The Husband Turned Confessor
By Jehan Martin.
_Of a married gentleman who made many long voyages, during which time
his good and virtuous wife made the acquaintance of three good fellows,
as you will hear; and how she confessed her amours to her husband when
he returned from his travels, thinking she was confessing to the cure,
and how she excused herself, as will appear._
The province of Brabant is a fair
and pleasant land, well provided with
pretty girls, who are generally clever and good; but as for the men, it
is said of them, with a good deal of truth, that the longer they live
the greater fools they become.
There was formerly a gentleman of this land who--being thereunto born
and destined--travelled much beyond seas to various places, as Cyprus,
Rhodes, and the adjacent parts, and at last came to Jerusalem, where he
received the order of knighthood.
During the time that he was away, his good wife was not idle, but took
her _quoniam_ with three lovers, who like courtiers, each had audience
in turn and for a certain time.
First came a gentle squire, fresh and frisky, and in good health, who
spent so much upon her, physically and pecuniarily (for in truth
she plucked him well) that at last he was sick of it, and left her
The one who came after him was a knight, and a man of a great
reputation, who was very glad to have acquired the succession, and
worked her as well as he could, paying his _quibus_ (*), which no one
knew better than this lusty wench how to get out of a man. In short, if
the squire, who had previously held the position, had been plucked, the
knight was not less so, until at last he turned tail, took leave of her,
and left the place open to the next comer.
(*) Property or wealth; the expression is still used in
As a tit-bit to finish with, the damsel made the acquaintance of a rich
priest, and although he was cunning enough, and not over liberal with
money, he was despoiled of rich gowns, vessels, and other valuables.
Now it happened, thank God, that the husband of the wench let her know
that he was coming home; and how he had been made a knight at Jerusalem.
His good wife had the house cleaned and prepared as well as possible.
Everything was ready for his return, except the lady, and she was
somewhat disturbed on account of the vast quantity of booty--tapestry,
furniture, vessels, and other valuables--which she had gained upon her
When her husband arrived, God knows what a joyful reception he had,
especially from the one who cared least about him, that is to say his
I pass over all the welcomings, but her husband, although he was a fool,
could not help quickly noticing the heap of furniture, which was not
there at his departure. He went to the coffers, the buffets, and a
number of other places, and everywhere he found his store increased, and
the sight of all this booty filled his mind with evil thoughts, and in a
hot temper he called for his wife, and demanded to know whence had come
all these goods I have already-named.
"By St. John," said the lady, "that is a nice question. You have good
reason to go on like this and get so warm. To look at you one would
think you were cross."
"I am not in the best of tempers," he replied; "for I did not leave
you so much money that you could have saved enough to buy all these
utensils, hangings, and the other things that I find here. I suspect,
with good reason, that our household has been increased by some friend
of yours during my absence."
"By God!" replied the lady, "you are wrong to suspect me of such
misconduct. I would have you to know that I am not a woman of that kind,
but a better wife in every respect than you deserve; and it is not
right that after all the trouble I have taken to save and economise to
embellish and adorn your house and mine, that I should be reproved
and scolded. That is not at all the sort of reward that a good husband
should give to a chaste wife such as you have, you wicked wretch. It is
a great pity I have not been unfaithful to you, and I would be if I did
not value my honour and my soul."
This quarrel, though it lasted a long while, ceased for a time, for the
husband thought of a plan how to find out the truth about his wife. He
arranged with the cure, who was a great friend of his, that he should
hear her confession, and this he did with the help of the cure, who
managed the whole affair, for one morning in Easter week, the cure made
the husband put on the priest's robe, and then sent word to the lady to
come and confess.
It need not be asked if the husband was glad when he found himself thus
disguised. He went to the chapel, and entered the confessional without
saying a word; his wife approached and knelt at his feet, really
believing she was confessing to the cure, and said _Benedicite_. To this
her husband replied _Dominus_, as the cure had taught him, and whatever
else was necessary, as well as he could manage it.
After the good woman had made a general confession, she descended to
particulars, and told how, during the time that her husband had been
away, a squire had been his deputy, and from him she had acquired much
property, in gold, in silver, and in furniture.
God knows that the husband, when he heard this confession did not feel
very comfortable; he would willingly have killed her on the spot if he
had dared, nevertheless he was patient in order that he might hear the
When she had said all there was to say about the squire, she accused
herself of misconduct with the knight, who, like his predecessor, had
paid her well. The good husband, nearly bursting with grief, had a good
mind to discover himself and give her absolution without more ado, but
he did nothing of the kind, and waited to hear what more she would say.
After the knight came the turn of the priest, and at this the good
husband lost patience and would hear no more; he threw aside hood and
gown, and, showing himself said;
"False and perfidious woman! now I see and know your treason! And would
not a squire and a knight suffice you, but you must give yourself up
to a priest? This vexes me more than all the other sins you have
For a moment this brave dame was taken aback, but soon recovered her
confidence, and with a face as calm as though she had been the most just
and virtuous woman in the world, saying her prayers to God, she replied
as calmly as though the Holy Spirit had inspired her,
"Poor fool! why do you thus worry yourself, you know not wherefore?
Listen to me, if you please; and be assured that I knew perfectly well
that I was confessing to you. I served you as you deserved, and without
one word of falsehood confessed to you the real circumstances. These are
the facts: you are the squire who slept with me, for when I married you,
you were a squire, and did with me as you wished; you are the knight
of whom I spoke, for on your return you made me a lady; and you are the
priest also, for no one who is not a priest can hear a confession."
"By my oath, my dear," he replied, "you have convinced me, and proved to
me that you are a virtuous woman and that I was wrong to accuse you. I
repent, and ask your pardon, and promise never to suspect you again."
"I willingly pardon you," said his wife, "since you confess your fault."
Thus, as you have heard, was the good knight deceived by the ready wit
of his wife.