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Montbleru; Or The Thief








By G. De Montbleru.

_Of one named Montbleru, who at a fair at Antwerp stole from his
companions their shirts and handkerchiefs, which they had given to the
servant-maid of their hostess to be washed; and how afterwards they
pardoned the thief, and then the said Montbleru told them the whole of
the story._


Montbleru found himself about two years ago at the fair of Antwerp, in
the company of Monseigneur d'Estampes, who paid all his expenses--which
was much to the liking of Montbleru.

One day amongst others, by chance he met Masters Ymbert de Playne,
Roland Pipe, and Jehan Le Tourneur, who were having a merry time; and
as he is pleasant and obliging, as everyone knows, they desired his
company, and begged him to come and lodge with them, and then they would
have a merrier time than ever.

Montbleru at first excused himself, on the ground that he ought not to
quit Monseigneur d'Estampes who had brought him there;

"And there is a very good reason," he said, "for he pays all my
expenses."

Nevertheless, he was willing to leave Monseigneur d'Estampes if the
others would pay his expenses, and they, who desired nothing better than
his company, willingly and heartily agreed to this. And now hear how he
paid them out.

These three worthy lords, Masters Ymbert, Roland, and Jehan Le Tourneur,
stayed at Antwerp longer than they expected when they left Court, and
each had brought but one shirt, and these and their handkerchiefs etc.
became dirty, which was a great inconvenience to them, for the weather
was very hot, it being Pentecost. So they gave them to the servant-maid
at their lodgings to wash, one Saturday night when they went to bed, and
they were to have them clean the following morning when they rose.

But Montbleru was on the watch. When the morning came, the maid, who
had washed the shirts and handkerchiefs, and dried them, and folded them
neatly and nicely, was called away by her mistress to go to the butcher
to seek provisions for the dinner. She did as her mistress ordered, and
left all these clothes in the kitchen, on a stool, expecting to find
them on her return, but in this she was disappointed, for Montbleru,
when he awoke and saw it was day, got out of bed, and putting on a
dressing gown over his shirt, went downstairs.

He went into the kitchen, where there was not a living soul, but only
the shirts, handkerchiefs, and other articles, asking to be taken.
Montbleru saw his opportunity, and took them, but was much puzzled to
know where he could hide them. Once he thought of putting them amongst
the big copper pots and pans which were in the kitchen; then of hiding
them up his sleeve; but finally he concealed them in the hay in the
stable, with a big heap of straw on the top, and that being done, he
returned to bed and lay down by the side of Jehan Le Tourneur.

When the servant maid came back from the butcher's, she could not find
the shirts, at which she was much vexed, and she asked everybody she met
if they had seen them? They all told her they knew nothing about them,
and God knows what a time she had. Then came the servants of these
worthy lords, who expected the shirts and were afraid to go to their
masters without them, and grew angry because the shirts could not be
found, and so did the host, and the hostess, and the maid.

When it was about nine o'clock, these good lords called their servants,
but none of them answered, for they were afraid to tell their masters
about the loss of their shirts; but at last, however, when it was
between 11 and 12 o'clock, the host came, and the servants, and told
the gentlemen how their shirts had been stolen, at which news two of
them--Masters Ymbert and Roland--lost patience, but Jehan Le Tourneur
took it easily, and did nothing but laugh, and called Montbleru, who
pretended to be asleep, but who heard and knew all, and said to him,

"Montbleru, we are all in a nice mess. They have stolen our shirts."

"Holy Mary! what do you say?" replied Montbleru, pretending to be only
just awake. "That is bad news."

When they had discussed the robbery of their shirts for a long
time--Montbleru well knew who was the thief--these worthy lords said;

"It is late, and we have not yet heard Mass, and it is Sunday, and we
cannot very well go without a shirt. What is to be done?"

"By my oath!" said the host, "I know of nothing better than to lend you
each one of my shirts, such as they are. They are not as good as yours,
but they are clean, and there is nothing better to be done."

They were obliged to take their host's shirts which were too short and
too small, and made of hard, rough linen, and God knows they were a
pretty sight in them.

They were soon ready, thank God, but it was so late that they did not
know where they could hear Mass. Then said Montbleru, in his familiar
way,

"As for hearing Mass, it is too late to-day; but I know a church in this
town where at least, we shall not fail to see God."

"That is better than nothing," said the worthy lords. "Come, come! let
us get away, for it is very late, and to lose our shirts, and not to
hear Mass to-day would be a double misfortune; and it is time we went to
church if we want to hear Mass."

Montbleru took them to the principal church in Antwerp, where there is
a God on an ass (*).

(*) A picture or bas-relief, representing Christ's entry
into Jerusalem, is probably meant.

When they had each said a paternoster, they said to Montbleru, "Where
shall we see God?"

"I will show you," he replied. Then he showed them God mounted on an
ass, and added, "You will never fail to find Him here at whatever hour
you come."

They began to laugh in spite of the discomfort their shirts caused them.
Then they went back to dinner, and were after that I know not how many
days at Antwerp, and left without their shirts, for Montbleru had hidden
them in a safe place, and afterwards sold them for five gold crowns.

Now God so willed that in the first week of Lent, Montbleru was at
dinner with the three worthy gentlemen before named, and in the course
of his talk he reminded them of the shirts they had lost at Antwerp, and
said,

"Alas, the poor thief who robbed you will be damned for that, unless God
and you pardon him. Do you bear him any ill-will?"

"By God!" said Master Ymbert, "my dear sir, I have thought no more about
it,--I had forgotten it long since."

"At least," said Montbleru, "you pardon him, do you not?"

"By St. John!" he replied, "I would not have him damned for my sake."

"By my oath, that is well said," answered Montbleru. "And you Master
Roland,--do you also pardon him?"

After a good deal of trouble, he agreed to pardon the thief, but as the
theft rankled in his mind, he found the word hard to pronounce.

"And will you also pardon him, Master Roland?" said Montbleru. "What
will you gain by having a poor thief damned for a wretched shirt and
handkerchief?"

"Truly I pardon him," said he. "He is quit as far as I am concerned,
since there is nothing else to be done."

"By my oath, you are a good man," said Montbleru.

Then came the turn of Jehan Le Tourneur. Montbleru said to him,

"Now, Jehan, you will not be worse than the others. Everything will be
pardoned to this poor stealer of shirts unless you object."

"I don't object," he replied. "I have long since pardoned him, and I
will give him absolution into the bargain."

"You could not say more," rejoined Montbleru, "and by my oath I am
greatly obliged to you for having pardoned the thief who stole your
shirts, as far as I personally am concerned, for I am the thief who
stole your shirts at Antwerp. So I profit by your free pardon, and thank
you for it, as I ought to do."

When Montbleru confessed this theft, and had been forgiven by all the
party as you have heard, it need not be asked if Masters Ymbert, Roland,
and Jehan Le Tourneur were astonished, for they had never suspected
that it was Montbleru who had played that trick upon them, and they
reproached him playfully with the theft. But he, knowing his company,
excused himself cleverly for having played such a joke upon them,
and told them that it was his custom to take whatever he found
unprotected,--especially with people like them.

They only laughed, but asked him how he had managed to effect the theft,
and he told them the whole story, and said also that he had made five
crowns out of his booty, after which they asked him no more.


*****





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