The Heptameron, by Marguerite de Navarre

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Tale xlvi. (A).

A Grey Friar named De Vale, being bidden to dinner at the house of the Judge of the Exempts in Angoulême, perceived that the Judge’s wife (with whom he was in love) went up into the garret alone; thinking to surprise her, he followed her thither; but she dealt him such a kick in the stomach that he fell from the top of the stairs to the bottom, and fled out of the town to the house of a lady that had such great liking for those of his Order (foolishly believing them possessed of greater virtues than belong to them), that she entrusted him with the correction of her daughter, whom he lay with by force instead of chastising her for the sin of sloth-fulness, as he had promised her mother he would do. 1

1 Boaistuau and Gruget omit this tale, and the latter replaces it by that numbered XLVI. (B). Count Charles of Angoulême having died on January i, 1496, the incidents related above must have occurred at an earlier date. — L.

In the town of Angoulême, where Count Charles, father of King Francis, often abode, there dwelt a Grey Friar named De Vale, the same being held a learned man and a great preacher. One Advent this Friar preached in the town in presence of the Count, whereby he won such renown that those who knew him eagerly invited him to dine at their houses. Among others that did this was the Judge of the Exempts 2 of the county, who had wedded a beautiful and virtuous woman. The Friar was dying for love of her, yet lacked the hardihood to tell her so; nevertheless she perceived the truth, and held him in derision.

2 The Exempt was a police officer, and the functions of the Juge des Exempts were akin to those of a police magistrate. — Ed.

After he had given several tokens of his wanton purpose, he one day espied her going up into the garret alone. Thinking to surprise her, he followed, but hearing his footsteps she turned and asked whither he was going. “I am going after you,” he replied, “to tell you a secret.”

“Nay, good father,” said the Judge’s wife. “I will have no secret converse with such as you. If you come up any higher, you will be sorry for it.”

Seeing that she was alone, he gave no heed to her words, but hastened up after her. She, however, was a woman of spirit, and when she saw the Friar at the top of the staircase, she gave him a kick in the stomach, and with the words, “Down! down! sir,” 3 cast him from the top to the bottom. The poor father was so greatly ashamed at this, that, forgetting the hurt he had received in falling, he fled out of the town as fast as he was able. He felt sure that the lady would not conceal the matter from her husband; and indeed she did not, nor yet from the Count and Countess, so that the Friar never again durst come into their presence.

3 The French words here are ”Dévaliez, dévaliez, monsieur,” whilst MS. No. 1520 gives, ”Monsieur de Vale, dévalés.” In either case there is evidently a play upon the friar’s name, which was possibly pronounced Vallès or Vallès. Adrien de Valois, it maybe pointed out, rendered his name in Latin as Valesius; the county of Valois and that of Valais are one and the same; we continue calling the old French kings Valois, as their name was written, instead of Valais as it was pronounced, as witness, for instance, the nickname given to Henry III. by the lampooners of the League, “Henri dévalé.” See also post, Tale XLVI. (B), note 2. — M. and Ed.

To complete his wickedness, he repaired to the house of a lady who preferred the Grey Friars to all other folk, and, after preaching a sermon or two before her, he cast his eyes upon her daughter, who was very beautiful. And as the maiden did not rise in the morning to hear his sermon, he often scolded her in presence of her mother, whereupon the latter would say to him — “Would to God, father, that she had some taste of the discipline which you monks receive from one another.”

The good father vowed that if she continued to be so slothful, he would indeed give her some of it, and her mother earnestly begged him to do so.

A day or two afterwards, he entered the lady’s apartment, and, not seeing her daughter there, asked her where she was.

“She fears you so little,” replied the lady, “that she is still in bed.”

“There can be no doubt,” said the Grey Friar, “that it is a very evil habit in young girls to be slothful. Few people think much of the sin of sloth, but for my part, I deem it one of the most dangerous there is, for the body as for the soul. You should therefore chastise her for it, and if you will give me the matter in charge, I will take good care that she does not lie abed at an hour when she ought to be praying to God.”

The poor lady, believing him to be a virtuous man, begged him to be kind enough to correct her daughter, which he at once agreed to do, and, going up a narrow wooden staircase, he found the girl all alone in bed. She was sleeping very soundly, and while she slept he lay with her by force. The poor girl, waking up, knew not whether he were man or devil, but began to cry out as loudly as she could, and to call for help to her mother. But the latter, standing at the foot of the staircase, cried out to the Friar — “Have no pity on her, sir. Give it to her again, and chastise the naughty jade.”

When the Friar had worked his wicked will, he came down to the lady and said to her with a face all afire — “I think, madam, that your daughter will remember my discipline.”

The mother thanked him warmly and then went upstairs, where she found her daughter making such lamentation as is to be expected from a virtuous woman who has suffered from so foul a crime. On learning the truth, the mother had search made everywhere for the Friar, but he was already far away, nor was he ever afterwards seen in the kingdom of France.

 

“You see, ladies, with how much security such commissions may be given to those that are unfit for them. The correction of men pertains to men and that of women to women; for women in the correction of men would be as pitiful as men in the correction of women would be cruel.”

“Jesus! madam,” said Parlamente, “what a base and wicked Friar!”

“Say rather,” said Hircan, “what a foolish and witless mother to be led by hypocrisy into allowing so much familiarity to those who ought never to be seen except in church.”

“In truth,” said Parlamente, “I acknowledge that she was the most foolish mother imaginable; had she been as wise as the Judge’s wife, she would rather have made him come down the staircase than go up. But what can you expect? The devil that is half-angel is the most dangerous of all, for he is so well able to transform himself into an angel of light, that people shrink from suspecting him to be what he really is; and it seems to me that persons who are not suspicious are worthy of praise.”

“At the same time,” said Oisille, “people ought to suspect the evil that is to be avoided, especially those who hold a trust; for it is better to suspect an evil that does not exist than by foolish trustfulness to fall into one that does. I have never known a woman deceived through being slow to believe men’s words, but many are there that have been deceived through being over prompt in giving credence to falsehood. Therefore I say that possible evil cannot be held in too strong suspicion by those that have charge of men, women, cities or states; for, however good the watch that is kept, wickedness and treachery are prevalent enough, and the shepherd who is not vigilant will always be deceived by the wiles of the wolf.”

“Still,” said Dagoucin, “a suspicious person cannot have a perfect friend, and many friends have been divided by suspicion.”

“If you know any such instance,” said Oisille, “I give you my vote that you may relate it.”

“I know one,” said Dagoucin, “which is so strictly true that you will needs hear it with pleasure. I will tell you, ladies, when it is that a close friendship is most easily severed; ’tis when the security of friendship begins to give place to suspicion. For just as trust in a friend is the greatest honour that can be shown him, so is doubt of him a still greater dishonour. It proves that he is deemed other than we would have him to be, and so causes many close friendships to be broken off, and friends to be turned into foes. This you will see from the story that I am minded to relate.”

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 23:09