A Rod For Another's Back
By The Seneschal Of Guyenne.
_Of a citizen of Tours who bought a lamprey which he sent to his wife
to cook in order that he might give a feast to the priest, and the said
wife sent it to a Cordelier, who was her lover, and how she made a woman
who was her neighbour sleep with her husband, and how the woman was
beaten, and what the wife made her husband believe, as you will hear
There was formerly a merchant of Tours, who, to give a feast to his
cure and other worthy people, bought a large lamprey, and sent it to his
house, and charged his wife to cook it, as she well knew how to do.
"And see," said he, "that the dinner is ready at twelve o'clock, for I
shall bring our cure, and some other people" (whom he named).
"All shall be ready," she replied, "bring whom you will."
She prepared a lot of nice fish, and when she saw the lamprey she wished
that her paramour, a Cordelier, could have it, and said to herself,
"Ah, Brother Bernard, why are you not here? By my oath, you should not
leave till you had tasted this lamprey, or, if you liked, you should
take it to your own room, and I would not fail to keep you company."
It was with great regret that the good woman began to prepare the
lamprey for her husband, for she was thinking how the Cordelier could
have it. She thought so much about it that she finally determined to
send the lamprey by an old woman, who knew her secret. She did so, and
told the Cordelier that she would come at night, and sup and sleep with
When the Cordelier heard that she was coming, you may guess that he was
joyful and contented, and he told the old woman that he would get some
good wine to do honour to the lamprey. The old woman returned, and
delivered his message.
About twelve o'clock came our merchant, the cure, and the other guests,
to eat this lamprey, which had now gone far out of their reach. When
they were all in the merchant's house, he took them all into the kitchen
to show them the big lamprey that he was going to give them, and called
his wife, and said,
"Show us our lamprey, I want to tell our guests how cheap I bought it."
"What lamprey?" she asked.
"The lamprey that I gave you for our dinner, along with the other fish."
"I have seen no lamprey," she said; "I think you must be dreaming. Here
are a carp, two pike, and I know not what fish beside, but I have seen
no lamprey to day."
"What?" said he. "Do you think I am drunk?"
"Yes," replied the cure and the other guests, "we think no less. You are
too niggardly to buy such a lamprey."
"By God," said his wife, "he is either making fun of you or he is
dreaming--for certainly I have never seen this lamprey."
Her husband grew angry, and cried,
"You lie, you whore! Either you have eaten it, or you have hidden it
somewhere. I promise you it will be the dearest lamprey you ever had."
With that he turned to the cure and the others, and swore by God's death
and a hundred other oaths, that he had given his wife a lamprey which
had cost him a franc; but they, to tease him and torment him still more,
pretended not to believe him, and that they were very disappointed, and
"We were invited to dinner at such houses, but we refused in order to
come here, thinking we were going to eat this lamprey; but, as far as we
can see, there is no chance of that."
Their host, who was in a terrible rage, picked up a stick, and advanced
towards his wife to thrash her, but the others held him back, and
dragged him by force out of the house, and with much trouble appeased
him as well as they could. Then, since they could not have the lamprey,
the cure had the table laid, and they made as good cheer as they could.
The good dame meanwhile sent for one of her neighbours, who was a widow,
but still good-looking and lively, and invited her to dinner; and when
she saw her opportunity, she said;
"My dear neighbour, it would be very kind of you to do me a great
service and pleasure, and if you will do this for me, I will repay you
in a manner that will please you."
"And what do you want me to do?" asked the other.
"I will tell you," said she. "My husband is so violent in his night-work
that it is astounding, and, in fact, last night he so tumbled me, that
by my oath I am afraid of him to-night. Therefore I would beg of you to
take my place, and if ever I can do anything for you in return, you may
command me--body and goods."
The good neighbour, to oblige her, promised to take her place--for which
she was greatly thanked.
Now you must know that our merchant when he returned from dinner, laid
in a good stock of birch rods, which he carried secretly into his house,
and hid near his bed, saying to himself that if his wife worried him she
should be well paid.
But he did not do this so secretly but what his wife was on her guard
and prepared, for she knew by long experience her husband's brutality.
He did not sup at home, but stopped out late, and came home when he
expected she would be in bed and naked. But his design failed, for late
that evening she made her neighbour undress and go to bed in her place,
and charged her expressly not to speak to her husband when he came, but
pretend to be dumb and ill. And she did more, for she put out the fire
both in the chamber and in the kitchen. That being done, she told her
neighbour that as soon as ever her husband rose in the morning, she was
to leave and return to her own house, and she promised that she would.
The neighbour being thus put to bed, the brave woman went off to the
Cordelier to eat the lamprey and gain her pardons, as was her custom.
While she was feasting there, the merchant came home after supper, full
of spite and anger about the lamprey, and to execute the plan he had
conceived, took his rods in his hand and then searched for a light for
the candle, but found no fire even in the chimney.
When he saw that, he went to bed without saying a word, and slept till
dawn, when he rose and dressed, and took his rods, and so thrashed his
wife's substitute, in revenge for the lamprey, till she bled all over,
and the sheets of the bed were as bloody as though a bullock had been
flayed on them, but the poor woman did not dare to say a word, or even
to show her face.
His rods being all broken, and his arm tired, he left the house, and the
poor woman, who had expected to enjoy the pleasant pastime of the
sports of love, went home soon afterwards to bemoan her ill-luck and
her wounds, and not without cursing and threatening the woman who had
brought this upon her.
Whilst the husband was still away from home, the good woman returned
from seeing the Cordelier, and found the bed-chamber all strewn with
birch twigs, the bed all crumpled, and the sheets covered with blood,
and she then knew that her neighbour had suffered bodily injury, as she
had expected. She at once remade the bed, and put on fresh and clean
sheets, and swept the chamber, and then she went to see her neighbour,
whom she found in a pitiable condition, and it need not be said was not
able to give her any consolation.
As soon as she could, she returned home, and undressed, and laid down
on the fair white bed that she had prepared, and slept well till her
husband returned from the town, his anger quite dissipated by the
revenge he had taken, and came to his wife whom he found in bed
pretending to sleep.
"What is the meaning of this, mademoiselle?" he said. "Is it not time
to get up?"
"Oh dear!" she said, "is it day yet? By my oath I never heard you get
up. I was having a dream which had lasted a long time."
"I expect," he replied, "that you were dreaming about the lamprey,
were you not? It would not be very wonderful if you did, for I gave you
something to remember it by this morning."
"By God!" she said, "I never thought about you or your lamprey."
"What?" said he. "Have you so soon forgotten?"
"Forgotten?" she answered. "Why not? a dream is soon forgotten."
"Well, then, did you dream about the bundle of birch rods I used on you
not two hours ago?"
"On me?" she asked.
"Yes, certainly; on you," he said. "I know very well I thrashed you
soundly, as the sheets of the bed would show."
"By my oath, dear friend," she replied, "I do not know what you did
or dreamed, but for my part I recollect very well that this morning you
indulged in the sports of love with much desire; I am sure that if you
dreamed you did anything else to me it must be like yesterday, when you
made sure you had given me the lamprey."
"That would be a strange dream," said he. "Show yourself that I may see
She turned down the bed-clothes and showed herself quite naked, and
without mark or wound. He saw also that the sheets were fair and white,
and without any stain. It need not be said that he was much astonished,
and he thought the matter over for a long time, and was silent. At last
"By my oath, my dear, I imagined that I gave you a good beating this
morning, even till you bled--but I see well I did nothing of the kind,
and I do not know exactly what _did_ happen."
"Marry!" she said "Get the idea that you have beaten me out of your
head, for you never touched me, as you can see. Make up your mind that
you dreamed it."
"I am sure you are right," said he, "and I beg of you to pardon me,
for I did wrong to abuse you before all the strangers I brought to the
"That is easily pardoned," she replied; "but at any rate take care that
you are not so rash and hasty another time."
"No, I will not be, my dear!" said he.
Thus, as you have heard, was the merchant deceived by his wife, and
made to believe that he had dreamed that he had bought the lamprey; also
in the other matters mentioned above.