The Heptameron

Of The Tales of

Margaret, Queen of Navarre

Newly Translated into English from the Authentic Text of M. Le Roux de Lincy

With an Essay upon the Heptameron
by
George Saintsbury, M.A.

Also the Original Seventy-three Full Page Engravings Designed by S. FREUDENBERG

And One Hundred and Fifty Head and Tail Pieces By DUNKER

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Titlepage

Table of Contents

Preface.

Margaret of Angoulême, Queen of Navarre.

I.

Louise of Savoy; her marriage with the Count of Angouleme — Birth of her children Margaret and Francis — Their father’s early death — Louise and her children at Amboise — Margaret’s studies and her brother’s pastimes — Marriage of Margaret with the Duke of Alençon — Her estrangement from her husband — Accession of Francis I. — The Duke of Alençon at Marignano — Margaret’s Court at Alençon — Her personal appearance — Her interest in the Reformation and her connection with Clement Marot — Lawsuit between Louise of Savoy and the Constable de Bourbon.

II.

The Regency of Louise of Savoy — Margaret and the royal children — The defeat of Pavia and the death of the Duke of Alençon — The Royal Trinity — “All is lost save honour” — Margaret’s journey to Spain and her negotiations with Charles V. — Her departure from Madrid — The scheme to arrest her, and her flight on horseback — Liberation of Francis I. — Clever escape of Henry of Navarre from prison — Margaret’s secret fancy for him — Her personal appearance at this period — Marriage of Henry and Margaret at St. Germain.

III.

The retirement of King Henry to Beam — Margaret’s intercourse with her brother — The inscription at Chambord — Margaret’s adventure with Bonnivet — Margaret’s relations with her husband — Her opinions upon love and conjugal fidelity — Her confinements and her children — The Court in Beam and the refugee Reformers — Margaret’s first poems — Her devices, pastorals, and mysteries — The embellishment of Pau — Margaret at table and in her study — Reforms and improvements in Beam — Works of defence at Navarreinx — Scheme of refortifying Sauveterre.

IV.

Margaret’s attachment to her daughter — Refusal of Jane to marry the Duke of Clevés — Intervention of Margaret — The wedding at Châtelherault and the fall of the Constable de Montmorency — Margaret and her husband at Caulerets — The “Heptameron” — Illness and death of Francis I. — Margaret’s anxiety and grief — Her “Marguerites de la Marguerite” — Jane d’Albret’s second marriage — Death of Margaret at Odos or Audaux —— Her funeral at Lescar — Destruction of her tomb.

On the Heptameron, With Some Notice of Precedent Collections of Tales in France, of the Author, and of Her Other Works.

Dedications and Preface,

Prefixed to the First Two Editions of the Tales of the Queen of Navarre.

To the most Illustrious, most Humble, and most Excellent Princess,
Peter Boaistuau, surnamed Launay, To the Reader.
To the most Illustrious and Virtuous Princess, Madame Jane de Foix,
Prologue.

First Day.

Tale I.

The wife of a Proctor, having been pressingly solicited by the Bishop of Sees, took him for her profit, and, being as little satisfied with him as with her husband, found a means to have the son of the Lieutenant-General of Alençon for her pleasure. Some time afterwards she caused the latter to be miserably murdered by her husband, who, although he obtained pardon for the murder, was afterwards sent to the galleys with a sorcerer named Gallery; and all this was brought about by the wickedness of his wife.

Tale II.

The wife of a muleteer of Amboise chose rather to die cruelly at the hands of her servant than to fall in with his wicked purpose.

Tale III.

The Queen of Naples, being wronged by King Alfonso, her husband, revenged herself with a gentleman whose wife was the King’s mistress; and this intercourse lasted all their lives without the King at any time having suspicion of it.

Tale IV.

A young gentleman sought to discover whether the offer of an honour-able love would be displeasing to his master’s sister, a lady of the most illustrious lineage in Flanders, who had been twice widowed, and was a woman of muck spirit. Meeting with a reply contrary to his desires, he attempted to possess her by force; but she resisted him successfully, and by the advice of her lady of honour, without seeming to take notice of his designs and efforts, gradually ceased to regard him with the favour with which she had been wont to treat him. Thus, by his foolhardy presumption, he lost the honourable and habitual companionship which, more than others, he had had with her.

Tale V.

Two Grey Friars, when crossing the river at the haven of Coulon, sought to ravish the boatwoman who was taking them over. She, however, being virtuous and Clever, so beguiled them with words that, whilst promising to grant their request, she deceived them and handed them over to justice. They were then delivered up to their warden to receive such punishment as they deserved.

Tale VI.

An old one-eyed valet in the service of the Duke of Alençon being advised that his wife was in love with a young man, desired to know the truth, and feigned to go away into the country for a few days. He returned, however, so suddenly that his wife, on whom he was keeping watch, perceived how matters stood, and whilst thinking to deceive her, he was himself deceived.

Tale VII.

By the craft and subtlety of a merchant an old woman was deceived and the honour of her daughter saved.

Tale VIII.

A certain Bornet, less loyal to his wife than she to him, desired to lie with his maidservant, and made his enterprise known to a friend, who, hoping to share in the spoil, so aided and abetted him, that whilst the husband thought to lie with his servant he in truth lay with his wife. Unknown to the latter, he then caused his friend to participate in the pleasure which rightly belonged to himself alone, and thus made himself a cuckold without there being any guilt on the part of his wife.

Tale IX.
Tale X.

Second Day.

Prologue.
Tale XI. (A).

Madame de Roncex, while at the monastery of the Grey Friars at Thouars, was constrained to go in great haste to a certain place, and, not looking to see whether the seats were clean, sat down in a filthy spot and befouled both her person and clothes; whereupon crying out for assistance, in the hope that some woman would come and cleanse her, she was waited on by men, who beheld her in the worst plight in which a woman could be found.

Tale XI. (B).

Of the jests made by a Grey Friar in his sermons.

Tale XII.

The Duke of Florence, having continually failed to make known to a certain lady the love he bore her, confided in her brother, and begged his assistance that he might attain his ends. This, after many remonstrances, the brother agreed to give, but it was a lip-promise only, for at the moment when the Duke was expecting to vanquish her whom he had deemed invincible, the gentleman slew him in his bed, in this fashion freeing his country from a tyrant, and saving both his own life and the honour of his house.

Tale XIII.
Tale XIV.

The Lord of Bonnivet, desiring to revenge himself upon a Milanese lady for her cruelty, made the acquaintance of an Italian gentleman whom she loved, but to whom she had never granted anything save fair words and assurances of affection. To accomplish his purpose he gave this gentleman such good advice that the lady granted him what he had so long sought, and this the gentleman made known to Bonnivet, who, having cut both hair and beard, and dressed himself in clothes like those of the other, went at midnight and put his vengeance into execution. Then the lady, having learnt from him the plan that he had devised to win her, promised to desist from loving those of her own nation, and to hold fast to him.

Tale XV.

Through the favour of King Francis, a simple gentleman of the Court married a very rich woman, of whom, however, as much by reason of her extreme youth as of the bestowal of his own heart elsewhere, he made but little account; whereat, after trying every plan to please him, she was so moved with resentment and overcome by despair, that she resolved to console herself with another for the indignities which she endured from her husband.

Tale XVI.

A lady of Milan, widow of an Italian Count, had resolved never again to marry or to love. But for three years she was so earnestly wooed by a French gentleman, that after repeated proof of the steadfastness of his love, she granted him what he had so greatly desired, and they vowed to each other everlasting affection. (l)

Tale XVII.

King Francis, being urged to banish Count William, who was said to have received money to bring about his death, did not suffer it to appear that he had any inkling of the scheme, but played the Count so shrewd a trick that he himself took leave of the King and went into banishment.

Tale XVIII.

A young student of noble birth, being smitten with love for a very beautiful lady, subdued both love and himself in order to achieve his end, and this in spite of many such temptations as might have sufficed to make him break his promise. And so all his woes were turned to joy by a reward suitable to his constant, patient, loyal and perfect love.

Tale XIX.

Pauline, being in love with a gentleman no less than he was with her, and finding that he, because forbidden ever again to speak with her, had entered the monastery of the Observance, gained admittance for her own part into the convent of St. Clara, where she took the veil; thus fulfilling the desire she had conceived to bring the gentleman’s love and her own to a like ending in respect of raiment, condition and manner of life.

Tale XX.

The Lord of Riant, being greatly in love with a widow lady and finding her the contrary of what he had desired and of what she had often declared herself to be, was so affected thereby that in a moment resentment had power to extinguish the flame which neither length of time nor lack of opportunity had been able to quench.

Third Day.

On the Third Day are recounted Tales of the Ladies who have only sought what was honourable in Love, and of the hypocrisy and wickedness of the Monks.

Prologue.
Tale XXI.

Having remained unmarried until she was thirty years of age, Rolandine, recognising her father’s neglect and her mistress’s disfavour, fell so deeply in love with a bastard gentleman that she promised him marriage; and this being told to her father he treated her with all the harshness imaginable, in order to make her consent to the dissolving of the marriage; but she continued steadfast in her love until she had received certain tidings of the Bastard’s death, when she was wedded to a gentleman who bore the same name and arms as did her own family.

Tale XXII.

Sister Marie Heroet, being unchastely solicited by a Prior of Saint-Martin-in-the-Fields, was by the grace of God enabled to overcome his great temptations, to the Prior’s exceeding confusion and her own glory.

Tale XXIII.

The excessive reverence shown by a gentleman of Périgord to the Order of St. Francis, brought about the miserable death of his wife, his little child and himself.

Tale XXIV.

Elisor, having unwisely ventured to discover his love to the Queen of Castile, was by her put to the test in so cruel a fashion that he suffered sorely, yet did he reap advantage therefrom.

Tale XXV.

A young Prince, whilst pretending to visit his lawyer and talk with him of his affairs, conversed so freely with the lawyer’s wife, that he obtained from her what he desired.

Tale XXVI.

By the counsel and sisterly affection of a virtuous lady, the Lord of Avannes was drawn from the wanton love that he entertained for a gentlewoman dwelling at Pampeluna.

Tale XXVII.

A secretary sought the wife of his host and comrade in dishonourable and unlawful love, and as she made show of willingly giving ear to him, he was persuaded that he had won her. But she was virtuous, and, while dissembling towards him, deceived his hopes and made known his viciousness to her husband.

Tale XXVIII.

A secretary, thinking to deceive Bernard du Ha, was by him cunningly deceived.

Tale XXIX.

A parson, surprised by the sudden return of a husbandman with whose wife he was making good cheer, quickly devised a means for saving himself at the expense of the worthy man, who was never any the wiser.

Tale XXX.

A young gentleman, of from fourteen to fifteen years of age, thought to lie with one of his mother’s maids, but lay with his mother herself; and she, in consequence thereof, was, nine months afterwards, brought to bed of a daughter, who, twelve or thirteen years later, was wedded by the son; he being ignorant that she was his daughter and sister, and she, that he was her father and brother.

Fourth Day.

On the Fourth Day are chiefly told Tales of the virtuous patience and long suffering of Ladies to win over their husbands; and of the prudence that Men have used towards Women to save the honour of their families and lineage.

Prologue.
Tale XXXI.

A monastery of Grey Friars was burned down, with the monks that were in it, as a perpetual memorial of the cruelty practised by one among them that was in love with a lady.

Tale XXXII.

Bernage, learning in what patience and humility a German lady submitted to the strange penance laid upon her for her unchastity by her husband, so persuaded the latter that he forgot the past, showed pity to his wife, and, taking her back again, afterwards had by her some very handsome children.

Tale XXXIII.

The hypocrisy of a priest who, under the cloak of sanctity, had got his sister with child, was discovered by the wisdom of the Count of Angoulême, by whose command they both were visited with punishment by law.

Tale XXXIV.

Two Grey Friars, while listening to secrets that did not concern them, misunderstood the language of a butcher and endangered their lives.

Tale XXXV.

The affection of a lady of Pampeluna — who, thinking that there was no danger in spiritual love, had striven to insinuate herself into the good graces of a Grey Friar — was subdued by her husband’s prudence in such wise that, without telling her that he knew aught of the matter, he brought her mortally to hate that which she had most dearly loved, and wholly to devote herself to him.

Tale XXXVI.

By means of a salad a President of Grenoble avenged himself upon one of his clerks with whom his wife was smitten, and so saved the honour of his house.

Tale XXXVII.

The Lady of Loué so influenced her husband by her great patience and longsuffering, that she drew him from his evil ways, and they lived afterwards in greater love than before.

Tale XXXVIII.

A towns-woman of Tours returned so much good for all the evil treatment she had received from her husband, that the latter forsook the mistress whom he was quietly maintaining, and returned to his wife.

Tale XXXIX.

The Lord of Grignaulx freed his house from a ghost which had so tormented his wife that for the space of two years she had dwelt elsewhere.

Tale XL.

The sister of the Count of Jossebelin, after marrying unknown to her brother a gentleman whom he caused to be put to death (albeit except for his lowlier rank he had often desired him for his brother-in-law) did, with great patience and austerity of life, spend the remainder of her days in a hermitage.

Fifth Day.

On the Fifth Day Tales are told of the virtue of those maids and matrons who held their honour in more consideration than their pleasure, also of those who did the contrary, and of the simplicity of certain others.

Prologue.
Tale XLI.

A Grey Friar to whom a maiden had presented herself on Christmas night that he might confess her, laid upon her so strange a penance that she would not submit to it, but rose from before him without having received absolution; but her mistress, hearing of the matter, caused the Grey Friar to be flogged in her kitchen, and then sent him back, bound and gagged, to his Warden.

Tale XLII.

A young Prince set his affections upon a young girl, and although she was of low and poor parentage, he could not, in spite of all his efforts, obtain from her what he had hoped to have. Accordingly, recognising her virtue and honour, the Prince desisted from his attempt, esteemed her highly all his life, and, marrying her to a follower of his own, bestowed great benefits upon her.

Tale XLIII.

Jambicque, preferring the praise of the world to a good conscience, strove to appear before men other than site really was; but her friend and lover discovered her hypocrisy by means of a little chalk-mark, and made known to everybody the wickedness that she was at such pains to hide.

Tale XLIV.(A).

In reward for not having concealed the truth, the Lord of Sedan doubled the alms of a Grey Friar, who thus received two pigs instead of one.

Tale XLIV. (B).

Concerning the subtlety of two lovers in the enjoyment of their love, and the happy issue of the latter.

Tale XLV.

At his wife’s request, an upholsterer of Tours gave the Innocents to his serving-maid, with whom he was in love; but he did so after such a fashion as to let her have what belonged by right only to his wife, who, for her part, was such a simpleton that she could never believe her husband had so wronged her, albeit she had abundant warning thereof from a neighbour.

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.

Tale XLVI.(B).

Concerning a Grey Friar who made it a great crime on the part of husbands to beat their wives.

Tale XLVII.

Two gentlemen lined in such perfect friendship that for a great while they had everything excepting a wife in common, until one was married, when without cause he began to suspect his companion, who, in vexation at being wrongfully suspected, withdrew his friendship, and did not rest till he had made the other a cuckold.

Tale XLVIII.

The older and wickeder of two Grey Friars, who were lodged in an inn where the marriage of the host’s daughter was being celebrated, perceived the bride being led away, whereupon he went and took the place of the bridegroom whilst the latter was still dancing with the company.

Tale XLIX.

Same French gentlemen, perceiving that the King their master was exceedingly well treated by a foreign Countess whom he loved, ventured to speak to her, and sought her with such success, that one after another they had from her what they desired, each, however, believing that he alone possessed the happiness in which all the others shared. And this being discovered by one of their number, they all plotted together to be revenged on her; but, as she showed a fair countenance and treated them no worse than before, they brought away in their own bosoms the shame which they had thought to bring upon her.

Tale L.

Messire John Peter for a long time wooed in vain a neighbour of his by whom he was sorely smitten, and to divert his humour withdrew for a few days from the sight of her; but this brought so deep a melancholy upon him that the doctors ordered him to be bled. The lady, who knew whence his distemper proceeded, then thought to save his life, but did indeed hasten his death, by granting him that which she had always refused. Then, reflecting that she was herself the cause of the loss of so perfect a lover, she dealt herself a sword-thrust that made her a partner in his fate.

Sixth Day.

On the Sixth Day are related the deceits practised by Man on Woman, Woman on Man, or Woman on Woman, through greed, revenge, and wickedness.

Prologue.
Tale LI.

Because he would not have his son make a poor marriage, the Duke of Urbino, contrary to the promise given to his wife, hanged a young maiden by whom his son was wont to inform his sweetheart of the love he bore her.

Tale LII.

An apothecary s man, espying behind him an advocate who was to plague him, and on whom he desired to be revenged, dropped from his sleeve a lump of frozen ordure, wrapped in paper like a sugar-loaf, which a gentleman who was with the advocate picked up and hid in his bosom, and then went to breakfast at a tavern, whence he came forth with all the cost and shame that he had thought to bring upon the poor varlet.

Tale LIII.

By her dissimulation the Lady of Neufchastel caused the Prince of Belhoste to put her to such proof that it turned to her dishonour.

Tale LIV.

Thogas’s wife, believing that her husband loved none but herself, was pleased that her serving-woman should amuse him, and laughed when in her presence he kissed the girl before her eyes, and with her knowledge.

Tale LV.

A merchant’s widow, whilst carrying out her husband’s will, interpreted its purport to the advantage of herself and her children.

Tale LVI.

A pious lady had recourse to a Grey Friar for his advice in providing her daughter with a good husband, for whom she proposed making it so profitable a match that the worthy father, hoping to get the money she intended for her son-in- law, married her daughter to a young comrade of his own. The latter came every evening to sup and lie with his wife, and in the morning returned in the garb of a scholar to his convent. But one day while he was chanting mass, his wife perceived him and pointed him out to her mother; who, however, could not believe that it was he until she had pulled off his coif while he was in bed, and from his tonsure learned the whole truth, and the deceit used by her father confessor.

Tale LVII.

An English lord for seven years loved a lady without ever venturing to let her know of it, until one day, when observing her in a meadow, he lost all colour and control of feature through a sudden throbbing of the heart that came upon him. Then she, showing her compassion, at his request placed her gloved hand upon his heart, whereupon he pressed it so closely, whilst declaring to her the love he had so long borne her, that she withdrew it, leaving in its place her glove. And this glove he afterwards enriched with gems and fastened upon his doublet above his heart, and showed himself so graceful and virtuous a lover that he never sought any more intimate favour of her.

Tale LVIII.

A gentleman, through putting too much trust in the truthfulness of a lady whom he had offended by forsaking her for others just when she was most in love with him, was, by a false tryst, deceived by her, and bemocked by the whole Court.

Tale LIX.

This same lady, finding that her husband took it ill that she should have lovers with whom she amused herself without hurt to her honour, kept close watch upon him, and so discovered how pleasantly he addressed himself to one of her waiting-women. This woman she gained upon, made her consent to what her husband solicited, and then surprised him in such error that to atone for it, he was forced to confess that he deserved greater punishment than herself; by which means she was afterwards able to live as her fancy listed.

Tale LX.

A man of Paris, through not making good inquiry concerning his wife, whom he believed dead, though she was indeed making good cheer with a chanter to the King, married a second wife, whom, after having several children by her and consorting with her for fourteen or fifteen years, he was constrained to leave, in order to take his first wife back again.

Seventh Day.

On the Seventh Day relation is made of such as have done quite contrary to their duty or desire.

Prologue.
Tale LXI.

A husband is reconciled with his wife after she had lived during fourteen or fifteen years with a Canon of Autun.

Tale LXII.

A lady’s tongue tripped so awkwardly whilst she was telling a story, as if of another, to a dame of high degree, that her honour thenceforward bore a stain which she could never remove.

Tale LXIII.

A gentleman’s refusal of an amour that was sought after by all his comrades, was imputed to him as great virtue, and his wife loved him and esteemed him in consequence far more than before.

Tale LXIV.

After a lady had for the space of five or six years made trial of the love that a certain gentleman bore her, she desired to have a still stronger proof of it, and reduced him to such despair that he turned monk, on which account she was not able to win him back again when she would fain have done so.

Tale LXV.

Though the priests of St. John of Lyons would fain have concealed it, the falsity of a miracle was brought to light through an old woman’s folly becoming known.

Tale LXVI.

The Duke of Vendôme and the Princess of Navarre, whilst resting together one afternoon, were surprised by an old serving-woman, who took them for a prothonotary and a damsel between whom she suspected some affection; and, through this fine justicement, a matter, of which intimates were ignorant, was made known to strangers.

Tale LXVII.

A poor woman risked her own life to save that of her husband, whom she forsook not until death.

Tale LXVIII.

An apothecary’s wife, finding that her husband made no great account of her, and wishing to be better loved by him, followed the advice that he had given to a “commère” of his, whose sickness was of the same kind as her own; but she prospered not so well as the other, and instead of love reaped hate.

Tale LXIX.

On finding her husband bolting meal in the garb of her serving-woman, whom he was awaiting in the hope that he would obtain from her what he desired, a certain lady showed such good sense that she was content to laugh and make merry at his folly.

Tale LXX.

The Duchess of Burgundy, not content with the love that her husband bore her, conceived so great an affection for a young gentleman that, when looks and glances were not sufficient to inform him of her passion, she declared it to him in words which led to an evil ending.

Eighth Day.

On the Eighth Day relation is made of the greatest yet truest folliesthat each can remember.

Prologue.
Tale LXXI.

A saddler’s wife, who was grievously sick, was made whole and recovered the power of speech, which for the space of two days site had lost, on seeing her husband holding his serving-maid too familiarly on the bed whilst she herself was drawing to her end.

Tale LXXII.

Whilst engaged in the last deed of charity, the shrouding of a dead body, a monk did also engage with a nun in the deeds of the flesh, and made her big with child.

Appendix. The Supposed Narrators of the Heptameron Tales.

Bibliography.

Frontispiece
Margaret, Queen of Navarre, from a crayon drawing by Clouet, preserved at the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris

Preface.

The first printed version of the famous Tales of Margaret of Navarre, issued in Paris in the year 1558, under the title of “Histoires des Amans Fortunez,” was extremely faulty and imperfect. It comprised but sixty-seven of the seventy-two tales written by the royal author, and the editor, Pierre Boaistuau, not merely changed the order of those narratives which he did print, but suppressed numerous passages in them, besides modifying much of Margaret’s phraseology. A somewhat similar course was adopted by Claude Gruget, who, a year later, produced what claimed to be a complete version of the stories, to which he gave the general title of the Heptameron, a name they have ever since retained. Although he reinstated the majority of the tales in their proper sequence, he still suppressed several of them, and inserted others in their place, and also modified the Queen’s language after the fashion set by Boaistuau. Despite its imperfections, however, Gruget’s version was frequently reprinted down to the beginning of the eighteenth century, when it served as the basis of the numerous editions of the Heptameron in beau langage, as the French phrased it, which then began to make their appearance. It served, moreover, in the one or the other form, for the English and other translations of the work, and down to our own times was accepted as the standard version of the Queen of Navarre’s celebrated tales. Although it was known that various contemporary MSS. were preserved at the French National Library in Paris, no attempt was made to compare Gruget’s faulty version with the originals until the Société des Bibliophiles Français entrusted this delicate task to M. Le Roux de Lincy, whose labours led to some most valuable discoveries, enabling him to produce a really authentic version of Margaret’s admired masterpiece, with the suppressed tales restored, the omitted passages reinstated, and the Queen’s real language given for the first time in all its simple gracefulness.

It is from the authentic text furnished by M. Le Roux de Lincy that the present translation has been made, without the slightest suppression or abridgment. The work moreover contains all the more valuable notes to be found in the best French editions of the Heptameron, as well as numerous others from original sources, and includes a résumé of the various suggestions made by MM. Félix Frank, Le Roux de Lincy, Paul Lacroix, and A. de Montaiglon, towards the identification of the narrators of the stories, and the principal actors in them, with well-known personages of the time. An Essay on the Heptameron from the pen of Mr. George Saintsbury, M.A., and a Life of Queen Margaret, are also given, as well as the quaint Prefaces of the earlier French versions; and a complete bibliographical summary of the various editions which have issued from the press.

It may be supposed that numerous illustrated editions have been published of a work so celebrated as the Heptameron, which, besides furnishing scholars with a favourite subject for research and speculation, has, owing to its perennial freshness, delighted so many generations of readers. Such, however, is not the case. Only two fully illustrated editions claim the attention of connoisseurs. The first of these was published at Amsterdam in 1698, with designs by the Dutch artist, Roman de Hooge, whose talent has been much overrated. To-day this edition is only valuable on account of its comparative rarity. Very different was the famous edition illustrated by Freudenberg, a Swiss artist — the friend of Boucher and of Greuze — which was published in parts at Berne in 1778-81, and which among amateurs has long commanded an almost prohibitive price.

The Full-page Illustrations to the present translation are printed from the actual copperplates engraved for the Berne edition by Longeuil, Halbou, and other eminent French artists of the eighteenth century, after the designs of S. Freudenberg. There are also the one hundred and fifty elaborate head and tail pieces executed for the Berne edition by Dunker, well known to connoisseurs as one of the principal engravers of the Cabinet of the Duke de Choiseul.

The Portrait of Queen Margaret placed as frontispiece to the present volume is from a crayon drawing by Clouet, preserved at the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris.

Ernest A. Vizetelly.

London,
1893.

Explanation of the Initials appended to the Notes.

B.J . . . Bibliophile Jacob, i.e. Paul Lacroix.
D. . . . . F. Dillaye.
F. . . . . Félix Frank.
L. . . . . Le Roux de Lincy.
M. . . . . Anatole de Montaiglon.
Ed. . . . E. A. Vizetelly.

Margaret of Angoulême, Queen of Navarre.

I.

Louise of Savoy; her marriage with the Count of Angouleme — Birth of her children Margaret and Francis — Their father’s early death — Louise and her children at Amboise — Margaret’s studies and her brother’s pastimes — Marriage of Margaret with the Duke of Alençon — Her estrangement from her husband — Accession of Francis I. — The Duke of Alençon at Marignano — Margaret’s Court at Alençon — Her personal appearance — Her interest in the Reformation and her connection with Clement Marot — Lawsuit between Louise of Savoy and the Constable de Bourbon.

In dealing with the life and work of Margaret of Angouleme 1 it is necessary at the outset to refer to the mother whose influence and companionship served so greatly to mould her daughter’s career.

Louise of Savoy, daughter of Count Philip of Bresse, subsequently Duke of Savoy, was born at Le Pont d’Ain in 1477, and upon the death of her mother, Margaret de Bourbon, she married Charles d’Orléans, Count of Angoulême, to whom she brought the slender dowry of thirty-five thousand livres. 2 She was then but twelve years old, her husband being some twenty years her senior. He had been banished from the French Court for his participation in the insurrection of Brittany, and was living in straitened circumstances. Still, on either side the alliance was an honourable one. Louise belonged to a sovereign house, while the Count of Angoulême was a prince of the blood royal of France by virtue of his descent from King Charles V., his grandfather having been that monarch’s second son, the notorious Duke Louis of Orleans, 3 who was murdered in Paris in 1417 at the instigation of John the Bold of Burgundy.

1 This Life of Margaret is based upon the memoir by M, Le Roux de Lincy prefixed to the edition of the Heptameron issued by the Société des Bibliophiles Français, but various errors have been rectified, and advantage has been taken of the researches of later biographers.

2 The value of the Paris livre at this date was twenty sols, so that the amount would be equivalent to about L1400.

3 This was the prince described by Brantôme as a “great débaucher of the ladies of the Court, and invariably of the greatest among them." — Vies des Dames galantes (Disc. i.).

Louise, who, although barely nubile, impatiently longed to become a mother, gave birth to her first child after four years of wedded life. “My daughter Margaret,” she writes in the journal recording the principal events of her career, “was born in the year 1492, the eleventh day of April, at two o’clock in the morning; that is to say, the tenth day, fourteen hours and ten minutes, counting after the manner of the astronomers.” This auspicious event took place at the Château of Angoulême, then a formidable and stately pile, of which nowadays there only remains a couple of towers, built in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Soon afterwards Cognac became the Count of Angoulême’s favourite place of residence, and it was there that Louise gave birth, on September 12th, 1494, to her second child, a son, who was christened Francis.

Louise’s desires were now satisfied, but her happiness did not long remain complete. On January 1st, 1496, when she was but eighteen years old, she lost her amiable and accomplished husband, and forthwith retiring to her Château of Romorantin, she resolved to devote herself entirely to the education of her children. The Duke of Orleans, who, on the death of Charles VIII. in 1498, succeeded to the throne as Louis XII., was appointed their guardian, and in 1499 he invited them and their mother to the royal Château of Amboise, where they remained for several years.

The education of Francis, who had become heir-presumptive to the throne, was conducted at Amboise by the Marshal de Gié, one of the King’s favourites, whilst Margaret was intrusted to the care of a venerable lady, whom her panegyrist does not mention by name, but in whom he states all virtues were assembled. 4 This lady took care to regulate not only the acts but also the language of the young princess, who was provided with a tutor in the person of Robert Hurault, Baron of Auzay, great archdeacon and abbot of St. Martin of Autun. 5 This divine instructed her in Latin and French literature, and also taught her Spanish and Italian, in which languages Brantôme asserts that she became proficient. “But albeit she knew how to speak good Spanish and good Italian,” he says, “she always made use of her mother tongue for matters of moment; though when it was necessary to join in jesting and gallant conversation she showed that she was acquainted with more than her daily bread.” 6

4 Sainte-Marthe’s Oraison funèbre de la Royne de Navarre, p. 22. Margaret’s modern biographers state that this lady was Madame de Chastillon, but it is doubtful which Madame de Chastillon it was. The Rev. James Anderson assumes it was Louise de Montmorency, the mother of the Colignys, whilst Miss Freer asserts it was Anne de Chabannes de Damniartin, wife of James de Chastillon, killed in Italy in 1572. M. Franck has shown, in his edition of the Heptameron, that Anne de Chabannes died about 1505, and that James de Chastillon then married Blanche de Tournon. Possibly his first wife may have been Margaret’s governess, but what is quite certain is that the second wife became her lady of honour, and that it is she who is alluded to in the Heptameron.

5 Odolant Desnos’s Mémoires historiques sur Alençon, vol. ii.

6 Brantôme’s Rodomontades espagnoles, 18mo, 1740, vol. xii. p. 117.

Such was Margaret’s craving for knowledge that she even wished to obtain instruction in Hebrew, and Paul Paradis, surnamed Le Canosse, a professor at the Royal College, gave her some lessons in it. Moreover, a rather obscure passage in the funeral oration which Sainte-Marthe devoted to her after her death, seemingly implies that she acquired from some of the most eminent men then flourishing the precepts of the philosophy of the ancients.

The journal kept by Louise of Savoy does not impart much information as to the style of life which she and her children led in their new abode, the palatial Château of Amboise, originally built by the Counts of Anjou, and fortified by Charles VII. with the most formidable towers in France. 7

7 The Château of Amboise, now the private property of the Count de Paris, is said to occupy the site of a Roman fortress destroyed by the Normans and rebuilt by Foulques the Red of Anjou. When Francis I. ascended the French throne he presented the barony of Amboise with its hundred and forty-six fiefs to his mother, Louise of Savoy.

Numerous authorities state, however, that Margaret spent most of her time in study with her preceptors and in the devotional exercises which then had so large a place in the training of princesses. Still she was by no means indifferent to the pastimes in which her brother and his companions engaged. Gaston de Foix, the nephew of the King, William Gouffier, who became Admiral de Bonnivet, Philip Brion, Sieur de Chabot, Fleurange, “the young adventurer,” Charles de Bourbon, Count of Montpensier, and Anne de Montmorency — two future Constables of France — surrounded the heir to the throne, with whom they practised tennis, archery, and jousting, or played at soldiers pending the time when they were to wage war in earnest. 8

Margaret was a frequent spectator of these pastimes, and took a keen interest in her brother’s efforts whenever he was assailing or defending some miniature fortress or tilting at the ring. It would appear also that she was wont to play at chess with him; for we have it on high authority that it is she and her brother who are represented, thus engaged, in a curious miniature preserved at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. 9 In this design — executed by an unknown artist — only the back of Francis is to be seen, but a full view of Margaret is supplied; the personage standing behind her being Artus Gouffier, her own and her brother’s governor.

8 Fleurange’s Histoire des Choses mémorables advenues du Reigne de Louis XII. et François I.

9 Paulin Paris’s Manuscrits françois de la Bibliothèque du Roi, &c., Paris, 1836, vol. i. pp. 279-281. The miniature in question is contained in MS. No. 6808: Commentaire sur le Livre des Échecs amoureux et Archiloge Sophie.

Whatever time Margaret may have devoted to diversion, she was certainly a very studious child, for at fifteen years of age she already had the reputation of being highly accomplished. Shortly after her sixteenth birthday a great change took place in her life. On August 3rd, 1508, Louise of Savoy records in her journal that Francis “this day quitted Amboise to become a courtier, and left me all alone.” Margaret accompanied her brother upon his entry into the world, the young couple repairing to Blois, where Louis XII. had fixed his residence. There had previously been some unsuccessful negotiations in view of marrying Margaret to Prince Henry of England (Henry VIII.), and at this period another husband was suggested in the person of Charles of Austria, Count of Flanders, and subsequently Emperor Charles V. Louis XII., however, had other views as regards the daughter of the Count of Angoulême, for he knew that if he himself died without male issue the throne would pass to Margaret’s brother. Hence he decided to marry her to a prince of the royal house, Charles, Duke of Alençon.

This prince, born at Alençon on September 2nd, 1489, had been brought up at the Château of Mauves, in Le Perche, by his mother, the pious and charitable Margaret of Lorraine, who on losing her husband had resolved, like Louise of Savoy, to devote herself to the education of her children. 10

10 Hilarion de Coste’s Vies et Éloges des Dames illustres, vol. ii. p. 260.

It had originally been intended that her son Charles should marry Susan, daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Bourbon — the celebrated Peter and Anne de Beaujeu — but this match fell through owing to the death of Peter and the opposition of Anne, who preferred the young Count of Montpensier (afterwards Constable de Bourbon) as a son-in-law. A yet higher alliance then presented itself for Charles: it was proposed that he should marry Anne of Brittany, the widow of King Charles VIII., but she was many years his senior, and, moreover, to prevent the separation of Brittany from France, it had been stipulated that she should marry either her first husband’s successor (Louis XII.) or the heir-presumptive to the throne. Either course seemed impracticable, as the heir, Francis of Angoulême, was but a child, while the new King was already married to Jane, a daughter of Louis XI. Brittany seemed lost to France, when Louis XII., by promising the duchy of Valentinois to Cæsar Borgia, prevailed upon Pope Alexander VI. to divorce him from his wife. He then married Anne of Brittany, while Charles of Alençon proceeded to perfect his knightly education, pending other matrimonial arrangements.

In 1507, when in his eighteenth year, he accompanied the army which the King led against the Genoese, and conducted himself bravely; displaying such courage, indeed, at the battle of Agnadel, gained over the Venetians — who were assailed after the submission of Genoa — that Louis XII. bestowed upon him the Order of St. Michael. It was during this Italian expedition that his mother negotiated his marriage with Margaret of Angoulême. The alliance was openly countenanced by Louis XII., and the young Duke of Valois — as Francis of Angoulême was now called — readily acceded to it. Margaret brought with her a dowry of sixty thousand livres, payable in four instalments, and Charles, who was on the point of attaining his twenty-first year, was declared a major and placed in possession of his estates. 11 The marriage was solemnised at Blois in October 1509.

11 Odolant Desnos’s Mémoires historiques sur Alençon, vol. ii. p. 231

Margaret did not find in her husband a mind comparable to her own. Differences of taste and temper brought about a certain amount of coolness, which did not, however, hinder the Duchess from fulfilling the duties of a faithful, submissive wife. In fact, although but little sympathy would appear to have existed between the Duke and Duchess of Alençon, their domestic differences have at least been singularly exaggerated.

During the first five years of her married life Margaret lived in somewhat retired style in her duchy of Alençon, while her husband took part in various expeditions, and was invested with important functions. In 1513 he fought in Picardy against the English and Imperialists, commanded by Henry VIII., being present at the famous “Battle of Spurs;” and early in 1514 he was appointed Lieutenant-General and Governor of Brittany. Margaret at this period was not only often separated from her husband, but she also saw little of her mother, who had retired to her duchy of Angoulême. Louise of Savoy, as mother of the heir-presumptive, was the object of the homage of all adroit and politic courtiers, but she had to behave with circumspection on account of the jealousy of the Queen, Anne of Brittany, whose daughters, Claude and Renée, were debarred by the Salic Law from inheriting the crown. Louis XII. wished to marry Claude to Francis of Angoulême, but Anne refusing her consent, it was only after her death, in 1514, that the marriage was solemnised.

It now seemed certain that Francis would in due course ascend the throne; but Louis XII. abruptly contracted a third alliance, marrying Mary of England, the sister of Henry VIII. Louise of Savoy soon deemed it prudent to keep a watch on the conduct of this gay young Queen, and took up her residence at the Court in November 1514. Shortly afterwards Louis XII. died of exhaustion, as many had foreseen, and the hopes of the Duchess of Angoulême were realised. She knew the full extent of her empire over her son, now Francis I., and felt both able and ready to exercise a like authority over the affairs of his kingdom.

The accession of Francis gave a more important position to Margaret and her husband. The latter was already one of the leading personages of the state, and new favours increased his power. He did not address the King as “Your Majesty,” says Odolant Desnos, but styled him “Monseigneur” or “My Lord,” and all the acts which he issued respecting his duchy of Alençon began with the preamble, “Charles, by the grace of God.” Francis had scarcely become King than he turned his eyes upon Italy, and appointing his mother as Regent, he set out with a large army, a portion of which was commanded by the Duke of Alençon. At the battle of Marignano the troops of the latter formed the rearguard, and, on perceiving that the Swiss were preparing to surround the bulk of the French army, Charles marched against them, overthrew them, and by his skilful manouvres decided the issue of the second day’s fight. 12 The conquest of the duchy of Milan was the result of this victory, and peace supervening, the Duke of Alençon returned to France.

12 Odolant Desnos’s Mémoires historiques sur Alençon, vol. ii. p. 238.

It was at this period that Margaret began to keep a Court, which, according to Odolant Desnos, rivalled that of her brother. We know that in 1517 she and her husband entertained the King with a series of magnificent fêtes at their Château of Alençon, which then combined both a palace and a fortress. But little of the château now remains, as, after the damage done to it during the religious wars between 1561 and 1572, it was partially demolished by Henry IV. when he and Biron captured it in 1590. Still the lofty keep built by Henry I. of England subsisted intact till in 1715 it was damaged by fire, and finally in 1787 razed to the ground.

The old pile was yet in all its splendour in 1517, when Francis I. was entertained there with jousts and tournaments. At these gay gatherings Margaret appeared apparelled in keeping with her brother’s love of display; for, like all princesses, she clothed herself on important occasions in sumptuous garments. But in every-day life she was very simple, despising the vulgar plan of impressing the crowd by magnificence and splendour. In a portrait executed about this period, her dark-coloured dress is surmounted by a wimple with a double collar and her head covered with a cap in the Bearnese style. This portrait 13 tends, like those of a later date, to the belief that Margaret’s beauty, so celebrated by the poets of her time, consisted mainly in the nobility of her bearing and the sweetness and liveliness spread over her features. Her eyes, nose, and mouth were very large, but although she had been violently attacked with small-pox while still young, she had been spared the traces which this cruel illness so often left in those days, and she even preserved the freshness of her complexion until late in life. 14

13 It is preserved at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, where it will be found in the Recueil de Portraits au crayon par Clouett Dumonstier, &c, fol. xi.

14 Referring to this subject, she says in one of her letters: “You can tell it to the Count and Countess of Vertus, whom you will go and visit on my behalf; and say to the Countess that I am sorely vexed that she has this loathsome illness. However, I had it as severely as ever was known. And if it be that she has caught it as I have been told, I should like to be near her to preserve her complexion, and do for her what Ï did for myself." — Génin’s lettres de Marguerite d’Angoulême, Paris, 1841, p. 374.

Like her brother, whom she greatly resembled, she was very tall. Her gait was solemn, but the dignified air of her person was tempered by extreme affability and a lively humour, which never left her. 15

15 Sainte-Marthe says on this subject: “For in her face, in her gestures, in her walk, in her words, in all that she did and said, a royal gravity made itself so manifest and apparent, that one saw I know not what of majesty which compelled every one to revere and dread her. In seeing her kindly receive every one, refuse no one, and patiently listen to all, you would have promised yourself easy and facile access to her; but if she cast eyes upon you, there was in her face I know not what of gravity, which made you so astounded that you no longer had power, I do not say to walk a step, but even to stir a foot to approach her." — Oraison-funèbre, &c, p. 53.

Francis I. did not allow the magnificent reception accorded to him at Alençon to pass unrewarded. He presented his sister with the duchy of Berry, where she henceforward exercised temporal control, though she does not appear to have ever resided there for any length of time. In 1521, when her husband started to the relief of Chevalier Bayard, attacked in Mézières by the Imperial troops, she repaired to Meaux with her mother so as to be near to the Duke. Whilst sojourning there she improved her acquaintance with the Bishop, William Briçonnet, who had gathered around him Gerard Roussel, Michael d’Arande, Lefèvre d’Etaples, and other celebrated disciples of the Reformation. The effect of Luther’s preaching had scarcely reached France before Margaret had begun to manifest great interest in the movement, and had engaged in a long correspondence with Briçonnet, which is still extant. Historians are at variance as to whether Margaret ever really contemplated a change of religion, or whether the protection she extended to the Reformers was simply dictated by a natural feeling of compassion and a horror of persecution. It has been contended that she really meditated a change of faith, and even attempted to convert her mother and brother; and this view is borne out by some passages in the letters which she wrote to Bishop Briçonnet after spending the winter of 1521 at Meaux.

Whilst she was sojourning there, her husband, having contributed to the relief of Mézières, joined the King, who was then encamped at Fervacques on the Somme, and preparing to invade Hainault. It was at this juncture that Clement Marot, the poet, who, after being attached to the person of Anne of Brittany, had become a hanger-on at the Court of Francis I., applied to Margaret to take him into her service. 16

16 Epistle ii.: Le Despourveu à Madame la Duchesse d’Alençon, in the OEuvres de Clément Marot, 1700, vol. i. p. 99.

Shortly afterwards we find him furnishing her with information respecting the royal army, which had entered Hainault and was fighting there. 17

17 Epistle iii.: Du Camp d’ Attigny à ma dite Dame d’ Alençon, ibid., vol. i. p. 104.

Lenglet-Dufresnoy, in his edition of Marot’s works, originated the theory that the numerous poems composed by Marot in honour of Margaret supply proofs of an amorous intrigue between the pair. Other authorities have endorsed this view; but M. Le Roux de Lincy asserts that in the pieces referred to, and others in which Marot incidentally speaks of Margaret, he can find no trace either of the fancy ascribed to her for the poet or of the passion which the latter may have felt for her. Like all those who surrounded the Duchess of Alençon, Marot, he remarks, exalted her beauty, art, and talent to the clouds; but whenever it is to her that his verses are directly addressed, he does not depart from the respect he owes to her. To give some likelihood to his conjectures, Lenglet-Dufresnoy had to suppose that Marot addressed Margaret in certain verses which were not intended for her. In the epistles previously mentioned, and in several short pieces, rondeaux, epigrams, new years’ addresses, and epitaphs really written to or for the sister of Francis I., one only finds respectful praise, such as the humble courtier may fittingly offer to his patroness. There is nothing whatever, adds M. Le Roux de Lincy, to promote the suspicion that a passion, either unfortunate or favoured, inspired a single one of these compositions.

The campaign in which Francis I. was engaged at the time when Marot’s connection with Margaret began, and concerning which the poet supplied her with information, was destined to influence the whole reign, since it furnished the occasion of the first open quarrel between Francis I. and the companion of his childhood, Charles de Bourbon, Count of Montpensier, and Constable of France. Yielding too readily on this occasion to the persuasions of his mother, Francis intrusted to Margaret’s husband the command of the vanguard, a post which the Constable considered his own by virtue of his office. He felt mortally offended at the preference given to the Duke of Alençon, and from that day forward he and Francis were enemies for ever.

Whilst the King was secretly jealous of Bourbon, who was one of the handsomest, richest, and bravest men in the kingdom, Louise of Savoy, although forty-four years of age, was in love with him. The Constable, then thirty-two, had lost his wife, Susan de Bourbon, from whom he had inherited vast possessions. To these Louise of Savoy, finding her passion disregarded, laid claim, as being a nearer relative of the deceased. A marriage, as Chancellor Duprat suggested, would have served to reconcile the parties, but the Constable having rejected the proposed alliance — with disdain, so it is said — the suit was brought before the Parliament and decided in favour of Louise. Such satisfaction as she may have felt was not, however, of long duration, for Charles de Bourbon left France, entered the service of Charles V., and in the following year (1524) helped to drive the French under Bonnivet out of Italy.

II.

The Regency of Louise of Savoy — Margaret and the royal children — The defeat of Pavia and the death of the Duke of Alençon — The Royal Trinity — “All is lost save honour” — Margaret’s journey to Spain and her negotiations with Charles V. — Her departure from Madrid — The scheme to arrest her, and her flight on horseback — Liberation of Francis I. — Clever escape of Henry of Navarre from prison — Margaret’s secret fancy for him — Her personal appearance at this period — Marriage of Henry and Margaret at St. Germain.

The most memorable events of Margaret’s public life date from this period. Francis, who was determined to reconquer the Milanese, at once made preparations for a new campaign. Louise of Savoy was again appointed Regent of the kingdom, and as Francis’s wife, Claude, was dying of consumption, the royal children were confided to the care of Margaret, whose husband accompanied the army. Louise of Savoy at first repaired to Lyons with her children, in order to be nearer to Italy, but she and Margaret soon returned to Blois, where the Queen was dying. Before the royal army had reached Milan Claude expired, and soon afterwards Louise was incapacitated by a violent attack of gout, while the children of Francis also fell ill. The little ones, of whom Margaret had charge, consisted of three boys and three girls, the former being Francis, the Dauphin, who died in 1536, Charles, Duke of Orleans, who died in 1545, and Henry, Count of Angoulême, who succeeded his father on the throne. The girls comprised Madeleine, afterwards the wife of James V. of Scotland, Margaret, subsequently Duchess of Savoy, and the Princess Charlotte. The latter was particularly beloved by her aunt Margaret, who subsequently dedicated to her memory her poem Le Miroir de l’Ame Pécheresse. While the other children recovered from their illness, little Charlotte, as Margaret records in her letters to Bishop Briçonnet, was seized “with so grievous a malady of fever and flux,” that after a month’s suffering she expired, to the deep grief of her aunt, who throughout her illness had scarcely left her side.

This affliction was but the beginning of Margaret’s troubles. Soon afterwards the Constable de Bourbon, in conjunction with Pescara and Lannoy, avenged his grievances under the walls of Pavia. On this occasion, as at Marignano, the Duke of Alençon commanded the French reserves, and had charge of the fortified camp from which Francis, listening to Bonnivet, sallied forth, despite the advice of his best officers. The King bore himself bravely, but he was badly wounded and forced to surrender, after La Palisse, Lescun, Bonnivet, La Trémoïlle, and Bussy d’Amboise had been slain before his eyes. Charles of Alençon was then unable to resist the advice given him to retreat, and thus save the few Frenchmen who had escaped the arms of the Imperialists. With four hundred lances he abandoned the camp, crossed the Ticino, and reaching France by way of Piedmont, proceeded to Lyons, where he found Louise of Savoy and Margaret.

It has been alleged that they received him with harsh reproaches, and that, unable to bear the shame he felt for his conduct, he died only a few days after the battle. 1

1 See Garnier’s Histoire de France, vol. xxiv.; Gaillard’s Histoire de France, &c. Odolant Desnos, usually well informed, falls into the same error, and asserts that when the Duke, upon his arrival, asked Margaret to kiss him, she replied, “Fly, coward! you have feared death. You might find it in my arms, as I do not answer for myself." — Mémoires historiques, vol. ii. p. 253.

There are several errors in these assertions, which a contemporary document enables us to rectify. The battle of Pavia was fought on February 14th, 1525, and Charles of Alençon did not die till April 11th, more than a month after his arrival at Lyons. He was carried off in five days by pleurisy, and some hours before his death was still able to rise and partake of the communion. Margaret bestowed the most tender care upon him, and the Regent herself came to visit him, the Duke finding strength enough to say to her, “Madam, I beg of you to let the King know that since the day he was made a prisoner I have been expecting nothing but death, since I was not sufficiently favoured by Heaven to share his lot or to be slain in serving him who is my king, father, brother, and good master.” After kissing the Regent’s hand he added, “I commend to you her who has been my wife for fifteen years, and who has been as good as she is virtuous towards me.” Then, as Louise of Savoy wished to take Margaret away, Charles turned towards the latter and said to her, “Do not leave me.”

The Duchess refused to follow her mother, and embracing her dying husband, showed him the crucifix placed before his eyes. The Duke, having summoned one of his gentlemen, M. de Chan-deniers, instructed him to bid farewell on his part to all his servants, and to thank them for their services, telling them that he had no longer strength to see them. He asked God aloud to forgive his sins, received the extreme unction from the Bishop of Lisieux, and raising his eyes to heaven, said “Jesus,” and expired. 2

Whilst tending her dying husband, Margaret was also deeply concerned as to the fate of her captive brother, for whom she always evinced the warmest affection. Indeed, so close were the ties uniting Louise of Savoy and her two children that they were habitually called the “Trinity,” as Clement Marot and Margaret have recorded in their poems. 3

2 From a MS. poem in the Bibliothèque Nationale entitled Les Prisons, probably written by William Philander or Filandrier, a canon of Rodez.

3 See OEuvres de Clément Marot, 1731, vol. v. p. 274; and A. Champoîlion-Figeac’s Poésies de François Ier, &c., Paris, 1847, p. 80.

In this Trinity Francis occupied the highest place; his mother called him “her Cæsar and triumphant hero,” while his sister absolutely reverenced him, and was ever ready to do his bidding. Thus the intelligence that he was wounded and a prisoner threw them into consternation, and they were yet undecided how to act when they received that famous epistle in which Francis wrote — not the legendary words, “All is lost save honour,” but — “Of all things there have remained to me but honour and life, which is safe.” After begging his mother and sister to face the extremity by employing their customary prudence, the King commended his children to their care, and expressed the hope that God would not abandon him. 4 This missive revived the courage of the Regent and Margaret, for shortly afterwards we find the latter writing to Francis: “Your letter has had such effect upon the health of Madame [Louise], and of all those who love you, that it has been to us as a Holy Ghost after the agony of the Passion. . . . Madame has felt so great a renewal of strength, that whilst day and evening last not a moment is lost over your business, so that you need have no grief or care about your kingdom and children.” 5

4 See extract from the Registers of the Parliament of Paris (Nov. 10, 1525) in Dulaure’s Histoire de Paris, Paris, 1837, vol. iii. p. 209; and Lalanne’s Journal d’un Bourgeois de Paris, Paris, 1854, p. 234. The original of the letter no longer exists, but the authenticity of the text cannot be disputed, as all the more essential portions are quoted in the collective reply of Margaret and Louise of Savoy, which is still extant. See Champollion-Figeac’s Captivité de François Ier, pp. 129, 130.

5 Génin’s Nouvelles Lettres de la Peine de Navarre, Paris, 1842, p. 27.

Louise of Savoy was indeed now displaying courage and ability. News shortly arrived that the King had been transferred to Madrid, and that Charles demanded most onerous conditions for the release of his prisoner. At this juncture Francis wrote to his mother that he was very ill, and begged of her to come to him. Louise, however, felt that she ought not to accede to this request, for it would be jeopardising the monarchy to place the Regent as well as the King of France in the Emperor’s hands; accordingly she resolved that Margaret should go instead of herself.

The Baron of St. Blancard, general of the King’s galleys, who had previously offered to rescue Francis while the latter was on his way to Spain, received orders to make the necessary preparations for Margaret’s voyage, of which she defrayed the expense, as is shown by a letter she wrote to John Brinon, Chancellor of Alençon. In this missive she states that the Baron of St. Blancard has made numerous disbursements on account of her journey which are to be refunded to him, “so that he may know that I am not ungrateful for the good service he has done me, for he hath acquitted himself thereof in such a way that I have occasion to be gratified.” 6

6 Génin’s Lettres de Marguerite, &c., p. 193. — Génin’s Notice, ibid., p. 19.

Despite adverse winds, Margaret embarked on August 27th, 1525, at Aigues-Mortes, with the President de Selves, the Archbishop of Embrun, the Bishop of Tarbes, and a fairly numerous suite of ladies. The Emperor had granted her a safe-conduct for six months, and upon landing in Spain she hurried to Madrid, where she found her brother very sick both in mind and body. She eagerly caressed and tended him, and with a good result, as she knew his nature and constitution much better than the doctors. To raise his depressed spirits she had recourse to religious ceremonies, giving orders for an altar to be erected in the room where he was lying. She then requested the Archbishop of Embrun to celebrate mass, and received the communion in company of all the French retainers about the prisoner. It is stated that the King, who for some hours had given no sign of life, opened his eyes at the moment of the consecration of the elements, and asked for the communion, saying, “God will cure me, soul and body.” From this time forward he began to recover his health, though he remained fretful on account of his captivity.

It was a difficult task to obtain his release. The Court and the Emperor were extremely polite, but Margaret soon recognised the emptiness of their protestations of good-will. “They all tell me that they love the King,” she wrote, “but I have little proof of it. If I had to do with honest folks, who understand what honour is, I should not care, but it is the contrary.” 7

7 Lettres de Marguerite, &c., p. 21.

She was not the woman to turn back at the first obstacle, however; she began by endeavouring to gain over several high personages, and on perceiving that the men avoided speaking with her on serious business, she addressed herself to their mothers, wives, or daughters. In a letter to Marshal de Montmorency, then with the King, she thus refers to the Duke del Infantado, who had received her at his castle of Guadalaxara. “You will tell the King that the Duke has been warned from the Court that if he wishes to please the Emperor neither he nor his son is to speak to me; but the ladies are not forbidden me, and to them I will speak twofold.” 8

Throughout the negotiations for her brother’s release Margaret always maintained the dignity and reserve fitting to her sex and situation. Writing to Francis on this subject she says: “The Viceroy (Lannoy) has sent me word that he is of opinion I should go and see the Emperor, but I have told him through M. de Senlis that I have not yet stirred from my lodging without being asked, and that whenever it pleases the Emperor to see me I shall be found there.” 9

8 Lettres de Marguerite, &c., p. 197.

9 Captivité de François Ier, p. 358.

Margaret was repeatedly admitted to the Imperial council to discuss the conditions of her brother’s ransom. She showed as much ability as loftiness of mind on these occasions, and several times won Charles V. himself and the sternest of his Ministers to her opinion. 10

10 Brantôme states that the Emperor was greatly impressed and astonished by her plain speaking. She reproached him for treating Francis so harshly, declaring that this course would not enable him to attain his ends. “For although he (the King) might die from the effects of this rigorous treatment, his death would not remain unpunished, as he had children who would some day become men and wreak signal vengeance.” “These words,” adds Brantôme, “spoken so bravely and in such hot anger, gave the Emperor occasion for thought, insomuch that he moderated himself and visited the King and made him many fine promises, which he did not keep, however.” With the Ministers Margaret was even more outspoken; but we are told that she turned her oratorical powers “to such good purpose that she rendered herself agreeable rather than odious or unpleasant; the more readily as she was also good-looking, a widow, and in the flower of her age." — OEuvres de Brantôme, 8vo, vol. v. (Les Dames illustres).

She highly favoured the proposed marriage between Francis and his rival’s sister, Eleanor of Austria, detecting in this alliance the most certain means of a speedy release. Eleanor, born at Louvain in 1498, had in 1519 married Emanuel, King of Portugal, who died two years afterwards. Since then she had been promised to the Constable de Bourbon, but the Emperor did not hesitate to sacrifice the latter to his own interests.

He himself, being fascinated by Margaret’s grace and wit, thought of marrying her, and had a letter sent to Louise of Savoy, plainly setting forth the proposal. In this missive, referring to the Constable de Bourbon, Charles remarked that “there were good matches in France in plenty for him; for instance, Madame Renée, 11 with whom he might very well content himself.” 12 These words have led to the belief that there had been some question of a marriage between Margaret and the Constable; however, there is no mention of any such alliance in the diplomatic documents exchanged between France and Spain on the subject of the King’s release. These documents comprise an undertaking to restore the Constable his estates, and even to arrange a match for him in France, 13 but Margaret is never mentioned. She herself, in the numerous letters handed down to us, does not once refer to the famous exile, and the intrigue described by certain historians and romancers evidently rests upon no solid foundation. 14

11 Renée, the younger daughter of Louis XII. and Anne of Brittany, subsequently celebrated as Renée of Ferrara.

12 This letter is preserved at the Bibliothèque Nationale, Béthune MSS., No. 8496, fol. xiii.

13 Captivité de Francois Ier, &c., pp. 167-207.

14 Varillas is the principal historian who has mentioned this supposed intrigue, which also furnished the subject of a romance entitled Histoire de Marguerite, Reine de Navarre, &c., 1696.

After three months of negotiations, continually broken off and renewed, Margaret and her brother, feeling convinced of Charles V.’s evil intentions, resolved to take steps to ensure the independence of France. By the King’s orders Robertet, his secretary, drew up letters-patent, dated November 1525 by which it was decreed that the young Dauphin should be crowned at once, and that the regency should continue in the hands of Louise of Savoy, but that in the event of her death the same power should be exercised by Francis’s “very dear and well-beloved only sister, Margaret of France, Duchess of Alençon and Berry.” 15 However, all these provisions were to be deemed null and void in the event of Francis obtaining his release.

It has been erroneously alleged that Margaret on leaving Spain took this deed of abdication with her, and that the Emperor, informed of the circumstance, gave orders for her to be arrested as soon as her safe-conduct should expire. 16 However, it was the Marshal de Montmorency who carried the deed to France, and Charles V. in ordering the arrest of Margaret had no other aim than that of securing an additional hostage in case his treaty with Francis should not be fulfilled.

15 Captivité de François 1er, &c., p. 85.

16 Génin’s Notice in the Lettres de Marguerite, &c., p. 25.

Margaret, pressed by her brother, at last asked for authorisation to leave Spain. By the manner in which the permission was granted she perceived that the Emperor wished to delay rather than hasten her journey. During November she wrote Francis a letter in which this conviction was plainly expressed, and about the 19th of the month she left Madrid upon her journey overland to France.

At first she travelled very leisurely, but eventually she received a message from her brother, advising her to hasten her speed, as the Emperor, hoping that she would still be in Spain in January, when her safe-conduct would expire, had given orders for her arrest. Accordingly, on reaching Medina-Celi she quitted her litter and mounted on horseback, accomplishing the remainder of her journey in the saddle. Nine or ten days before the safe-conduct expired she passed Perpignan and reached Salces, where some French nobles were awaiting her.

Soon after her return to France she again took charge of the royal children, who once more fell ill, this time with the measles, as Margaret related in the following characteristic letter addressed to her brother, still a prisoner in Spain:—

“My Lord, — The fear that I have gone through about your children, without saying anything of it to Madame (Louise of Savoy), who was also very ill, obliges me to tell you in detail the pleasure I feel at their recovery. M. d’Angoulême caught the measles, with a long and severe fever; afterwards the Duke of Orleans took them with a little fever; and then Madame Madeleine without fever or pain; and by way of company the Dauphin without suffering or fever. And now they all are quite cured and very well; and the Dauphin does marvels in the way of studying, mingling with his schooling a hundred thousand other occupations. And there is no more question of passions, but rather of all the virtues; M. d’Orléans is nailed to his book, and says that he wants to be good; but M. d’Angoulême does more than the others, and says things that are to be esteemed rather as prophecies than childish utterances, which you, my lord, would be amazed to hear. Little Margot resembles myself; she will not be ill; but I am assured here that she has very graceful ways, and is getting prettier than ever Mademoiselle d’Angoulême 17 was.”

17 Génin’s Lettres de Marguerite, &c, p. 70. The Mademoiselle d’Angoulême alluded to at the end of the letter is Margaret herself.

Francis having consented to the onerous conditions imposed by Charles V., was at last liberated. On March 17th, 1526, he was exchanged for his two elder sons, who were to serve as hostages for his good faith, and set foot upon the territory of Beam. He owed Margaret a deep debt of gratitude for her efforts to hasten his release, and one of his first cares upon leaving Spain was to wed her again in a fitting manner. He appears to have opened matrimonial negotiations with Henry VIII. of England, 18 but, fortunately for Margaret, without result. She, it seems, had already made her choice. There was then at the French Court a young King, without a kingdom, it is true, but endowed with numerous personal qualities. This was Henry d’Albret, Count of Beam, and legitimate sovereign of Navarre, then held by Charles V. in defiance of treaty rights. Henry had been taken prisoner with Francis at Pavia and confined in the fortress there, from which, however, he had managed to escape in the following manner.

Having procured a rope ladder in view of descending from the castle, he ordered Francis de Rochefort, his page, to get into his bed and feign sleep. Then he descended by the rope, the Baron of Arros and a valet following him. In the morning, when the captain on duty came to see Henry, as was his usual custom, he was asked by a page to let the King sleep on, as he had been very ill during the night. Thus the trick was only discovered when the greater part of the day had gone by, and the fugitives were already beyond pursuit. 19

18 Lettres de Marguerite, &c, p. 31.

19 Olhagaray’s Histoire de Faix, Beam, Navarre, &c, Paris, 1609. p. 487.

As the young King of Navarre had spent a part of his youth at the French Court, he was well known to Margaret, who apparently had a secret fancy for him. He was in his twenty-fourth year, prepossessing, and extremely brave. 20 There was certainly a great disproportion of age between him and Margaret, but this must have served to increase rather than attenuate her passion. She herself was already thirty-five, and judging by a portrait executed about this period, 21 in which she is represented in mourning for the Duke of Alençon, with a long veil falling from her cap, her personal appearance was scarcely prepossessing.

The proposed alliance met with the approval of Francis, who behaved generously to his sister. He granted her for life the enjoyment of the duchies of Alençon and Berry, with the counties of Armagnac and Le Perche and several other lordships. Finally, the marriage was celebrated on January 24th, 1527, at St. Germain-en-Laye, where, as Sauvai records, “there were jousts, tourneying, and great triumph for the space of eight days or thereabouts.” 22

20 He was born at Sanguesa, April 1503, and became King of Navarre in 1517.

21 This portrait is at the Bibliothèque Nationale in the Recueil de Portraits au crayon by Clouet, Dumonstier, &c. (fol. 88).

22 Antiquités de Paris, vol. ii. p. 688.

III.

The retirement of King Henry to Beam — Margaret’s intercourse with her brother — The inscription at Chambord — Margaret’s adventure with Bonnivet — Margaret’s relations with her husband — Her opinions upon love and conjugal fidelity — Her confinements and her children — The Court in Beam and the refugee Reformers — Margaret’s first poems — Her devices, pastorals, and mysteries — The embellishment of Pau — Margaret at table and in her study — Reforms and improvements in Beam — Works of defence at Navarreinx — Scheme of refortifying Sauveterre.

Some historians have stated that in wedding his sister to Henry d’Albret, Francis pledged himself to compel Charles V. to surrender his brother-in-law’s kingdom of Navarre. This, however, was but a political project, of which no deed guaranteed the execution. Francis no doubt promised Margaret to make every effort to further the restitution, and she constantly reminded him of his promise, as is shown by several of her letters. However, political exigencies prevented Francis from carrying out his plans, and in a diplomatic document concerning the release of the children whom Charles held as hostages the following clause occurs: “Item, the said Lord King promises not to help or favour the King of Navarre (although he has married his only and dear beloved sister) in reconquering his kingdom.” 1

The indifference shown by Francis for the political fortunes of his brother-in-law, despite the numerous and signal services the latter had rendered him, justly discontented Henry, who at last resolved to withdraw from the Court, where Montmorency, Brion, and several other personages, his declared enemies, were in favour. Margaret apparently had to follow her husband in his retirement, for Sainte-Marthe remarks: “When the King of Navarre, disgusted with the Court, and seeing none of the promises that his brother-in-law had made him realised, resolved to withdraw to Beam, Margaret, although the keen air of the mountains was hurtful to her health, and her doctors had threatened her with a premature death if she persevered in braving the rigours of the climate, preferred to put her life in peril rather than to fail in her duty by not accompanying her husband.” 2

1 Bibliothèque Nationale, MS. No. 8546 (Béthune), fol. 107.

2 Oraison funèbre, &c, p. 70.

Various biographers express the opinion that this retirement took place in 1529, shortly after the Peace of Cambray, and others give 1530 as the probable date. Margaret, we find, paid a flying visit to Beam with her husband in 1527; on January 7th, 1528, she was confined of her first child, Jane, at Fontainebleau, and the following year she is found with her little daughter at Longray, near Alençon. In 1530 she is confined at Blois of a second child, John, Prince of Viana, who died at Alençon on Christmas Day in the same year, when but five and a half months old. Then in 1531 her letters show her with her mother at Fontainebleau; and Louise of Savoy being stricken with the plague, then raging in France, Margaret closes her eyes at Gretz, a little village between Fontainebleau and Nemours, on September 22nd in that year.

It was after this event that the King and Queen of Navarre determined to proceed to Beam, but so far as Margaret herself is concerned, it is certain that retirement was never of long duration whilst her brother lived. She is constantly to be found at Alençon, Fontainebleau, and Paris, being frequently with the King, who did not like to remain separated from her for any length of time. He was wont to initiate her into his political intrigues in view of availing himself of her keen and subtle mind. Brantôme, referring to this subject, remarks that her wisdom was such that the ambassadors who “spoke to her were greatly charmed by it, and made great report of it to those of their nation on their return; in this respect she relieved the King her brother, for they (the ambassadors) always sought her after delivering the chief business of their embassy, and often when there was important business the King handed it over to her, relying upon her for its definite resolution. She understood very well how to entertain and satisfy the ambassadors with fine speeches, of which she was very lavish, and also very clever at worming their secrets out of them, for which reason the King often said that she helped him right well and relieved him of a great deal.” 3

3 OEuvres de Brantôme, 8vo, vol. v. p. 222.

Margaret’s own letters supply proof of this. She is constantly to be found intervening in state affairs and exercising her influence. She receives the deputies from Basle, Berne, and Strasburg who came to Paris in 1537 to ask Francis I. for the release of the imprisoned Protestants. She joins the King at Valence when he is making preparations for a fresh war against Charles V.; then she visits Montmorency at the camp of Avignon, which she praises to her brother; next, hastening to Picardy, when the Flemish troops are invading it, she writes from Amiens and speaks of Thérouenne and Boulogne, which she has found well fortified.

Francis, however, did not value her society and counsel solely for political reasons; he was also fond of conversing with her on literature, and at times they composed amatory verses together. According to an oft-repeated tradition, one day at the Château of Chambord, whilst Margaret was boasting to her brother of the superiority of womankind in matters of love, the King took a diamond ring from his finger and wrote on one of the window panes this couplet:—

“Souvent femme varie, Bien fol est qui s’y fie.” 4

Brantôme, who declares that he saw the inscription, adds, however, that it consisted merely of three words, “Toute femme varie” (all women are fickle), inscribed in large letters at the side of the window. 5 He says nothing of any pane of glass (all window panes were then extremely small) or of a diamond having been used; 6 and in all probability Francis simply traced these words with a piece of chalk or charcoal on the side of one of the deep embrasures, which are still to be seen in the windows of the château.

4 “Woman is often fickle, Crazy indeed is he who trusts her.”

5 Vies des Dames galantes, Disc. iv.

6 The practice of cutting glass with diamonds does not seem to have been resorted to until the close of the sixteenth century. See Les Subtiles et Plaisantes Inventions de J. Prévost, Lyons, 1584, part i. pp. 30, 31.

Margaret carried her complaisance for her brother so far as to excuse his illicit amours, and she was usually on the best of terms with his favourites. 7 It has been asserted that improper relations existed between the brother and sister, but this charge rests solely upon an undated letter from her to Francis, which may be interpreted in a variety of ways. Count de la Ferrière, in his introduction to Margaret’s record of her expenditure, 8 expresses the opinion that it was penned in 1525, prior to her hasty departure from Spain; while M. Le Roux de Lincy assigns it to a later date, remarking that it was probably written during one of the frequent quarrels which arose between Margaret’s brother and her husband. However, they are both of opinion that the letter does not bear the interpretation which other writers have placed upon it. 9

7 E. Fournier’s L’Esprit dans l’Histoire, Paris, 1860, p. 132 et seq.

8 Livre de Dépenses de Marguerite d’Angoulême, &c. (Introduction).

9 See Lettres de Marguerite, &c., p. 246.

The only really well-authenticated love intrigue in which Margaret was concerned — and in that she played a remarkably virtuous part — was her adventure with the Admiral de Bonnivet, upon which the fourth story of the Heptameron is based. 10 She was certainly unfortunate in both her marriages. Her life with the Duke of Alençon has already been spoken of; and as regards her second union, although contracted under apparently favourable auspices, it failed to yield Margaret the happiness she had hoped for. But four years after its celebration she wrote to the Marshal de Montmorency: “Since you are with the King of Navarre, I have no fear but that all will go well, provided you can keep him from falling in love with the Spanish ladies.” 11 And again: “My nephew, I have received the letters you wrote to me, by which I have learnt that you are a much better relation than the King of Navarre is a good husband, for you alone have given me news of the King (Francis) and of him, without his being willing to give pleasure to a poor wife, big with child, by writing a single word to her.” 12

10 Particulars concerning this adventure will be found in the notes to Tale iv., and also in the Appendix to the present volume (C).

11 Lettres de Marguerite, &c., p. 246.

12 Ibid., p. 248.

In another letter written to the Marshal at the same period she says: “If you listen to the King of Navarre, he will make you commit so many disorders that he will ruin you.” 13 Perhaps these words should not be taken literally; still they furnish cause for reflection when it is remembered that they were written by a woman just turned forty concerning her husband who was not yet thirty years old.

Margaret’s views upon love and the affinity of souls were somewhat singular, but they indicate an elevated and generous nature. In several passages of the Heptameron she has expressed her opinion on these matters, ardently defending the honour of her sex and condemning those wives who show themselves indulgent as regards their husbands’ infidelities. 14 She blames those who sow dissension between husbands and wives, leading them on to blows; 15 and when some one asked her what she understood perfect love to be, she made answer, “I call perfect lovers those who seek some perfection in the object of their love, be it beauty, kindness, or good grace, tending to virtue, and who have such high and honest hearts that they will not even for fear of death do base things that honour and conscience blame.”

13 Lettres de Marguerite, &c, p. 251.

14 Epilogue of Tale xxxvii.

15 Epilogue of Tale xlvi.

In reference to this subject of conjugal fidelity a curious story is told of Margaret. One day at Mont-de-Marsan, upon seeing a young man convicted of having murdered his father being led to execution, she remarked to those about her that it was very wrong to put to death a young fellow who had not committed the crime imputed to him. It was pointed out to her that the judges had only condemned him upon conclusive proofs and the acknowledgments that he himself had made. Margaret, however, persisted in her remark, whereupon some of her intimates begged of her to justify it, for it seemed to them at least singular. “I do not doubt,” she replied, “that this poor wretch killed his mother’s husband, but he certainly did not kill his own father.” 16

Besides being unfortunate as regards her husbands, Margaret was also denied a mother’s privileges. She experienced great suffering at her confinements, 17 and on two occasions she was delivered of still-born infants of the female sex.

16 Gabriel de Minut’s De la Beauté, Discours divers, &c., Lyons, 1587. p. 74.

17 Nouvelles Lettres de Marguerite, pp. 84 and 93.

She had centred many hopes upon her little boy, John, of whom she was confined without accident, but he died, as already stated, in infancy, and this misfortune was a great shock to her, though she tried to conceal it by having the Te Deum sung at the funeral in lieu of the ordinary service, and by setting up in the streets of Alençon the inscription, “God gave him, God has taken him away.” However, from that time forward she never laid aside her black dress, though later on she wore it trimmed with marten’s fur. Her best known portrait 18 represents her attired in this style with the quaint Bearnese cap, which she had also adopted, set upon her head.

18 Bibliothèque Nationale, Recueil de Portraits au crayon, &c., fol. 46.

Not only did Margaret lose her son by death, but she was prevented from enjoying the companionship of her daughter Jane. Francis, who never once lost sight of his own interests, deemed it advisable to possess himself of this child, who was the heiress to the throne of Navarre. Accordingly when Jane was but two years old she was sent by the King to the Château of Plessis-lès-Tours, where she was carefully brought up in strict seclusion.

To the fact that Margaret was never really happy with either of her husbands, and that she was precluded from discharging a mother’s duties, one may ascribe, in part, her fondness for gathering round her a Court in which divines, scholars, and wits prominently figured. The great interest which she took in religious matters, as is shown by so many of her letters, 19 led her to shelter many of the persecuted Reformers in Beam; others she saved from the stake, and frequently in writing to the King and Marshal de Montmorency she begs for the release of some imprisoned heretic.

19 One of these letters, written by her either to Philiberta of Savoy, Duchess of Nemours, or to Charlotte d’Orléans, Duchess of Nemours, both of whom were her aunts, may be thus rendered in English: “My aunt, on leaving Paris to escort the King, Monsieur de Meaux (Bishop Briçonnet), sent me the Gospels in French, translated by Fabry, word for word, which he says we should read with as much reverence and as much preparation to receive the Spirit of God, such as He has left it us in His Holy Scriptures, as when we go to receive it in the form of Sacrament. And inasmuch as Monsieur de Villeroy has promised to deliver them to you, I have requested him to do so, for these words (the Gospels) must not fall into evil hands. I beg, my aunt, that if by their means God grants you some grace, you will not forget her who is above all else your good niece and sister, Margaret.” Fabry’s translation of the Gospels was made in 1523-24.

Margaret’s religious views frequently caused dissension between her and her husband, in whose presence she abstained from giving expression to them. Hilarion de Coste mentions that “King Henry having one day been informed that a form of prayer and instruction contrary to that of his fathers was held in the chamber of the Queen, his wife, entered it intending to chastise the minister, and finding that he had been hurried away, the remains of his anger fell upon his wife, who received a blow from him, he remarking, ‘Madam, you want to know too much about it,’ and he at once sent word of the matter to King Francis.”

It was at Nérac that most of the divines protected by Margaret found a refuge from the persecutions of the Sorbonne. Here she kept court in a castle of which there now only remains a vaulted fifteenth-century gallery formerly belonging to the northern wing. Nérac has, however, retained intact a couple of quaint mediaeval bridges, which Margaret must have ofttimes crossed in her many journeyings. Moreover, the townsfolk still point out the so-called Palace of Marianne, said to have been built by Margaret’s husband for one of his mistresses, and also the old royal baths, which the Queen no doubt frequented.

It was at the castle of Nérac that Margaret’s favourite protégé, the venerable Lefèvre d’Étaples, died at the age of one hundred and one, in the presence of his patroness, to whom before expiring he declared that he had never known a woman carnally in his life. However, he regretfully added that in his estimation he had been guilty of a greater sin, for he had neglected to lay down his life for his faith. Another partisan of the Reform, Gerard Roussel, whom Margaret had almost snatched from the stake and appointed Bishop of Oloron, had no occasion to express any such regret. His own flock speedily espoused the doctrines of the Reformation, but when he proceeded to Mauléon and tried to preach there, the Basques refused to listen to him, and hacked the pulpit to pieces, the Bishop being precipitated upon the flagstones, and so grievously injured that he died.

Beside the divines who sought an asylum at Nérac, there were various noted men of letters, foremost among whom we may class the Queen’s two secretaries, Clement Marot, the poet, and Peter Le Maçon, the translator of Boccaccio’s Decameron. This translation was undertaken at the Queen’s request, as Le Maçon states in his dedication to her, and it has always been considered one of the most able literary works of the period. With Marot and Le Maçon, but in the more humble capacity of valet, at the yearly wages of one hundred and ten livres, there came the gay Bonaventure Despériers, the author of Les Joyeux Devis; 20 other writers, such as John Frotté, John de la Haye and Gabriel Chapuis, were also among Margaret’s retainers.

20 Livre de Dépenses de Marguerite d’Angoulême.

She herself had long practised the writing of verses. It was in 1531, and at Alençon, that she issued her first volume of poems, the Miroir de l’Ame Pécheresse, 21 which created a great stir at the time, for when it was re-issued in Paris by Augereau in 1533 22 the Sorbonne denounced it as unorthodox, and Margaret would have been branded as a heretic if Francis had not intervened and ordered the Rector of the Sorbonne to withdraw the decree censuring his sister’s work. Nor did that content the King, for he caused Noël Béda, the syndic of the Faculty of Theology, to be arrested and confined in a dungeon at Mont St. Michel, where he perished miserably.

21 Brunet’s Manual, 4th ed., vol. iii. p. 275.

22 A second edition also appeared at Alençon in the same year.

Margaret thus gained the day, but the annoyance she had been subjected to doubtless taught her to be prudent, for although she steadily went on writing, sixteen years elapsed before any more of her poems were published. In the meantime various manuscript copies, some of which are still in existence, were made of them, notably one of the poem called “Débat d’Amour” by Margaret, and re-christened “La Coche” by her secretary, John de la Haye, when he subsequently published it in the Marguerites de la Marguerite. This manuscript is enriched with eleven curious miniatures, the last of which represents the Queen handing the volume bound in white velvet 23 to the Duchess of Etampes, her brother’s mistress, whose qualities the poem extols. The Queen of Navarre was on the best of terms with this favourite, to whom in one of her letters she recommends certain servants.

Margaret was not only given to versifying, but was fond of’ framing devices, which she inscribed upon her books and furniture. At one time she adopted as her device a marigold turning towards the sun’s rays, with the motto, “Non inferiora secutus,” implying that she turned “all her acts, thoughts, will, and affections towards the great Sun of Justice, God Almighty.” 24

23 From the Queen’s Livre de Dépenses, published by M. de la Ferrière, we learn that this MS., with the miniatures and binding, cost Margaret fifty golden crowns. It was formerly in the possession of M. Jérôme Pichon, and was afterwards acquired by M. Didot, at the sale of whose library it realised £804. The MS. was recently in the possession of M. de La Roche-la-Carelle.

24 Claude Paradin’s Dévises héroïques, Lyons, 1557, p. 41.

In her Miroir de l’Ame Pécheresse, previously referred to, there figures another device composed merely of the three words “Ung pour tout;” and in the manuscript of “La Coche” presented to the Duchess of Etampes, the motto “Plus vous que moys” is inscribed beneath each of the miniatures. Margaret also composed a series of devices for some jewels which her brother presented to his favourite, Madame de Châteaubriant. Respecting these Brantôme tells the following curious anecdote:—

“I have heard say, and hold on good authority, that when King Francis I. had left Madame de Châteaubriant, his favourite mistress, to take Madame d’Etampes, as one nail drives out another, Madame d’Etampes begged the King to take back from the said Madame de Châteaubriant all the finest jewels that he had given her, not on account of their cost and value, for pearls and precious stones were not then so fashionable as they have been since, but for the love of the fine devices that were engraved and impressed upon them; which devices the Queen of Navarre, his sister, had made and composed, for she was a mistress in such matters.

“King Francis granted the request, and promised that he would do it. Having with this intent sent a gentleman to Madame de Châteaubriant to ask for the jewels, she at once feigned illness, and put the gentleman off for three days, when he was to have what he asked for. However, out of spite, she sent for a goldsmith, and made him melt down all these jewels without exception, and without having any respect for the handsome devices engraved upon them. And afterwards, when the said gentleman returned, she gave him all the jewels converted into gold ingots.

“‘Go,’ said she, ‘and take these to the King, and tell him that since he has been pleased to take back from me that which he had given me so freely, I restore it and send it back in golden ingots. As for the devices, I have impressed them so firmly on my mind and hold them so dear in it, that I could not let any one have and enjoy them save myself.’

“When the King had received all this, the ingots and the lady’s remark, he only said, ‘Take her back all. What I did was not for the value, for I would have restored her that twofold, but for the love of the devices, and since she has thus destroyed them, I do not want the gold, and send it back. She has shown in this matter more courage and generosity than it would have been thought could come from a woman.’” 25

Besides writing verses and framing devices, Margaret, as Brantôme tells us, “often composed comedies and moralities, which were in those days styled pastorals, and which she had played by the young ladies of her Court.” 26

25 OEuvres de Brantôme, 8vo, vol. vii. p. 567.

26 Ibid., 8vo, vol. v. p. 219.

Hilarion de Coste states, moreover, that “she composed a tragi-comic translation of almost the whole of the New Testament, which she caused to be played before the King, her husband, having assembled with this object some of the best actors of Italy; and as these buffoons are only born to give pleasure and make time pass away, in order to amuse the company they invariably introduced rondeaux and virelais against the ecclesiastics, especially the monks and village priests.” 27

27 M. Le Roux de Lincy points out that this statement is exaggerated, for Margaret, instead of turning the whole of the New Testament into verse, merely wrote four Mysteries which mainly dealt with the childhood of Christ.

These performances took place at the Château of Pau, which Margaret and her husband seem to have preferred to that of Nérac, though political reasons often compelled them to fix their abode at the latter. Pau, however, possessed the advantage of a mild climate, necessary for Margaret’s health, besides being delightfully situated on the Bearnese Gave, the view from the château extending over a fertile valley limited by the snow-capped Pyrenees. There had been a château at Pau as early as the tenth century, but the oldest portions of the structure now subsisting date from the time of Edward III., when Pau was the capital of the celebrated Gaston-Phoebus. The château was considerably enlarged and embellished in the fifteenth century, but it was not until after Margaret’s marriage with Henry d’Albret that the more remarkable decorative work was executed. Upon leaving Nérac to reside at Pau, Margaret summoned a number of Italian artists and confided the embellishment of the château to them.28

It was not, however, merely the château which Margaret beautified at Pau. Already at Alençon she had laid out a charming park, which a contemporary poet called a terrestrial paradise,29 and upon coming to reside at Pau she transformed the surrounding woods into delightful gardens, pronounced to be the finest then existing in Europe.30

28 Some of the doors and windows of the château are elaborately ornamented in the best style of the Renaissance, whilst the grand staircase, although dating from Margaret’s time, has vaulted arches, sometimes in the Romanesque and at others in the Gothic style. Entwined on the friezes are the initials H and M (Henry and Margaret), occasionally accompanied by the letter R, implying Rex or Regina. On the first floor of the chateau is the bedroom occupied by Margaret’s husband, remarkable for its Renaissance chimney- piece, and also a grand reception hall, now adorned with tapestry made for Francis I. in Flanders. It was in this latter room that the Count of Montgomery — the same who had thrust out the eye of Henry II. at a tournament, and thereby caused that monarch’s death — acting at the instigation of Margaret’s daughter Jane, assembled the Catholic noblemen of Beam on August 24, 1569, and, after entertaining them with a banquet, had them treacherously massacred. Bascle de Lagrèze’s Château de Pau, Paris, 1854.

29 Le Recueil de l’Antique pré-excellence de Gaule, &c., by G. Le Roville, Paris, 1551 (fol. 74).

30 Hilarion de Coste’s Vies et Éloges des Dames illustres, &c., vol. ii. p. 272.

Some idea of their appearance may be gained from a couple of the miniatures adorning a curious manuscript catechism composed for Margaret and now in the Arsenal Library at Paris.31

31 Manuscrits théologiques français, No. 60, Initiatoire Instruction en la Religion chrétienne, &c. In one of these miniatures the Saviour is represented carrying the cross, followed by Henry of Navarre, his brother Charles d’Albret, Margaret, and other personages, all of whom bear crosses, whilst in the background are some pleasure-grounds with a castle, a little waterfall, and a lake. Another miniature in the same manuscript shows King Henry of Navarre with a flower in his hand, which he seems to be offering to the Queen, who stands in the background among a party of courtiers. The King wears a surtout of cloth of gold, edged with ermine, over a blue jerkin, and a red cap with a white feather. Margaret is also arrayed in cloth of gold, but with a black cap and wimple. She is standing in a garden enclosed by a railing, and adorned with a fountain in the form of a temple which rises among groves and arbours. Beyond a white crenellated wall is a castle which has been identified with that of Pau. On fol. 1 of the same MS. the artist has depicted Queen Margaret’s escutcheon, by which we find that she quartered the arms of France with those of Navarre, Aragon, Castile, Leon, Beam, Bigorre, Evreux, and Albret.

The Court which Margaret kept in turns at Alençon, Nérac, and Pau does not appear to have been so sumptuous and gay as some of her biographers assert. Brantôme mentions that the Queen’s two tables were always served with frugality, and Sainte-Marthe states that “she talked at dinner and supper now of medicine, of food wholesome or unwholesome for the human body, and of objects of nature with Masters Schyron, Cormier, and Esterpin, her expert and learned doctors, who carefully watched her eat and drink, as is done with princes; now she would speak of history or of the precepts of philosophy with other very erudite personages, with whom her house was never unfurnished; at another time she would enter into conversation on her faith and the Christian religion with Monsieur Gerard, Bishop of Oloron. Altogether there was not a single moment that was not employed by her in honest, pleasant, and useful conversation.” 32

The same panegyrist tells us of Margaret’s favourite occupations, mentioning that when she was alone in her room she more often held a book in her hand than a distaff, a pen than a spindle, and the ivory of her tablets than a needle. He then adds: “And if she applied herself to tapestry or other needlework, such as was to her a pleasant occupation, she had beside her some one who read to her, either from a historian or a poet, or some other notable and useful author; or else she dictated some meditation which was written down.” 33

32 Oraison funèbre, &c., p. 60.

33 Ibid., p. 68.

Margaret’s time was far from being wholly occupied in this manner, for she actively assisted her husband in carrying out improvements and reforms in Beam. The result was that the country, naturally good and fertile, but left in bad condition, uncultivated and sterile through the carelessness of its inhabitants, soon changed its appearance owing to the efforts of Henry and his wife. From all the provinces of France labourers were attracted who settled there and improved and fertilised the fields.34

34 Vies el Éloges des Dames illustres, vol. ii. p. 272.

Henry d’Albret also devoted himself to the placing of the country in a proper state of defence, and fortified several of the towns. Navarreinx, commanding the valley of the Gave of Oloron, was virtually rebuilt by him and transformed into a perfect stronghold, as was evidenced during the religious wars, when it successfully withstood the artillery of Terrade, the Catholic commander. Long afterwards, when Vauban inaugurated his new system of fortification, he came to Navarreinx, and on seeing the ramparts raised by Margaret’s husband was so favourably impressed, that instead of levelling them to the ground he contented himself with adding to them and making various improvements. Henry d’Albret was also anxious to refortify Sauveterre, which the Prince of Orange, with one of the Imperial armies, had captured in 1523, when he half-demolished the old castle of Montreal, then the most formidable citadel in Beam. However, as time and money were lacking, Henry had to abandon his plans, and the ruins left by the Imperialists, the ivy-clad keep, and mutilated bridge over the Gave soon fell into irremediable decay.35

35 M. Paul Perret’s Pyrénées françaises, vol. ii. p. 303.

IV.

Margaret’s attachment to her daughter — Refusal of Jane to marry the Duke of Clevés — Intervention of Margaret — The wedding at Châtelherault and the fall of the Constable de Montmorency — Margaret and her husband at Caulerets — The “Heptameron” — Illness and death of Francis I. — Margaret’s anxiety and grief — Her “Marguerites de la Marguerite” — Jane d’Albret’s second marriage — Death of Margaret at Odos or Audaux —— Her funeral at Lescar — Destruction of her tomb.

Whilst Margaret was living amongst divines and scholars at Pau and Nérac, her mind, as her letters indicate, constantly turned to her daughter Jane, whom Aimée de la Fayette, wife of the Bailiff of Caen, was bringing up at Plessis-lès-Tours. Margaret was only able to see Jane at rare intervals during some of her trips to France, and she was mainly indebted to sympathising friends for news of the little Princess’s condition and health. All her maternal tenderness was concentrated on this daughter, and whenever the child was ailing she became distracted.

Sainte-Marthe records that in December 1537, while Margaret was sojourning in Paris, her daughter, then scarcely nine years old, fell seriously ill at the royal house of Plessis-lès-Tours; and as it was rumoured amongst the Court, then at Paris, that the Princess was threatened with death, her virtuous mother, Margaret, at about four o’clock in the evening, ordered her litter to be brought, saying that she would go and see her daughter, and that all her people should prepare to start. There was nothing ready, the officials and servants were absent, and scattered about the town of Paris and the neighbouring villages. It was already dark, for this was during the shortest days of the year, the weather too was adverse on account of the rain, and neither her litter nor her baggage mules were at hand. Seeing this, the courageous Queen borrowed the litter of Madame Margaret, her niece,1 got in it, and contenting herself with scant escort, started from Paris and went as far as Bourg-la-Reine.

1 The daughter of Francis I., subsequently Duchess of Savoy.

“When they had arrived there she did not alight at her lodgings, but went straight to the church, which she at once entered, saying to those about her, that her heart told her I know not what concerning her daughter’s fate, and affectionately begging them all to withdraw and leave her alone for an hour in the church. All obeyed and in great uneasiness waited for their mistress at the church door; the Sénéchale de Poitou,2 a very faithful lady, and very solicitous about Margaret, alone entering with her. Margaret having gone in, kneels down before the image of Jesus crucified, prays to God from the depths of her heart, sighs, weeps, confesses all her transgressions, and laying to herself alone the cause of her daughter’s illness, humbly asks pardon, and begs that the sufferer’s restoration to health may be granted. After this act of faith Margaret felt relieved, and she had scarcely arrived at her lodgings when the Bishop of Mende came to announce to her that her daughter was in the way of recovery.” 3

2 Brantôme’s grandmother.

3 Oraison funèbre, &c, p. 38.

When Jane was barely twelve years old Charles V. asked her in marriage for his son Philip, but Francis, who was by no means anxious to see the Spaniards established on the northern side of the Pyrenees, preferred that the girl should marry William III., Duke of Cleves. It has frequently been asserted that Francis on this occasion exercised compulsion not only upon his niece, but also upon the King and Queen of Navarre, who vainly protested against this abuse of power. The truth is, that Margaret not only favoured the marriage, but threatened to have Jane whipped if she persisted in her refusal. Moreover, the little bride having declared to Francis I. that she protested against the alliance, Margaret wrote to her brother as follows:—

“My Lord, in my extreme desolation, I have only one single comfort, it is that of knowing with certainty that neither the King of Navarre nor myself have ever had any other wish or intention than that of obeying you, not only as regards a marriage, but in whatever you might order. But now, my lord, having heard that my daughter, neither recognising the great honour you do her in deigning to visit her, nor the obedience that she owes you, nor that a girl should have no will of her own, has spoken to you so madly as to say to you that she begged of you she might not be married to M. de Cleves, I do not know, my lord, either what I ought to think of it, or what I ought to say to you about it, for I am grieved to the heart, and have neither relative nor friend in the world from whom I can seek advice or consolation. And the King of Navarre is on his part so amazed and grieved at it that I have never seen him before so provoked. I cannot imagine whence comes this great boldness, of which she had never spoken to us. She excuses herself towards us in that she is more intimate with you than with ourselves, but this intimacy should not give rise to such boldness, without ever as I know seeking advice from any one, for if I knew any creature who had put such an idea into her head, I would make such a demonstration that you, my lord, would know that this madness is contrary to the will of the father and mother, who have never had, and never will have, any other than your own.” 4

The rebellion of Jane did not prevent the marriage, which was solemnised at Châtelherault on July 15th, 1540. According to some authorities, Francis was so determined upon the alliance that he required the Duke of Cleves to enter his bride’s bed in the presence of witnesses, so that the marriage should be deemed beyond annulment.5

4 Nouvelles Lettres, &c., p. 176.

5 Henri Martin’s Histoire de France. The marriage, however, was not really consummated (Nouvelles Lettres, &c., pp. 236, 237), and it was eventually annulled by Pope Paul III., to whom Francis applied for a divorce when the Duke of Cleves deserted his cause for that of Charles V.

It was at Châtelherault on this occasion that Margaret triumphed over the Constable de Montmorency, who in earlier years had been her close friend, and with whom she had carried on such a voluminous correspondence. Montmorency had requited her good services with ingratitude, repeatedly endeavouring to estrange Francis from her. Brantôme gives an instance of this in the following passage:— “I have heard related,” he says, “by a person of good faith that the Constable de Montmorency, then in the highest favour, speaking of this matter of religion one day with the King, made no difficulty or scruple about telling him, that ‘if he really wished to exterminate the heretics of his kingdom, he ought to begin at his Court and with his nearest relatives, mentioning the Queen his sister,’ to which the King replied, ‘Do not speak of her; she loves me too much. She will never believe anything save what I believe, and will never take up a religion prejudicial to the State.’” 6

6 OEuvres de Brantôme, 8vo, vol. v. (Dames illustres), p. 219.

As soon as Margaret became aware of Montmorency’s conduct she ceased all correspondence with him and steadily endeavoured to effect his overthrow, which was brought about on the occasion of Jane’s marriage. “It was necessary to carry the little bride to the church,” says Brantôme, “as she was laden with jewels and a dress of gold and silver, and owing to this and the weakness of her body, was not able to walk. So the King ordered the Constable to take his little niece and carry her to the church, at which all the Court were greatly astonished, for at such a ceremony this was a duty little suited and honourable for a Constable, and might very well have been given to another. However, the Queen of Navarre was in no way displeased, but said, ‘Behold! he who wished to ruin me with the King my brother now serves to carry my daughter to church.’ The Constable,” adds Brantôme, “was greatly displeased at the task, and sorely vexed to serve as such a spectacle to every one; and he began to say, ‘It is now all over with my favour. Farewell to it.’ Thus it happened, for after the wedding festival and dinner he had his dismissal and left at once.” 7

After the marriage of her daughter Margaret returned to Paris, and thence repaired to Mont-de-Marsan to spend the winter of 1540-41. Late in the following spring she went to Cauterets in the Pyrenees to take the baths. Writing during Lent to her brother she states that her husband having had a fall will repair to Cauterets by the advice of his doctors,8 and that she intends to accompany him to prevent him from worrying and to transact his business for him, “for when one is at the baths one must live like a child without any care.” 9

7 OEuvres de Brantôme, 8vo, vol. v. (Dames illustres), p. 220.

8 Henry d’Albret had already undergone treatment at the Pyrenean baths after his escape from Pavia, when, however, he stayed at Eaux-Bonnes.

9 Génin’s Nouvelles Lettres, &c., p. 189.

This was not her only motive in going to Cauterets apparently, for in a letter to Duke William of Cleves, her daughter’s husband, dated April 1541, she states that as she is suffering from a caterre which “has fallen upon half her neck,” and compels her to keep her bed, the doctors have advised her to take “the natural baths,” and hope that she will be cured by the end of May, providing she follows all their prescriptions.10

10 A. de Ruble’s Mariage de Jeanne d’ Albret, Paris, 1877, p. 86, et seq.

That this visit to Cauterets left a deep impression upon the mind of Margaret is evidenced by the work upon which her literary fame rests. The scene selected for the prologue of the Heptameron is Cauterets and the surrounding country; still it is evident that the book was not commenced upon the occasion referred to, for in the prologue Margaret alludes to historical events which took place in 1543 and 1544, and she speaks of them as being of recent occurrence at her time of writing. Now we know that in April 1544 she met her brother at Alençon, and made a long stay in the duchy, and the probability is that she commenced the Heptameron at that time. It was the work of several years, penned in a desultory style whilst Margaret was travelling about her northern duchy or her southern kingdom. Like all persons of high station, she journeyed in a litter, and Brantôme informs us that her equipage was a modest one, for “she never had more than three baggage-mules and six for her two litters, though she had two, three, or four chariots for her ladies.” 11 Brantôme — who it may be mentioned was brought up at Margaret’s Court under the care of his grandmother, Louise de Daillon, wife of Andrew de Vivonne, Seneschal of Poitou — also states that the Queen composed the Heptameron mainly “in her litter, while journeying about, for she had more important occupations when she was at home. I have thus heard it related by my grandmother, who always went with her in her litter as her lady of honour, and held the escritoire with which she wrote, and she set them (the stories) down in writing as speedily and skilfully as if they had been dictated to her, if not more so.” 12

11 Lalanne’s OEuvres de Brantôme, 1875, vol. ii. p. 214.

12 Ibid., vol. viii. p. 226.

In 1545 and 1546 we find Margaret in Beam, whence she addresses New Year epistles to her brother expressing her sorrow at being separated from him. In the spring of the latter year she visits him at Plessis-lès-Tours. The King of France — contrary to all tradition — enjoys at this period as good health as the most robust man in his kingdom.13 In 1547 Margaret repairs to a convent at Tusson in the Angoumois to spend Lent there, and soon afterwards is despatching courier after courier to the Court at Rambouillet for news of Francis, who is dying. Such is her anguish of suspense that she exclaims, “Whoever comes to my door to announce to me the cure of the King my brother, were such a messenger weary, tired, muddy, and dirty, I would embrace and kiss him like the cleanest prince and gentleman in France; and if he lacked a bed and could not find one to repose upon, I would give him mine, and would sleep on the floor for the sake of the good news he brought me.” 14

13 Lettres de Marguerite, &c., p. 473.

14 OEuvres de Brantôme, 8vo, vol. v. p. 233.

No one, however, had the courage to tell her the truth. It was a poor maniac who by her tears gave her to understand that the King was no longer alive. Sainte-Marthe records the incident as follows: “Now the day that Francis was taken away from us (Margaret herself has since told me so), she thought whilst sleeping that she saw him looking pale, and calling for her in a sad voice, which she took for a very evil sign; and feeling doubtful about it, she sent several messengers to the Court to ascertain the condition of the King her brother, but not a single one of them returned to her. One day, her brother having again appeared to her while she was asleep (he had already been dead fifteen days), 15 she asked the members of her household if they had heard any news of the King.

15 Francis I. died March 31, 1547.

“They replied to her that he was very well, and she then went to the church. On her way there she summoned Thomas le Coustellier, a young man of good intelligence and her secretary, and as she was telling him the substance of a letter that she wished to write to a Princess of the Court, to obtain from her some news of the King’s health, she heard on the other side of the cloister a nun, whose brain was somewhat turned, lamenting and weeping loudly. Margaret, naturally inclined to pity, hastened to this woman, asked her why she was weeping, and encouraged her to tell her whether she wished for anything. Then the nun began to lament still more loudly, and looking at the Queen, told her that she was deploring her ill-fortune. When Margaret heard these words she turned towards those who were with her, and said to them, ‘You were hiding the King’s death from me, but the Spirit of God has revealed it to me through this maniac.’ This said, she turned to her room, knelt down, and humbly thanked the Lord for all the goodness He was pleased to show her.” 16

After losing her brother, Margaret remained in retirement at the convent of Tusson. She stayed there, says Brantôme, for four months, leading a most austere life and discharging the duties of abbess. She still continued in retirement on her return to Beam, mainly occupying herself with literary work. It was in 1547, subsequent to the death of Francis, that John de la Haye, her secretary, published at Lyons her Marguerites de la Marguerite, poems which she had composed at various periods, and which De la Haye probably transcribed at her dictation.17

16 Oraison funèbre, &c., p. 103.

17 Sainte-Marthe states that she would sit with two secretaries, one on either side, and dictate poetry to the one and letters to the other.

Margaret’s daughter Jane was at this period at the Court of France, living in extravagant style, as is shown by the letters in which Margaret declares that the Princess’s expenditure is insupportable. She herself spent but little money upon personal needs, though she devoted considerable sums to charity. In October 1548 she emerged from her seclusion to attend the second marriage of her daughter, who now became the wife of Anthony de Bourbon, Duke of Vendôme. From Moulins, where the ceremony took place, Margaret repaired to the Court at Fontainebleau. Here all was changed: there was a new King, and Diana of Poitiers occupied the position of the Duchess of Etampes. After returning to Beam for Christmas, Margaret spent the Lent of 1549 in retreat at Tusson, where she apparently divided her time between prayer and literary labour. She was still writing the Heptameron, as is shown by the sixty-sixth tale, which chronicles an adventure that befell her daughter and Anthony de Bourbon on their marriage trip during the winter of 1548-49. It may be noted, too, that the scene of the sixty-ninth story is laid at the Castle of Odos near Tarbes, and as Margaret came to reside at the castle in the autumn of 1549, this tale was probably written during her sojourn there. Whilst adding fresh stories to the Heptameron, she was not neglecting poetry, for from this period also dates the Miroir de Jésus Christ crucifié, which Brother Olivier published in 1556, stating that it was the Queen’s last work, and that she had handed it to him a few days before her death.

Margaret had long been in failing health and was growing extremely weak. Brantôme, on the authority of his grandmother, states that when her approaching death was announced to her, she found the monition a very bitter one, saying that she was not yet so aged but that she might live some years longer. She was then in her fifty-eighth year. Sainte-Marthe relates that shortly before her death she saw in a dream a very beautiful woman holding in her hand a crown of all sorts of flowers which she showed to her, telling her that she would soon be crowned with it.18

18 Oraison funèbre, &c., p. 104.

She interpreted this dream as signifying that her end was near, and from that day forward abandoned the administration of her property to the King of Navarre, refusing to occupy herself with any other matter than that of her approaching end. After dictating her will she fell into her final illness, which lasted twenty days according to some authorities, and eight according to others. It seized her one night at Odos whilst she was watching a comet, which it was averred had appeared to notify the death of Pope Paul III. “It was perhaps to presage her own,” naively remarks Brantôme, who adds that while she was looking at the comet her mouth suddenly became partially paralysed, whereupon her doctor, M. d’Escuranis, led her away and made her go to bed. Her death took place on December 21st, 1549, and just before expiring she grasped a crucifix that lay beside her and murmured, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.” 19

Although the King of Navarre had not always lived in perfect accord with his wife, he none the less keenly felt the loss he had sustained by her death. Olhagaray represents him when deprived of Margaret as no longer showing the same firm purpose of life, but as sad, discontented, and altering his plans at every trifle.20 He gave orders that Margaret’s remains should be interred in the Cathedral of Lescar, some four and a half miles from the Château of Pau, with which it is said to have been at that time connected by a subterranean passage. Several of the Navarrese sovereigns had already been buried there, for the See was a kind of primacy, the Bishops being ex-officio presidents of the States of Beam.21

19 M. Lalanne, in his edition of Brantôme’s works, maintains that Margaret did not die at Odos, near Tarbes, but at Audaux, near Orthez, basing this contention on the fact that Brantôme calls the castle “Audos in Beam,” and that Odos is in Bigorre. Tradition, however, has always pointed to the latter locality, though, on the other hand, it is stated that less than half a century after Margaret’s death Odos was nothing but a ruin, and had long been in that condition. In 1596 Henry IV. gave the property to John de Lassalle, by whose descendants the château was restored (Bascle de Lagrèze’s Chateau de Pau, &c.).

20 Histoire de Foix et de Béarn, &c., p. 506.

21 Lescar having ceased to be a bishopric since 1790, its church, which still exists, no longer ranks as a cathedral.

It was in this quaint old cathedral church, dating, so archaeologists assert, from the eleventh century, that Margaret’s remains were interred with all due pomp and ceremony. The Duchess of Estouteville headed the procession, followed by the Duke of Montpensier, the Duke of Nevers, the Duke of Aumale, the Duke of Etampes, the Marquis of Maine, and M. de Rohan. Then came the grands deuils or chief mourners, led by the Duke of Vendôme, and three lords carrying the crown, sceptre, and hand of justice. The Viscount of Lavedan officiated as grand master of the ceremonies, and special seats were assigned to the States of Navarre, Foix, Beam, and Bigorre, and to the chancellor, counsellors, and barons of the country; whilst on a platform surrounded by lighted tapers there was displayed an effigy of the Queen robed in black.22 After the ceremony a banquet was served in accordance with Bearnese custom, the chief mourners being invited to the Duke of Vendôme’s table, whilst the others were served in different rooms.23

22 Lettres de Marguerite (Pièces justificatives. No. xi.).

23 Bascle de Lagrèze’s Château de Pau, &c.

A few years later — in June 1555 — the remains of King Henry, Margaret’s husband, were in turn brought to Lescar for burial. The tombs of husband and wife, however, have alike vanished, having been swept away during the religious wars, when Lescar was repeatedly stormed and sacked, when Huguenot and Catholic, in turn triumphant, vented their religious frenzy upon the graves of their former sovereigns; and to-day the only tombs to be found in the old cathedral are those of personages interred there since the middle of the seventeenth century.

January 1893.

On the Heptameron, With Some Notice of Precedent Collections of Tales in France, of the Author, and of Her Other Works.

It is probable that every one who has had much to do with the study of literature has conceived certain preferences for books which he knows not to belong absolutely to the first order, but which he thinks to have been unjustly depreciated by the general judgment, and which appeal to his own tastes or sympathies with particular strength. One of such books in my own case is THE HEPTAMERON of Margaret of Navarre. I have read it again and again, sometimes at short intervals, sometimes at longer, during the lapse of some five-and-twenty years since I first met with it. But the place which it holds in my critical judgment and in my private affections has hardly altered at all since the first reading. I like it as a reader perhaps rather more than I esteem it as a critic; but even as a critic, and allowing fully for the personal equation, I think that it deserves a far higher place than is generally accorded to it.

Three mistakes, as it seems to me, pervade most of the estimates, critical or uncritical, of the Heptameron, the two first of old date, the third of recent origin. The first is that it is a comparatively feeble imitation of a great original, and that any one who knows Boccaccio need hardly trouble himself to know Margaret of Navarre. The second is that it is a loose if not obscene book, disgraceful for a lady to have written (or at least mothered), and not very creditable for any one to read. The third is that it is interesting as the gossip of a certain class of modern newspapers is interesting, because it tells scandal about distinguished personages, and has for its interlocutors other distinguished personages, who can be identified without much difficulty, and the identification of whom adds zest to the reading. All these three seem to me to be mistakes of fact and of judgment. In the first place, the Heptameron borrows from its original literally nothing but plan. Its stories are quite independent; the similarity of name is only a bookseller’s invention, though a rather happy one; and the personal setting, which is in Boccaccio a mere framework, has here considerable substance and interest. In the second place, the accusation of looseness is wildly exaggerated. There is one very coarse but not in the least immoral story in the Heptameron; there are several broad jests on the obnoxious cloister and its vices, there are many tales which are not intended virginibus puerisque, and there is a pervading flavour of that half-French, half-Italian courtship of married women which was at the time usual everywhere out of England. The manners are not our manners, and what may be called the moral tone is distinguished by a singular cast, of which more presently. But if not entirely a book for boys and girls, the Heptameron is certainly not one which Southey need have excepted from his admirable answer in the character of author of “The Doctor,” to the person who wondered whether he (Southey) could have daughters, and if so, whether they liked reading. “He has daughters: they love reading: and he is not the man I take him for if they are not ‘allowed to open’ any book in his library.” The last error, if not so entirely inconsistent with intelligent reading of the book as the first and second, is scarcely less strange to me. For, in the first place, the identification of the personages in the framework of the Heptameron depends upon the merest and, as it seems to me, the idlest conjecture; and, in the second, the interest of the actual tittle-tattle, whether it could be fathered on A or B or not, is the least part of the interest of the book. Indeed, the stories altogether are, as I think, far less interesting than the framework.

Let us see, therefore, if we cannot treat the Heptameron in a somewhat different fashion from that in which any previous critic, even Sainte-Beuve, has treated it. The divisions of such treatment are not very far to seek. In the first place, let us give some account of the works of the same class which preceded and perhaps patterned it. In the second, let us give an account of the supposed author, of her other works, and of the probable character of her connection with this one. In the third, without attempting dry argument, let us give some sketch of the vital part, which we have called the framework, and some general characteristics of the stories. And, in the fourth and last, let us endeavour to disengage that peculiar tone, flavour, note, or whatever word may be preferred, which, as it seems to me at least, at once distinguishes the Heptameron from other books of the kind, and renders it peculiarly attractive to those whose temperament and taste predisposes them to be attracted. For there is a great deal of pre-established harmony in literature and literary tastes; and I have a kind of idea that every man has his library marked out for him when he comes into the world, and has then only got to get the books and read them.

Margaret herself refers openly enough to the example of the Decameron, which had been translated by her own secretary, Anthony le Maçon, a member of her literary coterie, and not improbably connected with the writing or redacting of the Heptameron itself. Nor were later Italian tale-tellers likely to be without influence at a time when French was being “Italianated” in every possible way, to the great disgust of some Frenchmen. But the Italian ancestors or patterns need not be dealt with here, and can be discovered with ease and pleasure by any one who wishes in the drier pages of Dunlop, or in the more flowery and starry pages of Mr. Symonds’ “History of the Renaissance in Italy.” The next few pages will deal only with the French tale-tellers, whose productions before Margaret’s days were, if not very numerous, far from uninteresting, and whose influence on the slight difference of genre which distinguishes the tales before us from Italian tales was by no means slight.

In France, as everywhere else, prose fiction, like prose of all kinds, was considerably later in production than verse, and short tales of the kind before us were especially postponed by the number, excellence, and popularity of the verse fabliaux. Of these, large numbers have come down to us, and they exactly correspond in verse to the tales of the Decameron and the Heptameron in prose, except that the satirical motive is even more strongly marked, and that touches of romantic sentiment are rarer. This element of romance, however, appears abundantly in the long prose versions of the Arthurian and other legends, and we have a certain number of short prose stories of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, of which the most famous is that of Aucassin et Nicolette. These latter, however, are rather short romances than distinct prose tales of our kind. Of that kind the first famous book in French, and the only famous book, besides the one before us, is the Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles. The authorship of this book is very uncertain. It purports to be a collection of stories told by different persons of the society of Louis XI., when he was but Dauphin, and was in exile in Flanders under the protection of the Duke of Burgundy. But it has of late years been very generally assigned (though on rather slender grounds of probability, and none of positive evidence), to Anthony de la Salle, the best French prose writer of the fifteenth century, except Comines, and one on whom, with an odd unanimity, conjectural criticism has bestowed, besides his acknowledged romance of late chivalrous society, Petit Jehan de Saintré (a work which itself has some affinities with the class of story before us), not only the Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles, but the famous satirical treatise of the Quinze Joyes du Mariage, and the still more famous farce of Pathelin. Some of the Nouvelles, moreover, have been putatively fathered on Louis XI. himself, in which case the royal house of France would boast of two distinguished taletellers instead of one. However this may be, they all display the somewhat hard and grim but keen and practical humour which seems to have distinguished that prince, which was a characteristic of French thought and temper at the time, and which perhaps arose with the misfortunes and hardships of the Hundred Years’ War. The stories are decidedly amusing, with a considerably greater, though also a much ruder, vis comica than that of the Heptameron; and they are told in a style unadorned indeed, and somewhat dry, lacking the simplicity of the older French, and not yet attaining to the graces of the newer, but forcible, distinct, and sculpturesque, if not picturesque. A great license of subject and language, and an enjoyment of practical jokes of the roughest, not to say the most cruel character, prevail throughout, and there is hardly a touch of anything like romance; the tales alternating between jests as broad as those of the Reeve’s and Miller’s tales in Chaucer (themselves exactly corresponding to verse fabliaux, of which the Cent Nouvelles are exact prose counterparts, and perhaps prose versions), and examples of what has been called “the humour of the stick,” which sometimes trenches hard upon the humour of the gallows and the torture-chamber. These characteristics have made the Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles no great favourites of late, but their unpopularity is somewhat undeserved. For all their coarseness, there is much genuine comedy in them, and if the prettiness of romantic and literary dressing-up is absent from them, so likewise is the insincerity thereof. They make one of the most considerable prose books of what may be called middle French literature, and they had much influence on the books that followed, especially on this of Margaret’s . Indeed, one of the few examples to be found between the two, the Grand Paragon de Nouvelles Nouvelles of Nicolas de Troyes (1535), obviously takes them for model. But Nicolas was a dull dog, and neither profited by his model nor gave any one else opportunity to profit by himself.

Rabelais, the first book of whose Pantagruel anticipated the Paragon by three years, while the Gargantua coincided with it, was a great authority at the Court of Margaret’s brother Francis, dedicated one of the books (the third) of Pantagruel to her, before her death, in high-flown language, as esprit abstrait, ravy et ecstatic, and must certainly have been familiar reading of hers, and of all the ladies and gentlemen, literary and fashionable, of her Court. But there is little resemblance to be found in his style and hers. The short stories which Master Francis scatters about his longer work are, indeed, models of narration, but his whole tone of thought and manner of treatment are altogether alien from those of the “ravished spirit” whom he praises. His deliberate coarseness is not more different from her deliberate delicacy than his intensely practical spirit from her high-flown romanticism (which makes one think of, and may have suggested, the Court of La Quinte), and her mixture of devout and amatory quodlibetation from his cynical criticism and all-dissolving irony. But there was a contemporary of Rabelais who forms a kind of link between him and Margaret, whose work in part is very like the Heptameron, and who has been thought to have had more than a hand in it. This was Bonaventure Despériers, a man whose history is as obscure as his works are interesting. Born in or about the year 1500, he committed suicide in 1544, either during a fit of insanity, or, as has been thought more likely, in order to escape the danger of the persecution which, in the last years of the reign of Francis, threatened the unorthodox, and which Margaret, who had more than once warded it off from them, was then powerless to avert. Despériers, to speak truth, was in far more danger of the stake than most of his friends. The infidelity of Rabelais is a matter of inference only, and some critics (among whom the present writer ranks himself) see in his daring ridicule of existing abuses nothing inconsistent with a perfectly sound, if liberally conditioned, orthodoxy. Despériers, like Rabelais, was a Lucianist, but his modernising of Lucian (the remarkable book called Cymbalum Mundï), though pretending to deal with ancient mythology, has an almost unmistakable reference to revealed religion. It is not, however, by this work or by this side of his character at all that Despériers is brought into connection with the work of Margaret, who, if learned and liberal, and sometimes tending to the new ideas in religion, was always devout and always orthodox in fundamentals. Besides the Cymbalum Mundi, he has left a curious book, not published, like the Heptameron itself, till long after his own death, and entitled Nouvelles Récréations et Joyeux Devis. The tales of which it consists are for the most part very short, some being rather sketches or outlines of tales than actually worked-out stories, so that, although there are no less than a hundred and twenty-nine of them, the whole book is probably not half the bulk of the Heptameron itself. But they are extremely well written, and the specially interesting thing about them is, that in them there appears, and appears for the first time (unless we take the Heptameron itself as earlier, which is contrary to all probability), the singular and, at any rate to some persons, very attractive mixture of sentiment and satire, of learning and a love of refined society, of joint devotion to heavenly and earthly love, of voluptuous enjoyment of the present, blended and shadowed with a sense of the night that cometh, which delights us in the prose of the Heptameron, and in the verse not only of all the Pléiade poets in France, but of Spenser, Donne, and some of their followers in England. The scale of the stories, which are sometimes mere anecdotes, is so small, the room for miscellaneous discourse in them is so scanty, and the absence of any connecting links, such as those of Margaret’s own plan, checks the expression of personal feeling so much, that it is only occasionally that this cast of thought can be perceived. But it is there, and its presence is an important element in determining the question of the exact authorship of the Heptameron itself.

It can hardly be said that, except translations from the Italian (of which the close intercourse between France and Italy in the days of the later Valois produced many), Margaret had many other examples before her. For such a book as the Propos Rustiques of Noël du Fail, though published before her death, is not likely to have exercised any influence over her; and most other books of the kind are later than her own. One such (for, despite its bizarre title and its distinct intention of attacking the Roman Church, Henry Estienne’s Apologie pour Hérodote is really a collection of stories) deserves mention, not because of its influence upon the Queen of Navarre, but because of the Queen of Navarre’s influence upon it. Estienne is constantly quoting the Heptameron, and though to a certain extent the inveteracy with which the friars are attacked here must have given the book a special attraction for him, two things may be gathered from his quotations and attributions. The first is that the book was a very popular one; the second, that there was no doubt among well-informed persons, of whom and in whose company Estienne most certainly was, that the Heptameron was in more than name the work of its supposed author.

From what went before it Margaret could, and could not, borrow certain well-defined things. Models both Italian and French gave her the scheme of including a large number of short and curtly, but not skimpingly, told stories in one general framework, and of subdividing them into groups dealing more or less with the same subject or class of subject. She had also in her predecessors the example of drawing largely on that perennial and somewhat facile source of laughter — the putting together of incidents and phrases which even by those who laugh at them are regarded as indecorous. But of this expedient she availed herself rather less than any of her forerunners. She had further the example of a generally satirical intent; but here, too, she was not content merely to follow, and her satire is, for the most part, limited to the corruptions and abuses of the monastic orders. It can hardly be said that any of the other stock subjects, lawyers, doctors, citizens, even husbands (for she is less satirical on marriage than encomiastic of love), are dealt with much by her. She found also in some, but chiefly in older books of the Chartier and still earlier traditions, and rather in Italian than in French, a certain strain of romance proper and of adventure; but of this also she availed herself but rarely. What she did not find in any example (unless, and then but partially, in the example of her own servant, Bonaventure Des-périers) was first the interweaving of a great deal not merely of formal religious exercise, but of positive religious devotion in her work; and secondly, the infusing into it of the peculiar Renaissance contrast, so often to be noticed, of love and death, passion and piety, voluptuous enjoyment and sombre anticipation.

But it is now time to say a little more about the personality and work of this lady, whose name all this time we have been using freely, and who was indeed a very notable person quite independently of her literary work. Nor was she in literature by any means an unnotable one, quite independently of the collection of unfinished stories, which, after receiving at its first posthumous publication the not particularly appropriate title of Les Amants Fortunés, was more fortunately re-named, albeit by something of a bull (for there is the beginning of an eighth day as well as the full complement of the seven), the Heptameron.

Few ladies have been known in history by more and more confusing titles than the author of the Heptameron, the confusion arising partly from the fact that she had a niece and a great-niece of the same charming Christian name as herself. The second Margaret de Valois (the most appropriate name of all three, as it was theirs by family right) was the daughter of Francis I., the patroness of Ronsard, and, somewhat late in life, the wife of the Duke of Savoy — a marriage which, as the bride carried with her a dowry of territory, was not popular, and brought some coarse jests on her. Not much is said of her personal appearance after her infancy; but she inherited her aunt’s literary tastes, if not her literary powers, and gave Ronsard powerful support in his early days. The third was the daughter of Henry II., the “Grosse Margot” of her brother, Henry III., the “Reine Margot” of Dumas’ novel, the idol of Brantôme, the first wife of Henry IV., the beloved of Guise, La Mole, and a long succession of gallants, the rival of her sister-in-law Mary Stuart, not in misfortunes, but as the most beautiful, gracious, learned, accomplished, and amiable of the ladies of her time. This Margaret would have been an almost perfect heroine of romance (for she had every good quality except chastity), if she had not unluckily lived rather too long.

Her great-aunt, our present subject, was not the equal of her great-niece in beauty, her portraits being rendered uncomely by a portentously long nose, longer even than Mrs. Siddons’s, and by a very curious expression of the eyes, going near to slyness. But the face is one which can be imagined as much more beautiful than it seems in the not very attractive portraiture of the time, and her actual attractions are attested by her contemporaries with something more than the homage-to-order which literary men have never failed to pay to ladies who are patronesses of letters. Besides Margaret of Valois, she is known as Margaret of Angoulême, from her place of birth and her father’s title; Margaret of Alençon, from the fief of her first husband; Margaret of Navarre, of which country, like her grand-niece, she was queen, by her second marriage with Henry d’Albret; and even Margaret of Orleans, as belonging to the Orleans branch of the royal house. She was not, like her nieces, Margaret of France, as her father never reigned, and Brantôme properly denies her the title, but others sometimes give it. When it is necessary to call her anything besides the simple “Margaret,” Angoulême is at once the most appropriate and the most distinctive designation. She was born on the 11th or 12th of April 1492, her father being Charles, Count of Angoulême, and her mother Louise of Savoy. She was their eldest child, and two years older than her brother, the future King Francis. According to, and even in excess of, the custom of the age, she received a very learned education, acquiring not merely the three tongues, French, Italian, and Spanish, which were all in common use at the French Court during her time, but Latin, and even a little Greek and a little Hebrew. She lived in the provinces both before and after her marriage, in 1509, to her relation, Charles, Duke of Alençon, who was older than herself by three years, and though a fair soldier and an inoffensive person, was apparently of little talents and not particularly amiable. The accession of her brother to the throne opened a much more brilliant career to her. She and her mother jointly exercised great influence over Francis; and the Duchess of Alençon, to whom her brother shortly afterwards gave Berry, was for many years one of the most influential persons in the kingdom, using her influence almost invariably for good. Her husband died soon after Pavia, and in the same year (September 1525) she undertook a journey to Spain on behalf of her captive brother. This journey, with some expressions in her letters and in Brantôme, has been wrested by some critics in order to prove that her affection for Francis was warmer than it ought to have been — an imputation wanton in both senses of the word.

She was sought in marriage by or offered in marriage to divers distinguished persons during her widowhood, and this was also the time of her principal diplomatic exercise, an office for which — odd as it now seems for a woman — she had, like her mother, like her niece Catherine of Medicis, like her namesake Margaret of Parma, and like other ladies of the age, a very considerable aptitude and reputation. When she at last married, the match was not a brilliant one, though it proved, contrary to immediate probability, to be the source of the last and the most glorious branch of the royal dynasty of France. The bridegroom bore indeed the title of King of Navarre and possessed Beam, but his kingdom had long been in Spanish hands, and but for his wife’s dowry of Alençon and appanage of Berry (to which Francis had added Armagnac and a large pension) he would have been but a lackland. Furthermore, he was eleven years younger than herself, and it is at least insinuated that the affection, if there was any, was chiefly on her side. At any rate, this earlier Henry of Navarre seems to have had not a few of the characteristics of his grandson, together with a violence and brutality which, to do the Vert Galant justice, formed no part of his character. The only son of the marriage died young, and a girl, Jane d’Albret, mother of the great Bourbon race of the next two centuries, was taken away from her parents by “reasons of state” for a time. The domestic life of Margaret, however, concerns us but little, except in one way. Her husband disliked administration, and she was the principal ruler in their rather extensive estates or dominions. Moreover, she was able at her quasi-Court to extend the literary coteries which she had already begun to form at Paris. The patronage to men of letters for which her brother is famous was certainly more due to her than to himself; and to her also was due the partial toleration of religious liberty which for a time distinguished his reign. It was not till her influence was weakened that intolerance prevailed, and she was able even then for a time to save Marot and other distinguished persons from persecution. It is rather a moot-point how far she inclined to the Reformed doctrines, properly so called. Her letters, her serious and poetical work, and even the Heptameron itself, show a fervently pietistic spirit, and occasionally seem to testify to a distinct inclination towards Protestantism, which is also positively attested by Brantôme and others; but this Protestantism must have been, so far as it was consistent and definite at all, the Protestantism of Erasmus rather than of Luther, of Rabelais rather than of Calvin. She had a very strong objection to the coarseness, the vices, the idleness, the brutish ignorance of the cloister; she had aspirations after a more spiritual form of religion than the ordinary Catholicism of her day provided, and as a strong politician she may have had something of that Gallicanism which has always been well marked in some of the best Frenchmen, and which at one time nearly prevailed with her great-great-grandson, Louis XIV. But there is no doubt that, as her brother said to the fanatical Montmorency, she would always have been and always was of his religion, the religion of the State. The side of the Reformation which must have most appealed to her was neither its austere morals, nor its bare ritual, nor its doctrines, properly so called, but its spiritual pietism and its connection with profane learning and letters; for of literature Margaret was an ardent devotee and a constant practitioner.

Her best days were done by the time of her second marriage. After the King’s return from Spain persecution broke out, and Margaret’s influence became more and more weak to stop it. As early as 1533 her own Miroir de l’Ame Pécheresse, then in a second edition, provoked the fanaticism of the Sorbonne, and the King had to interfere in person to protect his sister’s work and herself from gross insult. The Medici marriage increased the persecuting tendency, and for a time there was even an attempt to suppress printing, and with it all that new literature which was the Queen’s delight. She was herself in some danger, but Francis had not sunk so low as to permit any actual attack to be made on her. Yet all the last years of her life were unhappy, though she continued to keep Court at Nérac in Pau, to accompany her brother in his progresses, and, as we know from documents, to play Lady Bountiful over a wide area of France. Her husband appears to have been rather at variance with her; and her daughter, who married first, and in name only, the Duke of Cleves in 1540, and later (1548) Anthony de Bourbon, was also not on cordial terms with her mother. By the date of this second marriage Francis was dead, and though he had for many years been anything but wholly kind, Margaret’s good days were now in truth done. Her nephew Henry left her in possession of her revenues, but does not seem to have been very affectionately disposed towards her; and even had she been inclined to attempt any recovery of influence, his wife and his mistress, Catherine de Medici and Diana of Poitiers, two women as different from Margaret as they were from one another, would certainly have prevented her from obtaining it. As a matter of fact, however, she had long been in ill-health, and her brother’s death seems to have dealt her the final stroke. She survived it two years, even as she had been born two years before him, and died on the 21 st December 1549, at the Castle of Odos, near Tarbes, having lived in almost complete retirement for a considerable time. Her husband is said to have regretted her dead more than he loved her living, and her literary admirers, such of them as death and exile had spared, were not ungrateful. Tombeaux, or collections of funeral verses, were not lacking, the first being in Latin, and, oddly enough, nominally by three English sisters, Anne, Margaret, and Jane Seymour, nieces of Henry VIII.’s queen and Edward VI.’s mother, with learned persons like Dorât, Sainte-Marthe, and Baïf. This was re-issued in French and in a fuller form later.

Some reference has been made to an atrocious slur cast without a shred of evidence on her moral character. There is as little foundation for more general though milder charges of laxity. It is admitted that she had little love for her first husband, and it seems to be probable that her second had not much love for her. She was certainly addressed in gallant strains by men of letters, the most audacious being Clement Marot; but the almost universal reference of the well-known and delightful lines beginning —

“Un doux nenny avec un doux sourire,”

to her method of dealing not merely with this lover but with others, argues a general confidence in her being a virtuous coquette, if somewhat coquettishly virtuous. It may be added that the whole tone of the Heptameron points to a very similar conclusion.

Her literary work was very considerable, and it falls under three divisions: letters, the book before us, and the very curious and interesting collection of poems known by the charming if fantastic title of Les Marguerites de la Marguerite des Princesses, a play on the meanings, daisy, pearl, and Margaret, which had been popular in the artificial school of French poetry since the end of the thirteenth century in a vast number of forms.

The letters are naturally of the very first importance for determining the character of Margaret’s life as a woman of business, a diplomatist, and so forth. They show her to us in all these capacities, and also in that of an enlightened and always ready patroness of letters and of men of letters. Further, they are of value, though their value is somewhat affected by a reservation to be made immediately, as to her mental and moral characteristics. But they are not of literary interest at all equal to that of either of the other divisions. They are, if not spoilt, still not improved, by the fact that the art of easy letter-writing, in which Frenchwomen of the next century were to show themselves such proficients, had not yet been developed, and that most of them are couched in a heavy, laborious, semiofficial style, which smells, as far as mere style goes, of the cumbrous refinements of the rhétoriqueurs, in whose flourishing time Margaret herself grew up, and which conceals the writer’s sentiments under elaborate forms of ceremonial courtesy. Something at least of the groundless scandal before referred to is derived in all probability, if not in all certainty, from the lavish use of hyperbole in addressing her brother; and generally speaking, the rebuke of the Queen to Polonius, “More matter with less art,” is applicable to the whole correspondence.

Something of the same evil influence is shown in the Marguerites. It must be remembered that the writer died before the Pléiade movement had been fully started, and that she was older by five years than Marot, the only one of her own contemporaries and her own literary circle who attained to a poetic style easier, freer, and more genuine than the cumbrous rhetoric, partly derived from the allegorising style of the Roman de la Rose and its followers, partly influenced by corrupt following of the re-discovered and scarcely yet understood classics, partly alloyed with Flemish and German and Spanish stiffness, of which Chastellain, Crétin, and the rest have been the frequently quoted and the rarely read exponents to students of French literature. The contents of the Marguerites, to take the order of the beautiful edition of M. Félix Frank, are as follows: Volume I. contains first a long and singular religious poem entitled Le Miroir de l’Ame Pécheresse, in rhymed decasyllables, in which pretty literal paraphrases of a large number of passages of Scripture are strung together with a certain amount of pious comment and reflection. This is followed (after a shorter piece on the contest in the human soul between the laws of the spirit and of the flesh) by another poem of about the same length as the Miroir, and of no very different character, entitled Oraison de L’Ame Fidèle à son Seigneur Dieu, and a shorter Oraison à Notre Seigneur Jésus Christ completes the volume. The second volume yields four so-called “comedies,” but really mysteries on the old mediæval model, only distinguishable from their forerunners by slightly more modern language and a more scriptural tone. The subjects are the Nativity, the Adoration of the Three Kings, the Massacre of the Innocents, and the Flight into Egypt. The third volume contains a third poem in the style of the Miroir, but much superior, Le Triomphe de l’Agneau, a considerable body of spiritual songs, a miscellaneous poem or two, and some epistles, chiefly addressed to Francis. These last begin the smaller and secular division of the Marguerites, which is completed in the fourth volume by Les Quatre Dames et les Quatre Gentilhommes, composed of long monologues after the fashion of the Froissart-Chartier school, by a ”comédie profane,” a farce entitled Trop, Prou [much], Peu, Moins; a long love poem, again in the Chartier style, entitled La Coche, and some minor pieces.

Opinion as to these poems has varied somewhat, but their merit has never been put very high, nor, to tell the truth, could it be put high by any one who speaks critically. In the first place, they are written for the most part on very bad models, both in general plan and in particular style and expression. The plan is, as has been said, taken from the long-winded allegorical erotic poetry of the very late thirteenth, the fourteenth, and the fifteenth centuries — poetry which is now among the most difficult to read in any literature. The groundwork or canvas being transferred from love to religion, it gains a little in freshness and directness of purpose, but hardly in general readableness. Thus, for instance, two whole pages of the Miroir, or some forty or fifty lines, are taken up with endless playings on the words mort and vie and their derivatives, such as mortifiez, and mort fiez, mort vivifiée and vie mourante. The sacred comedies or mysteries have the tediousness and lack of action of the older pieces of the same kind without their naïveté; and pretty much the same may be said of the profane comedy (which is a kind of morality), and of the farce. Of La Coche, what has been said of the long sacred poems may be said, except that here we go back to the actual subject of the models, not on the whole with advantage: while in the minor pieces the same word plays and frigid conceits are observable.

But if this somewhat severe judgment must be passed on the poems as wholes, and from a certain point of view, it may be considerably softened when they are considered more in detail. In not a few passages of the religious poems Margaret has reached (and as she had no examples before her except Marot’s psalms, which were themselves later than at least some of her work, may be said to have anticipated) that grave and solemn harmony of the French Huguenots of the sixteenth century, which in Du Bartas, in Agrippa d’Aubigné, and in passages of the tragedian Montchrestien, strikes notes hardly touched elsewhere in French literature. The Triomphe de l’Agneau displays her at her best in this respect, and not unfrequently comes not too far off from the apocalyptic resonance of d’Aubigné himself. Again, the Bergerie included in the Nativity comedy or mystery, though something of a Dresden Bergerie (to use a later image), is graceful and elegant enough in all conscience. But it is on the minor poems, especially the Epistles and the Chansons Spirituelles, that the defenders of Margaret’s claim to be a poet rest most strongly. In the former her love, not merely for her brother, but for her husband, appears unmistakably, and suggests graceful thoughts. In the latter the force and fire which occasionally break through the stiff wrappings of the longer poems appear with less difficulty and in fuller measure.

It is, however, undoubtedly curious, and not to be explained merely by the difference of subject, that the styles of the letters and of the poems, agreeing well enough between themselves, differ most remarkably from that of the Heptameron. The two former are decidedly open to the charges of pedantry, artificiality, heaviness. There is a great surplusage of words and a seeming inability to get to the point. The Heptameron if not equal in narrative vigour and lightness to Boccaccio before and La Fontaine afterwards, is not in the least exposed to the charge of clumsiness of any kind, employs a simple, natural, and sufficiently picturesque vocabulary, avoids all verbiage and roundabout writing, and both in the narratives and in the connecting conversation displays a very considerable advance upon nearly all the writers of the time, except Rabelais, Marot, and Despériers, in easy command of the vernacular. It is, therefore, not wonderful that there has, at different times (rather less of late years, but that is probably an accident), been a disposition if not to take away from Margaret all the credit of the book, at any rate to give a share of it to others. In so far as this share is attempted to be bestowed on ladies and gentlemen of her Court or family there is very little evidence for it; but in so far as the pen may be thought to have been sometimes held for her by the distinguished men of letters just referred to (there is no reason why Master Francis himself should not have sometimes guided it), and by others only less distinguished, there is considerable internal reason to favour the idea. At all times and in all places — in France perhaps more than anywhere else — kings and queens, lords and ladies, have found no difficulty (we need not use the harsh Voltairian-Carlylian phrase, and say in getting their literary work “buckwashed,” but) in getting it pointed and seasoned, trimmed and ornamented by professional men of letters. The form of the Heptameron lends itself more than any other to such assistance; and while I should imagine that the setting, with its strong colour, both of religiosity and amorousness, is almost wholly Margaret’s work, I should also think it so likely as to be nearly certain that in some at least of the tales the hands of the authors of the Cymbalum Mundi and the Adolescence Clémentine, of Le Maçon and Brodeau, may have worked at the devising, very likely re-shaped and adjusted by the Queen herself, of the actual stories as we have them now.

The book, as we have it, consists of seven complete days of ten novels each, and of an eighth containing two novels only. The fictitious scheme of the setting is somewhat less lugubrious than that of the Decameron, but still not without an element of tragedy. On the first of September, “when the hot springs of the Pyrenees begin to enter upon their virtue,” a company of persons of quality assembled at Cauterets, we are told, and abode there three weeks with much profit. But when they tried to return, rain set in with such severity that they thought the Deluge had come again, and they found their roads, especially that to the French side, almost entirely barred by the Gave de Béarn and other rivers. So they scattered in different directions, most of them taking the Spanish side, either along the mountains and across to Roussillon or straight to Barcelona, and thence home by sea. But a certain widow, named Oisille, made her way with much loss of men and horses to the Abbey of Notre Dame de Serrance. Here she was joined by divers gentlemen and ladies, who had had even worse experiences of travel than herself, with bears and brigands, and other evil things, so that one of them, Longarine, had lost her husband, murdered in an affray in one of the cut-throat inns always dear to romance. Besides this disconsolate person and Oisille, the company consisted of a married pair, Hircan and Parlamente; two young cavaliers, Dagoucin and Saffredent; two young ladies, Nomerfide and Ennasuite; Simontault, a cavalier-servant of Parlamente; and Geburon, a knight older and discreeter than the rest of the company except Oisille.1

1 These names have been accommodated to M. Le Roux de Lincy’s orthography, from MS. No. 1512; but for myself I prefer the spellings, especially “Emarsuitte,” more usual in the printed editions. — G. S.

These form the party, and it is to be noted that idle and contradictory as all the attempts made to identify them have been (for instance, the most confident interpreters hesitate between Oisille and Parlamente, an aged widow and a youthful wife, for Margaret herself), it is not to be denied that the various parts are kept up with much decision and spirit. Of the men, indeed, Hircan is the only one who has a very decided character, and is represented as fond of his wife, Parlamente, but a decided libertine and of a somewhat rough and ruthless general character — points which have made the interpreters sure that he must be Henry d’Albret. The others, except that Geburon is, as had been said, older than his companions, and that Simontault sighs vainly after Parlamente, are merely walking gentlemen of the time, accomplished enough, but not individual. The women are much more distinct and show a woman’s hand. Oisille is, as our own seventeenth-century ancestors would have said, ancient and sober, very devout, regarded with great respect by the rest of the company, and accepted as a kind of mistress both of the revels and of more serious matters, but still a woman of the world, and content to make only an occasional and mild protest against tolerably free stories and sentiments. Parlamente, considerably younger, and though virtuous, not by any means ignorant of or wholly averse to the devotion of Simontault, indulging occasionally in a kind of mild conjugal sparring with her husband, Hircan, but apparently devoted to him, full of religion and romance and refinement at once, is a very charming character, resembling Madame de Sévigné as she may have been in her unknown or hardly known youth, when husband and lovers alike were attracted by the flame of her beauty and charm, only to complain that it froze and did not burn. Longarine is discreetly unhappy for her dead husband, but appears decidedly consolable; Ennasuite is a haughty damsel, disdainful of poor folk, and Nomerfide is a pure madcap, a Catherine Seyton of the generation before Catherine herself, the feminine Dioneo of the party, and, if a little too free-spoken for prudish modern taste, a very delightful girl.

Now when this good company had assembled at Serrance and told each other their misadventures, the waters on inquiry seemed to be out more widely and more dangerously than before, so that it was impossible to think of going farther for the time. They deliberated accordingly how they should employ themselves, and, after allowing, on the proposal of Oisille, an ample space for sacred exercises, they resolved that every day, after dinner and an interval, they should assemble in a meadow on the bank of the Gave at midday and tell stories. The device is carried out with such success that the monks steal behind the hedges to hear them, and an occasional postponement of vespers takes place. Simontault begins, and the system of tale-telling goes round on the usual plan of each speaker naming him or her who shall follow. It should be observed that no general subject is, as in the Decameron, prescribed to the speakers of each day, though, as a matter of course, one subject often suggests another of not dissimilar kind. Nor is there the Decameronic arrangement of the “king.” Between the stories, and also between the days, there is often a good deal of conversation, in which the divers characters, as given above, are carried out with a minuteness very different from the chief Italian original.

From what has been said already, it will be readily perceived that the novels, or rather their subjects, are not very easy to class in any rationalised order. The great majority, if they do not answer exactly to the old title of Les Histoires des Amants Fortunés, are devoted to the eternal subject of the tricks played by wives to the disadvantage of husbands, by husbands to the disadvantage of wives, and sometimes by lovers to the disadvantage of both. “Subtilité” is a frequent word in the titles, and it corresponds to a real thing. Another large division, trenching somewhat upon the first, is composed of stories to the discredit of the monks (something, though less, is said against the secular clergy), and especially of the Cordeliers or Franciscans, an Order who, for their coarse immorality and their brutal antipathy to learning, were the special black (or rather grey) beasts of the literary reformers of the time. In a considerable number there are references to actual personages of the time — references which stand on a very different footing of identification from the puerile guessings at the personality of the interlocutors so often referred to. Sometimes these references are avowed: “Un des muletiers de la Reine de Navarre,” “Le Roi François montre sa générosité,” “Un Président de Grenoble,” “Une femme d’Alençon,” and so forth. At other times the reference is somewhat more covert, but hardly to be doubted, as in the remarkable story of a “great Prince” (obviously Francis himself) who used on his journeyings to and from an assignation of a very illegitimate character, to turn into a church and piously pursue his devotions. There are a few curious stories in which amatory matters play only a subordinate part or none at all, though it must be confessed that this last is a rare thing. Some are mere anecdote plays on words (sometimes pretty free, and then generally told by Nomer-fide), or quasi-historical, such as that already noticed of the generosity of Francis to a traitor, or deal with remarkable trials and crimes, or merely miscellaneous matters, the best of the last class being the capital “Bonne invention pour chasser le lutin.”

In so large a number of stories with so great a variety of subjects, it naturally cannot but be the case that there is a considerable diversity of tone. But that peculiarity at which we have glanced more than once, the combination of voluptuous passion with passionate regret and a mystical devotion, is seldom absent for long together. The general note, indeed, of the Heptameron is given by more than one passage in Brantôme — at greatest length by one which Sainte-Beuve has rightly quoted, at the same time and also rightly rebuking the sceptical Abbé’s determination to see in it little more than a piece of précieuse mannerliness (though, indeed, the Précieuses were not yet). Yet even Sainte-Beuve has scarcely pointed out quite strongly enough how entirely this is the keynote of all Margaret’s work, and especially of the Heptameron. The story therefore may be worth telling again, though it may be found in the “Cinquième Discours” of the Vies des Dames Galantes.

Brantôme’s brother, not yet a captain in the army, but a student travelling in Italy, had in sojourning at Ferrara, when Renée of France was Duchess, fallen in love with a certain Mademoiselle de la Roche. For love of him she had returned to France, and, visiting his own country of Gascony, had attached herself to the Court of Margaret, where she had died. And it happened that Bourdeilles, six months afterwards, and having forgotten all about his dead love, came to Pau and went to pay his respects to the Queen. He met her coming back from vespers, and she greeted him graciously, and they talked of this matter and of that. But, as they walked together hither and thither, the Queen drew him, without cause shown, into the church she had just left, where Mademoiselle de la Roche was buried. “Cousin,” said she, “do you feel nothing stirring beneath you and under your feet?” But he said, “Nothing, Madame.” “Think, cousin,” then said she once again. But he said, “Madame, I have thought well, but I feel nought; for under me there is but a stone, hard and firmly set.” “Now, do I tell you,” said the Queen, leaving him no longer at study, “that you are above the tomb and the body of Mademoiselle de la Roche, who is buried beneath you, and whom you loved so much in her lifetime. And since our souls have sense after our death, it cannot be but that this faithful one, dead so lately, felt your presence as soon as you came near her; and if you have not perceived it, because of the thickness of the tomb, doubt not that none the less she felt it. And forasmuch as it is a pious work to make memory of the dead, and notably of those whom we loved, I pray you give her a pater and an ave, and likewise a de profundis, and pour out holy water. So shall you make acquist of the name of a right faithful lover and a good Christian.” And she left him that he might do this.

Brantôme (though he had an admiration for Margaret, whose lady of honour his grandmother had been, and who, according to the Bourdeilles tradition, composed her novels in travelling) thought this a pretty fashion of converse. “Voilà,” he says, “l’opinion de cette bonne princesse; laquelle la tenait plus par gentillesse et par forme de devis que par créance à mon avis.” Sainte-Beuve, on the contrary, and with better reason, sees in it faith, graciousness, feminine delicacy, and piety at once. No doubt; but there is something more than this, and that something more is what we are in search of, and what we shall find, now in one way, now in another, throughout the book: something whereof the sentiment of Donne’s famous thoughts on the old lover’s ghost, on the blanched bone with its circlet of golden tresses, is the best known instance in English. The madcap Nomerfide indeed lays it down, that “the meditation of death cools the heart not a little.” But her more experienced companions know better. The worse side of this Renaissance peculiarity is told in the last tale, a rather ghastly story of monkish corruption; its lighter side appears in the story, already referred to, of the “Grand Prince” and his pious devotions on the way to not particularly pious occupation. But touches of the more poetical and romantic effects of it are all over the book. It is to be found in the story of the gentleman who forsook the world because of his beloved’s cruelty, whereat she repenting did likewise (“he had much better have thrown away his cowl and married her,” quoth the practical Nomerfide); in that of the wife who, to obtain freedom of living with her paramour, actually allowed herself to be buried; in that (very characteristic of the time, especially for the touch of farce in it) of the unlucky person to whom phlebotomy and love together were fatal; and in not a few others, while it emerges in casual phrases of the intermediate conversations and of the stories themselves, even when it is not to be detected in the general character of the subjects.

And thus we can pretty well decide what is the most interesting and important part of the whole subject. The question, What is the special virtue of the Heptameron? I have myself little hesitation in answering. There is no book, in prose and of so early a date, which shows to me the characteristic of the time as it influenced the two great literary nations of Europe so distinctly as this book of Margaret of Angoulême. Take it as a book of Court gossip, and it is rather less interesting than most books of Court gossip, which is saying much. Take it as the performance of a single person, and you are confronted with the difficulty that it is quite unlike that other person’s more certain works, and that it is in all probability a joint affair. Take its separate stories, and, with rare exceptions, they are not of the first order of interest, or even of the second. But separate the individual purport of these stories from the general colour or tone of them; take this general colour or tone in connection with the tenor of the intermediate conversations, which form so striking a characteristic of the book, and something quite different appears. It is that same peculiarity which appears in places and persons and things so different as Spenser, as the poetry of the Pléiade, as Montaigne, as Raleigh, as Donne, as the group of singers known as the Caroline poets. It is a peculiarity which has shown itself in different forms at different times, but never in such vigour and precision as at this time. It combines a profound and certainly sincere — almost severe — religiosity with a very vigorous practice of some things which the religion it professes does not at all countenance. It has an almost morbidly pronounced simultaneous sense of the joys and the sorrows of human life, the enjoyment of the joys being perfectly frank, and the feeling of the sorrows not in the least sentimental. It unites a great general refinement of thought, manners, opinion, with an almost astonishing occasional coarseness of opinion, manners, thought. The prevailing note in it is a profound melancholy mixed with flashes and intervals of a no less profound delight. There is in it the sense of death, to a strange and, at first sight, almost unintelligible extent. Only when one remembers the long night of the religious wars which was just about to fall on France, just as after Spenser, Puritan as he was, after Carew and Herrick still more, a night of a similar character was about to fall on England, does the real reason of this singular idiosyncrasy appear. The company of the Heptameron are the latest representatives, at first hand, and with no deliberate purpose of presentment, of the mediaeval conception of gentlemen and ladies who fleeted the time goldenly. They are not themselves any longer mediaeval; they have been taught modern ways; they have a kind of uneasy sense (even though one and another of themselves may now and then flout the idea) of the importance of other classes, even of some duty on their own part towards other classes. Their piety is a very little deliberate, their voluptuous indulgence has a grain of conscience in it and behind it, which distinguishes it not less from the frank indulgence of a Greek or a Roman than from the still franker naïveté of purely mediaeval art, from the childlike, almost paradisiac, innocence of the Belli-cents and Nicolettes and of the daughter of the great Soldan Hugh in that wonderful serio-comic chanson of the Voyage à Constantinople. The mark of modernity is on them, and yet they are so little conscious of it, and so perfectly free from even the slightest touch of at least its anti-religious influence. Nobody, not even Hircan, the Grammont of the sixteenth century; not even Nomerfide, the Miss Notable of her day and society; not even the haughty lady Ennasuite, who wonders whether common folk can be supposed to have like passions with us, feels the abundant religious services and the periods of meditation unconscionable or tiresome.

And so we have here three notes constantly sounding together or in immediate sequence. There is the passion of that exquisite rondeau of Marot’s, which some will have, perhaps not impossibly, to refer to Margaret herself —

En la baisant m’a dit: “Amy sans blasme,

Ce seul baiser, qui deux bouches embasme,

Les arrhes sont du bien tant espéré,”

Ce mot elle a doulcement proféré,

Pensant du tout apaiser ma grand flamme.

Mais le mien cour adonc plus elle enflamme,

Car son alaine odorant plus que basme

Souffloit le feu qu’Amour m’a préparé,

En la baisant.

Bref, mon esprit, sans congnoissance d’âme,

Vivoit alors sur la bouche à ma dame,

Dont se mouroit le corps énamouré;

Et si la lèvre eust guères demouré

Contre la mienne, elle m’eust succé l’âme,

En la baisant.

There is the devout meditation of Oisille, and that familiarity with the Scriptures which, as Hircan himself says, “I trow we all read and know.” And then there is the note given by two other curious stories of Brantôme. One tells how the Queen of Navarre watched earnestly for hours by the bedside of a dying maid of honour, that she might see whether the parting of the soul was a visible fact or not. The second tells how when some talked before her of the joys of heaven, she sighed and said, “Well, I know that this is true; but we dwell so long dead underground before we arise thither.” There, in a few words, is the secret of THE HEPTAMERON: the fear of God, the sense of death, the voluptuous longing and voluptuous regret for the good things of life and love that pass away.

George Saintsbury.2

London, October 1892.

2 As I have spoken so strongly of the attempts to identify the personages of the Heptameron, it might seem discourteous not to mention that one of the most enthusiastic and erudite English students of Margaret, Madame Darmesteter (Miss Mary Robinson), appears to be convinced of the possibility and advisableness of discovering these originals. Everything that this lady writes is most agreeable to read; but I fear I cannot say that her arguments have converted me. — G. S.

The Heptameron

of the tales of the Queen of Navarre

Dedications and Preface,

Prefixed to the First Two Editions of the Tales of the Queen of Navarre.

To the most Illustrious, most Humble, and most Excellent Princess,

Madame Margaret de Bourbon,

Duchess of Nevers, Marchioness of Illes, Countess of Eu, of Dreux, Rételois, Columbiers, and Beaufort, Lady of Aspremont, of Cham-Regnault, of Arches, Rencaurt, Monrond, and La Chapelle-d’Angylon, Peter Boaistuau surnamed Launay, offers most humble salutation and perpetual obedience.1

1 This dedicatory preface appeared in the first edition of Queen Margaret’s Tales, published by Boaistuau in 1558 under the title of Histoires des Amans Fortunez. The Princess addressed was the daughter of Charles, Duke of Vendôme; she was wedded in 1538 to Francis of Cleves, Duke of Nevers, and by this marriage became niece to the Queen of Navarre. — Ed.

Madam, That great oracle of God, St. John Chrysostom, deplores with infinite compassion in some part of his works the disaster and calamity of his century, in which not only was the memory of an infinity of illustrious persons cut off from among mankind, but, what is more, their writings, by which the rich conceptions of their souls and the divine ornaments of their minds were to have been consecrated to posterity, did not survive them. And certainly with most manifest reason did this good and holy man address such a complaint to the whole Christian Republic, touched as he was with just grief for an infinity of thousands of books, of which some have been lost and buried in eternal forgetfulness by the negligence of men, others dispersed and destroyed by the cruel incursions of war, others rotted and spoiled as much by the rigour of time as by carelessness to collect and preserve them; whereof the ancient Histories and Annals furnish a sufficient example in the memorable library of that great King of Egypt, Ptolemy Phila-delphus, which had been formed with the sweat and blood of so many notable philosophers, and maintained, ordered, and preserved by the liberality of that great monarch. And yet in less than a day, by the monstrous and abominable cruelty of the soldiers of Cæsar, when the latter followed Pompey to Alexandria, it was burned and reduced to ashes. Zonarius, the ecclesiastical historian, writes that the same happened at Constantinople in the time of Zeno, when a superb and magnificent palace, adorned with all sorts of manuscript books, was burnt, to the eternal regret and insupportable detriment of all those who made a profession of letters. And without amusing ourselves too curiously in recounting the destruction among the ancients, we have in our time experienced a similar loss — of which the memory is so recent that the wounds thereof still bleed in all parts of Europe — namely, when the Turks besieged Buda, the capital of Hungary, where the most celebrated library of the good King Matthias was pillaged, dispersed, and destroyed; a library which, without sparing any expense, he had enriched with all the rarest and most excellent books, Greek, Latin, Hebrew, and Arabic, that he had been able to collect in all the most famous provinces of the earth.

Again, he who would particularise and closely examine things will find that Theophrastes, as he himself declares, wrote and composed three hundred volumes, Chrysippus sixty, Empedocles fifty, Servus Sulpicius two hundred on civil law, Gallienus one hundred and thirty on the art of medicine, and Origenes six thousand, all of which St. Jerome attests having read; and yet, of so many admirable and excellent authors, there now remain to us only some little fragments, so debased and vitiated in several places, that they seem abortive, and as if they had been torn from their author’s hands by force.

On account of which, my Lady, since the occasion has offered, I have been minded to present all these examples, with the object of exhorting all those who treasure books and keep them sequestered in their sanctuaries and cabinets, to henceforth publish them and bring them to light, not only so that they may not keep back and bury the glory of their ancestors, but also that they may not deprive their descendants of the profit and pleasure which they might derive from the labour of others.

In regard to myself, I will set forth more amply in the notice which I will give to the reader the motive that induced me to put my hand to the work of the present author, who has no need of trumpet and herald to exalt and magnify her2 greatness, inasmuch as there is no human eloquence that could portray her more forcibly than she has portrayed herself by the celestial strokes of her own brush; I mean by her other writings, in which she has so well expressed the sincerity of her doctrines, the vivacity of her faith, and the uprightness of her morals, that the most learned men who reigned in her time were not ashamed to call her a prodigy and miracle of nature. And albeit that Heaven, jealous of our welfare, has snatched her from this mortal habitation, yet her virtues rendered her so admirable and so engraved her in the memory of every one, that the injury and lapse of time cannot efface her from it; for we shall ceaselessly mourn and lament for her, like Antimachus the Greek poet wept for Lysidichea, his wife, with sad verses and delicate elegies which describe and reveal, her virtues and merits.

2 In the French text Boaistuau invariably refers to the author as a personage of the masculine sex, with the evident object of concealing the real authorship of the work. Feminine pronouns have, however, been substituted in the translation, as it is Queen Margaret who is referred to. — Ed.

Therefore, my Lady, as this work is about to be exposed to the doubtful judgment of so many thousands of men, may it please you to take it under your protection and into your safe keeping; for, whereas you are the natural and legitimate heiress of all the excellencies, ornaments, and virtues which enriched the author while she adorned by her presence the surprise of the earth, and which now by some marvellous ray of divinity live and display themselves in you, it is not possible that you should be defrauded of the fruit of the labour which justly belongs to you, and for which the whole universe will be indebted to you now that it comes forth into the light under the resplendent shelter of your divine and heroic virtues.

May it therefore please you, my Lady, to graciously accept of this little offering, as an eternal proof of my obedience and most humble devotion to your greatness, pending a more important sacrifice which I prepare for the future.

Peter Boaistuau, surnamed Launay, To the Reader.1

Gentle Reader, I can tell thee verily and with good right assert (even prove by witnesses worthy of belief) when this work was presented to me that I might fulfil the office of a sponge and cleanse it of a multitude of manifest errors that were found in a copy written by hand, I was only requested to take out or copy eighteen or twenty of the more notable tales, reserving myself to complete the rest at a more convenient season and at greater leisure.

However, as men are fond of novelties, I was solicited with very pressing requests to pursue my point, to which I consented, rather by reason of the importunity than of my own will, and my enterprise was conducted in such fashion, that so as not to show myself in any wise disobedient, I added some more tales, to which again others have since been adjoined.

In regard to myself, I can assure thee that it would have been less difficult for me to build the whole edifice anew than to mutilate it in several places, change, innovate, add and suppress in others, but I was almost perforce compelled to give it a new form, which I have done, partly for the requirements and the adornment of the stories, partly to conform to the times and the infelicity of our century, when most human things are so exulcerated that there is no work, however well digested, polished, and filed, but it is badly interpreted and slandered by the malice of fastidious persons. Take, therefore, in good part our hasty labour, and be not too close a censor of another’s work until thou hast examined thine own.

1 This notice follows the dedicatory preface in the edition of 1558.

To the most Illustrious and Virtuous Princess, Madame Jane de Foix,

Queen of Navarre,

Claud Gruget, her very humble servant, presents salutation and wishes of felicity. 1

I would not have interfered, Madam, to present you with this book of the Tales of the late Queen, your mother, if the first edition had not omitted or concealed her name, and almost entirely changed its form, to such a point that many did not recognise it; on which account, to render it worthy of its author, I, as soon as it was divulged, gathered together from all sides the copies I could collect of it written by hand, verifying them by my copy, and acting in such wise that I arranged the book in the real order in which she had drawn it up. Then, with the permission of the King and your consent, it was sent to the press to be published such as it should be.

Concerning it, I am reminded of what Count Balthazar says of Boccaccio in the Preface to his Courtier2 that what he had done by way of pastime, namely, his Decameron, had brought him more honour than all his other works in Latin or Tuscan, which he esteemed the most serious.

1 This preface was inserted in the edition issued in 1559 by Claud Gruget, who gave the title of ”Heptameron“ to Queen Margaret’s tales.

2 The Libro del Cortegiano, by Count Baldassare Castiglione, was the nobleman’s vade-mecum of the period. First published at Venice in 1528, it was translated into French in 1537 by J. Colin, secretary to Francis I. — Ed.

Thus, the Queen, that true ornament of our century, from whom you do not derogate in the love and knowledge of good letters, while amusing herself with the acts of human life, has left such beauteous instructions that there is no one who does not find matter of erudition in them; and, indeed, according to all good judgment, she has surpassed Boccaccio in the beautiful Discourses which she composes upon each of her tales. For which she deserves praise, not only over the most excellent ladies, but also among the most learned men; for of the three styles of oration described by Cicero, she has chosen the simple one, similar to that of Terence in Latin, which to every one seems very easy to imitate, though it is anything but that to him who tries it.

It is true that such a present will not be new to you, and that you will only recognise in it the maternal inheritance. However, I feel assured that you will receive it favourably, at seeing it, in this second impression, restored to its original state, for according to what I have heard the first displeased you. Not that he who put his hand to it was not a learned man, or did not take trouble; indeed it is easy to believe that he was not minded to disguise it thus, without some reason; nevertheless his work has proved unpleasing.

I present it to you then, Madam, not that I pretend to any share in it, but only as having unmasked it to restore it to you in its natural state. It is for Your Royal Greatness to favour it since it proceeds from your illustrious House, whereof it bears the mark upon the front, which will serve it as a safe-conduct throughout the world and render it welcome among good company.

As for myself, recognising the honour that you will do me in receiving from my hand the work thus restored to its right state, I shall ever feel obliged to render you most humble duty.

The Heptameron.

First Day.

On the First Day are recounted the ill-turns which have been done by Women to Men and by Men to Women.


Prologue: The Story-tellers in the Meadow near The Gave.

Prologue.

On the first day of September, when the baths in the Pyrenees Mountains begin to be possessed of their virtue, there were at those of Cauterets1 many persons as well of France as of Spain, some to drink the water, others to bathe in it, and again others to make trial of the mud; all these being remedies so marvellous that persons despaired of by the doctors return thence wholly cured. My purpose is not to speak to you of the situation or virtue of the said baths, but only to set forth as much as relates to the matter of which I desire to write.

All the sick persons continued at the baths for more than three weeks, until by the amendment in their condition they perceived that they might return home again. But while they were preparing to do so, there fell such extraordinary rains that it seemed as though God had forgotten the promise He made to Noah never to destroy the world with water again; for every cottage and every lodging in Cauterets was so flooded with water that it was no longer possible to continue there. Those who had come from the side of Spain returned thither across the mountains as best they could, and such of them as knew whither the roads led fared best in making their escape.

The French lords and ladies thought to return to Tarbes as easily as they had come, but they found the streamlets so deep as to be scarcely fordable. When they came to pass over the Bearnese Gave,2 which at the time of their former passage had been less than two feet in depth, they found it so broad and swift that they turned aside to seek for the bridges. But these being only of wood, had been swept away by the turbulence of the water.

Then certain of the company thought to stem the force of the current by crossing in a body, but they were quickly carried away, and the others who had been about to follow lost all inclination to do so. Accordingly they separated, as much because they were not all of one mind as to find some other way. Some crossed over the mountains, and passing through Aragon came to the county of Rousillon, and thence to Narbonne; whilst others made straight for Barcelona, going thence by sea, some to Marseilles and others to Aigues-Mortes.

But a widow lady of long experience, named Oisille, resolved to lay aside all fear of bad roads and to betake herself to Our Lady of Serrance.3

She was not, indeed, so superstitious as to think that the glorious Virgin would leave her seat at her Son’s right hand to come and dwell in a desolate country, but she was desirous to see the hallowed spot of which she had so often heard, and further she was sure that if there were a means of escaping from a danger, the monks would certainly find it out. At last she arrived, after passing through places so strange, and so difficult in the going up and coming down, that, in spite of her years and weight, she had perforce gone most of the way on foot But the most piteous thing was, that the greater part of her servants and horses were left dead on the way, and she had but one man and one woman with her on arriving at Serrance, where she was charitably received by the monks.

There were also among the French two gentlemen who had gone to the baths rather that they might be in the company of the ladies whose lovers they were, than because of any failure in their health. These gentlemen, seeing that the company was departing and that the husbands of their ladies were taking them away, resolved to follow them at a distance without making their design known to any one. But one evening, while the two married gentlemen and their wives were in the house of one who was more of a robber than a peasant, the two lovers, who were lodged in a farmhouse hard by, heard about midnight a great uproar. They got up, together with their serving-men, and inquired what this tumult meant. The poor man, in great fear, told them that it was caused by certain evil-doers who were come to share the spoil which was in the house of their fellow-bandit. Thereupon the gentlemen immediately took their arms, and with their serving-men set forth to succour the ladies, esteeming it a happier thing to die for them than to outlive them.

When they reached the house, they found the first door broken through, and the two gentlemen with their servants defending themselves valiantly. But inasmuch as they were outnumbered by the robbers, and were also sorely wounded, they were beginning to fall back, having already lost many of their servants. The two gentlemen, looking in at the windows, perceived the ladies shrieking and sobbing so bitterly that their hearts swelled with pity and love at the sight; and, like two enraged bears coming down from the mountains, they fell upon the bandits with such fury that many of them were slain, while the remainder, unwilling to await their onset, fled to a hiding-place which was known to them.

When the gentlemen had worsted these rogues and had slain the host himself among the rest, they heard that the man’s wife was even worse than her husband; and they therefore sent her after him with a sword-thrust. Then they entered a lower room, where they found one of the married gentlemen on the point of death. The other had received no hurt, save that his clothes were all pierced with thrusts and that his sword was broken in two. The poor gentleman, perceiving what help the two had afforded him, embraced and thanked them, and besought them not to abandon him, which was to them a very agreeable request. When they had buried the dead gentleman, and had comforted his wife as well as they were able, they took the road which God set before them, not knowing whither they were going.

If it pleases you to know the names of the three gentlemen, the married one was called Hircan, and his wife Parlamente, the name of the widow being Longarine; of the two lovers one was called Dagoucin and the other Saffredent. After having been the whole day on horseback, towards evening they descried a belfry, whither with toil and trouble they made the best of their way, and on their arrival were kindly received by the Abbot and the monks. The abbey is called St. Savyn.4

The Abbot, who came of an ancient line, lodged them honourably, and when taking them to their apartments inquired of them concerning their adventures. When he had heard the truth, he told them that others had fared as badly as they, for in one of his rooms he had two ladies who had escaped a like danger, or perchance a greater, inasmuch as they had had to do with beasts, and not with men. 5 Half a league on this side of Peyrechitte 6 the poor ladies had met with a bear coming down from the mountain, before whom they had fled with such speed that their horses fell dead under them at the abbey gates. Further, two of their women who arrived a long time afterwards had made report that the bear had killed all the serving-men.

Then the two ladies and the three gentlemen entered the room where these unhappy travellers were, and found them weeping. They recognised them to be Nomerfide and Ennasuite, whereupon they all embraced and recounted what had befallen them. At the exhortations of the good Abbot they began to take comfort in having found one another again, and in the morning they heard mass with much devotion, praising God for the perils from which they had escaped.

While they were all at mass there came into the church 7 a man clad only in a shirt, fleeing as though he were pursued, and crying out for aid. Forthwith Hircan and the other gentlemen went to meet him to see what the affair might mean, and perceived two men behind him with drawn swords.

These, on seeing so great a company, sought to fly, but they were hotly pursued by Hircan and his companions, and so lost their lives. When Hircan came back, he found that the man in the shirt was one of his companions named Geburon, who related to them how while he was in bed at a farmhouse near Peyrechitte three men came upstairs, and how he, although he was in his shirt and had no other weapon but his sword, had stretched one of them on the ground mortally wounded. While the other two were occupied in raising their companion, he, perceiving himself to be naked and the others armed, bethought him that he could not outdo them except it were by flight, as being the least encumbered with clothes. And so he had escaped, and for this he praised God and those who had avenged him.

When they had heard mass and had dined they sent to see if it was possible to cross the river Gave, and on learning that it was not, they were in great dismay. However, the Abbot urgently entreated them to stay with him until the water had abated, and they agreed to remain for that day.

In the evening, as they were going to bed, there arrived an aged monk who was wont to come in September of every year to Our Lady of Serrance. They inquired of him concerning his journey, and he told them that on account of the floods he had come over the mountains and by the worst roads he had ever known. On the way he had seen a very pitiful sight. He had met a gentleman named Simontault, who, wearied by his long waiting for the river to subside, and trusting to the goodness of his horse, had tried to force a passage, and had placed all his servants round about him to break the force of the current. But when they were in the midst of the stream, those who were the worst mounted were swept away, horses and men, down the stream, and were never seen again. The gentleman, finding himself alone, turned his horse to go back, but before he could reach the bank his horse sank under him. Nevertheless, God willed that this should happen so close to the bank that the gentleman was able, by dragging himself on all fours and not without swallowing a great deal of water, to scramble out on to the hard stones, though he was then so weak and weary that he could not stand upright.

By good fortune a shepherd, bringing back his sheep at even, found him seated among the stones, wet to the skin, and sad not only for himself but on account of his servants whom he had seen perish before his eyes. The shepherd, who understood his need even better from his appearance than from his speech, took him by the hand and led him to his humble dwelling, where he kindled some faggots, and so dried him in the best way that he could. The same evening God led thither this good monk, who showed him the road to Our Lady of Serrance assuring him that he would be better lodged there than anywhere else, and would there find an aged widow named Oisille who had been as unfortunate as himself.

When all the company heard tell of the good Lady Oisille and the gentle knight Simontault, they were exceedingly glad, and praised the Creator, who, content with the sacrifice of serving-folk, had preserved their masters and mistresses. And more than all the rest did Parlamente give hearty praise to God, for Simontault had long been her devoted lover.

Then they made diligent inquiry concerning the road to Serrance, and although the good old man declared it to be very difficult, they were not to be debarred from attempting to proceed thither that very day. They set forth well furnished with all that was needful, for the Abbot provided them with wine and abundant victuals,8 and with willing companions to lead them safely over the mountains.

These they crossed more often on foot than on horseback, and after much toil and sweat came to Our Lady of Serrance. Here the Abbot, although somewhat evilly disposed, durst not deny them lodging for fear of the Lord of Beam,9 who, as he was aware, held them in high esteem. Being a true hypocrite, he showed them as fair a countenance as he could, and took them to see the Lady Oisille and the gentle knight Simontault.

The joyfulness of all this company who had been thus miraculously brought together was so great that the night seemed short to them while praising God in the Church for the goodness that He had shown to them. When towards morning they had taken a little rest, they all went to hear mass and receive the holy sacrament of fellowship, in which all Christians are joined together as one, imploring Him who of His mercy had thus united them, that He would further their journey to His glory. After they had dined they sent to learn whether the waters were at all abated, and found that, on the contrary, they were rather increased, and could not be crossed with safety for a long time to come. They therefore determined to make a bridge resting on two rocks which come very close together, and where there are still planks for those foot-passengers who, coming from Oleron, wish to avoid crossing at the ford. The Abbot was well pleased that they should make this outlay, to the end that the number of pilgrims might be increased, and he furnished them with workmen, though he was too avaricious to give them a single farthing.

The workmen declared that they could not finish the bridge in less than ten or twelve days, and all the company, both ladies and gentlemen, began to grow weary. But Parlamente, who was Hircan’s wife, and who was never idle or melancholy, asked leave of her husband to speak, and said to the aged Lady Oisille —

“I am surprised, madam, that you who have so much experience, and now fill the place of mother to all of us women, do not devise some pastime to relieve the weariness we shall feel during our long stay; for if we have not some pleasant and virtuous occupation we shall be in danger of falling ill.”

“Nay,” added the young widow Longarine, “worse than that, we shall become ill-tempered, which is an incurable disease; for there is not one among us but has cause to be exceeding downcast, having regard to our several losses.”

Ennasuite laughing replied —

“Every one has not lost her husband like you, and the loss of servants need not bring despair, since others may readily be found. Nevertheless, I too am of opinion that we should have some pleasant exercise with which to while away the time, for otherwise we shall be dead by to-morrow.”

All the gentlemen agreed with what these ladies said, and begged Oisille to tell them what they should do.

“My children,” she replied, “you ask me for something which I find very difficult to teach you, namely, a pastime that may deliver you from your weariness. I have sought for such a remedy all my life and have never found but one, which is the reading of the Holy Scriptures. In them the mind may find that true and perfect joy from which repose and bodily health proceed. If you would know by what means I continue so blithe and healthy in my old age, it is because on rising I immediately take up the Holy Scriptures 10 and read therein, and so perceive and contemplate the goodness of God, who sent His Son into the world to proclaim to us the Sacred Word and glad tidings by which He promises the remission of all sins and the satisfaction of all debts by the gift that He has made us of His love, passion, and merits.

“The thought of this gives me such joy that I take my Psalter and in all humility sing with my heart and utter with my lips the sweet psalms and canticles which the Holy Spirit put into the heart of David and of other writers. And so acceptable is the contentment that this brings to me, that any evils which may befall me during the day I look upon as blessings, seeing that I have in my heart, through faith, Him who has borne them all for me. In the same way before supper I retire to feed my soul by reading, and then in the evening I call to mind all I have done during the past day, in order that I may ask forgiveness for my sins, thank Him for His mercies, and, feeling safe from all harm, take my rest in His love, fear, and peace. This, my children, is the pastime I have long practised, after making trial of all others and finding in none contentment of spirit. I believe that if you give an hour every morning to reading and then offer up devout prayers during mass, you will find in this lonely place all the beauty that any town could afford. One who knows God sees all things fair in Him, and without Him everything seems uncomely; wherefore, I pray you, accept my advice, if you would live in gladness.”

Then Hircan took up the discourse and said —

“Those, madam, who have read the Holy Scriptures, as I believe we all have done, will acknowledge that what you have said is true. You must, however, consider that we are not yet so mortified that we have not need of some pastime and bodily exercise. When we are at home we have the chase and hawking, which cause us to lay aside a thousand foolish thoughts, and the ladies have their household cares, their work, and sometimes the dance, in all which they find honourable exercise. So, speaking on behalf of the men, I propose that you, who are the oldest, read to us in the morning about the life that was led by Our Lord Jesus Christ and the great and wonderful works that He did for us; and that between dinner and vespers we choose some pastime that shall be pleasant to the body and yet not hurtful to the soul. In this way we shall pass the day cheerfully.”

The Lady Oisille replied that she had been at pains to forget every description of worldly vanity, and she therefore feared that she should succeed but ill in the choice of such an entertainment. The matter must be decided by the majority of opinions, and she begged Hircan to set forth his own first.

“For my part,” said he, “if I thought that the pastime I should choose would be as agreeable to the company as to myself, my opinion would soon be given. For the present, however, I withhold it, and will abide by what the rest shall say.”

His wife Parlamente, thinking he referred to her, began to blush, and, half in anger and half laughing, replied —

“Perhaps, Hircan, she who you think would find it most dull might readily find means of compensation had she a mind for it. But let us leave aside a pastime in which only two can share, and speak of one that shall be common to all.”

“Since my wife has understood the meaning of my words so well,” said Hircan to all the ladies, “and a private pastime is not to her liking, I think she will be better able than any one else to name one that all may enjoy; and I herewith give in to her opinion, having no other of my own.”

To this all the company agreed.

Parlamente, perceiving that it had fallen to her to decide, spoke as follows —

“Did I find myself as capable as the ancients who invented the arts, I should devise some sport or pastime in fulfilment of the charge you lay upon me. But knowing as I do my knowledge and capacity, which are scarcely able to recall the worthy performances of others, I shall think myself happy if I can follow closely such as have already satisfied your request. Among the rest, I think there is not one of you who has not read the Hundred Tales of Boccaccio, 11 lately translated from the Italian into French. So highly were these thought of by King Francis, first of that name, Monseigneur the Dauphin, 12 Madame the Dauphiness, and Madame Margaret, that could Boccaccio have only heard them from the place where he lay, the praise of such illustrious persons would have raised him from the dead.

Now I heard not long since that the two ladies I have mentioned, together with several others of the Court, determined to do like Boccaccio, with, however, one exception — they would not write any story that was not a true one. And the said ladies, and Monseigneur the Dauphin with them, undertook to tell ten stories each, and to assemble in all ten persons, from among those whom they thought the most capable of relating something. Such as had studied and were people of letters were excepted, for Monseigneur the Dauphin would not allow of their art being brought in, fearing lest the flowers of rhetoric should in some wise prove injurious to the truth of the tales. But the weighty affairs in which the King had engaged, the peace between him and the King of England, the bringing to bed of the Dauphiness,13 and many other matters of a nature to engross the whole Court, caused the enterprise to be entirely forgotten.

By reason, however, of our now great leisure, it can be accomplished in ten days, whilst we wait for our bridge to be finished. If it so pleased you, we might go every day from noon till four of the clock into yonder pleasant meadow beside the river Gave. The trees there are so leafy that the sun can neither penetrate the shade nor change the coolness to heat. Sitting there at our ease, we might each one tell a story of something we have ourselves seen, or heard related by one worthy of belief. At the end of ten days we shall have completed the hundred,14 and if God wills it that our work be found worthy in the eyes of the lords and ladies I have mentioned, we will on our return from this journey present them with it, in lieu of images and paternosters,15 and feeling assured that they will hold this to be a more pleasing gift. If, however, any one can devise some plan more agreeable than mine, I will fall in with his opinion.”

All the company replied that it was not possible to give better advice, and that they awaited the morning in impatience, in order to begin.

Thus they spent that day joyously, reminding one another of what they had seen in their time. As soon as the morning was come they went to the room of Madame Oisille, whom they found already at her prayers. They listened to her reading for a full hour, then piously heard mass, and afterwards went to dinner at ten o’clock.16

After dinner each one withdrew to his chamber, and did what he had to do. According to their plan, at noon they failed not to return to the meadow, which was so fair and pleasant that it would need a Boccaccio to describe it as it really was; suffice to say that a fairer was never seen.

When the company were all seated on the green grass, which was so fine and soft that they needed neither cushion nor carpet, Simontault commenced by saying —

“Which of us shall begin before the others?”

“Since you were the first to speak,” replied Hircan,"’tis reasonable that you should rule us; for in sport we are all equal.”

“Would to God,” said Simontault, “I had no worse fortune in this world than to be able to rule all the company present.”

On hearing this Parlamente, who well knew what it meant, began to cough. Hircan, therefore, did not perceive the colour that came into her cheeks, but told Simontault to begin, which he did as presently follows.

1 There are no fewer than twenty-six sources at Cauterets, the waters being either of a sulphureous or a saline character. The mud baths alluded to by Margaret were formerly taken at the Source de César Vieux, half-way up Mount Peyraute, and so called owing to a tradition that Julius Cæsar bathed there. It is at least certain that these baths were known to the Romans. — Ed.

Cauterets is frequently mentioned by the old authors, and Rabelais refers to it in this passage: “Pantagruel’s urine was so hot that ever since that time it has not cooled, and you have some of it in France, at divers places, at Coderetz, Limous, Dast, Ballerue, Bourbonne, and elsewhere” (Book ii. chap, xxxiii.). — M.

2 The Basques give the name of Gave to those watercourses which become torrents in certain seasons. The Bearnese Gave, so named because it passes through the territory of the ancient city of Beam, takes its source in the Pyrenees, and flows past Pau to Sorde, where it joins the Adour, which falls into the sea at Bayonne. It is nowadays generally known as the Gave of Pau. — L. & M.

3 The Abbey of Our Lady of Serrance, or more correctly Sarrances, in the valley of Aspe, was occupied by monks of the Prémontré Order, who were under the patronage of St. Mary. An apparition of the Virgin having been reported in the vicinity, pilgrimages were made to Sarrances on the feasts of her nativity (Sept. 8) and her assumption (Aug. 15). In 1385 Gaston de Foix, who greatly enriched the abbey, built a residence in the neighbourhood, his example being followed by the Gramonts, the Miollens, and other nobles. The pilgrimages had become very celebrated in the fifteenth century, when Louis XI. repaired to Sarrances, accompanied by Coictier, his physician. In 1569, however, the Huguenots pillaged and burned down the abbey, together with the royal and other residences. The monks who escaped the flames were put to the sword. — M. & Ed.

4 The Abbey of St. Savin of Tarbes, situated between Argelèz and Pierrefitte, in what was formerly called the county of Lavedan, is stated to have been founded by Charlemagne; and here the Paladin Roland is said to have slain the giants Alabaster and Passamont to recompense the monks for their hospitality. The abbey took its name from a child (the son of a Count of Barcelona) who led a hermit’s life, and is accredited with having performed several miracles in the neighbourhood. About the year 1100 the Pope, siding with the people of the valley of Aspe in a quarrel between them and the Abbot of St. Savin, issued a bull forbidding the women of Lavedan to conceive for a period of seven years. The animals, moreover, were not to bring forth young, and the trees were not to bear fruit for a like period. The edict remained in force for six years, when the Abbot of St. Savin compromised matters by engaging to pay an annual tribute to Aspe. This tribute was actually paid until the Revolution of 1789. On the other hand, the abbey was entitled to the right shoulder of every stag, boar, and izard (the Pyrenean chamois) killed in the valley, with other tributes of trout, cheese, and flowers, which last the Abbot acknowledged by kissing the prettiest maiden of Argelèz. Amongst various privileges possessed by the monks was that of having their beds made by the girls of the neighbourhood on certain high days and holidays.

In the tenth century Raymond of Bigorre presented the abbey with the valley of Cauterets on condition that a church should be built there and “sufficient houses kept in repair to facilitate the using of the baths.” In 1290 Edward III. of England confirmed the monks of St. Savin in possession of Cauterets. In 1316, when the inhabitants of the latter place wished to change the situation of their village, the Abbot of St. Savin consented, but a woman opposed her veto (all women had the right of vote) and this sufficed to frustrate the scheme. The abbey derived a considerable income from Cauterets, the baths and the houses built there for the accommodation of visitors being let out on lease. The leases of 1617 and 1697 are preserved in the archives of Pau. In the time of Queen Margaret the abbey was extremely wealthy; the Abbot to whom she refers, according to M. Le Roux de Lincy, was probably Raymond de Fontaine, who ruled St. Savin from 1534 to 1540, under the authority of the commendatory abbots, Anthony de Rochefort and Nicholas Dangu, Bishop of Séez. Some of the commentators of the Heptameron believe the latter to have been the original “Dagoucin” who is supposed to tell several of the tales. — Ed.

5 In two MS. copies of the Heptameron in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, numbered respectively 1520 and 1524, after the words “not with men” there follows “in men there is some mercy, but in animals none." — L.

6 Peyrechitte is evidently intended for Pierrefitte, a village on the left bank of the Gave, between Argelèz and Cauterets. — Ed.

7 This church is still in existence. It is mainly in the Romanesque style and almost destitute of ornamentation. There are, however, some antique paintings of St. Savin’s miracles; and the saint’s tomb, which is still preserved, is considered to be some twelve hundred years old. The village is gathered about the church, and forms a wide street lined with houses of the fifteenth century, which Margaret and her friends must have gazed upon during their sojourn here. — Ed.

8 According to MS. No. 1520 (Bib. Nat., Paris), the Abbot also furnished them with the best horses of Lavedan and good “cappes” of Beam. The Lavedan horses were renowned for their speed and spirit, and the Bearnese cappe was a cloak provided with a hood. — B. J.

9 The Kings of Navarre had been Lords of Beam for two centuries, but Beam still retained its old customs and had its special government. The Lord of Beam here referred to was Henry d’Albret, Margaret’s second husband. — B. J.

10 Margaret read a portion of the Scriptures every day, saying that the perusal preserved one “from all sorts of evils and diabolical temptations” (Histoire de Foix, Béarn, et Navarre, by P. Olhagaray, Paris, 1609, p. 502). — L.

11 Margaret here alludes to the French translation of the Decameron made by her secretary, Anthony le Maçon, and first issued in Paris in 1545. Messrs. De Lincy and Montaiglon accordingly think that the prologue of the Heptameron was written subsequently to that date; but M. Dillaye states that Le Maçon’s translation was circulated at Court in manuscript long before it was printed. This contention is in some measure borne out by Le Maçon’s dedication to Margaret, of which the more interesting passages are given in the Appendix [below]. — ED.

12 The Dauphin here mentioned is Francis I.’s second son, who subsequently reigned as Henry II. He became Dauphin by the death of his elder brother on August 10, 1536. The Dauphiness is Catherine de’ Medici, the wife of Henry, whom he married in 1533; whilst Madame Margaret, according to M. de Montaiglon, is the Queen of Navarre herself, she being usually called by that name at her brother’s Court. M. Dillaye, who is of a different opinion, maintains that the Queen would not write so eulogistically of herself, and that she evidently refers to her brother’s daughter, Margaret de Berry, born in 1523, and married to the Duke of Savoy. — Ed.

13 The confinement mentioned here is that of Catherine de Medici, who, after remaining childless during ten years of wedlock, gave birth to a son, afterwards Francis II., in January 1543. The peace previously spoken of would appear to be that signed at Crespy in September 1544. Both M. de Montaiglon and M. Dillaye are of opinion, however, that a word or two is deficient in the MS., and that Margaret intended to imply the rupture of peace in 1543, when Henry VIII. allied himself with the Emperor Charles V. against Francis I. — Ed.

14 This passage plainly indicates that the Queen meant to pen a Decameron. — Ed.

15 This is an allusion to the holy images, medals, and chaplets which people brought back with them from pilgrimages. — B. J.

16 At that period ten o’clock was the Court dinner-hour. Fifty years earlier people used to dine at eight in the morning. Louis XII., however, changed the hour of his meals to suit his wife, Mary of England, who had been accustomed to dine at noon. — B. J.

Appendix.

The dedication with which Anthony Le Maçon prefaces his translation of Boccaccio contains several curious passages. In it Margaret is styled “the most high and most illustrious Princess Margaret of France, only sister of the King, Queen of Navarre, Duchess of Alençon and of Berry;” while the author describes himself as “Master Anthoine Le Maçon, Councillor of the King, Receiver General of his finances in Burgundy, and very humble secretary to this Queen.” He then proceeds to say:—

“You remember, my lady, the time when you made a stay of four or five months in Paris, during which you commanded me, seeing that I had freshly arrived from Florence, where I had sojourned during an entire year, to read to you certain stories of the Decameron of Boccaccio, after which it pleased you to command me to translate the whole book into our French language, assuring me that it would be found beautiful and entertaining. I then made you reply that I felt my powers were too weak to undertake such a work. . . . My principal and most reasonable excuse was the knowledge that I had of myself, being a native of the land of Dauphiné, where the maternal language is too far removed from good French. . . . However, it did not please you to accept any of my excuses, and you showed me that it was not fitting that the Tuscans should be so mistaken as to believe that their Boccaccio could not be rendered in our language as well as it is in theirs, ours having become so rich and so copious since the accession of the King, your brother, to the crown, that nothing has ever been written in any language that could not be expressed in this; and thus your will still was that I should translate it (the Decameron) when I had the leisure to do so. Seeing this and desiring, throughout my life, to do, if I can, even more than is possible to obey you, I began some time afterwards to translate one of the said stories, then two, then three, and finally to the number of ten or twelve, the best that I could choose, which I afterwards showed as much to people of the Tuscan nation as to people of ours, who all made me believe that the stories were, if not perfectly, at least very faithfully translated. Wherefore, allowing myself to be thus pleasantly deceived, if deceit there was, I have since set myself to begin the translation at one end and to finish it at the other. . . . ”

This dedicatory preface is followed by an epistle, written in Italian by Emilio Ferretti, and dated from Lyons, May I, 1545; and by a notice to the reader signed by Etienne Rosset, the bookseller, who in the King’s license, dated from St. Germain-en-Laye, Nov. 2, 1544, is described as “Rosset called the Mower, bookseller, residing in Paris, on the bridge of St. Michael, at the sign of the White Rose.” The first edition of Le Maçon’s translation (1545) was in folio; the subsequent ones of 1548, 1551, and 1553 being in octavo. It should be remembered that Le Maçon’s was by no means the first French version of the Decameron. Laurent du Premier-Faict had already rendered Boccaccio’s masterpiece into French in the reign of Charles VI., but unfortunately his translation, although of a pleasing naïveté, was not at all correct, having been made from a Latin version of the original. Manuscript copies of Laurent’s translation were to be found in the royal and most of the princely libraries of the fifteenth century. — Ed.

Du Mesnil Learns his Mistress's Infidelity from Her Maid
Du Mesnil learns his Mistress’s Infidelity from her Maid

Headpiece

Tale i.

The wife of a Proctor, having been pressingly solicited by the Bishop of Sees, took him for her profit, and, being as little satisfied with him as with her husband, found a means to have the son of the Lieutenant-General of Alençon for her pleasure. Some time afterwards she caused the latter to be miserably murdered by her husband, who, although he obtained pardon for the murder, was afterwards sent to the galleys with a sorcerer named Gallery; and all this was brought about by the wickedness of his wife.1

Ladies, said Simontault, I have been so poorly rewarded for my long service, that to avenge myself upon Love, and upon her who treats me so cruelly, I shall be at pains to make a collection of all the ill turns that women hath done to hapless men; and moreover I will relate nothing but the simple truth.

In the town of Alençon, during the lifetime of Charles, the last Duke,2 there was a Proctor named St. Aignan, who had married a gentlewoman of the neighbourhood. She was more beautiful than virtuous, and on account of her beauty and light behaviour was much sought after by the Bishop of Sees,3 who, in order to compass his ends, managed the husband so well, that the latter not only failed to perceive the vicious conduct of his wife and of the Bishop, but was further led to forget the affection he had always shown in the service of his master and mistress.

Thus, from being a loyal servant, he became utterly adverse to them, and at last sought out sorcerers to procure the death of the Duchess.4 Now for a long time the Bishop consorted with this unhappy woman, who submitted to him from avarice rather than from love, and also because her husband urged her to show him favour. But there was a youth in the town of Alençon, son of the Lieutenant-General,5 whom she loved so much that she was half crazy regarding him; and she often availed herself of the Bishop to have some commission intrusted to her husband, so that she might see the son of the Lieutenant, who was named Du Mesnil, at her ease.

This mode of life lasted a long time, during which she had the Bishop for her profit and the said Du Mesnil for her pleasure. To the latter she swore that she showed a fair countenance to the Bishop only that their own love might the more freely continue; that the Bishop, in spite of appearances, had obtained only words, from her; and that he, Du Mesnil, might rest assured that no man, save himself, should ever receive aught else.

One day, when her husband was setting forth to visit the Bishop, she asked leave of him to go into the country, saying that the air of the town was injurious to her; and, when she had arrived at her farm, she forthwith wrote to Du Mesnil to come and see her, without fail, at about ten o’clock in the evening. This the young man did; but as he was entering at the gate he met the maid who was wont to let him in, and who said to him, “Go elsewhere, friend, for your place is taken.”

Supposing that the husband had arrived, he asked her how matters stood. The woman, seeing that he was so handsome, youthful, and well-bred, and was withal so loving and yet so little loved, took pity upon him and told him of his mistress’s wantonness, thinking that on hearing this he would be cured of loving her so much. She related to him that the Bishop of Sees had but just arrived, and was now in bed with the lady, a thing which the latter had not expected, for he was not to have come until the morrow. However, he had detained her husband at his house, and had stolen away at night to come secretly and see her. If ever man was in despair it was Du Mesnil, who nevertheless was quite unable to believe the story. He hid himself, however, in a house near by, and watched until three hours after midnight, when he saw the Bishop come forth disguised, yet not so completely but that he could recognise him more readily than he desired.

Du Mesnil in his despair returned to Alençon, whither, likewise, his wicked mistress soon came, and went to speak to him, thinking to deceive him according to her wont. But he told her that, having touched sacred things, she was too holy to speak to a sinner like himself, albeit his repentance was so great that he hoped his sin would very soon be forgiven him. When she learnt that her deceit was found out, and that excuses, oaths, and promises never to act in a like way again were of no avail, she complained of it to her Bishop. Then, having weighed the matter with him, she went to her husband and told him that she could no longer dwell in the town of Alençon, for the Lieutenant’s son, whom he had so greatly esteemed among his friends, pursued her unceasingly to rob her of her honour. She therefore begged of him to abide at Argentan,6 in order that all suspicion might be removed.

The husband, who suffered himself to be ruled by his wife, consented; but they had not been long at Argentan when this bad woman sent a message to Du Mesnil, saying that he was the wickedest man in the world, for she knew full well that he had spoken evilly (sic.) of her and of the Bishop of Sees; however, she would strive her best to make him repent of it.

The young man, who had never spoken of the matter except to herself, and who feared to fall into the bad graces of the Bishop, repaired to Argentan with two of his servants, and finding his mistress at vespers in the church of the Jacobins,7 he went and knelt beside her, and said —

“I am come hither, madam, to swear to you before God that I have never spoken of your honour to any person but yourself. You treated me so ill that I did not make you half the reproaches you deserved; but if there be man or woman ready to say that I have ever spoken of the matter to them, I am here to give them the lie in your presence.”

Seeing that there were many people in the church, and that he was accompanied by two stout serving-men, she forced herself to speak as graciously as she could. She told him that she had no doubt he spoke the truth, and that she deemed him too honourable a man to make evil report of any one in the world; least of all of herself, who bore him so much friendship; but since her husband had heard the matter spoken of, she begged him to say in his presence that he had not so spoken and did not so believe.

To this he willingly agreed, and, wishing to attend her to her house, he offered to take her arm; but she told him it was not desirable that he should come with her, for her husband would think that she had put these words into his mouth. Then, taking one of his serving-men by the sleeve, she said —

“Leave me this man, and as soon as it is time I will send him to seek you. Meanwhile do you go and rest in your lodging.”

He, having no suspicion of her conspiracy against him, went thither.

She gave supper to the serving-man whom she had kept with her, and who frequently asked her when it would be time to go and seek his master; but she always replied that his master would come soon enough. When it was night, she sent one of her own serving-men to fetch Du Mesnil; and he, having no suspicion of the mischief that was being prepared for him, went boldly to St. Aignan’s house. As his mistress was still entertaining his servant there, he had but one with himself.

Just as he was entering the house, the servant who had been sent to him told him that the lady wished to speak with him before he saw her husband, and that she was waiting for him in a room where she was alone with his own serving-man; he would therefore do well to send his other servant away by the front door. This he did. Then while he was going up a small, dark stairway, the Proctor St. Aignan, who had placed some men in ambush in a closet, heard the noise, and demanded what it was; whereupon he was told that a man was trying to enter secretly into his house.

At the moment, a certain Thomas Guérin, a murderer by trade, who had been hired by the Proctor for the purpose, came forward and gave the poor young man so many sword-thrusts that whatever defence he was able to make could not save him from falling dead in their midst.

Meanwhile the servant who was waiting with the lady, said to her —

“I hear my master speaking on the stairway. I will go to him.”

But the lady stopped him and said —

“Do not trouble yourself; he will come soon enough.”

A little while afterwards the servant, hearing his master say, “I am dying, may God receive my soul!” wished to go to his assistance, but the lady again withheld him, saying —

“Do not trouble yourself; my husband is only chastising him for his follies. We will go and see what it is.”

Then, leaning over the balustrade at the top of the stairway, she asked her husband —

“Well, is it done?”

“Come and see,” he replied. “I have now avenged you on the man who put you to such shame.”

So saying, he drove a dagger that he was holding ten or twelve times into the belly of a man whom, alive, he would not have dared to assail.

When the murder had been accomplished, and the two servants of the dead man had fled to carry the tidings to the unhappy father, St. Aignan bethought himself that the matter could not be kept secret. But he reflected that the testimony of the dead man’s servants would not be believed, and that no one in his house had seen the deed done, except the murderers, and an old woman-servant, and a girl fifteen years of age. He secretly tried to seize the old woman, but, finding means to escape out of his hands, she sought sanctuary with the Jacobins,8 and was afterwards the most trustworthy witness of the murder. The young maid remained for a few days in St. Aignan’s house, but he found means to have her led astray by one of the murderers, and had her conveyed to a brothel in Paris so that her testimony might not be received.9

To conceal the murder, he caused the corpse of the hapless dead man to be burnt, and the bones which were not consumed by the fire he caused to be placed in some mortar in a part of his house where he was building. Then he sent in all haste to the Court to sue for pardon, setting forth that he had several times forbidden his house to a person whom he suspected of plotting his wife’s dishonour, and who, notwithstanding his prohibition, had come by night to see her in a suspicious fashion; whereupon, finding him in the act of entering her room, his anger had got the better of his reason and he had killed him.

But before he was able to despatch his letter to the Chancellor’s, the Duke and Duchess had been apprised by the unhappy father of the matter, and they sent a message to the Chancellor to prevent the granting of the pardon. Finding he could not obtain it, the wretched man fled to England with his wife and several of his relations. But before setting out he told the murderer who at his entreaty had done the deed, that he had seen expresses from the King directing that he should be taken and put to death. Nevertheless, on account of the service that he had rendered him, he desired to save his life, and he gave him ten crowns wherewith to leave the kingdom. The murderer did this, and was afterwards seen no more.

The murder was so fully proven by the servants of the dead man, by the woman who had taken refuge with the Jacobins, and by the bones that were found in the mortar, that legal proceedings were begun and completed in the absence of St. Aignan and his wife. They were judged by default and were both condemned to death. Their property was confiscated to the Prince, and fifteen hundred crowns were to be given to the dead man’s father to pay the costs of the trial.

St. Aignan being in England and perceiving that in the eyes of the law he was dead in France, by means of his services to divers great lords and by the favour of his wife’s relations, induced the King of England 10 to request the King of France 11 to grant him a pardon and restore him to his possessions and honours. But the King of France, having been informed of the wickedness and enormity of the crime, sent the process to the King of England, praying him to consider whether the offence was one deserving of pardon, and telling him that no one in the kingdom but the Duke of Alençon had the right to grant a pardon in that duchy. However, notwithstanding all his excuses, he failed to appease the King of England, who continued to entreat him so very pressingly that, at his request, the Proctor at last received a pardon and so returned to his own home.12 There, to complete his wickedness, he consorted with a sorcerer named Gallery, hoping that by this man’s art he might escape payment of the fifteen hundred crowns to the dead man’s father.

To this end he went in disguise to Paris with his wife. She, finding that he used to shut himself up for a great while in a room with Gallery without acquainting her with the reason thereof, spied upon him one morning, and perceived Gallery showing him five wooden images, three of which had their hands hanging down, whilst two had them lifted up.13

“We must make waxen images like these,” said Gallery, speaking to the Proctor. “Such as have their arms hanging down will be for those whom we shall cause to die, and the others with their arms raised will be for the persons from whom you would fain have love and favour.”

“This one,” said the Proctor, “shall be for the King by whom I would fain be loved, and this one for Monseigneur Brinon, Chancellor of Alençon.” 14

“The images,” said Gallery, “must be set under the altar, to hear mass, with words that I will presently tell you to say.”

Then, speaking of those images that had their arms lowered, the Proctor said that one should be for Master Gilles du Mesnil, father of the dead man, for he knew that as long as the father lived he would not cease to pursue him. Moreover, one of the women with their hands hanging down was to be for the Duchess of Alençon, sister to the King; for she bore so much love to her old servant, Du Mesnil, and had in so many other matters become acquainted with the Proctor’s wickedness, that except she died he could not live. The second woman that had her arms hanging down was his own wife, who was the cause of all his misfortune, and who he felt sure would never amend her evil life.

When his wife, who could see everything through the keyhole, heard him placing her among the dead, she resolved to send him among them first. On pretence of going to borrow some money, she went to an uncle she had, named Neaufle, who was Master of Requests to the Duke of Alençon, and informed him of what she had seen and heard. Neaufle, like the old and worthy servant that he was, went forthwith to the Chancellor of Alençon and told him the whole story.

As the Duke and Duchess of Alençon were not at Court that day, the Chancellor related this strange business to the Regent,15 mother of the King and the Duchess, and she sent in all haste for the Provost of Paris,16 who made such speed that he at once seized the Proctor and his sorcerer, Gallery. Without constraint or torture they freely confessed their guilt, and their case was made out and laid before the King.

Certain persons, wishing to save their lives, told him that they had only sought his good graces by their enchantments; but the King, holding his sister’s life as dear as his own, commanded that the same sentence should be passed on them as if they had made an attempt on his own person.

However, his sister, the Duchess of Alençon, entreated that the Proctor’s life might be spared, and the sentence of death be commuted to some heavy punishment. This request was granted her, and St. Aignan and Gallery were sent to the galleys of St. Blancart at Marseilles,17 where they ended their days in close captivity, and had leisure to ponder on the grievousness of their crimes. The wicked wife, in the absence of her husband, continued in her sinful ways even more than before, and at last died in wretchedness.

“I pray you, ladies, consider what evil is caused by a wicked woman, and how many evils sprang from the sins of the one I have spoken of. You will find that ever since Eve caused Adam to sin, all women have set themselves to bring about the torment, slaughter and damnation of men. For myself, I have had such experience of their cruelty that I expect to die and be damned simply by reason of the despair into which one of them has cast me. And yet so great a fool am I, that I cannot but confess that hell coming from her hand is more pleasing than Paradise would be from the hand of another.”

Parlamente, pretending she did not understand that it was touching herself he spoke in this fashion, said to him —

“Since hell is as pleasant as you say, you ought not to fear the devil who has placed you in it.”

“If my devil were to become as black as he has been cruel to me,” answered Simontault angrily, “he would cause the present company as much fright as I find pleasure in looking upon them; but the fires of love make me forget those of this hell. However, to speak no further concerning this matter, I give my vote to Madame Oisille to tell the second story. I feel sure she would support my opinion if she were willing to say what she knows about women.”

Forthwith all the company turned towards Oisille, and begged of her to proceed, to which she consented, and, laughing, began as follows —

“It seems to me, ladies, that he who has given me his vote has spoken so ill of our sex in his true story of a wicked woman, that I must call to mind all the years of my long life to find one whose virtue will suffice to gainsay his evil opinion. However, as I have bethought me of one worthy to be remembered, I will now relate her history to you.”

Tailpiece

1 The incidents of this story are historical, and occurred in Alençon and Paris between 1520 and 1525. — L.

2 The Duke Charles here alluded to is Margaret’s first husband. — Ed.

3 Sees or Séez, on the Orne, thirteen miles from Alençon, and celebrated for its Gothic cathedral, is one of the oldest bishoprics in Normandy. Richard Coeur-de-Lion is said to have here done penance and obtained absolution for his conduct towards his father, Henry II. At the time of this story the Bishop of Sees was James de Silly, whose father, also James de Silly, Lord of Lonray, Vaux-Pacey, &c, a favourite and chamberlain of King Louis XII., became Master of the Artillery of France in 1501. The second James de Silly — born at Caen — was ordained Bishop of Sees on February 26th, 1511; he was also Abbot of St. Vigor and St. Pierre- sur-Dives, where he restored and beautified the abbatial church. In 1519 he consecrated a convent for women of noble birth, founded by Margaret and her first husband at Essey, twenty miles from Alençon, the ruins of which still exist. A year later Francis Rometens dedicated to him an edition of the letters of Pico della Mirandola. He died April 24th, 1539, at Fleury-sur-Aiidellé, about fifteen miles from Rouen, and was buried in his episcopal church. (See Gallia Christiana, vol. xi. p. 702.) His successor in the See of Sees was Nicholas Danguye, or Dangu (a natural son of Cardinal Duprat), with whom M. Frank tries to identify Dagoucin, one of the narrators of the Heptameron. — L. and Ed.

4 This was of course Margaret herself. — Ed

5 Gilles du Mesnil, Lieutenant-General of the presidial bailiwick and Sénéchaussée of Alençon. — B. J.

6 Argentan, on the Orne, twenty-six miles from Alençon, had been a distinct viscounty, but at this period it belonged to the duchy of Alençon. — Ed.

7 The name of Jacobins was given to the monks of the Dominican Order, some of whom had a monastery in the suburbs of Argentan. — Ed.

8 It was still customary to take sanctuary in churches, monasteries, and convents at this date, although but little respect was shown for the refugees, whose hiding-places were often surrounded so that they might be kept without food and forced to surrender. After being considerably restricted by an edict issued in 1515, the right of sanctuary was abolished by Francis I. in 1539. — B. J. and D.

9 Prostitutes were debarred from giving evidence in French courts of law at this period. — D.

10 Henry VIII.

11 Francis I.

12 The letters of remission which were granted to St. Aignan on this occasion will be found in the Appendix [below]. It will be noted that Margaret in her story gives various particulars which St. Aignan did not fail to conceal in view of obtaining his pardon. — L.

13 This refers to the superstitious practice called envoûtement, which, according to M. Léon de Laborde, was well known in France in 1316, and subsisted until the sixteenth century. In 1330 the famous Robert d’Artois, upon retiring to Brabant, occupied himself with pricking waxen images which represented King Philip VI., his brother-in- law, and the Queen, his sister. (Mémoires de l’Académie des Inscriptions, vol. xv. p. 426.) During the League the enemies of Henri III. and the King of Navarre revived this practice. — (L.) It would appear also from a document in the Harley MSS. (18,452, Bib. N’at., Paris) that Cosmo Ruggieri, the Florentine astrologer, Catherine de’ Medici’s confidential adviser, was accused in 1574 of having made a wax figure in view of casting a spell upon Charles IX. — M.

14 John Brinon, Councillor of the King, President of the Parliament of Rouen, Chancellor of Alençon and Berry, Lord of Villaines (near Dreux), Remy, and Athueuil (near Montfort-l’Amaury), belonged to an old family of judicial functionaries. He was highly esteemed by Margaret, several of whose letters are addressed to him, and he was present at the signing of her marriage contract with Henry II. of Navarre (Génin’s Lettres de Marguerite, p. 444). He married Pernelle Perdrier, who brought him the lordship of Médan, near Poissy, and other important fiefs, which after his death she presented to the King. His praises were sung by Le Chandelier, the poet; and M. Floquet, in his History of the Parliament of Normandy, states that Brinon rendered most important services to France as a negotiator in Italy in 1521, and in England in 1524. The Journal d’un Bourgeois de Paris mentions that he died in Paris in 1528, aged forty-four, and was buried in the Church of St. Severin. — L. According to La Croix du Maine’s Bibliothèque Françoise, Brinon was the author of a poem entitled Les Amours de Sydire. — B. J.

15 Louise of Savoy.

16 John de la Barre, a favourite of Francis I. See note to Tale lxiii. (vol. v.), in which he plays a conspicuous part. — Ed.

17 This passage is explained by Henri Bouché, who states in his Histoire Chronologique de Provence (vol. ii. p. 554), that after Francis I.’s voyage in captivity to Spain it was judged expedient that France should have several galleys in the Mediterranean, and that “orders were accordingly given for thirteen to be built at Marseilles — four for the Baron de Saint-Blancart, as many for Andrew Doria, &c.” The Baron de Saint-Blancart here referred to was Bernard d’Ormezan, Admiral of the seas of the Levant, Conservator of the ports and tower of Aigues-Mortes, and General of the King’s galleys. In 1523 he defeated the naval forces of the Emperor Charles V., and in 1525 conducted Margaret to Spain. — L. (See Memoir of Margaret, p. xli.)

Appendix B.

The letters of remission which at the instance of Henry VIII. were granted to Michael de St. Aignan in respect of the murder of James du Mesnil are preserved in the National Archives of France (Register J. 234, No. 191), and after the usual preamble, recite the culprit’s petition in these terms:—

“Whereas it appears from the prayer of Michael de St. Aignan, lord of the said place, 2 that heretofore he for a long time lived and resided in the town of Alençon in honour and good repute; but, to the detriment of his prosperity, life, and conduct there were divers evil-minded and envious persons who by sinister, cunning, and hidden means persecuted him with all the evils, wiles, and deceits that it is possible to conceive, albeit the said suppliant had never caused them displeasure, injury, or detriment; among others, one named James Dumesnil, a young man, to whom the said suppliant had procured all the pleasure and advantages that were in his power, and whom he had customarily admitted to his house, thinking that the said Dumesnil was his loyal friend, and charging his wife and his servants to treat him when he came as though he were his brother; by which means St. Aignan hoped to induce the said Dumesnil to espouse one of his relatives.

“But Dumesnil ill-requited the aforesaid good services and courtesies, and rendering evil for good, as is the practice of iniquity, endeavoured to and did cause an estrangement between the said St. Aignan and his wife, who had always lived together in good, great, and perfect affection. And the better to effect his purpose he (Dumesnil) gave the said wife to understand, among other things, that St. Aignan bore her no affection; that he daily desired her death; that she was mistaken in trusting him; and other evil things not fitting to be repeated, which the wife withstood, enjoining Dumesnil not to use such language again, as should he do so she would repeat it to her husband; but Dumesnil, persevering, on divers occasions when St. Aignan had absented himself, gave the wife of the latter to understand that he (St. Aignan) was dead, devising proofs thereof and conjectures, and thinking that by this means he would win her favour and countenance. But she still resisted him, which seeing, the said Dumesnil gave her to understand that St. Aignan would often absent himself, and that she would be happier if she had a husband who remained with her. And plotting to compass the death of the said St. Aignan, Dumesnil gave her to understand that if she would consent to the death of her husband he would marry her; and, in fact, he promised to marry her. And whereas she still refused to consent, the said Dumesnil found a means to gain a servant woman of the house, who, St. Aignan being absent and his wife in bed, opened the door to Dumesnil, who compelled the said wife to let him lie with her. And thenceforward Dumesnil made divers presents to the servant woman, so that she should poison the said suppliant; and she consented to his face; but at Easter confessed the matter to St. Aignan, entreating his forgiveness, and also saying and declaring it to the neighbours. And the said Dumesnil, knowing that he would incur blame and reproach if the matter were brought forward, seized and abducted the said servant woman in all diligence, and took her away from the town, whereby a scandal was occasioned.

“Moreover, it would appear that the said Dumesnil had been found several times by night watching the gardens and the door in view of slaying St. Aignan, as is notorious in Alençon, by virtue of the admission of the said Dumesnil himself. Whereupon St. Aignan, seeing his wife thus made the subject of scandal by Dumesnil, enjoined him to abstain from coming to his house to see his wife, and to consider the outrage and injury he had already inflicted upon him; declaring moreover that he could endure no more. To which Dumesnil refused to listen, declaring that he would frequent the house in spite of every one; albeit, in doing so, he might come by his death. Thereupon St. Aignan, being acquainted with the evil obstinacy of Dumesnil and desirous of avoiding greater misfortune, departed from the town of Alençon, and went to reside in the town of Argentan, ten leagues distant, whither he took his wife, thinking that Dumesnil would abstain from coming. Withal he did not abstain, but came several times to the said town of Argentan, and frequented his (St. Aignan’s ) wife; whereby the people of Argentan were scandalised. And the said St. Aignan endeavoured to prevent him from coming, and employed the nurse of his child to remonstrate with Dumesnil, but the latter persevered, saying and declaring that he would kill St. Aignan, and would still go to Argentan, albeit it might cause his death. Insomuch that the said Dumesnil, on the eighth day of this month, departed from Alençon between two and three o’clock in the morning, a suspicious hour, having disguised himself and assumed attire unsuited to his calling, which is that of the law; wearing a Bearnese cloak,3 a jacket of white woollen stuff underneath, all torn into strips, with a feathered cap upon his head, and having his face covered. In this wise he arrived at the said town of Argentan, accompanied by two young men, and lodged in the faubourgs at the sign of Notre Dame, and remained there clandestinely from noon till about eleven o’clock in the evening, when he asked the host for the key of the backdoor, so that he might go out on his private affairs, not wishing to be recognised.

“At the said suspicious hour, with his sword at his side,4 and dressed and accoutred in the said garments, he started from his lodging with one of the said young men.

“In this wise Dumesnil reached the house of St. Aignan, which he found a means of entering, and gained a closet up above, near the room where the said St. Aignan and his wife slept. St. Aignan was without thought of this, inasmuch as he was ignorant of the enterprise of the said Dumesnil, being in the living room with one Master Thomas Guérin, who had come upon business. Now, as St. Aignan was disposing himself to go to bed, he told one of his servants, named Colas, to bring him his cas 5 and the servant having occasion to go up into a closet in which St. Aignan’s wife was sleeping, and in which the said Dumesnil was concealed, the latter, fearing that he might be recognised, suddenly came out with a drawn sword in his hand; whereupon the said Colas cried: ‘Help! There is a robber!’ And he declared to St. Aignan that he had seen a strange man who did not seem to be there for any good purpose; whereupon St. Aignan said to him: ‘One must find out who it is. Is there occasion for any one to come here at this hour?’ Thereupon Colas went after the said personage, whom he found in a little alley near the courtyard behind the house; and the said personage, having suddenly perceived Colas, endeavoured to strike him on the body with his weapon; but Colas withstood him and gave him a few blows,6 for which reason he cried out ‘Help! Murder!’ Thereupon St. Aignan arrived, having a sword in his hand; and after him came the said Guérin. St. Aignan, who as yet did not know Dumesnil on account of his disguise, and also because it was wonderfully dark, found him calling out: ‘Murder! Confession!’ By which cry the said St. Aignan knew him, and was greatly perplexed, astonished, and angered, at seeing his enemy at such an hour in his house, he having been found there, with a weapon, in the closet. And the said St. Aignan recalling to memory the trouble and worry that Dumesnil had caused him, dealt him two or three thrusts in hot anger, and then said to him: ‘Hey! Wretch that thou art, what hast brought thee here? Wert thou not content with the wrong thou didst me in coming here previously? I never did thee an ill office.’ Whereupon the said Dumesnil said: ‘It is true, I have too grievously offended you, and am too wicked; I entreat your pardon.’ And thereupon he fell to the ground as if dead; which seeing, the said St. Aignan, realising the misfortune that had happened, said not a word, but recommended himself to God and withdrew into his room, where he found his wife in bed, she having heard nothing.

“On the night of the said dispute, and a little later, St. Aignan went to see what the said Dumesnil was doing, and finding him in the courtyard dead, he helped to carry him into the stable, being too greatly incensed to act otherwise. And upon the said Colas asking him what should be done with the body, St. Aignan paid no heed to this question, because he was not master of himself; but merely said to Colas that he might do as he thought fit, and that the body might be interred in consecrated ground or placed in the street. After which St. Aignan withdrew into his room and slept with his wife, who had her maids with her. And on the morrow this same Colas declared to St. Aignan that he had taken the said body to be buried, so as to avoid a scandal. To all of which things St. Aignan paid no heed, but on the morrow sent to fetch the two young men in the service of the said Dumesnil, who were at his lodging, and had the horses removed from the said lodging, and gave orders to one of the young men to take them back.

“On account of all which occurrences he (St. Aignan) absented himself, &c, &c, but humbly entreating us, &c, &c. Wherefore we now give to the Bailiffs of Chartres and Caen, or to their Lieutenants, and to each of them severally and to all, &c, &c. Given at Châtelherault, in the month of July, the year of Grace, one thousand five hundred and twenty-six, and the twelfth of our reign.

Signed: By the King on the report of the Council:

“De Nogent.”Visa: contentor.

“De Nogent.”

It will be seen that the foregoing petition contains various contradictory statements. The closet, for instance, is at first described as being near the room in which St. Aignan and his wife slept, then it is asserted that the wife slept in the closet, but ultimately the husband is shown joining his wife in the bed-chamber, where she had heard nothing. The character of the narrative is proof of its falsity, and Margaret’s account of the affair may readily be accepted as the more correct one. — Ed.

2 This was in all probability the village of St. Aignan on the Sarthe, between Moulins-la-Marche and Bazoches, and about twenty miles from Alençon. The personage here mentioned should not be confounded with Emery de Beauvilliers, whom Francis I. created Count of St. Aignan (on the Cher), and whose descendants, many of whom were distinguished generals and diplomatists, became dukes of the same place. — Ed.

3 See ante, p. 24, note 8.

4 The French word is basion, which in the sixteenth century was often used to imply a sword; arquebuses and musketoons being termed basions à feu by way of distinction. Moreover, it is expressly stated farther on that Dumesnil had a sword. — Ed.

5 The en cas was a kind of light supper provided in case one felt hungry at night-time. Most elaborate en cas, consisting of several dishes, were frequently provided for the kings of France. — Ed.

6 In the story Margaret asserts that it was Thomas Guérin who attacked Dumesnil. — D.

the Muleteer's Servant Attacking his Mistress
The Muleteer’s Servant attacking his Mistress

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Tale ii.

The wife of a muleteer of Amboise chose rather to die cruelly at the hands of her servant than to fall in with his wicked purpose.1

In the town of Amboise there was a muleteer in the service of the Queen of Navarre, sister to King Francis, first of that name. She being at Blois, where she had been brought to bed of a son, the aforesaid muleteer went thither to receive his quarterly payment, whilst his wife remained at Amboise in a lodging beyond the bridges.2

Now it happened that one of her husband’s servants had long loved her exceedingly, and one day he could not refrain from speaking of it to her. She, however, being a truly virtuous woman, rebuked him so severely, threatening to have him beaten and dismissed by her husband, that from that time forth he did not venture to speak to her in any such way again or to let his love be seen, but kept the fire hidden within his breast until the day when his master had gone from home and his mistress was at vespers at St. Florentin,3 the castle church, a long way from the muleteer’s house.

Whilst he was alone the fancy took him that he might obtain by force what neither prayer nor service had availed to procure him, and accordingly he broke through a wooden partition which was between the chamber where his mistress slept and his own. The curtains of his master’s bed on the one side and of the servant’s bed on the other so covered the walls as to hide the opening he had made; and thus his wickedness was not perceived until his mistress was in bed, together with a little girl eleven or twelve years old.

When the poor woman was in her first sleep, the servant, in his shirt and with his naked sword in his hand, came through the opening he had made in the wall into her bed; but as soon as she felt him beside her, she leaped out, addressing to him all such reproaches as a virtuous woman might utter. His love, however, was but bestial, and he would have better understood the language of his mules than her honourable reasonings; indeed, he showed himself even more bestial than the beasts with whom he had long consorted. Finding she ran so quickly round a table that he could not catch her, and that she was strong enough to break away from him twice, he despaired of ravishing her alive, and dealt her a terrible sword-thrust in the loins, thinking that, if fear and force had not brought her to yield, pain would assuredly do so.

The contrary, however, happened, for just as a good soldier, on seeing his own blood, is the more fired to take vengeance on his enemies and win renown, so her chaste heart gathered new strength as she ran fleeing from the hands of the miscreant, saying to him the while all she could think of to bring him to see his guilt. But so filled was he with rage that he paid no heed to her words. He dealt her several more thrusts, to avoid which she continued running as long as her legs could carry her.

When, after great loss of blood, she felt that death was near, she lifted her eyes to heaven, clasped her hands and gave thanks to God, calling Him her strength, her patience, and her virtue, and praying Him to accept her blood which had been shed for the keeping of His commandment and in reverence of His Son, through whom she firmly believed all her sins to be washed away and blotted out from the remembrance of His wrath.

As she was uttering the words, “Lord, receive the soul that has been redeemed by Thy goodness,” she fell upon her face to the ground.

Then the miscreant dealt her several thrusts, and when she had lost both power of speech and strength of body, and was no longer able to make any defence, he ravished her.4

Having thus satisfied his wicked lust, he fled in haste, and in spite of all pursuit was never seen again.

The little girl, who was in bed with the muleteer’s wife, had hidden herself under the bed in her fear; but on seeing that the man was gone, she came to her mistress. Finding her to be without speech or movement, she called to the neighbours from the window for aid; and as they loved and esteemed her mistress as much as any woman that belonged to the town, they came forthwith, bringing surgeons with them. The latter found that she had received twenty-five mortal wounds in her body, and although they did what they could to help her, it was all in vain.

Nevertheless she lingered for an hour longer without speaking, yet making signs with eye and hand to show that she had not lost her understanding. Being asked by a priest in what faith she died, she answered, by signs as plain as any speech, that she placed her hope of salvation in Jesus Christ alone; and so with glad countenance and eyes upraised to heaven her chaste body yielded up its soul to its Creator.

Just as the corpse, having been laid out and shrouded,5 was placed at the door to await the burial company, the poor husband arrived and beheld his wife’s body in front of his house before he had even received tidings of her death. He inquired the cause of this, and found that he had double occasion to grieve; and his grief was indeed so great that it nearly killed him.

This martyr of chastity was buried in the Church of St. Florentin, and, as was their duty, all the upright women of Amboise failed not to show her every possible honour, deeming themselves fortunate in belonging to a town where so virtuous a woman had been found. And seeing the honour that was shown to the deceased, such women as were wanton and unchaste resolved to amend their lives.

“This, ladies, is a true story, which should incline us more strongly to preserve the fair virtue of chastity. We who are of gentle blood should die of shame on feeling in our hearts that worldly lust to avoid which the poor wife of a muleteer shrank not from so cruel a death. Some esteem themselves virtuous women who have never like this one resisted unto the shedding of blood. It is fitting that we should humble ourselves, for God does not vouchsafe His grace to men because of their birth or riches, but according as it pleases His own good-will. He pays no regard to persons, but chooses according to His purpose; and he whom He chooses He honours with all virtues. And often He chooses the lowly to confound those whom the world exalts and honours; for, as He Himself hath told us, ‘Let us not rejoice in our merits, but rather because our names are written in the Book of Life, from which nor death, nor hell, nor sin can blot them out.’” 6

There was not a lady in the company but had tears of compassion in her eyes for the pitiful and glorious death of the muleteer’s wife. Each thought within herself that, should fortune serve her in the same way, she would strive to imitate this poor woman in her martyrdom. Oisille, however, perceiving that time was being lost in praising the dead woman, said to Saffredent —

“Unless you can tell us something that will make the company laugh, I think none of them will forgive me for the fault I have committed in making them weep; wherefore I give you my vote for your telling of the third story.”

Saffredent, who would gladly have recounted something agreeable to the company, and above all to one amongst the ladies, said that it was not for him to speak, seeing that there were others older and better instructed than himself, who should of right come first. Nevertheless, since the lot had fallen upon himself, he would rather have done with it at once, for the more numerous the good speakers before him, the worse would his own tale appear.

Tailpiece

1 The incidents of this story probably took place at Amboise, subsequent, however, to the month of August 1530, when Margaret was confined of her son John. — L.

2 Amboise is on the left bank of the Loire, and there have never been any buildings on the opposite bank. However, the bridge over the river intersects the island of St. Jean, which is covered with houses, and here the muleteer’s wife evidently resided. — M.

3 The Church of St. Florentin here mentioned must not be confounded with that of the same name near one of the gates of Amboise. Erected in the tenth century by Foulques Nera of Anjou, it was a collegiate church, and was attended by the townsfolk, although it stood within the precincts of the château. For this reason Queen Margaret calls it the castle church. — Ed.

4 Brantôme, in his account of Mary Queen of Scots, quotes this story. After mentioning that the headsman remained alone with the Queen’s decapitated corpse, he adds: “He then took off her shoes and handled her as he pleased. It is suspected that he treated her in the same way as that miserable muleteer, in the Hundred Stories of the Queen of Navarre, treated the poor woman he killed. Stranger temptations than this come to men. After he (the executioner) had done as he chose, the (Queen’s ) body was carried into a room adjoining that of her servants.” Lalanne’s OEuvres de Brantôme, vol. vii. p. 438. — M.

5 Common people were then buried in shrouds, not in coffins. — Ed.

6 These are not the exact words of Scripture, but a combination of several passages from the Book of Revelation. — Ed.

the Stags Head
The King Joking upon the Stag’s Head being A fitting Decoration

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Tale iii.

The Queen of Naples, being wronged by King Alfonso, her husband, revenged herself with a gentleman whose wife was the King’s mistress; and this intercourse lasted all their lives without the King at any time having suspicion of it.1

I have often desired, ladies, to be a sharer in the good fortune of the man whose story I am about to relate to you. You must know that in the time of King Alfonso,2 whose lust was the sceptre of his kingdom,3 there lived in the town of Naples a gentleman, so honourable, comely, and pleasant that his perfections induced an old gentleman to give him his daughter in marriage.

She vied with her husband in grace and comeliness, and there was great love between them, until a certain day in Carnival time, when the King went masked from house to house. All strove to give him the best welcome they could, but when he came to this gentleman’s house he was entertained better than anywhere else, what with sweetmeats, and singers, and music, and, further, the fairest woman that, to his thinking, he had ever seen. At the end of the feast she sang a song with her husband in so graceful a fashion that she seemed more beautiful than ever.

The King, perceiving so many perfections united in one person, was not over pleased at the gentle harmony between the husband and wife, and deliberated how he might destroy it. The chief difficulty he met with was in the great affection which he observed existed between them, and on this account he hid his passion in his heart as deeply as he could. To relieve it in some measure, he gave many entertainments to the lords and ladies of Naples, and at these the gentleman and his wife were not forgotten. Now, inasmuch as men willingly believe what they desire, it seemed to the King that the glances of this lady gave him fair promise of future happiness, if only she were not restrained by her husband’s presence. Accordingly, that he might learn whether his surmise was true, the King intrusted a commission to the husband, and sent him on a journey to Rome for a fortnight or three weeks.

As soon as the gentleman was gone, his wife, who had never before been separated from him, was in great distress; but the King comforted her as often as he was able, with gentle persuasions and presents, so that at last she was not only consoled, but well pleased with her husband’s absence. Before the three weeks were over at the end of which he was to be home again, she had come to be so deeply in love with the King that her husband’s return was no less displeasing to her than his departure had been. Not wishing to be deprived of the King’s society, she agreed with him that whenever her husband went to his country-house she would give him notice of it. He might then visit her in safety, and with such secrecy that her honour, which she regarded more than her conscience, would not suffer.4

Having this hope, the lady continued of very cheerful mind, and when her husband arrived she welcomed him so heartily that, even had he been told that the King had sought her in his absence, he would have had no suspicion. In course of time, however, the flame, that is so difficult of concealment, began to show itself, and the husband, having a strong inkling of the truth, kept good watch, by which means he was well-nigh convinced. Nevertheless, as he feared that the man who wronged him would treat him still worse if he appeared to notice it, he resolved to dissemble, holding it better to live in trouble than to risk his life for a woman who had ceased to love him.

In his vexation of spirit, however, he resolved, if he could, to retort upon the King, and knowing that women, especially such as are of lofty and honourable minds, are more moved by resentment than by love, he made bold one day while speaking with the Queen 5 to tell her that it moved his pity to see her so little loved by the King.

The Queen, who had heard of the affection that existed between the King and the gentleman’s wife, replied —

“I cannot have both honour and pleasure together. I well know that I have the honour whilst another has the pleasure; and in the same way she who has the pleasure has not the honour that is mine.”

Thereupon the gentleman, who understood full well at whom these words were aimed, replied —

“Madam, honour is inborn with you, for your lineage is such that no title, whether of queen or empress, could be an increase of nobility; yet your beauty, grace, and virtue are well deserving of pleasure, and she who robs you of what is yours does a greater wrong to herself than to you, seeing that for a glory which is turned to her shame, she loses as much pleasure as you or any lady in the realm could enjoy. I can truly tell you, madam, that were the King to lay aside his crown, he would not possess any advantage over me in satisfying a lady; nay, I am sure that to content one so worthy as yourself he would indeed be pleased to change his temperament for mine.”

The Queen laughed and replied —

“The King may be of a less vigorous temperament than you, yet the love he bears me contents me well, and I prefer it to any other.”

“Madam,” said the gentleman, “if that were so, I should have no pity for you. I feel sure that you would be well pleased if the like of your own virtuous love were found in the King’s heart; but God has withheld this from you in order that, not finding what you desire in your husband, you may not make him your god on earth.”

“I confess to you,” said the Queen, “that the love I bear him is so great that the like could not be found in any other heart but mine.”

“Pardon me, madam,” said the gentleman; “you have not fathomed the love of every heart. I will be so bold as to tell you that you are loved by one whose love is so great and measureless that your own is as nothing beside it. The more he perceives that the King’s love fails you, the more does his own wax and increase, in such wise that, were it your pleasure, you might be recompensed for all you have lost.”

The Queen began to perceive, both from these words and from the gentleman’s countenance, that what he said came from the depth of his heart. She remembered also that for a long time he had so zealously sought to do her service that he had fallen into sadness. She had hitherto deemed this to be on account of his wife, but now she was firmly of belief that it was for love of herself. Moreover, the very quality of love, which compels itself to be recognised when it is unfeigned, made her feel certain of what had been hidden from every one. As she looked at the gentleman, who was far more worthy of being loved than her husband, she reflected that he was forsaken by his wife, as she herself was by the King; and then, beset by vexation and jealousy against her husband, as well as moved by the love of the gentleman, she began with sighs and tearful eyes to say —

“Ah me! shall revenge prevail with me where love has been of no avail?”

The gentleman, who understood what these words meant, replied —

“Vengeance, madam, is sweet when in place of slaying an enemy it gives life to a true lover.6 Methinks it is time that truth should cause you to abandon the foolish love you bear to one who loves you not, and that a just and reasonable love should banish fear, which cannot dwell in a noble and virtuous heart. Come, madam, let us set aside the greatness of your station and consider that, of all men and women in the world, we are the most deceived, betrayed, and bemocked by those whom we have most truly loved. Let us avenge ourselves, madam, not so much to requite them in the way they deserve as to satisfy that love which, for my own part, I cannot continue to endure and live. And I think that, unless your heart be harder than flint or diamond, you cannot but feel some spark from the fires which only increase the more I seek to conceal them. If pity for me, who am dying of love for you, does not move you to love me, at least pity for yourself should do so. You are so perfect that you deserve to win the heart of every honourable man in the world, yet you are contemned and forsaken by him for whose sake you have scorned all others.”

On hearing these words the Queen was so greatly moved that, for fear of showing in her countenance the trouble of her mind, she took the gentleman’s arm and went forth into a garden that was close to her apartment. There she walked to and fro for a long time without being able to say a word to him. The gentleman saw that she was half won, and when they were at the end of the path, where none could see them, he made a very full declaration of the love which he had so long hidden from her. They found that they were of one mind in the matter, and enacted 7 the vengeance which they were no longer able to forego. Moreover, they there agreed that whenever the husband went into the country, and the King left the castle to visit the wife in the town, the gentleman should always return and come to the castle to see the Queen. Thus, the deceivers being themselves deceived, all four would share in the pleasures that two of them had thought to keep to themselves.

When the agreement had been made, the Queen returned to her apartment and the gentleman to his house, both being so well pleased that they had forgotten all their former troubles. The jealousy they had previously felt at the King’s visits to the lady was now changed to desire, so that the gentleman went oftener than usual to his house in the country, which was only half a league distant. As soon as the King was advised of his departure, he never failed to go and see the lady; and the gentleman, when night was come, betook himself to the castle to the Queen, where he did duty as the King’s lieutenant, and so secretly that none ever discovered it.

This manner of life lasted for a long time; but as the King was a person of public condition, he could not conceal his love sufficiently well to prevent it from coming at length to the knowledge of every one; and all honourable people felt great pity for the gentleman, though divers malicious youths were wont to deride him by making horns at him behind his back. But he knew of their derision, and it gave him great pleasure, so that he came to think as highly of his horns as of the King’s crown.

One day, however, the King and the gentleman’s wife, noticing a stag’s head that was set up in the gentleman’s house, could not refrain in his presence from laughing and saying that the head was suited to the house. Soon afterwards the gentleman, who was no less spirited than the King, caused the following words to be written over the stag’s head:—

“Io porto le corna, ciascun lo vede,

Ma tal le porta che no lo crede.” 8

When the King came again to the house, he observed these lines newly written, and inquired their meaning of the gentleman, who said —

“If the King’s secret be hidden from the subject, it is not fitting that the subject’s secret should be revealed to the King. Be content with knowing that those who wear horns do not always have their caps raised from their heads. Some horns are so soft that they never uncap one, and especially are they light to him who thinks he has them not.”

The King perceived by these words that the gentleman knew something of his own behaviour, but he never had any suspicion of the love between him and the Queen; for the more pleased the latter was with the life led by her husband, the more did she feign to be distressed by it. And so on either side they lived in this love, until at last old age took them in hand.

“Here, ladies, is a story by which you may be guided, for, as I willingly confess, it shows you that when your husbands give you bucks’ horns you can give them stags’ horns in return.”

“I am quite sure, Saffredent,” began Ennasuite laughing, “that if you still love as ardently as you were formerly wont to do, you would submit to horns as big as oak-trees if only you might repay them as you pleased. However, now that your hair is growing grey, it is time to leave your desires in peace.”

“Fair lady,” said Saffredent, “though I be robbed of hope by the woman I love, and of ardour by old age, yet it lies not in my power to weaken my inclination. Since you have rebuked me for so honourable a desire, I give you my vote for the telling of the fourth tale, that we may see whether you can bring forward some example to refute me.”

During this converse one of the ladies fell to laughing heartily, knowing that she who took Saffredent’s words to herself was not so loved by him that he would have suffered horns, shame, or wrong for her sake. When Saffredent perceived that the lady who laughed understood him, he was well satisfied and became silent, so that Ennasuite might begin; which she did as follows —

“In order, ladies, that Saffredent and the rest of the company may know that all ladies are not like the Queen he has spoken of, and that all foolhardy and venturesome men do not compass their ends, I will tell you a story in which I will acquaint you with the opinion of a lady who deemed the vexation of failure in love to be harder of endurance than death itself. However, I shall give no names, because the events are so fresh in people’s minds that I should fear to offend some who are near of kin.”

Tailpiece

1 This story is historical. The events occurred at Naples cir. 1450. — L.

2 The King spoken of in this story must be Alfonso V., King of Aragon, who was born in 1385, and succeeded his father, Ferdinand the Just, in 1416. He had already made various expeditions to Sardinia and Corsica, when, in 1421, Jane II. of Naples begged of him to assist her in her contest against Louis of Anjou. Alfonso set sail for Italy as requested, but speedily quarrelled with Jane, on account of the manner in which he treated her lover, the Grand Seneschal Caraccioli. Jane, at her death in 1438, bequeathed her crown to René, brother of Louis of Anjou, whose claims Alfonso immediately opposed. Whilst blockading Gaëta he was defeated and captured, but ultimately set at liberty, whereupon he resumed the war. In 1442 he at last secured possession of Naples, and compelled René to withdraw from Italy. From that time Alfonso never returned to Spain, but settling himself in his Italian dominions, assumed the title of King of the Two Sicilies. He obtained the surname of the Magnanimous, from his generous conduct towards some conspirators, a list of whose names he tore to pieces unread, saying, “I will show these noblemen that I have more concern for their lives than they have themselves.” The surname of the Learned was afterwards given to him from the circumstance that, like his rival René of Anjou, he personally cultivated letters, and also protected many of the leading learned men of Italy. Alfonso was fond of strolling about the streets of Naples unattended, and one day, when he was cautioned respecting this habit, he replied, “A father who walks abroad in the midst of his children has no cause for fear.” Whilst possessed of many remarkable qualities, Alfonso, as Muratori and other writers have shown, was of an extremely licentious disposition. That he had no belief in conjugal fidelity is evidenced by his saying that “to ensure domestic happiness the husband should be deaf and the wife blind.” He himself had several mistresses, and lived at variance with his wife, respecting whom some particulars are given in a note on page 69. He died in 1458, at the age of seventy-four, bequeathing his Italian possessions to Ferdinand, Duke of Calabria, his natural son by a Spanish beauty named Margaret de Hijar. It may be added that Brantôme makes a passing allusion to this tale of the Heptameron in his Vies des Dames Galantes (Disc, i.), styling it “a very fine one." — L. and Ed.

3 Meaning that he employed his sovereign authority for the accomplishment of his amorous desires. — M.

4 The edition of 1558 is here followed, the MSS. being rather obscure. — M.

5 This was Mary (daughter of Henry III. of Castile), who was married to King Alfonso at Valencia on June 29, 1415. Juan de Mariana, the Spanish historian, records that the ceremony was celebrated with signal pomp by the schismatical Pope Benedict XIII. The bride brought her husband a dowry of 200,000 ducats, and also various territorial possessions. The marriage, however, was not a happy one, on account of Alfonso’s licentious disposition, and the Queen is said to have strangled one of his mistresses, Margaret de Hijar, in a fit of jealousy. Alfonso, to escape from his wife’s interference, turned his attention to foreign expeditions. According to the authors of L’Art de Vérifier les Dates, Queen Mary never once set foot in Italy, and this statement is borne out by Mariana, who shows that whilst Alfonso was reigning in Naples his wife governed the kingdom of Aragon, making war and signing truces and treaties of peace with Castile. In the Heptameron, therefore, Margaret departs from historical accuracy when she represents the Queen as residing at Naples with her husband. Moreover, judging by the date of Mary’s marriage, she could no longer have been young when Alfonso secured the Neapolitan throne. It is to be presumed that the Queen of Navarre designedly changed the date of her story, and that the incidents referred to really occurred in Spain prior to Alfonso’s departure for Italy. There is no mention of Mary in her husband’s will, a remarkable document which is still extant. A letter written to her by Pope Calixtus II. shows that late in life the King was desirous of repudiating her to marry an Italian mistress named Lucretia Alania. The latter repaired to Rome to negotiate the affair, but the Pope refused to treat with her, and wrote to Mary saying that she must be prudent, but that he would not dissolve the marriage, lest God should punish him for participating in so great a crime. Mary died a few months after her husband in 1458, and was buried in a convent at Valencia. — L. and Ed.

6 The above sentence being omitted in the MS. followed in this edition, it has been supplied from MS. No. 1520 in the Bibliothèque Nationale. — L.

7 This expression has allusion to the mysteries or religious plays so frequently performed in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The Mystery of Vengeance, which depicted the misfortunes which fell upon those who had taken part in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, such as Pontius Pilate, &c, and ended by the capture and destruction of Jerusalem, properly came after the Mysteries of the Passion and the Resurrection. — L.

8 “All men may see the horns I’ve got,
But one wears horns and knows it not.”

Hurrying to Her Mistress's Assistance
The Princess’s Lady of Honour hurrying to her Mistress’s Assistance

079.jpg Headpiece

Tale iv.

A young gentleman sought to discover whether the offer of an honourable love would be displeasing to his master’s sister, a lady of the most illustrious lineage in Flanders, who had been twice widowed, and was a woman of muck spirit. Meeting with a reply contrary to his desires, he attempted to possess her by force; but she resisted him successfully, and by the advice of her lady of honour, without seeming to take notice of his designs and efforts, gradually ceased to regard him with the favour with which she had been wont to treat him. Thus, by his foolhardy presumption, he lost the honourable and habitual companionship which, more than others, he had had with her.1

There lived in the land of Flanders a lady of such high lineage, that none more illustrious could be found. She was a widow, both her first and second husbands being dead, and she had no children living. During her widowhood she lived in retirement with her brother, by whom she was greatly loved, and who was a very great lord and married to the daughter of a King. This young Prince was a man much given to pleasure, fond of hunting, pastimes, and women, as his youth inclined him. He had a wife, however, who was of a very froward disposition, 2 and found no pleasure in her husband’s pursuits; wherefore this Lord always took his sister along with his wife, for she was a most joyous and pleasant companion, and withal a discreet and honourable woman.

In this Lord’s household there was a gentleman who, for stature, comeliness, and grace, surpassed all his fellows. This gentleman, 3 perceiving that his master’s sister was of merry mood and always ready for a laugh, was minded to try whether the offer of an honourable love would be displeasing to her.

He made this offer, but the answer that he received from her was contrary to his desires. However, although her reply was such as beseemed a Princess and a woman of true virtue, she readily pardoned his hardihood for the sake of his comeliness and breeding, and let him know that she bore him no ill-will for what he had said. But she charged him never to speak to her after that fashion again; and this he promised, that he might not lose the pleasure and honour of her conversation. Nevertheless, as time went on, his love so increased that he forgot the promise he had made. He did not, however, risk further trial of words, for he had learned by experience, and much against his will, what virtuous replies she was able to make. But he reflected that if he could take her somewhere at a disadvantage, she, being a widow, young, lusty, and of a lively humour, would perchance take pity on him and on herself.

To compass his ends, he told his master that excellent hunting was to be had in the neighbourhood of his house, and that if it pleased him to repair thither and hunt three or four stags in the month of May, he could have no finer sport. The Lord granted the gentleman’s request, as much for the affection he bore him as for the pleasure of the chase, and repaired to his house, which was as handsome and as fairly ordered as that of the richest gentleman in the land.

The Lord and his Lady were lodged on one side of the house, and she whom the gentleman loved more than himself on the other. Her apartment was so well arranged, tapestried above and matted below,4 that it was impossible to perceive a trap-door which was by the side of her bed, and which opened into a room beneath, that was occupied by the gentleman’s mother.5

She being an old lady, somewhat troubled by rheum, and fearful lest the cough she had should disturb the Princess, made exchange of chambers with her son. In the evening this old lady was wont to bring sweetmeats to the Princess for her collation,6 at which the gentleman was present; and being greatly beloved by her brother and intimate with him, he was also suffered to be present when she rose in the morning and when she retired to bed, on which occasions he always found reasons for an increase of his affection.

Thus it came to pass that one evening he made the Princess stay up very late, until at last, being desirous of sleep, she bade him leave her. He then went to his own room, and there put on the handsomest and best-scented shirt he had, and a nightcap so well adorned that nothing was lacking in it. It seemed, to him, as he looked at himself in his mirror, that no lady in the world could deny herself to one of his comeliness and grace. He therefore promised himself a happy issue to his enterprise, and so lay down on his bed, where in his desire and sure hope of exchanging it for one more honourable and pleasant, he looked to make no very long stay.

As soon as he had dismissed all his attendants he rose to fasten the door after them; and for a long time he listened to hear whether there were any sound in the room of the Princess, which was above his own. When he had made sure that all was quiet, he wished to begin his pleasant task, and little by little let down the trap-door, which was so excellently wrought, and so well covered with cloth, that it made not the least noise. Then he ascended into the room and came to the bedside of his lady, who was just falling asleep.

Forthwith, having no regard for the duty that he owed his mistress or for the house to which she belonged, he got into bed with her, without entreating her permission or making any kind of ceremony. She felt him in her arms before she knew that he had entered the room; but being strong, she freed herself from his grasp, and fell to striking, biting, and scratching him, demanding the while to know who he was, so that for fear lest she should call out he sought to stop her mouth with the bedclothes. But this he found it impossible to do, for when she saw that he was using all his strength to work her shame she did as much to baffle him. She further called as loudly as she could to her lady of honour,7 who slept in her room; and this old and virtuous woman ran to her mistress in her nightdress.

When the gentleman saw that he was discovered, he was so fearful of being recognised by the lady, that he descended in all haste through his trap-door; his despair at returning in such an evil plight being no less than his desire and assurance of a gracious reception had previously been. He found his mirror and candle on his table,8 and looking at his face, all bleeding from the lady’s scratches and bites, whence the blood was trickling over his fine shirt, which had now more blood than gold 9 about it, he said —

“Beauty! now hast thou been rewarded according to thy deserts. By reason of thy vain promises I attempted an impossible undertaking, and one that, instead of increasing my happiness, will perchance double my misfortune. I feel sure that if she knows I made this foolish attempt contrary to the promise I gave her, I shall lose the honourable and accustomed companionship which more than any other I have had with her. And my folly has well deserved this, for if I was to turn my good looks and grace to any account, I ought not to have hidden them in the darkness. I should not have sought to take that chaste body by force, but should have waited in long service and humble patience till love had conquered her. Without love, all man’s merits and might are of no avail.”

Thus he passed the night in tears, regrets, and sorrowings such as I cannot describe; and in the morning, finding his face greatly torn, he feigned grievous sickness and to be unable to endure the light, until the company had left his house.

The lady, who had come off victorious, knew that there was no man at her brother’s Court that durst attempt such an enterprise save him who had had the boldness to declare his love to her. She therefore concluded that it was indeed her host, and made search through the room with her lady of honour to discover how he could have entered it. But in this she failed, whereupon she said to her companion in great anger —

“You may be sure that it can have been none other than the lord of this house, and I will make such report of him to my brother in the morning that his head shall bear witness to my chastity.”

Seeing her in such wrath, the lady of honour said to her —

“Right glad am I, madam, to find you esteem your honour so highly that, to exalt it, you would not spare the life of a man who, for the love he bears you, has put it to this risk. But it often happens that one lessens what one thinks to increase; wherefore, I pray you, madam, tell me the truth of the whole matter.”

When the lady had fully related the business, the lady of honour said to her —

“You assure me that he had nothing from you save only scratches and blows?”

“I do assure you that it was so,” said the lady; “and, unless he find a rare surgeon, I am certain his face will bear the marks tomorrow.”

“Well, since it is thus, madam,” said the lady of honour, “it seems to me that you have more reason to thank God than to think of vengeance; for you may well believe that, since the gentleman had spirit enough to make such an attempt, his grief at having failed will be harder of endurance than any death you could award him. If you desire to be revenged on him, let love and shame do their work; they will torment him more grievously than could you. And if you would speak out for your honour’s sake,10 beware, madam, lest you fall into a mishap like to his own. He, instead of obtaining the greatest delight he could imagine, has encountered the gravest vexation any gentleman could endure. So you, madam, thinking to exalt your honour, may perchance diminish it. If you make complaint, you will bring to light what is known to none, for you may rest assured that the gentleman on his side will never reveal aught of the matter. And even if my lord, your brother, should do justice to him at your asking, and the poor gentleman should die, yet would it everywhere be noised abroad that he had had his will of you, and most people would say it was unlikely a gentleman would make such an attempt unless the lady had given him great encouragement. You are young and fair; you live gaily with all; and there is no one at Court but has seen the kind treatment you have shown to the gentleman whom you suspect. Hence every one will believe that if he did this deed it was not without some fault on your side; and your honour, for which you have never had to blush, will be freely questioned wherever the story is related.”

On hearing the excellent reasoning of her lady of honour, the Princess perceived that she spoke the truth, and that she herself would, with just cause, be blamed on account of the close friendship which she had always shown towards the gentleman. Accordingly she inquired of her lady of honour what she ought to do.

“Madam,” replied the other, “since you are pleased to receive my counsels, having regard for the affection whence they spring, it seems to me you should be glad at heart to think that the most comely and gallant gentleman I have ever seen was not able, whether by love or by force, to turn you from the path of true virtue. For this, madam, you should humble yourself before God, and confess that it was not through your own merit, for many women who have led straighter lives than you have been humiliated by men less worthy of love than he. And you should henceforth be more than ever on your guard against proposals of love; for many have the second time yielded to dangers which on the first occasion they were able to avoid. Be mindful, madam, that love is blind, and that it makes people blind in such wise that the way appears safest just when it is most slippery. Further, madam, it seems to me that you should give no sign of what has befallen you, whether to him or to any one else, and that if he seeks to say anything on the matter, you should feign not to understand him. In this way you will avoid two dangers, the one of vain-glory in the victory you have won, and the other of recalling things so pleasant to the flesh that at mention of them the chastest can only with difficulty avoid feeling some sparks of the flame, though they strive their utmost to escape them. 11 Besides this, madam, in order that he may not think he has done anything pleasing in your sight, I am of opinion you should little by little withdraw the friendship you have been in the habit of showing him. In this way he will know how much you scorn his rashness, and how great is your goodness, since, content with the victory that God has given you, you seek no further vengeance upon him. And may God give you grace, madam, to continue in the virtue He has placed in your heart; and, knowing that all good things come from Him, may you love and serve Him better than before.”

The Princess determined to abide by the advice of her lady of honour, and then fell asleep with joy as great as was the sadness of her waking lover.

On the morrow, the lord, her brother, wishing to depart, inquired for his host, and was told that he was too ill to bear the light or to hear any one speak. The Prince was greatly astonished at this, and wished to go and see the gentleman; however, learning that he was asleep, he would not awake him, but left the house without bidding him farewell. He took with him his wife and sister, and the latter, hearing the excuses sent by the gentleman, who would not see the Prince or any of the company before their departure, felt convinced that it was indeed he who had so tormented her, and that he durst not let the marks which she had left upon his face be seen. And although his master frequently sent for him, he did not return to Court until he was quite healed of all his wounds, save only one — namely, that which love and vexation had dealt to his heart.

When he did return, and found himself in presence of his victorious foe, he could not but blush; and such was his confusion, that he who had formerly been the boldest of all the company, was often wholly abashed before her. Accordingly, being now quite certain that her suspicion was true, she estranged herself from him little by little, though not so adroitly that he did not perceive it; but he durst not give any sign for fear of meeting with something still worse, and so he kept his love concealed, patiently enduring the disgrace he had so well deserved.12

“This, ladies, is a story which should be a warning to those who would grasp at what does not belong to them, and which, further, should strengthen the hearts of ladies, since it shows the virtue of this young Princess, and the good sense of her lady of honour. If the like fortune should befall any among you, the remedy has now been pointed out.”

“It seems to me,” said Hircan, “that the tall gentleman of whom you have told us was so lacking in spirit as to be unworthy of being remembered. With such an opportunity as that, he ought not to have suffered any one, old or young, to baffle him in his enterprise. It must be said, also, that his heart was not entirely filled with love, seeing that fear of death and shame found place within it.”

“And what,” replied Nomerfide, “could the poor gentleman have done with two women against him?”

“He ought to have killed the old one,” said Hircan, “and when the young one found herself without assistance she would have been already half subdued.”

“To have killed her!” said Nomerfide. “Then you would turn a lover into a murderer? Since such is your opinion, it would indeed be a fearful thing to fall into your hands.”

“If I had gone so far,” said Hircan, “I should have held it dishonourable not to achieve my purpose.”

Then said Geburon —

“You think it strange that a Princess, bred in all honour, should prove difficult of capture to one man. You should then be much more astonished at a poor woman who escaped out of the hands of two.”

“Geburon,” said Ennasuite, “I give my vote to you to tell the fifth tale, for I think you know something concerning this poor woman that will not be displeasing to us.”

“Since you have chosen me,” said Geburon, “I will tell you a story which I know to be true from having made inquiries concerning it on the spot. By this story you will see that womanly sense and virtue are not in the hearts and heads of Princesses alone, nor love and cunning in such as are most often deemed to possess them.”

Tailpiece

1 This story is historical, and the incidents must have occurred between 1520 and 1525. — L.

2 The young prince here mentioned is Francis I., who at this period was between twenty-five and thirty years old. The froward wife is Claude of France (daughter of Louis XII. and Anne of Brittany), whom Francis married in 1514, and who died of consumption at Blois ten years later, while the King was on his way to conquer Milan. (See the Memoir of Margaret, pp. xxvi. and xxxv.) — Ed.

3 According to Brantôme, the Lady of Flanders, the young Prince’s sister, was Queen Margaret herself, and the gentleman who paid court to her was William Gouffier, Lord of Bonnivet, of Crevecoeur, Thois, and Querdes, and also a favourite of Francis I., with whom he was brought up, and by whom he was employed in all the great enterprises of the time. Bonnivet became Admiral of France in 1517, and two years later he was created governor of Dauphiné, and guardian of the Dauphin’s person. He negotiated the peace and alliance with Henry VIII., and arranged all the preliminaries of the interview known as the Field of the Cloth of Gold (1520). In 1521, says Anselme in his Histoire Généalogique, Bonnivet became governor of Guienne, commanded the army sent to Navarre, and captured Fontarabia. In 1524 he was despatched to Italy as lieutenant-general, and besieged Milan, but was repeatedly repulsed, and finally fell back on the Ticino. He was killed at Pavia (February 24, 1525), and was largely responsible for that disastrous defeat, having urged Francis I. to give battle, contrary to the advice of the more experienced captains. Bonnivet, as mentioned by Queen Margaret in this story, had the reputation of being one of the handsomest men of his time. — L.

4 In most palaces and castles at this period the walls were covered with tapestry and the floors with matting. This remark is necessary to enable one to understand Bonnivet’s stratagem. — D.

5 Philippa de Montmorency, second wife of William Gouffier, Lord of Boissy, who was Bonnivet’s father (Anselme’s Histoire Généalogique, vol. vii. p. 880). — L.

6 At that period the collation, as the supper was called, was served at seven in the evening, shortly before the curfew. — B. J.

7 The lady in question was Blanche de Tournon, daughter of James de Tournon, by Jane de Polignac, and sister of Cardinal de Tournon, Minister of Francis I. She first married Raymond d’Agout, Baron of Sault in Provence, who died in 1503; and secondly James de Chastillon, Chamberlain to Charles VIII. and Louis XII., killed at the siege of Ravenna in 1512. Brantôme states, moreover, that she subsequently married Cardinal John du Bellay. (See note 12.) In this story, Margaret describes the Princess of Flanders as having lost two husbands, with the view of disguising the identity of her heroine. Her own husband (the Duke of Alençon) was still alive; but Madame de Chastillon had twice become a widow, and the Queen, who was well aware of this, designedly ascribed to the Princess the situation of the lady of honour. This story should be compared with the poem “Quatre Dames et Quatre Gentilhommes” in the Marguerites de la Marguerite. — F.

8 It is not surprising that the mirror should have been lying on the table. Mirrors were for a long time no larger than our modern hand-glasses. That of Mary de’ Medici, offered to her by the Republic of Venice, and now in the Galerie d’Apollon at the Louvre, is extremely small, though it has an elaborate frame enriched with precious cameos. Even the mirrors placed by Louis XIV. in the celebrated Galerie des Glaces at Versailles were no larger than ordinary window-panes. — M.

9 Shirts were then adorned at the collar and in front with gold-thread embroidery, such as is shown in some of Clouet’s portraits. In M. de Laborde’s Comptes des Bâtiments du Roi au XVIème Siècle (vol. ii.) mention is made of “a shirt with gold work,” “a shirt with white work,” &c.; and also of two beautiful women’s chemises in Holland linen “richly worked with gold thread and silk, at the price of six crowns apiece." — M.

10 In Boaistuau’s edition this passage runs: “Let love and shame do their work, they will know better than you how to torment him; and do this for your honour’s sake. Beware,” &c. — L.

11 We here follow MS. No. 1520. — L.

12 This story is referred to by Brantôme, both in his Vies des Homines illustres et grands Capitaines français, and in his Vies des Dames galantes.

Les Vies des Dames galantes contains the following passage bearing upon Margaret’s 4th Tale. See Lalanne’s edition of Brantôme’s Works, vol. ix. p. 678 et sec.:—

“I have heard a lady of great and ancient rank relate that the late Cardinal du Bellay, whilst a Bishop and Cardinal, married Madame de Chastillon, and died married; and this lady said it in conversing with Monsieur de Manne, a Provençal of the house of Seulal, and Bishop of Frejus, who had attended the said Cardinal during fifteen years at the Court of Rome, and had been one of his private protonotaries. The conversation turning upon the said Cardinal, this lady asked Monsieur de Manne if he (the Cardinal) had ever said and confessed to him that he had been married. It was Monsieur de Manne who was astonished at such a question. He is still alive and can say if I am telling an untruth, for I was there. He replied that he had never heard the matter spoken of either to himself or to others. ‘Then it is I who inform you of it,’ said she, ‘for nothing could be more true but that he was married, and died really married to Madame de Chastillon.’

“I assure you that I laughed heartily, contemplating the astonished countenance of Monsieur de Manne, who was most conscientious and religious, and thought that he had known all the secrets of his late master; but he was as ignorant as a Gibuan as regards that one, which was indeed scandalous on account of the holy rank which he (Cardinal du Bellay) had held.

“This Madame de Chastillon was the widow of the late Monsieur de Chastillon, of whom it was said that he governed the little King Charles VIII., with Bourdillon and Bonneval, who governed the royal blood. He died at Ferrara, where he had been taken to have his wounds dressed, having been wounded at the siege of Ravenna.

“This lady became a widow when very young and beautiful, and on account of her being sensible and virtuous she was elected as lady of honour to the late Queen of Navarre. It was she who gave that fine advice to that lady and great princess, which is recorded in the hundred stories of the said Queen — the story of herself and a gentleman who had slipped into her bed during the night by a trap-door at the bedside, and who wished to enjoy her, but only obtained by it some fine scratches upon his handsome face. She (the Queen) wishing to complain to her brother, Madame de Chastillon made her that fine remonstrance which will be seen in the story, and gave her that beautiful advice which is one of the finest, most judicious, and most fitting that could be given to avoid scandal: did it come even from a first president of (the Parliament of) Paris. Yet it well showed that the lady was quite as artful and shrewd in such secret matters as she was sensible and prudent; and for this reason there is no need for doubt as to whether she kept her affair with the Cardinal a secret. My grandmother, Madame la Sénéchale of Poitou, had her place after her death, by election of King Francis who chose and elected her, and sent to fetch her even in her house, and gave her with his own hand to the Queen his sister, for he knew her to be a very well-advised and very virtuous lady, but not so shrewd, or artful, or ready-witted in such matters as her predecessor, or married either a second time.

“And if you wish to know to whom the story applies, it is to the Queen of Navarre herself and Admiral de Bonnivet, as I hold it from my late grandmother; and yet it seems to me that the said Queen should not have concealed her name, since the other could not obtain aught from her chastity, but went off in confusion, and since she herself had meant to divulge the matter had it not been for the fine and sensible remonstrance which was made to her by the said lady of honour, Madame de Chastillon. Whoever has read the story will find that she was a lady of honour, and I think that the Cardinal, her said husband, who was one of the best speakers and most learned, eloquent, wise, and shrewd men of his time, must have instilled into her this science of speaking and remonstrating so well.”

Brantôme also refers to the story in question in his Vies des Hommes illustres et grands Capitaines français (vol. ii. p. 162), wherein he says:—

“There is a tale in the stories of the Queen of Navarre, which speaks of a lord, the favourite of a king, whom he invited with all his court to one of his houses, where he made a trap-door in his room conducting to the bedside of a great princess, in view of lying with her, as he did, but, as the story relates, he obtained only scratches from her.”

the Boatwoman of Coulon Outwitting The Friars
The Boatwoman of Coulon outwitting the Friars

095.jpg Headpiece

Tale v.

Two Grey Friars, when crossing the river at the haven of Coulon, sought to ravish the boatwoman who was taking them over. She, however, being virtuous and Clever, so beguiled them with words that, whilst promising to grant their request, she deceived them and handed them over to justice. They were then delivered up to their warden to receive such punishment as they deserved.

At the haven of Coulon,1 near Nyort, there lived a boatwoman who, day or night, did nothing but convey passengers across the ferry.

1 The village of Coulon, in Poitou (department of the Deux- Sèvres), lies within seven miles of Niort, on the Niortaise Sevre, which at this point is extremely wide. — L.

Now it chanced that two Grey Friars from Nyort were crossing the river alone with her, and as the passage is one of the longest in France, they began to make love to her, that she might not feel dull by the way. She returned them the answer that was due; but they, being neither fatigued by their journeying, nor cooled by the water, nor put to shame by her refusal, determined to take her by force, and, if she clamoured, to throw her into the river. She, however, was as virtuous and clever as they were gross and wicked, and said to them —

“I am not so ill-disposed as I seem to be, but I pray you grant me two requests. You shall then see that I am more ready to give than you are to ask.”

The friars swore to her by their good St. Francis that she could ask nothing that they would not grant in order to have what they desired of her.

“First of all,” she said, “I require you both to promise on oath that you will inform no man living of this matter.” This they promised right willingly.

“Then,” she continued, “I would have you take your pleasure with me one after the other, for it would be too great a shame for me to have to do with one in presence of the other. Consider which of you will have me first.”

They deemed her request a very reasonable one, and the younger friar yielded the first place to the elder. Then, as they were drawing near a little island, she said to the younger one —

“Good father, say your prayers here until I have taken your companion to another island. Then, if he praises me when he comes back, we will leave him here, and go away in turn together.”

The younger friar leapt out on to the island to await the return of his comrade, whom the boat-woman took away with her to another island. When they had reached the bank she said to him, pretending the while to fasten her boat to a tree —

“Look, my friend, and see where we can place ourselves.”

The good father stepped on to the island to seek for a convenient spot, but no sooner did she see him on land than she struck her foot against the tree and went off with her boat into the open stream, leaving both the good fathers to their deserts, and crying out to them as loudly as she could —

“Wait now, sirs, till the angel of God comes to console you; for you shall have nought that could please you from me to-day.”

The two poor monks, perceiving that they had been deceived, knelt down at the water’s edge and besought her not to put them to such shame; and they promised that they would ask nothing of her if she would of her goodness take them to the haven. But, still rowing away, she said to them —

“I should be doubly foolish if, after escaping out of your hands, I were to put myself into them again.”

When she had come to the village, she went to call her husband and the ministers of justice that they might go and take these fierce wolves, from whose fangs she had by the grace of God escaped. They set out accompanied by many people, for there was no one, big or little, but wished to share in the pleasure of this chase.

When the poor brethren saw such a large company approaching, they hid themselves each in his island, even as Adam did when he perceived his nakedness in the presence of God.2 Shame set their sin clearly before them, and the fear of punishment made them tremble so that they were half dead. Nevertheless, they were taken prisoners amid the mockings and hootings of men and women.

Some said, “These good fathers preach chastity to us and then rob our wives of theirs.” 3

2 See Genesis iii. 8-10.

3 The editions of 1558 and 1560 here contain this additional phrase: “They do not dare to touch money with bare hands, and yet they willingly finger the thighs of our wives, which are more dangerous." — L.

Others said, “They are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones and uncleanness.” 4 Then another voice cried, “By their fruits shall ye know what manner of trees they are.” 5

You may be sure that all the passages in the Gospel condemning hypocrites were brought forward against the unhappy prisoners, who were, however, rescued and delivered by their Warden,6 who came in all haste to claim them, assuring the ministers of justice that he would visit them with a greater punishment than laymen would venture to inflict, and that they should make reparation by saying as many masses and prayers as might be required. The judge granted the Warden’s request and gave the prisoners up to him; and the Warden, who was an upright man, so dealt with them that they never afterwards crossed a river without making the sign of the cross and recommending themselves to God.7

4 St. Matthew xxiii. 27.

5 “For every tree is known by his own fruit." — St. Luke vi. 45.

6 The Father Superior of the Grey Friars was called the Warden. — B.J.

7 Henry Etienne quotes this story in his Apologie pour Hérodote, and praises the Queen for thus denouncing the evil practices of the friars. — F.

“I pray you, ladies, consider, since this poor boatwoman had the wit to deceive two such evil men, what should be done by those who have read of and witnessed so many fair examples, and who have had the goodness of virtuous ladies ever before their eyes? Indeed, the virtue of well-bred women is not so much to be called virtue as habit. It is in the women who know nothing, who hear scarcely two good sermons during the whole year, who have no leisure to think of aught save the gaining of their miserable livelihood, and who nevertheless jealously guard their chastity, hard-pressed as they may be 8 — it is in such women as these that one discovers the virtue that is natural to the heart. Where man’s wit and might are smallest, there the Spirit of God performs the greatest work. And unhappy indeed is the lady who keeps not close ward over the treasure which brings her so much honour if it be well guarded, and so much shame if it be neglected.”

8 Boaistuau’s edition of 1558 here contains the following interpolation: “As should be done by those who, having their lives provided for, have no occupation save that of studying Holy Writ, listening to sermons and preaching, and exerting themselves to act virtuously in all things." — L.

“It seems to me, Geburon,” said Longarine, “that there is no great virtue in refusing a Grey Friar, and that it would rather be impossible to love one.”

“Longarine,” replied Geburon, “they who are not accustomed to such lovers as yours do by no means despise the Grey Friars, for the latter are as handsome and as strong as we are, and they are readier and fresher also, for we are worn-out with our service. Moreover, they talk like angels and are as importunate as the devil, so that such women as have never seen other robes than their coarse drugget ones,9 are truly virtuous when they escape out of their hands.”

9 Meaning who have never seen gallants in gay apparel. — Ed.

“In faith,” said Nomerfide, in a loud voice, “you may say what you like, but I would rather be thrown into the river than lie with a Grey Friar.”

“So you can swim well?” said Oisille, laughing.

Nomerfide took this question in bad part, for she thought that she was esteemed by Oisille less highly than she desired. Accordingly she answered in anger —

“There are some who have refused more agreeable men than Grey Friars without blowing a trumpet about it.”

Oisille laughed to see her so wrathful, and said to her —

“Still less do they beat a drum about what they have done and granted.”

“I see,” said Geburon, “that Nomerfide wishes to speak. I therefore give her my vote that she may relieve her heart in telling us some excellent story.”

“What has just been said,” replied Nomerfide, “touches me so little that it affords me neither pleasure nor pain. However, since I have your vote, I pray you listen to me whilst I show that, although one woman used cunning for a good purpose, others have been crafty for evil’s sake. Since we have sworn to tell the truth I will not hide it, for just as the boatwoman’s virtue brings no honour to other women unless they follow her example, so the vice of another cannot disgrace her. Wherefore, listen.”

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the Wife's Ruse to Secure The Escape of Her Lover
The Wife’s Ruse to secure the Escape of her Lover

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Tale vi.

An old one-eyed valet in the service of the Duke of Alençon being advised that his wife was in love with a young man, desired to know the truth, and feigned to go away into the country for a few days. He returned, however, so suddenly that his wife, on whom he was keeping watch, perceived how matters stood, and whilst thinking to deceive her, he was himself deceived.

There was in the service of Charles, last Duke of Alençon, an old valet who had lost an eye, and who was married to a wife much younger than himself. Now, since his master and mistress liked him as well as any man of his condition that was in their service, he was not able to visit his wife as often as he could have wished. Owing to this she so far forgot her honour and conscience as to fall in love with a young man, and the affair being at last noised abroad, the husband heard of it. He could not believe it, however, on account of the many notable tokens of love that were shown him by his wife.

Nevertheless, he one day determined to put the matter to the test, and to take revenge, if he were able, on the woman who had put him to such shame. For this purpose he pretended to go away to a place a short distance off for the space of two or three days.

As soon as he was gone, his wife sent for her lover, but he had not been with her for half-an-hour when the husband arrived and knocked loudly at the door. The wife well knew who it was and told her lover, who was so greatly confounded that he would fain have been in his mother’s womb, and cursed both his mistress and the love that had brought him into such peril. However, she bade him fear nothing, for she would devise a means to get him away without harm or shame to him, and she told him to dress himself as quickly as he could. All this time the husband was knocking at the door and calling to his wife at the top of his voice; but she feigned not to recognise him, and cried out to the people of the house —

“Why do you not get up and silence those who are making such a clamour at the door? Is this an hour to come to the houses of honest folk? If my husband were here he would soon make them desist.”

On hearing his wife’s voice the husband called to her as loudly as he could —

“Wife, open the door. Are you going to keep me waiting here till morning?”

Then, when she saw that her lover was ready to set forth, she opened the door.

“Oh, husband!” she began, “how glad I am that you are come. I have just had a wonderful dream, and was so pleased that I never before knew such delight, for it seemed to me that you had recovered the sight of your eye.” 1

1 This is taken from No. xvi. of the Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles, in which the wife exclaims: “Verily, at the very moment when you knocked, my lord, I was greatly occupied with a dream about you." — “And what was it, sweetheart?” asks the husband. — “By my faith, my lord,” replies the wife, “it really seemed to me that you were come back, that you were speaking to me, and that you saw as clearly with one eye as with the other." — Ed.

Then, embracing and kissing him, she took him by the head and covering his good eye with one hand, she asked him —

“Do you not see better than you did before?”

At that moment, whilst he saw not a whit, she made her lover sally forth. The husband immediately suspected the trick, and said to her —

“‘Fore God, wife, I will keep watch on you no more, for in thinking to deceive you, I have myself met with the cunningest deception that ever was devised. May God mend you, for it is beyond the power of man to put a stop to the maliciousness of a woman, unless by killing her outright. However, since the fair treatment I have accorded you has availed nothing for your amendment, perchance the scorn I shall henceforward hold you in will serve as a punishment.”

So saying he went away, leaving his wife in great distress. Nevertheless by the intercession of his friends and her own excuses and tears, he was persuaded to return to her again.2

2 Although Queen Margaret ascribes the foregoing adventure to one of the officers of her husband’s household, and declares that the narrative is quite true, the same subject had been dealt with by most of the old story-tellers prior to her time, and Deslongchamps points out the same incidents even in the early Hindoo fables (see the Pantcha Tantra, book I., fable vi.). A similar tale is to be found in the Gesta Romanorum (cap. cxxii.), in the fabliaux collected by Legrand d’Aussy (vol. iv., “De la mauvaise femme”), in P. Alphonse’s Disciplina Clericalis (fab. vii.), in the Decameron (day vii., story vi.), and in the Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles (story xvi.). Imitations are also to be found in Bandello (part i., story xxiii.), Malespini (story xliv.), Sansovino (Cento Novelle), Sabadino (Novelle), Etienne (Apologiepour Hérodote, ch. xv. ), De la Monnoye (vol. ii.), D’Ouville (Contes, vol. ii.), &c. — L. & B. J.

“By this tale, ladies, you may see how quick and crafty a woman is in escaping from danger. And if her wit be quick to discover the means of concealing a bad deed, it would, in my belief, be yet more subtle in avoiding evil or in doing good; for I have always heard it said that wit to do well is ever the stronger.”

“You may talk of your cunning as much as you please,” said Hircan, “but my opinion is that had the same fortune befallen you, you could not have concealed the truth.”

“I had as lief you deemed me the most foolish woman on earth,” she replied.

“I do not say that,” answered Hircan, “but I think you more likely to be confounded by slander than to devise some cunning means to silence it.”

“You think,” said Nomerfide, “that every one is like you, who would use one slander for the patching of another; but there is danger lest the patch impair what it patches and the foundation be so overladen that all be destroyed. However, if you think that the subtlety, of which all believe you to be fully possessed, is greater than that found in women, I yield place to you to tell the seventh story; and, if you bring yourself forward as the hero, I doubt not that we shall hear wickedness enough.”

“I am not here,” replied Hircan, “to make myself out worse than I am; there are some who do that rather more than is to my liking.”

So saying he looked at his wife, who quickly said —

“Do not fear to tell the truth on my account. I can more easily bear to hear you relate your crafty tricks than to see them played before my eyes, though none of them could lessen the love I bear you.”

“For that reason,” replied Hircan, “I make no complaint of all the false opinions you have had of me. And so, since we understand each other, there will be more security for the future. Yet I am not so foolish as to relate a story of myself, the truth of which might be vexatious to you. I will tell you one of a gentleman who was among my dearest friends.”

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The Merchant transferring his caresses from the daughter to the mother
The Merchant transferring his Caresses from the Daughter to the Mother

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Tale vii.

By the craft and subtlety of a merchant an old woman was deceived and the honour of her daughter saved.

In the city of Paris there lived a merchant who was in love with a young girl of his neighbourhood, or, to speak more truly, she was more in love with him than he with her. For the show he made to her of love and devotion was but to conceal a loftier and more honourable passion. However, she suffered herself to be deceived, and loved him so much that she had quite forgotten the way to refuse.

After the merchant had long taken trouble to go where he could see her, he at last made her come whithersoever it pleased himself. Her mother discovered this, and being a very virtuous woman, she forbade her daughter ever to speak to the merchant on pain of being sent to a nunnery. But the girl, whose love for the merchant was greater than her fear of her mother, went after him more than ever.

It happened one day, when she was in a closet all alone, the merchant came in to her, and finding himself in a place convenient for the purpose, fell to conversing with her as privily as was possible. But a maid-servant, who had seen him go in, ran and told the mother, who betook herself thither in great wrath. When the girl heard her coming, she said, weeping, to the merchant — “Alas! sweetheart, the love that I bear you will now cost me dear. Here comes my mother, who will know for certain what she has always feared and suspected.”

The merchant, who was not a bit confused by this accident, straightway left the girl and went to meet the mother. Stretching out his arms, he hugged her with all his might, and, with the same ardour with which he had begun to entertain the daughter, threw the poor old woman on to a small bed. She was so taken aback at being thus treated that she could find nothing to say but — “What do you want? Are you dreaming?”

For all that he ceased not to press her as closely as if she had been the fairest maiden in the world, and had she not cried out so loudly that her serving-men and women came to her aid, she would have gone by the same road as she feared her daughter was treading.

However, the servants dragged the poor old woman by main force out of the merchant’s arms, and she never knew for what reason he had thus used her. Meanwhile, her daughter took refuge in a house hard by where a wedding was going on. Since then she and the merchant have ofttimes laughed together at the expense of the old woman, who was never any the wiser.

“By this story, ladies, you may see how, by the subtlety of a man, an old woman was deceived and the honour of a young one saved. Any one who would give the names, or had seen the merchant’s face and the consternation of the old woman, would have a very tender conscience to hold from laughing. It is sufficient for me to prove to you by this story that a man’s wit is as prompt and as helpful at a pinch as a woman’s, and thus to show you, ladies, that you need not fear to fall into men’s hands. If your own wit should fail you, you will find theirs prepared to shield your honour.”

“In truth, Hircan,” said Longarine, “I grant that the tale is a very pleasant one and the wit great, but the example is not such as maids should follow. I readily believe there are some whom you would fain have approve it, but you are not so foolish as to wish that your wife, or her whose honour you set higher than her pleasure,1 should play such a game. I believe there is none who would watch them more closely or shield them more readily than you.”

1 M. Frank, adopting the generally received opinion that Hircan is King Henry of Navarre, believes this to be an allusion to one of the King’s sisters — Ann, who married the Count of Estrac, or Isabel, who married M. de Rohan — but it is more likely that Henry’s daughter, Jane d’Albret, is the person referred to. — Ed.

“By my conscience,” said Hircan, “if she whom you mention had done such a thing, and I knew nothing about it, I should think none the less of her. For all I know, some one may have played as good a trick on me; however, knowing nothing, I am unconcerned.”

At this Parlamente could not refrain from saying —

“A wicked man cannot but be suspicious; happy are those who give no occasion for suspicion.”

“I have never seen a great fire from which there came no smoke,” said Longarine, “but I have often seen smoke where there was no fire. The wicked are as suspicious when there is no mischief as when there is.”

“Truly, Longarine,” Hircan forthwith rejoined, “you have spoken so well in support of the honour of ladies wrongfully suspected, that I give you my vote to tell the eighth tale. I hope, however, that you will not make us weep, as Madame Oisille did, by too much praise of virtuous women.”

At this Longarine laughed heartily, and thus began:— “You want me to make you laugh, as is my wont, but it shall not be at women’s expense. I will show you, however, how easy it is to deceive them when they are inclined to be jealous and esteem themselves clever enough to deceive their husbands.”

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Bornet's Concern on Discovering That his Wife Is Without Her Ring
Bornet’s Concern on discovering that his Wife is without her Ring

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Tale viii.

A certain Bornet, less loyal to his wife than she to him, desired to lie with his maidservant, and made his enterprise known to a friend, who, hoping to share in the spoil, so aided and abetted him, that whilst the husband thought to lie with his servant he in truth lay with his wife. Unknown to the latter, he then caused his friend to participate in the pleasure which rightly belonged to himself alone, and thus made himself a cuckold without there being any guilt on the part of his wife. 1

In the county of Alletz 2 there lived a man named Bornet, who being married to an upright and virtuous wife, had great regard for her honour and reputation, as I believe is the case with all the husbands here present in respect to their own wives. But although he desired that she should be true to him, he was not willing that the same law should apply to both, for he fell in love with his maid-servant, from whom he had nothing to gain save the pleasure afforded by a diversity of viands.

Now he had a neighbour of the same condition as his own, named Sandras, a tabourer 3 and tailor by trade, and there was such friendship between them that, excepting Bornet’s wife, they had all things in common. It thus happened that Bornet told his friend of the enterprise he had in hand against the maid-servant; and Sandras not only approved of it, but gave all the assistance he could to further its accomplishment, hoping that he himself might share in the spoil.

The maid-servant, however, was loth to consent, and finding herself hard pressed, she went to her mistress, told her of the matter, and begged leave to go home to her kinsfolk, since she could no longer endure to live in such torment. Her mistress, who had great love for her husband and had often suspected him, was well pleased to have him thus at a disadvantage, and to be able to show that she had doubted him justly. Accordingly, she said to the servant —

“Remain, my girl, but lead my husband on by degrees, and at last make an appointment to lie with him in my closet. Do not fail to tell me on what night he is to come, and see that no one knows anything about it.”

The maid-servant did all that her mistress had commanded her, and her master in great content went to tell the good news to his friend. The latter then begged that, since he had been concerned in the business, he might have part in the result. This was promised him, and, when the appointed hour was come, the master went to lie, as he thought, with the maid-servant; but his wife, yielding up the authority of commanding for the pleasure of obeying, had put herself in the servant’s place, and she received him, not in the manner of a wife, but after the fashion of a frightened maid. This she did so well that her husband suspected nothing.

I cannot tell you which of the two was the better pleased, he at the thought that he was deceiving his wife, or she at really deceiving her husband. When he had remained with her, not as long as he wished, but according to his powers, which were those of a man who had long been married, he went out of doors, found his friend, who was much younger and lustier than himself, and told him gleefully that he had never met with better fortune. “You know what you promised me,” said his friend to him.

“Go quickly then,” replied the husband, “for she may get up, or my wife have need of her.”

The friend went off and found the supposed maid-servant, who, thinking her husband had returned, denied him nothing that he asked of her, or rather took, for he durst not speak. He remained with her much longer than her husband had done, whereat she was greatly astonished, for she had not been wont to pass such nights. Nevertheless, she endured it all with patience, comforting herself with the thought of what she would say to him on the morrow, and of the ridicule that she would cast upon him.

Towards daybreak the man rose from beside her, and toying with her as he was going away, snatched from her finger the ring with which her husband had espoused her, and which the women of that part of the country guard with great superstition. She who keeps it till her death is held in high honour, while she who chances to lose it, is thought lightly of as a person who has given her faith to some other than her husband.

The wife, however, was very glad to have it taken, thinking it would be a sure proof of how she had deceived her husband. When the friend returned, the husband asked him how he had fared. He replied that he was of the same opinion as himself, and that he would have remained longer had he not feared to be surprised by daybreak. Then they both went to the friend’s house to take as long a rest as they could. In the morning, while they were dressing, the husband perceived the ring that his friend had on his finger, and saw that it was exactly like the one he had given to his wife at their marriage. He thereupon asked his friend from whom he had received the ring, and when he heard he had snatched it from the servant’s finger, he was confounded and began to strike his head against the wall, saying — “Ah! good Lord! have I made myself a cuckold without my wife knowing anything about it?”

“Perhaps,” said his friend in order to comfort him, “your wife gives her ring into the maid’s keeping at night-time.”

The husband made no reply, but took himself home, where he found his wife fairer, more gaily dressed, and merrier than usual, like one who rejoiced at having saved her maid’s conscience, and tested her husband to the full, at no greater cost than a night’s sleep. Seeing her so cheerful, the husband said to himself —

“If she knew of my adventure she would not show me such a pleasant countenance.”

Then, whilst speaking to her of various matters, he took her by the hand, and on noticing that she no longer wore the ring, which she had never been accustomed to remove from her finger, he was quite overcome.

“What have you done with your ring?” he asked her in a trembling voice.

She, well pleased that he gave her an opportunity to say what she desired, replied —

“O wickedest of men! From whom do you imagine you took it? You thought it was from my maid-servant, for love of whom you expended more than twice as much of your substance as you ever did for me. The first time you came to bed I thought you as much in love as it was possible to be; but after you had gone out and were come back again, you seemed to be a very devil. Wretch! think how blind you must have been to bestow such praises on my person and lustiness, which you have long enjoyed without holding them in any great esteem. ’Twas, therefore, not the maid-servant’s beauty that made the pleasure so delightful to you, but the grievous sin of lust which so consumes your heart and so clouds your reason that in the frenzy of your love for the servant you would, I believe, have taken a she-goat in a nightcap for a comely girl! Now, husband, it is time to amend your life, and, knowing me to be your wife, and an honest woman, to be as content with me as you were when you took me for a pitiful strumpet. What I did was to turn you from your evil ways, so that in your old age we might live together in true love and repose of conscience. If you purpose to continue your past life, I had rather be severed from you than daily see before my eyes the ruin of your soul, body, and estate. But if you will acknowledge the evil of your ways, and resolve to live in fear of God and obedience to His commandments, I will forget all your past sins, as I trust God will forget my ingratitude in not loving Him as I ought to do.”

If ever man was reduced to despair it was this unhappy husband. Not only had he abandoned this sensible, fair, and chaste wife for a woman who did not love him, but, worse than this, he had without her knowledge made her a strumpet by causing another man to participate in the leasure which should have been for himself alone; and thus he had made himself horns of everlasting derision. However, seeing his wife in such wrath by reason of the love he had borne his maid-servant, he took care not to tell her of the evil trick that he had played her; and entreating her forgiveness, with promises of full amendment of his former evil life, he gave her back the ring which he had recovered from his friend. He entreated the latter not to reveal his shame; but, as what is whispered in the ear is always proclaimed from the housetop, the truth, after a time, became known, and men called him cuckold without imputing any shame to his wife.

“It seems to me, ladies, that if all those who have committed like offences against their wives were to be punished in the same way, Hircan and Saffredent would have great cause for fear.”

“Why, Longarine,” said Saffredent, “are none in the company married save Hircan and I?”

“Yes, indeed there are others,” she replied, “but none who would play a similar trick.”

“Whence did you learn,” asked Saffredent, “that we ever solicited our wives’ maid-servants?”

“If the ladies who are in question,” said Longarine, “were willing to speak the truth, we should certainly hear of maid-servants dismissed without notice.”

“Truly,” said Geburon, “you are a most worthy lady! You promised to make the company laugh, and yet are angering these two poor gentlemen.”

“Tis all one,” said Longarine: “so long as they do not draw their swords, their anger will only serve to increase our laughter.”

“A pretty business indeed!” said Hircan. “Why, if our wives chose to believe this lady, she would embroil the seemliest household in the company.”

“I am well aware before whom I speak,” said Longarine. “Your wives are so sensible and bear you so much love, that if you were to give them horns as big as those of a deer, they would nevertheless try to persuade themselves and every one else that they were chaplets of roses.”

At this the company, and even those concerned, laughed so heartily that their talk came to an end. However, Dagoucin, who had not yet uttered a word, could not help saying —

“Men are very unreasonable when, having enough to content themselves with at home, they go in search of something else. I have often seen people who, not content with sufficiency, have aimed at bettering themselves, and have fallen into a worse position than they were in before. Such persons receive no pity, for fickleness is always blamed.”

“But what say you to those who have not found their other half?” asked Simontault. “Do you call it fickleness to seek it wherever it may be found?”

“Since it is impossible,” said Dagoucin, “for a man to know the whereabouts of that other half with whom there would be such perfect union that one would not differ from the other, he should remain steadfast wherever love has attached him. And whatsoever may happen, he should change neither in heart nor in desire. If she whom you love be the image of yourself, and there be but one will between you, it is yourself you love, and not her.”

“Dagoucin,” said Hircan, “you are falling into error. You speak as though we should love women without being loved in return.”

“Hircan,” replied Dagoucin, “I hold that if our love be based on the beauty, grace, love, and favour of a woman, and our purpose be pleasure, honour, or profit, such love cannot long endure; for when the foundation on which it rests is gone, the love itself departs from us. But I am firmly of opinion that he who loves with no other end or desire than to love well, will sooner yield up his soul in death than suffer his great love to leave his heart.”

“In faith,” said Simontault, “I do not believe that you have ever been in love. If you had felt the flame like other men, you would not now be picturing to us Plato’s Republic, which may be described in writing but not be put into practice.”

“Nay, I have been in love,” said Dagoucin, “and am so still, and shall continue so as long as I live. But I am in such fear lest the manifestation of this love should impair its perfection, that I shrink from declaring it even to her from whom I would fain have the like affection. I dare not even think of it lest my eyes should reveal it, for the more I keep my flame secret and hidden, the more does my pleasure increase at knowing that my love is perfect.”

“For all that,” said Geburon, “I believe that you would willingly have love in return.”

“I do not deny it,” said Dagoucin, “but even were I beloved as much as I love, my love would not be increased any more than it could be lessened, were it not returned with equal warmth.”

Upon this Parlamente, who suspected this fantasy of Dagoucin’s, said —

“Take care, Dagoucin; I have known others besides you who preferred to die rather than speak.”

“Such persons, madam;” said Dagoucin, “I deem very happy.”

“Doubtless,” said Saffredent, “and worthy of a place among the innocents of whom the Church sings:

Non loquendo sed moriendo confessi sunt.’ 4

I have heard much of such timid lovers, but I have never yet seen one die. And since I myself have escaped death after all the troubles I have borne, I do not think that any one can die of love.”

“Ah, Saffredent!” said Dagoucin, “how do you expect to be loved since those who are of your opinion never die? Yet have I known a goodly number who have died of no other ailment than perfect love.”

“Since you know such stories,” said Longarine, “I give you my vote to tell us a pleasant one, which shall be the ninth of to-day.”

“To the end,” said Dagoucin, “that signs and miracles may lead you to put faith in what I have said, I will relate to you something which happened less than three years ago.”

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1 Tales of a similar character to this will be found in the following works written prior to Margaret’s time:—

Legrand d’Aussy’s collection of Fabliaux ou Contes du XIIème et XIIIème siècles (vol. iii.).

Boccaccio’s Decameron (day viii., story iv.).

Enguerrand d’Oisy’s Le Meunier d’Aleu.

Poggio’s Facetio ( Vir sibi cornua promovens).

Sacchetti’s Novelle (vol. ii., No. ccvi.).

Morlini’s Novelle (No. lxxix.).

Les Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles (story ix.).

Malespini’s Ducento Novelle (part ii., No. xcvi.).

Of the foregoing, says M. de Montaiglon, Margaret could only have been acquainted with the Decameron, the Cent Nouvelles, and Poggio’s Facetio, which had been translated into French by Tardix (see Nos. cv. and ex. of that translation).

A similar story in Latin verse is also contained in a fourteenth century MS. at Monte Cassino. See I codici e le arti a Monte Cassino, by D. Andrea Caravita (vol. ii. p. 289).

Since Margaret’s time stories of the same character have appeared in the following works:—

Melander’s Jocondia (p. 298).

Phil. Béroalde’s Contes Latins (see Poggii Imitationes, Noel’s éd., vol. ii. p. 245).

Guicciardini’s Hore di Recreazione (p. 103).

J. Bouchet’s Serées (No. 8; Roybet’s éd., vol. ii. p. 115).

Gabrielle Chapuys’ Facétieuses Journées (p. 213).

La Fontaine’s Contes (book v., No. viii.: Les Quiproquo). Le Passe-Temps Agréable (p. 27).

Moreover, a song written on the same subject will be found, says M. de Lincy, on folio 44 of the Premier Recueil de toutes les chansons nouvelles (Troyes, Nicholas du Ruau, 1590). It is there called “The facetious and recreative story of a certain labourer of a village near Paris, who, thinking that he was enjoying his servant, lay with his wife.” This song was reprinted in various other collections of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

2 Alletz, now Alais, a town of Lower Languedoc (department of the Gard), lies on the Gardon, at the foot of the Cevennes mountains. It was formerly a county, the title having been held by Charles, Duke of Angoulême, natural son of Charles IX. — M.

3 Tabourers are still to be found in some towns of Lower Languedoc and in most of those of Provence, where they perambulate the streets playing their instruments. They are in great request at all the country weddings and other festive gatherings, as their instruments supply the necessary accompaniment to the ancient Provençal dance, the farandole. — Ed.

4 From the ritual for the Feast of the Holy Innocents. — M.

the Dying Gentleman Receiving The Embraces Of His Sweetheart
The Dying Gentleman receiving the Embraces of his Sweetheart

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Tale ix.

The perfect love borne by a gentleman to a damsel, being too deeply concealed and disregarded, brought about his death, to the great regret of his sweetheart.

Between Dauphiné and Provence there lived a gentleman who was far richer in virtue, comeliness, and honour than in other possessions, and who was greatly in love with a certain damsel. I will not mention her name, out of consideration for her kinsfolk, who are of good and illustrious descent; but you may rest assured that my story is a true one. As he was not of such noble birth as herself, he durst not reveal his affection, for the love he bore her was so great and perfect that he would rather have died than have desired aught to her dishonour. Seeing that he was so greatly beneath her, he had no hope of marrying her; in his love, therefore, his only purpose was to love her with all his strength and as perfectly as he was able. This he did for so long a time that at last she had some knowledge of it; and, seeing that the love he bore her was so full of virtue and of good intent, she felt honoured by it, and showed him in turn so much favour that he, who sought nothing better than this, was well contented.

But malice, which is the enemy of all peace, could not suffer this honourable and happy life to last, and certain persons spoke to the maiden’s mother of their amazement at this gentleman being thought so much of in her house. They said that they suspected him of coming there more on account of her daughter than of aught else, adding that he had often been seen in converse with her. The mother, who doubted the gentleman’s honour as little as that of any of her own children, was much distressed on hearing that his presence was taken in bad part, and, dreading lest malicious tongues should cause a scandal, she entreated that he would not for some time frequent her house as he had been wont to do. He found this hard to bear, for he knew that his honourable conversation with her daughter did not deserve such estrangement. Nevertheless, in order to silence evil gossip, he withdrew until the rumours had ceased; then he returned as before, his absence having in no wise lessened his love.

One day, however, whilst he was in the house, he heard some talk of marrying the damsel to a gentleman who did not seem to him to be so very rich that he should be entitled to take his mistress from him. So he began to pluck up courage, and engaged his friends to speak for him, believing that, if the choice were left to the damsel, she would prefer him to his rival. Nevertheless, the mother and kinsfolk chose the other suitor, because he was much richer; whereupon the poor gentleman, knowing his sweetheart to be as little pleased as himself, gave way to such sorrow, that by degrees, and without any other distemper, he became greatly changed, seeming as though he had covered the comeliness of his face with the mask of that death, to which hour by hour he was joyously hastening.

Meanwhile, he could not refrain from going as often as was possible to converse with her whom he so greatly loved. But at last, when strength failed him, he was constrained to keep his bed; yet he would not have his sweetheart know of this, lest he should cast part of his grief on her. And giving himself up to despair and sadness, he was no longer able to eat, drink, sleep, or rest, so that it became impossible to recognise him by reason of his leanness and strangely altered features.

Some one brought the news of this to his sweetheart’s mother, who was a lady full of charity, and who had, moreover, such a liking for the gentleman, that if all the kinsfolk had been of the same opinion as herself and her daughter, his merits would have been preferred to the possessions of the other. But the kinsfolk on the father’s side would not hear of it. However, the lady went with her daughter to see the unhappy gentleman, and found him more dead than alive. Perceiving that the end of his life was at hand, he had that morning confessed and received the Holy Sacrament, thinking to die without seeing anybody more. But although he was at death’s door, when he saw her who for him was the resurrection and the life come in, he felt so strengthened that he started up in bed.

“What motive,” said he to the lady, “has inclined you to come and see one who already has a foot in the grave, and of whose death you are yourself the cause?”

“How is it possible,” said the lady, “that the death of one whom we like so well can be brought about by our fault? Tell me, I pray, why you speak in this manner?”

“Madam,” he replied, “I concealed my love for your daughter as long as I was able; and my kinsfolk, in speaking of a marriage between myself and her, made known more than I desired, since I have thereby had the misfortune to lose all hope; not, indeed, in regard to my own pleasure, but because I know that she will never have such fair treatment and so much love from any other as she would have had from me. Her loss of the best and most loving friend she has in the world causes me more affliction than the loss of my own life, which I desired to preserve for her sake only. But since it cannot in any wise be of service to her, the loss of it is to me great gain.”

Hearing these words, the lady and her daughter sought to comfort him.

“Take courage, my friend,” said the mother. “I pledge you my word that, if God gives you back your health, my daughter shall have no other husband but you. See, she is here present, and I charge her to promise you the same.”

The daughter, weeping, strove to assure him of what her mother promised. He well knew, however, that even if his health were restored he would still lose his sweetheart, and that these fair words were only uttered in order somewhat to revive him. Accordingly, he told them that had they spoken to him thus three months before, he would have been the lustiest and happiest gentleman in France; but that their aid came so late, it could bring him neither belief nor hope. Then, seeing that they strove to make him believe them, he said —

“Well, since, on account of my feeble state, you promise me a blessing which, even though you would yourselves have it so, can never be mine, I will entreat of you a much smaller one, for which, however, I was never yet bold enough to ask.”

They immediately vowed that they would grant it, and bade him ask boldly.

“I entreat you,” he said, “to place in my arms her whom you promise me for my wife, and to bid her embrace and kiss me.”

The daughter, who was unaccustomed to such familiarity, sought to make some difficulty, but her mother straightly commanded her, seeing that the gentleman no longer had the feelings or vigour of a living man. Being thus commanded, the girl went up to the poor sufferer’s bedside, saying —

“I pray you, sweetheart, be of good cheer.”

Then, as well as he could, the dying man stretched forth his arms, wherein flesh and blood alike were lacking, and with all the strength remaining in his bones embraced her who was the cause of his death. And kissing her with his pale cold lips, he held her thus as long as he was able. Then he said to her —

“The love I have borne you has been so great and honourable, that, excepting in marriage, I have never desired of you any other favour than the one you are granting me now, for lack of which and with which I shall cheerfully yield up my spirit to God. He is perfect love and charity. He knows the greatness of my love and the purity of my desire, and I beseech Him, while I hold my desire within my arms, to receive my spirit into His own.”

With these words he again took her in his arms, and with such exceeding ardour that his enfeebled heart, unable to endure the effort, was deprived of all its faculties and life; for joy caused it so to swell that the soul was severed from its abode and took flight to its Creator.

And even when the poor body had lain a long time without life, and was thus unable to retain its hold, the love which the damsel had always concealed was made manifest in such a fashion that her mother and the dead man’s servants had much ado to separate her from her lover. However, the girl, who, though living, was in a worse condition than if she had been dead, was by force removed at last out of the gentleman’s arms. To him they gave honourable burial; and the crowning point of the ceremony was the weeping and lamentation of the unhappy damsel, who having concealed her love during his lifetime, made it all the more manifest after his death, as though she wished to atone for the wrong that she had done him. And I have heard that although she was given a husband to comfort her, she has never since had joy in her heart. 1

1 By an expression made use of by Dagoucin (see ante), Queen Margaret gives us to understand that the incidents here related occurred three years prior to the writing of the story. It may be pointed out, however, that there is considerable analogy between the conclusion of this tale and the death of Geffroy Rudel de Blaye, one of the earliest troubadours whose name has been handed down to us. Geffroy, who lived at the close of the twelfth century, became so madly enamoured of the charms of the Countess of Tripoli, after merely hearing an account of her moral and physical perfections, that, although in failing health, he embarked for Africa to see her. On reaching the port of Tripoli, he no longer had sufficient strength to leave the vessel, whereupon the Countess, touched by his love, visited him on board, taking his hand and giving him a kindly greeting. Geffroy could scarcely say a few words of thanks; his emotion was so acute that he died upon the spot. See J. de Nostredame’s Vies des plus Célèbres et Anciens Poëtes Provençaux(Lyons, 1575, p. 25); Raynouard’s Choix des Poésies des Troubadours (vol. v. p. 165); and also Raynouard’s Histoire Littéraire de la France (vol. xiv. p. 559). — L.

“What think you of that, gentlemen, you who would not believe what I said? Is not this example sufficient to make you confess that perfect love, when concealed and disregarded, may bring folks to the grave? There is not one among you but knows the kinsfolk on the one and the other side, 2 and so you cannot doubt the story, although nobody would be disposed to believe it unless he had some experience in the matter.”

2 This certainly points to the conclusion that the tale is founded upon fact, and not, as M. Leroux de Lincy suggests, borrowed from the story of Geffroy Rudel de Blaye. It will have been observed (ante) that the Queen of Navarre curiously enough lays the scene of her narrative between Provence and Dauphiné. These two provinces bordered upon one another, excepting upon one point where they were separated by the so-called Comtat Venaissin or Papal state of Avignon. Here, therefore, the incidents of the story, if authentic, would probably have occurred. The story may be compared with Tale L. (post). — Ed.

When the ladies heard this they all had tears in their eyes, but Hircan said to them —

“He was the greatest fool I ever heard of. By your faith, now, I ask you, is it reasonable that we should die for women who are made only for us, or that we should be afraid to ask them for what God has commanded them to give us? I do not speak for myself nor for any who are married. I myself have all that I want or more; but I say it for such men as are in need. To my thinking, they must be fools to fear those whom they should rather make afraid. Do you not perceive how greatly this poor damsel regretted her folly? Since she embraced the gentleman’s dead body — an action repugnant to human nature — she would not have refused him while he was alive had he then trusted as much to boldness as he trusted to pity when he lay upon his death-bed.”

“Nevertheless,” said Oisille, “the gentleman most plainly showed that he bore her an honourable love, and for this he will ever be worthy of all praise. Chastity in a lover’s heart is something divine rather than human.”

“Madam,” said Saffredent, “in support of Hircan’s opinion, which is also mine, I pray you believe that Fortune favours the bold, and that there is no man loved by a lady but may at last, in whole or in part, obtain from her what he desires, provided he seek it with wisdom and passion. But ignorance and foolish fear cause men to lose many a good chance; and then they impute their loss to their mistress’s virtue, which they have never verified with so much as the tip of the finger. A fortress was never well assailed but it was taken.”

“Nay,” said Parlamente, “I am amazed that you two should dare to talk in this way. Those whom you have loved owe you but little thanks, or else your courting has been carried on in such evil places that you deem all women to be alike.”

“For myself, madam,” said Saffredent, “I have been so unfortunate that I am unable to boast; but I impute my bad luck less to the virtue of the ladies than to my own fault, in not conducting my enterprises with sufficient prudence and sagacity. In support of my opinion I will cite no other authority than the old woman in the Romance of the Rose, who says —

‘Of all, fair sirs, it truly may be said,

Woman for man and man for woman’s made.’ 3

3 From John de Mehun’s continuation of the poem. — M. 2

Accordingly I shall always believe that if love once enters a woman’s heart, her lover will have fair fortune, provided he be not a simpleton.”

“Well,” said Parlamente, “if I were to name to you a very loving woman who was greatly sought after, beset and importuned, and who, like a virtuous lady, proved victorious over her heart, flesh, love and lover, would you believe this true thing possible?”

“Yes,” said he, “I would.”

“Then,” said Parlamente, “you must all be hard of belief if you do not believe this story.”

“Madam,” said Dagoucin, “since I have given an example to show how the love of a virtuous gentleman lasted even until death, I pray you, if you know any such story to the honour of a lady, to tell it to us, and so end this day. And be not afraid to speak at length, for there is yet time to relate many a pleasant matter.”

“Then, since I am to wind up the day,” said Parlamente, “I will make no long preamble, for my story is so beautiful and true that I long to have you know it as well as I do myself. Although I was not an actual witness of the events, they were told to me by one of my best and dearest friends in praise of the man whom of all the world he had loved the most. But he charged me, should I ever chance to relate them, to change the names of the persons. Apart, therefore, from the names of persons and places the story is wholly true.”

Tailpiece

the Countess Asking an Explanation from Amadour
The Countess asking an Explanation from Amadour

025.jpg Headpiece

Tale x.

Florida, after virtuously resisting Amadour, who had assailed her honour almost to the last extremity, repaired, upon her husbands death, to the convent of Jesus, and there took the veil. 1

1 This tale appears to be a combination of fact and fiction. Although Queen Margaret states that she has changed the names of the persons, and also of the places where the incidents happened, several historical events are certainly brought into the narrative, the scene of which is laid in Spain during the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella. M. Le Roux de Lincy is of opinion, however, that Margaret really refers to some affair at the Court of Charles VIII. or Louis XII., and he remarks that there is great similarity between the position of the Countess of Aranda, left a widow at an early age with a son and a daughter, and that of Louise of Savoy with her two children. M. Lacroix and M. Dillaye believe the hero and heroine to be Admiral de Bonnivet and Margaret. It has often been suspected that the latter regarded her brother’s favourite with affection until after the attempt related in Tale IV. — Ed.

In the county of Aranda, 2 in Aragon, there lived a lady who, while still very young, was left a widow, with a son and a daughter, by the Count of Aranda, the name of the daughter being Florida. This lady strove to bring up her children in all the virtues and qualities which beseem lords and gentlemen, so that her house was reputed to be one of the most honourable in all the Spains. She often went to Toledo, where the King of Spain dwelt, and when she came to Saragossa, which was not far from her house, she would remain a long while with the Queen and the Court, by whom she was held in as high esteem as any lady could be.

2 Aranda, in the valley of the Duero, between Burgos and Madrid, is one of the most ancient towns in Spain, but of miserable aspect, although a large trade is carried on there in cheap red wines. (Ferdinand and Isabella resided for some time at Aranda. — Ed.)

Going one day, according to her custom, to visit the King, then at his castle of La Jasserye, 3 at Saragossa, this lady passed through a village belonging to the Viceroy of Catalonia, 4 who, by reason of the great wars between the kings of France and Spain, had not been wont to stir from the frontier at Perpignan. But for the time being there was peace, so that the Viceroy and all his captains had come to do homage to the King. The Viceroy, learning that the Countess of Aranda was passing through his domain, went to meet her, not only for the sake of the ancient friendship he bore her, but in order to do her honour as a kinswoman of the King’s .

3 This castle is called La Jafferie in Boaistuau’s edition of 1558, and several learned commentators have speculated as to which is the correct spelling. Not one of them seems to have been aware that in the immediate vicinity of Saragossa there still stands an old castle called El Jaferia or Aljaferia, which, after being the residence of the Moorish sovereigns, became that of the Spanish kings of Aragon. It has of modern times been transformed into barracks. — Ed.

4 Henry of Aragon, Duke of Segorbe and Count of Ribagorce, was Viceroy of Catalonia at this period. He was called the Infante of Fortune, on account of his father having died before his birth in 1445. — B. J.

Now he had in his train many honourable gentlemen, who, in the long waging of war, had gained such great honour and renown that all who saw them and consorted with them deemed themselves fortunate. Among others there was one named Amadour, who, although but eighteen or nineteen years old, was possessed of such well-assured grace and of such excellent understanding that he would have been chosen from a thousand to hold a public office. It is true that this excellence of understanding was accompanied by such rare and winsome beauty that none could look at him without pleasure. And if his comeliness was of the choicest, it was so hard pressed by his speech that one knew not whether to give the greatest honour to his grace, his beauty, or the excellence of his conversation.

What caused him, however, to be still more highly esteemed was his great daring, which was no whit diminished by his youth. He had already shown in many places what he could do, so that not only the Spains, but France and Italy also made great account of his merits. For in all the wars in which he had taken part he had never spared himself, and when his country was at peace he would go in quest of wars in foreign lands, where he was loved and honoured by both friend and foe.

This gentleman, for the love he bore his commander, had come to the domain where the Countess of Aranda had arrived, and remarking the beauty and grace of her daughter Florida, who was then only twelve years old, he thought to himself that she was the fairest maiden he had ever seen, and that if he could win her favour it would give him greater satisfaction than all the wealth and pleasure he might obtain from another. After looking at her for a long time he resolved to love her, although his reason told him that what he desired was impossible by reason of her lineage as well as of her age, which was such that she could not yet understand any amorous discourse. In spite of this, he fortified himself with hope, and reflected that time and patience might bring his efforts to a happy issue. And from that moment the kindly love, which of itself alone had entered Amadour’s heart, assured him of all favour and the means of attaining his end.

To overcome the greatest difficulty before him, which consisted in the remoteness of his own home and the few opportunities he would have of seeing Florida again, he resolved to get married. This was contrary to what he had determined whilst with the ladies of Barcelona and Perpignan, in which places he was in such favour that little or nothing was refused him; and, indeed, by reason of the wars, he had dwelt so long on the frontiers that, although he was born near Toledo, he seemed rather a Catalan than a Castillan. He came of a rich and honourable house, but being a younger son, he was without patrimony; and thus it was that Love and Fortune, seeing him neglected by his kin, determined to make him their masterpiece, endowing him with such qualities as might obtain what the laws of the land had refused him. He was of much experience in the art of war, and was so beloved by all lords and princes that he refused their favours more frequently than he had occasion to seek them.

The Countess, of whom I have spoken, arrived then at Saragossa and was well received by the King and all his Court. The Governor of Catalonia often came to visit her, and Amadour failed not to accompany him that he might have the pleasure of merely seeing Florida, for he had no opportunity of speaking with her. In order to establish himself in this goodly company he paid his addresses to the daughter of an old knight, his neighbour. This maiden was named Avanturada, and was so intimate with Florida that she knew all the secrets of her heart. Amadour, as much for the worth which he found in Avanturada as for the three thousand ducats a year which formed her dowry, determined to address her as a suitor, and she willingly gave ear to him. But as he was poor and her father was rich, she feared that the latter would never consent to the marriage except at the instance of the Countess of Aranda. She therefore had recourse to the lady Florida and said to her —

“You have seen, madam, that Castilian gentleman who often talks to me. I believe that all his aim is to have me in marriage. You know, however, what kind of father I have; he will never consent to the match unless he be earnestly entreated by the Countess and you.”

Florida, who loved the damsel as herself, assured her that she would lay the matter to heart as though it were for her own benefit; and Avanturada then ventured so far as to present Amadour to her. He was like to swoon for joy on kissing Florida’s hand, and although he was accounted the readiest speaker in Spain, yet in her presence he became dumb. At this she was greatly surprised, for, although she was only twelve years old, she had already often heard it said that there was no man in Spain who could speak better or with more grace. So, finding that he said nothing to her, she herself spoke.

“Senor Amadour,” she began, “the renown you enjoy throughout all the Spains has made you known to everybody here, and all are desirous of affording you pleasure. If therefore I can in any way do this, you may dispose of me.”

Amadour was in such rapture at sight of the lady’s beauty that he could scarcely utter his thanks. However, although Florida was astonished to find that he made no further reply, she imputed it rather to some whim than to the power of love; and so she withdrew, without saying anything more.

Amadour, who perceived the qualities which even in earliest youth were beginning to show themselves in Florida, now said to her whom he desired to marry —

“Do not be surprised if I lost the power of utterance in presence of the lady Florida. I was so astonished at finding such qualities and such sensible speech in one so very young that I knew not what to say to her. But I pray you, Avanturada, you who know her secrets, tell me if she does not of necessity possess the hearts of all the gentlemen of the Court. Any who know her and do not love her must be stones or brutes.”

Avanturada, who already loved Amadour more than any other man in the world, could conceal nothing from him, but told him that Florida was loved by every one. However, by reason of the custom of the country, few spoke to her, and only two had as yet made any show of love towards her. These were two princes of Spain, and they desired to marry her, one being the son of the Infante of Fortune 5 and the other the young Duke of Cardona. 6

5 M. Lacroix asserts that the Infante of Fortune left no son by his wife, Guyomare de Castro y Norogna; whereas M. Le Roux de Lincy contends that he had a son — Alfonso of Aragon — who in 1506 was proposed as a husband for Crazy Jane. Alfonso would therefore probably be the prince referred to by Margaret. — Ed.

6 Cardona, a fortified town on the river Cardoner, at a few miles from Barcelona, was a county in the time of Ferdinand and Isabella, and was raised by them to the rank of a duchy in favour of Ramon Folch I. To-day it has between two and three thousand inhabitants, and is chiefly noted for its strongly built castillo. The young Duke spoken of by Queen Margaret would be Ramon Folch’s son, who was also named Ramon. — B. J. and Ed.

“I pray you,” said Amadour, “tell me which of them you think she loves the most.”

“She is so discreet,” said Avanturada, “that on no account would she confess to having any wish but her mother’s . Nevertheless, as far as can be judged, she likes the son of the Infante of Fortune far more than she likes the young Duke of Cardona. But her mother would rather have her at Cardona, for then she would not be so far away. I hold you for a man of good understanding, and, if you are so minded, you may judge of her choice this very day, for the son of the Infante of Fortune, who is one of the handsomest and most accomplished princes in Christendom, is being brought up at this Court. If we damsels could decide the marriage by our opinions, he would be sure of having the Lady Florida, for they would make the comeliest couple in all Spain. You must know that, although they are both young, she being but twelve and he but fifteen, it is now three years since their love for each other first began; and if you would secure her favour, I advise you to become his friend and follower.”

Amadour was well pleased to find that Florida loved something, hoping that in time he might gain the place not of husband but of lover. He had no fear in regard to her virtue, but was rather afraid lest she should be insensible to love. After this conversation he began to consort with the son of the Infante of Fortune, and readily gained his favour, being well skilled in all the pastimes that the young Prince was fond of, especially in the handling of horses, in the practice of all kinds of weapons, and indeed in every diversion and pastime befitting a young man.

However, war broke out again in Languedoc, and it was necessary that Amadour should return thither with the Governor. This he did, but not without great regret, since he could in no wise contrive to return to where he might see Florida. Accordingly, when he was setting forth, he spoke to a brother of his, who was majordomo to the Queen of Spain, and told him of the good match he had found in the Countess of Aranda’s house, in the person of Avanturada; entreating him, in his absence, to do all that he could to bring about the marriage, by employing his credit with the King, the Queen, and all his friends. The majordomo, who was attached to his brother, not only by reason of their kinship, but on account of Amadour’s excellent qualities, promised to do his best. This he did in such wise that the avaricious old father forgot his own nature to ponder over the qualities of Amadour, as pictured to him by the Countess of Aranda, and especially by the fair Florida, as well as by the young Count of Aranda, who was now beginning to grow up, and to esteem people of merit. When the marriage had been agreed upon by the kinsfolk, the Queen’s majordomo sent for his brother, there being at that time a truce between the two kings. 7

Meanwhile, the King of Spain withdrew to Madrid to avoid the bad air which prevailed in divers places, and, by the advice of his Council, as well as at the request of the Countess of Aranda, he consented to the marriage of the young Count with the heiress Duchess of Medina Celi. 8 He did this no less for their contentment and the union of the two houses than for the affection he bore the Countess of Aranda; and he caused the marriage to be celebrated at the castle of Madrid. 9

7 There had been a truce in 1497, but Queen Margaret probably alludes to that of four months’ duration towards the close of 1503. — B.J.

8 Felix-Maria, widow of the Duke of Feria, and elder sister of Luis Francisco de la Cerda, ninth of the name. She became heiress to the titles and estates of the house of Medina- Celi upon her brother’s death. If, however, Queen Margaret is really describing some incident in her own life, she must refer to Louis XII.’s daughter, Claude, married in 1514 to Francis I. — D.

9 The castle here referred to was the Moorish Alcazar, destroyed by fire in 1734. The previous statement that King Ferdinand withdrew to Madrid on account of the bad air prevailing in other places is borne out by the fact that the town enjoyed a most delightful climate prior to the destruction of the forests which surrounded it. — Ed.

Amadour was present at this wedding, and succeeded so well in furthering his own union, that he married Avanturada, whose affection for him was far greater than his was for her. But this marriage furnished him with a very convenient cloak, and gave him an excuse for resorting to the place where his spirit ever dwelt. After he was married he became very bold and familiar in the Countess of Aranda’s household, so that he was no more distrusted than if he had been a woman. And although he was now only twenty-two years of age, he showed such good sense that the Countess of Aranda informed him of all her affairs, and bade her son consult with him and follow his counsel.

Having gained their esteem thus far, Amadour comported himself so prudently and calmly that even the lady he loved was not aware of his affection for her. By reason, however, of the love she bore his wife, to whom she was more attached than to any other woman, she concealed none of her thoughts from him, and was pleased to tell him of all her love for the son of the Infante of Fortune. Although Amadour’s sole aim was to win her entirely for himself, he continually spoke to her of the Prince; indeed, he cared not what might be the subject of their converse, provided only that he could talk to her for a long time. However, he had not remained a month in this society after his marriage when he was constrained to return to the war, and he was absent for more than two years without returning to see his wife, who continued to live in the place where she had been brought up.

Meanwhile Amadour often wrote to her, but his letters were for the most part messages to Florida, who on her side never failed to return them, and would with her own hand add some pleasant words to the letters which Avanturada wrote. It was on this account that the husband of the latter wrote to her very frequently; yet of all this Florida knew nothing except that she loved Amadour as if he had been her brother. Several times during the course of five years did Amadour return and go away again; yet so short was his stay that he did not see Florida for two months altogether. Nevertheless, in spite of distance and length of absence, his love continued to increase.

At last it happened that he made a journey to see his wife, and found the Countess far removed from the Court, for the King of Spain was gone into Andalusia, 10 taking with him the young Count of Aranda, who was already beginning to bear arms.

10 There had been a revolt at Granada in 1499, and in the following year the Moors rose in the Alpujarras, whereupon King Ferdinand marched against them in person. — L.

Thus the Countess had withdrawn to a country-house belonging to her on the frontiers of Aragon and Navarre. She was well pleased on seeing Amadour, who had now been away for nearly three years. He was made welcome by all, and the Countess commanded that he should be treated like her own son. Whilst he was with her she informed him of all the affairs of her household, leaving most of them to his judgment. And so much credit did he win in her house that wherever he visited all doors were opened to him, and, indeed, people held his prudence in such high esteem that he was trusted in all things as though he had been an angel or a saint.

Florida, by reason of the love she bore his wife and himself, sought him out wherever he went. She had no suspicion of his purpose, and was unrestrained in her manners, for her heart was free from love, save that she felt great contentment whenever she was near Amadour. To more than this she gave not a thought.

Amadour, however, had a hard task to escape the observation of those who knew by experience how to distinguish a lover’s looks from another man’s; for when Florida, thinking no evil, came and spoke familiarly to him, the fire that was hidden in his heart so consumed him that he could not keep the colour from rising to his face or sparks of flame from darting from his eyes. Thus, in order that none might be any the wiser, he began to pay court to a very beautiful lady named Paulina, a woman so famed for beauty in her day that few men who saw her escaped from her toils.

This Paulina had heard how Amadour had made love at Barcelona and Perpignan, insomuch that he had gained the affection of the highest and most beautiful ladies in the land, especially that of a certain Countess of Palamos, who was esteemed the first for beauty among all the ladies of Spain; and she told him that she greatly pitied him, since, after so much good fortune, he had married such an ugly wife. Amadour, who well understood by these words that she had a mind to supply his need, made her the fairest speeches he could devise, seeking to conceal the truth by persuading her of a falsehood. But she, being subtle and experienced in love, was not to be put off with mere words; and feeling sure that his heart was not to be satisfied with such love as she could give him, she suspected he wished to make her serve as a cloak, and so kept close watch upon his eyes. These, however, knew so well how to dissemble, that she had nothing to guide her but the barest suspicion.

Nevertheless, her observation sorely troubled Amadour; for Florida, who was ignorant of all these wiles, often spoke to him before Paulina in such a familiar fashion that he had to make wondrous efforts to compel his eyes to belie his heart. To avoid unpleasant consequences, he one day, while leaning against a window, spoke thus to Florida —

“I pray you, sweetheart, counsel me whether it is better for a man to speak or die?”

Florida forthwith replied —

“I shall always counsel my friends to speak and not to die. There are few words that cannot be mended, but life once lost can never be regained.”

“Will you promise me, then,” said Amadour, “that you will not be displeased by what I wish to tell you, nor yet alarmed at it, until you have heard me to the end?”

“Say what you will,” she replied; “if you alarm me, none can reassure me.”

“For two reasons,” he then began, “I have hitherto been unwilling to tell you of the great affection that I feel for you. First, I wished to prove it to you by long service, and secondly, I feared that you might deem it presumption in me, who am but a simple gentleman, to address myself to one upon whom it is not fitting that I should look. And even though I were of royal station like your own, your heart, in its loyalty, would suffer none save the son of the Infante of Fortune, who has won it, to speak to you of love. But just as in a great war necessity compels men to devastate their own possessions and to destroy their corn in the blade, that the enemy may derive no profit therefrom, so do I risk anticipating the fruit which I had hoped to gather in season, lest your enemies and mine profit by it to your detriment. Know, then, that from your earliest youth I have devoted myself to your service and have ever striven to win your favour. For this purpose alone I married her whom I thought you loved best, and, being acquainted with the love you bear to the son of the Infante of Fortune, I have striven to serve him and consort with him, as you yourself know. I have sought with all my power for everything that I thought could give you pleasure. You see that I have won the esteem of your mother, the Countess, and of your brother, the Count, and of all you love, so that I am regarded here, not as a dependant, but as one of the family. All my efforts for five years past have had no other end than that I might spend my whole life near you.

“Understand that I am not one of those who would by these means seek to obtain from you any favour or pleasure otherwise than virtuous. I know that I cannot marry you, and even if I could, I would not do so in face of the love you bear him whom I would fain see your husband. And as for loving you with a vicious love like those who hope that long service will bring them a reward to the dishonour of a lady, that is far from my purpose. I would rather see you dead than know that you were less worthy of being loved, or that your virtue had diminished for the sake of any pleasure to me. For the end and reward of my service I ask but one thing, namely, that you will be so faithful a mistress to me, as never to take your favour from me, and that you will suffer me to continue as I now am, trusting in me more than in any other, and accepting from me the assurance that if for your honour’s sake, or for aught concerning you, you ever have need of a gentleman’s life, I will gladly place mine at your disposal. You may be sure also that whatever I may do that is honourable and virtuous, will be done solely for love of you. If for the sake of ladies less worthy than you I have ever done anything that has been considered of account, be sure that, for a mistress like yourself, my enterprise will so increase, that things I heretofore found impossible will become very easy to me. If, however, you will not accept me as wholly yours, I am resolved to lay aside my arms and to renounce the valour which has failed to help me in my need. So I pray you grant me my just request, for your honour and conscience cannot refuse it.”

The maiden, hearing these unwonted words, began to change colour and to cast down her eyes like a woman in alarm. However, being sensible and discreet, she replied —

“Since you already have what you ask of me, Amadour, why make me such a long harangue? I fear me lest beneath your honourable words there be some hidden guile to deceive my ignorance and youth, and I am sorely perplexed what to reply. Were I to refuse the honourable love you offer, I should do contrary to what I have hitherto done, for I have always trusted you more than any other man in the world. Neither my conscience nor my honour oppose your request, nor yet the love I bear the son of the Infante of Fortune, for that is founded on marriage, to which you do not aspire. I know of nothing that should hinder me from answering you according to your desire, if it be not a fear arising from the small need you have for talking to me in this wise; for if what you ask is already yours, why speak of it so ardently?”

Amadour, who was at no loss for an answer, then said to her —

“Madam, you speak very discreetly, and you honour me so greatly by the trust which you say you have in me, that if I were not satisfied with such good fortune I should be quite unworthy of it. But consider, madam, that he who would build an edifice to last for ever must be careful to have a sure and stable foundation. In the same way I, wishing to continue for ever in your service, must not only take care to have the means of remaining near to you, but also to prevent any one from knowing of the great affection that I bear you. Although it is honourable enough to be everywhere proclaimed, yet those who know nothing of lovers’ hearts often judge contrary to the truth, and thence come reports as mischievous as though they were true. I have been prompted to say this, and led to declare my love to you, because Paulina, feeling in her heart that I cannot love her, holds me in suspicion and does nought but watch my face wherever I may be. Hence, when you come and speak to me so familiarly in her presence, I am in great fear lest I should make some sign on which she may ground her judgment, and should so fall into that which I am anxious to avoid. For this reason I am lead to entreat you not to come and speak to me so suddenly before her or before others whom you know to be equally malicious, for I would rather die than have any living creature know the truth. Were I not so regardful of your honour, I should not have sought this converse with you, for I hold myself sufficiently happy in the love and trust you bear me, and I ask nothing more save that they may continue.”

Florida, who could not have been better pleased, began to be sensible of an unwonted feeling in her heart. She saw how honourable were the reasons which he laid before her; and she told him that virtue and honour replied for her, and that she granted him his request. Amadour’s joy at this no true lover can doubt.

Florida, however, gave more heed to his counsel than he desired, for she became timid not only in presence of Paulina but elsewhere, and ceased to seek him out as she had been accustomed to do. While they were thus separated she took Amadour’s constant converse with Paulina in bad part, for, seeing that the latter was beautiful, she could not believe that Amadour did not love her. To beguile her sorrow she conversed continually with Avanturada, who was beginning to feel very jealous of her husband and Paulina, and often complained of them to Florida, who comforted her as well as she could, being herself smitten with the same disease. Amadour soon perceived the change in Florida’s demeanour, and forthwith thought that she was keeping aloof from him not merely by his own advice, but also on account of some bitter fancies of her own.

One day, when they were coming from vespers at a monastery, he spoke to her, and asked —

“What countenance is this you show me, madam?”

“That which I believe you desire,” replied Florida.

Thereupon, suspecting the truth, and desiring to know whether he was right, he said to her —

“I have used my time so well, madam, that Paulina no longer has any suspicion of you.”

“You could not do better,” she replied, “both for yourself and for me. While giving pleasure to yourself you bring me honour.”

Amadour gathered from this speech that she believed he took pleasure in conversing with Paulina, and so great was his despair that he could not refrain from saying angrily to her —

“In truth, madam, you begin betimes to torment your lover and pelt him with hard words. I do not think I ever had a more irksome task than to be obliged to hold converse with a lady I do not love. But since you take what I have done to serve you in bad part, I will never speak to her again, happen what may. And that I may hide my wrath as I have hidden my joy, I will betake me to some place in the neighbourhood, and there wait till your caprice has passed away. I hope, however, I shall there receive tidings from my captain and be called back to the war, where I will remain long enough to show you that nothing but yourself has kept me here.”

So saying, he forthwith departed without waiting for her reply.

Florida felt the greatest vexation and sorrow imaginable; and love, meeting with opposition, began to put forth its mighty strength. She perceived that she had been in the wrong, and wrote continually to Amadour entreating him to return, which he did after a few days, when his anger had abated.

I cannot undertake to tell you minutely all that they said to each other in order to destroy this jealousy. But at all events he won the victory, and she promised him that not only would she never believe he loved Paulina, but that she would ever be convinced he found it an intolerable martyrdom to speak either to Paulina or to any one else except to do herself a service.

When love had conquered this first suspicion, and while the two lovers were beginning to take fresh pleasure in conversing together, news came that the King of Spain was sending all his army to Salces. 11

11 Salces, a village about fifteen miles north of Perpignan, noted for its formidable fortress, still existing and commanding a pass through the Corbière Mountains, which in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries separated France from Roussillon, then belonging to Spain. The French burnt the village and demolished the fort of Salces in 1496, but the latter was rebuilt by the Spaniards in the most massive style. The walls of the fort are 66 feet thick at the base and 54 feet thick at the summit. When Queen Margaret returned from Spain in 152,5 she reached France by the pass of Salces. (See vol. i. p. xlvi.). — Ed.

Amadour, accustomed ever to be the first in battle, failed not to seize this opportunity of winning renown; but in truth he set forth with unwonted regret, both on account of the pleasure he was losing and because he feared that he might find a change on his return. He knew that Florida, who was now fifteen or sixteen years old, was sought in marriage by many great princes and lords, and he reflected that if she were married during his absence he might have no further opportunity of seeing her, unless, indeed, the Countess of Aranda gave her his wife, Avanturada, as a companion. However, by skilful management with his friends, he obtained a promise from both mother and daughter that wherever Florida might go after her marriage thither should his wife, Avanturada, accompany her. Although it was proposed to marry Florida in Portugal, it was nevertheless resolved that Avanturada should never leave her. With this assurance, yet not without unspeakable regret, Amadour went away and left his wife with the Countess.

When Florida found herself alone after his departure, she set about doing such good and virtuous works as she hoped might win her the reputation that belongs to the most perfect women, and might prove her to be worthy of such a lover as Amadour. He having arrived at Barcelona, was there welcomed by the ladies as of old; but they found a greater change in him than they believed it possible for marriage to effect in any man. He seemed to be vexed by the sight of things he had formerly desired; and even the Countess of Palamos, whom he had loved exceedingly, could not persuade him to visit her.

Amadour remained at Barcelona as short a time as possible, for he was impatient to reach Salces, where he alone was now awaited. When he arrived, there began between the two kings that great and cruel war which I do not purpose to describe. 12 Neither will I recount the noble deeds that were done by Amadour, for then my story would take up an entire day; but you must know that he won renown far above all his comrades. The Duke of Najera 13 having arrived at Perpignan in command of two thousand men, requested Amadour to be his lieutenant, and so well did Amadour fulfil his duty with this band, that in every skirmish the only cry was “Najera!” 14

12 In 1503 the French, under Marshals de Rieux and de Gié, again besieged Salces, which had a garrison of 1200 men. The latter opposed a vigorous defence during two months, and upon the arrival of the old Duke of Alba with an army of succour the siege had to be raised. — B. J.

13 Pedro Manriquez de Lara, Count of Trevigno, created Duke of Najera by Ferdinand and Isabella in 1501. — B. J.

14 The Duke’s war-cry, repeated by his followers as a rallying signal in the mêlée. War-cries varied greatly. “Montjoie St. Denis” was that of the kings of France, and “Passavant le meilleur” (the best to the front) that of the Counts of Champagne. In other instances the war-cry consisted of a single word, “Bigorre” being that of the kings of Navarre, and “Flanders” that of the Princess of Beaujeu. When the war-cry was merely a name, as in the case of the Duke of Najera, it belonged to the head of the family. — D.

Now it came to pass that the King of Tunis, who for a long time had been at war with the Spaniards, heard that the kings of France and Spain were warring with each other on the frontiers of Perpignan and Narbonne, and bethought himself that he could have no better opportunity of vexing the King of Spain. Accordingly, he sent a great number of light galleys and other vessels to plunder and destroy all such badly-guarded places as they could find on the coasts of Spain. 15The people of Barcelona seeing a great fleet passing in front of their town, sent word of the matter to the Viceroy, who was at Salces, and he forthwith despatched the Duke of Najera to Palamos. 16 When the Moors saw that place so well guarded, they made a feint of passing on; but returning at midnight, they landed a large number of men, and the Duke of Najera, being surprised by the enemy, was taken prisoner.

15 The above two sentences, deficient in the MS. followed by M. Le Roux de Lincy, have been borrowed from MS. No. 1520 (Bib. Nat.). It was in 1503 that a Moorish flotilla ravaged the coast of Catalonia. — Ed.

16 The village of Palamos, on the shores of the Mediterranean, south of Cape Bagur, and within fifteen miles from Gerona. — Ed.

Amadour, who was on the alert and heard the din, forthwith assembled as many of his men as possible, and defended himself so stoutly that the enemy, in spite of their numbers, were for a long time unable to prevail against him. But at last, hearing that the Duke of Najera was taken, and that the Turks had resolved to set fire to Palamos and burn him in the house which he was holding against them, he thought it better to yield than to cause the destruction of the brave men who were with him. He also hoped that by paying a ransom he might yet see Florida again. Accordingly, he gave himself up to a Turk named Dorlin, a governor of the King of Tunis, who brought him to his master. By the latter he was well received and still better guarded; for the King deemed that in him he held the Achilles of all the Spains.

Thus Amadour continued for two years in the service of the King of Tunis. The news of the captures having reached Spain, the kinsfolk of the Duke of Najera were in great sorrow; but those who held the country’s honour dear deemed Amadour the greater loss. The rumour came to the house of the Countess of Aranda, where the hapless Avanturada at that time lay grievously sick. The Countess, who had great misgivings as to the affection which Amadour bore to her daughter, though she suffered it and concealed it for the sake of the merits she perceived in him, took Florida apart and told her the mournful tidings. Florida, who was well able to dissemble, replied that it was a great loss to the entire household, and that above all she pitied his poor wife, who was herself so ill. Nevertheless, seeing that her mother wept exceedingly, she shed a few tears to bear her company; for she feared that if she dissembled too far the feint might be discovered. From that time the Countess often spoke to her of Amadour, but never could she surprise a look to guide her judgment.

I will pass over the pilgrimages, prayers, supplications, and fasts which Florida regularly performed to ensure the safety of Amadour. As soon as he had arrived at Tunis, he failed not to send tidings of himself to his friends, and by a trusty messenger he apprised Florida that he was in good health, and had hopes of seeing her again. This was the only consolation the poor lady had in her grief, and you may be sure that, since she was permitted to write, she did so with all diligence, so that Amadour had no lack of her letters to comfort him.

The Countess of Aranda was about this time commanded to repair to Saragossa, where the King had arrived; and here she found the young Duke of Cardona, who so pressed the King and Queen that they begged the Countess to give him their daughter in marriage. 17 The Countess consented, for she was unwilling to disobey them in anything, and moreover she considered that her daughter, being so young, could have no will of her own.

17 The Spanish historians state that in 1513 the King, to put an end to a quarrel between the Count of Aranda and the Count of Ribagorce, charged Father John of Estuniga, Provincial of the Order of St. Francis, to negotiate a reconciliation between them, based on the marriage of the eldest daughter of the Count of Aranda with the eldest son of the Count of Ribagorce. The latter refusing his consent, was banished from the kingdom. — D.

When all was settled, she told Florida that she had chosen for her the match which seemed most suitable. Florida, knowing that when a thing is once done there is small room for counsel, replied that God was to be praised for all things; and, finding her mother look coldly upon her, she sought rather to obey her than to take pity on herself. It scarcely comforted her in her sorrows to learn that the son of the Infante of Fortune was sick even to death; but never, either in presence of her mother or of any one else, did she show any sign of grief. So strongly did she constrain herself, that her tears, driven perforce back into her heart, caused so great a loss of blood from the nose that her life was endangered; and, that she might be restored to health, she was given in marriage to one whom she would willingly have exchanged for death.

After the marriage Florida departed with her husband to the duchy of Cardona, taking with her Avanturada, whom she privately acquainted with her sorrow, both as regards her mother’s harshness and her own regret at having lost the son of the Infante of Fortune; but she never spoke of her regret for Amadour except to console his wife.

This young lady then resolved to keep God and honour before her eyes. So well did she conceal her grief, that none of her friends perceived that her husband was displeasing to her.

In this way she spent a long time, living a life that was worse than death, as she failed not to inform her lover Amadour, who, knowing the virtue and greatness of her heart, as well as the love that she had borne to the son of the Infante of Fortune, thought it impossible that she could live long, and mourned for her as for one that was more than dead. This sorrow was an increase to his former grief, and forgetting his own distress in that which he knew his sweetheart was enduring, he would willingly have continued all his life the slave he was if Florida could thereby have had a husband after her own heart. He learnt from a friend whom he had gained at the Court of Tunis that the King, wishing to keep him if only he could make a good Turk of him, intended to give him his choice between impalement and the renunciation of his faith. Thereupon he so addressed himself to his master, the governor who had taken him prisoner, that he persuaded him to release him on parole. His master named, however, a much higher ransom than he thought could be raised by a man of such little wealth, and then, without speaking to the King, he let him go.

When Amadour reached the Court of the King of Spain, he stayed there but a short time, and then, in order to seek his ransom among his friends, he repaired to Barcelona, whither the young Duke of Cardona, his mother, and Florida had gone on business. As soon as Avanturada heard that her husband was returned, she told the news to Florida, who rejoiced as though for love of her friend. Fearing, however, that her joy at seeing Amadour might make her change her countenance, and that those who did not know her might think wrongly of her, she remained at a window in order to see him coming from afar. As soon as she perceived him she went down by a dark staircase, so that none could see whether she changed colour, and embracing Amadour, led him to her room, and thence to her mother-in-law, who had never seen him. He had not been there for two days before he was loved as much as he had been in the household of the Countess of Aranda.

I leave you to imagine the conversation that he and Florida had together, and how she complained to him of the misfortunes that had come to her in his absence. After shedding many tears of sorrow, both for having been married against her will and also for having lost one she loved so dearly without any hope of seeing him again, she resolved to take consolation from the love and trust she had towards Amadour. Though she durst not declare the truth, he suspected it, and lost neither time nor opportunity to show her how much he loved her.

Just when Florida was all but persuaded to receive him, not as a lover, but as a true and perfect friend, a misfortune came to pass, for the King summoned Amadour to him concerning some important matter.

His wife was so grieved on hearing these tidings that she swooned, and falling down a staircase on which she was standing, was so hurt that she never rose again. Florida having by this death lost all her consolation, mourned like one who felt herself bereft of friends and kin. But Amadour grieved still more; for on the one part he lost one of the best wives that ever lived, and on the other the means of ever seeing Florida again. This caused him such sorrow that he was near coming by a sudden death. The old Duchess of Cardona visited him incessantly, reciting the arguments of philosophers why he should endure his loss with patience. But all was of no avail; for if on the one hand his wife’s death afflicted him, on the other his love increased his martyrdom. Having no longer any excuse to stay when his wife was buried, and his master again summoned him, his despair was such that he was like to lose his reason.

Florida, who thinking to comfort him, was herself the cause of his greatest grief, spent a whole afternoon in the most gracious converse with him in order to lessen his sorrow, and assured him that she would find means to see him oftener than he thought. Then, as he was to depart on the following morning, and was so weak that he could scarcely stir from his bed, he prayed her to come and see him in the evening after every one else had left him. This she promised to do, not knowing that love in extremity is void of reason.

Amadour altogether despaired of ever again seeing her whom he had loved so long, and from whom he had received no other treatment than I have described. Racked by secret passion and by despair at losing all means of consorting with her, he resolved to play at double or quits, and either lose her altogether or else wholly win her, and so pay himself in an hour the reward which he thought he had deserved. Accordingly he had his bed curtained in such a manner that those who came into the room could not see him; and he complained so much more than he had done previously that all the people of the house thought he had not twenty-four hours to live.

After every one else had visited him, Florida, at the request of her husband himself, came in the evening, hoping to comfort him by declaring her affection and by telling him that, so far as honour allowed, she was willing to love him. She sat down on a chair beside the head of his bed, and began her consolation by weeping with him. Amadour, seeing her filled with such sorrow, thought that in her distress he might the more readily achieve his purpose, and raised himself up in the bed. Florida, thinking that he was too weak to do this, sought to prevent him, but he threw himself on his knees before her saying, “Must I lose sight of you for ever?” Then he fell into her arms like one exhausted. The hapless Florida embraced him and supported him for a long time, doing all she could to comfort him. But what she offered him to cure his pain only increased it; and while feigning to be half dead, he, without saying a word, strove to obtain that which the honour of ladies forbids.

When Florida perceived his evil purpose, in which she could hardly believe after all his honourable conversation, she asked him what he sought to do. Amadour, fearing her reply, which he knew could not be otherwise than chaste and virtuous, said nothing, but pursued his attempt with all the strength that he could muster. Florida, greatly astonished, suspected rather that he had lost his senses than that he was really bent upon her dishonour, and called out to a gentleman whom she knew to be in the room; whereupon Amadour in extreme despair flung himself back upon his bed so suddenly that the gentleman thought him dead.

Florida, who had risen from her chair, then said to the gentleman —

“Go quickly for some strong vinegar.”

This the gentleman did, whereupon Florida said —

“What madness, Amadour, has mounted to your brain? What was it you thought and wished to do?”

Amadour, who had lost all reason in the vehemence of his love, replied —

“Does so long a service merit so cruel a reward?”

“And what of the honour of which you have so often preached to me?” said Florida.

“Ah! madam,” said Amadour, “it would be impossible to hold your honour more dear than I have held it. Before you were married, I was able so to subdue my heart that you knew nothing of my desires, but now that you are wedded and your honour may be shielded, do I wrong you in asking for what is mine? By the strength of my love I have won you. He who first possessed your heart had so little desire for your person that he deserved to lose both. He who now owns your person is not worthy to have your heart, and hence even your person does not properly belong to him. But for five or six years I have for your sake borne many pains and woes, which must show you that your body and heart belong to me alone. Think not to defend yourself by speaking of conscience, for when love constrains body and heart sin is never imputed. Those who are driven by frenzy so far as to slay themselves cannot sin, for passion leaves no room for reason; and if the passion of love be more intolerable than any other, and more blinding to the senses, what sin could you fasten upon one who yields to the conduct of such indomitable power? I am going away, and have no hope of ever seeing you again; but if before my departure I could have of you that assurance which the greatness of my love deserves, I should be strengthened sufficiently to endure in patience the sorrows of a long separation. If you will not grant me my request you will ere long learn that your harshness has brought me to a miserable and a cruel death.” 18

18 The passage commencing “Those who are driven” and ending “a cruel death” is deficient in the earlier editions of the Heptameron, which give the following in place of it: “Do not doubt but what those who have felt the power of love will cast the blame on you who have so robbed me of my liberty and dazzled my senses with your divine graces, that not knowing what to do henceforth, I am constrained to go away without the hope of ever seeing you again; certain, however, that wherever I may be, you will still have part of my heart, which will ever remain yours, be I on land, on the sea, or in the hands of my most cruel enemies.” The above is one of various instances of the liberty taken by Boaistuau and Gruget with Margaret’s text. — Ed.

Florida was not less grieved than astonished to hear these words from one whom she had never imagined capable of such discourse, and, weeping, she thus replied —

“Alas, Amadour, is this the honourable converse that we used to have together while I was young? Is this the honour or conscience which many a time you counselled me to value more than life? Have you forgotten both the worthy examples you set before me of virtuous ladies who withstood unholy love, and also your own contempt for erring women? I cannot believe you so changed, Amadour, that regard for God, your own conscience, and my honour is wholly dead within you. But if it indeed be as you say, I praise the divine goodness which has prevented the misfortune into which I was about to fall, and has revealed to me by your own words the heart of which I was so ignorant. Having lost the son of the Infante of Fortune, not only by my marriage, but also, as is known to me, by reason of his love for another, and finding myself wedded to a man whom, strive as I may, I cannot love, I resolved to set heart and affection entirely on loving you. This love I built upon that virtue which I had so often perceived in you, and to which by your own assistance I think I have attained — I mean the virtue of loving one’s honour and conscience more than life. I came hither thinking to make this rock of virtue a sure foundation of love. But you have in a moment shown me, Amadour, that instead of a pure and cleanly rock, this foundation would have been one of shifting sand or filthy mire; and although a great part of the house in which I hoped always to dwell had already been raised, you have suddenly demolished it. Lay aside, therefore, any hope you had concerning me, and make up your mind not to seek me by look or word wherever I may be, or to hope that I shall ever be able or willing to change my resolve. It is with the deepest sorrow that I tell you this, though had I gone so far as to swear eternal love with you, I know that my heart could not have lived through this meeting. Even now I am so confounded to find myself deceived, that I am sure my life will be either short or sad. With these words I bid you farewell, and for ever.”

I will not try to describe to you the grief that Amadour felt on hearing this speech. It is impossible not only to describe it, but even to conceive it, except indeed to such as have experienced the like. Seeing that with this cruel conclusion she was about to leave him, he seized her by the arm, knowing full well that, if he did not remove her evil opinion of him, he would lose her for ever. Accordingly he dissembled his looks as well as he could, and said —

“During my whole life, madam, I have desired to love a woman of virtue, and having found so few of them, I was minded to put you to proof, and so discover whether you were as well worthy of esteem as of love. Now I know for certain that you are; and therefore I give praise to God, who has inclined my heart to the love of such great perfection. I entreat you to pardon my mad and foolhardy attempt, seeing that the issue of it has turned to your honour and to my great satisfaction.”

Florida was beginning to learn through him the deceitfulness of men; and, just as she had formerly found it difficult to believe in evil where it existed, so did she now find it even more difficult to believe in virtue where there was none.

“Would to God you spoke the truth,” she said to him; “but I am not so ignorant as not to know by my experience in marriage that the blindness of strong passion led you to act as you did. Had God given me a loose rein I am sure that you would not have drawn bridle. Those who go in quest of virtue are wont to take a different road to yours. But enough; if I have been too hasty in crediting you with some goodness, it is time I learned the truth, by which I am now delivered out of your hands.”

So saying, Florida left the room. As long as the night lasted she did nought but weep; for the change that had taken place caused her intense grief, and her heart had much ado to hold out against the sorrowing of love. Although, guided by reason, she had resolved to love no more, yet the heart, which cannot be subdued, would in no wise permit this. Thus she was unable to love him less than before, and knowing that love had been the cause of his offence, she made up her mind to satisfy love by continuing to love him with her whole heart, and to obey honour by never giving any sign of her affection either to him or to any one else.

In the morning Amadour departed in the distress that I have described. Nevertheless his heart, which was so lofty that there was none like it in the world, suffered him not to despair, but prompted him to new devices for seeing Florida again and winning her favour. So as he proceeded to the King of Spain, who was then at Toledo, he took his way through the county of Aranda, where he arrived very late one evening, and found the Countess in great sadness on account of the absence of her daughter.

When she saw Amadour she kissed and embraced him as though he had been her own son, and this no less for the love she herself bore him as for that which she suspected he had for Florida. She asked minutely for news of her daughter, and he told her what he could, though not the entire truth. However, he confessed the love which existed between them, and which Florida had always concealed; and he begged the Countess to aid him in hearing often of Florida, and to take her as speedily as possible to Aranda.

At daybreak he went on his way, and when he had despatched his business with the King he left for the war. So sad was he and so changed in every way that ladies, captains, and acquaintances alike could scarcely recognise him.

He now wore nothing but black, and this of a heavier pile than was needful as mourning for his dead wife; but indeed her death served only as a cloak for the sorrow that was in his heart. Thus Amadour spent three or four years without returning to Court.

The Countess of Aranda hearing that Florida was changed and that it was pitiful to see her, sent for her, hoping that she would return home. The contrary, however, happened. When Florida learned that Amadour had told her mother of their love, and that she, although so discreet and virtuous, had approved of it, she was in extraordinary perplexity. On the one hand she perceived that if her mother, who had such great esteem for Amadour, were told the truth some mischief might befall the latter; and this even to save her life she would not have brought to pass, for she felt strong enough to punish his folly herself without calling on her kinsfolk for assistance. On the other hand she saw that, if she concealed the evil she knew of him, she would be constrained by her mother and all her friends to speak to him and show him favour, and this she feared would only strengthen his evil purpose. However, as he was a long way off, she kept her own counsel, and wrote to him whenever the Countess commanded her. Still her letters were such that he could see they were written more out of obedience than goodwill; and the grief he felt in reading them was as great as his joy had been in reading the earlier ones.

At the end of two or three years, when he had performed so many noble deeds that all the paper in Spain could not contain the records of them, 19 he conceived a very skilful device, not indeed to win Florida’s heart, which he looked upon as lost, but to gain the victory over his enemy, since such she had shown herself to be. He put aside all the promptings of reason and even the fear of death, and at the risk of his life resolved to act in the following way. He persuaded the chief Governor 20 to send him on an embassy to the King concerning some secret attempt against Leucate; 21 and he procured a command to take counsel with the Countess of Aranda about the matter before communicating it to the King.

19 Margaret, perhaps, wrote “All the paper of Spain could not contain them,” simply because Spanish paper was then of very small size. Paper-making had, however, been almost monopolised by Spain until the end of the thirteenth century, the cotton used in the manufacture being imported from the East. — M.

20 The Viceroy of Catalonia. — D.

21 Leucate, now a village, but said to have been a flourishing town in the fourteenth century, lies near the Mediterranean, at a few miles from Salces, and gives its name to a large salt-water lake. Formerly fortified, it was repeatedly besieged and burnt by the Spaniards; notably by the Duke of Alba in 1503, after he had relieved Salces. — Ed.

Then he came post haste to the county of Aranda, where he knew Florida to be, and secretly sent a friend to inform the Countess of his coming, praying her to keep it secret, and to grant him audience at nightfall without the knowledge of any one.

The Countess, who was very pleased at his coming, spoke of it to Florida, and sent her to undress in her husband’s room, that she might be ready when sent for after every one was gone to bed. Florida had not yet recovered from her first alarm, but she said nothing of it to her mother, and withdrew to an oratory in order to commend herself to Our Lord. While she was praying that her heart might be preserved from all evil affection, she remembered that Amadour had often praised her beauty, and that in spite of long illness it had not been impaired. Being, therefore, more willing to injure her beauty than suffer it to kindle an evil flame in the heart of an honourable gentleman, she took a stone which lay in the chapel and struck herself a grievous blow on the face so that her mouth, nose, and eyes were quite disfigured. Then, in order that no one might suspect it to be of her own doing, she let herself fall upon her face on leaving the chapel when summoned by the Countess, and cried out loudly. The Countess coming thither found her in this pitiful state, and forthwith caused her face to be dressed and bandaged.

Then the Countess led her to her own apartment, and begged her to go to her room and entertain Amadour until she herself had got rid of her company. This Florida did, thinking that there were others with him.

But when she found herself alone with him, and the door closed upon her, she was as greatly troubled as he was pleased. He thought that, by love or violence, he would now have what he desired; so he spoke to her, and finding that she made the same reply as before, and that even to save her life she would not change her resolve, he was beside himself with despair.

“Before God, Florida,” he said to her, “your scruples shall not rob me of the fruits of my labour. Since love, patience, and humble entreaty are of no avail, I will spare no strength of mine to gain the boon, upon which all its existence depends.”

Florida saw that his eyes and countenance were altered exceedingly, so that his complexion, naturally the fairest in the world, was now as red as fire, and his look, usually so gentle and pleasant, had become as horrible and furious as though fierce flames were blazing in his heart and face. In his frenzy he seized her delicate, weak hands in his own strong, powerful ones; and she, finding herself in such bondage that she could neither defend herself nor fly, thought that her only chance was to try whether he had not retained some traces of his former love, for the sake of which he might forego his cruelty. She therefore said to him —

“If you now look upon me, Amadour, in the light of an enemy, I entreat you, by that pure love which I once thought was in your heart, to hearken to me before you put me to torture.”

Seeing that he became attentive, she continued —

“Alas! Amadour, what can prompt you to seek after a thing that can afford you no satisfaction, and thus afflict me with the profoundest grief? You made trial of my inclinations in the days of my youth and earliest beauty, and they perhaps served to excuse your passion; but I am amazed that now, when I am old, and ugly, and sorrow-stricken, you should seek for what you know you can never find. I am sure you do not doubt that my mind is as it used to be, and so by force alone can you obtain what you desire. If you observe the condition of my face, and lay aside the memory of the beauty that once you saw in it, you will have no inclination to draw any nearer; and if you still retain within you any remnants of your past love, it is impossible that pity will not subdue your frenzy. To this pity, which I have often found in you, I appeal with prayers for mercy. Suffer me to live in peace, and in that honour which by your own counsel I have resolved to preserve. But if the love you once bore me is now turned to hate, and you desire, in vengeance rather than in love, to make me the unhappiest woman alive, I protest to you that it shall not be so. You will force me against my will to make your evil purpose known to her who thinks so highly of you; and you may be sure that, when she learns it, your life will not be safe.”

But Amadour interrupted her.

“If I must die,” he said, “I shall be the sooner rid of my torment. The disfigurement of your face, which I believe is of your own seeking, shall not restrain me from making you mine. Though I could have nothing but your bones, I would yet hold them close to me.”

When Florida saw that prayers, reasoning, and tears were alike of no avail, and that while he cruelly pursued his evil purpose she lacked the strength to resist him, she summoned the aid which she dreaded as greatly as death, and in a sad and piteous voice called as loudly as she could upon her mother. The Countess, hearing her daughter’s cries, had grave misgivings of the truth, and hastened into the room with all possible speed.

Amadour, who was not so ready to die as he affirmed, desisted promptly from his enterprise; and when the lady opened the door she found him close beside it, and Florida some distance from him. “Amadour,” said the Countess, “what is the matter? Tell me the truth.”

Amadour, who was never at a loss for invention, replied with a pale and daunted face —

“Alas! madam, what change is this in the lady Florida? I was never so astonished before, for, as I have told you, I thought I had a share in her favour; but I now see clearly that I have lost it all. While she was being brought up by you, she was, I think, no less discreet or virtuous than she is at present; however, she had then no qualms of conscience about speaking with any one. But now, when I sought to look at her, she would not suffer me to do so. When I saw this behaviour on her part I thought I must be dreaming, and asked her for her hand to kiss it after the manner of the country. This she utterly refused me. I acknowledge, madam, that then I acted wrongfully, and I entreat your pardon for it; for I took her hand, as it were by force, and kissed it. I asked nothing more of her, but I believe that she intends my death, for she called out to you as you know. Why she did this I cannot tell, unless indeed she feared that I had some other purpose in view. Nevertheless, madam, be this as it may, I confess that I am in the wrong; for although she ought to love all who are devoted to you, fortune wills it that I, who am of all most attached to her, am banished from her good graces. Still, I shall ever continue the same both to you and to her; and I entreat you to continue me in your good favour since, by no fault of my own, I have now lost hers.”

The Countess, who partly believed and partly suspected him, went up to her daughter and asked — “Why did you call me so loudly?”

Florida replied that she had felt afraid; and, although the Countess questioned her minutely on many points, she would give no other reply. Finding that she had escaped from her enemy she deemed him sufficiently punished by the failure of his attempt.

After the Countess had had a long conversation with Amadour, she suffered him to speak again in her presence with Florida, to see how he would behave. He said but little, save that he thanked her for not having confessed the truth to her mother, and begged that since she had expelled him from her heart, she would at least allow no other to take his place.

“If my voice had not been my only means of defending myself,” she replied, “it would never have been heard; and from me you shall have no worse punishment, if you do not force me to it by troubling me again as you have done. Do not fear that I can ever love another; since I have not found the good I wished for in a heart that I considered to be the most virtuous in the world, I do not expect to find it in any man. This evil fortune will henceforth free me of all the passion that love can give.”

With these words she bade him farewell.

Her mother, who had been watching her face, was unable to form any opinion; though from that time forth she clearly saw that her daughter had lost all affection for Amadour. She imagined her so devoid of reason as to hate everything that she herself loved; and from that hour she warred with her in a strange way, spending seven years without speaking to her except in anger, all which she did at Amadour’s request.

Meanwhile, on account of her mother’s harsh treatment, Florida’s former dread of being with her husband was changed into a desire of never leaving him. Seeing, however, that all her efforts were useless, she resolved to deceive Amadour, and laying aside her coldness for a day or two, she advised him to pay court to a lady who, she said, had been speaking of their love.

This lady lived with the Queen of Spain, and was called Loretta. Amadour believed the story, and, thinking that he might in this way regain Florida’s good graces, he made love to Loretta, who was the wife of a captain, one of the viceroys of the King of Spain. She, in her pleasure at having gained such a lover, showed so much elation that the affair was rumoured abroad. Even the Countess of Aranda, who was at Court, had knowledge of it, and thenceforward treated Florida less harshly than before.

One day Florida heard that the captain, Loretta’s husband, had grown jealous, and was resolved to kill Amadour in one way or another as best he might. In spite of her altered treatment of Amadour, Florida did not desire that evil should befall him, and so she immediately informed him of what she had heard. He was quite ready to hark back again to his first love, and thereupon told her that, if she would grant him three hours of her conversation every day, he would never again speak to Loretta. But this she would not grant. “Then,” said Amadour, “if you will not give me life, why prevent me from dying, unless indeed you hope to make me suffer more pain during life than any death could cause? But though death shun me, I will seek it until I find it; then only shall I have rest.”

While they were on this footing, news came that the King of Granada 22 was entering upon a great war against the King of Spain. The latter, therefore, sent the Prince, his son, 23 to the war, and with him the Constable of Castille and the Duke of Alba, 24 two old and prudent lords. The Duke of Cardona and the Count of Aranda were unwilling to remain behind, and prayed the King to give them some command. This he did as befitted their rank, and gave them into the safe keeping of Amadour, who performed such extraordinary deeds during the war, that they seemed to be acts as much of despair as of bravery.

22 The last King of Granada was Mahomed Boabdil, dethroned in 1493. The title may have been assumed, however, by the leader of an insurrection. — D.

23 As Ferdinand and Isabella had no son, the reference must be to their daughter’s husband, Philip the Fair of Austria, son of the Emperor Maximilian I. and father of Charles V. — B. J.

24 Frederick of Toledo, Marquis of Coria and Duke of Alba, generally called the old Duke of Alba to distinguish him from his son. — B. J.

Coming now to the point of my story, I have to relate how his overboldness was proved by his death. The Moors had made a show of offering battle, and finding the Christian army very numerous had feigned a retreat. The Spaniards started in pursuit, but the old Constable and the Duke of Alba, who suspected the trickery of the Moors, restrained the Prince of Spain against his will from crossing the river. The Count of Aranda, however, and the Duke of Cardona crossed, although it was forbidden; and when the Moors saw that they were pursued by only a few men they faced about again. The Duke of Cardona was struck down and killed with a blow of a scimitar, and the Count of Aranda was so grievously wounded that he was left for dead. Thereupon Amadour came up filled with rage and fury, and bursting through the throng, caused the two bodies to be taken up and carried to the camp of the Prince, who mourned for them as for his own brothers. On examining their wounds the Count of Aranda was found to be still alive, and was sent in a litter to his home, where he lay ill for a long time. On the other hand, the Duke’s body was sent back to Cardona.

Meanwhile Amadour, having made this effort to rescue the two bodies, had thought so little of his own safety that he found himself surrounded by a large number of Moors. Not desiring his person to be captured any more than he had captured that of his mistress, nor to break his faith with God as he had broken faith with her — for he knew that, if he were taken to the King of Granada, he must either die a cruel death or renounce Christianity — he resolved to withhold from his enemies the glory either of his death or capture. So kissing the cross of his sword and commending his body and soul to God, he dealt himself such a thrust as to be past all help.

Thus died the unhappy Amadour, lamented as deeply as his virtues deserved. The news spread through the whole of Spain; and the rumour of it came to Florida, who was at Barcelona, where her husband had formerly commanded that he should be buried. She gave him an honourable funeral, 25 and then, without saying anything to her mother or mother-in-law, she became a nun in the Convent of Jesus, taking for husband and lover Him who had delivered her from such a violent love as that of Amadour’s, and from such great affliction as she had endured in the company of her husband. Thus were all her affections directed to the perfect loving of God; and, after living for a long time as a nun, she yielded up her soul with gladness, like that of the bride when she goes forth to meet the bridegroom.

25 The Franciscan monastery of the little village cf Bellpuig, near Lerida, contains the tomb of Ramon de Cardona, termed one of the marvels of Catalonia on account of the admirable sculptures adorning it. One of the beautiful white marble bas-reliefs shows a number of galleys drawn up in line of battle, whilst some smaller boats are conveying parties of armed men to a river-bank on which the Moors are awaiting them in hostile array. On the frieze of an arch the Spaniards and Moors are shown fighting, many of the former retreating towards the water. An inscription records that the tomb was raised to the best of husbands by Isabella, his unhappy spouse.

Margaret gives the name of Florida to the wife of the Duke whom she mentions, but it should be borne in mind that she has systematically mingled fact with fiction throughout this story; and that she was alluding to the Duke buried at Bellpuig seems evident from an examination of the bas- reliefs mentioned above. Ramon de Cardona was, however, a more important personage than she pictures him. He became Charles V.’s viceroy in Naples, and did not die till 1520, whereas Margaret’s story appears to end in or about 1513. Possibly she saw the tomb when in Spain. — Ed.

“I am well aware, ladies, that this long tale may have been wearisome to some among you, but had I told it as it was told to me it would have been longer still. Take example, I beg you, by the virtue of Florida, but be somewhat less cruel; and think not so well of any man that, when you are undeceived, you occasion him a cruel death and yourselves a life of sorrow.”

Having had a long and fair hearing Parlamente said to Hircan —

“Do you not think that this lady was pressed to extremities and that she held out virtuously?”

“No,” said Hircan; “a woman can make no more feeble resistance than to cry out. If she had been in a place where none could hear her I do not know how she would have fared. And if Amadour had had more love and less fear he would not have desisted from his attempt for so little. So this story will not cause me to change my firm opinion that no man ever perfectly loved a lady, or was loved by her, that he did not prove successful if only he went the right way to work. Nevertheless, I must praise Amadour for having in part done his duty.”

“What duty?” asked Oisille. “Do you call it a lover’s duty to try and take his mistress by force when he owes her all reverence and submission?”

Here Saffredent took up the discourse.

“Madam,” he said, “when our mistresses hold their state in chamber or hall, seated at their ease as though they were our judges, we lead them to the dance in fear; we wait upon them with all diligence and anticipate their commands; and we are so afraid of offending them and so desirous of doing them service that those who see us pity us, and often deem us more witless than brutes. They account us dull and void of understanding, and give praise to the ladies, whose faces are so imperious and their speech so fair that they make themselves feared, loved, and honoured by those who only know them outwardly. But when we are together in private, and love alone can judge our behaviour, we know full well that they are women and we are men. Then is the name ‘mistress’ changed to ‘sweetheart,’ and the ‘slave’ becomes a ‘lover.’ As the proverb says — ‘By service true and loyalty, do servants rise to mastery.’ They have honour equally with men, who can give it to them and can take it away; and seeing us suffer in patience, they should reward us when they can do so without hurt to their honour.”

“You do not speak of that true honour,” said Longarine, “which is the greatest happiness this world can give. If every one calls me a virtuous woman, and I myself know the contrary, the praise I receive only increases my shame and puts me in secret to still greater confusion. In the same way, if people condemn me and I know that I am innocent, their condemnation will only make me the better pleased with myself.”

“In spite of what you all have said,” interposed Geburon, “it seems to me that Amadour was as noble and virtuous a knight as ever lived, and I think I can recognise him under his feigned name. Since Parlamente would not name him, neither will I. But you may rest assured that, if he be the man whom I have in mind, his heart never knew fear, nor was ever void of love and bravery.”

“The day has been spent so pleasantly,” said Oisille, “that if the others are like it I think our talk will make the time pass quickly by. But see where the sun is, and listen to the abbey bell, which has long been calling us to vespers. I did not mention this to you before, for I was more inclined to hear the end of the story than to go to prayers.”

At these words they all rose, and when they reached the abbey they found that the monks had been waiting for them a full hour and more. After vespers they went to supper, and during the whole evening they conversed about the stories they had heard, all of them searching every corner of their memories to try and make the second day as pleasant as the first. And after playing many games in the meadow they went to bed, and so made a glad and happy ending of the first day.

Tailpiece

Second Day.

On the Second Day is recounted the first conceit that presents itself to each.

Prologue.

On the morrow they rose in great eagerness to return to the place where they had had so much pleasure on the previous day. Each one was ready with a tale, and was impatient for the telling of it. They listened to the reading of Madame Oisille, and then heard mass, all commending themselves to God, and praying Him to grant them speech and grace for the continuance of their fellowship. Afterwards they went to dinner, reminding one another the while of many stories of the past.

After dinner, they rested in their apartments, and at the appointed time returned to the meadow, where day and season alike seemed favourable to their plans. They all sat down on the natural seat afforded by the green sward, and Parlamente said —

“Yesterday I told the tenth and last tale; it is therefore for me to choose who shall begin to-day. Madame Oisille was the first of the ladies to speak, as being the oldest and wisest, and so I now give my vote to the youngest — I do not also say the flightiest — for I am sure that if we all follow her leading we shall not delay vespers so long as we did yesterday. Wherefore, Nomerfide, you shall lead us, but I beg that you will not cause us to begin our second day in tears.”

“There was no need to make that request,” said Nomerfide, “for one of our number has made me choose a tale which has taken such a hold on me that I can tell no other; and should it occasion sadness in you, your natures must be melancholy ones indeed.”

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Tale xi. (A).

Madame de Roncex, while at the monastery of the Grey Friars at Thouars, 1 was constrained to go in great haste to a certain place, and, not looking to see whether the seats were clean, sat down in a filthy spot and befouled both her person and clothes; whereupon crying out for assistance, in the hope that some woman would come and cleanse her, she was waited on by men, who beheld her in the worst plight in which a woman could be found. 2

In the household of Madame de la Trémoille there was a lady named Roncex, who one day, when her mistress had gone to visit the monastery of the Grey Friars, found herself in great need to go to a certain place whither her maid could not go in her stead. She took with her a girl named La Mothe to keep her company, but being modest and unwilling to be seen, left her in the room, and went alone into a darksome privy, a place used in common by all the friars, who had given such a good account therein of all their victuals, that seat and floor, and in sooth the whole place, were thickly covered with the must of Bacchus and Ceres that had passed through the friars’ bellies.

The unhappy lady, who was so hard pressed that she had scarcely time to lift her dress, chanced to sit down in the foulest, dirtiest spot in the whole place, where she found herself stuck fast as though with glue, her poor hips, garments, and feet being so contaminated that she durst not take a step or turn on any side, for fear lest she should meet with something worse. Thereupon she began to call out as loudly as she could —

“La Mothe, my child, I am ruined and undone!”

The poor girl, who had formerly heard tell of the wickedness of the Grey Friars, and imagined that some of them were hidden there and were trying to take her mistress by force, thereupon ran off as hard as she could, saying to every one she met —

“Come and help Madame de Roncex; the Grey Friars are trying to ravish her in yonder privy.”

They thereupon hastened thither with all speed, and found the unhappy lady crying out for assistance, longing for some woman to come and cleanse her, and with her back parts all uncovered, for she feared to touch them with her garments lest these also should be defiled.

The gentlemen, coming in at her cries, beheld this fine sight, but could see nought of the Grey Friars, unless it were their ordure clinging to her hips; nor did this pass without laughter on their part and great shame on hers, for instead of having women to cleanse her, she was waited on by men, who saw her naked, and in the sorriest plight in which a woman could be found. For this reason, on perceiving them, she soiled what was still clean, by dropping her garments in order to cover herself, forgetting the filth that she was in for the shame she felt at sight of the men. And when she had come out of that foul place it was necessary to strip her naked and change all her garments before she could leave the monastery. She was minded to be angry with La Mothe for the aid that she had brought her, but finding that the poor girl had thought her in a yet more evil plight, she put aside her wrath and laughed like the rest. 3

“I think, ladies,” said Nomerfide, “that this story has proved neither long nor melancholy, and that I have given you what you expected.”

At this the company laughed heartily, and Oisille said — “The story is indeed nasty and unclean, yet, knowing the persons who fared in this manner, we cannot consider it unwelcome. Gladly would I have seen the faces of La Mothe and of the lady to whom she brought such timely aid. But now,” she added to Nomerfide, “since you have finished so soon, give your vote to some one whose thoughts are of a graver turn.”

“Since you desire me to atone for my fault,” answered Nomerfide, “I give my vote to Dagoucin, whose discretion is such that he would die rather than say anything foolish.”

Dagoucin then thanked her for the esteem in which she held his good sense, and thus began — “The story I am minded to relate is intended to show you how love blinds the greatest and most honourable hearts, and how hard it is to overcome wickedness by any kindness whatsoever.”

Tailpiece

1 In the department of the Deux-Sèvres. — Ed.

2 This story, given in Boaistuau’s version of Margaret’s tales, and to be found in most of the MS. copies of the Heptameron at the ‘Paris Bibliothèque Nationale’, was not included in the edition issued by Gruget, who replaced it by a story called The jests made by a Grey Friar, for which see post, p. 95 et seq. — Ed.

3 It is impossible to identify the lady mentioned in this story, her name being spelt in so many ways in the various MSS. of the Heptameron. It is given as Roncex in the copy here followed, as Roubex in a copy that belonged to Louis XVIII., and as Roncci in the De Thou MS., whilst Boaistuau printed it as Roucey. The Madame de la Trémoille, alluded to at the outset, is believed by Lacroix and Dillaye to have been Anne de Laval (daughter of Guy XV., Count of Laval, and of Charlotte of Aragon, Princess of Tarento), who married Francis de la Trémoille, Viscount of Thouars, in 1521, and was by her mother a cousin of Queen Margaret. Possibly, however, the reference is to Gabrielle de Bourbon, wife of Louis II. de la Trémoille, a lady of exemplary piety, who erected the beautiful Renaissance chapel of the château of Thouars. — L. & Ed.

the Grey Friar Telling his Tales
The Grey Friar telling his Tales

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Tale xi. (B).

Of the jests made by a Grey Friar in his sermons. 1

Near the town of Bléré in Touraine there is a village called St. Martin-le-Beau, whither a Grey Friar belonging to the monastery at Tours was summoned to preach during the seasons of Advent and Lent. This friar, who was more garrulous than learned, and now and then found himself at a loss for matter to eke out his hour, would thereupon begin telling tales which more or less agreeably satisfied the good villagers.

One Holy Thursday he preached about the Paschal Lamb, and while speaking of how it was eaten at night, seeing that there were present at the preaching some handsome young ladies of Amboise, who were newly arrived to keep Easter at the village, and to stay there for a few days afterwards, he wished to surpass himself, and thereupon asked all the women-folk whether they knew what it was to eat raw flesh at night. “I will tell you what it is, ladies,” he said, whereat the young men of Amboise, who had just arrived with their wives, sisters, and nieces, and who had no knowledge of the pilgrim’s humour, began to be scandalised; though on listening further their indignation gave place to laughter, even when he said that to eat the lamb it was needful to have one’s loins girt, one’s feet in one’s shoes, and one’s hand on one’s staff.

The friar, seeing them laugh at this, and guessing the reason, immediately corrected himself. “Well,” said he, “to have shoes on one’s feet and a staff in one’s hand; ’tis all one.”

That this sally was received with laughter you will readily believe. Even the ladies could not refrain from merriment, and for them he added other diverting sayings. Then finding the time was nearly up, and wishing the ladies to be well pleased with him when they departed, he said to them — “Now, fair ladies, when you are chatting presently with your gossips, you will be asking one another: ‘Who, pray, is this Master Friar, that speaks out so boldly? He must be a brisk fellow.’ I will tell you, ladies, yes, I will tell you, and be not astonished if I speak out boldly, for I am of Anjou, at your service.”

With these words he ended his sermon, leaving his hearers more disposed to laugh at his foolish speeches than to weep in memory of our Lord’s Passion which was then being commemorated.

The other sermons that he preached during the festival had much the same value. You are aware that these friars never fail to go begging for their Easter eggs, and receive not only eggs, but many other things, such as linen, yarn, chitterlings, hams, chines, and similar trifles. So when Easter Tuesday came, and the friar was making those exhortations to charity of which such folks as he are no niggards, he said —

“I am bound to thank you, ladies, for the liberality you have shown to our poor monastery, and yet I cannot forbear telling you that you have hitherto not duly considered the nature of our wants. You have for the most part given us chitterlings, but of these we ourselves have no lack. God be praised, our monastery is indeed full of them. What then can we do with so many? I will tell you. My advice, ladies, is that you should mix your hams with our chitterlings; in this way you would bestow fine alms.”

Then, continuing his sermon, he brought into it certain scandalous matter, and, whilst discoursing upon it somewhat bluntly and quoting sundry examples, he said in apparent amazement —

“Truly, ladies and gentlemen of Saint-Martin, I am greatly astonished that you should be scandalised so unreasonably at what is less than nothing, and should tell tales of me wherever you go, saying: ‘It is a big business; who could have thought that the father would have got his landlady’s daughter with child?’ A monk get a girl with child!” he continued; “forsooth, what a wonder! But hark you, fair ladies, would you not rather have had cause for wonderment, had the girl acted thus by the monk?”

“Such, ladies, was the wholesome food on which this worshipful shepherd fed the Lord’s flock. And so brazen was he, that after committing the sin, he spake openly of it in the pulpit, where nought should be said that tends to aught but the edification of one’s neighbour, and above all to the glory of God.”

“Truly,” said Saffredent, “he was a master monk — I should have liked him nearly as well as Brother Anjibaut, who gets credit for all the jests that are spoken in merry company.”

“For my part, I can see nothing laughable in such mockery,” said Oisille, “especially in such a place.”

“You forget, madam,” said Nomerfide, “that at that time, though it was not so very long ago, the good villagers, and indeed most of the dwellers in the large towns, who think themselves cleverer than other people, had greater regard for such preachers as he than for those who purely and simply preached the holy Gospel to them.”

“However that may be,” said Hircan, “he was not wrong in asking for hams in exchange for chitterlings, for in hams there is far more eating. And even if some devout creature had understood him amphibologically, as I believe he wished to be understood, neither he nor his brethren would have fared badly any more than the wench that had her bag full.”

“But how impudent of him,” said Oisille, “to pervert the meaning of the text to suit his fancy, thinking that he had to do with beasts like himself, and shamelessly trying to entice the poor little women so that he might teach them how to eat raw flesh at night.”

“True,” said Simontault; “but you forget that he saw before him those young tripe-sellers of Amboise in whose tub he would fain have washed his ——— shall I name it? No, but you understand me — and have treated them to a taste of it, not roasted, but stirring and frisking, so as to please them the more.”

“Softly, softly, Simontault,” said Parlamente; “you forget yourself. Have you laid aside your accustomed modesty to don it only in time of necessity?”

“No, madam, no,” said he; “’twas the unworthy monk that led me astray. Wherefore, that we may return to the matter in hand, I beg Nomerfide, who caused my offence, to give her vote to some one who will make the company forget our common fault.”

“Since you include me in your transgression,” said Nomerfide, “I will choose one who will atone for our failings, that is Dagoucin. He is so discreet that to save his life he would not say a foolish thing.”

Tailpiece

1 See ante, p. 89, note 2.

An anecdote in keeping with this story will be found in Brantôme’s miscellaneous works (Petitot’s éd., vol. viii. pp. 382-4). The author of Les Dames Galantes, after alluding to his aunt Louise de Bourdeille — who was brought up at Court by Anne of Brittany — proceeds to say:—

“A certain Grey Friar, who habitually preached before the Queen, fell so deeply in love with Mademoiselle de Bourdeille that he completely lost his wits, and sometimes in his sermons, whilst speaking of the beauty of the holy virgins of past times, he would so forget himself as to say some words respecting the beauty of my said aunt, not to mention the soft glances which he cast at her. And sometimes, whilst in the Queen’s room, he would take great pleasure in discoursing to her, not with words of love however, for he would have incurred a whipping, but with other covert words which tended towards love. My aunt in no wise approved of his discourses, and made some mention of them to her own and her companions’ governess. The Queen heard of the matter and could not believe it, on account of this man’s cloth and holiness. For this reason she kept silent until a certain Good Friday, when, in accordance with custom, this friar preached before her on the Holy Passion. The ladies and the maids, including my aunt, being seated as was their wont before the reverend father, in full view of him, he, as though giving out the text and introit of his sermon, began to say: ‘It is for you, lovely humanity, it is for you that I suffer this day. Thus on a certain occasion spake our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Then proceeding with his sermon the friar chronicled all the sufferings and afflictions which Jesus endured for mankind at His death upon the Cross, and these he compared to the sufferings that he himself endured on account of my aunt; but in such covert, such disguised words that even the most enlightened might have failed to understand their meaning. Queen Anne, however, who was very expert both in mind and judgment, laid hold of this, and took counsel as to the real meaning of the sermon, both with certain lords and ladies and certain learned men who were there present. They all pronounced the sermon to be most scandalous, and the Grey Friar most deserving of punishment; for which reason he was secretly chastised and whipped, and then driven away, without any scandal being made. Such was the Queen’s reply to the amours of this Grey Friar; and thus was my aunt well avenged on him for the way in which he had so often importuned her. In those times it was not allowable, under divers penalties, either to contradict or to refuse to speak to such people, who, so it was thought, conversed only of God and the salvation of the soul.”

In Mérimée’s Chronique de Charles IX., there will be found a facetious sermon by another Grey Friar; this, however, is less in keeping with the Heptameron, than with the character of the discourses delivered by the preachers of the League. — M.

the Gentleman Killing The Duke
The Gentleman killing the Duke

101.jpg Headpiece

Tale xii.

The Duke of Florence, having continually failed to make known to a certain lady the love he bore her, confided in her brother, and begged his assistance that he might attain his ends. This, after many remonstrances, the brother agreed to give, but it was a lip-promise only, for at the moment when the Duke was expecting to vanquish her whom he had deemed invincible, the gentleman slew him in his bed, in this fashion freeing his country from a tyrant, and saving both his own life and the honour of his house. 1

Ten years ago there reigned in the city of Florence a Duke of the house of Medici who had married the Emperor’s natural daughter, Margaret. 2 She was still so young that the marriage could not be lawfully consummated, and, waiting till she should be of a riper age, the Duke treated her with great gentleness, and to spare her, made love to various ladies of the city, whom he was wont to visit at night, whilst his wife was sleeping.

Among these there was one very beautiful, discreet, and honourable lady, sister to a gentleman whom the Duke loved even as himself, and to whom he gave such authority in his household that his orders were feared and obeyed equally with the Duke’s own. And moreover the Duke had no secrets that he did not share with this gentleman, so that the latter might have been called his second-self. 3

Finding the gentleman’s sister to be a lady of such exemplary virtue that he was unable to declare his passion to her, though he sought all possible opportunities for doing so, the Duke at last came to his favourite and said to him —

“If there were anything in this world, my friend, that I might be unwilling to do for you, I should hesitate to tell you what is in my mind, and still more to beg your assistance. But such is the affection I bear you that had I wife, mother, or daughter who could avail to save your life, I would sacrifice them rather than allow you to die in torment. I believe that your love for me is the counterpart of mine for you, and that if I, who am your master, bear you so much affection, you, on your part, can have no less for me. I will therefore tell you a secret, the keeping of which has brought me to the condition you see. I have no hope of any improvement except it be through death or else the service which you are in a position to render me.”

On hearing these words from the Duke, and seeing his face unfeignedly bathed in tears, the gentleman felt such great pity for him that he said —

“Sir, I am your creature: all the wealth and honour that I am possessed of in this world come from you. You may speak to me as to your own soul, in the certainty that all that it be in my power to do is at your command.”

Thereupon the Duke began to tell him of the love he bore his sister, a love so deep and strong that he feared he could not live much longer unless, by the gentleman’s help, he succeeded in satisfying his desire. He was well aware that neither prayers nor presents would be of any avail with the lady, wherefore he begged the gentleman — if he cared for his master’s life as much as he, his master, cared for his — to devise some means of procuring him the good fortune which, without such assistance, he could never hope to obtain.

The brother, who loved his sister and the honour of his house far more than the Duke’s pleasure, endeavoured to remonstrate with him, entreating that he might be employed for any other purpose save the cruel task of soliciting the dishonour of his own kin, and declaring that the rendering of such a service was contrary alike to his inclinations and his honour.

Inflamed with excessive wrath, the Duke raised his hand to his mouth and bit his nails.

“Well,” said he in a fury, “since I find that you have no friendship for me, I know what I have to do.”

The gentleman, who was acquainted with his master’s cruelty, felt afraid, and answered —

“My lord, since such is your pleasure, I will speak to her, and tell you her reply.”

“If you show concern for my life, I shall show it for yours,” replied the Duke, and thereupon he went away.

The gentleman well understood the meaning of these words, and spent a day or two without seeing the Duke, considering what he should do. On the one hand he was confronted by the duty he owed his master, and the wealth and honours he had received from him; on the other by the honour of his house, and the fair fame and chastity of his sister. He well knew that she would never submit to such infamy unless through his own treachery she were overcome by violence, so unnatural a deed that if it were committed he and his kindred would be disgraced for ever. In this dilemma he decided that he would sooner die than so ill use his sister, who was one of the noblest women in all Italy, and ought rather to deliver his country of this tyrant who, abusing his power, sought to cast such a slur upon his family; for he felt sure that if the Duke were suffered to live, neither his own life nor the lives of his kindred would be safe. So without speaking of the matter to his sister or to any living creature, he determined to save his life and vindicate his honour at one and the same time. Accordingly, when a couple of days had gone by, he went to the Duke and told him that with infinite difficulty he had so wrought upon his sister that she had at last consented to do his will, provided that the matter were kept secret, and none but he, her brother, knew of it.

The Duke, who was longing for these tidings, readily believed them, and embracing the ambassador, promised him anything that he might ask. He begged him to put his scheme quickly into execution, and they agreed together upon the time when this should be done. The Duke was in great joy, as may well be imagined; and on the arrival of that wished-for night when he hoped to vanquish her whom he had deemed invincible, he retired early, accompanied only by the lady’s brother, and failed not to attire himself in a perfumed shirt and head-gear. Then, when every one was gone to rest, he went with the gentleman to the lady’s abode, where he was conducted into a well-appointed apartment.

Having undressed him and put him to bed, the gentleman said —

“My lord, I will now go and fetch you one who will assuredly not enter this room without blushing; but I hope that before morning she will have lost all fear of you.”

Leaving the Duke, he then went to his own room, where he found one of his servants, to whom he said —

“Are you brave enough to follow me to a place where I desire to avenge myself upon my greatest living enemy?”

The other, who was ignorant of his master’s purpose, replied —

“Yes, sir, though it were the Duke himself.”

Thereupon the gentleman led him away in such haste as to leave him no time to take any weapon except a poignard that he was wearing.

The Duke, on hearing the gentleman coming back again, thought that he was bringing the loved one with him, and, opening his eyes, drew back the curtains in order to see and welcome the joy for which he had so long been waiting. But instead of seeing her who, so he hoped, was to preserve his life, he beheld something intended to take his life away, that is, a naked sword which the gentleman had drawn, and with which he smote the Duke. The latter was wearing nothing but his shirt, and lacked weapons, though not courage, for sitting up in the bed he seized the gentleman round the body, saying —

“Is this the way you keep your promise?”

Then, armed as he was only with his teeth and nails, he bit the gentleman’s thumb, and wrestled with him so stoutly that they both fell down beside the bed.

The gentleman, not feeling altogether confident, called to his servant, who, finding the Duke and his master so closely twined together that he could not tell the one from the other, dragged them both by the feet into the middle of the room, and then tried to cut the Duke’s throat with his poignard. The Duke defended himself until he was so exhausted through loss of blood that he could do no more, whereupon the gentleman and his servant lifted him upon the bed and finished him with their daggers. They then drew the curtain and went away, leaving the dead body shut up in the room.

Having vanquished his great enemy, by whose death he hoped to free his country, the gentleman reflected that his work would be incomplete unless he treated five or six of the Duke’s kindred in the same fashion. The servant, however, who was neither a dare-devil nor a fool, said to him —

“I think, sir, that you have done enough for the present, and that it would be better to think of saving your own life than of taking the lives of others, for should we be as long in making away with each of them as we were in the case of the Duke, daylight would overtake our enterprise before we could complete it, even should we find our enemies unarmed.”

Cowed by his guilty conscience, the gentleman followed the advice of his servant, and taking him alone with him, repaired to a Bishop 4 whose office it was to have the city gates opened, and to give orders to the guard-posts.

“I have,” said the gentleman to the Bishop, “this evening received tidings that one of my brothers is at the point of death. I have just asked leave of the Duke to go to him, and he has granted it me; and I beg you to send orders that the guards may furnish me with two good horses, and that the gatekeeper may let me through.”

The Bishop, who regarded the gentleman’s request in the same light as an order from his master the Duke, forthwith gave him a note, by means of which the gate was opened for him, and horses supplied to him as he had requested; but instead of going to see his brother he betook himself straight to Venice, where he had himself cured of the bites that he had received from the Duke, and then passed over into Turkey. 5

In the morning, finding that their master delayed his return so long, all the Duke’s servants suspected, rightly enough, that he had gone to see some lady; but at last, as he still failed to return, they began seeking him on all sides. The poor Duchess, who was beginning to love him dearly, was sorely distressed on learning that he could not be found; and as the gentleman to whom he bore so much affection was likewise nowhere to be seen, some went to his house in quest of him. They found blood on the threshold of the gentleman’s room, which they entered, but he was not there, nor could any servant or other person give any tidings of him. Following the blood-stains, however, the Duke’s servants came at last to the room in which their master lay. The door of it was locked, but this they soon broke open, and on seeing the floor covered with blood they drew back the bed-curtain, and found the unhappy Duke’s body lying in the bed, sleeping the sleep from which one cannot awaken.

You may imagine the mourning of these poor servants as they carried the body to the palace, whither came the Bishop, who told them how the gentleman had departed with all speed during the night under pretence of going to see his brother. And by this it was clearly shown that it was he who had committed the murder. And it was further proved that his poor sister had known nothing whatever of the matter. For her part, albeit she was astounded by what had happened, she could but love her brother the more, seeing that he had not shrunk from risking his life in order to save her from so cruel a tyrant. And so honourable and virtuous was the life that she continued leading, that although she was reduced to poverty by the confiscation of the family property, both she and her sister found as honourable and wealthy husbands as there were in all Italy, and lived ever afterwards in high and good repute.

“This, ladies, is a story that should make you dread that little god who delights in tormenting Prince and peasant, strong and weak, and so far blinds them that they lose all thought of God and conscience, and even of their own lives. And greatly should Princes and those in authority fear to offend such as are less than they; for there is no man but can wreak injury when it pleases God to take vengeance on a sinner, nor any man so great that he can do hurt to one who is in God’s care.”

This tale was commended by all in the company, 6 but it gave rise to different opinions among them, for whilst some maintained that the gentleman had done his duty in saving his own life and his sister’s honour, as well as in ridding his country of such a tyrant, others denied this, and said it was rank ingratitude to slay one who had bestowed on him such wealth and station. The ladies declared that the gentleman was a good brother and a worthy citizen; the men, on the contrary, that he was a treacherous and wicked servant.

And pleasant was it to hear the reasons which were brought forward on both sides; but the ladies, as is their wont, spoke as much from passion as from judgment, saying that the Duke was so well worthy of death that he who struck him down was a happy man indeed.

Then Dagoucin, seeing what a controversy he had set on foot, said to them —

“In God’s name, ladies, do not quarrel about a thing that is past and gone. Take care rather that your own charms do not occasion more cruel murders than the one which I have related.”

“‘La belle Dame sans Mercy,’” 7 replied Parlamente, “has taught us to say that but few die of so pleasing an ailment.”

“Would to God, madam,” answered Dagoucin, “that all the ladies in this company knew how false that saying is. I think they would then scarcely wish to be called pitiless, or to imitate that unbelieving beauty who suffered a worthy lover to die for lack of a gracious answer to his suit.”

“So,” said Parlamente, “you would have us risk honour and conscience to save the life of a man who says he loves us.”

“That is not my meaning,” replied Dagoucin, “for he who loves with a perfect love would be even more afraid of hurting his lady’s honour than would she herself. I therefore think that an honourable and graceful response, such as is called for by perfect and seemly love, must tend to the increase of honour and the satisfaction of conscience, for no true lover could seek the contrary.”

“That is always the end of your speeches,” said Ennasuite; “they begin with honour and end with the contrary. However, if all the gentlemen present will tell the truth of the matter, I am ready to believe them on their oaths.”

Hircan swore that for his own part he had never loved any woman but his own wife, and even with her had no desire to be guilty of any gross offence against God.

Simontault declared the same, and added that he had often wished all women were froward excepting his own wife.

“Truly,” said Geburon to him, “you deserve that your wife should be what you would have the others. For my own part, I can swear to you that I once loved a woman so dearly that I would rather have died than have led her to do anything that might have diminished my esteem for her. My love for her was so founded upon her virtues, that for no advantage that I might have had of her would I have seen them blemished.”

At this Saffredent burst out laughing.

“Geburon,” he said, “I thought that your wife’s affection and your own good sense would have guarded you from the danger of falling in love elsewhere, but I see that I was mistaken, for you still use the very phrases with which we are wont to beguile the most subtle of women, and to obtain a hearing from the most discreet. For who would close her ears against us when we begin our discourse by talking of honour and virtue? 8 But if we were to show them our hearts just as they are, there is many a man now welcome among the ladies whom they would reckon of but little account. But we hide the devil in our natures under the most angelic form we can devise, and in this disguise receive many favours before we are found out. And perhaps we lead the ladies’ hearts so far forward, that when they come upon vice while believing themselves on the high road to virtue, they have neither opportunity nor ability to draw back again.”

“Truly,” said Geburon, “I thought you a different man than your words would show you to be, and fancied that virtue was more pleasing to you than pleasure.”

“What!” said Saffredent. “Is there any virtue greater than that of loving in the way that God commands? It seems to me that it is much better to love one woman as a woman than to adore a number of women as though they were so many idols. For my part, I am firmly of opinion that use is better than abuse.”

The ladies, however, all sided with Geburon, and would not allow Saffredent to continue, whereupon he said —

“I am well content to say no more on this subject of love, for I have been so badly treated with regard to it that I will never return to it again.”

“It is your own maliciousness,” said Longarine, “that has occasioned your bad treatment; for what virtuous woman would have you for a lover after what you have told us?”

“Those who did not consider me unwelcome,” answered Saffredent, “would not care to exchange their virtue for yours. But let us say no more about it, that my anger may offend neither myself nor others. Let us see to whom Dagoucin will give his vote.”

“I give it to Parlamente,” said Dagoucin, “for I believe that she must know better than any one else the nature of honourable and perfect love.”

“Since I have been chosen to tell the third tale,” said Parlamente, “I will tell you something that happened to a lady who has always been one of my best friends, and whose thoughts have never been hidden from me.”

Tailpiece

1 The basis of this story is historical. The event here described — one of the most famous in the annals of Florence — furnished Alfred de Musset with the subject of his play Lorenzaccio, and served as the foundation of The Traitor, considered to be Shirley’s highest achievement as a dramatic poet. As Queen Margaret’s narrative contains various errors of fact, Sismondi’s account of the affair, as borrowed by him from the best Italian historians, is given in the Appendix, C— Eu.

2 The Duke here referred to was Alexander de’ Medici, first Duke of Florence, in which city he was born in 1510. His mother, a slave named Anna, was the wife of a Florentine coachman, but Lorenzo II. de’ Medici, one of this woman’s lovers, acknowledged him as his offspring, though, according to some accounts, his real father was one of the popes, Clement VII. or Julius II. After the Emperor Charles V. had made himself master of Florence in 1530, he confided the governorship of the city to Alexander, upon whom he bestowed the title of Duke. Two years later Alexander threw off the imperial control, and soon afterwards embarked on a career of debauchery and crime. In 1536, Charles V., being desirous of obtaining the support of Florence against France, treated with Alexander, and gave him the hand of his illegitimate daughter, Margaret. The latter — whose mother was Margaret van Gheenst, a Flemish damsel of noble birth — was at that time barely fourteen, having been born at Brussels in 1522. The Queen of Navarre’s statements concerning the youthfulness of the Duchess are thus corroborated by fact. After the death of Alexander de’ Medici, his widow was married to Octavius Farnese, Duke of Parma, who was then only twelve years old, but by whom she eventually became the mother of the celebrated Alexander Farnese. Margaret of Austria occupies a prominent place in the history of the Netherlands, which she governed during a lengthy period for her brother Philip II. She died in retirement at Ortonna in Italy in 1586. — L. and Ed.

3 The gentleman here mentioned was the Duke’s cousin, Lorenzo di Pier-Francesco de’ Medici, commonly called Lorenzino on account of his short stature. He was born at Florence in 1514, and, being the eldest member of the junior branch of the Medici family, it had been decided by the Emperor Charles V. that he should succeed to the Dukedom of Florence, if Alexander died without issue. Lorenzino cultivated letters, and is said to have possessed considerable wit, but, on the other hand, instead of being a high-minded man, as Queen Margaret pictures him, he was a thorough profligate, and willingly lent a hand in Alexander’s scandalous amours. The heroine of this story is erroneously described as Lorenzino’s sister; in point of fact she was his aunt, Catherine Ginori. See Appendix, C. — Ed.

4 Probably Cardinal Cybo, Alexander’s chief minister, who according to Sismondi, was the first to discover the murder. — Ed.

5 On leaving Florence, Lorenzo repaired first to Bologna and then to Venice, where he informed Philip Strozzi of how he had rid his country of the tyrant. After embracing him in a transport, and calling him the Tuscan Brutus, Strozzi asked the murderer’s sisters, Laudamina and Magdalen de’ Medici, in marriage for his own sons, Peter and Robert. From Venice Lorenzino issued a mémoire justificatif, full of quibbles and paradoxes, in which he tried to explain his lack of energy after the murder by the indifference shown by the Florentines. He took no part in the various enterprises directed against Cosmo de’ Medici, who had succeeded Alexander at Florence. Indeed his chief concern was for his own safety, which was threatened alike by Cosmo and the Emperor Charles V., and to escape their emissaries he proceeded to Turkey, and thence to France, ultimately returning to Venice, where, despite all his precautions against danger, he was assassinated in 1547, together with his uncle, Soderini, by some spadassins in the pay of Cosmo I. — Ed.

6 In MS. No. 1520 (Bib. Nat.) this sentence begins: “The tale was attentively listened to by all,” &c. — L.

7 La belle Dame sans Merci (The Pitiless Beauty) is one of Alain Chartier’s best known poems. It is written in the form of a dialogue between a lady and her lover: the former having obstinately refused to take compassion on the sufferings of her admirer, the latter is said to have died of despair. The lines alluded to by Margaret are spoken by the lady, and are to the following effect — “So graceful a malady seldom puts men to death; yet the sooner to obtain comfort, it is fitting one should say that it did. Some complain and worry greatly who have not really felt the most bitter affliction; and if indeed Love doth cause such great torment, surely it were better there should be but one sufferer rather than two.” The poem, as here quoted, will be found in André Duchesne’s edition of the OEuvres de Maistre Alain Chartier, Paris, 1617, p. 502. — L.

8 This sentence is borrowed from MS. No. 1520 (Bib. Nat.) — L.

Appendix C.

The following account of the assassination of Alexander de’ Medici is taken from Sismondi’s Histoire des Républiques Italiennes du Moyen Age, Paris, 1826, vol. xvi. p. 95 et seq.:—

“But few months had elapsed since Alexander’s marriage, and he had employed them in his wonted debauchery, carrying depravity and dishonour alternately into the convents and noblest abodes of Florence, when, on January 6, 1537, he was assassinated by the man whom, of all men, he the least mistrusted. This was his cousin, Lorenzino de’ Medici. . . . Lorenzino had already helped Alexander to seduce several women of noble birth; and to facilitate his assignations had often lent him his house, which adjoined the ducal residence in the Via Larga. He engaged to bring the Duke the wife of Leonardo Ginori — sister to his own mother, but much younger than she was. Alexander had long been struck with this lady’s beauty, but so far she had virtuously repulsed him. After supper, however, on the day of the feast of the Epiphany, when the Carnival begins, Lorenzino informed the Duke that if he would repair to his house, unaccompanied and observing the greatest secrecy, he would find Catherine Ginori there. Alexander accepted the assignation, dismissed all his guards, rid himself of all those who wished to keep a watch upon him, and entered Lorenzino’s house without being perceived. He was tired and wished to rest awhile, but before throwing himself on the bed he unbuckled his sword, and Lorenzino, on taking it from him to hang it at the head of the bedstead, wound the belt around the hilt in such a fashion that the weapon could not be easily drawn from its scabbard. After telling the Duke to rest whilst he went to fetch his aunt, he went away, locking the door of the room behind him; but returned shortly afterwards with a spadassin, nicknamed Scoronconcolo, whom he had previously engaged, for the purpose, he said, of ridding him of a great personage of the Court whose name he had prudently not given. In fact Lorenzino had carried his design to the very point of execution without taking a single person into his confidence. On returning into the room, followed by Scoronconcolo, he called to the Duke: ‘Are you asleep, my lord?’ and at the same moment transpierced him with a short sword which he was carrying. Alexander, although mortally wounded, tried to resist his murderer, whereupon Lorenzino, to prevent him from crying out, thrust two of his fingers into his mouth, at the same time exclaiming: ‘Be not afraid, my lord.’ Alexander, it appears, bit his assailant’s fingers with all the strength of his jaws, and holding him in a tight embrace, rolled with him about the bed, so that Scoronconcolo was unable to strike the one without striking the other. He endeavoured to get at the Duke from between Lorenzino’s legs, but only succeeded in piercing the mattress, till at last he remembered that he had a knife about him, and drove it into the Duke’s throat, turning it round and round until he eventually killed him. 1

“Lorenzino failed to reap the fruits of the crime, which he had planned with so much skill and such profound secrecy. By the life he had led, he had aroused the distrust of all honest folks, he had no friends to whom he could apply for advice or help, he had no party behind him, he had never been known to display that zeal for liberty which he subsequently affected. Although he was the first of the Medici in the order of succession, no one thought of him. For his own part, he only thought of ensuring his safety. He locked the door of the room, taking the key away with him, and having obtained an order for the city gates to be opened, and for post-horses to be provided for him, under pretence that he had just learned that his brother was ill, in the country, he started for Bologna, whence he proceeded to Venice, accompanied by Scoronconcolo.”

1 Bened. Varchi, lib. xv.; Bern. Segni, 1. vii.; Filippo de Nerli, 1. xii.; Gio. Batt. Adriani, 1. i.; Scipione Ammirato, 1. xxxi.; Pauli Jovii. Hist. 1. xxxviii.; Istorie di Marco Guazzo, fol. 159.

the Sea-captain Talking to The Lady
The Sea-captain talking to the Lady

119.jpg Headpiece

Tale xiii.

A sea-captain, being greatly in love with a lady, sent her a diamond; but she despatched it to his wife, whom he had long neglected, and in this wise so atoned for his conduct that his wife was reconciled to him in perfect affection. 1

1 M. Le Roux de Lincy believes that this story has some historical basis, and, Louise of Savoy being termed the Regent, he assigns the earlier incidents to the year 1524. But Louise was Regent, for the first time, in 1515, and we incline to the belief that Queen Margaret alludes to this earlier period. Note the reference to a Court journey to Normandy (post, p. 136), which was probably the journey that Francis I. and his mother are known to have made to Rouen and Alençon in the autumn of 1517. See vol. i. p. xxviii. — Ed. 2 119

In the household of the Lady-Regent, mother of King Francis, there was a very pious lady married to a gentleman of like mind with herself, and, albeit her husband was old and she was young and pretty, she served and loved him as though he had been the handsomest and youngest man in the world. So that she might give him no cause for sorrow, she set herself to live as though she were of the same age as himself, eschewing all such company, dress, dances, and amusements as young women are wont to love, and finding all her pleasure and recreation in the service of God; on which account her husband so loved and trusted her, that she ruled him and his household as she would.

One day it happened that the gentleman told his wife that from his youth up he had desired to make a journey to Jerusalem, and asked her what she thought of it. She, whose only wish was to please him, replied —

“Since God has withheld children from us, sweetheart, and has granted us sufficient wealth, I would willingly use some portion of it in making this sacred journey with you, for indeed, whether you go thither or elsewhere, I am resolved never to leave you.”

At this the good man was so pleased, that it seemed to him as though he were already on Mount Calvary.

While they were deliberating on this matter, there came to the Court a gentleman, the Captain of a galley, who had often served in the wars against the Turks, 2 and was now soliciting the King of France to undertake an expedition against one of their cities, which might yield great advantage to Christendom. The old gentleman inquired of him concerning this expedition, and after hearing what he intended to do, asked him whether, on the completion of this business, he would make another journey to Jerusalem, whither he himself and his wife had a great desire to go. The Captain was well pleased on hearing of this laudable desire, and he promised to conduct them thither, and to keep the matter secret.

2 M. Paul Lacroix, who believes that the heroine of this tale is Margaret herself (she is described as telling it under the name of Parlamente), is also of opinion that the gentleman referred to is the Baron de Malleville, a knight of Malta, who was killed at Beyrout during an expedition against the Turks, and whose death was recounted in verse by Clement Marot (OEuvres, 1731, vol. ii. p. 452-455). Margaret’s gentleman, however, is represented as being married, whereas M. de Malleville, as a knight of Malta, was necessarily a bachelor. Marot, moreover, calls Malleville a Parisian, whereas the gentleman in the tale belonged to Normandy (see post, p. 136). — B. J. and L.

The old gentleman was all impatience to find his wife and tell her of what he had done. She was as anxious to make the journey as her husband, and on that account often spoke about it to the Captain, who, paying more attention to her person than her words, fell so deeply in love with her, that when speaking to her of the voyages he had made, he often confused the port of Marseilles with the Archipelago, and said “horse” when he meant to say “ship,” like one distracted and bereft of sense. Her character, however, was such that he durst not give any token of the truth, and concealment kindled such fires in his heart that he often fell sick, when the lady showed as much solicitude for him as for the cross and guide of her road, 3 sending to inquire after him so often that the anxiety she showed cured him without the aid of any other medicine.

3 This may simply be an allusion to wayside crosses which serve to guide travellers on their road. M. de Montaiglon points out, however, that in the alphabets used for teaching children in the olden time, the letter A was always preceded by a cross, and that the child, in reciting, invariably began: “The cross of God, A, B, C, D,” &c. In a like way, a cross figured at the beginning of the guide-books of the time, as a symbol inviting the traveller to pray, and reminding him upon whom he should rely amid the perils of his journey. The best known French guide-book of the sixteenth century is Charles Estienne’s Guide des Chemins de France. — M. and Ed.

Several persons who knew that this Captain had been more renowned for valour and jollity than for piety, were amazed that he should have become so intimate with this lady, and seeing that he had changed in every respect, and frequented churches, sermons, and confessions, they suspected that this was only in order to win the lady’s favour, and could not refrain from hinting as much to him.

The Captain feared that if the lady should hear any such talk he would be banished from her presence, and accordingly he told her husband and herself that he was on the point of being despatched on his journey by the King, and had much to tell them, but that for the sake of greater secrecy he did not desire to speak to them in the presence of others, for which reason he begged them to send for him when they had both retired for the night. The gentleman deemed this to be good advice, and did not fail to go to bed early every evening, and to make his wife also undress. When all their servants had left them, they used to send for the Captain, and talk with him about the journey to Jerusalem, in the midst of which the old gentleman would oft-times fall asleep with his mind full of pious thoughts. When the Captain saw the old gentleman asleep in bed, and found himself on a chair near her whom he deemed the fairest and noblest woman in the world, his heart was so rent between his desires and his dread of speaking that he often lost the power of speech. In order that she might not perceive this, he would force himself to talk of the holy places of Jerusalem where there were such signs of the great love that Jesus Christ bore us; and he would speak of this love, using it as a cloak for his own, and looking at the lady with sighs and tears which she never understood. By reason of his devout countenance she indeed believed him to be a very holy man, and begged of him to tell her what his life had been, and how he had come to love God in that way.

He told her that he was a poor gentleman, who, to arrive at riches and honour, had disregarded his conscience in marrying a woman who was too close akin to him, and this on account of the wealth she possessed, albeit she was ugly and old, and he loved her not; and when he had drawn all her money from her, he had gone to seek his fortune at sea, and had so prospered by his toil, that he had now come to an honourable estate. But since he had made his hearer’s acquaintance, she, by reason of her pious converse and good example, had changed all his manner of life, and should he return from his present enterprise he was wholly resolved to take her husband and herself to Jerusalem, that he might thereby partly atone for his grievous sins which he had now put from him; save that he had not yet made reparation to his wife, with whom, however, he hoped that he might soon be reconciled.

The lady was well pleased with this discourse, and especially rejoiced at having drawn such a man to the love and fear of God. And thus, until the Captain departed from the Court, their long conversations together were continued every evening without his ever venturing to declare himself. However, he made the lady a present of a crucifix of Our Lady of Pity, 4 beseeching her to think of him whenever she looked upon it.

4 “Our Lady of Pity” is the designation usually applied to the Virgin when she is shown seated with the corpse of Christ on her knees. Michael Angelo’s famous group at St. Peter’s is commonly known by this name. In the present instance, however, Queen Margaret undoubtedly refers to a crucifix showing the Virgin at the foot of the Cross, contemplating her son’s sufferings. Such crucifixes were formerly not uncommon. — M.

The hour of his departure arrived, and when he had taken leave of the husband, who was falling asleep, and came to bid his lady farewell, he beheld tears standing in her eyes by reason of the honourable affection which she entertained for him. The sight of these rendered his passion for her so unendurable that, not daring to say anything concerning it, he almost fainted, and broke out into an exceeding sweat, so that he seemed to weep not only with his eyes, but with his entire body. And thus he departed without speaking, leaving the lady in great astonishment, for she had never before seen such tokens of regret. Nevertheless she did not change in her good opinion of him, and followed him with her prayers.

After a month had gone by, however, as the lady was returning to her house, she met a gentleman who handed her a letter from the Captain, and begged her to read it in private.

He told her how he had seen the Captain embark, fully resolved to accomplish whatever might be pleasing to the King and of advantage to Christianity. For his own part, the gentleman added, he was straightway going back to Marseilles to set the Captain’s affairs in order.

The lady withdrew to a window by herself, and opening the letter, found it to consist of two sheets of paper, covered on either side with writing which formed the following epistle:—

“Concealment long and silence have, alas!

Brought me all comfortless to such a pass,

That now, perforce, I must, to ease my grief,

Either speak out, or seek in death relief.

Wherefore the tale I long have left untold

I now, in lonely friendlessness grown bold,

Send unto thee, for I must strive to say

My love, or else prepare myself to slay.

And though my eyes no longer may behold

The sweet, who in her hand my life doth hold,

Whose glance sufficed to make my heart rejoice,

The while my ear did listen to her voice, —

These words at least shall meet her beauteous eyes,

And tell her all the plaintive, clamorous cries

Pent in my heart, to which I must give breath,

Since longer silence could but bring me death.

And yet, at first, I was in truth full fain

To blot the words I’d written out again,

Fearing, forsooth, I might offend thine ear

With foolish phrases which, when thou wast near,

I dared not utter; and ‘Indeed,’ said I,

‘Far better pine in silence, aye, and die,

Than save myself by bringing her annoy

For whose sweet sake grim death itself were joy.’

And yet, thought I, my death some pain might give

To her for whom I would be strong, and live:

For have I not, fair lady, promised plain,

My journey ended, to return again

And guide thee and thy spouse to where he now

Doth yearn to call on God from Sion’s brow?

And none would lead thee thither should I die.

If I were dead, methinks I see thee sigh

In sore distress, for then thou couldst not start

Upon that journey, dear unto thy heart.

So I will live, and, in a little space,

Return to lead thee to the sacred place.

Aye, I will live, though death a boon would be

Only to be refused for sake of thee.

But if I live, I needs must straight remove

The burden from my heart, and speak my love,

That love more loyal, tender, deep, and true,

Than, ever yet, the fondest lover knew.

And now, bold words about to wing your flight,

What will ye say when ye have reached her sight?

Declare her all the love that fills my heart?

Too weak ye are to tell its thousandth part!

Can ye at least not say that her clear eyes

Have torn my hapless heart forth in such wise,

That like a hollow tree I pine and wither

Unless hers give me back some life and vigour?

Ye feeble words! ye cannot even tell

How easily her eyes a heart compel;

Nor can ye praise her speech in language fit,

So weak and dull ye are, so void of wit.

Yet there are some things I would have you name —

How mute and foolish I oft time became

When all her grace and virtue I beheld;

How from my ‘raptured eyes tears slowly welled

The tears of hopeless love; how my tongue strayed

From fond and wooing speech, so sore afraid,

That all my discourse was of time and tide,

And of the stars which up in Heav’n abide.

O words, alas! ye lack the skill to tell

The dire confusion that upon me fell,

Whilst love thus wracked me; nor can ye disclose

My love’s immensity, its pains and woes.

Yet, though, for all, your powers be too weak,

Perchance, some little, ye are fit to speak —

Say to her thus: “Twas fear lest thou shouldst chide

That drove me, e’en so long, my love to hide,

And yet, forsooth, it might have openly

Been told to God in Heaven, as unto thee,

Based as it is upon thy virtue — thought

That to my torments frequent balm hath brought,

For who, indeed, could ever deem it sin

To seek the owner of all worth to win?

Deserving rather of our blame were he

Who having seen thee undisturbed could be.’

None such was I, for, straightway stricken sore,

My heart bowed low to Love, the conqueror.

And ah! no false and fleeting love is mine,

Such as for painted beauty feigns to pine;

Nor doth my passion, although deep and strong,

Seek its own wicked pleasure in thy wrong.

Nay; on this journey I would rather die

Than know that thou hadst fallen, and that I

Had wrought thy shame and foully brought to harm

The virtue which thy heart wraps round thy form.

’Tis thy perfection that I love in thee,

Nought that might lessen it could ever be

Desire of mine — indeed, the nobler thou,

The greater were the love I to thee vow.

I do not seek an ardent flame to quench

In lustful dalliance with some merry wench,

Pure is my heart, ‘neath reason’s calm control

Set on a lady of such lofty soul,

That neither God above nor angel bright,

But seeing her, would echo my delight.

And if of thee I may not be beloved,

What matter, shouldst thou deem that I have proved

The truest lover that did ever live?

And this I know thou wilt, one day, believe,

For time, in rolling by, shall show to thee

No change in my heart’s faith and loyalty.

And though for this thou mayst make no return,

Yet pleased am I with love for thee to burn,

And seek no recompense, pursue no end,

Save, that to thee, I meekly recommend

My soul and body, which I here consign

In sacrifice to Love’s consuming shrine.

If then in safety I sail back the main

To thee, still artless, I’ll return again;

And if I die, then there will die with me

A lover such as none again shall see.

So Ocean now doth carry far away

The truest lover seen for many a day;

His body ’tis that journeys o’er the wave,

But not his heart, for that is now thy slave,

And from thy side can never wrested be,

Nor of its own accord return to me.

Ah! could I with me o’er the treach’rous brine

Take aught of that pure, guileless heart of thine,

No doubt should I then feel of victory,

Whereof the glory would belong to thee.

But now, whatever fortune may befall,

I’ve cast the die; and having told thee all,

Abide thereby, and vow my constancy —

Emblem of which, herein, a diamond see,

By whose great firmness and whose pure glow

The strength and pureness of my love thou’lt know.

Let it, I pray, thy fair white finger press,

And thou wilt deal me more than happiness.

And, diamond, speak and say: ‘To thee I come

From thy fond lover, who afar doth roam,

And strives by dint of glorious deeds to rise

To the high level of the good and wise,

Hoping some day that haven to attain,

Where thy sweet favours shall reward his pain.”

The lady read the letter through, and was the more astonished at the Captain’s passion as she had never before suspected it. She looked at the cutting of the diamond, which was a large and beautiful one, set in a ring of black enamel, and she was in great doubt as to what she ought to do with it. After pondering upon the matter throughout the night, she was glad to find that since there was no messenger, she had no occasion to send any answer to the Captain, who, she reflected, was being sufficiently tried by those matters of the King, his master, which he had in hand, without being angered by the unfavourable reply which she was resolved to make to him, though she delayed it until his return. However, she found herself greatly perplexed with regard to the diamond, for she had never been wont to adorn herself at the expense of any but her husband. For this reason, being a woman of excellent understanding, she determined to draw from the ring some profit to the Captain’s conscience. She therefore despatched one of her servants to the Captain’s wife with the following letter, which was written as though it came from a nun of Tarascon:—

“MADAM, — Your husband passed this way but a short time before he embarked, and after he had confessed himself and received his Creator like a good Christian, he spoke to me of something which he had upon his conscience, namely, his sorrow at not having loved you as he should have done. And on departing, he prayed and besought me to send you this letter, with the diamond which goes with it, and which he begs of you to keep for his sake, assuring you that if God bring him back again in health and strength, you shall be better treated than ever woman was before. And this stone of steadfastness shall be the pledge thereof.

“I beg you to remember him in your prayers; in mine he will have a place as long as I live.”

This letter, being finished and signed with the name of a nun, was sent by the lady to the Captain’s wife. And as may be readily believed, when the excellent old woman saw the letter and the ring, she wept for joy and sorrow at being loved and esteemed by her good husband when she could no longer see him. She kissed the ring a thousand times and more, watering it with her tears, and blessing God for having restored her husband’s affection to her at the end of her days, when she had long looked upon it as lost. Nor did she fail to thank the nun who had given her so much happiness, but sent her the fairest reply that she could devise. This the messenger brought back with all speed to his mistress, who could not read it, nor listen to what her servant told her, without much laughter. And so pleased was she at having got rid of the diamond in so profitable a fashion as to bring about a reconciliation between the husband and wife, that she was as happy as though she had gained a kingdom.

A short time afterwards tidings came of the defeat and death of the poor Captain, and of how he had been abandoned by those who ought to have succoured him, and how his enterprise had been revealed by the Rhodians who should have kept it secret, so that he and all who landed with him, to the number of eighty, had been slain, among them being a gentleman named John, and a Turk to whom the lady of my story had stood godmother, both of them having been given by her to the Captain that he might take them with him on his journey. The first named of these had died beside the Captain, whilst the Turk, wounded by arrows in fifteen places, had saved himself by swimming to the French ships.

It was through him alone that the truth of the whole affair became known. A certain gentleman whom the poor Captain had taken to be his friend and comrade, and whose interests he had advanced with the King and the highest nobles of France, had, it appeared, stood out to sea with his ships as soon as the Captain landed; and the Captain, finding that his expedition had been betrayed, and that four thousand Turks were at hand, had thereupon endeavoured to retreat, as was his duty. But the gentleman in whom he put such great trust perceived that his friend’s death would leave the sole command and profit of that great armament to himself, and accordingly pointed out to the officers that it would not be right to risk the King’s vessels or the lives of the many brave men on board them in order to save less than a hundred persons, an opinion which was shared by all those of the officers that possessed but little courage.

So the Captain, finding that the more he called to the ships the farther they drew away from his assistance, faced round at last upon the Turks; and, albeit he was up to his knees in sand, he did such deeds of arms and valour that it seemed as though he alone would defeat all his enemies, an issue which his traitorous comrade feared far more than he desired it.

But at last, in spite of all that he could do, the Captain received so many wounds from the arrows of those who durst not approach within bowshot, that he began to lose all his blood, whereupon the Turks, perceiving the weakness of these true Christians, charged upon them furiously with their scimitars; but the Christians, so long as God gave them strength and life, defended themselves to the bitter end.

Then the Captain called to the gentleman named John, whom his lady love had given him, and to the Turk as well, and thrusting the point of his sword into the ground, fell upon his knees beside it, and embraced and kissed the cross, 5 saying —

“Lord, receive into Thy hands the soul of one who has not spared his life to exalt Thy name.”

5 As is well known, before swords were made with shell and stool hilts, the two guards combined with the handle and blade formed a cross. Bayard, when dying, raised his sword to gaze upon this cross, and numerous instances, similar to that mentioned above by Queen Margaret, may be found in the old Chansons de Geste. — M.

The gentleman called John, seeing that his master’s life was ebbing away as he uttered these words, thought to aid him, and took him into his arms, together with the sword which he was holding. But a Turk who was behind them cut through both his thighs, whereupon he cried out, “Come, Captain, let us away to Paradise to see Him for whose sake we die,” and in this wise he shared the poor Captain’s death even as he had shared his life.

The Turk, seeing that he could be of no service to either of them, and being himself wounded by arrows in fifteen places, made off towards the ships, and requested to be taken on board. But although of all the eighty he was the only one who had escaped, the Captain’s traitorous comrade refused his prayer. Nevertheless, being an exceeding good swimmer, he threw himself into the sea, and exerted himself so well that he was at last received on board a small vessel, where in a short time he was cured of his wounds. And it was by means of this poor foreigner that the truth became fully known, to the honour of the Captain and the shame of his comrade, whom the King and all the honourable people who heard the tidings deemed guilty of such wickedness toward God and man that there was no death howsoever cruel which he did not deserve. But when he returned he told so many lies, and gave so many gifts, that not only did he escape punishment, but even received the office of the man whose unworthy servant he had been.

When the pitiful tidings reached the Court, the Lady-Regent, who held the Captain in high esteem, mourned for him exceedingly, as did the King and all the honourable people who had known him. And when the lady whom he had loved the best heard of his strange, sad, and Christian death, she changed the chiding she had resolved to give him into tears and lamentations, in which her husband kept her company, all hopes of their journey to Jerusalem being now frustrated.

I must not forget to say that on the very day when the two gentlemen were killed, a damsel in the lady’s service, who loved the gentleman called John better than herself, came and told her mistress that she had seen her lover ir a dream; he had appeared to her clad in white, and had bidden her farewell, telling her that he was going to Paradise with his Captain. And when the damsel heard that her dream had come true, she made such lamentation that her mistress had enough to do to comfort her. 6

6 The Queen of Navarre was a firm believer in the truth and premonitory character of dreams, and according to her biographers she, herself, had several singular ones, two of which are referred to in the Memoir prefixed to the present work (vol. i. pp. lxxxiii. and Ixxxvii.). In some of her letters, moreover, she relates that Francis I., when under the walls of Pavia, on three successive nights beheld his little daughter Charlotte (then dying at Lyons) appear to him in a dream, and on each occasion repeat the words, “Farewell, my King, I am going to Paradise." — Ed.

A short time afterwards the Court journeyed into Normandy, to which province the Captain had belonged. His wife was not remiss in coming to pay homage to the Lady-Regent, and in order that she might be presented to her, she had recourse to the same lady whom her husband had so dearly loved.

And while they were waiting in a church for the appointed hour, she began bewailing and praising her husband, saying among other things to the lady —

“Alas, madam! my misfortune is the greatest that ever befell a woman, for just when he was loving me more than he had ever done, God took him from me.”

So saying, and with many tears, she showed the ring which she wore on her finger as a token of her husband’s perfect love, whereat the other lady, finding that her deception had resulted in such a happy issue, was, despite her sorrow for the Captain’s death, so moved to laughter, that she would not present the widow to the Regent, but committed her to the charge of another lady, and withdrew into a side chapel, where she satisfied her inclination to laugh.

“I think, ladies, that those who receive such gifts ought to seek to use them to as good a purpose as did this worthy lady. They would find that benefactions bring joy to those who bestow them. And we must not charge this lady with deceit, but esteem her good sense which turned to good that which in itself was worthless.”

“Do you mean to say,” said Nomerfide, “that a fine diamond, costing two hundred crowns, is worthless? I can assure you that if it had fallen into my hands, neither his wife nor his relations would have seen aught of it. Nothing is more wholly one’s own than a gift. The gentleman was dead, no one knew anything about the matter, and she might well have spared the poor old woman so much sorrow.”

“By my word,” said Hircan, “you are right. There are women who, to make themselves appear of better heart than others, do things that are clearly contrary to their notions, for we all know that women are the most avaricious of beings, yet their vanity often surpasses their avarice, and constrains their hearts to actions that they would rather not perform. My belief is that the lady who gave the diamond away in this fashion was unworthy to wear it.”

“Softly, softly,” said Oisille; “I believe I know who she is, and I therefore beg that you will not condemn her unheard.”

“Madam,” said Hircan, “I do not condemn her at all; but if the gentleman was as virtuous as you say, it were an honour to have such a lover, and to wear his ring; but perhaps some one less worthy of being loved than he held her so fast by the finger that the ring could not be put on.”

“Truly,” said Ennasuite, “she might well have kept it, seeing that no one knew anything about it.”

“What!” said Geburon; “are all things lawful to those who love, provided no one knows anything about them?”

“By my word,” said Saffredent, “the only misdeed that I have ever seen punished is foolishness. There is never a murderer, robber, or adulterer condemned by the courts or blamed by his fellows, if only he be as cunning as he is wicked. Oft-time, however, a bad man’s wickedness so blinds him that he becomes a fool; and thus, as I have just said, it is the foolish only that are punished, not the vicious.”

“You may say what you please,” said Oisille, “only God can judge the lady’s heart; but for my part, I think that her action was a very honourable and virtuous one. 7 However, to put an end to the debate, I pray you, Parlamente, to give some one your vote.”

7 In our opinion this sentence disposes of Miss Mary Robinson’s supposition (The Fortunate Lovers, London, 1887, p. 159) that Oisille (i.e., Louise of Savoy) is the real heroine of this tale. Queen Margaret would hardly have represented her commending her own action. If any one of the narrators of the Heptameron be the heroine of the story, the presumptions are in favour of Longarine (La Dame de Lonray), Margaret’s bosom friend, whose silence during the after-converse is significant. — Ed.

“I give it willingly,” she said, “to Simontault, for after two such mournful tales we must have one that will not make us weep.”

“I thank you,” said Simontault. “In giving me your vote you have all but told me that I am a jester. It is a name that is extremely distasteful to me, and in revenge I will show you that there are women who with certain persons, or for a certain time, make a great pretence of being chaste, but the end shows them in their real colours, as you will see by this true story.”

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Bonnivet and the Lady of Milan
Bonnivet and the Lady of Milan

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Tale xiv.

The Lord of Bonnivet, desiring to revenge himself upon a Milanese lady for her cruelty, made the acquaintance of an Italian gentleman whom she loved, but to whom she had never granted anything save fair words and assurances of affection. To accomplish his purpose he gave this gentleman such good advice that the lady granted him what he had so long sought, and this the gentleman made known to Bonnivet, who, having cut both hair and beard, and dressed himself in clothes like those of the other, went at midnight and put his vengeance into execution. Then the lady, having learnt from him the plan that he had devised to win her, promised to desist from loving those of her own nation, and to hold fast to him.

At the time when the Grand-Master of Chaumont was Governor of the Duchy of Milan, 1 there lived there a gentleman called the Lord of Bonnivet, who by reason of his merits was afterwards made Admiral of France. Being greatly liked by the Grand-Master and every one else on account of the qualities he possessed, he was a welcome guest at the banquets where the ladies of Milan assembled, and was regarded by them with more favour than ever fell to a Frenchman’s lot, either before or since; and this as much on account of his handsome countenance, grace of manner, and pleasant converse, as by reason of the renown which he had gained among all as being one of the most skilful and valorous soldiers of his time. 2

1 M. de Lincy is of opinion that the incidents recorded in this story took place between 1501 and 1503; but according to M. Lacroix, the Grand-Master of Chaumont did not become Governor of the Milanese till 1506. This personage, to whom Queen Margaret frequently alludes in her tales, was Charles d’Amboise, nephew of the famous Cardinal d’Amboise, minister to Louis XII. In turn admiral and marshal, Governor of Paris, and Grand-Master, in France, of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, he figured prominently in the Italian wars of the time, and notably at the battle of Aignadel. In 1510 he commanded the troops which fought on behalf of the Duke of Ferrara against the Emperor and Pope Julius II., and the latter having excommunicated him for bearing arms against the Holy See, his mind is said to have become unhinged. He died at Correggio in February 1511, when only thirty-eight years of age, some biographers asserting that he was poisoned, whilst others contend that he fell from a bridge during a military expedition. Whilst on his death-bed, he sent messengers to the Pope, begging that the decree of excommunication against him might be annulled, but before the Papal absolution arrived he had expired. The name of Chaumont, by which he is generally known, is that of an estate he possessed, between Blois and Amboise, on the Loire. The reputation he enjoyed of being one of the handsomest men of his time was well deserved, if one may judge by a painting at the Louvre which is said to be his portrait. This picture, long ascribed to Leonardo da Vinci, and supposed to represent Charles VIII. of France, has been identified as the work of Andreas Solario, who executed numerous paintings for Cardinal d’Amboise at the famous château of Gaillon. — L. M. and Eu.

2 Some particulars concerning William Gouffier, Lord of Bonnivet, have been given in vol. i. (Tale IV. n. 3). It may here be mentioned that the domain whence he derived the name by which he is generally known was in the neighbourhood of Poitiers, around the village of Vendeuvre, where he built himself a vast château, destroyed at the close of the eighteenth century. Some fragments of the sculptured work adorning it, remarkable for their elegance of design and delicacy of workmanship, are in the Poitiers Museum. It is not unlikely that the incidents related in Tale IV. occurred at this château; or else at that of Oiron, another domain of the Gouffiers, between Loudun and Bressuire. In the chapel of Oiron were buried Bonnivet, his mother, his brother Artus, and his nephew Claud. Their tombs, large marble mausoleums of Italian workmanship, surmounted by recumbent statues, were opened and mutilated by the Huguenots in 1568, when the bones they contained were scattered to the winds. Bon-nivet’s statue is probably the most damaged of the four. The château of Oiron, with its marble staircases, quaint frescoes, sculptured medallions, &c, testifies to the great wealth possessed by the Gouffier family, and justifies the cynical motto assumed by Bonnivet’s nephew: “Others have beaten the bushes, but we have the birds." — Ed.

One day during the carnival, when he was among the maskers, he danced with one of the most beautiful and bravely attired ladies to be found in the whole city; and whenever a pause occurred in the music of the hautboys, he did not fail to address her with love speeches, in which he excelled all others. But she 3 having no favourable reply to give him, suddenly checked his discourse by assuring him that she neither loved nor ever would love any man but her husband, and that he must by no means expect that she would listen to him.

3 This lady may perhaps be the “Sennora Clerice” (Clarissa) of whom Brantôme writes as follows in his Capitaines François:— “It was Bonnivet alone who advised King Francis to cross the mountains and follow M. de Bourbon, and in this he had less his master’s advantage and service at heart than his desire to return and see a great and most beautiful lady of Milan, whom he had made his mistress some years previously. . . . It is said that this was the ‘Sennora Clerice,’ then accounted one of the most beautiful ladies of Italy. . . . A great lady of the time, from whom I heard this story, told me that he, Bonnivet, had commended this lady Clerice to the King so highly as to make him desirous of seeing and winning her; and this was the principal cause of this expedition of the King’s ." — Lalanne’s OEuvres de Brantôme, vol. ii. p. 167-8. — L.

The gentleman, however, would not take this answer for a refusal, and continued to press his suit with great energy until mid-Lent. But he found her still firm in her declaration that she would love neither himself nor another, which he could not believe, however, seeing how ill-favoured was her husband, and how great her own beauty. Convinced that she was practising dissimulation, he resolved, on his own side, to have recourse to deception, and accordingly he ceased to urge his suit, and inquired so closely concerning her manner of life that he discovered she was in love with a most discreet and honourable Italian gentleman.

Little by little the Lord of Bonnivet insinuated himself into the friendship of this gentleman, and did so with so much discretion and skill, that the other remained ignorant of his motive, and became so much attached to him that, after the lady of his heart, there was no one in the world whom he loved more. In order that he might pluck his secret from his breast, the Lord of Bonnivet pretended to tell him his own, declaring that he loved a certain lady to whom he had in truth never given a thought, and begging that he would keep the matter secret, and that they might have but one heart and one mind together. Wishing to show in return a like affection, the poor Italian gentleman thereupon proceeded to disclose at length the love that he bore the lady on whom Bonnivet wished to be revenged; and after this they would meet somewhere once every day in order to recount the favours that had befallen them during the past four and twenty hours; with this difference, however, that one lied, and the other spoke the truth. And the Italian confessed that he had loved this lady for three years, but had never obtained anything of her save fair words and the assurance of her love.

Bonnivet then gave him all the advice that he could to enable him to attain his end, and to such good purpose that in a few days the lady consented to grant all that was sought of her. It only remained to devise a plan for their meeting, and through the counsels of Bonnivet this was soon accomplished. And so one day before supper the Italian said to him —

“I am more beholden to you, sir, than to any other man living, for, thanks to your good advice, I expect to obtain to-night that which I have coveted so many years.”

“I pray you, my friend,” thereupon said Bonnivet, “tell me the manner of your undertaking, so that if there be any risk in it, or craft required, I may serve you in all friendship.”

The Italian gentleman then began to tell him that the lady had devised a means of having the principal door of the house left open that night, availing herself as a pretext of the illness of one of her brothers for whose requirements it was necessary to send into the town at all hours. He might enter the courtyard, but he was to be careful not to go up by the principal staircase. Instead of this he was to take a small flight on his right hand, and enter the first gallery he came to, into which the rooms of the lady’s father-in-law and brothers-in-law opened; and he was to choose the third door from the head of the stairs, and if on trying it gently he found that it was locked, he was to go away again, for in that case he might be sure that her husband had returned, though not expected back for two days. If, however, he found that the door was open, he was to enter softly, and boldly bolt it behind him, for in that case there would be none but herself in the room. And above all, he was to get himself felt shoes, in order that he might make no noise, and he was to be careful not to come earlier than two hours after midnight, for her brothers-in-law, who were fond of play, never went to bed until after one of the clock.

“Go, my friend,” replied Bonnivet, “and may God be with you and preserve you from mischief. If my company can be of any service to you, I am wholly at your disposal.”

The Italian gentleman thanked him warmly, but said that in an affair of this nature he could not be too much alone; and thereupon he went away to set about his preparations.

Bonnivet, on his part, did not go to sleep, for he saw that the time had come for revenging himself upon his cruel love. Going home betimes, he had his beard trimmed to the same length and breadth as the Italian’s, and also had his hair cut, so that, on touching him, no difference between himself and his rival might be perceived. Nor did he forget the felt shoes, nor garments such as the Italian was wont to wear. Being greatly liked by the lady’s father-in-law, he was not afraid to go to the house at an early hour, for he made up his mind that if he were perceived, he would go straight to the chamber of the old gentleman, with whom he had some business on hand.

About midnight he entered the lady’s house, and although there were a good many persons going to and fro, he passed them unnoticed and thus reached the gallery. Trying the first two doors, he found them shut; the third, however, was not, and he softly pushed it open. And having thus entered the lady’s room, he immediately bolted the door behind him. He found that the whole chamber was hung with white linen, the floor and ceiling also being covered with the same; and there was a bed draped with cloth so fine and soft and so handsomely embroidered in white, that nothing better were possible. And in the bed lay the lady alone, wearing her cap and night-gown, and covered with pearls and gems. This, before he was himself perceived by her, he was able to see by peeping round the curtain; for there was a large wax candle burning, which made the room as bright as day. And fearful lest he should be recognised by her, he first of all put out the light. Then he undressed himself and got into bed beside her.

The lady, taking him to be the Italian who had so long loved her, gave him the best possible reception; but he, not forgetting that he was there in another’s stead, was careful not to say a single word. His only thought was to execute his vengeance at the cost of her honour and chastity without being beholden to her for any boon. And although this was contrary to her intention, the lady was so well pleased with this vengeance that she deemed him rewarded for all she thought he had endured. At last it struck one of the clock, and it was time to say good-bye. Then, in the lowest tones he could employ, he asked her if she were as well pleased with him as he was with her. She, believing him to be her lover, said that she was not merely pleased but amazed at the greatness of his love, which had kept him an hour without answering her.

Then he began to laugh aloud, and said to her —

“Now, madam, will you refuse me another time, as you have hitherto been wont to do?”

The lady, recognising him by his speech and laughter, was in such despair with grief and shame, that she called him villain, traitor, and deceiver a thousand times over, and tried to throw herself out of bed to search for a knife in order to kill herself, since she was so unfortunate as to have lost her honour through a man whom she did not love, and who to be revenged on her might publish the matter to the whole world.

But he held her fast in his arms, and in fair soft words declared that he would love her more than her lover, and would so carefully conceal all that affected her honour that she should never be brought to reproach. This the poor foolish thing believed, and on hearing from him the plan that he had devised and the pains that he had taken to win her, she swore to him that she would love him better than the other, who had not been able to keep her secret. She now knew, said she, how false was the repute in which the French were held; they were more sensible, persevering, and discreet than the Italians; wherefore she would henceforward lay aside the erroneous opinions of her nation and hold fast to him. But she earnestly entreated him not to show himself for some time at any entertainment or in any place where she might be unless he were masked; for she was sure she should feel so much ashamed that her countenance would betray her to every one.

This he promised to do, and he then begged that she would give her lover a good welcome when he came at two o’clock, getting rid of him afterwards by degrees. This she was very loth to do, and but for the love she bore to Bonnivet would on no account have consented. However, when bidding her farewell, he gave her so much cause for satisfaction that she would fain have had him stay with her some time longer.

Having risen and donned his garments again, he departed, leaving the door of the room slightly open, as he had found it. And as it was now nearly two o’clock, and he was afraid of meeting the Italian gentleman, he withdrew to the top of the staircase, whence he not long afterwards saw the other pass by and enter the lady’s room.

For his own part, he then betook himself home to rest, in such wise that at nine of the clock on the following morning he was still in bed. While he was rising, there arrived the Italian gentleman, who did not fail to recount his fortune, which had not been so great as he had hoped; for on entering the lady’s chamber, said he, he had found her out of bed, wearing her dressing-gown, and in a high fever, with her pulse beating quick and her countenance aflame, and a perspiration beginning to break out upon her. She had therefore begged him to go away forthwith, for fearing a mishap, she had not ventured to summon her women, and was in consequence so ill that she had more need to think of death than of love, and to be told of God than of Cupid. She was distressed, she added, that he should have run such risk for her sake, since she was wholly unable to grant what he sought in a world she was so soon to leave. He had felt so astonished and unhappy on hearing this that all his fire and joy had been changed to ice and sadness, and he had immediately gone away. However, he had sent at daybreak to inquire about her, and had heard that she was indeed very ill. While recounting his griefs he wept so piteously that it seemed as though his soul must melt away in his tears.

Bonnivet, who was as much inclined to laugh as the other was to weep, comforted him as well as he could, telling him that affections of long duration always had a difficult beginning, and that Love was causing him this delay only that he might afterwards have the greater joy. And so the two gentlemen parted. The lady remained in bed for some days, and on regaining her health dismissed her first suitor, alleging as her reason the fear of death that had beset her and the prickings of her conscience. But she held fast to my lord Bonnivet, whose love, as is usual, lasted no longer than the field flowers bloom.

“I think, ladies, that the gentleman’s craftiness was a match for the hypocrisy of the lady, who, after playing the prude so long, showed herself such a wanton in the end.”

“You may say what you please about women,” said Ennasuite, “but the gentleman played an evil trick. Is it allowable that if a lady loves one man, another may obtain her by craft?”

“You may be sure,” said Geburon, “that when such mares are for sale they are of necessity carried off by the last and highest bidder. Do not imagine that wooers take such great pains for the ladies’ sakes. It is for their own sakes and their own pleasure.”

“By my word,” said Longarine, “I believe you; for, truth to tell, all the lovers that I have ever had have always begun their speeches by talking about me, declaring that they cherished my life, welfare, and honour; but in the end they only thought of themselves, caring for nought but their own pleasure and vanity. The best plan, therefore, is to dismiss them as soon as the first portion of their discourse is ended; for when they come to the second, there is not so much credit in refusing them, seeing that vice when recognised must needs be rejected.”

“So as soon as a man opens his mouth,” said Ennasuite, “we ought to refuse him, without knowing what he is going to say?”

“Nay,” replied Parlamente, “my friend does not mean that. We know that at first a woman should never appear to understand what the man desires, or even to believe him when he has declared what it is; but when he comes to strong protestations, I think it were better for ladies to leave him on the road rather than continue to the end of the journey with him.”

“That may be,” said Nomerfide; “but are we to believe that they love us for evil? Is it not a sin to judge our neighbours?”

“You may believe what you please,” said Oisille; “but there is so much cause for fearing it to be true, that as soon as you perceive the faintest spark, you should flee from this fire, lest it should burn up your heart before you even know it.”

“Truly,” said Hircan, “the laws you lay down are over harsh. If women, whom gentleness beseems so well, were minded to prove as rigorous as you would have them be, we men, on our part, would exchange our gentle entreaties for craft and force.”

“In my opinion,” said Simontault, “the best advice is that each should follow his natural bent. Whether he love or not, let him do so without dissimulation.”

“Would to God,” said Saffredent, “that such a rule would bring as much honour as it would give pleasure.”

Dagoucin, however, could not refrain from saying —

“Those who would rather die than make their desire known could not comply with your law.”

“Die!” thereupon said Hircan; “the good knight has yet to be born that would die for the publishing of such a matter. But let us cease talking of what is impossible, and see to whom Simontault will give his vote.”

“I give it,” said Simontault, “to Longarine, for I observed her just now talking to herself. I imagine that she was recalling some excellent matter, and she is not wont to conceal the truth, whether it be against man or woman.”

“Since you deem me so truthful,” replied Longarine, “I will tell you a tale which, though it be not so much to the praise of women as I could wish it to be, will yet show you that there are some possessed of as much spirit, wit, and craft as men. If my tale be somewhat long, you will bear with it in patience.”

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the Lady Taking Oath As to Her Conduct
The Lady taking Oath as to her Conduct

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Tale xv.

Through the favour of King Francis, a simple gentleman of the Court married a very rich woman, of whom, however, as much by reason of her extreme youth as of the bestowal of his own heart elsewhere, he made but little account; whereat, after trying every plan to please him, she was so moved with resentment and overcome by despair, that she resolved to console herself with another for the indignities which she endured from her husband. 1

At the Court of King Francis the First there was a gentleman whose name I know right well, but will not mention. He was poor, having less than five hundred livres a year, but he was so well liked by the King for his many qualities that he at last married a lady of such wealth that a great lord would have been pleased to take her. As she was still very young, he begged one of the greatest ladies of the Court to receive her into her household, and this the lady very willingly did.

Now this gentleman was so courteous, so handsome, and so full of grace that he was held in great regard by all the ladies of the Court, and among the rest by one whom the King loved, and who was neither so young nor so handsome as his own wife. And by reason of the great love that the gentleman bore this lady, he made such little account of his wife, that he slept scarcely one night in the year with her, and, what she found still harder to endure, he never spoke to her or showed her any sign of love. And although he enjoyed her fortune, he allowed her so small a share in it, that she was not dressed as was fitting for one of her station, or as she herself desired. The lady with whom she abode would often reproach the gentleman for this, saying to him —

“Your wife is handsome, rich, and of a good family, yet you make no more account of her than if she were the opposite. In her extreme youth and childishness she has hitherto submitted to your neglect; but I fear me that when she finds herself grown-up and handsome, her mirror and some one that loves you not will so set before her eyes that beauty by which you set so little store, that resentment will lead her to do what she durst not think of had you treated her well.”

The gentleman, however, having bestowed his heart elsewhere, made light of what the lady said, and notwithstanding her admonitions, continued to lead the same life as before.

But when two or three years had gone by, his wife became one of the most beautiful women ever seen in France, so that she was reputed to have no equal at the Court. And the more she felt herself worthy of being loved, the more distressed she was to find that her husband paid no attention to her; and so great became her affliction that, but for the consolations of her mistress, she had well-nigh been in despair. After trying every possible means to please her husband, she reflected that his inclinations must needs be directed elsewhere, for otherwise he could not but respond to the deep love that she bore him. Thereupon she made such skilful inquiries that she discovered the truth, namely, that he was every night so fully occupied in another quarter that he could give no thought to his wife or to his conscience.

Having thus obtained certain knowledge of the manner of life he led, she fell into such deep melancholy, that she would not dress herself otherwise than in black or attend any place of entertainment. Her mistress, who perceived this, did all that in her lay to draw her from such a mood, but could not. And although her husband was made acquainted with her state, he showed himself more inclined to make light of it than to relieve it.

You are aware, ladies, that just as extreme joy will give occasion to tears, so extreme grief finds an outlet in some joy. In this wise it happened that a great lord who was near akin to the lady’s mistress, and who often visited her, hearing one day of the strange fashion in which she was treated by her husband, pitied her so deeply that he desired to try to console her; and on speaking to her, found her so handsome, so sensible, and so virtuous, that he became far more desirous of winning her favour than of talking to her about her husband, unless it were to show her what little cause she had to love him.

The lady, finding that, though forsaken by the man who ought to have loved her, she was on the other hand loved and sought after by so handsome a Prince, deemed herself very fortunate in having thus won his favour. And although she still desired to preserve her honour, she took great pleasure in talking to him and in reflecting that she was loved and prized, for these were two things for which, so to speak, she hungered.

This friendship continued for some time, until it came to the knowledge of the King, who had so much regard for the lady’s husband that he was unwilling he should be put to any shame or vexation. He therefore earnestly begged the Prince to forego his inclinations, threatening him with his displeasure should he continue to press his suit.

The Prince, who set the favour of the King above all the ladies in the world, promised for his sake to lay aside the enterprise, and to go that very evening and bid the lady farewell. This he did as soon as he knew that she had retired to her own apartments, over which was the room of the gentleman, her husband. And the husband being that evening at his window, saw the Prince going into his wife’s room beneath. The Prince saw him also, but went in for all that, and in bidding farewell to her whose love was but beginning, pleaded as his sole reason the King’s command.

After many tears and lamentations and regrets, which lasted until an hour after midnight, the lady finally said —

“I praise God, my lord, that it pleases Him you should lose your love for me, since it is so slight and weak that you are able to take it up and lay it down at the command of man. For my own part, I have never asked mistress or husband or even myself for permission to love you; Love, aided by your good looks and courtesy, gained such dominion over me that I could recognise no God or King save him. But since your heart is not so full of true love that fear may not find room in it, you can be no perfect lover, and I will love none that is imperfect so perfectly as I had resolved to love you. Farewell, then, my lord, seeing that you are too timorous to deserve a love as frank as mine.”

The Prince went away in tears, and looking back he again noticed the husband, who was still at the window, and had thus seen him go in and come out again. Accordingly he told him on the morrow why he had gone to see his wife, and of the command that the King had laid upon him, whereat the gentleman was well pleased, and gave thanks to the King.

However, finding that his wife was becoming more beautiful every day, whilst he himself was growing old and less handsome than before, he began to change his tactics, and to play the part which he had for a long time imposed upon his wife, bestowing some attention upon her and seeking her more frequently than had been his wont. But the more she was sought by him the more was he shunned by her; for she desired to pay him back some part of the grief that he had caused her by his indifference.

Moreover, being unwilling to forego so soon the pleasure that love was beginning to afford her, she addressed herself to a young gentleman, who was so very handsome, well-spoken, and graceful that he was loved by all the ladies of the Court. And by complaining to him of the manner in which she had been treated, she lured him to take pity upon her, so that he left nothing untried in his attempts to comfort her. She, on her part, to console herself for the loss of the Prince who had forsaken her, set herself to love this gentleman so heartily that she came to forget her former grief, and to think of nothing but the skilful conduct of her new amour, in which she succeeded so well that her mistress perceived nought of it, for she was careful not to speak to her lover in her mistress’s presence. When she wished to talk with him she would betake herself to the rooms of some ladies who lived at the Court, amongst whom was one that her husband made a show of being in love with.

Now one dark evening she stole away after supper, without taking any companion with her, and repaired to the apartment belonging to these ladies, where she found the man whom she loved better than herself. She sat down beside him, and leaning upon a table they conversed together while pretending to read in the same book. Some one whom her husband had set to watch then went and reported to him whither his wife was gone. Being a prudent man, he said nothing, but as quickly as possible betook himself to the room, where he found his wife reading the book. Pretending, however, not to see her, he went straight to speak to the other ladies, who were in another part of the room. But when his poor wife found herself discovered by him in the company of a gentleman to whom she had never spoken in his presence, she was in such confusion that she quite lost her wits; and being unable to pass along the bench, she leaped upon the table and fled as though her husband were pursuing her with a drawn sword. And then she went in search of her mistress, who was just about to withdraw to her own apartments.

When her mistress was undressed, and she herself had retired, one of her women brought her word that her husband was inquiring for her. She answered plainly that she would not go, for he was so harsh and strange that she dreaded lest he should do her some harm.

At last, however, for fear of worse, she consented to go. Her husband said not a word to her until they were in bed together, when being unable to dissemble so well as he, she began to weep. And when he asked her the cause of this, she told him that she was afraid lest he should be angry at having found her reading in company with a gentleman.

He then replied that he had never forbidden her to speak to a man, and did not take it ill that she had done so; but he did indeed take it ill that she had run from him as though she had done something deserving of censure, and her flight and nothing else had led him to think that she was in love with the gentleman. He therefore commanded her never to speak to him again in public or in private, and assured her that the first time she did so he would slay her without mercy or compassion. She very readily promised to obey, and made up her mind not to be so foolish another time.

But things are desired all the more for being forbidden, and it was not long before the poor woman had forgotten her husband’s threats and her own promises. That very same evening she sent to the gentleman, begging him to visit her at night. But the husband, who was so tormented by jealousy that he could not sleep, and who had heard say that the gentleman visited his wife at night, wrapped himself in a cloak, and taking a valet with him, went to his wife’s apartment and knocked at the door. She, not in the least expecting him, got up alone, put on furred slippers and a dressing-gown which were lying close at hand, and finding that the three or four women whom she had with her were asleep, went forth from her room and straight to the door at which she had heard the knocking. On her asking, “Who is there?” she received in answer the name of her lover; but to be still more certain, she opened a little wicket, saying —

“If you be the man you say you are, show me your hand, and I shall recognise it.”

And when she touched her husband’s hand she knew who it was, and quickly shutting the wicket, cried out —

“Ha, sir! it is your hand.”

The husband replied in great wrath —

“Yes; it is the hand that will keep faith with you. Do not fail, therefore, to come when I send for you.”

With these words he went away to his own apartment, whilst she, more dead than alive, went back into her room, and cried out aloud to her servant-women, “Get up, my friends; you have slept only too well for me, for thinking to trick you, I have myself been tricked.”

With these words she swooned away in the middle of the room. The women rose at her cry, and were so astonished at seeing their mistress stretched upon the floor, as well as at hearing the words, she had uttered, that they were at their wits’ end, and sought in haste for remedies to restore her. When she was able to speak, she said to them —

“You see before you, my friends, the most unhappy creature in the world.”

And thereupon she went on to tell them the whole adventure, and begged of them to help her, for she counted her life as good as lost.

While they were seeking to comfort her, a valet came with orders that she was to repair to her husband instantly. Thereupon, clinging to two of her women, she began to weep and wail, begging them not to suffer her to go, for she was sure she would be killed. But the valet assured her to the contrary, offering to pledge his life that she should receive no hurt. Seeing that she lacked all means of resistance, she at last threw herself into the servant’s arms, and said to him —

“Since it may not be otherwise, you must e’en carry this hapless body to its death.”

Half fainting in her distress, she was then at once borne by the valet to his master’s apartment. When she reached it, she fell at her husband’s feet, and said to him —

“I beseech you, sir, have pity on me, and I swear to you by the faith I owe to God that I will tell you the whole truth.”

“‘Fore God you shall,” he replied, like one beside himself, and forthwith he drove all the servants from the room.

Having always found his wife very devout, he felt sure that she would not dare to forswear herself on the Holy Cross. He therefore sent for a very beautiful crucifix that belonged to him, and when they were alone together, he made her swear upon it that she would return true replies to his questions. Already, however, she had recovered from her first dread of death, and taking courage, she resolved that if she was to die she would make no concealment of the truth, but at the same time would say nothing that might injure the gentleman she loved. Accordingly, having heard all the questions that her husband had to put to her, she replied as follows —

“I have no desire, sir, either to justify myself or to lessen to you the love that I have borne to the gentleman you suspect; for if I did, you could not and you should not believe me. Nevertheless, I desire to tell you the cause of this affection. Know, then, sir, that never did wife love husband more than I loved you, and that from the time I wedded you until I reached my present age, no other passion ever found its way into my heart. You will remember that while I was still a child, my parents wished to marry me to one richer and more highly born than yourself, but they could never gain my consent to this from the moment I had once spoken to you. In spite of all their objections I held fast to you, and gave as little heed to your poverty as to their remonstrances. You cannot but know what treatment I have had at your hands hitherto, and the fashion in which you have loved and honoured me; and this has caused me so much grief and discontent that but for the succour of the lady with whom you placed me, I should have been in despair. But at last, finding myself fully grown and deemed beautiful by all but you, I began to feel the wrong you did me so keenly that the love I had for you changed into hate, and the desire of obeying you into one for revenge. In this despairing condition I was found by a Prince who, being more anxious to obey the King than Love, forsook me just as I was beginning to feel my pangs assuaged by an honourable affection. When the Prince had left me, I lighted upon this present gentleman; and he had no need to entreat me, for his good looks, nobleness, grace, and virtue are well worthy of being sought after and courted by all women of sound understanding. At my instance, not at his own, he has loved me in all virtue, so that never has he sought from me aught that honour might refuse. And although I have but little cause to love you, and so might be absolved from being loyal and true to you, my love of God and of my honour has hitherto sufficed to keep me from doing aught that would call for confession or shame. I will not deny that I went into a closet as often as I could to speak with him, under pretence of going thither to say my prayers, for I have never trusted the conduct of this matter to any one, whether man or woman. Further, I will not deny that when in so secret a place and safe from all suspicion I have kissed him with more goodwill than I kiss you. But as I look to God for mercy, no other familiarity has passed between us; he has never urged me to it, nor has my heart ever desired it; for I was so glad at seeing him that methought the world contained no greater pleasure.

“And now, sir, will you, who are the sole cause of my misfortune, take vengeance for conduct of which you have yourself long since set me an example, with, indeed, this difference, that in your case you thought nought of either honour or conscience; for you know and I know too that the woman you love does not rest content with what God and reason enjoin. And albeit the law of man deals great dishonour to wives who love other men than their husbands, the law of God does not exempt from punishment the husbands who love other women than their wives. And if my offences are to be weighed against yours, you are more to blame than I, for you are a wise and experienced man, and of an age to know and to shun evil, whilst I am young and have no experience of the might and power of love. You have a wife who desires you, honours you, and loves you more than her own life; while I have a husband who avoids me, hates me, and rates me as lightly as he would a servant maid. You are in love with a woman who is already old, of meagre figure, and less fair than I; whilst I love a gentleman younger, handsomer, and more amiable than you. You love the wife of one of the best friends you have in the world, the mistress, moreover, of your King and master, so that you offend against the friendship that is due to the first, and the respect that is due to the second; whereas I am in love with a gentleman whose only tie is his love for me. Judge then fairly which of us two is the more worthy of punishment or pardon: you, a man of wisdom and experience, who through no provocation on my part have acted thus ill not only towards me, but towards the King, to whom you are so greatly indebted; or I, who am young and ignorant, who am slighted and despised by you, and loved by the handsomest and most worshipful gentleman in France, a gentleman whom I have loved in despair of ever being loved by you.”

When the husband heard her utter these truths with so fair a countenance, and with such a bold and graceful assurance as clearly testified that she neither dreaded nor deserved any punishment, he was overcome with astonishment, and could find nothing to reply except that a man’s honour and a woman’s were not the same thing. However, since she swore to him that there had been nothing between herself and her lover but what she had told him, he was not minded to treat her ill, provided she would act so no more, and that they both put away the memory of the past. To this she agreed, and they went to bed in harmony together.

Next morning an old damosel who was in great fear for her mistress’s life came to her at her rising, and asked —

“Well, madam, and how do you fare?”

“I would have you know,” said her mistress, laughing, “that there is not a better husband than mine, for he believed me on my oath.”

And so five or six days passed by.

Meanwhile the husband had such care of his wife that he caused a watch to be kept on her both night and day. But for all his care he could not prevent her from again speaking with her lover in a dark and suspicious place. However, she contrived matters with such secrecy that no one, whether man or woman, could ever learn the truth, though a rumour was started by some serving-man about a gentleman and a lady whom he had found in a stable underneath the rooms belonging to the mistress of the lady in question. At this her husband’s suspicions were so great that he resolved to slay the gentleman, and gathered together a large number of his relations and friends to kill him if he was anywhere to be found. But the chief among his kinsmen was so great a friend of the gentleman whom they sought, that instead of surprising him he gave him warning of all that was being contrived against him, for which reason the other, being greatly liked by the whole Court, was always so well attended that he had no fear of his enemy’s power, and could not be taken unawares and attacked.

However, he betook himself to a church to meet his lady’s mistress, who had heard nothing of all that had passed, for the lovers had never spoken together in her presence. But the gentleman now informed her of the suspicion and ill-will borne him by the lady’s husband, and told her that although he was guiltless he had nevertheless resolved to go on a long journey in order to check the rumours, which were beginning greatly to increase. The Princess, his lady’s mistress, was much astonished on hearing this tale, and protested that the husband was much in the wrong to suspect so virtuous a wife, and one in whom she had ever found all worth and honour. Nevertheless, considering the husband’s authority, and in order to quell these evil reports, she advised him to absent himself for a time, assuring him that for her part she would never believe such foolish suspicions.

Both the gentleman and the lady, who was present, were well pleased at thus preserving the favour and good opinion of the Princess, who further advised the gentleman to speak with the husband before his departure. He did as he was counselled, and meeting with the husband in a gallery close to the King’s apartment, he assumed a bold countenance, and said to him with all the respect due to one of high rank —

“All my life, sir, I have desired to do you service, and my only reward is to hear that last evening you lay in wait to kill me. I pray you, sir, reflect that while you have more authority and power than I have, I am nevertheless a gentleman even as you are. It would be grievous to me to lose my life for naught. I pray you also reflect that you have a wife of great virtue, and if any man pretend the contrary I will tell him that he has foully lied. For my part, I can think of nothing that I have done to cause you to wish me ill. If, therefore, it please you, I will remain your faithful servant; if not, I am that of the King, and with that I may well be content.”

The husband replied that he had in truth somewhat suspected him, but he deemed him so gallant a man that he would rather have his friendship than his enmity; and bidding him farewell, cap in hand, he embraced him like a dear friend. You may imagine what was said by those who, the evening before, had been charged to kill the gentleman, when they beheld such tokens of respect and friendship. And many and diverse were the remarks that each one made.

In this manner the gentleman departed, and as he had far less money than good looks, his mistress delivered to him a ring that her husband had given her of the value of three thousand crowns; and this he pledged for fifteen hundred.

Some time after he was gone, the husband came to the Princess, his wife’s mistress, and prayed her to grant his wife leave to go and dwell for a while with one of his sisters. This the Princess thought very strange, and so begged him to tell her the reasons of his request, that he told her part of them, but not all. When the young lady had taken leave of her mistress and of the whole Court without shedding any tears or showing the least sign of grief, she departed on her journey to the place whither her husband desired her to go, travelling under the care of a gentleman who had been charged to guard her closely, and above all not to suffer her to speak on the road to her suspected lover.

She knew of these instructions, and every day was wont to cause false alarms, scoffing at her custodians and their lack of care. Thus one day, on leaving her lodging, she fell in with a Grey Friar on horseback, with whom, being herself on her palfrey, she talked on the road the whole time from the dinner to the supper hour. And when she was a quarter of a league from the place where she was to lodge that night, she said to him —

“Here, father, are two crowns which I give you for the consolation you have afforded me this afternoon. They are wrapped in paper, for I well know that you would not venture to touch them. 2 And I beg you to leave the road as soon as you have parted from me, and to take care that you are not seen by those who are with me. I say this for your own welfare, and because I feel myself beholden to you.”

1 The incidents referred to in this story must have occurred between 1515 and 1543, during the reign of Francis I. — L.

2 The Grey Friars belonging to a mendicant order were prohibited from demanding or accepting money; it was only allowable for them to receive gifts in kind, mainly edible produce. It was for this reason that the lady gave the friar the two crowns wrapped in paper, knowing that he ought not to touch the coins. — M. See also vol. i. p. 98, note 3.

The friar, well pleased with the two crowns, set off across the fields at full gallop; and when he was some distance away the lady said aloud to her attendants —

“You may well deem yourselves good servants and diligent guards. He as to whom you were to be so careful has been speaking to me the whole day, and you have suffered him to do so. Your good master, who puts so much trust in you, should give you the stick rather than give you wages.”

When the gentleman who had charge of her heard these words he was so angry that he could not reply, but calling two others to him, set spurs to his horse, and rode so hard that he at last reached the friar, who on perceiving his pursuers had fled as fast as he could. However, the poor fellow was caught, being less well mounted than they were. He was quite ignorant of what it all meant, and cried them mercy, taking off his hood in order that he might entreat them with bareheaded humility. Thereupon they realised that he was not the man whom they sought, and that their mistress had been mocking them. And this she did with even better effect upon their return to her.

“You are fitting fellows,” said she, “to receive ladies in your charge. You suffer them to talk to any stranger, and then, believing whatever they may say, you go and insult the ministers of God.”

After all these jests they arrived at the place that her husband had commanded, and here her two sisters-in-law, with the husband of one of them, kept her in great subjection.

In the meanwhile her husband had heard how his ring had been pledged for fifteen hundred crowns, whereat he was exceedingly wrathful, and in order to save his wife’s honour and to get back the ring, he bade his sisters tell her to redeem it, he himself paying the fifteen hundred crowns.

She cared nought for the ring since her lover had the money, but she wrote to him saying that she was compelled by her husband to redeem it, and in order that he might not suppose she was doing this through any lessening of her affection, she sent him a diamond which her mistress had given, her, and which she liked better than any ring she had.

Thereupon the gentleman forwarded her the merchant’s bond right willingly; deeming himself fortunate in having fifteen hundred crowns and a diamond, 3 and at being still assured of his lady’s favour. However, as long as the husband lived, he had no means of communing with her save by writing.

When the husband died, expecting to find her still what she had promised him to be, he came in all haste to ask her in marriage; but he found that his long absence had gained him a rival who was loved better than himself. His sorrow at this was so great that he henceforth shunned the companionship of ladies and sought out scenes of danger, and so at last died in as high repute as any young man could have. 4

3 The gentleman deemed it only natural that the woman he honoured with his love should present him with money. In the seventeenth century similar opinions were held, if one may judge by some passages in Dancourt’s comedies, and by the presents which the Duchess of Cleveland made to Henry Jerrayn and John Churchill, afterwards Duke of Marlborough, as chronicled in the Memoirs of the Count de Gramont. — M.

4 Brantôme tells a somewhat similar tale to this in his Vies des Dames Galantes (Dis. I.): “I knew,” he writes, “two ladies of the Court, sisters-in-law to one another, one of whom was married to a courtier, high in favour and very skilful, but who did not make as much account of his wife as by reason of her birth he should have done, for he spoke to her in public as he might have spoken to a savage, and treated her most harshly. She patiently endured this for some time, until indeed her husband lost some of his credit, when, watching for and taking the opportunity, she quickly repaid him for all the disdain that he had shown her. And her sister-in-law imitated her and did likewise; for having been married when of a young and tender age, her husband made no more account of her than if she had been a little girl. . . . But she, advancing in years, feeling her heart beat and becoming conscious of her beauty, paid him back in the same coin, and made him a present of a fine pair of horns, by way of interest for the past” — Lalanne’s OEuvres de Brantôme, vol. ix. p. 157. — L.

“In this tale, ladies, I have tried, without sparing our own sex, to show husbands that wives of spirit yield rather to vengeful wrath than to the sweetness of love. The lady of whom I have told you withstood the latter for a great while, but in the end succumbed to despair. Nevertheless, no woman of virtue should yield as she did, for, happen what may, no excuse can be found for doing wrong. The greater the temptations, the more virtuous should one show oneself, by resisting and overcoming evil with good, instead of returning evil for evil; and this all the more because the evil we think to do to another often recoils upon ourselves. Happy are those women who display the heavenly virtues of chastity, gentleness, meekness, and long-suffering.”

“It seems to me, Longarine,” said Hircan, “that the lady of whom you have spoken was impelled by resentment rather than by love; for had she loved the gentleman as greatly as she appeared to do, she would not have forsaken him for another. She may therefore be called resentful, vindictive, obstinate, and fickle.”

“It is all very well for you to talk in that way,” said Ennasuite, “but you do not know the heartbreak of loving without return.”

“It is true,” said Hircan, “that I have had but little experience in that way. If I am shown the slightest disfavour, I forthwith forego lady and love together.”

“That,” said Parlamente, “is well enough for you who love only your own pleasure; but a virtuous wife cannot thus forsake her husband.”

“Yet,” returned Simontault, “the lady in the story forgot for a while that she was a woman. No man could have taken a more signal revenge.”

“It does not follow,” said Oisille, “because one woman lacks discretion that all the rest are the same.”

“Nevertheless,” said Saffredent, “you are all women, as any one would find who looked carefully, despite all the fine clothes you may wear.”

“If we were to listen to you,” said Nomerlide, “we should spend the day in disputes. For my part, I am so impatient to hear another tale, that I beg Longarine to give some one her vote.”

Longarine looked at Geburon and said:—

“If you know anything about a virtuous woman, I pray you set it forth.”

“Since I am to do what I can,” said Geburon, “I will tell you a tale of something that happened in the city of Milan.”

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the Gentleman Discovering The Trick
The Gentleman discovering the Trick

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Tale xvi.

A lady of Milan, widow of an Italian Count, had resolved never again to marry or to love. But for three years she was so earnestly wooed by a French gentleman, that after repeated proof of the steadfastness of his love, she granted him what he had so greatly desired, and they vowed to each other everlasting affection. 1

In the days of the Grand Master of Chaumont, 2 there lived a lady who was reckoned one of the most honourable women that there were at that time in the city of Milan. She had married an Italian Count, and being left a widow, lived in the house of her brothers-in-law, refusing to hear speak of another marriage. And so discreetly and piously did she demean herself that there was none in the Duchy, whether French or Italian, but held her in high esteem.

One day when her brothers and sisters-in-law offered an entertainment to the Grand Master of Chaumont, this widow lady was obliged to be present, though she made it her rule not to attend such gatherings when held in other places. And when the Frenchmen saw her, they were all admiration for her beauty and grace, especially one among them whose name I shall not mention; for it will suffice for you to know that there was no Frenchman in Italy more worthy of love than he, for he was endowed with all the beauties and graces that a gentleman could have. And though he saw that the lady wore black crape, and remained with several old women in a corner apart from the young ones, yet, having never known what it was to fear either man or woman, he set himself to converse with her, taking off his mask, and leaving the dance in order to remain in her company.

Throughout the whole of the evening he did not cease talking to her and to the old women, and found more pleasure in doing so than if he had been with the most youthful and bravely attired ladies of the Court. So much, indeed, was this the case, that when the hour came to withdraw he seemed to have not yet had time even to sit down. And although he only spoke to the lady on such common matters as were suited to such company, she knew very well that he desired to win her favour, and this she resolved to guard against by all means in her power, so that he was never afterwards able to see her at any banquet or assembly.

He inquired about the manner of her life, and found that she often went to churches and convents; whereupon he kept such good watch that she could never visit them so secretly but he was there before her. And he would remain in the church as long as he had the happiness to see her, and all the time that she was present would gaze at her so affectionately that she could not remain in ignorance of the love he bore her. In order to avoid him, she resolved to feign illness for a time, and to hear mass in her own house; and at this the gentleman was most sorely grieved, for he had no other means of seeing her than at church.

Thinking that she had cured him of his habit, she at last returned to the churches as before, but love quickly brought tidings of this to the French gentleman, who then renewed his habits of devotion. He feared, however, that she might again throw some hindrance in his way, and that he might not have time to tell her what he would; and so one morning, when she thought herself well concealed in a chapel, he placed himself at the end of the altar at which she was hearing mass; and seeing that she was but scantily attended, he turned towards her just as the priest was elevating the host, and in a soft and loving voice said to her —

“May I be sent to perdition, madam, by Him whom the priest has now in his hands, if you are not causing my death. Though you take from me all means of speaking with you, you cannot be ignorant of my desire; my wearied eyes and my deathly face must make the truth apparent to you.” 3

The lady pretended not to understand him, and replied —

“God’s name should not thus be taken in vain; but the poets say that the gods laugh at the oaths and lies of lovers, and so women who regard their honour should not show themselves credulous or compassionate.”

With these words she rose up and returned home.

The gentleman’s anger at these words may well be imagined by such as have experienced the like fortune. But having no lack of spirit, he held it better to have received this unfavourable reply than to have failed in declaring his love, to which he held fast during three years, losing neither time nor opportunity in wooing her by letters and in other ways.

For three years, however, she vouchsafed him no reply, but shunned him as the wolf shuns the hound that is to take him; and this she did through fear for her honour and fair fame, and not because she hated him. He perceived this so clearly that he pursued her more eagerly than ever; and at last, after many refusals, troubles, tortures and despairs, the lady took pity upon him for the greatness and steadfastness of his love, and so granted him what he had so greatly desired and so long awaited.

When they had agreed concerning the means to be employed, the French gentleman failed not to repair to her house, although in doing so he placed his life in great danger, seeing that she and her relations lived all together.

However, being as skilful as he was handsome, he contrived the matter so prudently that he was able to enter the lady’s room at the hour which she had appointed, and found her there all alone, lying in a beautiful bed; but as he was hasting to put off his clothes in order to join her, he heard a great whispering at the door, and a noise of swords scraping against the wall.

Then the widow said to him, with the face of one nigh to death —

“Now is your life and my honour in as great danger as well can be, for I hear my brothers outside seeking you to slay you. I pray you, therefore, hide yourself under this bed, and when they fail to find you I shall have reason to be angry with them for alarming me without just cause.”

The gentleman, who had never yet known fear, replied —

“And what, pray, are your brothers that they should frighten a man of mettle? If the whole breed of them were there together, I am sure they would not tarry for the fourth thrust of my sword. Do you, therefore, rest quietly in bed, and leave the guarding of this door to me.”

Then he wrapped his cloak about his arm, took his drawn sword in his hand, and opened the door so that he might have a closer view of the swords that he had heard. When the door was opened, he saw two serving-women, who, holding a sword in each hand, had raised this alarm.

“Sir,” they said to him, “forgive us. We were commanded by our mistress to act in this manner, but you shall be hindered by us no more.”

Seeing that they were women, the gentleman could do no more than bid them go to the devil, and shut the door in their faces. Then he got into bed to the lady with all imaginable speed, his passion for her being in no wise diminished by fear; and forgetting to inquire the reason of this skirmish, he thought only of satisfying his desire.

But when daybreak was drawing nigh, he begged his mistress to tell him why she had treated him so ill, both in making him wait so long, and in having played this last trick upon him.

“My intention,” she answered, laughing, “had been never to love again, and I had observed it from the time I became a widow; but, after you had spoken to me at the entertainment, your worth led me to change my resolve, and to love you as much as you loved me. It is true that honour, which had ever guided me, would not suffer me to be led by love to do aught to the disparagement of my reputation. But as the poor hind when wounded unto death thinks by change of place to change the pain it carries with it, so did I go from church to church thinking to flee from him whom I carried in my heart, and the proof of whose perfect devotion has reconciled honour and love. However, that I might be the more certain that I was giving my heart and love to a true man, I desired to make this last proof by means of my serving-women. And I vow to you that had I found you so timorous as to hide beneath my bed, either for fear of your life or for any other reason, I was resolved to rise and go into another room and never see you more. But since I have found that you are possessed of more beauty, and grace, and virtue, and valour than rumour had given you, and that fear has no power over your heart, nor can cool one whit the love you bear me, I am resolved to cleave to you for the remainder of my days. I feel sure that I could not place life and honour in better hands than those of one whom I deem unmatched in every virtue.”

And, just as though the human will could be unchangeable, they vowed and promised what was not in their power, namely, perpetual affection. For this is a thing that can neither spring up nor abide in the heart of man, as only those ladies know who have had experience of how long such feelings last. 4

“So, ladies, if you are wise, you will beware of us even as the stag, had he understanding, would beware of the hunter; for our glory, happiness, and delight is to see you captured in order to rob you of that which is more precious to you than life.”

“Why, Geburon,” said Hircan, “since when have you turned preacher? I can remember a time when you did not talk after that fashion.”

“It is quite true,” said Geburon, “that I have just spoken contrary to what I have always said my life long; but since my teeth are no longer able to chew venison, I warn the hapless deer to beware of the hunters, in order that I may atone in my old age for all the mischief which I sought to do in my youth.”

“We thank you, Geburon,” said Nomerfide, “for warning us to our profit, but for all that we do not feel very greatly beholden to you. You never spoke in that way to one you truly loved, and this is a proof that you have little love for us, and, moreover, would not have us loved. Nevertheless, we hold ourselves as discreet and as virtuous as the ladies whom you so long pursued in your youth. But old folk are commonly vain enough to think that they have been wiser in their time than those who come after them.”

“Well, Nomerfide,” said Geburon, “will you believe that I have told you the truth when the faithlessness of one of your lovers has made you acquainted with the evil nature of men?”

“It seems to me,” said Oisille to Geburon, “that the gentleman whom you praise so highly for his boldness ought rather to be praised for the ardour of his love. So strong is this passion, that it impels the most cowardly to embark on enterprises about which the bravest would think twice.”

“If, madam,” said Saffredent, “he’had not deemed the Italians to be better at talking than acting, me-thinks he had reason to be afraid.”

“Yes,” said Oisille, “if he had not had in his heart the fire that consumes fear.”

“Since you do not deem the boldness of this gentleman altogether worthy of praise,” said Hircan, “you doubtless know of some one else more deserving of commendation.”

“Nay,” said Oisille, “the gentleman in the story deserves praise, but I do know of one who is more worthy of being admired.”

“I pray you, madam,” said Geburon, “if that be so, take my place and tell us the tale.”

“If,” began Oisille, “a man who showed such boldness against the Milanese to save his own life and his mistress’s honour is to be esteemed so very brave, what shall be said of one who, without any need for it, and from pure and simple valour, performed the deed of which I will now tell you?”

Tailpiece

1 According to M. de Lincy, who points out that Bonnivet must be the hero of the adventure here related, the incidents referred to would have occurred at Milan between 1501 and 1503; but in M. Lacroix’s opinion they would be posterior to 1506. — Ed.

2 See ante, note 1 to Tale XIV.

3 The Queen of Navarre is known to have had a considerable knowledge of the Italian language, and it is therefore quite possible that she was acquainted with the story of Poliphilus and Polia, which, although no French translation of it appeared until 1554, had been issued at Venice as early as 1499. In any case, however, there is a curious similarity between the speech of the French gentleman given above and the discourse which Poliphilus addresses to Polia when he finds her saying her prayers in the temple. A considerable portion of the Italian story is in keeping with the character of the Heptameron tales. — M.

4 In Boaistuau’s edition of the Heptameron the final part of the above sentence is given as follows: “And those women that have had experience of it know this, and also how long such fancies last.”

With reference to this story Brantôme writes as follows in the Sixth Discourse of his Vies des Dames Galantes:—

“In the hundred stories of Queen Margaret of Navarre we have a very fine tale of that lady of Milan who, having one night given an assignation to the late M. de Bonnivet, afterwards Admiral of France, posted her maids with drawn swords on the stairs so that they might make a noise there; which they did right well, in obedience to the orders of their mistress, who for her part feigned great affright, saying that her brothers-in-law must have remarked something amiss, that she herself was lost, and that he, Bonnivet, ought to hide under the bed or behind the hangings. But M. de Bonnivet, without evincing any fear, wrapped his cape round his arm, and taking his sword replied: ‘Well, where are these brave brothers who want to frighten me, or do me harm? When they see me they will not even dare to look at the point of my sword.’ Then opening the door he rushed out, and just as he was about to charge down the staircase he espied the women making all this noise; and they, taking fright at sight of him, began to cry out and confess everything. M. de Bonnivet, seeing that it was nothing more serious, left them, bidding them betake themselves to the devil; and then, returning into the room, he closed the door after him and went to find his lady, who began to laugh and embrace him, and confess to him that it was a trick devised by herself, assuring him that if he had behaved as a poltroon, and had not thus displayed the valour which he was said to possess, he should never have had her favours. . . . She was one of the most beautiful women of Milan, and he had had a deal of trouble to win her.

“I knew a brave gentleman who, one day at Rome, was alone with a pretty Roman lady — her husband being away — and she gave him a similar alarm, causing one of her women to come in hastily to warn her that her husband had returned from the country. The lady, feigning astonishment, begged the gentleman to hide himself in a closet, as otherwise she would be lost. ‘No, no,’ said the gentleman; ‘I would not do that for all the wealth in the world; if he comes I will kill him.’ And as he seized upon his sword the lady began to laugh and confess that she had contrived this to try him so as to see how he would act, and if he would defend her well should her husband seek to do her any harm.

“I also knew a very beautiful lady who suddenly left a lover she had, because she did not find him brave, and took another who did not resemble him, but who was extremely feared and redoubted on account of his sword, he being one of the best swordsmen that could then be found." — Lalanne’s OEuvres de Brantôme, vol. ix. pp. 388-90.

the King Showing his Sword
The King showing his Sword

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Tale xvii.

King Francis, being urged to banish Count William, who was said to have received money to bring about his death, did not suffer it to appear that he had any inkling of the scheme, but played the Count so shrewd a trick that he himself took leave of the King and went into banishment. 1

To the town of Dijon, in the Duchy of Burgundy, there came a German Count to take service with King Francis. He was named William, 2 and was of the House of Saxony, which is so closely allied with that of Savoy that formerly they were but one. This Count, who was held for as handsome and valiant a gentleman as Germany ever knew, was right well received by the King, who not only took him into his service, but kept him close to himself as a groom of the chamber.

Now the Lord de la Trémoille, 3 Governor of Burgundy, an old knight and a loyal servant to the King, was ever jealous and anxious for his master’s safety, and was wont to have spies at all points to learn what the King’s enemies were doing; and so prudently did he contrive matters, that but few things were hidden from him. Among his informations there came to him one day a letter from a friend telling him that Count William had received a sum of money, with promise of more, for putting the King to death in any such manner as he might find possible. 4

The Lord de la Trémoille failed not to give speedy notice of the affair to the King, and further made it known to the King’s mother, Louise of Savoy, who, forgetting that she and this German were akin, begged the King to banish him forthwith. But the King bade her speak no more of it, saying that it was impossible so upright and honourable a gentleman would undertake so vile a deed.

Some time afterwards a second warning arrived in confirmation of the first, and the Governor, burning with love for his master, sought permission either to banish the Count or else take him in hand in some other fashion; but the King charged him expressly to keep the affair secret, being persuaded that he might discover the truth by some other means.

One day when going a-hunting, the King, as his sole weapon, buckled on the finest sword it were possible to see, and took Count William along with him, desiring that he would follow him close. After hunting the stag for some time, seeing that all his people save the Count were far off, he turned out of all the roads and tracks, till he found himself alone with the Count in the deepest part of the forest, 5 when, drawing his sword, he said:—

“Think you that this sword be handsome and trusty?”

The Count took it by the point, and answered that he had never seen one that he liked better.

“You are right,” said the King; “and I think that, if a gentleman had resolved to slay me, he would think twice before he attacked me if he knew the strength of my arm, the stoutness-of my heart, and the excellence of this sword. Yet, for all that, I should count him but a craven scoundrel if, when we were face to face and alone, he durst not execute what he had dared to undertake.”

“Sire,” replied Count William, with astonished countenance, “the wickedness of the undertaking would be very great, but the folly of seeking to execute it would be no less.”

The King laughed, sheathed his sword again, and hearing the hunt hard by, spurred after it with all speed. When he reached his train he spoke to none of what had passed, but he felt convinced that, although Count William was as brave and ready a gentleman as might be, he was not the man to carry out so high an enterprise.

However, Count William, fearing that he had been discovered or was at least suspected, repaired the next morning to Robertet, Secretary for the King’s Finances, 6 and told him that he had considered the privileges and pay offered him to continue in the King’s service, and that they would not suffice to support him for half the year. Unless therefore it pleased the King to give him double, he would be forced to depart; and he accordingly begged the said Robertet to acquaint him as soon as might be with the will of the King. To this the Secretary replied that he could not better advance the business than by going to the King straightway; and he undertook the mission right willingly, for he had seen the warnings that the Governor had received.

As soon, therefore, as the King was awake he failed not to lay the matter before him in the presence of the Lord de la Trémoille and the Admiral de Bonnivet, who were ignorant of the trick that the King had played the Count the day before.

Then the King laughed, and said to them — “You desired to banish Count William, and you see he is banishing himself. Wherefore, tell him that if he be not content with the establishment which he accepted on entering my service, and which many men of good families have deemed themselves fortunate to have, he must e’en seek a better fortune elsewhere. For my part, I will in no wise hinder him, but shall be well pleased if he can find some condition wherein to live according to his deserts.”

Robertet was as prompt to bear this answer to the Count as he had been to prefer his request to the King. The Count replied that with the King’s permission he was resolved to depart, and, like one whom fear urges to flight, he did not tarry even four and twenty hours; but, just as the King was sitting down to table, came to take leave of him, feigning much sorrow that his need should force him from the Royal presence.

He also went to take leave of the King’s mother, who parted from him no less joyfully than she had formerly received him as a kinsman and friend. And thus he returned to his own country; and the King, seeing his mother and courtiers in amazement at his sudden departure, told them of the fright he had given him, saying that, even if the Count were innocent of that which was laid against him, his fear had been sufficiently great to constrain him to leave a master whose temper he had not yet come to know.

“For my part, ladies, I can see no reason why the King should have been moved to risk himself thus against so famous a captain, except that, forsaking the company and places where Kings find no inferiors ready to give them battle, he desired to place himself on an equal footing with one whom he suspected to be his enemy; and this that he might have the satisfaction of testing the stoutness and valour of his own heart.”

“Without a doubt,” said Parlamente, “he was in the right; for all the praise of man cannot so well satisfy a noble heart as its own particular knowledge and experience of the virtues that God has placed in it.”

“The ancients,” said Geburon, “long ago showed us that to reach the Temple of Fame it was necessary to pass through the Temple of Virtue, and I, who am acquainted with the two persons in your tale, know right well that the King is indeed one of the most valiant men in his kingdom.”

“By my word,” said Hircan, “at the time when Count William came to France, I should have feared his [the King’s ] sword more than those of the four most accomplished Italian gentlemen at Court.”

“We well know,” said Ennasuite, “that he is too famous for our praises to equal his merit, and that the day would be spent before we each could say all the good we think of him. And so, madam, I pray you, give your vote to one who will tell us some further good of men, if such there be.”

Then said Oisille to Hircan —

“It seems to me that, as you are so wont to speak ill of women, you will find it easy to tell us some good story in praise of a man. I therefore give you my vote.”

“That can I easily do,” said Hircan, “for but a little while since I was told a story in praise of a gentleman whose love, constancy and patience are so meritorious that I must not suffer them to be forgotten.”

Tailpiece

1 The incidents of this story are historical. Francis I. is known to have sojourned at Dijon in June and July 1521. — L.

2 This is William, eldest son of Wolfgang von Furstemberg, chamberlain to Maximilian I., and privy counsellor to Philip of Austria. — B. J. Various particulars concerning him are given in the Appendix [below].

3 This is Louis II., Sire de la Trémoille, Viscount of Thouars and Prince of Talmont, born in 1460. The son of Louis I. de la Trémoille and of Margaret d’Amboise, he became one of the most remarkable men of his time. Favoured by Anne de Beaujeu, who arranged his marriage with Gabrielle de Bourbon, he commanded the royal troops at the battle of St. Aubin du Cormier, in Brittany (1488), at which the rebellious Duke of Orleans (afterwards Louis XII.) and the Prince of Orange, with a large number of the nobles, their partisans, were made prisoners. They were all invited to La Trémoille’s table after the engagement, and, according to Godefroi’s Latin history of Louis XII., at the close of the repast two Franciscan monks entered the hall, whereupon La Trémoille rose and said: “Princes, I refer your judgments to the King, but as for you, Knights, who have broken your faith and falsified your knightly oath, you shall pay for your crime with your heads. If you have any remorse on your consciences, here are monks who will shrive you.” The hall resounded with lamentations, but the unhappy nobles were promptly dragged into the courtyard, and there put to death; both Orleans and Orange being too terror-stricken to intercede for them. When the former came to the throne, he forgave La Trémoille for his conduct in this affair, and showed him great favour, appointing him Governor of Burgundy in 1501. La Trémoille also became Admiral of Guienne and Brittany, and figured conspicuously in the various Italian campaigns of the period. He was killed at Pavia in 1525. Jean Bouchet, a contemporary, wrote a curious life of this remarkable man, entitled Panegyric du Chevalier sans reproche. It will be found in Michaud and Poujoulat’s Collection de Mitnoires, — L. and Ed.

4 It has been suggested that the instigator of this plot was Charles V.’s famous minister, Cardinal Granvelle. — Ed.

5 This may be either the forest of Argilly or that of Mondragon, both in the vicinity of Dijon. — ED.

6 This is Florimond Robertet, the first of that family of statesmen who served the French crown from Charles VIII. to Henri III. It was Charles VIII. who appointed Florimond Treasurer of France and Secretary of Finances, offices in which he displayed great skill and honesty. Louis XII., who confirmed him in his functions, habitually consulted him on important political affairs. He acquired considerable wealth, and was often called “the great baron,” after the barony of Alluye, which he possessed in Le Perche. One of the curiosities of Blois is the Hôtel d’Alluye, a house of semi-Moorish style, erected by Robertet at the close of the fifteenth century. Another of his residences was the château of Bury, near Blois, where he set up Michael Angelo’s famous bronze statue of David, presented to him by the city of Florence, and the fate of which has furnished material for so much speculation. Under Francis I. Robertet enjoyed the same credit as during the two previous reigns. Fleuranges declares that no one else was so intimate with the King, and commends him as being the most experienced and competent statesman of the times. According to the Journal d’un Bourgeois de Paris, Robertet died “at the Palais (de Justice) in Paris, of which he was concierge,” on November 29, 1527. Francis repeatedly visited him during his illness, and, on his death, ordered that his remains should lie in state, and be interred with great pomp and ceremony. Clement Marot’s works contain a poem, four hundred lines in length, celebrating Robertet’s virtues and talents. — L., B. J., and Ed.

Appendix E.

Brantome, in the Thirtieth Discourse of his Capitaines Étrangers, writes of Furstemberg as follows:—

“Count William von Furstemberg was accounted a good and valiant captain, and would have been more highly esteemed had he not been deficient in faith, over greedy and too much addicted to pillage, as he showed once in France, when he passed along with his troops; for after his passage there was nothing left. He served King Francis for the space of six or seven years [not more than six. — Ed.] with some five companies always numbering from six to seven thousand men; however, after this long term of services, or rather ravages and pillage, he was suspected of having designs against the King’s person, as I have elsewhere related, and those who would learn more of the matter will find the story in the hundred tales of Queen Margaret of Navarre, wherein the valour, generosity and magnanimity of that great King are clearly shown. The other, in great fear, left his service and entered that of the Emperor (Charles V.). If he had not been related to Madame la Régente (Louise of Savoy), through the House of Saxony, whence sprang that of Savoy, he would possibly have met with the fate he merited, had the King been minded to it; but on this occasion the King wished to show his magnanimity rather than have him put to death by the officers of justice. Again the King pardoned him when, on the arrival of the Emperor at St. Dizier in Champagne, he was taken, sounding the river Marne, 2 which he had on other occasions well reconnoitred, in coming to or on leaving France with his troops. He was on this occasion merely sent to the Bastille, and got quit for a ransom of 30,000 crowns. Some great captains said and opined that he ought not to have been thus treated as a prisoner of war but as a real vile spy, for he had professedly acted as such; and they said, moreover, that he got off too cheaply at such a ransom, which did not represent the smallest of the larcenies that he had perpetrated in France." — Lalanne’s OEuvres de Brantôme, vol. i. pp. 349-50.

Prior to this affair Furstemberg apparently showed some regret for his earlier schemes against Francis I., for Queen Margaret, writing to her brother in 1536, remarked:—

“Count William has asked me to write and tell you that there is a great difference between the shameful purgatory of Italy and the glorious paradise of this camp, 3 and he spoke to me of his past misdeeds, which I would rather he should speak of to you,” &c. — Génin’s Lettres de Marguerite, p. 321.

In a poetic epistle sent by Margaret to Francis I. in January 1543, to celebrate the New Year, there is an allusion to a “Conte Guillaume,” whom Messrs. de Lincy and Montaiglon conjecture to be Furstemberg, though other commentators think that the Queen refers to William Poyet, the dishonest chancellor, who was sent to the Bastille in 1542 for peculation. We share, however, the opinion of Messrs. de Lincy and Montaiglon, as in various contemporary MSS. which we have referred to, we have frequently found Furstemberg alluded to as “Conte” and “Comte Guillaume,” without any mention of his surname. The passage in Margaret’s epistle alluded to above may be thus rendered in prose:—

“God, fighting for the King in every spot, curses his enemies and brings them to shame and ruin, so that none hold them of account; as witness ‘Compte [“Conte” in the MS.] Guillaume,’ who, in serving the King and the kingdom, became rich, feared and highly esteemed. Now, however, a fugitive, poor and contemned, he may well meditate as to whence came his honours, who it was that maintained him wealthy, happy and feared; and thus it is that all the King’s enemies are cursed by God in Paradise." — Les Marguerites de la Marguerite, 1873, vol. ii. p. 203.

Apropos of Furstemberg the following entry occurs in M. de Laborde’s Comptes des Bâtiments du Roi (vol. ii. p. 229):—

“Paid to Francis de Cadenet, doctor to Count William of Furstemberg, as a gift and favour for his services, 30 crowns, value 67 livres 10 sols." — L., M. and Ed.

2 This occurred in September 1544. From an unpublished MS. in the public library at Rheims it appears that Furstemberg was wearing a disguise when captured. The Emperor had sent him forward expressly to sound the river. Another unpublished MS. at the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris (anc. fol. 8561. f. 22), gives some particulars of his operations about this time. — Ed.

3 That of Avignon. See vol. i. p. liv. — Ed.

the Student Escaping The Temptation
The Student escaping the Temptation

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Tale xviii.

A young student of noble birth, being smitten with love for a very beautiful lady, subdued both love and himself in order to achieve his end, and this in spite of many such temptations as might have sufficed to make him break his promise. And so all his woes were turned to joy by a reward suitable to his constant, patient, loyal and perfect love. 1

In one of the goodly towns of the kingdom of France there dwelt a nobleman of good birth, who attended the schools that he might learn how virtue and honour are to be acquired among virtuous men. But although he was so accomplished that at the age of seventeen or eighteen years he was, as it were, both precept and example to others, Love failed not to add his lesson to the rest; and, that he might be the better hearkened to and received, concealed himself in the face and the eyes of the fairest lady in the whole country round, who had come to the city in order to advance a suit-at-law. But before Love sought to vanquish the gentleman by means of this lady’s beauty, he had first won her heart by letting her see the perfections of this young lord; for in good looks, grace, sense and excellence of speech he was surpassed by none.

You, who know what speedy way is made by the fire of love when once it fastens on the heart and fancy, will readily imagine that between two subjects so perfect as these it knew little pause until it had them at its will, and had so filled them with its clear light, that thought, wish and speech were all aflame with it. Youth, begetting fear in the young lord, led him to urge his suit with all the gentleness imaginable; but she, being conquered by love, had no need of force to win her. Nevertheless, shame, which tarries with ladies as long as it can, for some time restrained her from declaring her mind. But at last the heart’s fortress, which is honour’s abode, was shattered in such sort that the poor lady consented to that which she had never been minded to refuse.

In order, however, to make trial of her lover’s patience, constancy and love, she only granted him what he sought on a very hard condition, assuring him that if he fulfilled it she would love him perfectly for ever; whereas, if he failed in it, he would certainly never win her as long as he lived. And the condition was this:— she would be willing to talk with him, both being in bed together, clad in their linen only, but he was to ask nothing more from her than words and kisses.

He, thinking there was no joy to be compared to that which she promised him, agreed to the proposal, and that evening the promise was kept; in such wise that, despite all the caresses she bestowed on him and the temptations that beset him, he would not break his oath. And albeit his torment seemed to him no less than that of Purgatory, yet was his love so great and his hope so strong, sure as he felt of the ceaseless continuance of the love he had thus painfully won, that he preserved his patience and rose from beside her without having done anything contrary to her expressed wish. 2

1 This story seems to be based on fact, being corroborated in its main lines by Brantôme, but there is nothing in the narrative to admit of the personages referred to being identified. — Ed.

2 Brantôme’s Dames Galantes contains an anecdote which is very similar in character to this tale: “I have heard speak,” he writes, “of a very beautiful and honourable lady, who gave her lover an assignation to sleep with her, on the condition that he should not touch her . . . and he actually obeyed her, remaining in a state of ecstasy, temptation and continence the whole night long; whereat she was so well pleased with him that some time afterwards she consented to become his mistress, giving as her reason that she had wished to prove his love by his obedience to her injunctions; and on this account she afterwards loved him the more, for she felt sure that he was capable of even a greater feat than this, though it were a very great one." — Lalanne’s OEuvres de Brantôme, vol. ix. pp. 6, 7. — L.

The lady was, I think, more astonished than pleased by such virtue; and giving no heed to the honour, patience and faithfulness her lover had shown in the keeping of his oath, she forthwith suspected that his love was not so great as she had thought, or else that he had found her less pleasing than he had expected.

She therefore resolved, before keeping her promise, to make a further trial of the love he bore her; and to this end she begged him to talk to a girl in her service, who was younger than herself and very beautiful, bidding him make love speeches to her, so that those who saw him come so often to the house might think that it was for the sake of this damsel and not of herself.

The young lord, feeling sure that his own love was returned in equal measure, was wholly obedient to her commands, and for love of her compelled himself to make love to the girl; and she, finding him so handsome and well-spoken, believed his lies more than other truth, and loved him as much as though she herself were greatly loved by him.

The mistress finding that matters were thus well advanced, albeit the young lord did not cease to claim her promise, granted him permission to come and see her at one hour after midnight, saying that after having so fully tested the love and obedience he had shown towards her, it was but just that he should be rewarded for his long patience. Of the lover’s joy on hearing this you need have no doubt, and he failed not to arrive at the appointed time.

But the lady, still wishing to try the strength of his love, had said to her beautiful damsel —

“I am well aware of the love a certain nobleman bears to you, and I think you are no less in love with him; and I feel so much pity for you both, that I have resolved to afford you time and place that you may converse together at your ease.”

The damsel was so enchanted that she could not conceal her longings, but answered that she would not fail to be present.

In obedience, therefore, to her mistress’s counsel and command, she undressed herself and lay down on a handsome bed, in a room the door of which the lady left half-open, whilst within she set a light so that the maiden’s beauty might be clearly seen. Then she herself pretended to go away, but hid herself near to the bed so carefully that she could not be seen.

Her poor lover, thinking to find her according to her promise, failed not to enter the room as softly as he could, at the appointed hour; and after he had shut the door and put off his garments and fur shoes, he got into the bed, where he looked to find what he desired. But no sooner did he put out his arms to embrace her whom he believed to be his mistress, than the poor girl, believing him entirely her own, had her arms round his neck, speaking to him the while in such loving words and with so beautiful a countenance, that there is not a hermit so holy but he would have forgotten his beads for love of her.

But when the gentleman recognised her with both eye and ear, and found he was not with her for whose sake he had so greatly suffered, the love that had made him get so quickly into the bed, made him rise from it still more quickly. And in anger equally with mistress and damsel, he said —

“Neither your folly nor the malice of her who put you there can make me other than I am. But do you try to be an honest woman, for you shall never lose that good name through me.”

So saying he rushed out of the room in the greatest wrath imaginable, and it was long before he returned to see his mistress. However love, which is never without hope, assured him that the greater and more manifest his constancy was proved to be by all these trials, the longer and more delightful would be his bliss.

The lady, who had seen and heard all that passed, was so delighted and amazed at beholding the depth and constancy of his love, that she was impatient to see him again in order to ask his forgiveness for the sorrow that she had caused him to endure. And as soon as she could meet with him, she failed not to address him in such excellent and pleasant words, that he not only forgot all his troubles but even deemed them very fortunate, seeing that their issue was to the glory of his constancy and the perfect assurance of his love, the fruit of which he enjoyed from that time forth as fully as he could desire, without either hindrance or vexation. 3

3 In reference to this story, Montaigne says in his Essay on Cruelty: “Such as have sensuality to encounter, willingly make use of this argument, that when it is at the height it subjects us to that degree that a man’s reason can have no access . . . wherein they conceive that the pleasure doth so transport us that our reason cannot perform its office whilst we are so benumbed and extacied in delight. . . . But I know that a man may triumph over the utmost effort of this pleasure: I have experienced it in myself, and have not found Venus so imperious a goddess as many — and some more reformed than I— declare. I do not consider it as a miracle, as the Queen of Navarre does in one of the Tales of her Heptameron (which is a marvellous pretty book of the kind), nor for a thing of extreme difficulty to pass over whole nights, where a man has all the convenience and liberty he can desire, with a long-coveted mistress, and yet be just to his faith first given to satisfy himself with kisses and innocent embraces only, without pressing any further." — Cotton’s “Montaigne’s Essays”, London, 1743, vol ii. pp. 109-10.

“I pray you, ladies, find me if you can a woman who has ever shown herself as constant, patient and true as was this man. They who have experienced the like temptations deem those in the pictures of Saint Antony very small in comparison; for one who can remain chaste and patient in spite of beauty, love, opportunity and leisure, will have virtue enough to vanquish every devil.”

“Tis a pity,” said Oisille, “that he did not address his love to a woman possessing as much virtue as he possessed himself. Their amour would then have been the most perfect and honourable that was ever heard of.”

“But prithee tell me,” said Geburon, “which of the two trials do you deem the harder?”

“I think the last,” said Parlamente, “for resentment is the strongest of all temptations.”

Longarine said she thought that the first was the most arduous to sustain, since to keep his promise it was needful he should subdue both love and himself.

“It is all very well for you to talk,” said Simontault, “it is for us who know the truth of the matter to say what we think of it. For my own part, I think he was stupid the first time and witless the second; for I make no doubt that, while he was keeping his promise, to his mistress, she was put to as much trouble as himself, if not more. She had him take the oath only in order to make herself out a more virtuous woman than she really was; she must have well known that strong love will not be bound by commandment or oath, or aught else on earth, and she simply sought to give a show of virtue to her vice, as though she could be won only through heroic virtues. And the second time he was witless to leave a woman who loved him, and who was worth more than his pledged mistress, especially when his displeasure at the trick played upon him had been a sound excuse.”

Here Dagoucin put in that he was of the contrary opinion, and held that the gentleman had on the first occasion shown himself constant, patient and true, and on the second occasion loyal and perfect in his love.

“And how can we tell,” asked Saffredent, “that he was not one of those that a certain chapter calls de frigidis et malificiatis?4

4 This is an allusion to the penalties pronounced by several ecclesiastical Councils, and specified in the Capitularies, against those who endeavoured to suspend the procreative faculties of their enemies by resorting to magic. On this matter Baluze’s collection of Capitularies (vol. i.) may be consulted. The “chapter” referred to by Margaret is evidently chapter xv. (book vi.) of the Decretals of Pope Boniface VIII., which bears the title of De frigidis et maleficiatis, and which is alluded to by Rabelais in Pantagruel. The belief in the practices in question dates back to ancient times, and was shared by Plato and Pliny, the latter of whom says that to guard against any spell of the kind some wolf fat should be rubbed upon the threshold and door jambs of one’s bed-chamber. In the sixteenth century sorcery of this description was so generally believed in, in some parts of France, that Cardinal du Perron inserted special prayers against it in the ritual. Some particulars on the subject will be found in the Admirables Secrets du Petit Albert, and also in a Traité d’Enchantement, published at La Rochelle in 1591, which gives details concerning certain practices alleged to take place on the solemnisation of marriage among those of the Reformed Church. — D. and L.

“To complete his eulogy, Hircan ought to have told us how he comported himself when he obtained what he wanted, and then we should have been able to judge whether it was virtue or impotence that made him observe so much discretion.”

“You may be sure,” said Hircan, “that had he told me this I should have concealed it as little as I did the rest. Nevertheless, from seeing his person and knowing his temper, I shall ever hold that his conduct was due to the power of love rather than to any impotence or coldness.”

“Well, if he was such as you say,” said Simontault, “he ought to have broken his oath; for, had the lady been angered by such a trifle, it would have been easy to appease her.”

“Nay,” said Ennasuite, “perhaps she would not then have consented.”

“And pray,” said Saffredent, “would it not have been easy enough to compel her, since she had herself given him the opportunity?”

“By Our Lady!” said Nomerfide, “how you run on! Is that the way to win the favour of a lady who is accounted virtuous and discreet?”

“In my opinion,” said Saffredent, “the highest honour that can be paid to a woman from whom such things are desired is to take her by force, for there is not the pettiest damsel among them but seeks to be long entreated. Some indeed there are who must receive many gifts before they are won, whilst there are others so stupid that hardly any device or craft can enable one to win them, and with these one must needs be ever thinking of some means or other. But when you have to do with a woman who is too clever to be deceived, and too virtuous to be gained by words or gifts, is there not good reason to employ any means whatever that may be at your disposal to vanquish her? When you hear it said that a man has taken a woman by force, you may be sure that the woman has left him hopeless of any other means succeeding, and you should not think any the worse of a man who has risked his life in order to give scope to his love.”

Geburon burst out laughing.

“In my day,” said he, “I have seen besieged places stormed because it was impossible to bring the garrison to a parley either by money or by threats; ’tis said that a place which begins to treat is half taken.”

“You may think,” said Ennasuite, “that every love on earth is based upon such follies as these, but there are those who have loved, and who have long persevered in their love, with very different aims.”

“If you know a story of that kind,” said Hircan, “I will give place to you for the telling of it.”

“I do know one,” said Ennasuite, “and I will very willingly relate it.”

Tailpiece

the Parting Between Pauline and The Gentlemen
The Parting between Pauline and The Gentlemen

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Tale xix.

Pauline, being in love with a gentleman no less than he was with her, and finding that he, because forbidden ever again to speak with her, had entered the monastery of the Observance, gained admittance for her own part into the convent of St. Clara, where she took the veil; thus fulfilling the desire she had conceived to bring the gentleman’s love and her own to a like ending in respect of raiment, condition and manner of life. 1

In the time of the Marquis of Mantua, 2 who had married the sister of the Duke of Ferrara, there lived in the household of the Duchess a damsel named Pauline, who was greatly loved by a gentleman in the Marquis’s service, and this to the astonishment of every one; for being poor, albeit handsome and greatly beloved by his master, he ought, in their estimation, to have wooed some wealthy dame, but he believed that all the world’s treasure centred in Pauline, and looked to his marriage with her to gain and possess it.

The Marchioness, who desired that Pauline should through her favour make a more wealthy marriage, discouraged her as much as she could from wedding the gentleman, and often hindered the two lovers from talking together, pointing out to them that, should the marriage take place, they would be the poorest and sorriest couple in all Italy. But such argument as this was by no means convincing to the gentleman, and though Pauline, on her side, dissembled her love as well as she could, she none the less thought about him as often as before.

With the hope that time would bring them better fortune, this love of theirs continued for a long while, during which it chanced that a war broke out 3 and that the gentleman was taken prisoner along with a Frenchman, whose heart was bestowed in France even as was his own in Italy.

Finding themselves comrades in misfortune, they began to tell their secrets to one another, the Frenchman confessing that his heart was a fast prisoner, though he gave not the name of its prison-house. However, as they were both in the service of the Marquis of Mantua, this French gentleman knew right well that his companion loved Pauline, and in all friendship for him advised him to lay his fancy aside. This the Italian gentleman swore was not in his power, and he declared that if the Marquis of Mantua did not requite him for his captivity and his faithful service by giving him his sweetheart to wife, he would presently turn friar and serve no master but God. This, however, his companion could not believe, perceiving in him no token of devotion, unless it were that which he bore to Pauline.

At the end of nine months the French gentleman obtained his freedom, and by his diligence compassed that of his comrade also, who thereupon used all his efforts with the Marquis and Marchioness to bring about his marriage with Pauline. But all was of no avail; they pointed out to him the poverty wherein they would both be forced to live, as well as the unwillingness of the relatives on either side; and they forbade him ever again to speak with the maiden, to the end that absence and lack of opportunity might quell his passion.

Finding himself compelled to obey, the gentleman begged of the Marchioness that he might have leave to bid Pauline farewell, promising that he would afterwards speak to her no more, and upon his request being granted, as soon as they were together he spoke to her as follows:—

“Heaven and earth are both against us, Pauline, and hinder us not only from marriage but even from having sight and speech of one another. And by laying on us this cruel command, our master and mistress may well boast of having with one word broken two hearts, whose bodies, perforce, must henceforth languish; and by this they show that they have never known love or pity, and although I know that they desire to marry each of us honourably and to worldly advantage, — ignorant as they are that contentment is the only true wealth, — yet have they so afflicted and angered me that never more can I do them loyal service. I feel sure that had I never spoken of marriage they would not have shown themselves so scrupulous as to forbid me from speaking to you; but I would have you know that, having loved you with a pure and honourable love, and wooed you for what I would fain defend against all others, I would rather die than change my purpose now to your dishonour. And since, if I continued to see you, I could not accomplish so harsh a penance as to restrain myself from speech, whilst, if being here I saw you not, my heart, unable to remain void, would fill with such despair as must end in woe, I have resolved, and that long since, to become a monk. I know, indeed, full well that men of all conditions may be saved, but would gladly have more leisure for contemplating the Divine goodness, which will, I trust, forgive me the errors of my youth, and so change my heart that it may love spiritual things as truly as hitherto it has loved temporal things. And if God grant me grace to win His grace, my sole care shall be to pray to Him without ceasing for you; and I entreat you, by the true and loyal love that has been betwixt us both, that you will remember me in your prayers, and beseech Our Lord to grant me as full a measure of steadfastness when I see you no more, as he has given me of joy in beholding you. Finally, I have all my life hoped to have of you in wedlock that which honour and conscience allow, and with this hope have been content; but now that I have lost it and can never have you to wife, I pray you at least, in bidding me farewell, treat me as a brother, and suffer me to kiss you.”

When the hapless Pauline, who had always treated him somewhat rigorously, beheld the extremity of his grief and his uprightness, which, amidst all his despair, would suffer him to prefer but this moderate request, her sole answer was to throw her arms around his neck, weeping so bitterly that speech and strength alike failed her, and she swooned away in his embrace. Thereupon, overcome by pity, love and sorrow, he must needs swoon also, and one of Pauline’s companions, seeing them fall one on one side and one on the other, called aloud for aid, whereupon remedies were fetched and applied, and brought them to themselves.

Then Pauline, who had desired to conceal her love, was ashamed at having shown such transports; yet were her pity for the unhappy gentleman a just excuse. He, unable to utter the “Farewell for ever!” hastened away with heavy heart and set teeth, and, on entering his apartment, fell like a lifeless corpse upon his bed. There he passed the night in such piteous lamentations that his servants thought he must have lost all his relations and friends, and whatsoever he possessed on earth.

In the morning he commended himself to Our Lord, and having divided among his servants what little worldly goods he had, save a small sum of money which he took, he charged his people not to follow him, and departed all alone to the monastery of the Observance, 4 resolved to take the cloth there and never more to quit it his whole life long.

The Warden, who had known him in former days, at first thought he was being laughed at or was dreaming, for there was none in all the land that less resembled a Grey Friar than did this gentleman, seeing that he was endowed with all the good and honourable qualities that one would desire a gentleman to possess. Albeit, after hearing his words and beholding the tears that flowed (from what cause he knew not) down his face, the Warden compassionately took him in, and very soon afterwards, finding him persevere in his desire, granted him the cloth: whereof tidings were brought to the Marquis and Marchioness, who thought it all so strange that they could scarcely believe it.

Pauline, wishing to show herself untrammelled by any passion, strove as best she might to conceal her sorrow, in such wise that all said she had right soon forgotten the deep affection of her faithful lover. And so five or six months passed by without any sign on her part, but in the meanwhile some monk had shown her a song which her lover had made a short time after he had taken the cowl. The air was an Italian one and pretty well known; as for the words, I have put them into our own tongue as nearly as I can, and they are these:—

What word shall be

Hers unto me,

When I appear in convent guise

Before her eyes?

Ah! sweet maiden,

Lone, heart-laden,

Dumb because of days that were;

When the streaming

Tears are gleaming

‘Mid the streaming of thy hair,

Ah! with hopes of earth denied thee,

Holiest thoughts will heavenward guide thee

To the hallowing cloister’s door.

What word shall be, &c.

What shall they say,

Who wronged us, they

Who have slain our heart’s desire,

Seeing true love

Doth flawless prove,

Thus tried as gold in fire?

When they see my heart is single,

Their remorseful tears shall mingle,

Each and other weeping sore.

What word shall be, &c.

And should they come

To will us home,

How vain were all endeavour!

“Nay, side by side,

“We here shall bide

“Till soul from soul shall sever.

“Though of love your hate bereaves us

“Yet the veil and cowl it leaves us,

“We shall wear till life be o’er.”

What word shall be, &c.

And should they move

Our flesh to love

Once more the mockers, singing

Of fruits and flowers

In golden hours

For mated hearts upspringing;

We shall say: “Our lives are given,

Flower and fruit, to God in Heaven,

Who shall hold them evermore.”

What word shall be, &c.

O victor Love!

Whose might doth move

My wearied footsteps hither,

Here grant me days

Of prayer and praise,

Grant faith that ne’er shall wither;

Love of each to either given,

Hallowed by the grace of Heaven,

God shall bless for evermore.

What word shall be, &c.

Avaunt Earth’s weal!

Its bands are steel

To souls that yearn for Heaven;

Avaunt Earth’s pride!

Deep Hell shall hide

Hearts that for fame have striven.

Far be lust of earthly pleasure,

Purity, our priceless treasure,

Christ shall grant us of His store.

What word shall be, &c.

Swift be thy feet,

My own, my sweet,

Thine own true lover follow;

Fear not the veil,

The cloister’s pall

Keeps far Earth’s spectres hollow.

Sinks the fire with fitful flashes,

Soars the Phoenix from his ashes,

Love yields Life for evermore.

What word shall be, &c.

Love, that no power

Of dreariest hour,

Could change, no scorn, no rage,

Now heavenly free

From Earth shall be,

In this, our hermitage.

Winged of love that upward, onward,

Ageless, boundless, bears us sunward,

To the heavens our souls shall soar.

What word shall be, &c.

On reading these verses through in a chapel where she was alone, Pauline began to weep so bitterly that all the paper was wetted with her tears. Had it not been for her fear of showing a deeper affection than was seemly, she would certainly have withdrawn forthwith to some hermitage, and never have looked upon a living being again; but her native discretion moved her to dissemble for a little while longer. And although she was now resolved to leave the world entirely, she feigned the very opposite, and so altered her countenance, that in company she was altogether unlike her real self. For five or six months did she carry this secret purpose in her heart, making a greater show of mirth than had ever been her wont.

But one day she went with her mistress to the Observance to hear high mass, and when the priest, the deacon and the sub-deacon came out of the vestry to go to the high altar, she saw her hapless lover, who had not yet fulfilled his year of novitiate, acting as acolyte, carrying the two vessels covered with a silken cloth, and walking first with his eyes upon the ground. When Pauline saw him in such raiment as did rather increase than diminish his comeliness, she was so exceedingly moved and disquieted, that to hide the real reason of the colour that came into her face, she began to cough. Thereupon her unhappy lover, who knew this sound better than that of the cloister bells, durst not turn his head; still on passing in front of her he could not prevent his eyes from going the road they had so often gone before; and whilst he thus piteously gazed on Pauline, he was seized in such wise by the fire which he had considered well-nigh quelled, that whilst striving to conceal it more than was in his power, he fell at full length before her. However, for fear lest the cause of his fall should be known, he was led to say that it was by reason of the pavement of the church being broken in that place.

When Pauline perceived that the change in his dress had not wrought any change in his heart, and that so long a time had gone by since he had become a monk, that every one believed her to have forgotten him, she resolved to fulfil the desire she had conceived to bring their love to a like ending in respect of raiment, condition and mode of life, even as these had been akin at the time when they abode together in the same house, under the same master and mistress. More than four months previously she had carried out all needful measures for taking the veil, and now, one morning she asked leave of the Marchioness to go and hear mass at the convent of Saint Clara, 5 which her mistress granted her, not knowing the reason of her request. But in passing by the monastery of the Grey Friars, she begged the Warden to summon her lover, saying that he was her kinsman, and when they met in a chapel by themselves, she said to him:—

“Had my honour suffered me to seek the cloister as soon as you, I should not have waited until now; but having at last by my patience baffled the slander of those who are more ready to think evil than good, I am resolved to take the same condition, raiment and life as you have taken. Nor do I inquire of what manner they are; if you fare well, I shall partake of your welfare, and if you fare ill, I would not be exempt. By whatsoever path you are journeying to Paradise I too would follow; for I feel sure that He who alone is true and perfect, and worthy to be called Love, has drawn us to His service by means of a virtuous and reasonable affection, which He will by His Holy Spirit turn wholly to Himself. Let us both, I pray you, put from us the perishable body of the old Adam, and receive and put on the body of our true Spouse, who is the Lord Jesus Christ.”

The monk-lover was so rejoiced to hear of this holy purpose, that he wept for gladness and did all that he could to strengthen her in her resolve, telling her that since the pleasure of hearing her words was the only one that he might now seek, he deemed himself happy to dwell in a place where he should always be able to hear them. He further declared that her condition would be such that they would both be the better for it; for they would live with one love, with one heart and with one mind, guided by the goodness of God, whom he prayed to keep them in His hand, wherein none can perish. So saying, and weeping for love and gladness, he kissed her hands; but she lowered her face upon them, and then, in all Christian love, they gave one another the kiss of hallowed affection.

And so, in this joyful mood Pauline left him, and came to the convent of Saint Clara, where she was received and took the veil, whereof she sent tidings to her mistress, the Marchioness, who was so amazed that she could not believe it, but came on the morrow to the convent to see Pauline and endeavour to turn her from her purpose. But Pauline replied that she, her mistress, had had the power to deprive her of a husband in the flesh, the man whom of all men she had loved the best, and with that she must rest content, and not seek to sever her from One who was immortal and invisible, for this Was neither in her power nor in that of any creature upon earth.

The Marchioness, finding her thus steadfast in her resolve, kissed her and left her, with great sorrow.

And thenceforward Pauline and her lover lived such holy and devout lives, observing all the rules of their order, that we cannot doubt that He whose law is love told them when their lives were ended, as He had told Mary Magdalene: “Your sins are forgiven, for ye have loved much;” and doubtless He removed them in peace to that place where the recompense surpasses all the merits of man.

“You cannot deny, ladies, that in this case the man’s love was the greater of the two; nevertheless, it was so well requited that I would gladly have all lovers equally rewarded.”

“Then,” said Hircan, “there would be more manifest fools among men and women than ever there were.”

“Do you call it folly,” said Oisille, “to love virtuously in youth and then to turn this love wholly to God?”

“If melancholy and despair be praiseworthy,” answered Hircan, laughing, “I will acknowledge that Pauline and her lover are well worthy of praise.”

“True it is,” said Geburon, “that God has many ways of drawing us to Himself, and though they seem evil in the beginning, yet in the end they are good.”

“Moreover,” said Parlamente, “I believe that no man can ever love God perfectly that has not perfectly loved one of His creatures in this world.”

“What do you mean by loving perfectly?” asked Saffredent. “Do you consider that those frigid beings who worship their mistresses in silence and from afar are perfect lovers?”

“I call perfect lovers,” replied Parlamente, “those who seek perfection of some kind in the objects of their love, whether beauty, or goodness, or grace, ever tending to virtue, and who have such noble and upright hearts that they would rather die than do base things, contrary and repugnant to honour and conscience. For the soul, which was created for nothing but to return to its sovereign good, is, whilst enclosed in the body, ever desirous of attaining to it. But since the senses, through which the soul receives knowledge, are become dim and carnal through the sin of our first parent, they can show us only those visible things that approach towards perfection; and these the soul pursues, thinking to find in outward beauty, in a visible grace and in the moral virtues, the supreme, absolute beauty, grace and virtue. But when it has sought and tried these external things and has failed to find among them that which it really loves, the soul passes on to others; wherein it is like a child, which, when very young, will be fond of dolls and other trifles, the prettiest its eyes can see, and will heap pebbles together in the idea that these form wealth; but as the child grows older he becomes fond of living dolls, and gathers together the riches that are needful for earthly life. And when he learns by greater experience that in all these earthly things there is neither perfection nor happiness, he is fain to seek Him who is the Creator and Author of happiness and perfection. Albeit, if God should not give him the eye of Faith, he will be in danger of passing from ignorance to infidel philosophy, since it is Faith alone that can teach and instil that which is right; for this, carnal and fleshly man can never comprehend.” 6

“Do you not see,” said Longarine, “that uncultivated ground which bears plants and trees in abundance, however useless they may be, is valued by men, because it is hoped that it will produce good fruit if this be sown in it? In like manner, if the heart of man has no feeling of love for visible things, it will never arrive at the love of God by the sowing of His Word, for the soul of such a heart is barren, cold and worthless.”

“That,” said Saffredent, “is the reason why most of the doctors are not spiritual. They never love anything but good wine and dirty, ill-favoured serving-women, without making trial of the love of honourable ladies.”

“If I could speak Latin well,” said Simontault, “I would quote you St. John’s words: ‘He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?’ 7 From visible things we are led on to love those that are invisible.”

“If,” said Ennasuite, “there be a man as perfect as you say, quis est ille et laudabimus eum?8

“There are men,” said Dagoucin, “whose love is so strong and true that they would rather die than harbour a wish contrary to the honour and conscience of their mistress, and who at the same time are unwilling that she or others should know what is in their hearts.”

“Such men,” said Saffredent, “must be of the nature of the chameleon, which lives on air. 9 There is not a man in the world but would fain declare his love and know that it is returned; and further, I believe that love’s fever is never so great, but it quickly passes off when one knows the contrary. For myself, I have seen manifest miracles of this kind.”

“I pray you then,” said Ennasuite, “take my place and tell us about some one that was recalled from death to life by having discovered in his mistress the very opposite of his desire.”

“I am,” said Saffredent, “so much afraid of displeasing the ladies, whose faithful servant I have always been and shall always be, that without an express command from themselves I should never have dared to speak of their imperfections. However, in obedience to them, I will hide nothing of the truth.”

Tailpiece

1 The incidents related in this tale appear to have taken place at Mantua and Ferrara. M. de Montaiglon, however, believes that they happened at Lyons, and that Margaret laid the scene of her story in Italy, so that the personages she refers to might not be identified. The subject of the tale is similar to that of the poem called L’Amant rendu Cordelier à l’Observance et Amour, which may perhaps have supplied the Queen of Navarre with the plot of her narrative. — M. and Ed.

2 This was John Francis II. of Gonzaga, who was born in 1466, and succeeded his father, Frederic I., in 1484. He took an active part in the wars of the time, commanding the Venetian troops when Charles VIII. invaded Italy, and afterwards supporting Ludovico Sforza in the defence of Milan. When Sforza abandoned the struggle against France, the Marquis of Mantua joined the French king, for whom he acted as viceroy of Naples. Ultimately, however, he espoused the cause of the Emperor Maximilian, when the latter was at war with Venice in 1509, and being surprised and defeated while camping on the island of La Scala, he fled in his shirt and hid himself in a field, where, by the treachery of a peasant who had promised him secrecy, he was found and taken prisoner. By the advice of Pope Julius II., the Venetians set him at liberty after he had undergone a year’s imprisonment. In 1490 John Francis married Isabella d’Esté, daughter of Hercules I. Duke of Ferrara, by whom he had several children. He died at Mantua in March 1519, his widow surviving him until 1539. Among the many dignities acquired by the Marquis in the course of his singularly chequered life was that of gonfalonier of the Holy Church, conferred upon him by Julius II. — L. and En.

3 This would be the expedition which Louis XII. made into Italy in 1503 in view of conquering the Kingdom of Naples, and which was frustrated by the defeats that the French army sustained at Seminara, Cerignoles, and the passage of the Garigliano. — D.

4 The monastery of the Observance here referred to would appear to be that at Ferrara, founded by Duke Hercules I., father of the Marchioness of Mantua. The name of “Observance” was given to those conventual establishments where the rules of monastic life were scrupulously observed, however rigorous they might be. The monastery of the Observance at Ferrara belonged to the Franciscan order, reformed by the Pope in 1363. — D. and L.

5 There does not appear to have been a church of St. Clara at Mantua, but there was one attached to a convent of that name at Ferrara. — M. and D.

6 The whole of this mystical dissertation appears to have been inspired by some remarks in Castiglione’s Libro del Cortegiano — which Margaret was no doubt well acquainted with, as it was translated into French in 1537 by Jacques Colin, her brother’s secretary. This work, which indeed seems to have suggested several passages in the Heptameron, was at that time as widely read in France as in Italy and Spain. — B. J. and D.

7 I St. John, iv. 20.

8 We have been unable to find this anywhere in the Scriptures. — Ed.

9 A popular fallacy. The chameleon undoubtedly feeds upon small insects. — D.

the Lord de Riant Finding The Widow With Her Groom
The Lord de Riant finding the Widow with her Groom

021.jpg Headpiece

Tale xx.

The Lord of Riant, being greatly in love with a widow lady and finding her the contrary of what he had desired and of what she had often declared herself to be, was so affected thereby that in a moment resentment had power to extinguish the flame which neither length of time nor lack of opportunity had been able to quench. 1

In the land of Dauphiné there lived a gentleman named the Lord of Riant; he belonged to the household of King Francis the First, and was as handsome and worshipful a gentleman as it was possible to see. He had long been the lover of a widow lady, whom he loved and revered so exceedingly that, for fear of losing her favour, he durst not solicit of her that which he most desired. Now, since he knew himself to be a handsome man and one worthy to be loved, he fully believed what she often swore to him — namely, that she loved him more than any living man, and that if she were led to do aught for any gentleman, it would be for him alone, who was the most perfect she had ever known. She at the same time begged him to rest satisfied with this virtuous love and to seek nothing further, and assured him that if she found him unreasonably aiming at more, he would lose her altogether. The poor gentleman was not only satisfied, but he deemed himself very fortunate in having gained the heart of a lady who appeared to him so full of virtue.

It would take too long to tell you his love-speeches, his lengthened visits to her, and the journeys he took in order to see her; it is enough to say that this poor martyr, consumed by so pleasing a fire that the more one burns the more one wishes to burn, continually sought for the means of increasing his martyrdom.

One day the fancy took him to go post-haste to see the lady whom he loved better than himself, and whom he prized beyond every other woman in the world. On reaching her house, he inquired where she was, and was told that she had just come from vespers, and was gone into the warren to finish her devotions there. He dismounted from his horse and went straight to the warren where she was to be found, and here he met with some of her women, who told him that she had gone to walk alone in a large avenue.

He was more than ever beginning to hope that some good fortune awaited him, and continued searching for her as carefully and as quietly as he could, desiring above all things to find her alone. He came in this way to a summer-house formed of bended boughs, the fairest and pleasantest place imaginable, 2 and impatient to see the object of his love, he went in; and there beheld the lady lying on the grass in the arms of a groom in her service, who was as ill-favoured, foul and disreputable as the Lord of Riant was handsome, virtuous and gentle.

I will not try to depict to you his resentment, but it was so great that in a moment it had power to extinguish the flame which neither length of time nor lack of opportunity had been able to impair.

“Madam,” he said to her, being now as full of indignation as once he had been of love, “much good may this do you! 3 The revelation of your wickedness has to-day cured me, and freed me from the continual anguish that was caused by the virtue I believed to be in you.” 4

And with this farewell he went back again more quickly than he had come.

The unhappy woman made him no other reply than to put her hand to her face; for being unable to hide her shame, she covered her eyes that she might not see him who in spite of her deceit now perceived it only too clearly.

“And so, ladies, if you are not minded to love perfectly, do not, I pray you, seek to deceive and annoy an honest man for vanity’s sake; for hypocrites are rewarded as they deserve, and God favours those who love with frankness.”

“Truly,” said Oisille, “you have kept us a proper tale for the end of the day. But that we have all sworn to speak the truth, I could not believe that a woman of that lady’s condition could be so wicked both in soul and in body, and leave so gallant a gentleman for so vile a muleteer.”

“Ah, madam,” said Hircan, “if you knew what a difference there is between a gentleman who has worn armour and been at the wars all his life, and a well-fed knave that has never stirred from home, you would excuse the poor widow.”

“I do not believe,” said Oisille, “whatever you may say, that you could admit any possible excuse for her.”

“I have heard,” said Simontault, “that there are women who like to have apostles to preach of their virtue and chastity, and treat them as kindly and familiarly as possible, saying that but for the restraints of honour and conscience they would grant them their desire. And so these poor fools, when speaking in company of their mistresses, swear that they would thrust their fingers into the fire without fear of burning in proof that these ladies are virtuous women, since they have themselves thoroughly tested their love. Thus are praised by honourable men, those who show their true nature to such as are like themselves; and they choose such as would not have courage to speak, or, if they did, would not be believed by reason of their low and degraded position.”

“That,” said Longarine, “is an opinion which I have before now heard expressed by jealous and suspicious men, but it may indeed be called painting a chimera. And even although it be true of one wretched woman, the same suspicion cannot attach to all.”

“Well,” said Parlamente, “the longer we talk in this way, the longer will these good gentlemen play the critics over Simontault’s tale, and all at our own expense. So in my opinion we had better go to vespers, and not cause so much delay as we did yesterday.”

The company agreed to this proposal, and as they were going Oisille said:—

“If any one gives God thanks for having told the truth to-day, Saffredent ought to implore His forgiveness for having raked up so vile a story against the ladies.”

“By my word,” replied Saffredent, “what I told you was true, albeit I only had it upon hearsay. But were I to tell you all that I have myself seen of women, you would have need to make even more signs of the cross than the priests do in consecrating a church.”

“Repentance is a long way off,” said Geburon, “when confession only increases the sin.”

“Since you have so bad an opinion of women,” said Parlamente, “they ought to deprive you of their honourable society and friendship.”

“There are some women,” he returned, “who have acted towards me so much in accordance with your advice, in keeping me far away from things that are honourable and just, that could I do and say worse to them, I should not neglect doing so, in order that I might stir them up to revenge me on her who does me so much wrong.”

Whilst he spoke these words, Parlamente put on her mask 5 and went with the others into the church, where they found that although the bell had rung for vespers, there was not a single monk, present to say them.

The monks, indeed, had heard that the company assembled in the meadow to tell the pleasantest tales imaginable, and being fonder of pleasure than of their prayers, they had gone and hidden themselves in a ditch, where they lay flat on their bellies behind a very thick hedge; and they had there listened so eagerly to the stories that they had not heard the ringing of the monastery bell, as was soon clearly shown, for they returned in such great haste that they almost lacked breath to begin the saying of vespers.

After the service, when they were asked why they had been so late and had chanted so badly, they confessed that they had been to listen to the tales; whereupon, since they were so desirous of hearing them, it was granted that they might sit and listen at their ease every day behind the hedge.

Supper-time was spent joyously in discoursing of such matters as they had not brought to an end in the meadow. And this lasted through the evening, until Oisille begged them to retire so that their minds might be the more alert on the morrow, after a long, sound sleep, one hour of which before midnight was, said she, better than three after it. Accordingly the company parted one from another, betaking themselves to their respective rooms; and in this wise ended the Second Day.

Tailpiece

1 The unpleasant discovery related in this tale is attributed by Margaret to a gentleman of Francis I.’s household, but a similar incident figures in the introduction to the Arabian Nights. Ariosto also tells much the same tale in canto xxviii. of his Rolando Furioso, and another version of it will be found in No. 24 of Morlini’s Novella, first issued at Naples in 1520. Subsequent to the Heptameron it supplied No. 29 of the Comptes du Monde Adventureux, figured in a rare imitation of the Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles printed at Rouen early in the seventeenth century, and was introduced by La Fontaine into his well-known tale Joconde. On the other hand, there is certainly a locality called Rians in Provence, just beyond the limits of Dauphiné, and moreover among Francis I.’s “equerries of the stable” there was a Monsieur dc Rian who received a salary of 200 livres a year from 1522 to 1529. — See the roll of the officers of the King’s Household in the French National Archives, Sect. Histor., K. 98. Some extracts from Brantôme bearing on the story will be found in the Appendix [below]. — L. and En.

2 For a description of a summer-house of the kind referred to, see Cap’s edition of Palissy’s Dessein du Jardin Délectable, p. 69. Palissy there describes some summer- houses formed of young elmtrees, with seats, columns, friezes, and a roofing so cunningly contrived of bent boughs that the rain could not penetrate into the interior. It is to some such construction that Queen Margaret refers. — M.

3 The French words here are “prou face,” which in Margaret’s time were very generally used in lieu of “Amen” or “So be it." — M.

4 In Joconde La Fontaine gives the end of the adventure as follows:—

“Sans rencontrer personne et sans etre entendu

Il monte dans sa chambre et voit près de la dame

Un lourdaud de valet sur son sein étendu.

Tous deux dormaient. Dans cet abord Joconde

Voulut les envoyer dormir en l’autre monde,

Mais cependant il n’en fit rien

Et mon avis est qu’il fit bien.”

Both in La Fontaine’s Conte and in Ariosto’s Rolando the lady is the Queen, and the favoured lover the King’s dwarf. — Ed.

5 Little masks hiding only the upper part of the face, and called tourets-de-nez, were then frequently worn by ladies of rank. Some verses by Christine de Pisan show them to have been in vogue already in the fourteenth century. In the MS. copy of Margaret’s poem of La Coche presented to the Duchess of Etampes, the ladies in the different miniatures are frequently shown wearing masks of the kind referred to. Some curious particulars concerning these tourets will be found in M. Léon do Laborde’s Le Palais Mazarin et les grandes habitations de ville et de campagne au XVIIe Siècle, Paris, 1846, 8vo, p. 314. — L.

Appendix A.

Brantôme alludes as follows to this tale, in the Fourth Discourse of his Vies des Dames Galantes:—

“I knew a great lady whose plumpness was the subject of general talk both whilst she was a maid and when she became a wife, but she happened to lose her husband, and gave way to such extreme grief that she became as dry as a stick. Still she did not cease to enjoy herself to her heart’s content, with the assistance of one of her secretaries, and even so it is said of her cook. Nevertheless, she did not regain her plumpness, albeit the said cook, who was all grease and fat, should as it seems to me have made her stout again. Whilst she thus amused herself with one and another of her varlets, she affected more prudery and chastity than any other lady of the Court, having none but words of virtue on her lips, speaking ill of all other women and finding something to be censured in each of them. Very similar to this one was that great lady of Dauphiné who is mentioned in the Hundred Tales of the Queen of Navarre, and who was found, lying on the grass with her stableman or muleteer, by a gentleman who was in love with her to distraction. On finding her thus, however, he was speedily cured of his love-sickness.

“I have read in an old romance about John de Saintré, printed in black-letter, that the late King John brought him up as a page. In the old times it was usual for great personages to send their pages about with messages, as is indeed done nowadays, but at that time they journeyed anywhere across country, on horseback. In fact, I have heard our fathers say that pages were often sent on little embassies, for very often a matter would be settled and expense saved by merely despatching a page with a horse and a piece of silver. This little Jehan de Saintré, as he was long called, was a great favourite with his master King John, for he was full of wit, and it often happened that he was sent with messages to his [the King’s?] sister, who was then a widow, though of whom the book does not say. This lady fell in love with him after several messages that he had delivered to her, and one day finding him alone, she engaged him in converse, and, according to the usual practice of ladies when they wish to engage any one in a love attack, she began to ask him if he were in love with any lady of the Court, and which one pleased him the most. This little John de Saintre, who had never even so much as thought of love, told her that he cared for none at the Court as yet, whereupon she mentioned several other ladies to him, and asked him whether he thought of them. ‘Still less,’ replied he. . . . Thereupon the lady, seeing that the young fellow was of good appearance, told him that she would give him a mistress who would love him tenderly if he would serve her well, and whilst he stood there feeling greatly ashamed, she made him promise that he would keep the matter secret, and finally declared to him that she herself wished to be his lady and lover, for at that time the word ‘mistress’ was not yet used. The young page was vastly astonished, thinking that the lady was joking, or wished to deceive him or to have him whipped. However, she soon showed him so many signs of the fire and fever of love, saying to him that she wished to tutor him and make a man of him, that he at last realised that it was not a jest. Their love lasted for a long time, both whilst he was a page and afterwards, until at length he had to go upon a long journey, when she replaced him by a big, fat abbot. This is the same story that one finds in the Nouvelles du Monde Advantureux by a valet of the Queen of Navarre [Antoine de St. Denis], in which one sees the abbot insult this same John de Saintré who was so brave and valiant, and who right speedily and liberally paid back my lord the abbot in his own coin. . . . So you see it is no new thing for ladies to love pages. What inclinations some women have, they will willingly take any number of lovers but they want no husband! All this is through love of liberty, which they deem such a pleasant thing. It seems to them as though they were in Paradise when they are not under a husband’s rule. They have a fine dowry and spend it thriftily, they have all their household affairs in hand, receive their income, everything passing through their hands; and instead of being servants they are mistresses, select their own pleasures and favourites, and amuse themselves as much as they like." — Lalanne’s OEuvres de Brantôme, vol. xi. pp. 703-6.

Third Day.

On the Third Day are recounted Tales of the Ladies who have only sought what was honourable in Love, and of the hypocrisy and wickedness of the Monks.

Prologue.

Though it was yet early when the company entered the hall on the morrow, they found Madame Oisille there before them. She had been meditating for more than half-an-hour upon the lesson that she was going to read; and if she had contented them on the first and second days, she assuredly did no less on the third; indeed, but that one of the monks came in search of them they would not have heard high mass, for so intent were they upon listening to her that they did not even hear the bell.

When they had piously heard mass, and had dined with temperance to the end that the meats might in no sort hinder the memory of each from acquitting itself as well as might be when their several turns came, they withdrew to their apartments, there to consult their note-books until the wonted hour for repairing to the meadow was come. When it had arrived they were not slow to make the pleasant excursion, and those who were prepared to tell of some merry circumstance already showed mirthful faces that gave promise of much laughter. When they were seated, they asked Saffredent to whom he would give his vote for the beginning of the Third Day.

“I think,” said he, “that since my offence yesterday was as you say very great, and I have knowledge of no story that might atone for it, I ought to give my vote to Parlamente, who, with her sound understanding, will be able to praise the ladies sufficiently to make you forget such truth as you heard from me.”

“I will not undertake,” said Parlamente, “to atone for your offences, but I will promise not to imitate them. Wherefore, holding to the truth that we have promised and vowed to utter, I propose to show you that there are ladies who in their loves have aimed at nought but virtue. And since she of whom I am going to speak to you came of an honourable line, I will just change the names in my story but nothing more; and I pray you, ladies, believe that love has no power to change a chaste and virtuous heart, as you will see by the tale I will now begin to tell.”

Rolandine Conversing With Her Husband
Rolandine Conversing With Her Husband

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Tale xxi.

Having remained unmarried until she was thirty years of age, Rolandine, recognising her father’s neglect and her mistress’s disfavour, fell so deeply in love with a bastard gentleman that she promised him marriage; and this being told to her father he treated her with all the harshness imaginable, in order to make her consent to the dissolving of the marriage; but she continued steadfast in her love until she had received certain tidings of the Bastard’s death, when she was wedded to a gentleman who bore the same name and arms as did her own family.

There was in France a Queen 1 who brought up in her household several maidens belonging to good and noble houses. Among others there was one called Rolandine, 2 who was near akin to the Queen; but the latter, being for some reason unfriendly with the maiden’s father, showed her no great kindness.

Now, although this maiden was not one of the fairest — nor yet indeed was she of the ugliest — she was nevertheless so discreet and virtuous that many persons of great consequence sought her in marriage. They had, however, but a cold reply; for the father 3 was so fond of his money that he gave no thought to his daughter’s welfare, while her mistress, as I have said, bore her but little favour, so that she was sought by none who desired to be advanced in the Queen’s good graces.

1 This is evidently Anne of Brittany, elder daughter of Duke Francis II. and wife in turn of Charles VIII. and Louis XII. Brantôme says: “She was the first to form that great Court of ladies which we have seen since her time until now; she always had a very great suite of ladies and maids, and never refused fresh ones; far from it, indeed, for she would inquire of the noblemen at Court if they had daughters, and would ask that they might be sent to her." — Lalanne’s OEuvres de Brantôme, vol. vii. p. 314 — L.

2 This by the consent of all the commentators is Anne de Rohan, elder daughter of John II. Viscount de Rohan, Count of Porhoët, Léon and La Garnache, by Mary of Brittany, daughter of Duke Francis I. The date of Anne de Rohan’s birth is not exactly known, but she is said to have been about thirty years of age at the time of the tale, though the incidents related extend over a somewhat lengthy period. However, we know that Anne was ultimately married to Peter de Rohan in 1517, when, according to her marriage contract, she was over thirty-six years old (Les Preuves de Histoire ecclésiastique et civile de Bretagne, 1756, vol. v. col. 940). From this we may assume that she was thirty in or about 1510. The historical incidents alluded to in the tale would, however, appear to have occurred (as will be shown by subsequent notes) between 1507 and 1509, and we are of opinion that the Queen of Navarre has made her heroine rather older than she really was, and that the story indeed begins in or about 1505, when Rolandine can have been little more than five or six and twenty. — Ed.

3 See notes to Tale XL. (vol. iv).

Thus, owing to her father’s neglect and her mistress’s disdain, the poor maiden continued unmarried for a long while; and this at last made her sad at heart, not so much because she longed to be married as because she was ashamed at not being so, wherefore she forsook the vanities and pomps of the Court and gave herself up wholly to the worship of God. Her sole delight consisted in prayer or needlework, and thus in retirement she passed her youthful years, living in the most virtuous and holy manner imaginable.

Now, when she was approaching her thirtieth year, there was at Court a gentleman who was a Bastard of a high and noble house; 4 he was one of the pleasantest comrades and most worshipful men of his day, but he was wholly without fortune, and possessed of such scant comeliness that no lady would have chosen him for her lover.

4 One cannot absolutely identify this personage; but judging by what is said of him in the story — that he came of a great house, that he was very brave but poor, neither rich enough to marry Rolandine nor handsome enough to be made a lover of, and that a lady, who was a near relative of his, came to the Court after his intrigue had been going on for a couple of years — he would certainly appear to be John, Bastard of Angoulôme, a natural son of Count John the Good, and consequently half-brother to Charles of Angoulôme ( who married Louise of Savoy) and uncle to Francis I. and Queen Margaret. In Père Anselme’s Histoire Généalogique de la Maison de France, vol. i. p. 210 B. there is a record of the letters of legitimisation granted to the Bastard of Angoulême at his father’s request in June 1458, and M. Paul Lacroix points out that if Rolandine’s secret marriage to him took place in or about 1508, he would then have been about fifty years old, hardly the age for a lover. The Bastard is, however, alluded to in the tale as a man of mature years, and as at the outset of the intrigue (1505) he would have been but forty-seven, we incline with M. de Lincy to the belief that he is the hero of it. — Eu.

Thus this poor gentleman had continued unmated, and as one unfortunate often seeks out another, he addressed himself to Rolandine, whose fortune, temper and condition were like his own. And while they were engaged in mutually lamenting their woes, they became very fond of each other, and finding that they were companions in misfortune, sought out one another everywhere, so that they might exchange consolation, in this wise setting on foot a deep and lasting attachment.

Those who had known Rolandine so very retiring that she would speak to none, were now greatly shocked on seeing her unceasingly with the well-born Bastard, and told her governess that she ought not to suffer their long talks together. The governess, therefore, remonstrated with Rolandine, and told her that every one was shocked at her conversing so freely with a man who was neither rich enough to marry her nor handsome enough to be her lover.

To this Rolandine, who had always been rebuked rather for austereness than for worldliness, replied —

“Alas, mother, you know that I cannot have a husband of my own condition, and that I have always shunned such as are handsome and young, fearing to fall into the same difficulties as others. And since this gentleman is discreet and virtuous, as you yourself know, and tells me nothing that is not honourable and right, what harm can I have done to you and to those that have spoken of the matter, by seeking from him some consolation in my grief?”

The poor old woman, who loved her mistress more than she loved herself, replied —

“I can see, my lady, that you speak the truth, and know that you are not treated by your father and mistress as you deserve to be. Nevertheless, since people are speaking about your honour in this way, you ought to converse with him no longer, even were he your own brother.”

“Mother,” said Rolandine, “if such be your counsel I will observe it; but ’tis a strange thing to be wholly without consolation in the world.”

The Bastard came to talk with her according to his wont, but she told him everything that her governess had said to her, and, shedding tears, besought him to have no converse with her for a while, until the rumour should be past and gone; and to this he consented at her request.

Being thus cut off from all consolation, they both began, however, to feel such torment during their separation as neither had ever known before. For her part she did not cease praying to God, journeying and fasting; for love, heretofore unknown to her, caused her such exceeding disquiet as not to leave her an hour’s repose. The well-born Bastard was no better off; but, as he had already resolved in his heart to love her and try to wed her, and had thought not only of his love but of the honour that it would bring him if he succeeded in his design, he reflected that he must devise a means of making his love known to her and, above all, of winning the governess to his side. This last he did by protesting to her the wretchedness of her poor mistress, who was being robbed of all consolation. At this the old woman, with many tears, thanked him for the honourable affection that he bore her mistress, and they took counsel together how he might speak with her. They planned that Rolandine should often feign to suffer from headache, to which noise is exceedingly distressful; so that, when her companions went into the Queen’s apartment, she and the Bastard might remain alone, and in this way hold converse together.

The Bastard was overjoyed at this, and, guiding himself wholly by the governess’s advice, had speech with his sweetheart whensoever he would. However, this contentment lasted no great while, for the Queen, who had but little love for Rolandine, inquired what she did so constantly in her room. Some one replied that it was on account of sickness, but another, who possessed too good a memory for the absent, declared that the pleasure she took in speaking with the Bastard must needs cause her headache to pass away.

The Queen, who deemed the venial sins of others to be mortal ones in Rolandine, sent for her and forbade her ever to speak to the Bastard except it were in the royal chamber or hall. The maiden gave no sign, but replied —

“Had I known, madam, that he or any one beside were displeasing to you, I should never have spoken to him.”

Nevertheless she secretly cast about to find some other plan of which the Queen should know nothing, and in this she was successful. On Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays she was wont to fast, and would then stay with her governess in her own room, where, while the others were at supper, she was free to speak with the man whom she was beginning to love so dearly.

The more they were compelled to shorten their discourse, the more lovingly did they talk; for they stole the time even as a robber steals something that is of great worth. But, in spite of all their secrecy, a serving-man saw the Bastard go into the room one fast day, and reported the matter in a quarter where it was not concealed from the Queen. The latter was so wroth that the Bastard durst enter the ladies’ room no more. Yet, that he might not lose the delight of converse with his love, he often made a pretence of going on a journey, and returned in the evening to the church or chapel of the castle 5 dressed as a Grey Friar or a Jacobin, or disguised so well in some other way that none could know him; and thither, attended by her governess, Rolandine would go to have speech with him.

5 This would be either the château of Amboise or that of Blois, we are inclined to think the latter, as Louis XII. more frequently resided there. — Ed.

Then, seeing how great was the love she bore him, he feared not to say —

“You see, fair lady, what risk I run in your service, and how the Queen has forbidden you to speak with me. You see, further, what manner of man is your father, who has no thought whatsoever of bestowing you in marriage. He has rejected so many excellent suitors, that I know of none, whether near or far, that can win you. I know that I am poor, and that you could not wed a gentleman that were not richer than I; yet, if love and good-will were counted wealth, I should hold myself for the richest man on earth. God has given you great wealth, and you are like to have even more. Were I so fortunate as to be chosen for your husband, I would be your husband, lover and servant all my life long; whereas, if you take one of equal consideration with yourself — and such a one it were hard to find — he will seek to be the master, and will have more regard for your wealth than for your person, and for the beauty of others than for your virtue; and, whilst enjoying the use of your wealth, he will fail to treat you, yourself, as you deserve. And now my longing to have this delight, and my fear that you will have none such with another, impel me to pray that you will make me a happy man, and yourself the most contented and best treated wife that ever lived.”

When Rolandine heard the very words that she herself had purposed speaking to him, she replied with a glad countenance —

“I am well pleased that you have been the first to speak such words as I had a long while past resolved to say to you. For the two years that I have known you I have never ceased to turn over in my mind all the arguments for you and against you that I was able to devise; but now that I am at last resolved to enter into the married state, it is time that 1 should make a beginning and choose some one with whom I may look to dwell with tranquil mind. And I have been able to find none, whether handsome, rich, or nobly born, with whom my heart and soul could agree excepting yourself alone. I know that in marrying you I shall not offend God, but rather do what He enjoins, while as to his lordship my father, he has regarded my welfare so little, and has rejected so many offers, that the law suffers me to marry without fear of being disinherited; though, even if I had only that which is now mine, I should, in marrying such a husband as you, account myself the richest woman in the world. As to the Queen, my mistress, I need have no qualms in displeasing her in order to obey God, for never had she any in hindering me from any blessing that I might have had in my youth. But, to show you that the love I bear you is founded upon virtue and honour, you must promise that if I agree to this marriage, you will not seek its consummation until my father be dead, or until I have found a means to win his consent.”

To this the Bastard readily agreed, whereupon they exchanged rings in token of marriage, and kissed each other in the church in the presence of God, calling upon Him to witness their promise; and never afterwards was there any other familiarity between them save kissing only.

This slender delight gave great content to the hearts of these two perfect lovers; and, secure in their mutual affection, they lived for some time without seeing each other. There was scarcely any place where honour might be won to which the Bastard did not go, rejoicing that he could not now continue a poor man, seeing that God had bestowed on him a rich wife; and she during his absence steadfastly cherished their perfect love, and made no account of any other living man. And although there were some who asked her in marriage, the only answer they had of her was that, since she had remained unwedded for so long a time, she desired to continue so for ever. 6

6 The speeches of Rolandine and the Bastard should be compared with some of Clement Marot’s elegies, notably with one in which he complains of having been surprised while conversing with his mistress in a church. — B. J.

This reply came to the ears of so many people, that the Queen heard of it and asked her why she spoke in that way. Rolandine replied that it was done in obedience to herself, who had never been pleased to marry her to any man who would have well and comfortably provided for her; accordingly, being taught by years and patience to be content with her present condition, she would always return a like answer whensoever any one spoke to her of marriage.

When the wars were over, 7 and the Bastard had returned to Court, she never spoke to him in presence of others, but always repaired to some church and there had speech with him under pretence of going to confession; for the Queen had forbidden them both, under penalty of death, to speak together except in public. But virtuous love, which recks naught of such a ban, was more ready to find them means of speech than were their enemies to spy them out; the Bastard disguised himself in the habit of every monkish order he could think of, and thus their virtuous intercourse continued, until the King repaired to a pleasure house he had near Tours. 8

7 The wars here referred to would be one or another of Louis XII.’s Italian expeditions, probably that of 1507, when the battle of Aignadel was fought. — Ed.

8 This would no doubt be the famous château of Plessis-lez- Tours, within a mile of Tours, and long the favourite residence of Louis XI. Louis XII. is known to have sojourned at Plessis in 1507, at the time when the States-general conferred upon him the title of “Father of the People.” English tourists often visit Plessis now adays in memory of Scott’s “Quentin Durward,” but only a few shapeless ruins of the old structure are left. — M. and Ed.

This, however, was not near enough for the ladies to go on foot to any other church but that of the castle, which was built in such a fashion that it contained no place of concealment in which the confessor would not have been plainly recognised.

But if one opportunity failed them, love found them another and an easier one, for there came to the Court a lady to whom the Bastard was near akin. This lady was lodged, together with her son, 9 in the King’s abode; and the young Prince’s room projected from the rest of the King’s apartments in such a way that from his window it was possible to see and to speak to Rolandine, for his window and hers were just at the angle made by the two wings of the house.

9 This lady would be Louise of Savoy. She first came to the Court at Amboise in 1499, a circumstance which has led some commentators to place the incidents of this story at that date. But she was at Blois on various occasions between 1507 and 1509, to negotiate and attend the marriage of her daughter Margaret with the Duke of Alençon. Louis XII. having gone from Blois to Plessis in 1507, Louise of Savoy may well have followed him thither. Her son was, of course, the young Duke de Valois, afterwards Francis I. — Ed.

In this room of hers, which was over the King’s presence-chamber, all the noble damsels that were Rolandine’s companions were lodged with her. She, having many times observed the young Prince at his window, made this known to the Bastard through her governess; and he, having made careful observation of the place, feigned to take great pleasure in reading a book about the Knights of the Round Table 10 which was in the Prince’s room.

10 Romances of chivalry were much sought after at this time. Not merely were there MS. copies of these adorned with miniatures, but we find that L’Histoire du Saint Gréai, La Vie et les Prophéties de Merlin, and Les Merveilleux Faits et Gestes du Noble Chevalier Lancelot du Lac were printed in France in the early years of the sixteenth century. — B.J.

And when every one was going to dinner, he would beg a valet to let him finish his reading, shut up in the room, over which he promised to keep good guard. The servants knew him to be a kinsman of his master and one to be trusted, let him read as much as he would. Rolandine, on her part, would then come to her window; and, so that she might be able to make a long stay at it, she pretended to have an infirmity in the leg, and accordingly dined and supped so early that she no longer frequented the ladies’ table. She likewise set herself to work a coverlet of crimson silk, 11 and fastened it at the window, where she desired to be alone; and, when she saw that none was by, she would converse with her husband, who contrived to speak in such a voice as could not be overheard; and whenever any one was coming, she would cough and make a sign, so that the Bastard might withdraw in good time.

11 In the French, ”Ung lût de reseul:” reticella — i.e., a kind of open work embroidery very fashionable in those days, and the most famous designers of which were Frederic Vinciolo, Dominic de Sara, and John Cousin the painter. Various sixteenth and seventeenth century books on needlework, still extant, give some curious information concerning this form of embroidery. — M.

Those who kept watch upon them felt sure that their love was past, for she never stirred from the room in which, as they thought, he could assuredly never see her, since it was forbidden him to enter it.

One day, however, the young Prince’s mother, 12 being in her son’s room, placed herself at the window where this big book lay, and had not long been there when one of Rolandine’s companions, who was at the window in the opposite room, greeted her and spoke to her. The lady asked her how Rolandine did; whereon the other replied that she might see her if she would, and brought her to the window in her nightcap. Then, when they had spoken together about her sickness, they withdrew from the window on either side.

12 Louise of Savoy.

The lady, observing the big book about the Round Table, said to the servant who had it in his keeping —

“I am surprised that young folk can waste their time in reading such foolishness.”

The servant replied that he marvelled even more that people accounted sensible and of mature age should have a still greater liking for it than the young; and he told her, as matter for wonderment, how her cousin the Bastard would spend four or five hours each day in reading this fine book. Straightway there came into the lady’s mind the reason why he acted thus, and she charged the servant to hide himself somewhere, and take account of what the Bastard might do. This the man did, and found that the Bastard’s book was the window to which Rolandine came to speak with him, and he, moreover, heard many a love-speech which they had thought to keep wholly secret.

On the morrow he related this to his mistress, who sent for the Bastard, and after chiding him forbade him to return to that place again; and in the evening she spoke of the matter to Rolandine, and threatened, if she persisted in this foolish love, to make all these practices known to the Queen.

Rolandine, whom nothing could dismay, vowed that in spite of all that folks might say she had never spoken to him since her mistress had forbidden her to do so, as might be learned both from her companions and from her servants and attendants. And as for the window, she declared that she had never spoken at it to the Bastard. He, however, fearing that the matter had been discovered, withdrew out of harm’s way, and was a long time without returning to Court, though not without writing to Rolandine, and this in so cunning a manner that, in spite of the Queen’s vigilance, never a week went by but she twice heard from him.

When he no longer found it possible to employ monks as messengers, as he had done at first, he would send a little page, dressed now in one colour and now in another; and the page used to stand at the doorways through which the ladies were wont to pass, and deliver his letters secretly in the throng. But one day, when the Queen was going out into the country, it chanced that one who was charged to look after this matter recognised the page, and hastened after him; but he, being keen-witted and suspecting that he was being pursued, entered the house of a poor woman who was boiling her pot on the fire, and there forthwith burned his letters. The gentleman who followed him stripped him naked and searched through all his clothes; but he could find nothing, and so let him go. And the boy being gone, the old woman asked the gentleman why he had so searched him.

“To find some letters,” he replied, “which I thought he had upon him.”

“You could by no means have found them,” said the old woman, “they were too well hidden for that.”

“I pray you,” said the gentleman, in the hope of getting them before long, “tell me where they were.”

However, when he heard that they had been thrown into the fire, he perceived that the page had proved more crafty than himself, and forthwith made report of the matter to the Queen.

From that time, however, the Bastard no longer employed the page or any other child, but sent an old servant of his, who, laying aside all fear of the death which, as he well knew, was threatened by the Queen against all such as should interfere in this matter, undertook to carry his master’s letters to Rolandine. And having come to the castle where she was, he posted himself on the watch at the foot of a broad staircase, beside a doorway through which all the ladies were wont to pass. But a serving-man, who had aforetime seen him, knew him again immediately and reported the matter to the Queen’s Master of the Household, who quickly came to arrest him. However, the discreet and wary servant, seeing that he was being watched from a distance, turned towards the wall as though he desired to make water, and tearing the letter he had into the smallest possible pieces, threw them behind a door. Immediately afterwards he was taken and thoroughly searched, and nothing being found on him, they asked him on his oath whether he had not brought letters, using all manner of threats and persuasions to make him confess the truth; but neither by promises nor threats could they draw anything from him.

Report of this having been made to the Queen, some one in the company bethought him that it would be well to look behind the door near which the man had been taken. This was done, and they found what they sought, namely the pieces of the letter. Then the King’s confessor was sent for, and he, having put the pieces together on a table, read the whole of the letter, in which the truth of the marriage, that had been so carefully concealed, was made manifest; for the Bastard called Rolandine nothing but “wife.” The Queen, who was in no mind, as she should have been, to hide her neighbour’s transgressions, made a great ado about the matter, and commanded that all means should be employed to make the poor man confess the truth of the letter. And indeed, when they showed it to him, he could not deny it; but for all they could say or show, he would say no more than at first. Those who had him in charge thereupon brought him to the brink of the river, and put him into a sack, declaring that he had lied to God and to the Queen, contrary to proven truth. But he was minded to die rather than accuse his master, and asked for a confessor; and when he had eased his conscience as well as might be, he said to them —

“Good sirs, I pray you tell the Bastard, my master, that I commend the lives of my wife and children to him, for right willingly do I yield up my own in his service. You may do with me what you will, for never shall you draw from me a word against my master.”

Thereupon, all the more to affright him, they threw him in the sack into the water, calling to him —

“If you will tell the truth, you shall be saved.”

Finding, however, that he answered nothing, they drew him out again, and made report of his constancy to the Queen, who on hearing of it declared that neither the King nor herself were so fortunate in their followers as was this gentleman the Bastard, though he lacked even the means to requite them. She then did all that she could to draw the servant into her own service, but he would by no means consent to forsake his master. However, by the latter’s leave, he at last entered the Queen’s service, in which he lived in happiness and contentment.

The Queen, having learnt the truth of the marriage from the Bastard’s letter, sent for Rolandine, whom with a wrathful countenance she several times called “wretch” instead of “cousin,” reproaching her with the shame that she had brought both upon her father’s house and her mistress by thus marrying without her leave or commandment.

Rolandine, who had long known what little love her mistress bore her, gave her but little in return. Moreover, since there was no love between them, neither was there fear; and as Rolandine perceived that this reprimand, given her in presence of several persons, was prompted less by affection than by a desire to put her to shame, and that the Queen felt more pleasure in chiding her than grief at finding her in fault, she replied with a countenance as glad and tranquil as the Queen’s was disturbed and wrathful —

“If, madam, you did not know your own heart, such as it is, I would set forth to you the ill-will that you have long borne my father 13 and myself; but you do, indeed, know this, and will not deem it strange that all the world should have an inkling of it too. For my own part, madam, I have perceived it to my dear cost, for had you been pleased to favour me equally as you favour those who are not so near to you as myself, I were now married to your honour as well as to my own; but you passed me over as one wholly a stranger to your favour, and so all the good matches I might have made passed away before my eyes, through my father’s neglect and the slenderness of your regard. By reason of this treatment I fell into such deep despair, that, had my health been strong enough in any sort to endure a nun’s condition, I would have willingly entered upon it to escape from the continual griefs your harshness brought me.

13 Of all those with pretensions to the Duchy of Brittany, the Viscount de Rohan had doubtless the best claim, though he met with the least satisfaction. It was, however, this reason that led the Queen [Anne of Brittany] to treat him with such little regard. It was with mingled grief and resentment that this proud princess realised how real were the Viscount’s rights; moreover, she never forgave him for having taken up arms against her in favour of France; and seeking an opportunity to avenge herself, she found one in giving the Viscount but little satisfaction in the matter of his pretensions." — Dora Morice’s Histoire ecclésiastique et civile de Bretagne, Paris, 1756, vol. ii. p. 231. — L.

“Whilst in this despair I was sought by one whose lineage would be as good as my own if mutual love were rated as high as a marriage ring; for you know that his father would walk before mine. He has long wooed and loved me; but you, madam, who have never forgiven me the smallest fault nor praised me for any good deed, you — although you knew from experience that I was not wont to speak of love or worldly things, and that I led a more retired and religious life than any other of your maids — forthwith deemed it strange that I should speak with a gentleman who is as unfortunate in this life as I am myself, and one, moreover, in whose friendship I thought and looked to have nothing save comfort to my soul. When I found myself wholly baffled in this design, I fell into great despair, and resolved to seek my peace as earnestly as you longed to rob me of it; whereupon we exchanged words of marriage, and confirmed them with promise and ring. Wherefore, madam, methinks you do me a grievous wrong in calling me wicked, seeing that in this great and perfect love, wherein opportunity, had I so desired, would not have been lacking, no greater familiarity has passed between us than a kiss. I have waited in the hope that, before the consummation of the marriage, I might by the grace of God win my father’s heart to consent to it. I have given no offence to God or to my conscience, for I have waited till the age of thirty to see what you and my father would do for me, and have kept my youth in such chastity and virtue that no living man can bring up aught against me. But when I found that I was old and without hope of being wedded suitably to my birth and condition, I used the reason that God has given me, and resolved to marry a gentleman after my own heart. And this I did not to gratify the lust of the eye, for you know that he is not handsome; nor the lust of the flesh, for there has been no carnal consummation of our marriage; nor the ambition and pride of life, for he is poor and of small rank; but I took account purely and simply of the worth that is in him, for which every one is constrained to praise him, and also of the great love that he bears me, and that gives me hope of having a life of quietness and kindness with him. Having carefully weighed all the good and the evil that may come of it, I have done what seems to me best, and, after considering the matter in my heart for two years, I am resolved to pass the remainder of my days with him. And so firm is my resolve that no torment that may be inflicted upon me, nor even death itself, shall ever cause me to depart from it. Wherefore, madam, I pray you excuse that which is indeed very excusable, as you yourself must realise, and suffer me to dwell in that peace which I hope to find with him.”

The Queen, finding her so steadfast of countenance and so true of speech, could make no reply in reason, but continued wrathfully rebuking and reviling her, bursting into tears and saying —

“Wretch that you are! instead of humbling yourself before me, and repenting of so grievous a fault, you speak hardily with never a tear in your eye, and thus clearly show the obstinacy and hardness of your heart. But if the King and your father give heed to me, they will put you into a place where you will be compelled to speak after a different fashion.”

“Madam,” replied Rolandine, “since you charge me with speaking too hardily, I will e’en be silent if you give me not permission to reply to you.”

Then, being commanded to speak, she went on —

“’Tis not for me, madam, to speak to you, my mistress and the greatest Princess in Christendom, hardily and without the reverence that I owe to you, nor have I purposed doing so; but I have no defender to speak for me except the truth, and as this is known to me alone, I am forced to utter it fearlessly in the hope that, when you know it, you will not hold me for such as you have been pleased to name me. I fear not that any living being should learn how I have comported myself in the matter that is laid to my charge, for I know that I have offended neither against God nor against my honour. And this it is that enables me to speak without fear; for I feel sure that He who sees my heart is on my side, and with such a Judge in my favour, I were wrong to fear such as are subject to His decision. Why should I weep? My conscience and my heart do not at all rebuke me, and so far am I from repenting of this matter, that, were it to be done over again, I should do just the same. But you, madam, have good cause to weep both for the deep wrong that you have done me throughout my youth, and for that which you are now doing me, in rebuking me publicly for a fault that should be laid at your door rather than at mine. Had I offended God, the King, yourself, my kinsfolk or my conscience, I were indeed obstinate and perverse if I did not greatly repent with tears; but I may not weep for that which is excellent, just and holy, and which would have received only commendation had you not made it known before the proper time. In doing this, you have shown that you had a greater desire to compass my dishonour than to preserve the honour of your house and kin. But, since such is your pleasure, madam, I have nothing to say against it; command me what suffering you will, and I, innocent though I am, will be as glad to endure as you to inflict it. Wherefore, madam, you may charge my father to inflict whatsoever torment you would have me undergo, for I well know that he will not fail to obey you. It is pleasant to know that, to work me ill, he will wholly fall in with your desire, and that as he has neglected my welfare in submission to your will, so will he be quick to obey you to my hurt. But I have a Father in Heaven, and He will, I am sure, give me patience equal to all the evils that I foresee you preparing for me, and in Him alone do I put my perfect trust.”

The Queen, beside herself with wrath, commanded that Rolandine should be taken from her sight and put into a room alone, where she might have speech with no one. However, her governess was not taken from her, and through her Rolandine acquainted the Bastard with all that had befallen her, and asked him what he would have her do. He, thinking that his services to the King might avail him something, came with all speed to the Court. Finding the King at the chase, he told him the whole truth, entreating him to favour a poor gentleman so far as to appease the Queen and bring about the consummation of the marriage.

The King made no reply except to ask —

“Do you assure me that you have wedded her?”

“Yes, sire,” said the Bastard, “but by word of mouth alone; however, if it please you, we’ll make an ending of it.”

The King bent his head, and, without saying anything more, returned straight towards the castle, and when he was nigh to it summoned the Captain of his Guard, and charged him to take the Bastard prisoner.

However, a friend who knew and could interpret the King’s visage, warned the Bastard to withdraw and betake himself to a house of his that was hard by, saying that if the King, as he expected, sought for him, he should know of it forthwith, so that he might fly the kingdom; whilst if, on the other hand, things became smoother, he should have word to return. The Bastard followed this counsel, and made such speed that the Captain of the Guards was not able to find him.

The King and Queen took counsel together as to what they should do with the hapless lady who had the honour of being related to them, and by the Queen’s advice it was decided that she should be sent back to her father, and that he should be made acquainted with the whole truth.

But before sending her away they caused many priests and councillors to speak with her and show her that, since her marriage consisted in words only, it might by mutual agreement readily be made void; and this, they urged, the King desired her to do in order to maintain the honour of the house to which she belonged.

She made answer that she was ready to obey the King in all such things as were not contrary to her conscience, but that those whom God had brought together man could not put asunder. She therefore begged them not to tempt her to anything so unreasonable; for if love and goodwill founded on the fear of God were the true and certain marriage ties, she was linked by bonds that neither steel nor flame nor water could sever. Death alone might do this, and to death alone would she resign her ring and her oath. She therefore prayed them to gainsay her no more; for so strong of purpose was she that she would rather keep faith and die than break it and live.

This steadfast reply was repeated to the King by those whom he had appointed to speak with her, and when it was found that she could by no means be brought to renounce her husband, she was sent to her father, and this in so pitiful a plight that all who beheld her pass wept to see her. And although she had done wrong, her punishment was so grievous and her constancy so great, that her wrongdoing was made to appear a virtue.

When her father heard the pitiful tale, he would not see her, but sent her away to a castle in a forest, which he had aforetime built for a reason well worthy to be related. 14 There he kept her in prison for a long time, causing her to be told that if she would give up her husband he would treat her as his daughter and set her free.

14 The famous château of Josselin in Morbihan. See notes to Tale XL., vol. lv. — Ed.

Nevertheless she continued firm, for she preferred the bonds of prison together with those of marriage, to all the freedom in the world without her husband. And, judging from her countenance, all her woes seemed but pleasant pastimes to her, since she was enduring them for one she loved.

And now, what shall I say of men? The Bastard, who was so deeply beholden to her, as you have seen, fled to Germany where he had many friends, and there showed by his fickleness that he had sought Rolandine less from true and perfect love than from avarice and ambition; for he fell deeply in love with a German lady, and forgot to write to the woman who for his sake was enduring so much tribulation. However cruel Fortune might be towards them, they were always able to write to each other, until he conceived this foolish and wicked love. And Rolandine’s heart gaining an inkling of it, she could no longer rest.

And afterwards, when she found that his letters were colder and different from what they had been before, she suspected that some new love was separating her from her husband, and doing that which all the torments and afflictions laid upon herself had been unable to effect. Nevertheless, her perfect love would not pass judgment on mere suspicion, so she found a means of secretly sending a trusty servant, not to carry letters or messages to him, but to watch him and discover the truth. When this servant had returned from his journey, he told her that the Bastard was indeed deeply in love with a German lady, and that according to common report he was seeking to marry her, for she was very rich.

These tidings brought extreme and unendurable grief to Rolandine’s heart, so that she fell grievously sick. Those who knew the cause of her sickness, told her on behalf of her father that, with this great wickedness on the part of the Bastard before her eyes, she might now justly renounce him. They did all they could to persuade her to that intent, but, notwithstanding her exceeding anguish, she could not be brought to change her purpose, and in this last temptation again gave proof of her great love and surpassing virtue. For as love grew less and less on his part, so did it grow greater on hers, and in this way make good that which was lost. And when she knew that the entire and perfect love that once had been shared by both remained but in her heart alone, she resolved to preserve it there until one or the other of them should die. And the Divine Goodness, which is perfect charity and true love, took pity upon her grief and long suffering, in such wise that a few days afterwards the Bastard died while occupied in seeking after another woman. Being advised of this by certain persons who had seen him laid in the ground, she sent to her father and begged that he would be pleased to speak with her.

Her father, who had never spoken to her since her imprisonment, came without delay. He listened to all the pleas that she had to urge, and then, instead of rebuking her or killing her as he had often threatened, he took her in his arms and wept exceedingly.

“My daughter,” he said, “you are more in the right than I, for if there has been any wrongdoing in this matter, I have been its principal cause. But now, since God has so ordered it, I would gladly atone for the past.”

He took her home and treated her as his eldest daughter. A gentleman who bore the same name and arms as did her own family sought her in marriage; he was very sensible and virtuous, 15 and he thought so much of Rolandine, whom he often visited, that he gave praise to what others blamed in her, perceiving that virtue had been her only aim. The marriage, being acceptable both to Rolandine and to her father, was concluded without delay.

It is true, however, that a brother she had, the sole heir of their house, would not grant her a portion, for he charged her with having disobeyed her father. And after his father’s death he treated her so harshly that she and her husband (who was a younger son) had much ado to live. 16

15 Peter de Rohan-Gié, Lord of Frontenay, third son of Peter de Rohan, Lord of Gié, Marshal of Prance and preceptor to Francis I. As previously stated, the marriage took place in 1517, and eight years later the husband was killed at Pavia. — Ed.

16 Anne de Rohan (Rolandine) had two brothers, James and Claud. Both died without issue. Some particulars concerning them will be found in the notes to Tale XL. The father’s death, according to Anselme, took place in 1516, that is, prior to Anne’s marriage. — Ed.

However, God provided for them, for the brother that sought to keep everything died suddenly one day, leaving behind him both her wealth, which he was keeping back, and his own.

Thus did she inherit a large and rich estate, whereon she lived piously and virtuously and in her husband’s love. And after she had brought up the two sons that God gave to them, 17 she yielded with gladness her soul to Him in whom she had at all times put her perfect trust.

17 Anne’s sons were René and Claud. Miss Mary Robinson (The Fortunate Lovers, London, 1887) believes René to be “Saffredent,” and his wife Isabel d’Albret, sister of Queen Margaret’s husband Henry of Navarre, to be “Nomerfide." — Ed.

“Now, ladies, let the men who would make us out so fickle come forward and point to an instance of as good a husband as this lady was a good wife, and of one having like faith and steadfastness. I am sure they would find it so difficult to do this, that I will release them from the task rather than put them to such exceeding toil. But as for you, ladies, I would pray you, for the sake of maintaining your own fair fame, either to love not at all, or else to love as perfectly as she did. And let none among you say that this lady offended against her honour, seeing that her constancy has served to heighten our own.”

“In good sooth, Parlamente,” said Oisille, “you have indeed told us the story of a woman possessed of a noble and honourable heart; but her constancy derives half its lustre from the faithlessness of a husband that could leave her for another.”

“I think,” said Longarine, “that the grief so caused must have been the hardest to bear. There is none so heavy that the love of two united lovers cannot support it; but when one fails in his duty, and leaves the whole of the burden to the other, the load becomes too heavy to be endured.”

“Then you ought to pity us,” said Geburon, “for we have to bear the whole burden of love, and you will not put out the tip of a finger to relieve us.”

“Ah, Geburon,” said Parlamente, “the burdens of men and of women are often different enough. The love of a woman, being founded on godliness and honour, is just and reasonable, and any man that is false to it must be reckoned a coward, and a sinner against God and man. On the other hand, most men love only with reference to pleasure, and women, being ignorant of their ill intent, are sometimes ensnared; but when God shows them how vile is the heart of the man whom they deemed good, they may well draw back to save their honour and reputation, for soonest ended is best mended.”

“Nay, that is a whimsical idea of yours,” said Hircan, “to hold that an honourable woman may in all honour betray the love of a man; but that a man may not do as much towards a woman. You would make out that the heart of the one differs from that of the other; but for my part, in spite of their differences in countenance and dress, I hold them to be alike in inclination, except indeed that the guilt which is best concealed is the worst.”

Thereto Parlamente replied with some heat —

“I am well aware that in your opinion the best women are those whose guilt is known.”

“Let us leave this discourse,” said Simontault; “for whether we take the heart of man or the heart of woman, the better of the twain is worth nothing. And now let us see to whom Parlamente is going to give her vote, so that we may hear some fine tale.”

“I give it,” she said, “to Geburon.”

“Since I began,” 18 he replied, “by talking about the Grey friars, I must not forget those of Saint Benedict, nor an adventure in which they were concerned in my own time. Nevertheless, in telling you the story of a wicked monk, I do not wish to hinder you from having a good opinion of such as are virtuous; but since the Psalmist says ‘all men are liars,’ and in another place, ‘there is none that doeth good, no not one,’ 19 I think we are bound to look upon men as they really are. If there be any virtue in them, we must attribute it to Him who is its source, and not to the creature. Most people deceive themselves by giving overmuch praise or glory to the latter, or by thinking that there is something good in themselves. That you may not deem it impossible for exceeding lust to exist under exceeding austerity, listen to what befel in the days of King Francis the First.”

Tailpiece

18 See the first tale he tells, No. 5, vol. i. — Ed.

19 Psalms cxvi. 11 and xiv. 3.

Sister Marie and the Prior
Sister Marie and the Prior

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Tale xxii.

Sister Marie Heroet, being unchastely solicited by a Prior of Saint-Martin-in-the-Fields, was by the grace of God enabled to overcome his great temptations, to the Prior’s exceeding confusion and her own glory. 1

In the city of Paris there was a Prior of Saint-Martin-in-the-Fields, whose name I will keep secret for the sake of the friendship I bore him. Until he reached the age of fifty years, his life was so austere that the fame of his holiness was spread throughout the entire kingdom, and there was not a prince or princess but showed him high honour when he came to visit them. There was further no monkish reform that was not wrought by his hand, so that people called him the “father of true monasticism.” 2

He was chosen visitor to the illustrious order of the “Ladies of Fontevrault,” 3 by whom he was held in such awe that, when he visited any of their convents, the nuns shook with very fear, and to soften his harshness towards them would treat him as though he had been the King himself in person. At first he would not have them do this, but at last, when he was nearly fifty-five years old, he began to find the treatment he had formerly contemned very pleasant; and reckoning himself the mainstay of all monasticism, he gave more care to the preservation of his health than had heretofore been his wont. Although the rules of his order forbade him ever to partake of flesh, he granted himself a dispensation (which was more than he ever did for another), declaring that the whole burden of conventual affairs rested upon him; for which reason he feasted himself so well that, from being a very lean monk he became a very fat one.

1 This story is historical, and though M. Frank indicates points of similarity between it and No. xxvii. of St. Denis’ Comptes du Monde Adventureux, and No. vi. of Masuccio de Solerac’s Novellino, these are of little account when one remembers that the works in question were written posterior to the Heptameron. The incidents related in the tale must have occurred between 1530 and 1535. The Abbey of Saint- Martin-in-the-Fields stood on the site of the present Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers, Paris. — Ed.

2 This prior was Stephen Gentil, who succeeded Philip Bourgoin on December 15, 1508, and died November 6, 1536. The Gallia Christiana states that in 1524 he reformed an abbey of the diocese of Soissons, but makes no mention of his appointment as visitor to the abbey of Fontevrault. Various particulars concerning him will be found in Manor’s Monasterii Regalis S. Martini de Campis, &c. Parisiis, 1636, and in Gallia Christiana, vol. vii. col. 539. — L.

3 The abbey of Fontevrault, near Saumur, Maine-et-Loire, was founded in 1100 by Robert d’Arbrissel, and comprised two conventual establishments, one for men and the other for women. Prior to his death, d’Arbrissel abdicated his authority in favour of Petronilla de Chemillé, and from her time forward monks and nuns alike were always under the sway of an abbess — this being the only instance of the kind in the history of the Roman Catholic Church. Fourteen of the abbesses were princesses, and several of these were of the blood royal of France. In the abbey church were buried our Henry II., Eleanor of Guienne, Richard Coeur-de-Lion, and Isabella of Angoulême; their tombs are still shown, though the abbey has become a prison, and its church a refectory. — Ed.

Together with this change of life there was wrought also a great change of heart, so that he now began to cast glances upon countenances which aforetime he had looked at only as a duty; and, contemplating charms which were rendered even more desirable by the veil, he began to hanker after them. Then, to satisfy this longing, he sought out such cunning devices that at last from being a shepherd he became a wolf, so that in many a convent, where there chanced to be a simple maiden, he failed not to beguile her. But after he had continued this evil life for a long time, the Divine Goodness took compassion upon the poor, wandering sheep, and would no longer suffer this villain’s triumph to endure, as you shall hear.

One day he went to visit the convent of Gif, 4 not far from Paris, and while he was confessing all the nuns, it happened that there was one among them called Marie Heroet, whose speech was so gentle and pleasing that it gave promise of a countenance and heart to match.

4 Gif, an abbey of the Benedictine order, was situated at five leagues from Paris, in the valley of Chevreuse, on the bank of the little river Yvette. A few ruins of it still remain. It appears to have been founded in the eleventh century. — See Le Beuf s Histoire du Diocèse de Paris, vol. viii. part viii. p. 106, and Gallia Christiana, vol. vii. col. 596. — L. and D.

The mere sound of her voice moved him with a passion exceeding any that he had ever felt for other nuns, and, while speaking to her, he bent low to look at her, and perceiving her rosy, winsome mouth, could not refrain from lifting her veil to see whether her eyes were in keeping therewith. He found that they were, and his heart was filled with so ardent a passion that, although he sought to conceal it, his countenance became changed, and he could no longer eat or drink. When he returned to his priory, he could find no rest, but passed his days and nights in deep disquiet, seeking to devise a means whereby he might accomplish his desire, and make of this nun what he had already made of many others. But this, he feared, would be difficult, seeing that he had found her to be prudent of speech and shrewd of understanding; moreover, he knew himself to be old and ugly, and therefore resolved not to employ words but to seek to win her by fear.

Accordingly, not long afterwards, he returned to the convent of Gif aforesaid, where he showed more austerity than he had ever done before, and spoke wrathfully to all the nuns, telling one that her veil was not low enough, another that she carried her head too high, and another that she did not do him reverence as a nun should do. So harsh was he in respect of all these trifles, that they feared him as though he had been a god sitting on the throne of judgment.

Being gouty, he grew very weary in visiting all the usual parts of the convent, and it thus came to pass that about the hour for vespers, an hour which he had himself fixed upon, he found himself in the dormitory, when the Abbess said to him —

“Reverend father, it is time to go to vespers.”

“Go, mother,” he replied, “do you go to vespers. I am so weary that I will remain here, yet not to rest but to speak to Sister Marie, of whom I have had a very bad report, for I am told that she prates like a worldly-minded woman.”

The Abbess, who was aunt to the maiden’s mother, begged him to reprove her soundly, and left her alone with him and a young monk who accompanied him.

When he found himself alone with Sister Marie, he began to lift up her veil, and to tell her to look at him. She answered that the rule of her order forbade her to look at men.

“It is well said, my daughter,” he replied, “but you must not consider us monks as men.”

Then Sister Marie, fearing to sin by disobedience, looked him in the face; but he was so ugly that she though it rather a penance than a sin to look at him.

The good father, after telling her at length of his goodwill towards her, sought to lay his hand upon her breasts; but she repulsed him, as was her duty; whereupon, in great wrath, he said to her —

“Should a nun know that she has breasts?”

“I know that I have,” she replied, “and certes neither you nor any other shall ever touch them. I am not so young and ignorant that I do not know the difference between what is sin and what is not.”

When he saw that such talk would not prevail upon her, he adopted a different plan, and said —

“Alas, my daughter, I must make known to you my extreme need. I have an infirmity which all the physicians hold to be incurable unless I have pleasure with some woman whom I greatly love. For my part, I would rather die than commit a mortal sin; but, when it comes to that, I know that simple fornication is in no wise to be compared with the sin of homicide. So, if you love my life, you will preserve it for me, as well as your own conscience from cruelty.”

She asked him what manner of pleasure he desired to have. He replied that she might safely surrender her conscience to his own, and that he would do nothing that could be a burden to either.

Then, to let her see the beginning of the pastime that he sought, he took her in his arms and tried to throw her upon a bed. She, recognising his evil purpose, defended herself so well with arms and voice that he could only touch her garments. Then, when he saw that all his devices and efforts were being brought to naught, he behaved like a madman and one devoid not only of conscience but of natural reason, for, thrusting his hand under her dress, he scratched wherever his nails could reach with such fury that the poor girl shrieked out, and fell swooning at full length upon the floor.

Hearing this cry, the Abbess came into the dormitory; for while at vespers she had remembered that she had left her niece’s daughter alone with the good father, and feeling some scruples of conscience, she had left the chapel and repaired to the door of the dormitory in order to learn what was going on. On hearing her niece’s voice, she pushed open the door, which was being held by the young monk.

And when the Prior saw the Abbess coming, he pointed to her niece as she lay in a swoon, and said —

“Assuredly, mother, you are greatly to blame that you did not inform me of Sister Marie’s condition. Knowing nothing of her weakness, I caused her to stand before me, and, while I was reproving her, she swooned away as you see.”

They revived her with vinegar and other remedies, and found that she had wounded her head in her fall. When she was recovered, the Prior, fearing that she would tell her aunt the reason of her indisposition, took her aside and said to her —

“I charge you, my daughter, if you would be obedient and hope for salvation, never to speak of what I said to you just now. You must know that it was my exceeding love for you that constrained me, but since I see that you do not wish to love me, I will never speak of it to you again. However, if you be willing, I promise to have you chosen Abbess of one of the three best convents in the kingdom.”

She replied that she would rather die in perpetual imprisonment than have any lover save Him who had died for her on the cross, for she would rather suffer with Him all the evils the world could inflict than possess without Him all its blessings. And she added that he must never again speak to her in such a manner, or she would inform the Abbess; whereas, if he kept silence, so would she.

Thereupon this evil shepherd left her, and in order to make himself appear quite other than he was, and to again have the pleasure of looking upon her he loved, he turned to the Abbess and said —

“I beg, mother, that you will cause all your nuns to sing a Salve Regina in honour of that virgin in whom I rest my hope.”

While this was being done, the old fox did nothing but shed tears, not of devotion, but of grief at his lack of success. All the nuns, thinking that it was for love of the Virgin Mary, held him for a holy man, but Sister Marie, who knew his wickedness, prayed in her heart that one having so little reverence for virginity might be brought to confusion.

And so this hypocrite departed to St. Martin’s, where the evil fire that was in his heart did not cease burning night and day alike, prompting him to all manner of devices in order to compass his ends. As he above all things feared the Abbess, who was a virtuous woman, he hit upon a plan to withdraw her from the convent, and betook himself to Madame de Vendôme, who was at that time living at La Fère, where she had founded and built a convent of the Benedictine order called Mount Olivet. 5

5 This is Mary of Luxemburg, Countess of St. Paul-de- Conversan, Marie and Soissons, who married, first, James of Savoy, and secondly, Francis de Bourbon, Count of Vendôme. The latter, who accompanied Charles VIII. to Italy, was killed at Vercelli in October 1495, when but twenty-five years old. His widow did not marry again, but retired to her château of La Fère near Laon (Aisne), where late in 1518 she founded a convent of Benedictine nuns, which, according to the Gallia Christiana, she called the convent of Mount Calvary. This must be the establishment alluded to by Queen Margaret, who by mistake has called it Mount Olivet, i.e., the Mount of Olives. Madame de Vendôme died at a very advanced age on April 1, 1546. — See Anselme’s Histoire Généalogique, vol. i. p. 326. — L.

Speaking in the quality of a prince of reformers, he gave her to understand that the Abbess of the aforesaid Mount Olivet lacked the capacity to govern such a community. The worthy lady begged him to give her another that should be worthy of the office, and he, who asked nothing better, counselled her to have the Abbess of Gif, as being the most capable in France. Madame de Vendôme sent for her forthwith, and set her over the convent of Mount Olivet.

As the Prior of St. Martin’s had every monastic vote at his disposal, he caused one who was devoted to him to be chosen Abbess of Gif, and this being accomplished, he went to Gif to try once more whether he might win Sister Marie Heroet by prayers or honied words. Finding that he could not succeed, he returned in despair to his priory of St. Martin’s, and in order to achieve his purpose, to revenge himself on her who was so cruel to him, and further to prevent the affair from becoming known, he caused the relics of the aforesaid convent of Gif to be secretly stolen at night, and accusing the confessor of the convent, a virtuous and very aged man, of having stolen them, he cast him into prison at St. Martin’s .

Whilst he held him captive there, he stirred up two witnesses who in ignorance signed what the Prior commanded them, which was a statement that they had seen the confessor in a garden with Sister Marie, engaged in a foul and wicked act; and this the Prior sought to make the old monk confess. But he, who knew all the Prior’s misdoings, entreated him to bring him before the Chapter, saying that there, in presence of all the monks, he would tell the truth of all that he knew. The Prior, fearing that the confessor’s justification would be his own condemnation, would in no wise grant this request; and, finding him firm of purpose, he treated him so ill in prison that some say he brought about his death, and others that he forced him to lay aside his robe and betake himself out of the kingdom of France. Be that as it may, the confessor was never seen again.

The Prior, thinking that he had now a sure hold upon Sister Marie, repaired to the convent, where the Abbess, chosen for this purpose, gainsaid him in nothing. There he began to exercise his authority as visitor, and caused all the nuns to come one after the other into a room that he might hear them, as is the fashion at a visitation. When the turn of Sister Marie, who had now lost her good aunt, had come, he began speaking to her in this wise —

“Sister Marie, you know of what crime you are accused, and that your pretence of chastity has availed you nothing, since you are well known to be the very contrary of chaste.”

“Bring here my accuser,” replied Sister Marie, with steadfast countenance, “and you will see whether in my presence he will abide by his evil declaration.”

“No further proof is needed,” he said, “since the confessor has been found guilty.”

“I hold him for too honourable a man,” said Sister Marie, “to have confessed so great a lie; but even should he have done so, bring him here before me, and I will prove the contrary of what he says.”

The Prior, finding that he could in no wise move her, thereupon said —

“I am your father, and seek to save your honour. For this reason I will leave the truth of the matter to your own conscience, and will believe whatever it bids you say. I ask you and conjure you on pain of mortal sin to tell me truly whether you were indeed a virgin when you were placed in this house?”

“My father,” she replied, “I was then but five years old, and that age must in itself testify to my virginity.”

“Well, my daughter,” said the Prior, “have you not since that time lost this flower?”

She swore that she had kept it, and that she had had no hindrance in doing so except from himself. Whereto he replied that he could not believe it, and that the matter required proof.

“What proof,” she asked, “would you have?”

“The same as from the others,” said the Prior; “for as I am visitor of souls, even so am I visitor of bodies also. Your abbesses and prioresses have all passed through my hands, and you need have no fear if I visit your virginity. Wherefore throw yourself upon the bed, and lift the forepart of your garments over your face.”

“You have told me so much of your wicked love for me,” Sister Marie replied in wrath, “that I think you seek rather to rob me of my virginity than to visit it. So understand that I shall never consent.”

Thereupon he said to her that she was excommunicated for refusing him the obedience which Holy Church commanded, and that, if she did not consent, he would dishonour her before the whole Chapter by declaring the evil that he knew of between herself and the confessor.

But with fearless countenance she replied —

“He that knows the hearts of His servants shall give me as much honour in His presence as you can give me shame in the presence of men; and since your wickedness goes so far, I would rather it wreaked its cruelty upon me than its evil passion; for I know that God is a just judge.”

Then the Prior departed and assembled the whole Chapter, and, causing Sister Marie to appear on her knees before him, he said to her with wondrous malignity —

“Sister Marie, it grieves me to see that the good counsels I have given you have been of no effect, and to find you fallen into such evil ways that, contrary to my wont, I must needs lay a penance upon you. I have examined your confessor concerning certain crimes with which he is charged, and he has confessed to me that he has abused your person in the place where the witnesses say that they saw him. And so I command that, whereas I had formerly raised you to honourable rank as Mistress of the Novices, you shall now be the lowest placed of all, and further, shall eat only bread and water on the ground, and in presence of all the Sisters, until you have shown sufficient penitence to receive forgiveness.”

Sister Marie had been warned by one of her companions, who was acquainted with the whole matter, that if she made any reply displeasing to the Prior, he would put her in pace — that is, in perpetual imprisonment — and she therefore submitted to this sentence, raising her eyes to heaven, and praying Him who had enabled her to withstand sin, to grant her patience for the endurance of tribulation. The Prior of St. Martin’s further commanded that for the space of three years she should neither speak with her mother or kinsfolk when they came to see her, nor send any letters save such as were written in community.

The miscreant then went away and returned no more, and for a long time the unhappy maiden continued in the tribulation that I have described. But her mother, who loved her best of all her children, was much astonished at receiving no tidings from her; and told one of her sons, who was a prudent and honourable gentleman, 6 that she thought her daughter was dead, and that the nuns were hiding it from her in order that they might receive the yearly payment. She, therefore, begged him to devise some means of seeing his sister.

6 It is conjectured by M. Lacroix that this “prudent and honourable gentleman,” Mary Heroet’s brother, was Antoine Heroet or Hérouet, alias La Maisonneuve, who at one time was a valet and secretary to Queen Margaret, and so advanced himself in life that he died Bishop of Digne in 1544. He was the author of La Parfaite Amie, L’Androgyne, and De n’aimer point sans être aimé, poems of a semi-metaphysical, semi- amorous character such as might have come from Margaret’s own pen. Whether he was Mary Heroet’s brother or not, it is at least probable that he was her relative.-B. J. and L.

He went forthwith to the convent, where he met with the wonted excuses, being told that for three years his sister had not stirred from her bed. But this did not satisfy him, and he swore that, if he did not see her, he would climb over the walls and force his way into the convent. Thereupon, being in great fear, they brought his sister to him at the grating, though the Abbess stood so near that she could not tell her brother aught that was not heard. But she had prudently set down in writing all that I have told you, together with a thousand others of the Prior’s devices to deceive her, which ‘twould take too long to relate.

Yet I must not omit to mention that at the time when her aunt was Abbess, the Prior, thinking that his ugliness was the cause of her refusal, had caused Sister Marie to be tempted by a handsome young monk, in the hope that if she yielded to this man through love, he himself might afterwards obtain her through fear. The young monk aforesaid spoke to her in a garden with gestures too shameful to be mentioned, whereat the poor maiden ran to the Abbess, who was talking with the Prior, and cried out —

“Mother, they are not monks, but devils, who visit us here!”

Thereupon the Prior, in great fear of discovery, began to laugh, and said —

“Assuredly, mother, Sister Marie is right.”

Then, taking Sister Marie by the hand, he said to her in presence of the Abbess —

“I had heard that Sister Marie spoke very well, and so constantly that she was deemed to be worldly-minded. For this reason I constrained myself, contrary to my natural inclination, to speak to her in the way that worldly men speak to women — at least in books, for in point of experience I am as ignorant as I was on the day when I was born. Thinking, however, that only my years and ugliness led her to discourse in so virtuous a fashion, I commanded my young monk to speak to her as I myself had done, and, as you see, she has virtuously resisted him. So highly, therefore, do I think of her prudence and virtue, that henceforward she shall rank next after you and shall be Mistress of the Novices, to the intent that her excellent disposition may ever increase in virtue.”

This act, with many others, was done by this worthy monk during the three years that he was in love with the nun. She, however, as I have said, gave her brother in writing, through the grating, the whole story of her pitiful fortunes; and this her brother brought to her mother, who came, overwhelmed with despair, to Paris. Here she found the Queen of Navarre, only sister to the King, and showing her the piteous story, said —

“Madam, trust no more in these hypocrites. I thought that I had placed my daughter within the precincts of Paradise, or on the high road thither, whereas I have placed her in the precincts of Hell, and in the hands of the vilest devils imaginable. The devils, indeed, do not tempt us unless temptation be our pleasure, but these men will take by force when they cannot win by love.”

The Queen of Navarre was in great concern, for she trusted wholly in the Prior of St. Martin’s, to whose care she had committed her sisters-inlaw, the Abbesses of Montivilliers and Caen. 7 On the other hand, the enormity of the crime so horrified her and made her so desirous of avenging the innocence of this unhappy maiden, that she communicated the matter to the King’s Chancellor, who happened also to be Legate in France. 8

7 The abbess of Montivilliers was Catherine d’Albret, daughter of John d’Albret, King of Navarre and sister of Queen Margaret’s husband, Henry. At first a nun at the abbey of St. Magdalen at Orleans, she became twenty-eighth abbess of Montivilliers near Havre. She was still living in 1536. (Gallia Christ., vol. xi. col. 285). The abbess of Caen was Magdalen d’Albret, Catherine’s sister. She took the veil at Fontevrault in 1527, subsequently became thirty-third abbess of the Trinity at Caen, and died in November 1532. (Gallia Christ., vol. xi. col. 436). — L.

8 This is the famous Antony Duprat, Francis I.’s favourite minister. Born in 1463, he became Chancellor in 1515, and his wife dying soon afterwards, he took orders, with the result that he was made Archbishop of Sens and Cardinal. It was in 1530 that he was appointed Papal Legate in France, so that the incidents related in this tale cannot have occurred at an earlier date. Duprat died in July 1535, of grief, it is said, because Francis I. would not support him in his ambitious scheme to secure possession of the papal see, as successor to Clement VII.-B. J. and Ed.

The Prior was sent for, but could find nothing to plead except that he was seventy years of age, and addressing himself to the Queen of Navarre he begged that, for all the good she had ever wished to do him, and in token of all the services he had rendered or had desired to render her, she would be pleased to bring these proceedings to a close, and he would acknowledge that Sister Marie was a pearl of honour and chastity.

On hearing this, the Queen of Navarre was so astonished that she could make no reply, but went off and left him there. The unhappy man then withdrew in great confusion to his monastery, where he would suffer none to see him, and where he lived only one year afterwards. And Sister Marie Heroet, now reputed as highly as she deserved to be, by reason of the virtues that God had given her, was withdrawn from the convent of Gif, where she had endured so much evil, and was by the King made Abbess of the the convent of Giy 9 near Montargis.

9 Giy-les-Nonains, a little village on the river Ouanne, at two leagues and a half from Montargis, department of the Loiret. — L.

This convent she reformed, and there she lived like one filled with the Spirit of God, whom all her life long she ever praised for having of His good grace restored to her both honour and repose.

“There, ladies, you have a story which clearly proves the words of the Gospel, that ‘God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty, and things which are despised of men hath God chosen to bring to nought the glory of those who think themselves something but are in truth nothing.’ 10 And remember, ladies, that without the grace of God there is no good at all in man, just as there is no temptation that with His assistance may not be overcome. This is shown by the abasement of the man who was accounted just, and the exaltation of her whom men were willing to deem a wicked sinner. Thus are verified Our Lord’s words, ‘Whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.’” 11

10 I Corinthians i. 27, 28, slightly modified.

11 St. Luke xiv. 11 and xviii. 14.

“Alas,” said Oisille, “how many virtuous persons did that Prior deceive! For I saw people put more trust in him than even in God.”

I should not have done so,” said Nomerfide, “for such is my horror of monks that I could not confess to one. I believe they are worse than all other men, and never frequent a house without leaving disgrace or dissension behind them.”

“There are good ones among them,” said Oisille, “and they ought not to be judged by the bad alone; but the best are those that least often visit laymen’s houses and women.”

“You are right,” said Ennasuite. “The less they are seen, the less they are known, and therefore the more highly are they esteemed; for companionship with them shows what they really are.”

“Let us say no more about them,” said Nomerfide, “and see to whom Geburon will give his vote.”

“I shall give it,” said he, “to Madame Oisille, that she may tell us something to the credit of Holy Church.” 12

12 In lieu of this phrase, the De Thou MS. of the Heptameron gives the following: “To make amends for his fault, if fault there were in laying bare the wretched and abominable life of a wicked Churchman, so as to put others on their guard against the hypocrisy of those resembling him, Geburon, who held Madame Oysille in high esteem, as one should hold a lady of discretion, who was no less reluctant to speak evil than prompt to praise and publish the worth which she knew to exist in others, gave her his vote, begging her to tell something to the honour of our holy religion." — L.

“We have sworn,” said Oisille, “to speak the truth, and I cannot therefore undertake such a task. Moreover, in telling your tale you have reminded me of a very pitiful story which I feel constrained to relate, seeing that I am not far from the place where, in my own time, the thing came to pass. I shall tell it also, ladies, to the end that the hypocrisy of those who account themselves more religious than their neighbours, may not so beguile your understanding as to turn your faith out of the right path, and lead you to hope for salvation from any other than Him who has chosen to stand alone in the work of our creation and redemption. He is all powerful to save us unto life eternal, and, in this temporal life, to comfort us and deliver us from all our tribulations. And knowing that Satan often transforms himself into an angel of light so that the outward eye, blinded by the semblance of holiness and devotion, cannot apprehend that from which we ought to flee, I think it well to tell you this tale, which came to pass in our own time.”

Tailpiece

the Grey Friar Deceiving The Gentleman of Périgord
The Grey Friar deceiving the Gentleman Of Périgord

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Tale xxiii.

The excessive reverence shown by a gentleman of Périgord to the Order of St. Francis, brought about the miserable death of his wife, his little child and himself. 1

In the county of Périgord dwelt a gentleman whose devotion to St. Francis was such that in his eyes all who wore the saint’s robe must needs be as holy as the saint himself. To do honour to the latter, he had caused rooms and closets to be furnished in his house for the lodgment of the brethren, and he regulated all his affairs by their advice, even to the most trifling household matters, believing that he must needs pursue the right path if he followed their good counsels.

Now it happened that this gentleman’s wife, who was a beautiful woman and as discreet as she was virtuous, was brought to bed of a fine boy, whereat the love which her husband bore her was increased twofold. One day, in order to entertain his dear, he sent for one of his brothers-in-law, and just as the hour for supper was drawing nigh, there arrived also a Grey Friar, whose name I will keep secret out of regard for his Order. The gentleman was well pleased to see his spiritual father, from whom he had no secrets, and after much talk among his wife, his brother-in-law and the monk, they sat down to supper. While they were at table the gentleman cast his eyes upon his wife, who was indeed beautiful and graceful enough to be desired of a husband, and thereupon asked this question aloud of the worthy father —

“Is it true, father, that a man commits mortal sin if he lies with his wife at the time of her lying-in?” 2

1 Etienne introduces this tale into his Apologie pour Hérodote, ch. xxi. — B. J.

2 Meaning the period between her delivery and her churching. — Ed.

The worthy father, whose speech and countenance belied his heart, answered with an angry look —

“Undoubtedly, sir, I hold this to be one of the very greatest sins that can be committed in the married state. The blessed Virgin Mary would not enter the temple until the days of her purification were accomplished, although she had no need of these; and if she, in order to obey the law, refrained from going to the temple wherein was all her consolation, you should of a surety not fail to abstain from such slight pleasure. Moreover, physicians say that there is great risk to the offspring so begotten.”

When the gentleman heard these words, he was greatly downcast, for he had hoped that the good Friar would give him the permission he sought; however, he said no more. Meanwhile the worthy father, who had drunk more than was needful, looked at the lady, 3 thinking to himself that, if he were her husband, he would ask no Friar’s advice before lying with her; and just as a fire kindles little by little until at last it envelops the whole house, so this monk began to burn with such exceeding lust that he suddenly resolved to satisfy a desire which for three years he had carried hidden in his heart.

3 The French word here is damoiselle, by which appellation the lady is called throughout the story. Her husband, being a petty nobleman, was a damoiseau, whence the name given to his wife. The word damoiselle is frequently employed in the Heptameron, and though sometimes it merely signifies an attendant on a lady, the reference is more frequently to a woman of gentle birth, whether she be spinster, wife or widow. Only women of high nobility and of the blood royal were at that time called Madame. — Ed.

After the tables had been withdrawn, he took the gentleman by the hand, and, leading him to his wife’s bedside, 4 said to him in her presence —

“It moves my pity, sir, to see the great love which exists between you and this lady, and which, added to your extreme youth, torments you so sore. I have therefore determined to tell you a secret of our sacred theology which is that, although the rule be made thus strict by reason of the abuses committed by indiscreet husbands, it does not suffer that such as are of good conscience like you should be balked of all intercourse. If then, sir, before others I have stated in all its severity the command of the law, I will now reveal to you, who are a prudent man, its mildness also. Know then, my son, that there are women and women, just as there are men and men. In the first place, my lady here must tell us whether, three weeks having gone by since her delivery, the flow of blood has quite ceased?”

4 The supper would appear to have been served in the bedroom, and the tables were taken away as soon as the repast was over. It seems to us very ridiculous when on the modern stage we see a couple of lackeys bring in a table laden with viands and carry it away again as soon as the dramatis personæ have dined or supped. Yet this was the common practice in France in Queen Margaret’s time. — Ed.

The lady replied that it had.

“Then,” said the Friar, “I permit you to lie with her without scruple, provided that you are willing to promise me two things.”

The gentleman replied that he was willing.

“The first,” said the good father, “is that you speak to no one concerning this matter, but come here in secret. The second is that you do not come until two hours after midnight, so that the good lady’s digestion be not hindered.”

These things the gentleman promised; and he confirmed his promise with so strong an oath that the other, knowing him to be foolish rather than false, was quite satisfied.

After much converse the good father withdrew to his chamber, giving them good-night and an abundant blessing. But, as he was going, he took the gentleman by the hand, and said to him —

“You too, sir, i’ faith must come, nor keep your poor lady longer awake.”

Thereupon the gentleman kissed her. “Sweetheart,” said he, and the good father heard him plainly, “leave the door of your room open for me.”

And so each withdrew to his own chamber.

On leaving them the Friar gave no heed to sleep or to repose, and, as soon as all the noises in the house were still, he went as softly as possible straight to the lady’s chamber, at about the hour when he was wont to go to matins, and finding the door open in expectation of the master’s coming, he went in, cleverly put out the light, and speedily got into bed with the lady, without speaking a single word.

The lady, believing him to be her husband, said —

“How is this, love? you have kept but poorly the promise you gave last evening to our confessor that you would not come here before two o’clock.”

The Friar, who was more eager for action than for contemplation, and who, moreover, was fearful of being recognised, gave more thought to satisfying the wicked desires that had long poisoned his heart than to giving her any reply; whereat the lady wondered greatly. When the friar found the husband’s hour drawing near, he rose from the lady’s side and returned with all speed to his own chamber.

Then, just as the frenzy of lust had robbed him of sleep, so now the fear that always follows upon wickedness would not suffer him to rest. Accordingly, he went to the porter of the house and said to him —

“Friend, your master has charged me to go without delay and offer up prayers for him at our convent, where he is accustomed to perform his devotions. Wherefore, I pray you, give me my horse and open the door without letting any one be the wiser; for the mission is both pressing and secret.”

The porter knew that obedience to the Friar was service acceptable to his master, and so he opened the door secretly and let him out.

Just at that time the gentleman awoke. Finding that it was close on the hour which the good father had appointed him for visiting his wife, he got up in his bedgown and repaired swiftly to that bed whither by God’s ordinance, and without need of the license of man, it was lawful for him to go.

When his wife heard him speaking beside her, she was greatly astonished, and, not knowing what had occurred, said to him —

“Nay, sir, is it possible that, after your promise to the good father to be heedful of your own health and of mine, you not only come before the hour appointed, but even return a second time? Think on it, sir, I pray you.”

On hearing this, the gentleman was so much disconcerted that he could not conceal it, and said to her —

“What do these words mean? I know of a truth that I have not lain with you for three weeks, and yet you rebuke me for coming too often. If you continue to talk in this way, you will make me think that my company is irksome to you, and will drive me, contrary to my wont and will, to seek elsewhere that pleasure which, by the law of God, I should have with you.”

The lady thought that he was jesting, and replied —

“I pray you, sir, deceive not yourself in seeking to deceive me; for although you said nothing when you came, I knew very well that you were here.”

Then the gentleman saw that they had both been deceived, and solemnly vowed to her that he had not been with her before; whereat the lady, weeping in dire distress, besought him to find out with all despatch who it could have been, seeing that besides themselves only his brother-in-law and the Friar slept in the house.

Impelled by suspicion of the Friar, the gentleman forthwith went in all haste to the room where he had been lodged, and found it empty; whereupon, to make yet more certain whether he had fled, he sent for the man who kept the door, and asked him whether he knew what had become of the Friar. And the man told him the whole truth.

The gentleman, being now convinced of the Friar’s wickedness, returned to his wife’s room, and said to her —

“Of a certainty, sweetheart, the man who lay with you and did such fine things was our Father Confessor.”

The lady, who all her life long had held her honour dear, was overwhelmed with despair, and laying aside all humanity and womanly nature, besought her husband on her knees to avenge this foul wrong; whereupon the gentleman immediately mounted his horse and went in pursuit of the Friar.

The lady remained all alone in her bed, with no counsel or comfort near her but her little newborn child. She reflected upon the strange and horrible adventure that had befallen her, and, without making any excuse for her ignorance, deemed herself guilty as well as the unhappiest woman in the world. She had never learned aught of the Friars, save to have confidence in good works, and seek atonement for sins by austerity of life, fasting and discipline; she was wholly ignorant of the pardon granted by our good God through the merits of His Son, the remission of sins by His blood, the reconciliation of the Father with us through His death, and the life given to sinners by His sole goodness and mercy; and so, assailed by despair based on the enormity and magnitude of her sin, the love of her husband and the honour of her house, she thought that death would be far happier than such a life as hers. And, overcome by sorrow, she fell into such despair that she was not only turned aside from the hope which every Christian should have in God, but she forgot her own nature, and was wholly bereft of common sense.

Then, overpowered by grief, and driven by despair from all knowledge of God and herself, this frenzied, frantic woman took a cord from the bed and strangled herself with her own hands.

And worse even than this, amidst the agony of this cruel death, whilst her body was struggling against it, she set her foot upon the face of her little child, whose innocence did not avail to save it from following in death its sorrowful and suffering mother. While dying, however, the infant uttered so piercing a cry that a woman who slept in the room rose in great haste and lit the candle. Then, seeing her mistress hanging strangled by the bed-cord, and the child stifled and dead under her feet, she ran in great affright to the apartment of her mistress’s brother, and brought him to see the pitiful sight.

The brother, after giving way to such grief as was natural and fitting in one who loved his sister with his whole heart, asked the serving-woman who it was that had committed this terrible crime.

She replied that she did not know; but that no one had entered the room excepting her master, and he had but lately left it. The brother then went to the gentleman’s room, and not finding him there, felt sure that he had done the deed. So, mounting his horse without further inquiry, he hastened in pursuit and met with him on the road as he was returning disconsolate at not having been able to overtake the Grey Friar.

As soon as the lady’s brother saw his brother-in-law, he cried out to him —

“Villain and coward, defend yourself, for I trust that God will by this sword avenge me on you this day.”

The gentleman would have expostulated, but his brother-in-law’s sword was pressing so close upon him that he found it of more importance to defend himself than to inquire the reason of the quarrel; whereupon each dealt the other so many wounds that they were at last compelled by weariness and loss of blood to sit down on the ground face to face.

And while they were recovering breath, the gentleman asked —

“What cause, brother, has turned our deep and unbroken friendship to such cruel strife as this?”

“Nay,” replied the brother-in-law, “what cause has moved you to slay my sister, the most excellent woman that ever lived, and this in so cowardly a fashion that under pretence of sleeping with her you have hanged and strangled her with the bed-cord?”

On hearing these words the gentleman, more dead than alive, came to his brother, and putting his arms around him, said —

“Is it possible that you have found your sister in the state you say?”

The brother-in-law assured him that it was indeed so.

“I pray you, brother,” the gentleman thereupon replied, “hearken to the reason why I left the house.”

Forthwith he told him all about the wicked Grey Friar, whereat his brother-in-law was greatly astonished, and still more grieved that he should have unjustly attacked him.

Entreating pardon, he said to him —

“I have wronged you; forgive me.”

“If you were ever wronged by me,” replied the gentleman, “I have been well punished, for I am so sorely wounded that I cannot hope to recover.”

Then the brother-in-law put him on horseback again as well as he might, and brought him back to the house, where on the morrow he died. And the brother-in-law confessed in presence of all the gentleman’s relatives that he had been the cause of his death.

However, for the satisfaction of justice, he was advised to go and solicit pardon from King Francis, first of the name; and accordingly, after giving honourable burial to husband, wife and child, he departed on Good Friday to the Court in order to sue there for pardon, which he obtained through the good offices of Master Francis Olivier, then Chancellor of Alençon, afterwards chosen by the King, for his merits, to be Chancellor of France. 5

5 M. de Montaiglon has vainly searched the French Archives for the letters of remission granted to the gentleman. There is no mention of them in the registers of the Trésor des Chartes. Francis Olivier, alluded to above, was one of the most famous magistrates of the sixteenth century. Son of James Olivier, First President of the Parliament of Paris and Bishop of Angers, he was born in 1493 and became successively advocate, member of the Grand Council, ambassador, Chancellor of Alençon, President of the Paris Parliament, Keeper of the Seals and Chancellor of France. This latter dignity was conferred upon him through Queen Margaret’s influence in April 1545. The above tale must have been written subsequent to that date. Olivier’s talents were still held in high esteem under both Henry II. and Francis II.; he died in 1590, aged 67. — (Blanchard’s Éloges de tous les Présidents du Parlement, &c., Paris, 1645, in-fol. p. 185.)

Ste. Marthe, in his funeral oration on Queen Margaret, refers to Olivier in the following pompous strain: “When Brinon died Chancellor of this duchy of Alençon, Francis Olivier was set in his place, and so greatly adorned this dignity by his admirable virtues, and so increased the grandeur of the office of Chancellor, that, like one of exceeding merit on whom Divine Providence, disposing of the affairs of France, has conferred a more exalted office, he is today raised to the highest degree of honour, and, even as Atlas upholds the Heavens upon his shoulders, so he by his prudence doth uphold the entire Gallic commonwealth." — M. L. and Ed.

“I am of opinion, ladies, that after hearing this true story there is none among you but will think twice before lodging such knaves in her house, and will be persuaded that hidden poison is always the most dangerous.”

“Remember,” said Hircan, “that the husband was a great fool to bring such a gallant to sup with his fair and virtuous wife.”

“I have known the time,” said Geburon, “when in our part of the country there was not a house but had a room set apart for the good fathers; but now they are known so well that they are dreaded more than bandits.”

“It seems to me,” said Parlamente, “that when a woman is in bed she should never allow a priest to enter the room, unless it be to administer to her the sacraments of the Church. For my own part, when I send for them, I may indeed be deemed at the point of death.”

“If every one were as strict as you are,” said Ennasuite, “the poor priests would be worse than excommunicated, in being wholly shut off from the sight of women.”

“Have no such fear on their account,” said Saffredent; “they will never want for women.”

“Why,” said Simontault, “’tis the very men that have united us to our wives by the marriage tie that wickedly seek to loose it and bring about the breaking of the oath which they have themselves laid upon us.”

“It is a great pity,” said Oisille, “that those who administer the sacraments should thus trifle with them. They ought to be burned alive.”

“You would do better to honour rather than blame them,” said Saffredent, “and to flatter rather than revile them, for they are men who have it in their power to burn and dishonour others. Wherefore ’sinite eos,’ and let us see to whom Oisille will give her vote.”

“I give it,” said she, “to Dagoucin, for he has become so thoughtful that I think he must have made ready to tell us something good.”

“Since I cannot and dare not reply as I would,” said Dagoucin, “I will at least tell of a man to whom similar cruelty at first brought hurt but afterwards profit. Although Love accounts himself so strong and powerful that he will go naked, and finds it irksome, nay intolerable, to go cloaked, nevertheless, ladies, it often happens that those who, following his counsel, are over-quick in declaring themselves, find themselves the worse for it. Such was the experience of a Castilian gentleman, whose story you shall now hear.”

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Elisor Showing the Queen Her Own Image
Elisor showing the Queen her own Image

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Tale xxiv.

Elisor, having unwisely ventured to discover his love to the Queen of Castile, was by her put to the test in so cruel a fashion that he suffered sorely, yet did he reap advantage therefrom.

In the household of the King and Queen of Castile, 1 whose names shall not be mentioned, there was a gentleman of such perfection in all qualities of mind and body, that his like could not be found in all the Spains. All wondered at his merits, but still more at the strangeness of his temper, for he had never been known to love or have connection with any lady. There were very many at Court that might have set his icy nature afire, but there was not one among them whose charms had power to attract Elisor; for so this gentleman was called.

1 M. Lacroix conjectures that the sovereigns referred to are Ferdinand and Isabella, but this appears to us a baseless supposition. The conduct of the Queen in the story is in no wise in keeping with what we know of Isabella’s character. Queen Margaret doubtless heard this tale during her sojourn in Spain in 1525. We have consulted many Spanish works, and notably collections of the old ballads, in the hope of being able to throw some light on the incidents related, but have been no more successful than previous commentators. — Ed.

The Queen, who was a virtuous woman but by no means free from that flame which proves all the fiercer the less it is perceived, was much astonished to find that this gentleman loved none of her ladies; and one day she asked him whether it were possible that he could indeed love as little as he seemed to do.

He replied that if she could look upon his heart as she did his face, she would not ask him such a question. Desiring to know his meaning, she pressed him so closely that he confessed he loved a lady whom he deemed the most virtuous in all Christendom. The Queen did all that she could by entreaties and commands to find out who the lady might be, but in vain; whereupon, feigning great wrath, she vowed that she would never speak to him any more if he did not tell her the name of the lady he so dearly loved. At this he was greatly disturbed, and was constrained to say that he would rather die, if need were, than name her.

Finding, however, that he would lose the Queen’s presence and favour in default of telling her a thing in itself so honourable that it ought not to be taken in ill part by any one, he said to her in great fear —

“I cannot and dare not tell you, madam, but the first time you go hunting I will show her to you, and I feel sure that you will deem her the fairest and most perfect lady in the world.”

This reply caused the Queen to go hunting sooner than she would otherwise have done.

Elisor, having notice of this, made ready to attend her as was his wont, and caused a large steel mirror after the fashion of a corselet to be made for him, which he placed upon his breast and covered with a cloak of black frieze, bordered with purflew and gold braid. He was mounted on a coal-black steed, well caparisoned with everything needful to the equipment of a horse, and such part of this as was metal was wholly of gold, wrought with black enamel in the Moorish style. 2

2 Damascened. — Ed.

His hat was of black silk, and to it was fastened a rich medal on which by way of device was engraved the god of Love subdued by Force, the whole enriched with precious stones. His sword and dagger were no less handsomely and choicely ordered. In a word, he was most bravely equipped, while so skilled was his horsemanship that all who saw him left the pleasures of the chase to watch the leaps and paces of his steed.

After bringing the Queen in this fashion to the place where the nets were spread, he dismounted from his noble horse and went to assist the Queen to alight from her palfrey. And whilst she was stretching out her hands to him, he threw his cloak back from before his breast, and taking her in his arms, showed her his corselet-mirror, saying —

“I pray you, madam, look here.”

Then, without waiting for her reply, he set her down gently upon the ground.

When the hunt was over, the Queen returned to the castle without speaking to Elisor, but after supper she called him to her and told him that he was the greatest liar she had ever seen; for he had promised to show her at the hunt the lady whom he loved the best, but had not done so, for which reason she was resolved to hold him in esteem no more.

Elisor, fearing that the Queen had not understood the words he had spoken to her, answered that he had indeed obeyed her, for he had shown her not merely the woman but the thing also, that he loved best in all the world.

Pretending that she did not understand him, she replied that he had not, to her knowledge, shown her a single one among her ladies.

“That is true, madam,” said Elisor, “but what did I show you when I helped you off your horse?”

“Nothing,” said the Queen, “except a mirror on your breast.”

“And what did you see in the mirror?” said Elisor.

“I saw nothing but myself,” replied the Queen.

“Then, madam,” said Elisor, “I have kept faith with you and obeyed your command. There is not, nor ever will there be, another image in my heart save that which you saw upon my breast. Her alone will I love, reverence and worship, not as a woman merely, but as my very God on earth, in whose hands I place my life or my death, entreating her withal that the deep and perfect affection, which was my life whilst it remained concealed, may not prove my death now that it is discovered. And though I be not worthy that you should look on me or accept me for your lover, at least suffer me to live, as hitherto, in the happy consciousness that my heart has chosen so perfect and so worthy an object for its love, wherefrom I can have no other satisfaction than the knowledge that my love is deep and perfect, seeing that I must be content to love without hope of return. And if, now knowing this great love of mine, you should not be pleased to favour me more than heretofore, at least do not deprive me of life, which for me consists wholly in the delight of seeing you as usual. I now have from you nought but what my utmost need requires, and should I have less, you will have a servant the less, for you will lose the best and most devoted that you have ever had or could ever look to have.”

The Queen — whether to show herself other than she really was, or to thoroughly try the love he bore her, or because she loved another whom she would not cast off, or because she wished to hold him in reserve to put him in the place of her actual lover should the latter give her any offence — said to him, with a countenance that showed neither anger nor content — “Elisor, I will not feign ignorance of the potency of love, and say aught to you concerning your foolishness in aiming at so high and hard a thing as the love of me; for I know that man’s heart is so little under his own control, that he cannot love or hate at will. But, since you have concealed your feelings so well, I would fain know how long it is since you first entertained them.”

Elisor, gazing at her beauteous face and hearing her thus inquire concerning his sickness, hoped that she might be willing to afford him a remedy. But at the same time, observing the grave and staid expression of her countenance, he became afraid, feeling himself to be in the presence of a judge whose sentence, he suspected, would be against him. Nevertheless he swore to her that this love had taken root in his heart in the days of his earliest youth, though it was only during the past seven years that it had caused him pain, — and yet, in truth, not pain, but so pleasing a sickness that its cure would be his death.

“Since you have displayed such lengthened steadfastness,” said the Queen, “I must not show more haste in believing you, than you have shown in telling me of your affection. If, therefore, it be as you say, I will so test your sincerity that I shall never afterwards be able to doubt it; and having proved your pain, I will hold you to be towards me such as you yourself swear you are; and on my knowing you to be what you say, you, for your part, shall find me to be what you desire.”

Elisor begged her to test him in any way she pleased, there being nothing, he said, so difficult that it would not appear very easy to him, if he might have the honour of proving his love to her; and accordingly he begged her once more to command him as to what she would to have him do.

“Elisor,” she replied, “if you love me as much as you say, I am sure that you will deem nothing hard of accomplishment if only it may bring you my favour. I therefore command you, by your desire of winning it and your fear of losing it, to depart hence to-morrow morning without seeing me again, and to repair to some place where, until this day seven years, you shall hear nothing of me nor I anything of you. You, who have had seven years’ experience of this love, know that you do indeed love me; and when I have had a like experience, I too shall know and believe what your words cannot now make me either believe or understand.”

When Elisor heard this cruel command, he on the one hand suspected that she desired to remove him from her presence, yet, on the other, he hoped that this proof would plead more eloquently for him than any words he could utter. He therefore submitted to her command, and said —

“For seven years I have lived hopeless, bearing in my breast a hidden flame; now, however, that this is known to you, I shall spend these other seven years in patience and trust. But, madam, while I obey your command, which robs me of all the happiness that I have heretofore had in the world, what hope will you give me that at the end of the seven years you will accept me as your faithful and devoted lover?”

“Here is a ring,” said the Queen, drawing one from her finger, “which we will cut in two. I will keep one half, and you shall keep the other, 3 so that I may know you by this token, if the lapse of time should cause me to forget your face.”

3 This was a common practice at the time between lovers, and even between husbands and wives. There is the familiar but doubtful story of Frances de Foix, Countess of Châteaubriant, who became Francis I.’s mistress, and who is said to have divided a ring in this manner with her husband, it being understood between them that she was not to repair to Court, or even leave her residence in Brittany, unless her husband sent her as a token the half of the ring which he had kept. Francis I., we are told, heard of this, and causing a ring of the same pattern to be made, he sent half of it to the Countess, who thereupon came to Court, imagining that it was her husband who summoned her. Whether the story be true or not, it should be mentioned that the sole authority for it is Varillas, whose errors and inventions are innumerable. — Ed.

Elisor took the ring and broke it in two, giving one half of it to the Queen, and keeping the other himself. Then, more corpse-like than those who have given up the ghost, he took his leave, and went to his lodging to give orders for his departure. In doing this he sent all his attendants to his house, and departed alone with one servingman to so solitary a spot that none of his friends or kinsfolk could obtain tidings of him during the seven years.

Of the life that he led during this time, and the grief that he endured through this banishment, nothing is recorded, but lovers cannot be ignorant of their nature. At the end of the seven years, just as the Queen was one day going to mass, a hermit with a long beard came to her, kissed her hand, and presented her with a petition. This she did not look at immediately, although it was her custom to receive in her own hands all the petitions that were presented to her, no matter how poor the petitioners might be.

When mass was half over, however, she opened the petition, and found in it the half-ring which she had given to Elisor. At this she was not less glad than astonished, and before reading the contents she instantly commanded her almoner to bring her the tall hermit who had presented her the petition.

The almoner looked for him everywhere, but could obtain no tidings of him, except that some one said that he had seen him mount a horse, but knew not what road he had taken.

Whilst she was waiting for the almoner’s return, the Queen read the petition, which she found to be an epistle in verse, written in the best style imaginable; and were it not that I would have you acquainted with it, I should never have dared to translate it; for you must know, ladies, that, for grace and expression, the Castilian is beyond compare the tongue which is best fitted to set forth the passion of love. The matter of the letter was as follows:—

“Time, by his puissance stern, his sov’reign might,

Hath made me learn love’s character aright;

And, bringing with him, in his gloomy train,

The speechless eloquence of bitter pain,

Hath caused the unbelieving one to know

What words of love were impotent to show.

Time made my heart, aforetime, meekly bow

Unto the mastery of love; but now

Time hath, at last, revealed love to be

Far other than it once appeared to me;

And Time the frail foundation hath made clear

Whereon I purposed, once, my love to rear —

To wit, your beauty, which but served as sheath

To hide the cruelty that lurked beneath.

Yea, Time hath shown me beauty’s nothingness

And taught me e’en your cruelty to bless,

That cruelty which banished me the place

Where I, at least, had gazed upon your face.

And when no more I saw your beauty beam

The harsher yet your cruelty did seem;

Yet in obedience failed I not, and this

Hath been the means of compassing my bliss.

For Time, love’s parent, pitiful at last,

Upon my woe commiserate eyes hath cast,

And done to me so excellent a turn,

That, if I now come back, think not I yearn

To sigh and dally, and renew the spell —

I only come to bid a last farewell.

Time, the revealer, hath not failed to prove

How base and sorry is all human love,

So that through Time, I now that time regret

When all my fancy upon love was set,

For then Time wasted was, lost in love’s chains,

Sorrow whereof is all that now remains.

And Time in teaching me that love’s deceit

Hath brought another, far more pure and sweet,

To dwell within me, in the lonely spot

Where tears and silence long have been my lot.

Time, to my heart, that higher love hath brought

With which the lower can no more be sought;

Time hath the latter into exile driven,

And, to the first, myself hath wholly given,

And consecrated to its service true

The heart and hand I erst had given to you.

When I was yours you nothing showed of grace,

And I that nothing loved, for your fair face;

Then, death for loyalty, you sought to give,

And I, in fleeing it, have learnt to live.

For, by the tender love that Time hath brought

The other vanquished is, and turned to nought;

Once did it lure and lull me, but I swear

It now hath wholly vanished in thin air.

And so your love and you I gladly leave,

And, needing neither, will forbear to grieve;

The other perfect, lasting love is mine,

To it I turn, nor for the lost one pine.

My leave I take of cruelty and pain,

Of hatred, bitter torment, cold disdain,

And those hot flames which fill you, and which fire

Him, that beholds your beauty, with desire.

Nor can I better part from ev’ry throe,

From ev’ry evil hap, and stress of woe,

And the fierce passion of love’s awful hell,

Than by this single utterance: Farewell.

Learn therefore, that whate’er may be in store,

Each other’s faces we shall see no more.”

This letter was not read without many tears and much astonishment on the Queen’s part, together with regret surpassing belief; for the loss of a lover filled with so perfect a love must needs have been keenly felt; and not all her treasures, nor even her kingdom itself, could hinder the Queen from being the poorest and most wretched lady in the world, seeing that she had lost that which all the world’s wealth could not replace. And having heard mass to the end and returned to her apartment, she there made such mourning as her cruelty had provoked. And there was not a mountain, a rock or a forest to which she did not send in quest of the hermit; but He who had withdrawn him out of her hands preserved him from falling into them again, and took him away to Paradise before she could gain tidings of him in this world.

“This instance shows that a lover should never acknowledge that which may do him harm and in no wise help him. And still less, ladies, should you in your incredulity demand so hard a test, lest in getting your proof you lose your lover.”

“Truly, Dagoucin,” said Geburon, “I had all my life long deemed the lady of your story to be the most virtuous in the world, but now I hold her for the most cruel woman that ever lived.”

“Nevertheless,” said Parlamente, “it seems to me that she did him no wrong in wishing to try him for seven years, in order to see whether he did love her as much as he said. Men are so wont to speak falsely in these matters that before trusting them, if indeed one trust them at all, one cannot put them to the proof too long.”

“The ladies of our day,” said Hircan, “are far wiser than those of past times, for they are as sure of a lover after a seven days’ trial as the others were after seven years.”

“Yet there are those in this company,” said Longarine, “who have been loved with all earnestness for seven years and more, and albeit have not been won.”

“‘Fore God,” said Simontault, “you speak the truth; but such as they ought to be ranked with the ladies of former times, for they cannot be recognised as belonging to the present.”

“After all,” said Oisille, “the gentleman was much beholden to the lady, for it was owing to her that he devoted his heart wholly to God.”

“It was very fortunate for him,” said Saffredent, “that he found God upon the way, for, considering the grief he was in, I am surprised that he did not give himself to the devil.”

“And did you give yourself to such a master,” asked Ennasuite, “when your lady ill used you?”

“Yes, thousands of times,” said Saffredent, “but the devil, seeing that all the torments of hell could bring me no more suffering than those which she caused me to endure, never condescended to take me. He knew full well that no devil is so bad as a lady who is deeply loved and will make no return.”

“If I were you,” said Parlamente to Saffredent, “and held such an opinion as that, I would never make love to woman.”

“My affection,” said Saffredent, “and my folly are always so great, that where I cannot command I am well content to serve. All the ill-will of the ladies cannot subdue the love that I bear them. But, I pray you, tell me on your conscience, do you praise this lady for such great harshness?”

“Ay,” said Oisille, “I do, for I think that she wished neither to receive love nor to bestow it.”

“If such was her mind,” said Simontault, “why did she hold out to him the hope of being loved after the seven years were past?”

“I am of your opinion,” said Longarine, “for ladies who are unwilling to love give no occasion for the continuance of the love that is offered them.”

“Perhaps,” said Nomerfide, “she loved some one else less worthy than that honourable gentleman, and so forsook the better for the worse.”

“‘T faith,” said Saffredent, “I think that she meant to keep him in readiness and take him whenever she might leave the other whom for the time she loved the best.”

“I can see,” said Oisille, 4 “that the more we talk in this way, the more those who would not be harshly treated will do their utmost to speak ill of us. Wherefore, Dagoucin, I pray you give some lady your vote.”

4 Prior to this sentence the following passage occurs in the De Thou MS.: “When Madame Oysille saw that the men, under pretence of censuring the Queen of Castille for conduct which certainly cannot be praised either in her or in any other, continued saying so much evil of women, that the most discreet and virtuous were spared no more than the most foolish and wanton, she could endure it no longer, but spoke and said,” &c. — L.

“I give it,” he said, “to Longarine, for I feel sure that she will tell us no melancholy story, and that she will speak the truth without sparing man or woman.”

“Since you deem me so truthful,” said Longarine, “I will be so bold as to relate an adventure that befel a very great Prince, who surpasses in worth all others of his time. Lying and dissimulation are, indeed, things not to be employed save in cases of extreme necessity; they are foul and infamous vices, more especially in Princes and great lords, on whose lips and features truth sits more becomingly than on those of other men. But no Prince in the world however great he be, even though he have all the honours and wealth he may desire, can escape being subject to the empire and tyranny of Love; indeed it would seem that the nobler and more high-minded the Prince, the more does Love strive to bring him under his mighty hand. For this glorious God sets no store by common things; his majesty rejoices solely in the daily working of miracles, such as weakening the strong, strengthening the weak, giving knowledge to the simple, taking intelligence from the most learned, favouring the passions, and overthrowing the reason. In such transformations as these does the Deity of Love delight. Now since Princes are not exempt from love’s thraldom, so also are they not free from its necessities, and must therefore perforce be permitted to employ falsehood, hypocrisy and deceit, which, according to the teaching of Master Jehan de Mehun, 5 are the means to be employed for vanquishing our enemies. And, since such conduct is praiseworthy on the part of a Prince in such a case as this (though in any other it were deserving of blame), I will relate to you the devices to which a young Prince resorted, and by which he contrived to deceive those who are wont to deceive the whole world.”

5 John dc Melun, who continued the Roman de la Rose begun by Lorris. — D.

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the Advocate's Wife Attending on The Prince
The Advocate’s Wife attending on the Prince

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Tale xxv.

A young Prince, whilst pretending to visit his lawyer and talk with him of his affairs, conversed so freely with the lawyer’s wife, that he obtained from her what he desired.

In the city of Paris there dwelt an advocate who was more highly thought of than any other of his condition, 1 and who, being sought after by every one on account of his excellent parts, had become the richest of all those who wore the gown.

Now, although he had had no children by his first wife, he was in hopes of having some by a second; for, although his body was no longer hearty, his heart and hopes were as much alive as ever. Accordingly, he made choice of one of the fairest maidens in the city; she was between eighteen and nineteen years of age, very handsome both in features and complexion, and still more handsome in figure. He loved her and treated her as well as could be; but he had no children by her any more than by his first wife, and this at last made her unhappy. And as youth cannot endure grief, she sought diversion away from home, and betook herself to dances and feasts; yet she did this in so seemly a fashion that her husband could not take it ill, for she was always in the company of women in whom he had trust.

One day, when she was at a wedding, there was also present a Prince of very high degree, who, when telling me the story, forbade me to discover his name. I may, however, tell you that he was the handsomest and most graceful Prince that has ever been or, in my opinion, ever will be in this realm. 2

The Prince, seeing this fair and youthful lady whose eyes and countenance invited him to love her, came and spoke to her with such eloquence and grace that she was well pleased with his discourse.

Nor did she seek to hide from him that she had long had in her heart the love for which he prayed, but entreated that he would spare all pains to persuade her to a thing to which love, at first sight, had brought her to consent. Having, by the artlessness of love, so promptly gained what was well worth the pains of being won by time, the young Prince thanked God for His favour, and forthwith contrived matters so well that they agreed together in devising a means for seeing each other in private.

The young Prince failed not to appear at the time and place that had been agreed upon, and, that he might not injure his lady’s honour, he went in disguise. On account, however, of the evil fellows 3 who were wont to prowl at night through the city, and to whom he cared not to make himself known, he took with him certain gentlemen in whom he trusted.

And on entering the street in which the lady lived, he parted from them, saying —

“If you hear no noise within a quarter of an hour, go home again, and come back here for me at about three or four o’clock.”

They did as they were commanded, and, hearing no noise, withdrew.

The young Prince went straight to his advocate’s house, where he found the door open as had been promised him. But as he was ascending the staircase he met the husband, carrying a candle in his hand, and was perceived by him before he was aware. However Love, who provides wit and boldness to contend with the difficulties that he creates, prompted the young Prince to go straight up to him and say —

“Master advocate, you know the trust which I and all belonging to my house have ever put in you, and how I reckon you among my best and truest servants. I have now thought it well to visit you here in private, both to commend my affairs to you, and also to beg you to give me something to drink, for I am in great thirst. And, I pray you, tell none that I have come here, for from this place I must go to another where I would not be known.”

The worthy advocate was well pleased at the honour which the Prince paid him in coming thus privately to his house, and, leading him to his own room, he bade his wife prepare a collation of the best fruits and confections that she had.

Although the garments she wore, a kerchief and mantle, made her appear more beautiful than ever, the young Prince affected not to look at her or notice her, but spoke unceasingly to her husband about his affairs, as to one who had long had them in his hands. And, whilst the lady was kneeling with the confections before the Prince, and her husband was gone to the sideboard in order to serve him with drink, she told him that on leaving the room he must not fail to enter a closet which he would find on the right hand, and whither she would very soon come to see him.

As soon as he had drunk, he thanked the advocate, who was all eagerness to attend him; but the Prince assured him that in the place whither he was going he had no need of attendance, and thereupon turning to the wife, he said —

“Moreover, I will not do so ill as to deprive you of your excellent husband, who is also an old servant of mine. Well may you render thanks to God since you are so fortunate as to have such a husband, well may you render him service and obedience. If you did otherwise, you would be blameworthy indeed.”

With these virtuous words the young Prince went away, and, closing the door behind him so that he might not be followed to the staircase, he entered the closet, whither also came the fair lady as soon as her husband had fallen asleep.

Thence she led the Prince into a cabinet as choicely furnished as might be, though in truth there were no fairer figures in it than he and she, no matter what garments they may have been pleased to wear. And here, I doubt not, she kept word with him as to all that she had promised.

He departed thence at the hour which he had appointed with his gentlemen, and found them at the spot where he had aforetime bidden them wait.

As this intercourse lasted a fairly long time, the young Prince chose a shorter way to the advocate’s house, and this led him through a monastery of monks. 4 And so well did he contrive matters with the Prior, that the porter used always to open the gate for him about midnight, and do the like also when he returned. And, as the house which he visited was hard by, he used to take nobody with him.

Although he led the life that I have described, he was nevertheless a Prince that feared and loved God, and although he made no pause when going, he never failed on his return to continue for a long time praying in the church. And the monks, who when going to and fro at the hour of matins used to see him there on his knees, were thereby led to consider him the holiest man alive.

This Prince had a sister 5 who often visited this monastery, and as she loved her brother more than any other living being, she used to commend him to the prayers of all whom she knew to be good.

One day, when she was in this manner commending him lovingly to the Prior of the monastery, the Prior said to her —

“Ah, madam, whom are you thus commending to me? You are speaking to me of a man in whose prayers, above those of all others, I would myself fain be remembered. For if he be not a holy man and a just” — here he quoted the passage which says, “Blessed is he that can do evil and doeth it not” — ”I cannot hope to be held for such.”

The sister, wishing to learn what knowledge this worthy father could have of her brother’s goodness, questioned him so pressingly that he at last told her the secret under the seal of the confessional, saying —

“Is it not an admirable thing to see a young and handsome Prince forsake pleasure and repose in order to come so often to hear our matins? Nor comes he like a Prince seeking honour of men, but quite alone, like a simple monk, and hides himself in one of our chapels. Truly such piety so shames both the monks and me, that we do not deem ourselves worthy of being called men of religion in comparison with him.”

When the sister heard these words she was at a loss what to think. She knew that, although her brother was worldly enough, he had a tender conscience, as well as great faith and love towards God; but she had never suspected him of a leaning towards any superstitions or rites save such as a good Christian should observe. 6 She therefore went to him and told him the good opinion that the monks had of him, whereat he could not hold from laughing, and in such a manner that she, knowing him as she did her own heart, perceived that there was something hidden beneath his devotion; whereupon she rested not until she had made him tell her the truth.

And she has made me here set it down in writing, for the purpose, ladies, of showing you that there is no lawyer so crafty and no monk so shrewd, but love, in case of need, gives the power of tricking them both, to those whose sole experience is in truly loving. And since love can thus deceive the deceivers, well may we, who are simple and ignorant folk, stand in awe of him.

“Although,” said Geburon, “I can pretty well guess who the young Prince is, I must say that in this matter he was worthy of praise. We meet with few great lords who reck aught of a woman’s honour or a public scandal, if only they have their pleasure; nay, they are often well pleased to have men believe something that is even worse than the truth.”

“Truly,” said Oisille, “I could wish that all young lords would follow his example, for the scandal is often worse than the sin.”

“Of course,” said Nomerfide, “the prayers he offered up at the monastery through which he passed were sincere.”

“That is not a matter for you to judge,” said Parlamente, “for perhaps his repentance on his return was great enough to procure him the pardon of his sin.”

“’Tis a hard matter,” said Hircan, “to repent of an offence so pleasing. For my own part I have many a time confessed such a one, but seldom have I repented of it.”

“It would be better,” said Oisille, “not to confess at all, if one do not sincerely repent.”

“Well, madam,” said Hircan, “sin sorely displeases me, and I am grieved to offend God, but, for all that, such sin is ever a pleasure to me.”

“You and those like you,” said Parlamente, “would fain have neither God nor law other than your own desires might set up.”

“I will own to you,” said Hircan, “that I would gladly have God take as deep a pleasure in my pleasures as I do myself, for I should then often give Him occasion to rejoice.”

“However, you cannot set up a new God,” said Geburon, “and so we must e’en obey the one we have. Let us therefore leave such disputes to theologians, and allow Longarine to give some one her vote.”

“I give it,” she said, “to Saffredent, but I will beg him to tell us the finest tale he can think of, and not to be so intent on speaking evil of women as to hide the truth when there is something good of them to relate.”

“In sooth,” said Saffredent, “I consent, for I have here in hand the story of a wanton woman and a discreet one, and you shall take example by her who pleases you best. You will see that just as love leads wicked people to do wicked things, so does it lead a virtuous heart to do things that are worthy of praise; for love in itself is good, although the evil that is in those that are subject to it often makes it take a new title, such as wanton, light, cruel or vile. However, you will see from the tale that I am now about to relate that love does not change the heart, but discovers it to be what it really is, wanton in the wanton and discreet in the discreet.”

Tailpiece

1 In five of the oldest MSS. of the Heptameron, and in the original editions of 1558, 1559, and 1560, the words are “than nine others of his condition.” The explanation of this is, that the advocate’s name, as ascertained by Baron Jerome Pichon, was Disome, which, written Dix-hommes, would literally mean “ten men.” Baron Pichon has largely elucidated this story, and the essential points of his notice, contributed to the Mélanges de la Société des Bibliophiles Français, will be found summarized in the Appendix [below]. — Ed.

2 Francis L, prior to his accession. — Ed.

3 The French expression here is mauvais garsons, a name generally given to foot-pads at that time, but applied more particularly to a large band of brigands who, in the confusion prevailing during Francis I.’s captivity in Spain, began to infest the woods and forests around Paris, whence at night-time they descended upon the city. Several engagements were fought between them and the troops of the Queen-Regent, and although their leader, called King Guillot, was captured and hanged, the remnants of the band continued their depredations for several years. — B. J.

4 If at this period Jane Disome, the heroine of the story, lived in the Rue de la Pauheminerie, where she is known to have died some years afterwards, this monastery, in Baron Jerome Pichon’s opinion, would be the Blancs-Manteaux, in the Marais district of Paris. We may further point out that in the Rue Barbette, near by, there was till modern times a house traditionally known as the “hôtel de la belle Féronnière.” That many writers have confused the heroine of this tale with La Belle Féronnière (so called because her husband was a certain Le Féron, an advocate) seems manifest; the intrigue in which the former took part was doubtless ascribed in error to the latter, and the proximity of their abodes may have led to the mistake. It should be pointed out, however, that the amour here recorded by Queen Margaret took place in or about the year 1515, before Francis I. ascended the throne, whereas La Féronnière was in all her beauty between 1530 and 1540. The tradition that the King had an intrigue with La Féronnière reposes on the flimsiest evidence (see Appendix [below]), and the supposition, re-echoed by the Bibliophile Jacob, that it was carried on in the Rue de l’Hirondelle, is entirely erroneous. The house, adorned with the salamander device and corneted initials of Francis I., which formerly extended from that street to the Rue Git-le-Coeur, never had any connection with La Féronnière. It was the famous so-called Palace of Love which the King built for his acknowledged mistress, Anne de Pisseleu, Duchess of Étampes. — Ed.

5 This of course is Queen Margaret, then Duchess of Alençon. On account of her apparent intimacy with the prior, M. de Montaiglon conjectures that the monastery may have been that of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. — See ante, Tale XXII. — Ed.

6 In Boaistuau’s edition this sentence ends, “But she had never suspected him of going to church at such an hour as this." — L.

Appendix B.

Baron Jerome Pichon’s elucidations of this story, as given by him in the Mélanges de la Société des Bibliophiles Français, 1866, may be thus summarised:—

The advocate referred to in the tale is James Disome, who Mézeray declares was the first to introduce Letters to the bar, though this, to my mind, is a very hazardous assertion. Disome was twice married. His first wife, Mary de Rueil, died Sept. 17, 1511, and was buried at the Cordeliers church; he afterwards espoused Jane Lecoq, daughter of John Lecoq, Counsellor of the Paris Parliament, who held the fiefs of Goupillières, Corbeville and Les Porcherons, where he possessed a handsome château, a view of which has been engraved by Israel Silvestre. John Lecoq’s wife was Magdalen Bochart, who belonged like her husband to an illustrious family of lawyers and judges. Their daughter Jane, who is the heroine of the tale, must have been married to James Disome not very long after the death of the latter’s first wife, for her intrigue with Francis I. originated prior to his accession to the throne (1515). This is proved by the tale, in which Disome is spoken of as being the young prince’s advocate. Now none but the Procurors and Advocates-General were counsel to the Crown, and Disome held neither of those offices. He was undoubtedly advocate to Francis as Duke de Valois, and, from certain allusions in the tale, it may be conjectured that he had been advocate to Francis’s father, the Count of Angoulême.

When Francis ascended the throne his intrigue with Jane Disome was already notorious, as is proved by this extract, under date 1515, from the Journal d’un Bourgeois de Paris: “About this time whilst the King was in Paris, there was a priest called Mons. Cruche, a great buffoon, who a little time before with several others had publicly performed in certain entertainments and novelties’ (sic) on scaffolds upon the Place Maubert, there being in turn jest, sermon, morality and farce; and in the morality appeared several lords taking their cloth of gold to the tomb and carrying their lands upon their shoulders into the other world. And in the farce came Monsieur Cruche with his companions, who had a lantern by which all sorts of things were seen, and among others a hen feeding under a salamander, 1 and this hen carried something on her back which would suffice to kill ten men (dix hommes, i.e., Disome).

1 The salamander was Francis I.’s device.

The interpretation of this was that the King loved and enjoyed a woman of Paris, who was the daughter of a counsellor of the Court of Parliament, named Monsieur le Coq. And she was married to an advocate at the bar of Parliament, a very skilful man, named Monsieur James Disome, who was possessed of much property which the King confiscated. Soon afterwards the King sent eight or ten of his principal gentlemen to sup at the sign of the Castle in the Rue de la Juiverie, and thither, under the false pretence of making him play the said farce, was summoned Messire Cruche, who came in the evening, by torch-light, and was constrained to play the farce by the said gentlemen. But thereupon, at the very beginning, he was stripped to his shirt, and wonderfully well whipped with straps until he was in a state of the utmost wretchedness. At the end there was a sack all ready to put him in, that he might be thrown from the window, and then carried to the river; and this would assuredly have come to pass had not the poor man cried out very loudly and shown them the tonsure on his head. And all these things were done, so it was owned, on the King’s behalf.”

It is probable that this intrigue between the King and Jane Disome ceased soon after the former’s accession; at all events Francis did not evince much indulgence for the man whose wife he had seduced. Under date April, 1518, the Journal dun Bourgeois de Paris mentions the arrest of several advocates and others for daring to discuss the question of the Pragmatic Sanction. Disome was implicated in the matter but appears to have escaped for a time; however in September of that year we find him detained at Orleans and subjected to the interrogatories of various royal Commissioners. The affair was then adjourned till the following year, when no further mention is made of it.

Disome died prior to 1521, for in September of that year we find his wife remarried to Peter Perdrier, Lord of Baubigny, notary and secretary to the King, and subsequently clerk of the council to the city of Paris. Perdrier was a man of considerable means; for when the King raised a forced loan of silver plate in September 1521, we find him taxed to the amount of forty marcs of silver (26 1/2 lbs. troy); or only ten marcs less than each counsellor of Parliament was required to contribute. Five and twenty years later, he lost his wife Jane, the curious record of whose death runs as follows: “The year one thousand five hundred forty-six, after Easter, at her house (hôtel) Rue de la Parcheminerie, called Rue des Blancs-Manteaux, died the late Demoiselle Jane Lecoq, daughter of Master John Lecoq, Counsellor of the Court of Parliament, deceased; in her lifetime wife of noble Master Peter Perdrier, Lord of Baubigny, &c, and previously wife of the late Master James Disome, in his lifetime advocate at the Court of Parliament and Lord of Cernay in Beauvaisis; and the said Demoiselle Jane Lecoq 2 is here — buried with her father and mother, and departed this life on the 23rd day of April 1546. Pray ye God for her soul.”

2 The church of the Celestines.

Less than a twelvemonth afterwards King Francis followed his whilom mistress to the tomb. She left by Peter Perdrier a son named John, Lord of Baubigny, who in 1558 married Anne de St. Simon, grand-aunt of the author of the Memoirs. John Perdrier was possibly the Baubigny who killed Marshal de St. André at the battle of Dreux in 1562.

Such is Baron Pichon’s account of Jane Lecoq and her husbands. We have now to turn to an often-quoted passage of the Diverses Leçons of Louis Guyon, sieur de la Nauthe, a physician of some repute in his time, but whose book it should be observed was not issued till 1610, or more than half-a-century subsequent to King Francis I.’s death. La Nauthe writes as follows:—

“Francis I. became enamoured of a woman of great beauty and grace, the wife of an advocate of Paris, whom I will not name, for he has left children in possession of high estate and good repute; and this lady would not yield to the King, but on the contrary repulsed him with many harsh words, whereat the King was sorely vexed. And certain courtiers and royal princes who knew of the matter told the King that he might take her authoritatively and by virtue of his royalty, and one of them even went and told this to the lady, who repeated it to her husband. The advocate clearly perceived that he and his wife must needs quit the kingdom, and that he would indeed find it hard to escape without obeying. Finally the husband gave his wife leave to comply with the King’s desire, and in order that he might be no hindrance in the matter, he pretended to have business in the country for eight or ten days; during which time, however, he remained concealed in Paris, frequenting the brothels and trying to contract a venereal disease in order to give it to his wife, so that the King might catch it from her; and he speedily found what he sought, and infected his wife and she the King, who gave it to several other women, whom he kept, and could never get thoroughly cured, for all the rest of his life he remained unhealthy, sad, peevish and inaccessible.”

Brantôme, it may be mentioned, also speaks of the King contracting a complaint through his gallantries, and declares that it shortened his life, but he mentions no woman by name, and does not tell the story of the advocate’s wife. It will have been observed in the extract we have quoted that Guyon de la Nauthe says that the advocate had left children “in possession of high estate and good repute.” Disome, however, had no children either by his first or his second wife. The question therefore arises whether La Nauthe is not referring to another advocate, for instance Le Féron, husband of La belle Féronnière. These would appear to have left posterity (see Catalogue de tous les Conseillers du Parlement de Paris, pp. 120-2-3, and Blanchard’s les Présidents à mortier du Parlement de Paris, etc., 1647, 8vo). But it should be borne in mind that the Féronnière intrigue is purely traditional. The modern writers who speak of it content themselves with referring to Mézeray, a very doubtful authority at most times, and who did not write, it should be remembered, till the middle of the seventeenth century, his Abrégé Chronologique being first published in 1667. Moreover, when we come to consult him we find that he merely makes a passing allusion to La Féronnière, and even this is of the most dubious kind. Here are his words: “In 1538 the King had a long illness at Compiègne, caused by an ulcer. . . . He was cured at the time, but died [of it?] nine years later. I have sometimes heard say(!) that he caught this disease from La belle Féronnière.”

Against this we have to set the express statement of Louise of Savoy, who writes in her journal, under date 1512, that her son (born in 1494) had already and at an early age had a complaint en secrete nature. Now this was long before the belle Féronnière was ever heard of, and further it was prior to the intrigue with Jane Disome, who, by Queen Margaret’s showing, did not meet with “the young prince” until she had been married some time and was in despair of having children by her husband. The latter had lost his first wife late in 1511, and it is unlikely that he married Jane Lecoq until after some months of widowhood. To our thinking Prince Francis would have appeared upon the scene in or about 1514, his intrigue culminating in the scandal of the following year, in which Mons. Cruche played so conspicuous a part. With reference to the complaint from which King Francis is alleged to have suffered, one must not overlook the statement of a contemporary, Cardinal d’Armagnac, who, writing less than a year before the King’s death, declares that Francis enjoys as good health as any man in his kingdom (Genin’s Lettres de Marguerite, 1841, p. 473). Cardinal d’Armagnac’s intimacy with the King enabled him to speak authoritatively, and his statement refutes the assertions of Brantôme, Guyon de la Nauthe and Mézeray, besides tending to the conclusion that the youthful complaint mentioned by Louise of Savoy was merely a passing disorder. — Ed.

the Lord of Avannes Paying his Court in Disguise
The Lord of Avannes paying His Court in Disguise

143.jpg Headpiece

Tale xxvi.

By the counsel and sisterly affection of a virtuous lady, the Lord of Avannes was drawn from the wanton love that he entertained for a gentlewoman dwelling at Pampeluna.

In the days of King Louis the Twelfth there lived a young lord called Monsieur d’Avannes, 1 son of the Lord of Albret [and] brother to King John of Navarre, with whom this aforesaid Lord of Avannes commonly abode.

Now this young lord, who was fifteen years of age, was so handsome and so fully endowed with every excellent grace that he seemed to have been made solely to be loved and admired, as he was indeed by all who saw him, and above all by a lady who dwelt in the town of Pampeluna 2 in Navarre. She was married to a very rich man, with whom she lived in all virtue, inasmuch that, although her husband was nearly fifty years old and she was only three and twenty, she dressed so plainly that she had more the appearance of a widow than of a married woman. Moreover, she was never known to go to weddings or feasts unless accompanied by her husband, whose worth and virtue she prized so highly that she set them before all the comeliness of other men. And her husband, finding her so discreet, trusted her and gave all the affairs of his household into her hands.

One day this rich man was invited with his wife to a wedding among their kinsfolk; and among those who were present to do honour to the bridal was the young Lord of Avannes, who was exceedingly fond of dancing, as was natural in one who surpassed therein all others of his time. When dinner was over and the dances were begun, the rich man begged the Lord of Avannes to do his part, whereupon the said lord asked him with whom he would have him dance.

“My lord,” replied the gentleman, “I can present to you no lady fairer and more completely at my disposal than my wife, and I therefore beg you to honour me so far as to lead her out.”

This the young Prince did; and he was still so young that he took far greater pleasure in frisking and dancing than in observing the beauty of the ladies. But his partner, on the contrary, gave more heed to his grace and beauty than to the dance, though in her prudence she took good care not to let this appear.

The supper hour being come, the Lord of Avannes bade the company farewell, and departed to the castle, 3 whither the rich man accompanied him on his mule. And as they were going, the rich man said to him —

“My lord, you have this day done so much honour to my kinsfolk and to me, that I should indeed be ungrateful if I did not place myself with all that belongs to me at your service. I know, sir, that lords like yourself, who have stern and miserly fathers, are often in greater need of money than we, who, with small establishments and careful husbandry, seek only to save up wealth. Now, albeit God has given me a wife after my own heart, it has not pleased Him to give me all my Paradise in this world, for He has withheld from me the joy that fathers derive from having children. I know, my lord, that it is not for me to adopt you as a son, but if you will accept me for your servant and make known to me your little affairs, I will not fail to assist you in your need so far as a hundred thousand crowns may go.”

The Lord of Avannes was in great joy at this offer, for he had just such a father as the other had described; accordingly he thanked him, and called him his adopted father.

From that hour the rich man evinced so much love towards the Lord of Avannes, that morning and evening he failed not to inquire whether he had need of anything, nor did he conceal this devotion from his wife, who loved him for it twice as much as before. Thenceforward the Lord of Avannes had no lack of anything that he desired. He often visited the rich man, and ate and drank with him; and when he found the husband abroad, the wife gave him all that he required, and further spoke to him so sagely, exhorting him to live discreetly and virtuously, that he reverenced and loved her above all other women.

Having God and honour before her eyes, she remained content with thus seeing him and speaking to him, for these are sufficient for virtuous and honourable love; and she never gave any token whereby he might have imagined that she felt aught but a sisterly and Christian affection towards him.

While this secret love continued, the Lord of Avannes, who, by the assistance that I have spoken of, was always well and splendidly apparelled, came to the age of seventeen years, and began to frequent the company of ladies more than had been his wont. And although he would fain have loved this virtuous lady rather than any other, yet his fear of losing her friendship should she hear any such discourse from him, led him to remain silent and to divert himself elsewhere.

He therefore addressed himself to a gentlewoman of the neighbourhood of Pampeluna, who had a house in the town, and was married to a young man whose chief delight was in horses, hawks and hounds. For her sake, he began to set on foot a thousand diversions, such as tourneys, races, wrestlings, masquerades, banquets, and other pastimes, at all of which this young lady was present. But as her husband was very humorsome, and her parents, knowing her to be both fair and frolicsome, were jealous of her honour, they kept such strict watch over her that my Lord of Avannes could obtain nothing from her save a word or two at the dance, although, from the little that had passed between them, he well knew that time and place alone were wanting to crown their loves.

He therefore went to his good father, the rich man, and told him that he deeply desired to make a pilgrimage to our Lady of Montferrat, 4 for which reason he begged him to house his followers, seeing that he wished to go alone.

To this the rich man agreed; but his wife, in whose heart was that great soothsayer, Love, forthwith suspected the true nature of the journey, and could not refrain from saying —

“My lord, my lord, the Lady you adore is not without the walls of this town, so I pray that you will have in all matters a care for your health.”

At this he, who both feared and loved her, blushed so deeply that, without speaking a word, he confessed the truth; and so he went away.

Having bought a couple of handsome Spanish horses, he dressed himself as a groom, and disguised his face in such a manner that none could know him. The gentleman who was husband to the wanton lady, and who loved horses more than aught beside, saw the two that the Lord of Avannes was leading, and forthwith offered to buy them. When he had done so, he looked at the groom, who was managing the horses excellently well, and asked whether he would enter his service. The Lord of Avannes replied that he would; saying that he was but a poor groom, who knew no trade except the caring of horses, but in this he could do so well that he would assuredly give satisfaction. At this the gentleman was pleased, and having given him the charge of all his horses, entered his house, and told his wife that he was leaving for the castle, and confided his horses and groom to her keeping.

The lady, as much to please her husband as for her own diversion, went to see the horses, and looked at the new groom, who seemed to her to be well favoured, though she did not at all recognise him. Seeing that he was not recognised, he came up to do her reverence in the Spanish fashion and kissed her hand, and, in doing so, pressed it so closely that she at once knew him, for he had often done the same at the dance. From that moment, the lady thought of nothing but how she might speak to him in private; and contrived to do so that very evening, for, being invited to a banquet, to which her husband wished to take her, she pretended that she was ill and unable to go.

The husband, being unwilling to disappoint his friends, thereupon said to her —

“Since you will not come, my love, I pray you take good care of my horses and hounds, so that they may want for nothing.”

The lady deemed this charge a very agreeable one, but, without showing it, she replied that since he had nothing better for her to do, she would show him even in these trifling matters how much she desired to please him.

And scarcely was her husband outside the door than she went down to the stable, where she found that something was amiss, and to set it right gave so many orders to the serving-men on this side and the other, that at last she was left alone with the chief groom, when, fearing that some one might come upon them, she said to him —

“Go into the garden, and wait for me in a summer house that stands at the end of the alley.”

This he did, and with such speed that he stayed not even to thank her.

When she had set the whole stable in order, she went to see the dogs, and was so careful to have them properly treated, that from mistress she seemed to have become a serving-woman. Afterwards she withdrew to her own apartment, where she lay down weariedly upon the bed, saying that she wished to rest. All her women left her excepting one whom she trusted, and to whom she said —

“Go into the garden, and bring here the man whom you will find at the end of the alley.”

The maid went and found the groom, whom she forthwith brought to the lady, and the latter then sent her outside to watch for her husband’s return. When the Lord of Avannes found himself alone with the lady, he doffed his groom’s dress, took off his false nose and beard, and, not like a timorous groom, but like the handsome lord he was, boldly got into bed with her without so much as asking her leave; and he was received as the handsomest youth of his time deserved to be by the handsomest and gayest lady in the land, and remained with her until her husband returned. Then he again took his mask and left the place which his craft and artifice had usurped.

On entering the courtyard the gentleman heard of the diligence that his wife had shown in obeying him, and he thanked her heartily for it.

“Sweetheart,” said the lady, “I did but my duty. Tis true that if we did not keep watch upon these rogues of servants you would not have a dog without the mange or a horse in good condition; but, now that I know their slothfulness and your wishes, you shall be better served than ever you were before.”

The gentleman, who thought that he had chosen the best groom in the world, asked her what she thought of him.

“I will own, sir,” she replied, “that he does his work as well as any you could have chosen, but he needs to be urged on, for he is the sleepiest knave I ever saw.”

So the lord and his lady lived together more lovingly than before, and he lost all the suspicion and jealousy with which he had regarded her, seeing that she was now as careful of her house hold as she had formerly been devoted to banquets, dances and assemblies. Whereas, also, she had formerly been wont to spend four hours in attiring herself, she was now often content to wear nothing but a dressing-gown over her chemise; and for this she was praised by her husband and by every one else, for they did not understand that a stronger devil had entered her and thrust out a weaker one.

Thus did this young lady, under the guise of a virtuous woman, like the hypocrite she was, live in such wantonness that reason, conscience, order and moderation found no place within her. The youth and tender constitution of the Lord of Avannes could not long endure this, and he began to grow so pale and lean that even without his mask he might well have passed unrecognised; yet the mad love that he had for this woman so blunted his understanding that he imagined he had strength to accomplish feats that even Hercules had tried in vain. However, being at last constrained by sickness and advised thereto by his lady, who was not so fond of him sick as sound, he asked his master’s leave to return home, and this his master gave him with much regret, making him promise to come back to service when he was well again.

In this wise did the Lord of Avannes go away, and all on foot, for he had only the length of a street to travel. On arriving at the house of his good father, the rich man, he there found only his wife, whose honourable love for him had been in no whit lessened by his journey. But when she saw him so colourless and thin, she could not refrain from saying to him —

“I do not know, my lord, how your conscience may be, but your body has certainly not been bettered by your pilgrimage. I fear me that your journeyings by night have done you more harm than your journeyings by day, for had you gone to Jerusalem on foot you would have come back more sunburnt, indeed, but not so thin and weak. Pay good heed to this one, and worship no longer such images as those, which, instead of reviving the dead, cause the living to die. I would say more, but if your body has sinned it has been well punished, and I feel too much pity for you to add any further distress.”

When my Lord of Avannes heard these words, he was as sorry as he was ashamed.

“Madam,” he replied, “I have heard that repentance follows upon sin, and now I have proved it to my cost. But I pray you pardon my youth, which could not have been punished save by the evil in which it would not believe.”

Thereupon changing her discourse, the lady made him lie down in a handsome bed, where he remained for a fortnight, taking nothing but restoratives; and the lady and her husband constantly kept him company, so that he always had one or the other beside him. And although he had acted foolishly, as you have heard, contrary to the desire and counsel of the virtuous lady, she, nevertheless, lost nought of the virtuous love that she felt towards him, for she still hoped that, after spending his early youth in follies, he would throw them off and bring himself to love virtuously, and so be all her own.

During the fortnight that he was in her house, she held to him such excellent discourse, all tending to the love of virtue, that he began to loathe the folly that he had committed. Observing, moreover, the lady’s beauty, which surpassed that of the wanton one, and becoming more and more aware of the graces and virtues that were in her, he one day, when it was rather dark, could not longer hold from speaking, but, putting away all fear, said to her —

“I see no better means, madam, for becoming a virtuous man such as you urge me and desire me to be, than by being heart and soul in love with virtue. I therefore pray you, madam, to tell me whether you will give me in this matter all the assistance and favour that you can.”

The lady rejoiced to find him speaking in this way, and replied —

“I promise you, my lord, that if you are in love with virtue as it beseems a lord like yourself to be, I will assist your efforts with all the strength that God has given me.”

“Now, madam,” said my Lord of Avannes, “remember your promise, and consider also that God, whom man knows by faith alone, deigned to take a fleshly nature like that of the sinner upon Himself, in order that, by drawing our flesh to the love of His humanity, He might at the same time draw our spirits to the love of His divinity, thus making use of visible means to make us in all faith love the things which are invisible. In like manner this virtue, which I would fain love all my life long, is a thing invisible except in so far as it produces outward effects, for which reason it must take some bodily shape in order to become known among men. And this it has done by clothing itself in your form, the most perfect it could find. I therefore recognise and own that you are not only virtuous but virtue itself; and now, finding it shine beneath the veil of the most perfect person that was ever known, I would fain serve it and honour it all my life, renouncing for its sake every other vain and vicious love.”

The lady, who was no less pleased than surprised to hear these words, concealed her happiness and said —

“My lord, I will not undertake to answer your theology, but since I am more ready to apprehend evil than to believe in good, I will entreat you to address to me no more such words as lead you to esteem but lightly those who are wont to believe them. I very well know that I am a woman like any other and imperfect, and that virtue would do a greater thing by transforming me into itself than by assuming my form — unless, indeed, it would fain pass unrecognised through the world, for in such a garb as mine its real nature could never be known. Nevertheless, my lord, with all my imperfections, I have ever borne to you all such affection as is right and possible in a woman who reverences God and her honour. But this affection shall not be declared until your heart is capable of that patience which a virtuous love enjoins. At that time, my lord, I shall know what to say, but meanwhile be assured that you do not love your own welfare, person and honour as I myself love them.”

The Lord of Avannes timorously and with tears in his eyes entreated her earnestly to seal her words with a kiss, but she refused, saying that she would not break for him the custom of her country.

While this discussion was going on the husband came in, and my Lord of Avannes said to him —

“I am greatly indebted, father, both to you and to your wife, and I pray you ever to look upon me as your son.”

This the worthy man readily promised.

“And to seal your love,” said the Lord of Avannes, “I pray you let me kiss you.” This he did, after which the Lord of Avannes said —:

“If I were not afraid of offending against the law, I would do the same to your wife and my mother.”

Upon this, the husband commanded his wife to kiss him, which she did without appearing either to like or to dislike what her husband commanded her. But the fire that words had already kindled in the poor lord’s heart, grew fiercer at this kiss which had been so earnestly sought for and so cruelly denied.

After this the Lord of Avannes betook himself to the castle to see his brother, the King, to whom he told fine stories about his journey to Montferrat. He found that the King was going to Oly and Taffares, 5 and, reflecting that the journey would be a long one, he fell into deep sadness, and resolved before going away to try whether the virtuous lady were not better disposed towards him than she appeared to be.

He therefore went to lodge in the street in which she lived, where he hired an old house, badly built of timber. About midnight he set fire to it, and the alarm, which spread through the whole town, reached the rich man’s house. He asked from the window where the fire was, and hearing that it was in the house of the Lord of Avannes, immediately hastened thither with all his servants. He found the young lord in the street, clad in nothing but his shirt, whereat in his deep compassion he took him in his arms, and, covering him with his own robe, brought him home as quickly as possible, where he said to his wife, who was in bed —

“Here, sweetheart, I give this prisoner into your charge. Treat him as you would treat myself.”

As soon as he was gone, the Lord of Avannes, who would gladly have been treated like a husband, sprang lightly into the bed, hoping that place and opportunity would bring this discreet lady to a different mind; but he found the contrary to be the case, for as he leaped into the bed on one side, she got out at the other. Then, putting on her dressing-gown, she came up to the head of the bed and spoke as follows —

“Did you think, my lord, that opportunity could influence a chaste heart? Nay, just as gold is tried in the furnace, so a chaste heart becomes stronger and more virtuous in the midst of temptation, and grows colder the more it is assailed by its opposite. You may be sure, therefore, that had I been otherwise minded than I professed myself to be, I should not have wanted means, to which I have paid no heed solely because I desire not to use them. So I beg of you, if you would have me preserve my affection for you, put away not merely the desire but even the thought that you can by any means whatever make me other than I am.”

While she was speaking, her women came in, and she commanded a collation of all kinds of sweetmeats to be brought; but the young lord could neither eat nor drink, in such despair was he at having failed in his enterprise, and in such fear lest this manifestation of his passion should cost him the familiar intercourse that he had been wont to have with her.

Having dealt with the fire, the husband came back again, and begged the Lord of Avannes to remain at his house for the night. This he did, but in such wise that his eyes were more exercised in weeping than in sleeping. Early in the morning he went to bid them farewell, while they were still in bed; and in kissing the lady he perceived that she felt more pity for the offence than anger against the offender, and thus was another brand added to the fire of his love. After dinner, he set out for Taffares with the King; but before leaving he went again to take yet another farewell of his good father and the lady who, after her husband’s first command, made no difficulty in kissing him as her son.

But you may be sure that the more virtue prevented her eyes and features from testifying to the hidden flame, the fiercer and more intolerable did that flame become. And so, being unable to endure the war between love and honour, which was waging in her heart, but which she had nevertheless resolved should never be made apparent, and no longer having the comfort of seeing and speaking to him for whose sake alone she cared to live, she fell at last into a continuous fever, caused by a melancholic humour which so wrought upon her that the extremities of her body became quite cold, while her inward parts burned without ceasing. The doctors, who have not the health of men in their power, began to grow very doubtful concerning her recovery, by reason of an obstruction that affected the extremities, and advised her husband to admonish her to think of her conscience and remember that she was in God’s hands — as though indeed the healthy were not in them also.

The husband, who loved his wife devotedly, was so saddened by their words that for his comfort he wrote to the Lord of Avannes entreating him to take the trouble to come and see them, in the hope that the sight of him might be of advantage to the patient. On receiving the letter, the Lord of Avannes did not tarry, but started off post-haste to the house of his worthy father, where he found the servants, both men and women, assembled at the door, making such lament for their mistress as she deserved.

So greatly amazed was he at the sight, that he remained on the threshold like one paralysed, until he beheld his good father, who embraced him, weeping the while so bitterly that he could not utter a word. Then he led the Lord of Avannes to the chamber of the sick lady, who, turning her languid eyes upon him, put out her hand and drew him to her with all the strength she had. She kissed and embraced him, and made wondrous lamentation, saying —

“O my lord, the hour has come when all dissimulation must cease, and I must confess the truth which I have been at such pains to hide from you. If your affection for me was great, know that mine for you has been no less; but my grief has been greater than yours, because I have had the anguish of concealing it contrary to the wish of my heart. God and my honour have never, my lord, suffered me to make it known to you, lest I should increase in you that which I sought to diminish; but you must learn that the ‘no’ I so often said to you pained me so greatly in the utterance that it has indeed proved the cause of my death.

“Nevertheless, I am glad it should be so, and that God in His grace should have caused me to die before the vehemence of my love has stained my conscience and my fair fame; for smaller fires have ere now destroyed greater and stronger structures. And I am glad that before dying I have been able to make known to you that my affection is equal to your own, save only that men’s honour and women’s are not the same thing. And I pray you, my lord, fear not henceforward to address yourself to the greatest and most virtuous of ladies; for in such hearts do the deepest and discreetest passions dwell, and moreover, your own grace and beauty and worth will not suffer your love to toil without reward.

“I will not beg you, my lord, to pray God for me, because I know full well that the gate of Paradise is never closed against true lovers, and that the fire of love punishes lovers so severely in this life here that they are forgiven the sharp torment of Purgatory. And now, my lord, farewell; I commend to you your good father, my husband. Tell him the truth as you have heard it from me, that he may know how I have loved God and him. And come no more before my eyes, for I now desire to think only of obtaining those promises made to me by God before the creation of the world.”

With these words she kissed him and embraced him with all the strength of her feeble arms. The young lord, whose heart was as nearly dead through pity as hers was through pain, was unable to say a single word. He withdrew from her sight to a bed that was in the room, and there several times swooned away.

Then the lady called her husband, and, after giving him much virtuous counsel, commended the Lord of Avannes to him, declaring that next to himself she had loved him more than any one upon earth, and so, kissing her husband, she bade him farewell. Then, after the extreme unction, the Holy Sacrament was brought to her from the altar, and this she received with the joy of one who is assured of her salvation. And finding that her sight was growing dim and her strength failing her, she began to utter the “In manus” aloud.

Hearing this cry, the Lord of Avannes raised himself up on the bed where he was lying, and gazing piteously upon her, beheld her with a gentle sigh surrender her glorious soul to Him from whom it had come. When he perceived that she was dead, he ran to the body, which when alive he had ever approached with fear, and kissed and embraced it in such wise that he could hardly be separated from it, whereat the husband was greatly astonished, for he had never believed he bore her so much affection; and with the words, “Tis too much, my lord,” he led him away.

After he had lamented for a great while, the Lord of Avannes related all the converse they had had together during their love, and how, until her death, she had never given him sign of aught save severity. This, while it gave the husband exceeding joy, also increased his grief and sorrow at the loss he had sustained, and for the remainder of his days he rendered service to the Lord of Avannes.

But from that time forward my Lord of Avannes, who was then only eighteen years old, went to reside at Court, where he lived for many years without wishing to see or to speak with any living woman by reason of his grief for the lady he had lost; and he wore mourning for her sake during more than ten years. 6

“You here see, ladies, what a difference there is between a wanton lady and a discreet one. The effects of love are also different in each case; for the one came by a glorious and praiseworthy death, while the other lived only too long with the reputation of a vile and shameless woman. Just as the death of a saint is precious in the sight of God, so is the death of a sinner abhorrent.”

“In truth, Saffredent,” said Oisille, “you have told us the finest tale imaginable, and any one who knew the hero would deem it better still. I have never seen a handsomer or more graceful gentleman than was this Lord of Avannes.”

“She was indeed a very virtuous woman,” said Saffredent. “So as to appear outwardly more virtuous than she was in her heart, and to conceal her love for this worthy lord which reason and nature had inspired, she must needs die rather than take the pleasure which she secretly desired.”

“If she had felt such a desire,” said Parlamente, “she would have lacked neither place nor opportunity to make it known; but the greatness of her virtue prevented her desire from exceeding the bounds of reason.”

“You may paint her as you will,” said Hircan, “but I know very well that a stronger devil always thrusts out the weaker, and that the pride of ladies seeks pleasure rather than the fear and love of God. Their robes are long and well woven with dissimulation, so that we cannot tell what is beneath, for if their honour were not more easily stained than ours, 7 you would find that Nature’s work is as complete in them as in ourselves. But not daring to take the pleasure they desire, they have exchanged that vice for a greater, which they deem more honourable, I mean a self-sufficient cruelty, whereby they look to obtain everlasting renown.

By thus glorying in their resistance to the vice of Nature’s law — if, indeed, anything natural be vicious — they become not only like inhuman and cruel beasts, but even like the devils whose pride and subtility they borrow.” 8

“Tis a pity,” said Nomerfide, “that you should have an honourable wife, for you not only think lightly of virtue, but are even fain to prove that it is vice.”

“I am very glad,” said Hircan, “to have a wife of good repute, just as I, myself, would be of good repute. But as for chastity of heart, I believe that we are both children of Adam and Eve; wherefore, when we examine ourselves, we have no need to cover our nakedness with leaves, but should rather confess our frailty.”

“I know,” said Parlamente, “that we all have need of God’s grace, being all steeped in sin; but, for all that, our temptations are not similar to yours, and if we sin through pride, no one is injured by it, nor do our bodies and hands receive a stain. But your pleasure consists in dishonouring women, and your honour in slaying men in war — two things expressly contrary to the law of God.” 9

“I admit what you say,” said Geburon, “but God has said, ‘Whosoever looketh with lust, hath already committed adultery in his heart,’ and further, ‘Whosoever hateth his neighbour is a murderer.’ 10 Do you think that women offend less against these texts than we?”

“God, who judges the heart,” said Longarine, “must decide that. But it is an important thing that men should not be able to accuse us, for the goodness of God is so great, that He will not judge us unless there be an accuser. And so well, moreover, does He know the frailty of our hearts, that He will even love us for not having put our thoughts into execution.”

“I pray you,” said Saffredent, “let us leave this dispute, for it savours more of a sermon than of a tale. I give my vote to Ennasuite, and beg that she will bear in mind to make us laugh.”

“Indeed,” said she, “I will not fail to do so; for I would have you know that whilst coming hither, resolved upon relating a fine story to you to-day, I was told so merry a tale about two servants of a Princess, that, in laughing at it, I quite forgot the melancholy story which I had prepared, and which I will put off until to-morrow; for, with the merry face I now have, you would scarce find it to your liking.”

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1 This is Gabriel d’Albret, Lord of Avesnes and Lesparre, fourth son of Alan the Great, Sire d’Albret, and brother of John d’Albret, King of Navarre, respecting whom see post, note 4 to Tale XXX. Queen Margaret is in error in dating this story from the reign of Louis XII. The incidents she relates must have occurred between 1485 and 1490, under the reign of Charles VIII., by whom Gabriel d’Albret, on reaching manhood, was successively appointed counsellor and chamberlain, Seneschal of Guyenne and Viceroy of Naples. Under Louis XII. he took a prominent part in the Italian campaigns of 1500-1503, in which latter year he is known to have made his will, bequeathing all he possessed to his brother, Cardinal d’Albret. He died a bachelor in 1504. — See Anselme’s Histoire Généalogique, vol. vi. p. 214. — L. and Ed.

2 Pampeluna or Pamplona, the capital of Navarre, wrested from King John in 1512 by the troops of Ferdinand the Catholic. — Ed.

3 Evidently the castle of Pampeluna, where Gabriel d’Albret resided with his brother the King. — Ed.

4 The famous monastery of Montserrate, at eight leagues from Barcelona, where is preserved the ebony statue of the Virgin carrying the Infant Jesus, which is traditionally said to have been carved by St. Luke, and to have been brought to Spain by St. Peter. — See Libro de la historia y milagros hechos à invocation de Nuestra Seilora de Montserrate, Barcelona, 1556, 8vo. — Ed.

5 Evidently Olite and Tafalla, the former at thirty and the latter at twenty-seven miles from Pamplona. The two towns were commonly called la flor de Navarra. King John doubtless intended sojourning at the summer palaces which his predecessor Carlos the Noble had built at either locality, and which were connected, it is said, by a gallery a league in length. Some ruins of these palaces still exist. — Ed.

6 Some extracts from Brantôme bearing on this story will be found in the Appendix, [below].

7 This reading is borrowed from MS. No. 1520. In the MS. mainly followed for this translation, the passage runs as follows-“if their honour were not more easily stained than their hearts." — L.

8 This reading is borrowed from MS. No. 1520. In our MS. the passage runs — “like the devils whose semblance and subtility they borrow." — L.

9 This sentence, defective in our MS., is taken from No. 1520. — L.

10 1 St. John iii. 15. — M.

Appendix C.

Brantome mentions this tale in both the First and the Fourth Discourse of his Dames Galantes. In the former, after contending that all women are naturally inclined to vice — a view which he borrows from the Roman de la Rose, and which Pope afterwards re-echoed in the familiar line, “Every woman is at heart a rake” — he proceeds to speak of those who overcome their inclinations and remain virtuous:—

“Of this,” says he, “we have a very fine story in the Hundred Tales of the Queen of Navarre; the one in which that worthy Lady of Pampeluna, vicious at heart and by inclination, burning too with love for that handsome Prince, Monsieur d’Avannes, preferred to die consumed by the fire that possessed her rather than seek a remedy for it, as she herself declared in her last words on her deathbed. This worshipful and beautiful lady dealt herself death most iniquitously and unjustly; and as I once heard a worthy man and worthy lady say of this very passage, she did really offend against God, since it was in her power to deliver herself from death; whereas in seeking it and advancing it as she did, she really killed herself. And thus have done many similar to her, who by excessive continence and abstinence have brought about the destruction both of their souls and bodies." — Lalanne’s OEuvres de Brantôme, vol. ix. pp. 209-n.

In the Fourth Discourse of his work, Brantôme mentions the case of a “fresh and plump” lady of high repute, who, through love-sickness for one of her admirers, so wasted away that she became seriously alarmed, and for fear of worse resolved to satisfy her passion, whereupon she became “plump and beautiful as she had been before.”

“I have heard speak,” adds Brantôme, “of another very great lady, of very joyous humour, and great wit, who fell ill and whose doctor told her that she would never recover unless she yielded to the dictates of nature, whereupon she instantly rejoined: ‘Well then, let it be so;’ and she and the doctor did as they listed. . . . One day she said to him: ‘It is said everywhere that you have relations with me; but that is all the same to me, since it keeps me in good health . . . and it shall continue so, as long as may be, since my health depends on it.’ These two ladies in no wise resemble that worthy lady of Pampeluna, in the Queen of Navarre’s Hundred Tales, who, as I have previously said, fell madly in love with Monsieur d’Avannes, but preferred to hide her flame and nurse it in her burning breast rather than forego her honour. And of this I have heard some worthy ladies and lords discourse, saying that she was a fool, caring but little for the salvation of her soul, since she dealt herself death, when it was in her power to drive death away, at very trifling cost."-Lalanne’s OEuvres de Brantôme, vol. xi. pp. 542-5.

To these extracts we may add that the problem discussed by Brantôme, three hundred years ago, is much the same as that which has so largely occupied the attention of modern medical men, namely the great spread of nervous disease and melancholia among women, owing to the unnatural celibacy enforced upon them by the deficiency of husbands. — Ed.

The Secretary Imploring The Lady Not to Tell of his Wickedness
The Secretary imploring the Lady not to tell of his wickedness

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Tale xxvii.

A secretary sought the wife of his host and comrade in dishonourable and unlawful love, and as she made show of willingly giving ear to him, he was persuaded that he had won her. But she was virtuous, and, while dissembling towards him, deceived his hopes and made known his viciousness to her husband. 1

1 The incidents here related would have occurred at Amboise between 1540 and 1545. The hero of the story would probably be John Frotté, Queen Margaret’s First Secretary, who also apparently figures in Tale XXVIII. The Sires de Frotté had been in the service of the Dukes of Alençon since the early part of the fifteenth century. Ste-Marthe says of John Frotté that he was a man of great experience and good wit, prudent, dutiful and diligent. He died secretary to Francis I. — L. and B. J.

In the town of Amboise there lived one of this Princess’s servants, an honest man who served her in the quality of valet-de-chambre, and who used readily to entertain those that visited his house, more especially his own comrades; and not long since one of his mistress’s servants came to lodge with him, and remained with him ten or twelve days.

This man was so ugly that he looked more like a King of the cannibals than a Christian, and although his host treated him as a friend and a brother, and with all the courtesy imaginable, he behaved in return not only like one who has forgotten all honour, but as one who has never had it in his heart. For he sought, in dishonourable and unlawful love, his comrade’s wife, who was in no sort attractive to lust but rather the reverse, and was moreover as virtuous a woman as any in the town in which she lived. When she perceived the man’s evil intent, she thought it better to employ dissimulation in order to bring his viciousness to light, rather than conceal it by a sudden refusal; and she therefore made a pretence of approving his discourse. He then believed he had won her, and, paying no heed to her age, which was that of fifty years, or to her lack of beauty, or her reputation as a virtuous woman attached to her husband, he urged his suit continually.

One day, the husband being in the house, the wife and her suitor were in a large room together, when she pretended that he had but to find some safe spot in order to have such private converse with her as he desired. He immediately replied that it was only necessary to go up to the garret. She instantly rose, and begged him to go first, saying that she would follow. Smiling with as sweet a countenance as that of a big baboon entertaining a friend, he went lightly up the stairway; and, on the tip-toe of expectation with regard to that which he so greatly desired, burning with a fire not clear, like that of juniper, but dense like that of coal in the furnace, he listened whether she was coming after him. But instead of hearing her footsteps, he heard her voice saying —

“Wait, master secretary, for a little; I am going to find out whether it be my husband’s pleasure that I should go up to you.”

His face when laughing was ugly indeed, and you may imagine, ladies, how it looked when he wept; but he came down instantly, with tears in his eyes, and besought her for the love of God not to say aught that would destroy the friendship between his comrade and himself.

“I am sure,” she replied, “that you like him too well to say anything he may not hear. I shall therefore go and tell him of the matter.”

And this, in spite of all his entreaties and threats, she did. And if his shame thereat was great as he fled the place, the husband’s joy was no less on hearing of the honourable deception that his wife had practised; indeed, so pleased was he with his wife’s virtue that he took no notice of his comrade’s viciousness, deeming him sufficiently punished inasmuch as the shame he had thought to work in another’s household had fallen upon his own head.

“I think that from this tale honest people should learn not to admit to their houses those whose conscience, heart and understanding know nought of God, honour and true love.”

“Though your tale be short,” said Oisille, “it is as pleasant as any I have heard, and it is to the honour of a virtuous woman.”

“‘Fore God,” said Simontault, “it is no great honour for a virtuous woman to refuse a man so ugly as you represent this secretary to have been. Had he been handsome and polite, her virtue would then have been clear. I think I know who he is, and, if it were my turn, I could tell you another story about him that is no less droll.”

“Let that be no hindrance,” said Ennasuite, “for I give you my vote.”

Thereupon Simontault began as follows:—

“Those who are accustomed to dwell at Court or in large towns value their own knowledge so highly that they think very little of all other men in comparison with themselves; but, for all that, there are subtle and crafty folk to be found in every condition of life. Still, when those who think themselves the cleverest are caught tripping, their pride makes the jest a particularly pleasant one, and this I will try to show by telling you of something that lately happened.”

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the Secretary Opening The Pasty
The Secretary Opening the Pasty

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Tale xxviii.

A secretary, thinking to deceive Bernard du Ha, was by him cunningly deceived. 1

1 The incidents of this story must have occurred subsequent to 1527. The secretary is doubtless John Frotté. We have failed to identify the Lieutenant referred to. — M. and Ed.

It chanced that when King Francis, first of the name, was in the city of Paris, and with him his sister, the Queen of Navarre, the latter had a secretary called John. He was not one of those who allow a good thing to lie on the ground for want of picking it up, and there was, accordingly, not a president or a councillor whom he did not know, and not a merchant or a rich man with whom he had not intercourse and correspondence.

At this time there also arrived in Paris a merchant of Bayonne, called Bernard du Ha, who, both on account of the nature of his commerce and because the Lieutenant for Criminal Affairs 2 was a countryman of his, was wont to address himself to that officer for counsel and assistance in the transaction of his business. The Queen of Navarre’s secretary used also frequently to visit the Lieutenant as one who was a good servant to his master and mistress.

2 The Provost of Paris, who, in the King’s name, administered justice at the Châtelet court, and upon whose sergeants fell the duty of arresting and imprisoning all vagabonds, criminals and disturbers of the peace, was assisted in his functions by three lieutenants, one for criminal affairs, one for civil affairs, and one for ordinary police duties. — Ed.

One feast-day the secretary went to the Lieutenant’s house, and found both him and his wife abroad; but he very plainly heard Bernard du Ha teaching the serving-women to foot the Gascon dances to the sound of a viol or some other instrument. And when the secretary saw him, he would have had him believe that he was committing the greatest offence imaginable, and that if the Lieutenant and his wife knew of it they would be greatly displeased with him. And after setting the fear of this well before his eyes, until, indeed, the other begged him not to say anything about it, he asked —

“What will you give me if I keep silence?”

Bernard du Ha, who was by no means so much afraid as he seemed to be, saw that the secretary was trying to cozen him, and promised to give him a pasty of the best Basque ham 3 that he had ever eaten. The secretary was well pleased at this, and begged that he might have the pasty on the following Sunday after dinner, which was promised him.

3 So-called Bayonne ham is still held in repute in France. It comes really from Orthez and Salies in Beam. — D.

Relying upon this promise, he went to see a lady of Paris whom above all things he desired to marry, and said to her —

“On Sunday, mistress, I will come and sup with you, if such be your pleasure. But trouble not to provide aught save some good bread and wine, for I have so deceived a foolish fellow from Bayonne that all the rest will be at his expense; by my trickery you shall taste the best Basque ham that ever was eaten in Paris.”

The lady believed his story, and called together two or three of the most honourable ladies of her neighbourhood, telling them that she would give them a new dish such as they had never tasted before.

When Sunday was come, the secretary went to look for his merchant, and finding him on the Pont-au-Change, 4 saluted him graciously and said —

“The devil take you, for the trouble you have given me to find you.”

4 The oldest of the Paris bridges, spanning the Seine between the Châtelet and the Palais. Originally called the Grand-Pont, it acquired the name of Pont-au-Change through Louis VII. allowing the money-changers to build their houses and offices upon it in 1141. — Ed.

Bernard du Ha made reply that a good many men had taken more trouble than he without being rewarded in the end with such a dainty dish. So saying, he showed him the pasty, which he was carrying under his cloak, and which was big enough to feed an army. The secretary was so glad to see it that, although he had a very large and ugly mouth, he mincingly made it so small that one would not have thought him capable of biting the ham with it. He quickly took the pasty, and, without waiting for the merchant to go with him, went off with it to the lady, who was exceedingly eager to learn whether the fare of Gascony was as good as that of Paris.

When supper-time was come and they were eating their soup, the secretary said —

“Leave those savourless dishes alone, and let us taste this loveworthy whet for wine.”

So saying, he opened the huge pasty, but, where he expected to find ham, he found such hardness that he could not thrust in his knife. After trying several times, it occurred to him that he had been deceived; and, indeed, he found ’twas a wooden shoe such as is worn in Gascony. It had a burnt stick for knuckle, and was powdered upon the top with iron rust and sweet-smelling spice.

If ever a man was abashed it was the secretary, not only because he had been deceived by the man whom he himself had thought to deceive, but also because he had deceived her to whom he had intended and thought to speak the truth. Moreover, he was much put out at having to content himself with soup for supper.

The ladies, who were well-nigh as vexed as he was, would have accused him of practising this deception had they not clearly seen by his face that he was more wroth than they.

After this slight supper, the secretary went away in great anger, intending, since Bernard du Ha had broken his promise, to break also his own. He therefore betook himself to the Lieutenant’s house, resolved to say the worst he could about the said Bernard.

Quick as he went, however, Bernard was first afield and had already related the whole story to the Lieutenant, who, in passing sentence, told the secretary that he had now learnt to his cost what it was to deceive a Gascon, and this was all the comfort that the secretary got in his shame.

The same thing befalls many who, believing that they are exceedingly clever, forget themselves in their cleverness; wherefore we should never do unto others differently than we would have them do unto us.

“I can assure you,” said Geburon, “that I have often known similar things to come to pass, and have seen men who were deemed rustic blockheads deceive very shrewd people. None can be more foolish than he who thinks himself shrewd, nor wiser than he who knows his own nothingness.”

“Still,” said Parlamente, “a man who knows that he knows nothing, knows something after all.”

“Now,” said Simontault, “for fear lest time should fail us for our discourse, I give my vote to Nomerfide, for I am sure that her rhetoric will keep us no long while.”

“Well,” she replied, “I will tell you a tale such as you desire.

“I am not surprised, ladies, that love should afford Princes the means of escaping from danger, for they are bred up in the midst of so many well-informed persons that I should marvel still more if they were ignorant of anything. But the smaller the intelligence the more clearly is the inventiveness of love displayed, and for this reason I will relate to you a trick played by a priest through the prompting of love alone. In all other matters he was so ignorant that he could scarcely read his mass.”

Tailpiece

the Husbandman Surprised by The Fall of The Winnowing Fan
The Husbandman surprised by the Fall of the Winnowing Fan

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Tale xxix.

A parson, surprised by the sudden return of a husbandman with whose wife he was making good cheer, quickly devised a means for saving himself at the expense of the worthy man, who was never any the wiser. 1

At a village called Carrelles, 2 in the county of Maine, there dwelt a rich husbandman who in his old age had married a fair young wife. She bore him no children, but consoled herself for this disappointment with several lovers.

1 Etienne brings this story into his Apologie pour Hérodote, ch xv. — B. J.

2 Carrelles is at six leagues from Mayenne, in the canton of Gorron. Margaret’s first husband, the Duke of Alençon, held various fiefs in this part of Maine, which would account for the incident related in the story coming to her knowledge. — M. and Ed.

When gentlemen and persons of consequence failed her, she turned as a last resource to the Church, and took for companion in her sin him who could absolve her of it — that is to say, the parson, who often came to visit his pet ewe. The husband, who was dull and old, had no suspicion of the truth; but, as he was a stern and sturdy man, his wife played her game as secretly as she was able, fearing that, if it came to her husband’s knowledge, he would kill her.

One day when he was abroad, his wife, thinking that he would not soon return, sent for his reverence the parson, who came to confess her; and while they were making good cheer together, her husband arrived, and this so suddenly that the priest had not the time to escape out of the house.

Looking about for a means of concealment, he mounted by the woman’s advice into a loft, and covered the trap-door through which he passed with a winnowing fan.

The husband entered the house, and his wife, fearing lest he might suspect something, regaled him exceedingly well at dinner, never sparing the liquor, of which he drank so much, that, being moreover wearied with his work in the fields, he at last fell asleep in his chair in front of the fire.

The parson, tired with waiting so long in the loft, and hearing no noise in the room beneath, leaned over the trap-door, and, stretching out his neck as far as he was able, perceived the goodman to be asleep. However, whilst he was looking at him, he leaned by mischance so heavily upon the fan, that both fan and himself tumbled down by the side of the sleeper. The latter awoke at the noise, but the priest was on his feet before the other had perceived him, and said —

“There is your fan, my friend, and many thanks to you for it.”

With these words he took to flight. The poor husbandman was in utter bewilderment.

“What is this?” he asked of his wife. “’Tis your fan, sweetheart,” she replied, “which the parson had borrowed, and has just brought back.”

Thereupon in a grumbling fashion the goodman rejoined —

“’Tis a rude way of returning what one has borrowed, for I thought the house was coming down.”

In this way did the parson save himself at the expense of the goodman, who discovered nothing to find fault with except the rudeness with which the fan had been returned.

“The master, ladies, whom the parson served, saved him that time so that he might afterwards possess and torment him the longer.”

“Do not imagine,” said Geburon, “that simple folk are more devoid of craft than we are; 3 nay, they have a still larger share. Consider the thieves and murderers and sorcerers and coiners, and all the people of that sort, whose brains are never at rest; they are all poor and of the class of artisans.”

“I do not think it strange,” said Parlamente, “that they should have more craft than others, but rather that love should torment them amid their many toils, and that so gentle a passion should lodge in hearts so base.”

“Madam,” replied Saffredent, “you know what Master Jehan de Mehun has said —

“Those clad in drugget love no less

Than those that wear a silken dress.” 4

3 In MS. No. 1520 this passage runs — “that simple and humble people are,” &c. — L.

4 This is a free rendering of lines 4925-6 of Méon’s edition of the Roman de la Rose:—

“Aussy bien sont amourettes
Soubz bureau que soubz brunettes.”

Bureau, the same as dure, is a kind of drugget; brunette was a silken stuff very fashionable among the French lords and ladies at the time of St. Louis. It was doubtless of a brown hue. — B, J. and M.

Moreover, the love of which the tale speaks is not such as makes one carry harness; for, while poor folk lack our possessions and honours, on the other hand they have their natural advantages more at their convenience than we. Their fare is not so dainty as ours, but their appetites are keener, and they live better on coarse bread than we do on delicacies. Their beds are not so handsome or so well appointed as ours, but their sleep is sounder and their rest less broken. They have no ladies pranked out and painted like those whom we idolise, but they take their pleasure oftener than we, without fear of telltale tongues, save those of the beasts and birds that see them. What we have they lack, and what we lack they possess in abundance.”

“I pray you,” said Nomerfide, “let us now have done with this peasant and his wife, and let us finish the day’s entertainment before vespers. ’Tis Hircan shall bring it to an end.”

“Truly,” said he, “I have kept in reserve as strange and pitiful a tale as ever you heard. And although it grieves me greatly to relate anything to the discredit of a lady, knowing, as I do, that men are malicious enough to blame the whole sex for the fault of one, yet the strangeness of the story prompts me to lay aside my fear. Perhaps, also, the discovery of one woman’s ignorance will make others wiser. And so I will fearlessly tell you the following tale.”

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the Young Gentleman Embracing his Mother
The Young Gentleman embracing his Mother

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Tale xxx.

A young gentleman, of from fourteen to fifteen years of age, thought to lie with one of his mother’s maids, but lay with his mother herself; and she, in consequence thereof, was, nine months afterwards, brought to bed of a daughter, who, twelve or thirteen years later, was wedded by the son; he being ignorant that she was his daughter and sister, and she, that he was her father and brother.1

In the time of King Louis the Twelfth, the Legate at Avignon being then a scion of the house of Amboise, nephew to George, Legate of France, 2 there lived in the land of Languedoc a lady who had an income of more than four thousand ducats a year, and whose name I shall not mention for the love I bear her kinsfolk.

While still very young, she was left a widow with one son; and, both by reason of her regret for her husband and her love for her child, she determined never to marry again. To avoid all opportunity of doing so, she had fellowship only with the devout, for she imagined that opportunity makes the sin, not knowing that sin will devise the opportunity.

This young widow, then, gave herself up wholly to the service of God, and shunned all worldly assemblies so completely that she scrupled to be present at a wedding, or even to listen to the organs playing in a church. When her son was come to the age of seven years, she chose for his schoolmaster a man of holy life, so that he might be trained up in all piety and devotion.

When the son was reaching the age of fourteen or fifteen, Nature, who is a very secret schoolmaster, finding him in good condition and very idle, taught him a different lesson to any he had learned from his tutor. He began to look at and desire such things as he deemed beautiful, and among others a maiden who slept in his mother’s room. No one had any suspicion of this, for he was looked upon as a mere child, and, moreover, in that household nothing save godly talk was ever heard.

This young gallant, however, began secretly soliciting the girl, who complained of it to her mistress. The latter had so much love for her son and so high an opinion of him, that she thought the girl spoke as she did in order to make her hate him; but, being strongly urged by the other, she at last said —

“I shall find out whether it is true, and will punish him if it be as you say. But if, on the other hand, you are bringing an untruthful accusation against him, you shall suffer for it.”

Then, in order to test the matter, she bade the girl make an appointment with her son that he might come and lie with her at midnight, in the bed in which she slept alone, beside the door of his mother’s room.

The maid obeyed her mistress, who, when night came, took the girl’s place, resolved, if the story were true, to punish her son so severely that he would never again lie with a woman without remembering it.

While she was thinking thus wrathfully, her son came and got into the bed, but although she beheld him do so, she could not yet believe that he meditated any unworthy deed. She therefore refrained from speaking to him until he had given her some token of his evil intent, for no trifling matters could persuade her that his desire was actually a criminal one. Her patience, however, was tried so long, and her nature proved so frail that, forgetting her motherhood, her anger became transformed into an abominable delight. And just as water that has been restrained by force rushes onward with the greater vehemence when it is released, so was it with this unhappy lady who had so prided herself on the constraint she had put upon her body. After taking the first step downwards to dishonour, she suddenly found herself at the bottom, and thus that night she became pregnant by him whom she had thought to restrain from acting in similar fashion towards another.

No sooner was the sin accomplished than such remorse of conscience began to torment her as filled the whole of her after-life with repentance. And so keen was it at the first, that she rose from beside her son — who still thought that she was the maid — and entered a closet, where, dwelling upon the goodness of her intention and the wickedness of its execution, she spent the whole night alone in tears and lamentation.

But instead of humbling herself, and recognising the powerlessness of our flesh, without God’s assistance, to work anything but sin, she sought by her own tears and efforts to atone for the past, and by her own prudence to avoid mischief in the future, always ascribing her sin to circumstances and not to wickedness, for which there is no remedy save the grace of God. Accordingly she sought to act so as never again to fall into such wrongdoing; and as though there were but one sin that brought damnation in its train, she put forth all her strength to shun that sin alone.

But the roots of pride, which acts of sin ought rather to destroy, grew stronger and stronger within her, so that in avoiding one evil she wrought many others. Early on the morrow, as soon as it was light, she sent for her son’s preceptor, and said —

“My son is beginning to grow up, it is time to send him from home. I have a kinsman, Captain Monteson, 3 who is beyond the mountains with my lord the Grand-Master of Chaumont, and he will be very glad to admit him into his company. Take him, therefore, without delay, and to spare me the pain of parting do not let him come to bid me farewell.”

So saying, she gave him money for the journey, and that very morning sent the young man away, he being right glad of this, for, after enjoying his sweetheart, he asked nothing better than to set off to the wars.

The lady continued for a great while in deep sadness and melancholy, and, but for the fear of God, had many a time longed that the unhappy fruit of her womb might perish. She feigned sickness, in order that she might wear a cloak and so conceal her condition; and having a bastard brother, in whom she had more trust than in any one else, and upon whom she had conferred many benefits, she sent for him when the time of her confinement was drawing nigh, told him her condition (but without mentioning her son’s part in it), and besought him to help her save her honour. This he did, and, a few days before the time when she expected to be delivered, he begged her to try a change of air and remove to his house, where she would recover her health more quickly than at home. Thither she went with but a very small following, and found there a midwife who had been summoned as for her brother’s wife, and who one night, without recognising her, delivered her of a fine little girl. The gentleman gave the child to a nurse, and caused it to be cared for as his own.

After continuing there for a month, the lady returned in sound health to her own house, where she lived more austerely than ever in fasts and disciplines. But when her son was grown up, he sent to beg his mother’s permission to return home, as there was at that time no war in Italy. She, fearing lest she should fall again into the same misfortune, would not at first allow him, but he urged her so earnestly that at last she could find no reason for refusing him. However, she instructed him that he was not to appear before her until he was married to a woman whom he dearly loved; but to whose fortune he need give no heed, for it would suffice if she were of gentle birth.

Meanwhile her bastard brother, finding that the daughter left in his charge had grown to be a tall maiden of perfect beauty, resolved to place her in some distant household where she would not be known, and by the mother’s advice she was given to Catherine, Queen of Navarre. 4 The maiden thus came to the age of twelve or thirteen years, and was so beautiful and virtuous that the Queen of Navarre had great friendship for her, and much desired to marry her to one of wealth and station. Being poor, however, she found no husband, though she had lovers enough and to spare.

Now it happened one day that the gentleman who was her unknown father came to the house of the Queen of Navarre on his way back from beyond the mountains, and as soon as he had set eyes on his daughter he fell in love with her, and having license from his mother to marry any woman that might please him, he only inquired whether she was of gentle birth, and, hearing that she was, asked her of the Queen in marriage. The Queen willingly consented, for she knew that the gentleman was not only rich and handsome, but worshipful to boot.

When the marriage had been consummated, the gentleman again wrote to his mother, saying that she could no longer close her doors against him, since he was bringing with him as fair a daughter-in-law as she could desire. The lady inquired to whom he had allied himself, and found that it was to none other than their own daughter. Thereupon she fell into such exceeding sorrow that she nearly came by a sudden death, seeing that the more she had striven to hinder her misfortune, the greater had it thereby become.

Not knowing what else to do, she went to the Legate of Avignon, to whom she confessed the enormity of her sin, at the same time asking his counsel as to how she ought to act. The Legate, to satisfy his conscience, sent for several doctors of theology, and laid the matter before them, without, however, mentioning any names; and their advice was that the lady should say nothing to her children, for they, being in ignorance, had committed no sin, but that she herself should continue doing penance all her life without allowing it to become known.

Accordingly, the unhappy lady returned home, where not long afterwards her son and daughter-in-law arrived. And they loved each other so much that never were there husband and wife more loving, nor yet more resembling each other; for she was his daughter, his sister and his wife, while he was her father, her brother and her husband. And this exceeding love between them continued always; and the unhappy and deeply penitent lady could never see them in dalliance together without going apart to weep.

 

“You see, ladies, what befalls those who think that by their own strength and virtue they may subdue Love and Nature and all the faculties that God has given them. It were better to recognise their own weakness, and instead of running a-tilt against such an adversary, to betake themselves to Him who is their true Friend, saying to Him in the words of the Psalmist, ‘Lord, I am afflicted very much; answer Thou for me.’” 5

“It were impossible,” said Oisille “to hear a stranger story than this. Methinks every man and woman should bend low in the fear of God, seeing that in spite of a good intention so much mischief came to pass.”

“You may be sure,” said Parlamente, “that the first step a man takes in self-reliance, removes him so far from reliance upon God.”

“A man is wise,” said Geburon, “when he knows himself to be his greatest enemy, and holds his own wishes and counsels in suspicion.”

“Albeit the motive might seem to be a good and holy one,” said Longarine, “there were surely none, howsoever worthy in appearance, that should induce a woman to lie beside a man, whatever the kinship between them, for fire and tow may not safely come together.”

“Without question,” said Ennasuite, “she must have been some self-sufficient fool, who, in her friar-like dreaming, deemed herself so saintly as to be incapable of sin, just as many of the Friars would have us believe that we can become, merely by our own efforts, which is an exceeding great error.”

“Is it possible, Longarine,” asked Oisille, “that there are people foolish enough to hold such an opinion?”

“They go further than that,” replied Longarine. “They say that we ought to accustom ourselves to the virtue of chastity; and in order to try their strength they speak with the prettiest women they can find and whom they like best, and by kissing and touching them essay whether their fleshly nature be wholly dead. When they find themselves stirred by such pleasure, they desist, and have recourse to fasts and grievous discipline. Then, when they have so far mortified their flesh that neither speech nor kiss has power to move them, they make trial of the supreme temptation, that, namely, of lying together and embracing without any lustfulness. 6 But for one who has escaped, so many have come to mischief, that the Archbishop of Milan, where this religious practice used to be carried on, 7 was obliged to separate them and place the women in convents and the men in monasteries.”

“Truly,” said Geburon, “it were the extremity of folly to seek to become sinless by one’s own efforts, and at the same time to seek out opportunities for sin.”

“There are some,” said Saffredent, “who do the very opposite, and flee opportunities for sin as carefully as they are able; nevertheless, concupiscence pursues them. Thus the good Saint Jerome, after scourging and hiding himself in the desert, confessed that he could not escape from the fire that consumed his marrow. We ought, therefore, to recommend ourselves to God, for unless He uphold us by His power, we are greatly prone to fall.”

“You do not notice what I do,” said Hircan. “While we were telling our stories, the monks behind the hedge here heard nothing of the vesper-bell; whereas, now that we have begun to speak about God, they have taken themselves off, and are at this moment ringing the second bell.”

“We shall do well to follow them,” said Oisille, “and praise God for enabling us to spend this day in the happiest manner imaginable.”

Hereat they rose and went to the church, where they piously heard vespers; after which they went to supper, discussing the discourses they had heard, and calling to mind divers adventures that had come to pass in their own day, in order to determine which of them were worthy to be recounted. And after spending the whole evening in gladness, they betook themselves to their gentle rest, hoping on the morrow to continue this pastime which was so agreeable to them.

And so was the Third Day brought to an end.

Tailpiece

1 This story is based on an ancient popular tradition common to many parts of France, and some particulars of which, with a list of similar tales in various European languages, will be found in the Appendix, [below]. — En.

2 The Papal Legate in France here alluded to is the famous George, Cardinal d’Amboise, favourite minister of Louis XII. His nephew, the Legate at Avignon, is Louis d’Amboise, fourth son of Peter d’Amboise, Lord of Chaumont, and brother of the Grand-Master of Chaumont. Louis d’Amboise became bishop of Albi, and lieutenant-general of the King of France in Burgundy, Languedoc and Roussillon, and played an important part in the public affairs of his time. He died in 1505. — See Gallia Christiana, vol. i. p. 34. — L. and R. J.

3 Monteson was one of the bravest captains of his time; as the comrade of Bayard, he greatly distinguished himself by his intrepidity in Louis XII.’s Italian campaigns. Some particulars concerning him will be found in M. Lacroix’s edition of Les Chroniques de Jean d’Anton. — B. J. Respecting the Grand-Master of Chaumont, also mentioned above, see ante, vol ii., notes to Tale XIV.

4 This is Catherine, daughter of Gaston and sister of Francis Phoebus de Foix. On her brother’s death, in 1483, she became Queen of Navarre, Duchess of Nemours and Countess of Foix and Bigorre, and in the following year espoused John, eldest son of Alan, Sire d’Albret. Catherine at this time was fourteen years old, and her husband, who by the marriage became King of Navarre, was only one year her senior. Their title to the crown was disputed by a dozen pretenders, for several years they exercised but a precarious authority, and eventually, in July 1512, Ferdinand the Catholic despatched the Duke of Alva to besiege Pamplona. On the fourth day of the siege John and Catherine succeeded in escaping from their capital, which, three days later, surrendered. Ferdinand, having sworn to maintain the fueros, was thereupon acknowledged as sovereign. However, it was only in 1516 that the former rulers were expelled from Navarrese territory. “Had I been Don Juan and you Donna Catherine,” said the Queen to her pusillanimous husband, as they crossed the Pyrenees, “we should not have lost our kingdom.” From this time forward the d’Albrets, like their successors the Bourbons, were sovereigns of Navarre in name only, for an attempt made in 1521 to reconquer the kingdom resulted in total failure, and their dominions were thenceforth confined to Beam, Bigorre, and Foix on the French side of the Pyrenees. Queen Catherine died in 1517, aged 47, leaving several children, the eldest of whom was Henry, Queen Margaret’s second husband. — M., B. J., D. and Ed.

5 We have failed to find this sentence in the Psalms. Probably the reference is to Isaiah xxxviii. 14, “O Lord, I am oppressed; undertake for me." — Eu.

6 Robert d’Arbrissel, the founder of the abbey of Fontevrault (see ante, p. 74), was accused of this practice. — See the article Fontevraud in Desoer’s edition of Bayle’s Dictionary, vi. 508, 519. — M.

7 Queen Margaret possibly refers to some incidents which occurred at Milan in the early part of the fourteenth century, when Matteo and Galeazzo Visconti ruled the city. In Signor Tullio Dandolo’s work, Sui xxiii. libri delta Histories Patrice di Giuseppe Ripamonti ragionamento (Milano, 1856, pp. 52-60), will be found the story of a woman of the people, Guglielmina, and her accomplice, Andrea Saramita, who under some religious pretext founded a secret society of females. The debauchery practised by its members being discovered, Saramita was burnt alive, and Guglielmina’s bones were disinterred and thrown into the fire. The Bishop of Milan at this time (1296-1308) was Francesco Fontana. — M.

Appendix D.

Various French, English and Italian authors have written imitations of this tale, concerning which Dunlop writes as follows in his History of Fiction:—

“The plot of Bandello’s thirty-fifth story is the same as that of Horace Walpole’s comedy The Mysterious Mother, and of the Queen of Navarre’s thirtieth tale. The earlier portion will be found also in Masuccio’s twenty-third tale: but the second part, relating to the marriage, occurs only in Bandello’s work and the Heptameron. It is not likely, however, that the French or the Italian novelist borrowed from one another. The tales of Bandello were first published in 1554, and as the Queen of Navarre died in 1549, it is improbable that she ever had an opportunity of seeing them. On the other hand, the work of the Queen was not printed till 1558, nine years after her death, so it is not likely that any part of it was copied by Bandello, whose tales had been edited some years before.”

Walpole, it may be mentioned, denied having had any knowledge either of the Heptameron or of Bandello when he wrote The Mysterious Mother, which was suggested to him, he declared, by a tale he had heard when very young, of a lady who had waited on Archbishop Tillotson with a story similar to that which is told by Queen Margaret’s heroine to the Legate of Avignon. According to Walpole, Tillotson’s advice was identical with that given by the Legate.

Dunlop mentions that a tale of this character is given in Byshop’s Blossoms (vol. xi.); and other authors whose writings contain similar stories are: Giovani Brevio, Rime e Prose vulgari, Roma, 1545 (Novella iv.); Desfontaine’s L’Inceste innocent, histoire véritable, Paris, 1644 5 Tommaso Grappulo, or Grappolino, Il Convito Borghesiano, Londra, 1800 (Novella vii.); Luther, Colloquia Mens alia (article on auricular confession); and Masuccio de Solerac, Novellino, Ginevra, 1765 (Novella xxiii.).

Curiously enough, Bandello declares that the story was related to him by a lady of Navarre (Queen Margaret?) as having occurred in that country, while Julio de Medrano, a Spanish author of the sixteenth century, asserts that it was told to him in the Bourbonnais as being actual fact, and that he positively saw the house where the lady’s son and his wife resided; but on the other hand we find the tale related, in its broad lines, in Amadis de Gaule as being an old-time legend, and in proof of this, it figures in an ancient French poem of the life of St. Gregory, the MS. of which still exists at Tours, and was printed in 1854.

In support of the theory that the tale is based on actual fact, the following passage from Millin’s Antiquités Nationales (vol. iii. f. xxviii. p. 6) is quoted —

“In the middle of the nave of the collégial church of Ecouis, in the cross aisle, was found a white marble slab on which was inscribed this epitaph:—

“Here lies the child, here lies the father,
Here lies the sister, here lies the brother,
Here lie the wife and the husband,
Yet there are but two bodies here.”

“The tradition is that a son of Madame d’Écouis had by his mother, without knowing her or being recognised by her, a daughter named Cecilia, whom he afterwards married in Lorraine, she then being in the service of the Duchess of Bar. Thus Cecilia was at one and the same time her husband’s daughter, sister and wife. They were interred together in the same grave at Écouis in 1512.”

According to Millin, a similar tradition will be found with variations in different parts of France. For instance, at the church of Alincourt, a village between Amiens and Abbeville, there was to be seen in Millin’s time an epitaph running as follows:—

“Here lies the son, here lies the mother,
Here lies the daughter with the father;
Here lies the sister, here lies the brother,
Here lie the wife and the husband;
And there are only three bodies here.”

Gaspard Meturas, it may be added, gives the same epitaph in his Hortus Epitaphiomm Selectorum, issued in 1648, but declares that it is to be found at Clermont in Auvergne — a long way from Amiens — and explains it by saying that the mother engendered her husband by intercourse with her own father; whence it follows that he was at the same time her husband, son and brother. — L. M. and Ed.

Fourth Day.

On the Fourth Day are chiefly told Tales of the virtuous patience and long suffering of Ladies to win over their husbands; and of the prudence that Men have used towards Women to save the honour of their families and lineage.

Prologue.

The Lady Oisille, as was her excellent custom, rose up on the morrow very much earlier than the others, and meditating upon her book of Holy Scripture, awaited the company which, little by little, assembled together again. And the more slothful of them excused themselves in the words of the Bible, saying, “I have a wife, and therefore could not come so quickly.” 1 In this wise it came to pass that Hircan and his wife Parlamente found the reading of the lesson already begun. Oisille, however, knew right well how to pick out the passage in the Scriptures, which reproves those who neglect the hearing of the Word, and she not only read the text, but also addressed to them such excellent and pious exhortations that it was impossible to weary of listening to her.

1 “I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come." — St. Luke xiv. 20. — M.

The reading ended, Parlamente said to her —

“I felt sorry for my slothfulness when I came in, but since my error has led you to speak to me in such excellent fashion, my laziness has profited me double, for I have had rest of body by sleeping longer, and satisfaction of spirit by hearing your godly discourse.” “Well,” said Oisille, “let us for penance go to mass and pray Our Lord to give us both will and power to fulfil His commandments; and then may He command us according to His own good pleasure.”

As she was saying these words, they reached the church, where they piously heard mass. And afterwards they sat down to table, where Hircan failed not to laugh at the slothfulness of his wife. After dinner they withdrew to rest and study their parts, 2 and when the hour was come, they all found themselves at the wonted spot.

2 Meaning what they had to relate. The French word is rolle from rotulus. — M.

Then Oisille asked Hircan to whom he would give his vote to begin the day.

“If my wife,” said he, “had not begun yesterday, I should have given her my vote, for although I always thought that she loved me more than any man alive, she has further proved to me this morning that she loves me better than God or His Word, seeing that she neglected your excellent reading to bear me company. However, since I cannot give my vote to the discreetest lady of the company, I will present it to Geburon, who is the discreetest among the men; and I beg that he will in no wise spare the monks.”

“It was not necessary to beg that of me,” said Geburon; “I was not at all likely to forget them. Only a short while ago I heard Monsieur de Saint-Vincent, Ambassador of the Emperor, tell a story of them which is well worthy of being rememorated and I will now relate it to you.”

the Wicked Friar Captured
The Wicked Friar Captured

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Tale xxxi.

A monastery of Grey Friars was burned down, with the monks that were in it, as a perpetual memorial of the cruelty practised by one among them that was in love with a lady.

In the lands subject to the Emperor Maximilian of Austria 1 there was a monastery of Grey Friars that was held in high repute, and nigh to it stood the house of a gentleman who was so kindly disposed to these monks that he could withhold nothing from them, in order to share in the benefits of their fastings and disciplines. Among the rest there was a tall and handsome friar whom the said gentleman had taken to be his confessor, and who had as much authority in the gentleman’s house as the gentleman himself. This friar, seeing that the gentleman’s wife was as beautiful and prudent as it was possible to be, fell so deeply in love with her that he lost all appetite for both food and drink, and all natural reason as well. One day, thinking to work his end, he went all alone to the house, and not finding the gentleman within, asked the lady whither he was gone. She replied that he was gone to an estate where he proposed remaining during two or three days, but that if the friar had business with him, she would despatch a man expressly to him. The friar said no to this, and began to walk to and fro in the house like one with a weighty matter in his mind.

1 Maximilian I., grandfather of Charles V. and Ferdinand I., and Emperor of Germany from 1494 to 1519. — Ed.

When he had left the room, the lady said to one of her women (and there were but two) “Go after the good father and find out what he wants, for I judge by his countenance that he is displeased.”

The serving-woman went to the courtyard and asked the friar whether he desired aught, whereat he answered that he did, and, drawing her into a corner, he took a dagger which he carried in his sleeve, and thrust it into her throat. Just after he had done this, there came into the courtyard a mounted servant who had been gone to receive the rent of a farm. As soon as he had dismounted he saluted the friar, who embraced him, and while doing so thrust the dagger into the back part of his neck. And thereupon he closed the castle gate.

The lady, finding that her serving-woman did not return, was astonished that she should remain so long with the friar, and said to the other —

“Go and see why your fellow-servant does not come back.”

The woman went, and as soon as the good father saw her, he drew her aside into a corner and did to her as he had done to her companion. Then, finding himself alone in the house, he came to the lady, and told her that he had long been in love with her, and that the hour was now come when she must yield him obedience.

The lady, who had never suspected aught of this, replied —

“I am sure, father, that were I so evilly inclined, you would be the first to cast a stone at me.”

“Come out into the courtyard,” returned the monk, “and you will see what I have done.”

When she beheld the two women and the man lying dead, she was so terrified that she stood like a statue, without uttering a word. The villain, who did not seek merely an hour’s delight, would not take her by force, but forthwith said to her —

“Mistress, be not afraid; you are in the hands of him who, of all living men, loves you the most.”

So saying, he took off his long robe, beneath which he wore a shorter one, which he gave to the lady, telling her that if she did not take it, she should be numbered with those whom she saw lying lifeless before her eyes.

More dead than alive already, the lady resolved to feign obedience, both to save her life, and to gain time, as she hoped, for her husband’s return. At the command of the friar, she set herself to put off her head-dress as slowly as she was able; and when this was done, the friar, heedless of the beauty of her hair, quickly cut it off. Then he caused her to take off all her clothes except her chemise, and dressed her in the smaller robe he had worn, he himself resuming the other, which he was wont to wear; then he departed thence with all imaginable speed, taking with him the little friar he had coveted so long.

But God, who pities the innocent in affliction, beheld the tears of this unhappy lady, and it so happened that her husband, having arranged matters more speedily than he had expected, was now returning home by the same road by which she herself was departing. However, when the friar perceived him in the distance, he said to the lady —

“I see your husband coming this way. I know that if you look at him he will try to take you out of my hands. Go, then, before me, and turn not your head in his direction; for, if you make the faintest sign, my dagger will be in your throat before he can deliver you.”

As he was speaking, the gentleman came up, and asked him whence he was coming.

“From your house,” replied the other, “where I left my lady in good health, and waiting for you.”

The gentleman passed on without observing his wife, but a servant who was with him, and who had always been wont to foregather with one of the friar’s comrades named Brother John, began to call to his mistress, thinking, indeed, that she was this Brother John. The poor woman, who durst not turn her eyes in the direction of her husband, answered not a word. The servant, however, wishing to see her face, crossed the road, and the lady, still without making any reply, signed to him with her eyes, which were full of tears.

The servant then went after his master and said — “Sir, as I crossed the road I took note of the friar’s companion. He is not Brother John, but is very like my lady, your wife, and gave me a pitiful look with eyes full of tears.”

The gentleman replied that he was dreaming, and paid no heed to him; but the servant persisted, entreating his master to allow him to go back, whilst he himself waited on the road, to see if matters were as he thought. The gentleman gave him leave, and waited to see what news he would bring him. When the friar heard the servant calling out to Brother John, he suspected that the lady had been recognised, and with a great, iron-bound stick that he carried, he dealt the servant so hard a blow in the side that he knocked him off his horse. Then, leaping upon his body, he cut his throat.

The gentleman, seeing his servant fall in the distance, thought that he had met with an accident, and hastened back to assist him. As soon as the friar saw him, he struck him also with the iron-bound stick, just as he had struck the servant, and, flinging him to the ground, threw himself upon him. But the gentleman being strong and powerful, hugged the friar so closely that he was unable to do any mischief, and was forced to let his dagger fall. The lady picked it up, and, giving it to her husband, held the friar with all her strength by the hood. Then her husband dealt the friar several blows with the dagger, so that at last he cried for mercy and confessed his wickedness. The gentleman was not minded to kill him, but begged his wife to go home and fetch their people and a cart, in which to carry the friar away. This she did, throwing off her robe, and running as far as her house in nothing but her shift, with her cropped hair.

The gentleman’s men forthwith hastened to assist their master to bring away the wolf that he had captured. And they found this wolf in the road, on the ground, where he was seized and bound, and taken to the house of the gentleman, who afterwards had him brought before the Emperor’s Court in Flanders, when he confessed his evil deeds.

And by his confession and by proofs procured by commissioners on the spot, it was found that a great number of gentlewomen and handsome wenches had been brought into the monastery in the same fashion as the friar of my story had sought to carry off this lady; and he would have succeeded but for the mercy of Our Lord, who ever assists those that put their trust in Him. And the said monastery was stripped of its spoils and of the handsome maidens that were found within it, and the monks were shut up in the building and burned with it, as an everlasting memorial of this crime, by which we see that there is nothing more dangerous than love when it is founded upon vice, just as there is nothing more gentle or praiseworthy when it dwells in a virtuous heart. 2

2 Queen Margaret states (ante, p. 5) that this tale was told by M. de St.-Vincent, ambassador of Charles V., and seems to imply that the incident recorded in it was one of recent occurrence. The same story may be found, however, in most of the collections of early fabliaux. See OEuvres de Rutebeuf, vol. i. p. 260 (Frère Denise), Legrand d’Aussy’s Fabliaux, vol. iv. p. 383, and the Recueil complet des Fabliaux, Paris, 1878, vol. iii. p. 253. There is also some similarity between this tale and No. LX. of the Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles. Estienne quotes it in his Apologie pour Hérodote, L’Estoile in his Journal du règne de Henri III. (anno 1577), Malespini uses it in his Ducento Novelle (No. 75), and it suggested to Lafontaine his Cordeliers de Catalogne. — L. and M.

“I am very sorry, ladies, that truth does not provide us with stories as much to the credit of the Grey Friars as it does to the contrary. It would be a great pleasure to me, by reason of the love that I bear their Order, if I knew of one in which I could really praise them; but we have vowed so solemnly to speak the truth that, after hearing it from such as are well worthy of belief, I cannot but make it known to you. Nevertheless, I promise you that, whenever the monks shall accomplish a memorable and glorious deed, I will be at greater pains to exalt it than I have been in relating the present truthful history.”

“In good faith, Geburon,” said Oisille, “that was a love which might well have been called cruelty.”

“I am astonished,” said Simontault, “that he was patient enough not to take her by force when he saw her in her shift, and in a place where he might have mastered her.”

“He was not an epicure, but a glutton,” said Saffredent. “He wanted to have his fill of her every day, and so was not minded to amuse himself with a mere taste.”

“That was not the reason,” said Parlamente. “Understand that a lustful man is always timorous, and the fear that he had of being surprised and robbed of his prey led him, wolf-like, to carry off his lamb that he might devour it at his ease.”

“For all that,” said Dagoucin, “I cannot believe that he loved her, or that the virtuous god of love could dwell in so base a heart.”

“Be that as it may,” said Oisille, “he was well punished, and I pray God that like attempts may meet with the same chastisement. But to whom will you give your vote?”

“To you, madam,” replied Geburon; “you will, I know, not fail to tell us a good story.”

“Since it is my turn,” said Oisille, “I will relate to you one that is indeed excellent, seeing that the adventure befel in my own day, and before the eyes of him who told it to me. You are, I am sure, aware that death ends all our woes, and this being so, it may be termed our happiness and tranquil rest. It is, therefore, a misfortune if a man desires death and cannot obtain it, and so the most grievous punishment that can be given to a wrongdoer is not death, but a continual torment, great enough to render death desirable, but withal too slight to bring it nearer. And this was how a husband used his wife, as you shall hear.”

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Bernage Observing the German Lady's Strange Penance
Bernage observing the German Lady’s Strange Penance

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Tale xxxii.

Bernage, learning in what patience and humility a German lady submitted to the strange penance laid upon her for her unchastity by her husband, so persuaded the latter that he forgot the past, showed pity to his wife, and, taking her back again, afterwards had by her some very handsome children.

King Charles, eighth of the name, sent into Germany a gentleman called Bernage, Lord of Sivray, near Amboise, 1 who to make good speed spared not to travel both by day and night. In this wise he came very late one evening to a gentleman’s castle, where he asked for lodging, a request which was not granted him without great difficulty.

1 Bernage, Bernaige, or Vernaiges, as the name is diversely written in the MSS. of the Heptameron, was in 1495 equerry to Charles VIII., a post which brought him an annual salary of 300 livres. — See Godefroy’s Histoire de Charles VIII., p. 705. Civray, near Chenonceaux, on the Cher, was a fief of the barony of Amboise. In 1483 we find a certain John Goussart doing homage for it to the crown. — Archives Nationales, Section Domaniale, côte 3801. — L.

However, when the gentleman came to know that he was servant to so great a King, he went to him and begged him not to take the churlishness of his servants in bad part, since he was obliged to keep his house thus closed on account of certain of his wife’s kinsfolk who sought to do him hurt. Bernage then told him the nature of his mission, wherein the gentleman offered to serve the interests of the King his master, so far as in him lay; and he forthwith led Bernage into the house, where he lodged and entertained him honourably.

It was the hour for supper, and the gentleman led him into a handsome room, hung with beautiful tapestry, where, as soon as the meats were served, he saw come from behind the hangings the most beautiful woman it were possible to behold; though her head was shorn and she was dressed in black garments of the German fashion.

After the gentleman had washed his hands with Bernage, water was borne to the lady, who also washed hers and then sat down at the end of the table without speaking to the gentleman, or he to her. The Lord de Bernage looked very closely at her, and thought her one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen, except that her face was very pale, and its expression very sad.

After eating a little, she asked for drink, which was brought to her by a servant in a most marvellous vessel, for it was a death’s head, the eyeholes of which were closed with silver; and from this she drank two or three times. When she had supped, the lady washed her hands, made a reverence to the lord of the house, and retired again behind the tapestry without speaking to any one. Bernage was exceedingly amazed at this strange sight, and became very melancholy and thoughtful.

The gentleman, who perceived this, then said to him —

“I perceive that you are astonished at what you have seen at this table; but for the sake of the excellence that I find in you I will explain the matter, so that you may not think I could show such cruelty without reasons of great weight. The lady whom you saw is my wife; I loved her more than ever man loved woman, insomuch that in order to marry her I forgot all fear, and brought her hither in defiance of her relations. On her part, she showed me so many tokens of love that I would have risked ten thousand lives in bringing her hither, to her delight and mine. And here we lived for a while in such peace and gladness that I deemed myself the happiest gentleman in Christendom.

“But it came to pass, upon my undertaking a journey which my honour compelled me to make, she forgot her honour, conscience and love for me to such a degree as to fall in love with a young gentleman whom I had brought up in this house, and this I thought I could perceive when I returned home again. Nevertheless, the love I bore her was so great that I was not able to mistrust her, until at last experience opened my eyes and made me see what I dreaded more than death, whereupon my love for her was turned to frenzy and despair in such wise that I watched her closely, and one day, while feigning to walk abroad, I hid myself in the room in which she now dwells.

“Thither she withdrew soon after my departure, and sent for the young gentleman, whom I saw come in with such familiarity as should have been mine alone. But when I saw him about to get upon the bed beside her, I sprang out, seized him in her very arms, and slew him. And as my wife’s crime seemed to me so great that death would not suffice to punish it, I laid upon her a penalty which she must hold, I think, to be more bitter than death; and this penalty was to shut her up in the room to which she was wont to retire to take her greatest pleasures in the company of him for whom she had more love than she had for me; and there I further placed in a cupboard all her lover’s bones, hanging there even as precious things are hung up in a cabinet.

“That she may not lose the memory of this villain I cause her to be served with his skull, 2 in place of a cup, when she is eating and drinking at table, and this always in my presence, so that she may behold, alive, him whom her guilt has made her mortal enemy, and dead, through love of her, him whose love she did prefer to mine. And in this wise, at dinner and at supper, she sees the two things that must be most displeasing to her, to wit, her living enemy, and her dead lover; and all this through her own great sinfulness.

2 It will be remembered that the Lombard King Alboin forced his wife Rosamond to drink his health out of a goblet which had been made from the skull of her father Cunimond, sovereign of the Gepidæ. To revenge herself for this affront, Rosamond caused her husband to be murdered one night during his sleep in his palace at Pavia. — Ed.

“In other matters I treat her as I do myself, save that she goes shorn; for an array of hair beseems not the adulterous, nor a veil the unchaste.

“For this reason is her hair cut, showing that she has lost the honour of virginity and purity. Should it please you to take the trouble to see her, I will lead you to her.”

To this Bernage willingly consented, and going-downstairs they found her in a very handsome apartment, seated all alone in front of the fire. The gentleman drew aside a curtain that hung in front of a large cupboard, wherein could be seen hanging a dead man’s bones. Bernage greatly longed to speak to the lady, but durst not do so for fear of the husband. The gentleman, perceiving this, thereupon said to him —

“If it be your pleasure to say anything to her, you will see what manner of grace and speech is hers.”

Then said Bernage to her — “Lady, your patience is as great as your torment. I hold you to be the most unhappy woman alive.”

With tears in her eyes, and with the humblest grace imaginable, the lady answered —

“Sir, I acknowledge my offence to have been so great that all the woes that the lord of this house (for I am not worthy to call him husband) may be pleased to lay upon me are nothing in comparison with the grief I feel at having offended him.”

So saying, she began to weep bitterly. The gentleman took Bernage by the arm and led him away.

On the following morning Bernage took his leave, in order to proceed on the mission that the King had given him. However, in bidding the gentleman farewell, he could not refrain from saying to him —

“Sir, the love I bear you, and the honour and friendship that you have shown me in your house, constrain me to tell you that, having regard to the deep penitence of your unhappy wife, you should, in my opinion, take compassion upon her. You are, moreover, young and have no children, and it would be a great pity that so fair a lineage should come to an end, and that those who, perhaps, have no love for you, should become your heirs.”

The gentleman, who had resolved that he would never more speak to his wife, pondered a long time on the discourse held to him by the Lord de Bernage, and at last recognised that he had spoken truly, and promised him that, if his wife should continue in her present humility, he would at some time have pity upon her.

Accordingly Bernage departed on his mission, and when he had returned to his master, the King, he told him the whole story, which the Prince, upon inquiry, found to be true. And as Bernage among other things had made mention of the lady’s beauty, the King sent his painter, who was called John of Paris, 3 that he might make and bring him a living portrait of her, which, with her husband’s consent, he did. And when she had long done penance, the gentleman, in his desire to have offspring, and in the pity that he felt for his wife who had submitted to this penance with so much humility, took her back again and afterwards had by her many handsome children. 4

3 John Perréal, called “Jehan de Paris,” was one of the most famous painters of the reigns of Charles VIII. and Louis XII. At the end of 1496 we find him resident at Lyons, and there enjoying considerable celebrity. From October 1498 to November 1499 he figures in the roll of officers of the royal household, as valet of the wardrobe, with a salary of 240 livres. In the royal stable accounts for 1508 he appears as receiving ten livres to defray the expense of keeping a horse during June and July that year. He is known to have painted the portrait and planned the obsequies of Philibert of Savoy in 1509; to have been sent to England in 1514 to paint a portrait of the Princess Mary, sister of Henry VIII., who married Louis XII.; and in 1515 to have had charge of all the decorative work connected with Louis XII.’s obsequies. In his Légende des Vénitiens (1509) John Le Maire de Belges praises Perréal’s skill both in landscape and portrait painting, and describes him as a most painstaking and hardworking artist. He had previously referred to him in his Temple d’Honneur et de Vertu (1504) as being already at that period painter to the King. In the roll of the officers of Francis I.’s household (1522) Perréal’s name takes precedence of that of the better known Jehannet Clouet, but it does not appear in that of 1529, about which time he would appear to have died. Shortly before that date he had designed some curious initial letters for the famous Parisian printer and bookseller, Tory. The Claud Perréal, “Lyonnese,” whom Clement Marot commemorates in his 36th Rondeau would appear to have been a relative, possibly the son, of “Jehan de Paris." — See Léon de La Borde’s Renaissance des Arts, vol. i., Pericaud ainé’s Notice sur Jean de Paris, Lyons, 1858, and more particularly E. M. Bancel’s Jehan Perréal dit Jean de Paris, peintre et valet-de-chambre des rois Charles VIII. Louis XII., &c. Paris, Launette, 1884. — L. and M.

4 Brantôme refers to this tale, as an example of marital cruelty, in his Vies des Dames Galantes, Lalanne’s edition, vol. ix. p. 38. — L.

“If, ladies, all those whom a like adventure has befallen, were to drink out of similar vessels, I greatly fear that many a gilt cup would be turned into a death’s head. May God keep us from such a fortune, for if His goodness do not restrain us, there is none among us but might do even worse; but if we trust in Him He will protect those who confess that they are not able to protect themselves. Those who confide in their own strength are in great danger of being tempted so far as to be constrained to acknowledge their frailty. Many have stumbled through pride in this way, while those who were reputed less discreet have been saved with honour. The old proverb says truly, ‘Whatsoever God keeps is well kept.’”

“The punishment,” said Parlamente, “was in my opinion a most reasonable one, for, just as the offence was more than death, so ought the punishment to have been.”

“I am not of your opinion,” said Ennasuite. “I would rather see the bones of all my lovers hanging up in my cabinet than die on their account. There is no misdeed that cannot be repaired during life, but after death there is no reparation possible.”

“How can shame be repaired?” said Longarine. “You know that, whatever a woman may do after a misdeed of that kind, she cannot repair her honour.”

“I pray you,” said Ennasuite, “tell me whether the Magdalen has not now more honour among men than her sister who continued a virgin?” 5

5 Martha, sister of Lazarus and Mary Magdalen. — M.

“I acknowledge,” said Longarine, “that we praise her for the great love she bore to Jesus Christ and for her deep repentance; yet the name of sinner clings to her.”

“I do not care what name men may give me,” said Ennasuite, “if only God forgive me, and my husband do the same. There is nothing for which I should be willing to die.”

“If the lady loved her husband as she ought,” said Dagoucin, “I am amazed that she did not die of sorrow on looking at the bones of the man whom her guilt had slain.”

“Why, Dagoucin,” returned Simontault, “have you still to learn that women know neither love nor even grief?”

“Yes, I have still to learn it,” said Dagoucin, “for I have never made trial of their love, through fear of finding it less than I desired.”

“Then you live on faith and hope,” said Nomerfide, “as the plover does on air. 6 You are easily fed.”

6 This popular error was still so prevalent in France in the last century, that Buffon, in his Natural History, took the trouble to refute it at length. — B. J.

“I am content,” he replied, “with the love that I feel within myself, and with the hope that there is the like in the hearts of the ladies. If I knew that my hopes were true, I should have such gladness that I could not endure it and live.”

“Keep clear of the plague,” said Geburon; “as for the other sickness you mention, I will warrant you against it. But I should like to know to whom the Lady Oisille will give her vote?”

“I give it,” she said, “to Simontault, who I know will be sparing of none.”

“That,” he replied, “is as much as to say that I am somewhat given to slander; however, I will show you that reputed slanderers have spoken the truth. I am sure, ladies, that you are not so foolish as to believe all the tales that you are told, no matter what show of sanctity they may possess, if the proof of them be not clear beyond doubt. Many an abuse lurks even under the guise of a miracle, and for this reason I am minded to tell you the story of a miracle that will prove no less to the honour of a pious Prince than to the shame of a wicked minister of the Church.”

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the Execution of The Wicked Priest and his Sister
The Execution of the Wicked Priest and his Sister

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Tale xxxiii.

The hypocrisy of a priest who, under the cloak of sanctity, had got his sister with child, was discovered by the wisdom of the Count of Angoulême, by whose command they both were visited with punishment by law. 1

Count Charles of Angoulême, father of King Francis, a pious Prince and one that feared God, happened to be at Coignac when he was told that in a village called Cherues, 2 not far away, there dwelt a maiden who lived a marvellously austere life, and who, for all that, was now great with child. She made no secret of the matter, but assured every one that she had never known a man and that she could not tell how such a fortune should have befallen her, unless indeed it were the work of the Holy Ghost. This explanation the people readily received, and knowing as they all did how virtuous she had been from her youth up, and how she had never given a single token of worldliness, they believed and deemed her a second Virgin Mary. She used to fast not only on the days commanded by the Church, but, from natural devotion, several times a week also; and she never stirred from the church whenever there was a service going on there. For these reasons she was held in such great repute among all the vulgar that every one came to see her as though she were a miracle, and those who succeeded in touching her dress deemed themselves fortunate indeed.

1 This tale is historical, the incidents must have occurred between 1480 and 1490. — L.

2 Cherves-de-Cognac, now a large village of nearly 3000 inhabitants, within four miles of Cognac. The church, where some of the incidents recorded in the tale occurred, is still in existence. It dates from the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and is surmounted by three cupolas. — Eu.

The priest of the parish was her brother; he was a man advanced in years and of very austere life, and was loved and reverenced by his parishioners, who held him for a holy man. He treated his sister with such harshness as to keep her shut up in a house, to the great discontent of all the people; and so greatly was the matter noised abroad that, as I have told you, the story reached the ear of the Count. He perceived that the people were being deceived, and, wishing to set them right, sent a Master of Requests and an Almoner, two very worthy men, to learn the truth. These repaired to the spot and inquired into the matter with all possible diligence, addressing themselves for information to the priest, who, being weary of the whole affair, begged them to be present at an examination which he hoped to hold on the morrow.

Early the next morning the said priest chanted mass, his sister, who was now far gone with child, being present on her knees; and when mass was over, the priest took the “Corpus Domini,” and in presence of the whole congregation said to his sister —

“Unhappy woman that you are, here is He who suffered death and agony for you, and in His presence I ask you whether, as you have ever affirmed to me, you are indeed a virgin?”

She boldly replied that she was.

“How is it possible that you can be with child and yet be still a virgin?”

“I can give no reason,” she replied, “except that the grace of the Holy Ghost has wrought within me according to His good pleasure; nevertheless, I cannot deny the grace that God has shown me in preserving me a virgin without ever a thought of marriage.”

Forthwith her brother said to her —

“I offer you the precious Body of Jesus Christ, which you will take to your damnation if it be not as you say; and the gentlemen here present on behalf of my lord the Count shall be witnesses thereof.”

The maiden, who was nearly thirty years of age, 3 then swore as follows:—

“I take this Body of Our Lord, here present, to my damnation in the presence of you, gentlemen, and of you, my brother, if ever man has touched me any more than yourself.”

And with these words she received the Body of Our Lord.

Having witnessed this, the Master of Requests and the Almoner went away quite confounded, for they thought that no lie was possible with such an oath. And they reported the matter to the Count, and tried to persuade him even as they were themselves persuaded. But he was a man of wisdom, 4 and, after pondering a long time, bade them again repeat the terms of the oath. And after weighing them well, he said —

“She has told you the truth and yet she has deceived you. She said that no man had ever touched her any more than her brother had done, and I feel sure that her brother has begotten this child and now seeks to hide his wickedness by a monstrous deception. We, however, who believe that Jesus Christ has come, can look for none other. Go, therefore, and put the priest in prison; I am sure that he will confess the truth.”

3 In the MS. followed for this edition, as well as in Boaistuau’s -version of the Heptameron, the age is given as “thirteen.” We borrow the word “thirty” from MS. 1518 (Béthune). — L.

4 Charles of Angoulême, father of King Francis and Queen Margaret, had received for the times a most excellent education, thanks to the solicitude of his father, Count John the Good, who further took upon himself to “instruct him in morality, showing him by a good example how to live virtuously and honestly, and teaching him to pray God and obey His commandments." — Vie de très illustre et vertueux Prince Jean, Comte d’Angoulême, by Jean du Port, Angoulême, 1589, p. 66. That Count Charles profited by this teaching is shown in the above tale. — ED.

This was done according to his command, though not without serious remonstrances concerning the putting of this virtuous man to open shame.

Albeit, as soon as the priest had been taken, he made confession of his wickedness, and told how he had counselled his sister to speak as she had done in order to conceal the life they had led together, not only because the excuse was one easy to be made, but also because such a false statement would enable them to continue living honoured by all. And when they set before him his great wickedness in taking the Body of Our Lord for her to swear upon, he made answer that he had not been so daring, but had used a wafer that was unconsecrated and unblessed.

Report was made of the matter to the Count of Angoulême, who commanded that the law should take its course. They waited until the sister had been delivered, and then, after she had been brought to bed of a fine male child, they burned brother and sister together. And all the people marvelled exceedingly at finding beneath the cloak of holiness so horrible a monster, and beneath a pious and praiseworthy life indulgence in so hateful a crime.

“By this you see, ladies, how the faith of the good Count was not lessened by outward signs and miracles. He well knew that we have but one Saviour, who, when He said ‘Consummatum est,’ 5 showed that no room was left for any successor to work our salvation.”

5 “When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said, It is finished." — St. John xix. 30. — M.

“It was indeed,” said Oisille, “great daring and extreme hypocrisy to throw the cloak of Godliness and true Christianity over so enormous a sin.”

“I have heard,” said Hircan, “that such as under pretext of a commission from the King do cruel and tyrannous deeds, receive a double punishment for having screened their own injustice behind the justice of the Crown. In the same way, we see that although hypocrites prosper for a time beneath the cloak of God and holiness, yet, when the Lord God lifts His cloak, they find themselves exposed and bare, and then their foul and abominable nakedness is deemed all the more hideous for having had so honourable a covering.”

“Nothing can be pleasanter,” said Nomerfide, “than to speak forth frankly the thoughts that are in the heart.”

“Yes, for profit’s sake,” 6 replied Longarine. “I have no doubt that you give your opinion according to your temper.”

6 This sentence is rather obscure in the MSS., and we have adopted the reading suggested by M. Frank. M. Lacroix, however, was of opinion that the sentence should run, “Yes, for mirth’s sake." — M.

“I will tell you what it is,” said Nomerfide. “I find that fools, when they are not put to death, live longer than wise folk, and the only reason that I know for this, is that they do not conceal their passions. If they be angry, they strike; if they be merry, they laugh: whereas those that aim at wisdom conceal their imperfections with such exceeding care that they end by thoroughly corrupting their hearts.”

“I think you are right,” said Geburon, “and that hypocrisy, whether towards God, man or Nature, is the cause of all our ills.”

“It would be a glorious thing,” said Parlamente, “if our hearts were so filled with faith in Him, who is all virtue and all joy, that we could freely show them to every one.”

“That will come to pass,” said Hircan, “when all the flesh has left our bones.”

“Yet,” said Oisille, “the Spirit of God, which is stronger than Death, is able to mortify our hearts without changing or destroying the body.”

“Madam,” returned Saffredent, “you speak of a gift of God that is not as yet common among mankind.”

“It is common,” said Oisille, “among those that have faith, but as this is a matter not to be understood by such as are fleshly minded, let us see to whom Simontault will give his vote.”

“I will give it,” said Simontault, “to Nomerfide, for, since her heart is merry, her words cannot be sad.”

“Truly,” said Nomerfide, “since you desire to laugh, I will give you reason to do so. That you may learn how hurtful are ignorance and fear, and how the lack of comprehension is often the cause of much woe, I will tell you what happened to two Grey Friars, who, through failing to understand the words of a butcher, thought that they were about to die.”

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the Grey Friar Imploring The Butcher to Spare his Life
The Grey Friar imploring the Butcher to Spare his Life

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Tale xxxiv.

Two Grey Friars, while listening to secrets that did not concern them, misunderstood the language of a butcher and endangered their lives. 1

Between Nyort and Fors there is a village called Grip, 2 which belongs to the Lord of Fors.

1 This story is evidently founded upon fact; the incidents must have occurred prior to 1530. — L.

2 Gript, a little village on the Courance, eight miles south of Niort (Deux-Sèvres), produces some of the best white wine in this part of France. Its church of St. Aubin stood partly in the diocese of Poitiers, partly in that of Saintes, the altar being in the former, and the door in the latter one. This is the only known instance of the kind in France. Fors, a few miles distant from Gript, was a fief which Catherine, daughter of Artus de Vivonne, brought in marriage to James Poussart, knight, who witnessed the Queen of Navarre’s marriage contract, signing himself, “Seigneur de Fors, Bailly du Berry.” He is often mentioned in the Queen’s letters. — See Génin’s Lettres de Marguerite, &c, pp. 243-244, 258-259, 332. — L. and M.

It happened one day that two Grey Friars, on their way from Nyort, arrived very late at this place, Grip, and lodged in the house of a butcher. Now, as there was nothing between their host’s room and their own but a badly joined partition of wood, they had a mind to listen to what the husband might say to his wife when he was in bed with her, and accordingly they set their ears close to the head of their host’s bed. He, having no thought of his lodgers, spoke privately with his wife concerning their household, and said to her —

“I must rise betimes in the morning, sweetheart, and see after our Grey Friars. One of them is very fat, and must be killed; we will salt him forthwith and make a good profit off him.”

And although by “Grey Friars” he meant his pigs, the two poor brethren, on hearing this plot, felt sure that they themselves were spoken of, 3 and so waited with great fear and trembling for the dawn.

3 The butcher doubtless called his pigs “Grey Friars” in allusion to the latter’s gluttony and uncleanly habits. Pigs are even nowadays termed moines (monks) by the peasantry in some parts of France. Moreover, the French often render our expression “fat as a pig” by “fat as a monk." — Ed.

One of them was very fat and the other rather lean. The fat one wished to confess himself to his companion, saying that a butcher who had lost the love and fear of God would think no more of slaughtering him than if he were an ox or any other beast; and adding that as they were shut up in their room and could not leave it without passing through that of their host, they must needs look upon themselves as dead men, and commend their souls to God. But the younger Friar, who was not so overcome with fear as his comrade, made answer that, as the door was closed against them, they must e’en try to get through the window, for, whatever befel them, they could meet with nothing worse than death; to which the fat Friar agreed.

The young one then opened the window, and, finding that it was not very high above the ground, leaped lightly down and fled as fast and as far as he could, without waiting for his companion. The latter attempted the same hazardous jump, but in place of leaping, fell so heavily by reason of his weight, that one of his legs was sorely hurt, and he could not rise from the ground.

Finding himself forsaken by his companion and being unable to follow him, he looked around him to see where he might hide, and could espy nothing save a pigsty, to which he dragged himself as well as he could. And as he opened the door to hide himself within, out rushed two huge pigs, whose place the unhappy Friar took, closing the little door upon himself, and hoping that, when he heard the sound of passers-by, he would be able to call out and obtain assistance.

As soon as the morning was come, however, the butcher got ready his big knives, and bade his wife bear him company whilst he went to slaughter his fat pig. And when he reached the sty in which the Grey Friar lay concealed, he opened the little door and began to call at the top of his voice —

“Come out, Master Grey Friar, come out! I intend to have some of your chitterlings to-day.”

The poor Friar, who was not able to stand upon his leg, crawled on all-fours out of the sty, crying for mercy as loud as he could. But if the hapless Friar was in great terror, the butcher and his wife were in no less; for they thought that St. Francis was wrathful with them for calling a beast a Grey Friar, and therefore threw themselves upon their knees asking pardon of St. Francis and his Order. Thus, the Friar was crying to the butcher for mercy on the one hand, and the butcher to the Friar on the other, in such sort that a quarter of an hour went by before they felt safe from each other.

Perceiving at last that the butcher intended him no hurt, the good father told him the reason why he had hidden himself in the sty. Then was their fear turned to laughter, except, indeed, that the poor Friar’s leg was too painful to suffer him to be merry. However, the butcher brought him into the house, where he caused the hurt to be carefully dressed.

His comrade, who had deserted him in his need, ran all night long, and in the morning came to the house of the Lord of Fors, where he lodged a complaint against the butcher, whom he suspected of killing his companion, seeing that the latter had not followed him. The Lord of Fors forthwith sent to Grip to learn the truth, and this, when known, was by no means the cause of tears. And he failed not to tell the story to his mistress the Duchess of Angoulême, mother of King Francis, first of that name. 4

4 Many modern stories and anecdotes have been based on this amusing tale. — Ed.

 

“You see, ladies, how bad a thing it is to listen to secrets that do not concern us, and to misunderstand what other people say.”

“Did I not know,” said Simontault, “that Nomer-fide would give us no cause to weep, but rather to laugh? And I think that we have all done so very heartily.”

“How comes it,” said Oisille, “that we are more ready to be amused by a piece of folly than by something wisely done?”

“Because,” said Hircan, “the folly is more agreeable to us, for it is more akin to our own nature, which of itself is never wise. And like is fond of like, the fool of folly, and the wise man of discretion. But I am sure,” he continued, “that no one, whether foolish or wise, could help laughing at this story.”

“There are some,” said Geburon, “whose hearts are so bestowed on the love of wisdom that, whatever they may hear, they cannot be made to laugh. They have a gladness of heart and a moderate content such as nought can move.”

“Who are they?” asked Hircan.

“The philosophers of olden days,” said Geburon. “They were scarcely sensible of either sadness or joy, or at least they gave no token of either, so great a virtue did they deem the conquest of themselves and their passions. I too think, as they did, that it is well to subdue a wicked passion, but a victory over a natural passion, and one that tends to no evil, appears useless in my eyes.”

“And yet,” added Geburon, “the ancients held it for a great virtue.”

“It is not maintained,” said Saffredent, “that they all were wise. They had more of the appearance of sense and virtue than of the reality.”

“Nevertheless, you will find that they rebuke everything bad,” said Geburon. “Diogenes himself, even, trod on the bed of Plato, who was too fond 5 of rare and precious things for his taste, and this in order to show that he despised Plato’s vanity and greed, and would put them under foot. ‘I trample with contempt,’ said he, ‘upon the pride of Plato.’”

“But you have not told all,” said Saffredent, “for Plato retorted that he did so from pride of another kind.”

“In truth,” said Parlamente, “it is impossible to accomplish the conquest of ourselves without extraordinary pride. And this is the vice that we should fear most of all, for it springs from the death and destruction of all the virtues.”

“Did I not read to you this morning,” said Oisille, “that those who thought themselves wiser than other men, since by the sole light of reason they had come to recognise a God, creator of all things, were made more ignorant and irrational not only than other men, but than the very brutes, and this because they did not ascribe the glory to Him to whom it was due, but thought that they had gained the knowledge they possessed by their own endeavours? For having erred in their minds by ascribing to themselves that which pertains to God alone, they manifested their errors by disorder of body, forgetting and perverting their natural sex, as St. Paul to-day doth tell us in the Epistle that he wrote to the Romans.” 6

5 The French word here is curieux, which in Margaret’s time implied one fond of rare and precious things. — B. J

6 Romans i. 26, 27. — Ed.

“There is none among us,” said Parlamente, “but will confess, on reading that Epistle, that outward sin is but the fruit of infelicity dwelling within, which, the more it is hidden by virtue and marvels, is the more difficult to pluck out.”

“We men,” said Hircan, “are nearer to salvation than you are, for we do not conceal our fruits, and so the root is readily known; whereas you, who dare not display the fruit, and who do so many seemingly fair deeds, are hardly aware of the root of pride that is growing beneath so brave a surface.”

“I acknowledge,” said Longarine, “that if the Word of God does not show us by faith the leprosy of unbelief that lurks in the heart, yet God is very merciful to us when He allows us to fall into some visible wrongdoing whereby the hidden plague may be made manifest. Happy are they whom faith has so humbled that they have no need to test their sinful nature by outward acts.”

“But just look where we are now,” said Simontault. “We started from a foolish tale, and we are now fallen into philosophy and theology. Let us leave these disputes to such as are more fitted for such speculation, and ask Nomerfide to whom she will give her vote.”

“I give it,” she said, “to Hircan, but I commend to him the honour of the ladies.”

“You could not have commended it in a better place,” said Hircan, “for the story that I have ready is just such a one as will please you. It will, nevertheless, teach you to acknowledge that the nature of men and women is of itself prone to vice if it be not preserved by Him to whom the honour of every victory is due. And to abate the pride that you display when a story is told to your honour, I will tell you one of a different kind that is strictly true.”

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the Lady Embracing The Supposed Friar
The Lady embracing the Supposed Friar

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Tale xxxv.

The affection of a lady of Pampeluna — who, thinking that there was no danger in spiritual love, had striven to insinuate herself into the good graces of a Grey Friar — was subdued by her husband’s prudence in such wise that, without telling her that he knew aught of the matter, he brought her mortally to hate that which she had most dearly loved, and wholly to devote herself to him.

In the town of Pampeluna there lived a lady who was accounted beautiful and virtuous, as well as the chastest and most pious in the land. She loved her husband, and was so obedient to him that he had entire trust in her. This lady was constantly present at Divine service and at sermons, and she used to persuade her husband and children to be hearers with her. She had reached the age of thirty years, at which women are wont to claim discretion rather than beauty, when on the first day of Lent she went to the church to receive the emblem of death. 1 Here she found that the sermon was beginning, the preacher being a Grey Friar, a man esteemed holy by all the people on account of his great austerity and goodness of life, which made him thin and pale, yet not to such a point as to prevent him from being one of the handsomest men imaginable.

The lady listened piously to his sermon, her eyes being fixed on this reverend person, and her ears and mind ready to hearken to what he said. And so it happened that the sweetness of his words passed through the lady’s ears even to her heart, while the comeliness and grace of his countenance passed through her eyes and so smote her soul that she was as one entranced. When the sermon was over, she looked carefully to see where the Friar would celebrate mass, 2 and there she presented herself to take the ashes from his hand. The latter was as fair and white as any lady’s, and this pious lady paid more attention to it than to the ashes which it gave her.

1 To receive the ashes on Ash Wednesday. — M.

2 That is, in which of the chapels. A friar would not officiate at the high altar. — Ed.

Feeling persuaded that a spiritual love such as this, with any pleasure that she might derive from it, could not wound her conscience, she failed not to go and hear the sermon every day and to take her husband with her; and they both gave such great praise to the preacher, that they spoke of nought beside at table or elsewhere. At last this supposed spiritual fire became so carnal that the poor lady’s heart in which it glowed began to consume her whole body; and just as she had been slow to feel the flame, so did she now swiftly kindle, and feel all the delights of passion, before she knew that she even was in love. Being thus surprised by her enemy, Love, she offered no further resistance to his commands. But the worst was that the physician who might have cured her ills was ignorant of her distemper; for which reason, banishing the dread she should have had of making known her foolishness to a man of wisdom, and her vice and wickedness to a man of virtue and honour, she proceeded to write to him of the love she bore him, doing this, to begin with, as modestly as she could. And she gave her letter to a little page, telling him what he had to do, and saying that he was to be careful above all things that her husband should not see him going to the monastery of the Grey Friars.

The page, desiring to take the shortest way, passed through a street in which his master was sitting in a shop. Seeing him pass, the gentleman came out to observe whither he was going, and when the page perceived him, he was quite confused, and hid himself in a house. Noticing this, his master followed him, took him by the arm and asked him whither he was bound. Finding also that he had a terrified look and made but empty excuses, he threatened to beat him soundly if he did not confess the truth.

“Alas, sir,” said the poor page, “if I tell you, my lady will kill me.”

The gentleman, suspecting that his wife was making some bargain without his knowledge, promised the page that he should come by no hurt, and should be well rewarded, if he told the truth; whereas, if he lied, he should be thrown into prison for life. Thereupon the little page, eager to have the good and to avoid the evil, told him the whole story, and showed him the letter that his mistress had written to the preacher. At this her husband was the more astonished and grieved, as he had all his life long been persuaded of the faithfulness of his wife, in whom he had never discovered a fault.

Nevertheless, being a prudent man, he concealed his anger, and so that he might fully learn his wife’s intention, he sent a reply as though from the preacher, thanking her for her goodwill, and declaring that his was as great towards her. The page, having sworn to his master that he would conduct the matter with discretion, 3 brought the counterfeit letter to his mistress, who was so greatly rejoiced by it that her husband could see that her countenance was changed; for, instead of growing lean from the fasts of Lent, she now appeared fairer and fresher than before they began.

3 This is borrowed from MS. 1520. In our MS. the passage runs, “The page having shown his master how to conduct this affair,” &c. — L.

It was now mid-Lent, but no thought of the Passion or Holy Week prevented the lady from writing her frenzied fancies to the preacher according to her wont; and when he turned his eyes in her direction, or spoke of the love of God, she thought that all was done or said for love of her; and so far as he