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The Three Cordeliers
By Monsigneur De Beauvoir _Of three merchants of Savoy who...
_Of a merchant who locked up in a bin his wife's lover, and she secretly
put an ass there which caused her husband to be covered with confusion._
It happened once that in a large town of Hainault there lived a good
merchant married to a worthy woman. He travelled much, to buy and
sell his merchandise, and this caused his wife to have a lover in his
absence, and this continued for a long time.
Nevertheless, the secret was at last discovered by a neighbour, who was
a relative of the husband, and lived opposite the merchant's house, and
who often saw a gallant enter the merchant's house at night and leave in
the morning. Which matter was brought to the knowledge of the person to
whose prejudice it was, by this neighbour.
The merchant was much vexed, nevertheless he thanked his relative and
neighbour, and said that he would shortly see into the matter, and for
that purpose would shut himself up one night in his neighbour's house,
that he might see if anyone visited his wife.
Lastly, he pretended to start on a journey, and told his wife and his
servants that he did not know when he should return. He started in the
early morning, but returned the same evening, and having left his horse
at some house, came secretly to his cousin, and peeped through a little
lattice, expecting to see that which would hardly have pleased him.
He waited till about nine o'clock, when the gallant, whom the damsel
had informed that her husband was away, passed once or twice before his
lady-love's house, and looked at the door to see if he might enter,
but found it closed. He guessed that it was not yet time, and whilst he
strolled about waiting, the good merchant, who thought that this was the
man he wanted, came down, and went to his door, and said,
"Friend, the lady heard you, and as she is afraid that the master may
come back, she sent me down to let you in, if you please."
The gallant, thinking it was the servant, followed him, the door was
opened gently, and he was conducted into a chamber in which there was
a large bin, which the merchant unlocked and made the young man enter,
that he should not be discovered if the husband returned. "My mistress
will come and talk to you and let you out," added the merchant as he
turned the key in the lock.
The gallant suffered all this for the sake of what was to follow, and
because he believed that the other spoke the truth.
Then the merchant started off at once as quickly as he could, and went
to the cousin and his wife, and said to them:
"The rat is caught; but now we must consider what to do."
The cousin, and more particularly his wife--for there was no love lost
between the two women--were very glad to hear this, and said that it
would be best for him to show the gallant to all his wife's relations in
order that they might know how she conducted herself.
This being determined on, the merchant went to the house of his wife's
father and mother, and told them that if ever they wished to see their
daughter alive they must come at once to his house.
They jumped up at once, and, whilst they were preparing, he also went
off to two of her brothers and her sisters, and told them the same
thing. Then he took them all to the cousin's house, and related the
whole history, and how the rat had been caught.
Now you must know what the gallant did in the bin all the time, until
he was luckily released. The damsel, who wondered greatly that her lover
did not come, went backwards and forwards to the door, to see if he
were coming. The young man, who heard her pass close to him without ever
speaking to him, began to thump with his fist on the side of the bin.
The damsel heard it, and was greatly frightened; nevertheless she asked
who was there, and the gallant replied;
"Alas, my dearest love, I am dying here of heat and doubt, for I am much
surprised that I have been shut in here, and that no one has yet come to
"Virgin Mary! who can have put you there, my dear?"
"By my oath I know not," he replied; "but your varlet came to me and
told me that you had asked him to bring me into the house, and that
I was to get into this bin, that the husband might not find me if by
chance he should come back to-night."
"Ah!" said she, "by my life that must have been my husband. I am a lost
woman; and our secret has been discovered."
"Do you know what is to be done?" he said. "In the first place you must
let me out, or I will break everything, for I can no longer endure being
"By my oath!" said the damsel, "I have not the key; and if you break
through, I am undone, for my husband will say that I did it to save
Finally, the damsel searched about, and found a lot of old keys, amongst
which was one that delivered the poor captive. As soon as he was out,
he tumbled the lady, to show her what a grudge he had against her, which
she bore patiently. After that her lover would have left her, but the
damsel hung round his neck, and told him that if he went away like that,
she would be as much dishonoured as though he had broken out of the bin.
"What is to be done then?" said the gallant.
"We must put something there for my husband to find, or he will think
that I have let you out."
"And what shall we put there?" asked the lover. "For it is time for me
"We have in the stable," she said, "an ass, that we will put in if you
will help me."
"Certainly, I will," he answered.
The ass was driven into the bin, and it was locked again, and then her
lover took leave of her with a sweet kiss, and left by a back-door,
whilst the damsel quickly got into bed.
Whilst these things were happening, her husband had assembled all his
wife's relatives, and brought them to his cousin's house, as has been
said, where he informed them of what he had done, and how he had caught
the gallant, and had him under lock and key.
"And in order that you shall not say," he added, "that I blame your
daughter without cause, you shall both see and touch the scoundrel who
has done us this dishonour, and I beg that he may be killed before he
can get away."
Every one present declared that it should be so.
"And then," said the merchant, "I will send you back your daughter for
such as she is."
With that they all accompanied him, though sorrowing much at the news,
and they took with them torches and flambeaux, so as to be better able
to search, and that nothing should escape them.
They knocked so loudly that the damsel came before anyone else in the
house was awakened, and opened the door, and when they had come in, she
abused her husband, her father, her mother, and the others, and declared
that she wondered greatly what could have brought them all at that hour
of the night. At these words her husband stepped forward, and gave her a
good buffet, and said,
"You shall know soon enough, false such and such that you are."
"Ah! take care what you say. Was it for that you brought my father and
"Yes," said the mother, "false wench that you are. We will drag forth
your paramour directly."
And her sisters said,
"By God, sister you did not learn at home to behave like this."
"Sisters," she replied, "by all the saints of Rome, I have done nothing
that a good woman should not do. I should like to see anyone prove the
"You lie!" said her husband. "I can prove it at once, and the rascal
shall be killed in your presence. Up quickly! and open me this bin."
"I?" she replied. "In truth I think you must be dreaming, or out of your
senses, for you know well that I have never had the key, but that it
hangs at your belt along with the others, ever since the time that you
locked up your goods. If you want to open it, open it. But I pray to God
that, as truly as I have never kept company with whoever is in that box,
that He will deliver me, to my great joy, and that the evil spite that
you have against me may be clearly proved and demonstrated--and I have
full hope and confidence that it will be so."
"And I hope," said her husband, addressing the crowd, "that you will see
her on her knees, weeping and groaning, and squalling like a drenched
cat. She would deceive anybody who was fool enough to believe her, but
I have suspected her for a long time past. Now I am going to unlock the
bin, and I beg you, gentlemen, to lay hands on the scoundrel, that he
escape us not, for he is strong and bold."
"Have no fear!" they cried in chorus. "We will give a good account of
"With that they drew their swords, and brandished their hammers to knock
down the poor lover, and they shouted to him,
"Confess your sins! for you will never have a priest nearer you."
The mother and sisters, not wishing to witness the murder, drew on one
side, and then the good man opened the bin, and as soon as the ass saw
the light, it began to bray so hideously that the boldest person there
And when they saw that it was an ass, and that they had been befooled,
they cursed the merchant, and showered more abuse on him than ever St.
Peter had praise, and even the women inveighed against him. In fact, if
he had not fled, his wife's brothers would have killed him, in revenge
for the blame and dishonour he had wrongly tried to bring on the family.
There was such ado between him and his wife's family that peace had to
be made between them by the chief burghers of the town, and this was
not effected without much trouble, and many demands on the part of her
friends, and many strict promises on his part. But ever after that he
was all kindness and consideration, and never did a man conduct himself
better to his wife than he did all his life; and thus they passed their
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