodged in court, tickled the king immensely. Young du Fou having said that there was some truth in it, the king asked if he had had much difficulty, and as he replied, innocently, "No," the king declared the girl was quite worth a hundred gold crowns, and the chamberlain gave them to the judge, in order not to be taxed with stinginess, and said the starch would be a good income to La Portillone. The judge came back to La Portillone, and said, smiling, that he had raised a hundred gold crowns for her. But if she desired the balance of the thousand, there were at that moment in the king's apartments certain lords who, knowing the case, had offered to make up the sum for her, with her consent. The little hussy did not refuse this offer, saying, that in order to do no more washing in the future she did not mind doing a little hard work now. She gratefully acknowledged the trouble the good judge had taken, and gained her thousand crowns in a month. From this came the falsehoods and jokes concerning her, because out of these ten lords jealousy made a hundred, whilst, differently from young men, La Portillone settled down to a virtuous life directly she had her thousand crowns. Even a Duke, who would have counted out five hundred crowns, would have found this girl rebellious, which proves she was niggardly with her property. It is true that the king caused her to be sent for to his retreat of Rue Quinquangrogne, on the mall of Chardonneret, found her extremely pretty, exceedingly affectionate, enjoyed her society, and forbade the sergeants to interfere with her in any way whatever. Seeing she was so beautiful, Nicole Beaupertuys, the king's mistress, gave her a hundred gold crowns to go to Orleans, in order to see if the colour of the Loire was the same there as at Portillon. She went there, and the more willingly because she did not care very much for the king. When the good man came who confessed the king in his last hours, and was afterwards canonised, La Portillone went to him to polish up her conscience, did penance, and founded a bed in the leper-house of St. Lazare-aux-Tours. Many ladies whom you know have been assaulted by more than two lords, and have founded no other beds than those in their own houses. It is as well to relate this fact, in order to cleanse the reputation of this honest girl, who herself once washed dirty things, and who afterwards became famous for her clever tricks and her wit. She gave a proof of her merit in marrying Taschereau, who she cuckolded right merrily, as has been related in the story of The Reproach. This proves to us most satisfactorily that with strength and patience justice itself can be violated.


During the time when knights courteously offered to each other both help and assistance in seeking their fortune, it happened that in Sicily—which, as you are probably aware, is an island situated in the corner of the Mediterranean Sea, and formerly celebrated—one knight met in a wood another knight, who had the appearance of a Frenchman. Presumably, this Frenchman was by some chance stripped of everything, and was so wretchedly attired that but for his princely air he might have been taken for a blackguard. It was possible that his horse had died of hunger or fatigue, on disembarking from the foreign shore for which he came, on the faith of the good luck which happened to the French in Sicily, which was true in every respect.

The Sicilian knight, whose name was Pezare, was a Venetian long absent from the Venetian Republic, and with no desire to return there, since he had obtained a footing in the Court of the King of Sicily. Being short of funds in Venice, because he was a younger son, he had no fancy for commerce, and was for that reason eventually abandoned by his family, a most illustrious one. He therefore remained at this Court, where he was much liked by the king.

This gentleman was riding a splendid Spanish horse, and thinking to himself how lonely he was in this strange court, without trusty friends, and how in such cases fortune was harsh to helpless people and became a traitress, when he met the poor French knight, who appeared far worse off that he, who had good weapons, a fine horse, and a mansion where servants were then preparing a sumptuous supper.

"You must have come a long way to have so much dust on your feet," said the Venetian.

"My feet have not as much dust as the road was long," answered the Frenchman.

"If you have travelled so much," continued the Venetian, "you must be a learned man."

"I have learned," replied the Frenchman, "to give no heed to those who do not trouble about me. I have learnt that however high a man's head was, his feet were always level with my own; more than that, I have learnt to have no confidence in the warm days of winter, in the sleep of my enemies, or the words of my friends."

"You are, then, richer than I am," said the Venetian, astonished, "since you tell me things of which I never thought."

"Everyone must think for himself," said the Frenchman; "and as you have interrogated me, I can request from you the kindness of pointing to me the road to Palermo or some inn, for the night is closing in."

"Are you then, acquainted with no French or Sicilian gentlemen at Palermo?"


"Then you are not certain of being received?"

"I am disposed to forgive those who reject me. The road, sir, if you please."

"I am lost like yourself," said the Venetian. "Let us look for it in company."

"To do that we must go together; but you are on horseback, I am on foot."

The Venetian took the French knight on his saddle behind him, and said—

"Do you know with whom you are?"

"With a man, apparently."

"Do you think you are in safety?"

"If you were a robber, you would have to take care of yourself," said the Frenchman, putting the point of his dagger to the Venetian's heart.

"Well, now, my noble Frenchman, you appear to be a man of great learning and sound sense; know that I am a noble, established at the Court of Sicily, but alone, and I seek a friend. You seem to be in the same plight, and, judging from appearances, you do not seem friendly with your lot, and have apparently need of everybody."

"Should I be happier if everybody wanted me?"

"You are a devil, who turns every one of my words against me. By St. Mark! my lord knight, can one trust you?"

"More than yourself, who commenced our federal friendship by deceiving me, since you guide your horse like a man who knows his way, and you said you were lost."

"And did not you deceive me?" said the Venetian, "by making a sage of your years walk, and giving a noble knight the appearance of a vagabond? Here is my abode; my servants have prepared supper for us."

The Frenchman jumped off the horse, and entered the house with the Venetian cavalier, accepting his supper. They both seated themselves at the table. The Frenchman fought so well with his jaws, he twisted the morsels with so much agility, that he showed herself equally learned in suppers, and showed it again in dexterously draining the wine flasks without his eye becoming dimmed or his understanding affected. Then you may be sure that the Venetian thought to himself he had fallen in with a fine son of Adam, sprung from the right side and the wrong one. While they were drinking together, the Venetian endeavoured to find some joint through which to sound the secret depths of his friend's cogitations. He, however, clearly perceived that he would cast aside his shirt sooner than his prudence, and judged it opportune to gain his esteem by opening his doublet to him. Therefore he told him in what state was Sicily, where reigned Prince Leufroid and his gentle wife; how gallant was the Court, what courtesy there flourished, that there abounded many lords of Spain, Italy, France, and other countries, lords in high feather and well feathered; many princesses, as rich as noble, and as noble as rich; that this prince had the loftiest aspirations—such as to conquer Morocco, Constantinople, Jerusalem, the lands of Soudan, and other African places. Certain men of vast minds conducted his affairs, bringing together the ban and arriere ban of the flower of Christian chivalry, and kept up his splendour with the idea of causing to reign over the Mediterranean this Sicily, so opulent in times gone by, and of ruining Venice, which had not a foot of land. These designs had been planted in the king's mind by him, Pezare; but although he was high in that prince's favour, he felt himself weak, had no assistance from the courtiers, and desired to make a friend. In this great trouble he had gone for a little ride to turn matters over in his mind, and decide upon the course to pursue. Now, since while in this idea he had met a man of so much sense as the chevalier had proved herself to be, he proposed to fraternise with him, to open his purse to him, and give him his palace to live in. They would journey in company through life in search of honours and pleasure, without concealing one single thought, and would assist each other on all occasions as the brothers-in-arms did at the Crusades. Now, as the Frenchman was seeking his fortune, and required assistance, the Venetian did not for a moment expect that this offer of mutual consolation would be refused.

"Although I stand in need of no assistance," said the Frenchman, "because I rely upon a point which will procure me all that I desire, I should like to acknowledge your courtesy, dear Chevalier Pezare. You will soon see that you will yet be the debtor of Gauttier de Monsoreau, a gentleman of the fair land of Touraine."

"Do you possess any relic with which your fortune is wound up?" said the Venetian.

"A talisman given me by my dear mother," said the Touranian, "with which castles and cities are built and demolished, a hammer to coin money, a remedy for every ill, a traveller's staff always ready to be tried, and worth most when in a state of readiness, a master tool, which executes wondrous works in all sorts of forges, without making the slightest noise."

"Eh! by St. Mark you have, then, a mystery concealed in your hauberk?"

"No," said the French knight; "it is a perfectly natural thing. Here it is."

And rising suddenly from the table to prepare for bed, Gauttier showed to the Venetian the finest talisman to procure joy that he had ever seen.

"This," said the Frenchman, as they both got into bed together, according to the custom of the times, "overcomes every obstacle, by making itself master of female hearts; and as the ladies are the queens in this court, your friend Gauttier will soon reign there."

The Venetian remained in great astonishment at the sight of the secret charms of the said Gauttier, who had indeed been bounteously endowed by his mother, and perhaps also by his father; and would thus triumph over everything, since he joined to this corporeal perfection the wit of a young page, and the wisdom of an old devil. Then they swore an eternal friendship, regarding as nothing therein a woman's heart, vowing to have one and the same idea, as if their heads had been in the same helmet; and they fell asleep on the same pillow enchanted with this fraternity. This was a common occurrence in those days.

On the morrow the Venetian gave a fine horse to his friend Gauttier, also a purse full of money, fine silken hose, a velvet doublet, fringed with gold, and an embroidered mantle, which garments set off his figure so well, and showed up his beauties, that the Venetian was certain he would captivate all the ladies. The servants received orders to obey this Gauttier as they would himself, so that they fancied their master had been fishing, and had caught this Frenchman. Then the two friends made their entry into Palermo at the hour when the princes and princesses were taking the air. Pezare presented his French friend, speaking so highly of his merits, and obtaining such a gracious reception for him, that Leufroid kept him to supper. The knight kept a sharp eye on the Court, and noticed therein various curious little secret practices. If the king was a brave and handsome prince, the princess was a Spanish lady of high temperature, the most beautiful and most noble woman of his Court, but inclined to melancholy. Looking at her, the Touranian believed that she was sparingly embraced by the king, for the law of Touraine is that joy in the face comes from joy elsewhere. Pezare pointed out to his friend Gauttier several ladies to whom Leufroid was exceedingly gracious and who were exceedingly jealous and fought for him in a tournament of gallantries and wonderful female inventions. From all this Gauttier concluded that the prince went considerably astray with his court, although he had the prettiest wife in the world, and occupied himself with taxing the ladies of Sicily, in order that he might put his horse in their stables, vary his fodder, and learn the equestrian capabilities of many lands. Perceiving what a life Leufroid was leading, the Sire de Monsoreau, certain that no one in the Court had had the heart to enlighten the queen, determined at one blow to plant his halberd in the field of the fair Spaniard by a master stroke; and this is how. At supper-time, in order to show courtesy to the foreign knight, the king took care to place him near the queen, to whom the gallant Gauttier offered his arm, to take her into the room, and conducted her there hastily, to get ahead of those who were following, in order to whisper, first of all, a word concerning a subject which always pleases the ladies in whatever condition they may be. Imagine what this word was, and how it went straight through the stubble and weeds into the warm thicket of love.

"I know, your majesty, what causes your paleness of face."

"What?" said she.

"You are so loving that the king loves you night and day; thus you abuse your advantage, for he will die of love."

"What should I do to keep him alive?" said the queen.

"Forbid him to repeat at your altar more than three prayers a day."

"You are joking, after the French fashion, Sir Knight, seeing that the king's devotion to me does not extend beyond a short prayer a week."

"You are deceived," said Gauttier, seating himself at the table. "I can prove to you that love should go through the whole mass, matins, and vespers, with an Ave now and then, for queens as for simple women, and go through the ceremony every day, like the monks in their monastery, with fervour; but for you these litanies should never finish."

The queen cast upon the knight a glance which was far from one of displeasure, smiled at him, and shook her head.

"In this," said she, "men are great liars."

"I have with me a great truth which I will show you when you wish it." replied the knight. "I undertake to give you queen's fare, and put you on the high road to joy; by this means you will make up for lost time, the more so as the king is ruined through other women, while I shall reserve my advantage for your service."

"And if the king learns of our arrangement, he will put your head on a level with your feet."

"Even if this misfortune befell me it after the first night, I should believe I had lived a hundred years, from the joy therein received, for never have I seen, after visiting all Courts, a princess fit to hold a candle to your beauty. To be brief, if I die not by the sword, you will still be the cause of my death, for I am resolved to spend my life in your love, if life will depart in the place whence it comes."

Now this queen had never heard such words before, and preferred them to the most sweetly sung mass; her pleasure showed itself in her face, which became purple, for these words made her blood boil within her veins, so that the strings of her lute were moved thereat, and struck a sweet note that rang melodiously in her ears, for this lute fills with its music the brain and the body of the ladies, by a sweet artifice of their resonant nature. What a shame to be young, beautiful, Spanish, and queen, and yet neglected. She conceived an intense disdain for those of her Court who had kept their lips closed concerning this infidelity, through fear of the king, and determined to revenge herself with the aid of this handsome Frenchman, who cared so little for life that in his first words he had staked it in making a proposition to a queen, which was worthy of death, if she did her duty. Instead of this, however, she pressed his foot with her own, in a manner that admitted no misconception, and said aloud to him—

"Sir Knight, let us change the subject, for it is very wrong of you to attack a poor queen in her weak spot. Tell us the customs of the ladies of the Court of France."

Thus did the knight receive the delicate hint that the business was arranged. Then he commenced to talk of merry and pleasant things, which during supper kept the court, the king, the queen, and all the courtiers in a good humour; so much so that when the siege was raised, Leufroid declared that he had never laughed so much in his life. Then they strolled about the gardens, which were the most beautiful in the world, and the queen made a pretext of the chevalier's sayings to walk beneath a grove of blossoming orange trees, which yielded a delicious fragrance.

"Lovely and noble queen," said Gauttier, immediately, "I have seen in all countries the perdition of love have its birth in these first attentions, which we call courtesy; if you have confidence in me, let us agree, as people of high intelligence, to love each other without standing on so much ceremony; by this means no suspicion will be aroused, our happiness will be less dangerous and more lasting. In this fashion should queens conduct their amours, if they would avoid interference."

"Well said," said she. "But as I am new at this business, I did not know what arrangements to make."

"Have you are among your women one in whom you have perfect confidence?"

"Yes," said she; "I have a maid who came from Spain with me, who would put herself on a gridiron for me like St. Lawrence did for God, but she is always poorly."

"That's good," said her companion, "because you go to see her."

"Yes," said the queen, "and sometimes at night."

"Ah!" exclaimed Gauttier, "I make a vow to St. Rosalie, patroness of Sicily, to build her a gold altar for this fortune."

"O Jesus!" cried the queen. "I am doubly blessed in having a lover so handsome and yet so religious."

"Ah, my dear, I have two sweethearts today, because I have a queen to love in heaven above, and another one here below, and luckily these loves cannot clash one with the other."

This sweet speech so affected the queen, that for nothing she would have fled with this cunning Frenchman.

"The Virgin Mary is very powerful in heaven," said the queen. "Love grant that I may be like her!"

"Bah! they are talking of the Virgin Mary," said the king, who by chance had come to watch them, disturbed by a gleam of jealousy, cast into his heart by a Sicilian courtier, who was furious at the sudden favour which the Frenchman had obtained.

The queen and the chevalier laid their plans, and everything was secretly arranged to furnish the helmet of the king with two invisible ornaments. The knight rejoined the Court, made himself agreeable to everyone, and returned to the Palace of Pezare, whom he told that their fortunes were made, because on the morrow, at night, he would sleep with the queen. This swift success astonished the Venetian, who, like a good friend, went in search of fine perfumes, linen of Brabant, and precious garments, to which queens are accustomed, with all of which he loaded his friend Gauttier, in order that the case might be worthy the jewel.

"Ah, my friend," said he "are you sure not to falter, but to go vigorously to work, to serve the queen bravely, and give her such joys in her castle of Gallardin that she may hold on for ever to this master staff, like a drowning sailor to a plank?"

"As for that, fear nothing, dear Pezare, because I have the arrears of the journey, and I will deal with her as with a simple servant, instructing her in the ways of the ladies of Touraine, who understand love better than all others, because they make it, remake it, and unmake it to make it again and having remade it, still keep on making it; and having nothing else to do, have to do that which always wants doing. Now let us settle our plans. This is how we shall obtain the government of the island. I shall hold the queen and you the king; we will play the comedy of being great enemies before the eyes of the courtiers, in order to divide them into two parties under our command, and yet, unknown to all, we will remain friends. By this means we shall know their plots, and will thwart them, you by listening to my enemies and I to yours. In the course of a few days we will pretend to quarrel in order to strive one against the other. This quarrel will be caused by the favour in which I will manage to place you with the king, through the channel of the queen, and he will give you supreme power, to my injury."

On the morrow Gauttier went to the house of the Spanish lady, who before the courtiers he recognised as having known in Spain, and he remained there seven whole days. As you can imagine, the Touranian treated the queen as a fondly loved woman, and showed her so many terra incognita in love, French fashions, little tendernesses, etc., that she nearly lost her reason through it, and swore that the French were the only people who thoroughly understood love. You see how the king was punished, who, to keep her virtuous, had allowed weeds to grow in the grange of love. Their supernatural festivities touched the queen so strongly that she made a vow of eternal love to Montsoreau, who had awakened her, by revealing to her the joys of the proceeding. It was arranged that the Spanish lady should take care always to be ill; and that the only man to whom the lovers would confide their secret should be the court physician, who was much attached to the queen. By chance this physician had in his glottis, chords exactly similar to those of Gauttier, so that by a freak of nature they had the same voice, which much astonished the queen. The physician swore on his life faithfully to serve the pretty couple, for he deplored the sad desertion of this beautiful women, and was delighted to know she would be served as a queen should be—a rare thing.

A month elapsed and everything was going on to the satisfaction of the two friends, who worked the plans laid by the queen, in order to get the government of Sicily into the hands of Pezare, to the detriment of Montsoreau, whom the king loved for his great wisdom; but the queen would not consent to have him, because he was so ungallant. Leufroid dismissed the Duke of Cataneo, his principal follower, and put the Chevalier Pezare in his place. The Venetian took no notice of his friend the Frenchmen. Then Gauttier burst out, declaimed loudly against the treachery and abused friendship of his former comrade, and instantly earned the devotion of Cataneo and his friends, with whom he made a compact to overthrow Pezare. Directly he was in office the Venetian, who was a shrewd man, and well suited to govern states, which was the usual employment of Venetian gentlemen, worked wonders in Sicily, repaired the ports, brought merchants there by the fertility of his inventions and by granting them facilities, put bread into the mouths of hundreds of poor people, drew thither artisans of all trades, because fetes were always being held, and also the idle and rich from all quarters, even from the East. Thus harvests, the products of the earth, and other commodities, were plentiful; and galleys came from Asia, the which made the king much envied, and the happiest king in the Christian world, because through these things his Court was the most renowned in the countries of Europe. This fine political aspect was the result of the perfect agreement of the two men who thoroughly understood each other. The one looked after the pleasures, and was himself the delight of the queen, whose face was always bright and gay, because she was served according to the method of Touraine, and became animated through excessive happiness; and he also took care to keep the king amused, finding him every day new mistresses, and casting him into a whirl of dissipation. The king was much astonished at the good temper of the queen, whom, since the arrival of the Sire de Montsoreau in the island, he had touched no more than a Jew touches bacon. Thus occupied, the king and queen abandoned the care of their kingdom to the other friend, who conducted the affairs of government, ruled the establishment, managed the finances, and looked to the army, and all exceedingly well, knowing where money was to be made, enriching the treasury, and preparing all the great enterprises above mentioned.

The state of things lasted three years, some say four, but the monks of Saint Benoist have not wormed out the date, which remains obscure, like the reasons for the quarrel between the two friends. Probably the Venetian had the high ambition to reign without any control or dispute, and forgot the services which the Frenchman had rendered him. Thus do the men who live in Courts behave, for, according to the statements of the Messire Aristotle in his works, that which ages the most rapidly in this world is a kindness, although extinguished love is sometimes very rancid. Now, relying on the perfect friendship of Leufroid, who called him his crony, and would have done anything for him, the Venetian conceived the idea of getting rid of his friend by revealing to the king the mystery of his cuckoldom, and showing him the source of the queen's happiness, not doubting for a moment but that he would commence by depriving Monsoreau of his head, according to a practice common in Sicily under similar circumstances. By this means Pezare would have all the money that he and Gauttier had noiselessly conveyed to the house of a Lombard of Genoa, which money was their joint property on account of their fraternity. This treasure, increased on one side by the magnificent presents made to Montsoreau by the queen, who had vast estates in Spain, and other, by inheritance in Italy; on the other, by the king's gifts to his prime minister, to whom he also gave certain rights over the merchants, and other indulgences. The treacherous friend, having determined to break his vow, took care to conceal his intention from Gauttier, because the Touranian was an awkward man to tackle.

One night that Pezare knew that the queen was in bed with her lover, who loved him as though each night were a wedding one, so skilful was she at the business, the traitor promised the king to let him take evidence in the case, through a hole he had made in the wardrobe of the Spanish lady, who always pretended to be at death's door. In order to obtain a better view, Pezare waited until the sun had risen. The Spanish lady, who was fleet of foot, had a quick eye and a sharp ear, heard footsteps, peeped out, and perceiving the king, followed by the Venetian, through a crossbar in the closet in which she slept the night that the queen had her lover between two sheets, which is certainly the best way to have a lover. She ran to warn the couple of this betrayal. But the king's eye was already at the cursed hole, Leufroid saw—what?

That beautiful and divine lantern with burns so much oil and lights the world—a lantern adorned with the most lovely baubles, flaming, brilliantly, which he thought more lovely than all the others, because he had lost sight of it for so long a time that it appeared quite new to him; but the size of the hole prevented him seeing anything else except the hand of a man, which modestly covered the lantern, and he heard the voice of Montsoreau saying—

"How's the little treasure, this morning?" A playful expression, which lovers used jokingly, because this lantern is in all countries the sun of love, and for this the prettiest possible names are bestowed upon it, whilst comparing it to the loveliest things in nature, such as my pomegranate, my rose, my little shell, my hedgehog, my gulf of love, my treasure, my master, my little one; some even dared most heretically to say, my god! If you don't believe it, ask your friends.

At this moment the lady let him understand by a gesture that the king was there.

"Can he hear?" said the queen.


"Can he see?"


"Who brought him?"


"Fetch the physician, and get Gauttier into his own room." said the queen.

In less time than it takes a beggar to say "God bless you, sir!" the queen had swathed the lantern in linen and paint, so that you would have thought it a hideous wound in a state of grievous inflammation. When the king, enraged by what he overheard, burst open the door, he found the queen lying on the bed exactly as he has seen her through the hole, and the physician, examining the lantern swathed in bandages, and saying, "How it is the little treasure, this morning?" in exactly the same voice as the king had heard. A jocular and cheerful expression, because physicians and surgeons use cheerful words with ladies and treat this sweet flower with flowery phrases. This sight made the king look as foolish as a fox caught in a trap. The queen sprang up, reddening with shame, and asking what man dared to intrude upon her privacy at such a moment, but perceiving the king, she said to him as follows:—

"Ah! my lord, you have discovered that which I have endeavoured to conceal from you: that I am so badly treated by you that I am afflicted with a burning ailment, of which my dignity would not allow me to complain, but which needs secret dressing in order to assuage the influence of the vital forces. To save my honour and your own, I am compelled to come to my good Lady Miraflor, who consoles me in my troubles."

Then the physician commenced to treat Leufroid to an oration, interlarded with Latin quotations and precious grains from Hippocrates, Galen, the School of Salerno, and others, in which he showed him how necessary to women was the proper cultivation of the field of Venus, and that there was great danger of death to queens of Spanish temperament, whose blood was excessively amorous. He delivered himself of his arguments with great solemnity of feature, voice, and manner, in order to give the Sire de Montsoreau time to get to bed. Then the queen took the same text to preach the king a sermon as long as his arm, and requested the loan of that limb, that the king might conduct her to her apartment instead of the poor invalid, who usually did so in order to avoid calumny. When they were in the gallery where the Sire de Montsoreau resided, the queen said jokingly, "You should play a good trick on this Frenchman, who I would wager is with some lady, and not in his own room. All the ladies of Court are in love with him, and there will be mischief some day through him. If you had taken my advice he would not be in Sicily now."

Leufroid went suddenly into Gauttier's room, whom he found in a deep sleep, and snoring like a monk in Church. The queen returned with the king, whom she took to her apartments, and whispered to one of the guards to send to her the lord whose place Pezare occupied. Then, while she fondled the king, taking breakfast with him, she took the lord directly he came, into an adjoining room.

"Erect a gallows on the bastion," said she, "then seize the knight Pezare, and manage so that he is hanged instantly, without giving time to write or say a single word on any subject whatsoever. Such is our good pleasure and supreme command."

Cataneo made no remark. While Pezare was thinking to himself that his friend Gauttier would soon be minus his head, the Duke Cataneo came to seize and lead him on to bastion, from which he could see at the queen's window the Sire de Montsoreau in company with the king, the queen, and the courtiers, and came to the conclusion that he who looked after the queen had a better chance in everything than he who looked after the king.

"My dear," said the queen to her spouse, leading him to the window, "behold a traitor, who was endeavouring to deprive you of that which you hold dearest in the world, and I will give you the proofs when you have the leisure to study them."

Montsoreau, seeing the preparations for the final ceremony, threw himself at the king's feet, to obtain the pardon of him who was his mortal enemy, at which the king was much moved.

"Sire de Monsoreau," said the queen, turning towards him with an angry look, "are you so bold as to oppose our will and pleasure?"

"You are a noble knight," said the king, "but you do not know how bitter this Venetian was against you."

Pezare was delicately strangled between the head and the shoulders, for the queen revealed his treacheries to the king, proving to him, by the declaration of a Lombard of the town, the enormous sums which Pezare had in the bank of Genoa, the whole of which were given up to Montsoreau.

This noble and lovely queen died, as related in the history of Sicily, that is, in consequence of a heavy labour, during which she gave birth to a son, who was a man as great in himself as he was unfortunate in his undertakings. The king believed the physician's statement, that the said termination to this accouchement was caused by the too chaste life the queen had led, and believing himself responsible for it, he founded the Church of the Madonna, which is one of the finest in the town of Palermo. The Sire de Monsoreau, who was a witness of the king's remorse, told him that when a king got his wife from Spain, he ought to know that this queen would require more attention than any other, because the Spanish ladies were so lively that they equalled ten ordinary women, and that if he wished a wife for show only, he should get her from the north of Germany, where the women are as cold as ice. The good knight came back to Touraine laden with wealth, and lived there many years, but never mentioned his adventures in Sicily. He returned there to aid the king's son in his principal attempt against Naples, and left Italy when this sweet prince was wounded, as is related in the Chronicle.

Besides the high moralities contained in the title of this tale, where it is said that fortune, being female, is always on the side of the ladies, and that men are quite right to serve them well, it shows us that silence is the better part of wisdom. Nevertheless, the monkish author of this narrative seems to draw this other no less learned moral therefrom, that interest which makes so many friendships, breaks them also. But from these three versions you can choose the one that best accords with your judgment and your momentary requirement.


The old chronicler who furnished the hemp to weave the present story, is said to have lived at the time when the affair occurred in the City of Rouen.

In the environs of this fair town, where at the time dwelt Duke Richard, an old man used to beg, whose name was Tryballot, but to whom was given the nickname of Le Vieux par-Chemins, or the Old Man of the Roads; not because he was yellow and dry as vellum, but because he was always in the high-ways and by-ways—up hill and down dale—slept with the sky for his counterpane, and went about in rags and tatters. Notwithstanding this, he was very popular in the duchy, where everyone had grown used to him, so much so that if the month went by without anyone seeing his cup held towards them, people would say, "Where is the old man?" and the usual answer was, "On the roads."

This said man had had for a father a Tryballot, who was in his lifetime a skilled artisan, so economical and careful, that he left considerable wealth to his son.

But the young lad soon frittered it away, for he was the very opposite of the old fellow, who, returning from the fields to his house, picked up, now here, now there, many a little stick of wood left right and left, saying, conscientiously, that one should never come home empty handed. Thus he warmed himself in the winter at the expense of the careless; and he did well. Everyone recognised what a good example this was for the country, since a year before his death no one left a morsel of wood on the road; he had compelled the most dissipated to be thrifty and orderly. But his son made ducks and drakes of everything, and did not follow his wise example. The father had predicted the thing. From the boy's earliest youth, when the good Tryballot set him to watch the birds who came to eat the peas, beans, and the grain, and to drive the thieves away, above all, the jays, who spoiled everything, he would study their habits, and took delight in watching with what grace they came and went, flew off loaded, and returned, watching with a quick eye the snares and nets; and he would laugh heartily at their cleverness in avoiding them. Tryballot senior went into a passion when he found his grain considerably less in a measure. But although he pulled his son's ears whenever he caught him idling and trifling under a nut tree, the little rascal did not alter his conduct, but continued to study the habits of the blackbirds, sparrows, and other intelligent marauders. One day his father told him that he would be wise to model himself after them, for that if he continued this kind of life, he would be compelled in his old age like them, to pilfer, and like them, would be pursued by justice. This came true; for, as has before been stated, he dissipated in a few days the crowns which his careful father had acquired in a life-time. He dealt with men as he did with the sparrows, letting everyone put a hand in his pocket, and contemplating the grace and polite demeanour of those who assisted to empty it. The end of his wealth was thus soon reached. When the devil had the empty money bag to himself, Tryballot did not appear at all cut up, saying, that he "did not wish to damn himself for this world's goods, and that he had studied philosophy in the school of the birds."

After having thoroughly enjoyed himself, of all his goods, there only remained to him a goblet bought at Landict, and three dice, quite sufficient furniture for drinking and gambling, so that he went about without being encumbered, as are the great, with chariots, carpets, dripping pans, and an infinite number of varlets. Tryballot wished to see his good friends, but they no longer knew him, which fact gave him leave no longer to recognise anyone. Seeing this, he determined to choose a profession in which there was nothing to do and plenty to gain. Thinking this over, he remembered the indulgences of the blackbirds and the sparrows. Then the good Tryballot selected for his profession that of begging money at people's houses, and pilfering. From the first day, charitable people gave him something, and Tryballot was content, finding the business good, without advance money or bad debts; on the contrary, full of accommodation. He went about it so heartily, that he was liked everywhere, and received a thousand consolations refused to rich people. The good man watched the peasants planting, sowing, reaping, and making harvest, and said to himself, that they worked a little for him as well. He who had a pig in his larder owed him a bit for it, without suspecting it. The man who baked a loaf in his oven often baked it for Tryballot without knowing it. He took nothing by force; on the contrary, people said to him kindly, while making him a present, "Here Vieux par-Chemins, cheer up, old fellow. How are you? Come, take this; the cat began it, you can finish it."

Vieux par-Chemins was at all the weddings, baptisms, and funerals, because he went everywhere where there was, openly or secretly, merriment and feasting. He religiously kept the statutes and canons of his order—namely, to do nothing, because if he had been able to do the smallest amount of work no one would ever give anything again. After having refreshed himself, this wise man would lay full length in a ditch, or against a church wall, and think over public affairs; and then he would philosophise, like his pretty tutors, the blackbirds, jays, and sparrows, and thought a great deal while mumping; for, because his apparel was poor, was that a reason his understanding should not be rich? His philosophy amused his clients, to whom he would repeat, by way of thanks, the finest aphorisms of his science. According to him, suppers produced gout in the rich: he boasted that he had nimble feet, because his shoemaker gave him boots that do not pinch his corns. There were aching heads beneath diadems, but his never ached, because it was touched neither by luxury nor any other chaplet. And again, that jewelled rings hinder the circulation of the blood. Although he covered himself with sores, after the manner of cadgers, you may be sure he was as sound as a child at the baptismal font.

The good man disported himself with other rogues, playing with his three dice, which he kept to remind him to spend his coppers, in order that he might always be poor. In spite of his vow, he was, like all the order of mendicants, so wealthy that one day at the Paschal feast, another beggar wishing to rent his profit from him, Vieux par-Chemins refused ten crowns for it; in fact, the same evening he spent fourteen crowns in drinking the health of the alms-givers, because it is the statutes of beggary that one should show one's gratitude to donors. Although he carefully got rid of that of which had been a source of anxiety to others, who, having too much wealth went in search of poverty, he was happier with nothing in the world than when he had his father's money. And seeing what are the conditions of nobility, he was always on the high road to it, because he did nothing except according to his fancy, and lived nobly without labour. Thirty crowns would not have got him out of a bed when he was in it. The morrow always dawned for him as it did for others, while leading this happy life; which, according to the statements of Plato, whose authority has more than once been invoked in these narratives, certain ancient sages had led before him. At last, Vieux par-Chemins reached the age of eighty-two years, having never been a single day without picking up money, and possessed the healthiest colour and complexion imaginable. He believed that if he had persevered in the race for wealth he would have been spoiled and buried years before. It is possible he was right.

In his early youth Vieux par-Chemins had the illustrious virtue of being very partial to the ladies; and his abundance of love was, it is said, the result of his studies among the sparrows. Thus it was that he was always ready to give the ladies his assistance in counting the joists, and this generosity finds its physical cause in the fact that, having nothing to do, he was always ready to do something. His secret virtues brought about, it is said, that popularity which he enjoyed in the provinces. Certain people say that the lady of Chaumont had him in her castle, to learn the truth about these qualities, and kept him there for a week, to prevent him begging. But the good man jumped over the hedges and fled in great terror of being rich. Advancing in age, this great quintessencer found himself disdained, although his notable faculties of loving were in no way impaired. This unjust turning away on the part of the female tribe caused the first trouble of Vieux par-Chemins, and the celebrated trial of Rouen, to which it is time I came.

In this eighty-second year of his age he was compelled to remain continent for about seven months, during which time he met no woman kindly disposed towards him; and he declared before the judge that that had caused the greatest astonishment of his long and honourable life. In this most pitiable state he saw in the fields during the merry month of May a girl, who by chance was a maiden, and minding cows. The heat was so excessive that this cowherdess had stretched herself beneath the shadow of a beech tree, her face to the ground, after the custom of people who labour in the fields, in order to get a little nap while her animals were grazing. She was awakened by the deed of the old man, who had stolen from her that which a poor girl could only lose once. Finding herself ruined without receiving from the process either knowledge or pleasure, she cried out so loudly that the people working in the fields ran to her, and were called upon by her as witnesses, at the time when that destruction was visible in her which is appropriate only to a bridal night. She cried and groaned, saying that the old ape might just as well have played his tricks on her mother, who would have said nothing.

He made answer to the peasants, who had already raised their hoes to kill him, that he had been compelled to enjoy himself. These people objected that a man can enjoy himself very well without enjoying a maiden—a case for the provost, which would bring him straight to the gallows; and he was taken with great clamour to the jail of Rouen.

The girl, interrogated by the provost, declared that she was sleeping in order to do something, and that she thought she was dreaming of her lover, with whom she was then at loggerheads, because before marriage he wished to take certain liberties: and jokingly, in this dream she let him reconnoiter to a certain extent, in order to avoid any dispute afterwards, and that in spite of her prohibitions he went further than she had given him leave to go, and finding more pain than pleasure in the affair, she had been awakened by Vieux par-Chemins, who had attacked her as a gray-friar would a ham at the end of lent.

This trial caused so great a commotion in the town of Rouen that the provost was sent for by the duke, who had an intense desire to know if the thing were true. Upon the affirmation of the provost, he ordered Vieux par-Chemins to be brought to his palace, in order that he might hear what defence he had to make. The poor old fellow appeared before the prince, and informed him naively of the misfortune which his impulsive nature brought upon him, declaring that he was like a young fellow impelled by imperious desires; that up to the present year he had sweethearts of his own, but for the last eight months he had been a total abstainer; that he was too poor to find favour with the girls of the town; that honest women who once were charitable to him, had taken a dislike to his hair, which had feloniously turned white in spite of the green youth of his love, and that he felt compelled to avail himself of the chance when he saw this maiden, who, stretched at full length under the beech tree, left visible the lining of her dress and two hemispheres, white as snow, which had deprived him of reason; that the fault was the girl's and not his, because young maidens should be forbidden to entice passers-by by showing them that which caused Venus to be named Callipyge; finally the prince ought to be aware what trouble a man had to control himself at the hour of noon, because that was the time of day at which King David was smitten with the wife of the Sieur Uriah, that where a Hebrew king, beloved of God, had succumbed, a poor man, deprived of all joy, and reduced to begging for his bread, could not expect to escape; that for that matter of that, he was quite willing to sing psalms for the remainder of his days, and play upon a lute by way of penance, in imitation of the said king, who had had the misfortune to slay a husband, while he had only done a trifling injury to a peasant girl. The duke listened to the arguments of Vieux par-Chemins, and said that he was a man of good parts. Then he made his memorable decree, that if, as this beggar declared, he had need of such gratification at his age he gave permission to prove it at the foot of the ladder which he would have to mount to be hanged, according to the sentence already passed on him by the provost; that if then, the rope being round his neck, between the priest and the hangman, a like desire seized him he should have a free pardon.

This decree becoming known, there was a tremendous crowd to see the old fellow led to the gallows. There was a line drawn up as if for a ducal entry, and in it many more bonnets than hats. Vieux par-Chemins was saved by a lady curious to see how this precious violator would finish his career. She told the duke that religion demanded that he should have a fair chance. And she dressed herself as if for a ball; she brought intentionally into evidence two hillocks of such snowy whiteness that the whitest linen neckerchief would have paled before them; indeed, these fruits of love stood out, without a wrinkle, over her corset, like two beautiful apples, and made one's mouth water, so exquisite were they. This noble lady, who was one of those who rouse one's manhood, had a smile ready on her lips for the old fellow. Vieux par-Chemins, dressed in garments of coarse cloth, more certain of being in the desired state after hanging than before it, came along between the officers of justice with a sad countenance, glancing now here and there, and seeing nothing but head-dresses; and he would he declared, have given a hundred crowns for a girl tucked up as was the cowherdess, whose charms, though they had been his ruin, he still remembered, and they might still have saved him; but, as he was old, the remembrance was not sufficiently recent. But when, at the foot of the ladder, he saw the twin charms of the lady, and the pretty delta that their confluent rotundities produced, the sight so much excited him that his emotion was patent to the spectators.

"Make haste and see that the required conditions are fulfilled," said he to the officers. "I have gained my pardon but I cannot answer for my saviour."

The lady was well pleased with this homage, which, she said, was greater than his offence. The guards, whose business it was to proceed to a verification, believed the culprit to be the devil, because never in their wits had they seen an "I" so perpendicular as was the old man. He was marched in triumph through the town to the palace of the duke, to whom the guards and others stated the facts. In that period of ignorance, this affair was thought so much of that the town voted the erection of a column on the spot where the old fellow gained his pardon, and he was portrayed thereon in stone in the attitude he assumed at the sight of that honest and virtuous lady. The statue was still to be seen when Rouen was taken by the English, and the writers of the period have included this history among the notable events of the reign.

As the town offered to supply the old man with all he required, and see to his sustenance, clothing, and amusements, the good duke arranged matters by giving the injured maiden a thousand crowns and marrying her to her seducer, who then lost his name of Vieux par-Chemins. He was named by the duke the Sieur de Bonne-C———. This wife was confined nine months afterwards of a perfectly formed male child, alive and kicking, and born with two teeth. From this marriage came the house of Bonne-C———, who from motives modest but wrong, besought our well-beloved King Louis Eleventh to grant them letters patent to change their names into that of Bonne-Chose. The king pointed out to the Sieur de Bonne-C——— that there was in the state of Venice an illustrious family named Coglioni, who wore three "C——— au natural" on their coat of arms. The gentlemen of the House of Bonne-C——— stated to the king that their wives were ashamed to be thus called in public assemblies; the king answered that they would lose a great deal, because there is a great deal in a name. Nevertheless, he granted the letters. After that this race was known by this name, and founded families in many provinces. The first Sieur de Bonne-C——— lived another 27 years, and had another son and two daughters. But he grieved much at becoming rich, and no longer being able to pick up a living in the street.

From this you can obtain finer lessons and higher morals than from any story you will read all your life long—of course excepting these hundred glorious Droll Tales—namely, that never could adventure of this sort have happened to the impaired and ruined constitutions of court rascals, rich people and others who dig their graves with their teeth by over-eating and drinking many wines that impair the implements of happiness; which said over-fed people were lolling luxuriously in costly draperies and on feather beds, while the Sieur de Bonne-Chose was roughing it. In a similar situation, if they had eaten cabbage, it would have given them the diarrhoea. This may incite many of those who read this story to change their mode of life, in order to imitate Vieux par-Chemins in his old age.


When the pope left his good town of Avignon to take up his residence in Rome, certain pilgrims were thrown out who had set out for this country, and would have to pass the high Alps, in order to gain this said town of Rome, where they were going to seek the remittimus of various sins. Then were to be seen on the roads, and the hostelries, those who wore the order of Cain, otherwise the flower of the penitents, all wicked fellows, burdened with leprous souls, which thirsted to bathe in the papal piscina, and all carrying with them gold or precious things to purchase absolution, pay for their beds, and present to the saints. You may be sure that those who drank water going, on their return, if the landlords gave them water, wished it to be the holy water of the cellar.

At this time the three pilgrims came to this said Avignon to their injury, seeing that it was widowed of the pope. While they were passing the Rhodane, to reach the Mediterranean coast, one of the three pilgrims, who had with him a son about 10 years of age, parted company with the others, and near the town of Milan suddenly appeared again, but without the boy. Now in the evening, at supper, they had a hearty feast in order to celebrate the return of the pilgrim, who they thought had become disgusted with penitence through the pope not being in Avignon. Of these three roamers to Rome, one had come from the city of Paris, the other from Germany, and the third, who doubtless wished to instruct his son on the journey, had his home in the duchy of Burgundy, in which he had certain fiefs, and was a younger son of the house of Villers-la-Faye (Villa in Fago), and was named La Vaugrenand. The German baron had met the citizen of Paris just past Lyons, and both had accosted the Sire de la Vaugrenand in sight of Avignon.

Now in this hostelry the three pilgrims loosened their tongues, and agreed to journey to Rome together, in order the better to resist the foot pads, the night-birds, and other malefactors, who made it their business to ease pilgrims of that which weighed upon their bodies before the pope eased them of that which weighed upon their consciences. After drinking the three companions commenced to talk together, for the bottle is the key of conversation, and each made this confession—that the cause of his pilgrimage was a woman. The servant who watched their drinking, told them that of a hundred pilgrims who stopped in the locality, ninety-nine were travelling from the same thing. These three wise men then began to consider how pernicious is woman to man. The Baron showed the heavy gold chain that he had in his hauberk to present to Saint Peter, and said his crime was such that he would not get rid of with the value of two such chains. The Parisian took off his glove, and exposed a ring set with a white diamond, saying that he had a hundred like it for the pope. The Burgundian took off his hat, and exhibited two wonderful pearls, that were beautiful ear-pendants for Notre-Dame-de-Lorette, and candidly confessed that he would rather have left them round his wife's neck.

Thereupon the servant exclaimed that their sins must have been as great as those of Visconti.

Then the pilgrims replied that they were such that they had made a solemn vow in their minds never to go astray again during the remainder of their days, however beautiful the woman might be, and this in addition to the penance which the pope might impose upon them.

Then the servant expressed her astonishment that all had made the same vow. The Burgundian added, that this vow had been the cause of his lagging behind, because he had been in extreme fear that his son, in spite of his age, might go astray, and that he had made a vow to prevent people and beasts alike gratifying their passions in his house, or upon his estates. The baron having inquired the particulars of the adventure, the sire narrated the affair as follows:—

"You know that the good Countess Jeane d'Avignon made formerly a law for the harlots, who she compelled to live in the outskirts of the town in houses with window-shutters painted red and closed. Now passing in my company in this vile neighbourhood, my lad remarked these houses with closed window-shutters, painted red, and his curiosity being aroused—for these ten-year old little devils have eyes for everything—he pulled me by the sleeve and kept on pulling until he had learnt from me what these houses were. Then, to obtain peace, I told him that young lads had nothing to do with such places, and could only enter them at the peril of their lives, because it was a place where men and women were manufactured, and the danger was such for anyone unacquainted with the business that if a novice entered, flying chancres and other wild beasts would seize upon his face. Fear seized the lad, who then followed me to the hostelry in a state of agitation, and not daring to cast his eyes upon the said bordels. While I was in the stable, seeing to the putting up of the horses, my son went off like a robber, and the servant was unable to tell me what had become of him. Then I was in great fear of the wenches, but had confidence in the laws, which forbade them to admit such children. At supper-time the rascal came back to me looking no more ashamed of himself than did our divine Saviour in the temple among the doctors.

"'Whence comes you?' said I to him.

"'From the houses with the red shutters,' he replied.

"'Little blackguard,' said I, 'I'll give you a taste of the whip.'

"Then he began to moan and cry. I told him that if he would confess all that had happened to him I would let him off the beating.

"'Ha,' said he, 'I took care not to go in, because of the flying chancres and other wild beasts. I only looked through the chinks of the windows, in order to see how men were manufactured.'

"'And what did you see?' I asked.

"'I saw,' said he, 'a fine woman just being finished, because she only wanted one peg, which a young worker was fitting in with energy. Directly she was finished she turned round, spoke to, and kissed her manufacturer.'

"'Have your supper,' said I; and the same night I returned into Burgundy, and left him with his mother, being sorely afraid that at the first town he might want to fit a peg into some girl."

"These children often make these sort of answers," said the Parisian. "One of my neighbour's children revealed the cuckoldom of his father by a reply. One day I asked, to see if he was well instructed at school in religious matters, 'What is hope?' 'One of the king's big archers, who comes here when father goes out,' said he. Indeed, the sergeant of the Archers was named Hope. My friend was dumbfounded at this, and, although to keep his countenance he looked in the mirror, he could not see his horns there."

The baron observed that the boy's remark was good in this way: that Hope is a person who comes to bed with us when the realities of life are out of the way.

"Is a cuckold made in the image of God?" asked the Burgundian.

"No," said the Parisian, "because God was wise in this respect, that he took no wife; therefore is He happy through all eternity."

"But," said the maid-servant, "cuckolds are made in the image of God before they are horned."

Then the three pilgrims began to curse women, saying that they were the cause of all the evils in the world.

"Their heads are as empty as helmets," said the Burgundian.

"Their hearts are as straight as bill-hooks," said the Parisian.

"Why are there so many men pilgrims and so few women pilgrims?" said the German baron.

"Their cursed member never sins," replied the Parisian; "it knows neither father nor mother, the commandments of God, nor those of the Church, neither laws divine or human: their member knows no doctrine, understands no heresies, and cannot be blamed; it is innocent of all, and always on the laugh; its understanding is nil; and for this reason do I hold it in utter detestation."

"I also," said the Burgundian, "and I begin to understand the different reading by a learned man of the verses of the Bible, in which the account of the creation is given. In this Commentary, which in my country we call a Noel, lies the reason of imperfection of this feature of women, of which, different to that of other females, no man can slake the thirst, such diabolical heat existing there. In this Noel is stated that the Lord God, having turned his head to look at a donkey, who had brayed for the first time in his Paradise, while he was manufacturing Eve, the devil seized this moment to put his finger into this divine creature, and made a warm wound, which the Lord took care to close with a stitch, from which comes the maid. By means of this frenum, the woman should remain closed, and children be made in the same manner in which God made the angels, by a pleasure far above carnal pleasure as the heaven is above the earth. Observing this closing, the devil, wild at being done, pinched the Sieur Adam, who was asleep, by the skin, and stretched a portion of it out in imitation of his diabolical tail; but as the father of man was on his back this appendage came out in front. Thus these two productions of the devil had the desire to reunite themselves, following the law of similarities which God had laid down for the conduct of the world. From this came the first sin and the sorrows of the human race, because God, noticing the devil's work, determined to see what would come of it."

The servant declared that they were quite correct in the statements, for that woman was a bad animal, and that she herself knew some who were better under the ground than on it. The pilgrims, noticing then how pretty the girl was, were afraid of breaking their vows, and went straight to bed. The girl went and told her mistress she was harbouring infidels, and told her what they had said about women.

"Ah!" said the landlady, "what matters it to me the thoughts my customers have in their brains, so long as their purses are well filled."

And when the servant had told of the jewels, she exclaimed—

"Ah, these are questions which concern all women. Let us go and reason with them. I'll take the nobles, you can have the citizen."

The landlady, who was the most shameless inhabitant of the duchy of Milan, went into the chamber where the Sire de La Vaugrenand and the German baron were sleeping, and congratulated them upon their vows, saying that the women would not lose much by them; but to accomplish these said vows it was necessary they should endeavour to withstand the strongest temptations. Then she offered to lie down beside them, so anxious were she to see if she would be left unmolested, a thing which had never happened to her yet in the company of a man.

On the morrow, at breakfast, the servant had the ring on her finger, her mistress had the gold chain and the pearl earrings. The three pilgrims stayed in the town about a month, spending there all the money they had in their purses, and agreed that if they had spoken so severely of women it was because they had not known those of Milan.

On his return to Germany the Baron made this observation: that he was only guilty of one sin, that of being in his castle. The Citizen of Paris came back full of stories for his wife, and found her full of Hope. The Burgundian saw Madame de La Vaugrenand so troubled that he nearly died of the consolations he administered to her, in spite of his former opinions. This teaches us to hold our tongues in hostelries.


By the double crest of my fowl, and by the rose lining of my sweetheart's slipper! By all the horns of well-beloved cuckolds, and by the virtue of their blessed wives! the finest work of man is neither poetry, nor painted pictures, nor music, nor castles, nor statues, be they carved never so well, nor rowing, nor sailing galleys, but children.

Understand me, children up to the age of ten years, for after that they become men or women, and cutting their wisdom teeth, are not worth what they cost; the worst are the best. Watch them playing, prettily and innocently, with slippers; above all, cancellated ones, with the household utensils, leaving that which displeases them, crying after that which pleases them, munching the sweets and confectionery in the house, nibbling at the stores, and always laughing as soon as their teeth are cut, and you will agree with me that they are in every way lovable; besides which they are flower and fruit—the fruit of love, the flower of life. Before their minds have been unsettled by the disturbances of life, there is nothing in this world more blessed or more pleasant than their sayings, which are naive beyond description. This is as true as the double chewing machine of a cow. Do not expect a man to be innocent after the manner of children, because there is an, I know not what, ingredient of reason in the naivety of a man, while the naivety of children is candid, immaculate, and has all the finesse of the mother, which is plainly proved in this tale.

Queen Catherine was at that time Dauphine, and to make herself welcome to the king, her father-in-law, who at that time was very ill indeed, presented him, from time to time, with Italian pictures, knowing that he liked them much, being a friend of the Sieur Raphael d'Urbin and of the Sieurs Primatice and Leonardo da Vinci, to whom he sent large sums of money. She obtained from her family—who had the pick of these works, because at that time the Duke of the Medicis governed Tuscany —a precious picture, painted by a Venetian named Titian (artist to the Emperor Charles, and in very high flavour), in which there were portraits of Adam and Eve at the moment when God left them to wander about the terrestrial Paradise, and were painted their full height, in the costume of the period, in which it is difficult to make a mistake, because they were attired in their ignorance, and caparisoned with the divine grace which enveloped them—a difficult thing to execute on account of the colour, but one in which the said Sieur Titian excelled. The picture was put into the room of the poor king, who was then ill with the disease of which he eventually died. It had a great success at the Court of France, where everyone wished to see it; but no one was able to until after the king's death, since at his desire it was allowed to remain in his room as long as he lived.

One day Madame Catherine took with her to the king's room her son Francis and little Margot, who began to talk at random, as children will. Now here, now there, these children had heard this picture of Adam and Eve spoken about, and had tormented their mother to take them there. Since the two little ones at times amused the old king, Madame the Dauphine consented to their request.

"You wished to see Adam and Eve, who were our first parents; there they are," said she.

Then she left them in great astonishment before Titian's picture, and seated herself by the bedside of the king, who delighted to watch the children.

"Which of the two is Adam?" said Francis, nudging his sister Margot's elbow.

"You silly!" replied she, "to know that, they would have to be dressed!"

This reply, which delighted the poor king and the mother, was mentioned in a letter written in Florence by Queen Catherine.

No writer having brought it to light, it will remain, like a sweet flower, in a corner of these Tales, although it is no way droll, and there is no other moral to be drawn from it except that to hear these pretty speeches of infancy one must beget the children.



The lovely lady Imperia, who gloriously opens these tales, because she was the glory of her time, was compelled to come into the town of Rome, after the holding of the council, for the cardinal of Ragusa loved her more than his cardinal's hat, and wished to have her near him. This rascal was so magnificent, that he presented her with the beautiful palace that he had in the Papal capital. About this time she had the misfortune to find herself in an interesting condition by this cardinal. As everyone knows, this pregnancy finished with a fine little daughter, concerning whom the Pope said jokingly that she should be named Theodora, as if to say The Gift Of God. The girl was thus named, and was exquisitely lovely. The cardinal left his inheritance to this Theodora, whom the fair Imperia established in her hotel, for she was flying from Rome as from a pernicious place, where children were begotten, and where she had nearly spoiled her beautiful figure, her celebrated perfections, lines of the body, curves of the back, delicious breasts, and Serpentine charms which placed her as much above the other women of Christendom as the Holy Father was above all other Christians. But all her lovers knew that with the assistance of eleven doctors of Padua, seven master surgeons of Pavia, and five surgeons come from all parts, who assisted at her confinement, she was preserved from all injury. Some go so far as to say that she gained therein superfineness and whiteness of skin. A famous man, of the school of Salerno, wrote a book on the subject, to show the value of a confinement for the freshness, health, preservation, and beauty of women. In this very learned book it was clearly proved to readers that that which was beautiful to see in Imperia, was that which it was permissible for lovers alone to behold; a rare case then, for she did not disarrange her attire for the petty German princes whom she called her margraves, burgraves, electors, and dukes, just as a captain ranks his soldiers.

Everyone knows that when she was eighteen years of age, the lovely Theodora, to atone for her mother's gay life, wished to retire into the bosom of the Church. With this idea she placed herself in the hands of a cardinal, in order that he might instruct her in the duties of the devout. This wicked shepherd found the lamb so magnificently beautiful that he attempted to debauch her. Theodora instantly stabbed herself with a stiletto, in order not to be contaminated by the evil-minded priest. This adventure, which was consigned to the history of the period, made a great commotion in Rome, and was deplored by everyone, so much was the daughter of Imperia beloved.

Then this noble courtesan, much afflicted, returned to Rome, there to weep for her poor daughter. She set out in the thirty-ninth year of her age, which was, according to some authors, the summer of her magnificent beauty, because then she had obtained the acme of perfection, like ripe fruit. Sorrow made her haughty and hard with those who spoke to her of love, in order to dry her tears. The pope himself visited her in her palace, and gave her certain words of admonition. But she refused to be comforted, saying that she would henceforth devote herself to God, because she had never yet been satisfied by any man, although she had ardently desired it; and all of them, even a little priest, whom she had adored like a saint's shrine, had deceived her. God, she was sure, would not do so.

This resolution disconcerted many, for she was the joy of a vast number of lords. So that people ran about the streets of Rome crying out, "Where is Madame Imperia? Is she going to deprive the world of love?" Some of the ambassadors wrote to their masters on the subject. The Emperor of the Romans was much cut up about it, because he had loved her to distraction for eleven weeks; had left her only to go to the wars, and loved her still as much as his most precious member, which according to his own statement, was his eye, for that alone embraced the whole of his dear Imperia. In this extremity the Pope sent for a Spanish physician, and conducted him to the beautiful creature, to whom he proved, by various arguments, adorned with Latin and Greek quotations, that beauty is impaired by tears and tribulation, and that through sorrow's door wrinkles step in. This proposition, confirmed by the doctors of the Holy College in controversy, had the effect of opening the doors of the palace that same evening. The young cardinals, the foreign envoys, the wealthy inhabitants, and the principal men of the town of Rome came, crowded the rooms, and held a joyous festival; the common people made grand illuminations, and thus the whole population celebrated the return of the Queen of Pleasure to her occupation, for she was at that time the presiding deity of Love. The experts in all the arts loved her much, because she spent considerable sums of money improving the Church in Rome, which contained poor Theodora's tomb, which was destroyed during that pillage of Rome in which perished the traitorous constable of Bourbon, for this holy maiden was placed therein in a massive coffin of gold and silver, which the cursed soldiers were anxious to obtain. The basilic cost, it is said, more than the pyramid erected by the Lady Rhodepa, an Egyptian courtesan, eighteen hundred years before the coming of our divine Saviour, which proves the antiquity of this pleasant occupation, the extravagant prices which the wise Egyptians paid for their pleasures, and how things deteriorate, seeing that now for a trifle you can have a chemise full of female loveliness in the Rue du Petit-Heulen, at Paris. Is it not abomination?

Never had Madame Imperia appeared so lovely as at this first gala after her mourning. All the princes, cardinals, and others declared that she was worthy the homage of the whole world, which was there represented by a noble from every known land, and thus was it amply demonstrated that beauty was in every place queen of everything.

The envoy of the King of France, who was a cadet of the house of l'Ile Adam, arrived late, although he had never yet seen Imperia, and was most anxious to do so. He was a handsome young knight, much in favour with his sovereign, in whose court he had a mistress, whom he loved with infinite tenderness, and who was the daughter of Monsieur de Montmorency, a lord whose domains bordered upon those of the house of l'Ile Adam. To this penniless cadet the king had given certain missions to the duchy of Milan, of which he had acquitted himself so well that he was sent to Rome to advance the negotiations concerning which historians have written so much in their books. Now if he had nothing of his own, poor little l'Ile Adam relied upon so good a beginning. He was slightly built, but upright as a column, dark, with black, glistening eyes; and a man not easily taken in; but concealing his finesse, he had the air of an innocent child, which made him gentle and amiable as a laughing maiden. Directly this gentleman joined her circle, and her eyes had rested upon him, Madame Imperia felt herself bitten by a strong desire, which stretched the harp strings of her nature, and produced therefrom a sound she had not heard for many a day. She was seized with such a vertigo of true love at the sight of this freshness of youth, that but for her imperial dignity she would have kissed the good cheeks which shone like little apples.

Now take note of this; that so called modest women, and ladies whose skirts bear their armorial bearings, are thoroughly ignorant of the nature of man, because they keep to one alone, like the Queen of France who believed all men had ulcers in the nose because the king had; but a great courtesan, like Madame Imperia, knew man to his core, because she had handled a great many. In her retreat, everyone came out in his true colours, and concealed nothing, thinking to himself that he would not be long with her. Having often deplored this subjection, sometimes she would remark that she suffered from pleasure more than she suffered from pain. There was the dark shadow of her life. You may be sure that a lover was often compelled to part with a nice little heap of crowns in order to pass the night with her, and was reduced to desperation by a refusal. Now for her it was a joyful thing to feel a youthful desire, like that she had for the little priest, whose story commences this collection; but because she was older than in those merry days, love was more fully established in her, and she soon perceived that it was of a fiery nature when it began to make itself felt; indeed, she suffered in her skin like a cat that is being scorched, and so much so that she had an intense longing to spring upon this gentleman, and bear him in triumph to her nest, as a kite does its prey, but with great difficulty she restrained herself. When he came and bowed to her, she threw back her head, and assumed a most dignified attitude, as do those who have a love infatuation in their hearts. The gravity of her demeanour to the young ambassador caused many to think that she had work in store for him; equivocating on the word, after the custom of the time.

L'Ile Adam, knowing himself to be dearly loved by his mistress, troubled himself but little about Madame Imperia, grave or gay, and frisked about like a goat let loose. The courtesan, terribly annoyed at this, changed her tone, from being sulky became gay and lively, came to him, softened her voice, sharpened her glance, gracefully inclined her head, rubbed against him with her sleeve, and called him Monsiegneur, embraced him with the loving words, trifled with his hand, and finished by smiling at him most affably. He, not imagining that so unprofitable a lover would suit her, for he was as poor as a church mouse, and did not know that his beauty was the equal in her eyes to all the treasures of the world, was not taken in her trap, but continued to ride the high horse with his hand on his hips. This disdain of her passion irritated Madame to the heart, which by this spark was set in flame. If you doubt this, it is because you know nothing of the profession of the Madame Imperia, who by reason of it might be compared to a chimney, in which a great number of fires have been lighted, which had filled it with soot; in this state a match was sufficient to burn everything there, where a hundred fagots has smoked comfortably. She burned within from top to toe in a horrible manner, and could not be extinguished save with the water of love. The cadet of l'Ile Adam left the room without noticing this ardour.

Madame, disconsolate at his departure, lost her senses from her head to her feet, and so thoroughly that she sent a messenger to him on the galleries, begging him to pass the night with her. On no other occasion of her life had she had this cowardice, either for king, pope, or emperor, since the high price of her favours came from the bondage in which she held her admirers, whom the more she humbled the more she raised herself. The disdainful hero of this history was informed by the head chamber-women, who was a clever jade, that in all probability a great treat awaited him, for most certainly Madame would regale him with her most delicate inventions of love. L'Ile Adam returned to the salons, delighted at this lucky chance. Directly the envoy of France reappeared, as everyone had seen Imperia turn pale at his departure, the general joy knew no bounds, because everyone was delighted to see her return to her old life of love. An English cardinal, who had drained more than one big-bellied flagon, and wished to taste Imperia, went to l'Ile Adam and whispered to him, "Hold her fast, so that she shall never again escape us."

The story of this remark was told to the pope at his levee, and caused him to remark, Laetamini, gentes, quoniam surrexit Dominus. A quotation which the old cardinals abominated as a profanation of sacred texts. Seeing which, the pope reprimanded them severely, and took occasion to lecture them, telling them that if they were good Christians they were bad politicians. Indeed, he relied upon the fair Imperia to reclaim the emperor, and with this idea he syringed her well with flattery.

The lights of the palace being extinguished, the golden flagons on the floor, and the servants drunk and stretched about on the carpets, Madame entered her bedchamber, leading by the hand her dear lover-elect; and she was well pleased, and has since confessed that so strongly was she bitten with love, she could hardly restrain herself from rolling at his feet like a beast of the field, begging him to crush her beneath him if he could. L'Ile Adam slipped off his garments, and tumbled into bed as if he were in his own house. Seeing which, Madame hastened her preparations, and sprang into her lover's arms with a frenzy that astonished her women, who knew her to be ordinarily one of the most modest of women on these occasions. The astonishment became general throughout the country, for the pair remained in bed for nine days, eating, drinking, and embracing in a marvellous and most masterly manner. Madame told her women that at last she had placed her hand on a phoenix of love, since he revived from every attack. Nothing was talked of in Rome and Italy but the victory that had been gained over Imperia, who had boasted that she would yield to no man, and spat upon all of them, even the dukes. As to the aforesaid margraves and burgraves, she gave them the tail of her dress to hold, and said that if she did not tread them under foot, they would trample upon her. Madame confessed to her servants that, differently to all other men she had had to put up with, the more she fondled this child of love, the more she desired to do so, and that she would never be able to part with him; nor his splendid eyes, which blinded her; nor his branch of coral, that she always hungered after. She further declared that if such were his desire, she would let him suck her blood, eat her breasts—which were the most lovely in the world—and cut her tresses, of which she had only given a single one to the Emperor of the Romans, who kept it in his breast, like a precious relic; finally, she confessed that on that night only had life begun for her, because the embrace of Villiers de l'Ile Adam sent the blood to her in three bounds and in a brace of shakes.

These expressions becoming known, made everyone very miserable. Directly she went out, Imperia told the ladies of Rome that she should die it if she were deserted by this gentleman, and would cause herself, like Queen Cleopatra, to be bitten by an asp. She declared openly that she had bidden an eternal adieu her to her former gay life, and would show the whole world what virtue was by abandoning her empire for this Villiers de l'Ile Adam, whose servant she would rather be than reign of Christendom. The English cardinal remonstrated with the pope that this love for one, in the heart of a woman who was the joy of all, was an infamous depravity, and that he ought with a brief in partibus, to annul this marriage, which robbed the fashionable world of its principal attraction. But the love of this poor woman, who had confessed the miseries of her life, was so sweet a thing, and so moved the most dissipated heart, that she silenced all clamour, and everyone forgave her her happiness. One day, during Lent, Imperia made her people fast, and ordered them to go and confess, and return to God. She herself went and fell at the pope's feet, and there showed such penitence, that she obtained from him remission of all her sins, believing that the absolution of the pope would communicate to her soul that virginity which she was grieved at being unable to offer her lover. It is impossible to help thinking that there was some virtue in the ecclesiastical piscina, for the poor cadet was so smothered with love that he fancied himself in Paradise, and left the negotiations of the King of France, left his love for Mademoiselle de Montmorency—in fact, left everything to marry Madame Imperia, in order that he might live and die with her. Such was the effect of the learned ways of this great lady of pleasure directly she turned her science to the root of a virtuous love. Imperia bade adieu to her admirers at a royal feast, given in honour of her wedding, which was a wonderful ceremony, at which all the Italian princes were present. She had, it is said, a million gold crowns; in spite of the vastness of this sum, every one far from blaming L'Ile Adam, paid him many compliments, because it was evident that neither Madame Imperia nor her young husband thought of anything but one. The pope blessed their marriage, and said that it was a fine thing to see the foolish virgin returning to God by the road of marriage.

But during that last night in which it would be permissible for all to behold the Queen of Beauty, who was about to become a simple chatelaine of the kingdom of France, there were a great number of men who mourned for the merry nights, the suppers, the masked balls, the joyous games, and the melting hours, when each one emptied his heart to her. Everyone regretted the ease and freedom which had always been found in the residence of this lovely creature, who now appeared more tempting than she had ever done in her life, for the fervid heat of her great love made her glisten like a summer sun. Much did they lament the fact that she had had the sad fantasy to become a respectable woman. To these Madame de l'Ile Adam answered jestingly, that after twenty-four years passed in the service of the public, she had a right to retire. Others said to her, that however distant the sun was, people could warm themselves in it, while she would show herself no more. To these she replied that she would still have smiles to bestow upon those lords who would come and see how she played the role of a virtuous woman. To this the English envoy answered, he believed her capable of pushing virtue to its extreme point. She gave a present to each of her friends, and large sums to the poor and suffering of Rome; besides this, she left to the convent where her daughter was to have been, and to the church she had built, the wealth she had inherited from Theodora, which came from the cardinal of Ragusa.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse