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


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


"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


"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


"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.