The Exchange

By Monseigneur De Villiers.

_Of a knight whose mistress married whilst he was on his travels, and on

his return, by chance he came to her house, and she, in order that she

might sleep with him, caused a young damsel, her chamber-maid, to go to

bed with her husband; and of the words that passed between the husband

and the knight his guest, as are more fully recorded hereafter._

gentleman, a knight of this kingdom, a most virtuous man, and of great

renown, a great traveller and a celebrated warrior, fell in love with a

very beautiful damsel, and so advanced in her good graces that nothing

that he demanded was refused him. It happened, I know not how long after

that, this good knight, to acquire honour and merit, left his castle,

in good health and well accompanied, by the permission of his master, to

bear arms elsewhere, and he went to Spain and various places, where he

did such feats that he was received in great triumph at his return.

During this time the lady married an old knight who was courteous and

wise, and who in his time had been a courtier, and--to say truth--was

known as the very mirror of honour. It was a matter for regret that he

did not marry better, but at any rate he had not then discovered his

wife's misconduct, as he did afterwards, as you shall hear.

The first-named knight, returning from the war, as he was travelling

through the country, arrived by chance one night at the castle where his

mistress lived, and God knows what good cheer she and her husband made

for him, for there had been a great friendship between them.

But you must know that whilst the master of the house was doing all

he could to honour his guest, the guest was conversing with his former

lady-love, and was willing to renew with her the intimacy that had

existed before she married. She asked for nothing better, but excused

herself on account of want of opportunity.

"It is not possible to find a chance."

"Ah, madam," he said, "by my oath, if you want to, you will make a

chance. When your husband is in bed and asleep, you can come to my

chamber, or, if you prefer it, I will come to you."

"It cannot be managed so," she replied; "the danger is too great; for

monseigneur is a very light sleeper, and he never wakes but what he

feels for me, and if he did not find me, you may guess what it would


"And when he does find you," he said, "what does he do to you?"

"Nothing else," she replied; "he turns over on the other side."

"Faith!" said he, "he is a very bad bed-fellow; it is very lucky for you

that I came to your aid to perform for you what he cannot."

"So help me God," she said, "when he lies with me once a month it is the

best he can do. I may be difficult to please, but I could take a good

deal more than that.

"That is not to be wondered at," he said; "but let us consider what we

shall do."

"There is no way that I see," she replied, "that it can be managed."

"What?" he said; "have you no woman in the house to whom you can explain

the difficulty?"

"Yes, by God! I have one," she said, "in whom I have such confidence

that I would tell her anything in the world I wanted kept secret?

without fearing that she would ever repeat it."

"What more do we want then?" he said. "The rest concerns you and her."

The lady who was anxious to be with her lover, called the damsel, and


"My dear, you must help me to-night to do something which is very dear

to my heart."

"Madam," said the damsel, "I am ready and glad, as I ought to be, to

serve you and obey you in any way possible; command me, and I will

perform your orders."

"I thank you, my dear," said madam, "and be sure that you will lose

nothing by it. This is what is the matter. The knight here is the man

whom I love best in all the world, and I would not that he left here

without my having a few words with him. Now he cannot tell me what is

in his heart unless we be alone together, and you are the only person to

take my place by the side of monseigneur. He is accustomed, as you know,

to turn in the night and touch me, and then he leaves me and goes to

sleep again."

"I will do your pleasure, madam; there is nothing that you can command

that I will not do."

"Well, my dear," she said, "you will go to bed as I do, keeping a good

way off from monseigneur, and take care that if he should speak to you

not to reply, and suffer him to do whatever he may like."

"I will do your pleasure, madam."

Supper-time came. There is no need to describe the meal, suffice it to

say there was good cheer and plenty of it, and after supper, sports, and

the visitor took madam's arm, and the other gentlemen escorted the other

damsels. The host came last, and enquired about the knight's travels

from an old gentleman who had accompanied him.

Madame did not forget to tell her lover that one of her women would take

her place that night, and that she would come to him; at which he was

very joyful, and thanked her much, and wished that the hour had come.

They returned to the reception hall, where monseigneur said good

night to his guest, and his wife did the same. The visitor went to

his chamber, which was large and well-furnished, and there was a fine

sideboard laden with spices and preserves, and good wine of many sorts.

He soon undressed, and drank a cup, and made his attendants drink also,

and then sent them to bed, and remained alone, waiting for the lady, who

was with her husband. Both she and her husband undressed and got into


The damsel was in the _ruelle_, and as soon as my lord was in bed, she

took the place of her mistress, who--as her heart desired--made but one

bound to the chamber of the lover, who was anxiously awaiting her.

Thus were they all lodged--monseigneur with the chambermaid, and his

guest with madame--and you may guess that these two did not pass all the

night in sleeping.

Monseigneur, as was his wont, awoke an hour before day-break, and turned

to the chamber-maid, believing it to be his wife, and to feel her he put

out his hand, which by chance encountered one of her breasts, which were

large and firm, and he knew at once that it was not his wife, for she

was not well furnished in that respect.

"Ha, ha!" he said to himself, "I understand what it is! They are playing

me a trick, and I will play them another."

He turned towards the girl, and with some trouble managed to break a

lance, but she let him do it without uttering a word or half a word.

When he had finished, he began to call as loudly as he could to the man

who was sleeping with his wife.

"Hallo! my lord of such a place! Where are you? Speak to me!"

The other, when he heard himself called, was much astonished, and the

lady quite overwhelmed with shame.

"Alas!" she said, "our deeds are discovered: I am a lost woman!"

Her husband called out,

"Hallo, monseigneur! hallo, my guest! Speak to me."

The other ventured to speak, and said,

"What is it, so please you, monsiegneur?"

"I will make this exchange with you whenever you like."

"What exchange?" he asked.

"An old, worn-out false, treacherous woman, for a good, pretty, and

fresh young girl. That is what I have gained by the exchange and I thank

you for it."

None of the others knew what to reply, even the poor chamber-maid wished

she were dead, both on account of the dishonour to her mistress and the

unfortunate loss of her own virginity.

The visitor left the lady and the castle as soon as could, without

thanking his host, or saying farewell. And never again did he go there,

so he never knew how she settled the matter with her husband afterwards,

so I can tell you no more.