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Two Mules Drowned Together








By Monseigneur De La Roche.

_Of a President who knowing of the immoral conduct of his wife, caused
her to be drowned by her mule, which had been kept without drink for a
week, and given salt to eat--as is more clearly related hereafter._


In Provence there lived formerly a President of great and high renown,
who was a most learned clerk and prudent man, valiant in arms, discreet
in counsel, and, in short, had all the advantages which man could enjoy.
(*)

(*) Though not mentioned here by name, the principal
character in this story has been identified with Chaffrey
Carles, President of the Parliament of Grenoble. On the
front of a house in the Rue de Cleres, in Grenoble is carved
a coat of arms held by an angel who has her finger on her
lips. The arms are those of the Carles family and the figure
is supposed to refer to this story. At any rate the secret
was very badly kept, for the story seems to have been widely
known within a few years of its occurrence.

One thing only was wanting to him, and that was the one that vexed him
most, and with good cause--and it was that he had a wife who was far
from good. The good lord saw and knew that his wife was unfaithful, and
inclined to play the whore, but the sense that God had given him, told
him that there was no remedy except to hold his tongue or die, for he
had often both seen and read that nothing would cure a woman of that
complaint.

But, at any rate, you may imagine that a man of courage and virtue,
as he was, was far from happy, and that his misfortune rankled in his
sorrowing heart. Yet as he outwardly appeared to know or see nothing of
his wife's misconduct, one of his servants came to him one day when he
was alone in his chamber, and said,

"Monsieur, I want to inform you, as I ought, of something which
particularly touches your honour. I have watched your wife's conduct,
and I can assure you that she does not keep the faith she promised, for
a certain person (whom he named) occupies your place very often."

The good President, who knew as well or better than the servant who made
the report, how his wife behaved, replied angrily;

"Ha! scoundrel, I am sure that you lie in all you say! I know my wife
too well, and she is not what you say--no! Do you think I keep you to
utter lies about a wife who is good and faithful to me! I will have
no more of you; tell me what I owe you and then go, and never enter my
sight again if you value your life!"

The poor servant, who thought he was doing his master a great service,
said how much was due to him, received his money and went, but the
President, seeing that the unfaithfulness became more and more evident,
was as vexed and troubled as he could be. He could not devise any plan
by which he could honestly get rid of her, but it happened that God
willed, or fortune permitted that his wife was going to a wedding
shortly, and he thought it might be made to turn out lucky for him.

He went to the servant who had charge of the horses, and a fine mule
that he had, and said,

"Take care that you give nothing to drink to my mule either night or
day, until I give you further orders, and whenever you give it its hay,
mix a good handful of salt with it--but do not say a word about it."

"I will say nothing," said the servant, "and I will do whatever you
command me."

When the wedding day of the cousin of the President's wife drew near,
she said to her husband,

"Monsieur, if it be your pleasure, I would willingly attend the wedding
of my cousin, which will take place next Sunday, at such a place."

"Very well, my dear; I am satisfied: go, and God guide you."

"Thank you, monsieur," she replied, "but I know not exactly how to go.
I do not wish to take my carriage; your nag is so skittish that I am
afraid to undertake the journey on it."

"Well, my dear, take my mule--it looks well, goes nicely and quietly,
and is more sure-footed than any animal I ever saw."

"Faith!" she said, "I thank you: you are a good husband."

The day of departure arrived, and all the servants of Madame were ready,
and also the women who were to serve her and accompany her, and two or
three cavaliers who were to escort Madame, and they asked if Madame were
also ready, and she informed them that she would come at once.

When she was dressed, she came down, and they brought her the mule which
had not drank for eight days, and was mad with thirst, so much salt had
it eaten. When she was mounted, the cavaliers went first, making their
horses caracole, and thus did all the company pass through the town into
the country, and on till they came to a defile through which the great
river Rhone rushes with marvellous swiftness. And when the mule which
had drank nothing for eight days saw the river, it sought neither bridge
nor ford, but made one leap into the river with its load, which was the
precious body of Madame.

All the attendants saw the accident, but they could give no help; so was
Madame drowned, which was a great misfortune. And the mule, when it had
drunk its fill, swam across the Rhone till it reached the shore, and was
saved.

All were much troubled and sorrowful that Madame was lost, and they
returned to the town. One of the servants went to the President, who
was in his room expecting the news; and with much sorrow told him of the
death of his wife.

The good President, who in his heart was more glad than sorry, showed
great contrition, and fell down, and displayed much sorrow and regret
for his good wife. He cursed the mule, and the wedding to which his wife
was going.

"And by God!" he said, "it is a great reproach to all you people that
were there that you did not save my poor wife, who loved you all so
much; you are all cowardly wretches, and you have clearly shown it."

The servant excused himself, as did the others also, as well as they
could, and left the President, who praised God with uplifted hands that
he was rid of his wife.

He gave his wife's body a handsome funeral, but--as you may
imagine--although he was of a fit and proper age, he took care never to
marry again, lest he should once more incur the same misfortune.


*****





Next: The Chaste Mouth

Previous: How The Nun Paid For The Pears



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