The Bird In The Cage

By Jehan Lambin.

_Of a cure who was in love with the wife of one of his parishioners,

with whom the said cure was found by the husband of the woman, the

neighbours having given him warning--and how the cure escaped, as you

will hear._

In the district of Saint Pol, in a village near that town, there

formerly resided a worthy man, a labourer, married to a fair and buxom

/> woman with whom the cure of the village was in love. He was burning with

love for her, but he foresaw that his intentions might be suspected,

and thought that the best way to win her would be to first gain the

friendship of her husband.

He confided this opinion to the woman, and asked her advice, and she

replied that it was a very good plan to enable them to carry out their

amorous intentions.

The cure, by flattery and subtle means, made the acquaintance of the

good man, and managed him so well that he was always talking of "his

cure", and would not eat or do anything else without him. Every day he

would have him to dinner and supper, in short there was nothing done at

the good man's house without the cure being present. By this means he

could come to the house as often as he pleased, and whatever time he


But the neighbours of this foolish labourer, seeing what he could not

see, his eyes being bandaged by weakness and confidence,--told him that

it was not right and proper to have the cure at his house every day,

and that, if it continued, his wife's reputation would suffer, these

frequent visits having been noticed and spoken about by his neighbours

and friends.

When the good man found himself thus sharply reproved by his neighbours

for the frequent visits of the cure to his house, he was obliged to

tell the cure that he must cease his constant calls, and forbade him

by strict orders and menaces ever to come again until he was invited;

affirming by a great oath that if ever he found the cure in his house

there would be an account to settle between them, and it would not be

pleasant for the visitor.

This prohibition displeased the cure more than I can tell you, but

though vexed, he would not break off his love affair, for it was so

deeply rooted in the hearts of both parties that it could not be easily

eradicated. But hear how the cure managed after this prohibition. By an

agreement with his mistress, he used to be informed of the times when

her husband was absent, and then visit her. But he managed clumsily, for

he could not pay his visits without the knowledge of the neighbours, who

had been the cause of the interdict, and who were as much displeased at

the cure's acts as though they had been personally concerned.

The good man was again informed that the cure used to come and put out

the fire at his house every night, (*) as he did before he was

forbidden. The foolish husband, hearing that, was much astonished and

also angry, and to remedy this state of affairs, thought of the means

which I will relate.

(*) That is to say came at curfew time.

He told his wife that he was going, on a certain day which he named, to

take to St. Orner a waggon-load of corn, and that the work might be well

done, was going himself. When the day named for his departure arrived,

he did, as is usual in Picardy, especially round St. Omer, that is

loaded his waggon of corn at midnight, and at that hour took leave of

his wife and departed with his waggon.

As soon as he was gone, his wife closed all the doors of the house. Now

you must know that the St. Omer to which our merchant was going was the

house of one of his friends who lived at the other end of the

village. He arrived there, put his waggon in the courtyard of the said

friend--who knew all the business--and sent him to keep watch and listen

round the house to see if any thief might come.

When he arrived, he concealed himself at the corner of a thick hedge,

from which spot he could see all the doors of the house of the merchant,

of whom he was the friend and servant.

Hardly had he taken his place than there arrived the cure, who had come

to light his candle--or rather to put it out--and softly and secretly

knocked at the door, which was soon opened by one who was not inclined

to sleep at that time, who came down in her chemise, and let in her

confessor, and then closed the door and led him to the place where her

husband ought to have been.

The watcher, when he perceived what was done, left his post, and went

and informed the husband. Upon which news, the following plan was

quickly arranged between them. The corn-merchant pretended to have

returned from his journey on account of certain adventures which had, or

might have, happened to him.

He knocked at the door, and shouted to his wife, who was much alarmed

when she heard his voice, and made haste to conceal her lover, the cure,

in a _casier_ that was in the chamber; and you must know that a _casier_

is a kind of pantry-cupboard, long and narrow and fairly deep, and very

much like a trough.

As soon as the cure was concealed amongst the eggs, butter cheese, and

other such victuals, the brave housewife, pretending to be half awake

half asleep, let in her husband, and said.

"Oh, my dear husband, what can have happened that you have returned

so quickly? There must be some reason why you did not go on your

journey--for God's sake tell it me quickly!"

The good man, who was as angry as he could be, although he did not show

it, insisted on going to their bedroom and there telling her the cause

of his sudden return. When he was where he expected to find the cure,

that is to say in the bedroom, he began to relate his reasons for

breaking his journey. Firstly, he said he had such suspicion of her

virtue that he feared much to be numbered amongst the blue vestments,

(*) or "our friends" as they are commonly called, and that it was

because of this suspicion that he had returned so quickly. Also that

when he was out of the house it had occurred to his mind that the cure

was his deputy whilst he was away. So to put his suspicions to the test,

he had come back, and now wanted the candle to see whether his wife had

been sleeping alone during his absence.

(*) In the present day, yellow is the emblematic colour for

jealous or cuckolded husbands, but it would appear from this

passage that in the 15th century it was blue-possibly,

Bibliophile Jacob thinks, from its being the colour of the


When he had finished relating the causes of his return, the good woman


"Oh, my dear husband, whence comes this baseless jealousy? Have you ever

seen in my conduct anything that should not be seen in that of a good,

faithful, and virtuous wife? Cursed be the hour I first knew you, since

you suspect me of that which my heart could never imagine. You know

me badly if you do not know how clean and pure my heart is, and will


The good man paid little heed to these words, but said that he wished to

allay his suspicions, and to at once inspect every corner of the chamber

as well as possible,--but he did not find what he sought.

Then he caught sight of the _casier_, and he guessed that the man he

wanted was inside, but he made no sign, and calling his wife said;

"My dear, I was wrong to presume that you were untrue to me, and such

as my false suspicions imagined. Nevertheless, I am so obstinate in my

opinions, that it would be impossible for me to live comfortably with

you henceforth. And therefore I hope you will agree that a separation

should be made between us, and that we divide our goods equally in a

friendly manner."

The wench, who was pleased with this arrangement, in order that she

might more easily see her cure, agreed with scarcely any difficulty to

her husband's request, but she made it a condition that in the division

of the furniture she should have first choice.

"And why," said the husband, "should you have first choice? It is

against all right and justice."

They were a long time squabbling about first choice, but in the end

the husband won, and took the _casier_ in which there was nothing but

custards, tarts, cheeses, and other light provisions, amongst which was

the good cure buried, and he heard all the discussion that went on.

When the husband chose the _casier_, his wife chose the copper; then the

husband chose another article then she chose; and so on until all the

articles were apportioned out.

After the division was made, the husband said;

"I will allow you to live in my house until you have found another

lodging, but I am going now to take my share of the furniture, and put

it in the house of one of my neighbours."

"Do so," she said, "when you like."

He took a good cord and tightly tied up the _casier_; then sent for his

waggoner and told him to put the _casier_ on a horse's back and take it

to the house of a certain neighbour.

The good woman heard these orders, but did not dare to interfere, for

she feared that if she did it would not advance matters, but perhaps

cause the _casier_ to be opened, so she trusted to luck.

The _casier_ was placed on the horse, and taken through the streets to

the house the good man had mentioned. But they had not gone far before

the cure, who was choked and blinded with eggs and butter, cried,

"For God's sake! mercy!"

The waggoner hearing this piteous appeal come out of the _casier_,

jumped off the horse much frightened, and called the servants and his

master, and they opened the _casier_, and found the poor prisoner all

smeared and be-yellowed with eggs, cheese, milk, and more than a hundred

other things, indeed it would have been hard to say which there was most

of,--in such a pitiable condition was the poor lover.

When the husband saw him in that state, he could not help laughing,

although he felt angry; He let him go, and then went back to his wife to

tell her that he had not been wrong in suspecting her of unchastity. She

seeing herself fairly caught, begged for mercy, and was pardoned on this

condition, that if ever the case occurred again, she should be better

advised than to put her lover in the _casier_, for the cure had stood a

good chance of being killed.

After that they lived together for a long time, and the husband brought

back his _casier_, but I do not think that the cure was ever found in

it again, but ever after that adventure he was known, and still is, as

"Sire Vadin Casier".