The Lady Who Lost Her Hair
_Of a noble lord who was in love with a damsel who cared for another
great lord, but tried to keep it secret; and of the agreement made
between the two lovers concerning her, as you shall hereafter hear._
A noble knight who lived in the marches of Burgundy, who was wise,
valiant, much esteemed, and worthy of the great reputation he had, was
so much in the graces
of a fair damsel, that he was esteemed as her
lover, and obtained from her, at sundry times, all the favours that she
could honourably give him. She was also smitten with a great and noble
lord, a prudent man, whose name and qualities I pass over, though if I
were to recount them there is not one of you who would not recognise the
person intended, which I do not wish.
This gentle lord, I say, soon perceived the love affair of the valiant
gentleman just named, and asked him if he were not in the good graces of
such and such a damsel,--that is to say the lady before mentioned.
He replied that he was not, but the other, who knew the contrary to be
case, said that he was sure he was,
"For whatever he might say or do, he should not try to conceal such a
circumstance, for if the like or anything more important had occurred to
him (the speaker) he would not have concealed it."
And having nothing else to do, and to pass the time, he found means to
make her fall in love with him. In which he succeeded, for in a very
short time he was high in her graces and could boast of having obtained
her favours without any trouble to win them.
The other did not expect to have a companion, but you must not think
that the fair wench did not treat him as well or better than before,
which encouraged him in his foolish love. And you must know that the
brave wench was not idle, for she entertained the two at once, and would
with much regret have lost either, and more especially the last-comer,
for he was of better estate and furnished with a bigger lance than her
first lover; and she always assigned them different times to come, one
after the other, as for instance one to-day and the other to-morrow.
The last-comer knew very well what she was doing, but he pretended
not to, and in fact he cared very little, except that he was rather
disgusted at the folly of the first-comer, who esteemed too highly a
thing of little value.
So he made up his mind that he would warn his rival, which he did. He
knew that the days on which the wench had forbidden him to come to
her (which displeased him much) were reserved for his friend the
first-comer. He kept watch several nights, and saw his rival enter by
the same door and at the same hour as he did himself on the other days.
One day he said to him, "You well concealed your amours with such an
one. I am rather astonished that you had so little confidence in me,
considering what I know to be really the case between you and her. And
in order that you may understand that I know all, let me tell you that
I saw you enter her house at such and such an hour, and indeed no longer
ago than yesterday I had an eye upon you, and from a place where I was,
I saw you arrive--you know whether I speak the truth."
When the first-comer heard this accusation, he did not know what to say,
and he was forced to confess what he would have willingly concealed,
and which he thought no one knew but himself; and he told the last-comer
that he would not conceal the fact that he was in love, but begged him
not to make it known.
"And what would you say," asked the other, "if you found you had a
"Companion?" said he; "What companion? In a love affair? I never thought
"By St. John!" said the last-comer, "I ought not to keep you longer in
suspense--it is I. And since I see that you are in love with a woman
who is not worth it, and if I had not more pity on you than you have on
yourself I should leave you in your folly, but I cannot suffer such a
wench to deceive you and me so long."
If any one was astonished at this news it was the first-comer who
believed himself firmly established in the good graces of the wench, and
that she loved no one but him. He did not know what to say or think, and
for a long time could not speak a word. When at last he spoke, he said,
"By Our Lady! they have given me the onion (*) and I never suspected it.
I was easily enough deceived. May the devil carry away the wench, just
as she is!"
(*) i.e. "they have made a fool of me."
"She has fooled the two of us," said the last-comer;
"at least she has begun well,--but we must even fool her."
"Do so I beg," said the first. "St. Anthony's fire burn me if ever I see
the jade again."
"You know," said the second, "that we go to her each in turn. Well, the
next time that you go, you must tell her that you well know that I am
in love with her, and that you have seen me enter her house at such an
hour, and dressed in such a manner, and that, by heaven, if ever you
find me there again you will kill me stone dead, whatever may happen to
you. I will say the same thing about you, and we shall then see what she
will say and do, and then we shall know how to act."
"Well said, and just what I would wish," said the first.
As it was arranged, so was it done, for some days later it was the
last-comer's turn to go and visit her; he set out and came to the place
When he was alone with the wench, who received him very kindly and
lovingly it appeared, he put on--as he well knew how--a troubled,
bothered air, and pretended to be very angry. She, who had been
accustomed to see him quite otherwise, did not know what to think, and
she asked what was the matter, for his manner showed that his heart was
not at ease.
"Truly, mademoiselle," said he, "you are right; and I have good cause to
be displeased and angry. Moreover, it is owing to you that I am in this
"To me?" said she. "Alas, I have done nothing that I am aware of, for
you are the only man in the world to whom I would give pleasure, and
whose grief and displeasure touch my heart."
"The man who refuses to believe that will not be damned," said he. "Do
you think that I have not perceived that you are on good terms with
so-and-so (that is to say the first-comer). It is so, by my oath, and
I have but too often seen him speak to you apart, and, what is more, I
have watched and seen him enter here. But by heaven, if ever I find him
here his last day has come, whatever may happen to me in consequence. I
could not allow him to be aware that he has done me this injury--I would
rather die a thousand times if it were possible. And you are as false as
he is for you know of a truth that after God I love no one but you, and
yet you encourage him, and so do me great wrong!"
"Ah, monseigneur!" she replied, "who has told you this story? By my
soul! I wish that God and you should know that it is quite otherwise,
and I call Him to witness that never in my life have I given an
assignation to him of whom you speak, nor to any other whoever he may
be--so you have little enough cause to be displeased with me. I will not
deny that I have spoken to him, and speak to him every day, and also to
many others, but I have never had aught to do with him, nor do I believe
that he thinks of me even for a moment, or if so, by God he is mistaken.
May God not suffer me to live if any but you has part or parcel in what
is yours entirely."
"Mademoiselle," said he, "you talk very well, but I am not such a fool
as to believe you."
Angry and displeased as he was, he nevertheless did that for which he
came, and on leaving, said,
"I have told you, and given you fair warning that if ever I find any
other person comes here, I will put him, or cause him to be put, in such
a condition that he will never again worry me or any one else."
"Ah, Monseigneur," she replied, "by God you are wrong to imagine such
things about him, and I am sure also that he does not think of me."
With that, the last-comer left, and, on the morrow, his friend, the
first-comer did not fail to come early in the morning to hear the news,
and the other related to him in full all that had passed, how he had
pretended to be angry and threatened to kill his rival, and the replies
the jade made.
"By my oath," said the first, "she acted the comedy well! Now let me
have my turn, and I shall be very much surprised if I do not play my
part equally well."
A certain time afterwards his turn came, and he went to the wench, who
received him as lovingly as she always did, and as she had previously
received her other lover. If his friend the last-comer had been cross
and quarrelsome both in manner and words, he was still more so, and
spoke to her in this manner;
"I curse the hour and the day on which I made your acquaintance, for
it is not possible to load the heart of a poor lover with more sorrows,
regrets, and bitter cares than oppress and weigh down my heart to-day.
Alas! I chose you amongst all others as the perfection of beauty,
gentleness, and kindness, and hoped that I should find in you truth and
fidelity, and therefore I gave you all my heart, believing in truth that
it was safe in your keeping, and I had such faith in you that I would
have met death, or worse, had it been possible, to save your honour.
Yet, when I thought myself most sure of your faith, I learned, not only
by the report of others but by my own eyes, that another had snatched
your love from me, and deprived me of the hope of being the one person
in the world who was dearest to you."
"My friend," said the wench, "I do not know what your trouble is, but
from your manner and your words I judge that there is something
the matter, but I cannot tell what it is if you do not speak more
plainly--unless it be a little jealousy which torments you, and if so, I
think, if you are wise, that you will soon banish it from your mind. For
I have never given you any cause for that, as you know me well enough
to be aware, and you should be sorry for having used such expressions to
"I am not the sort of man," said he, "to be satisfied with mere words.
Your excuses are worth nothing. You cannot deny that so-and-so (that
is to say the last-comer) does not keep you. I know well he does, for I
have noticed you, and moreover, have watched, and saw him yesterday come
to you at such an hour, dressed in such and such a manner. But I swear
to God he has had his last pleasure with you, for I bear him a grudge,
and were he ten times as great a man as he is, when I meet him I will
deprive him of his life, or he shall deprive me of mine; one of us two
must die for I cannot live and see another enjoy you. You are false and
disloyal to have deceived me, and it is not without cause that I curse
the hour I made your acquaintance, for I know for a certainty that you
will cause my death if my rival knows my determination, as I hope he
will. I know that I am now as good as dead, and even if he should spare
me, he does but sharpen the knife which is to shorten his own days, and
then the world would not be big enough to save me, and die I must."
The wench could not readily find a sufficient excuse to satisfy him in
his present state of mind. Nevertheless, she did her best to dissipate
his melancholy, and drive away his suspicions, and said to him;
"My friend, I have heard your long tirade, which, to tell the truth,
makes me reflect that I have not been so prudent as I ought, and have
too readily believed your deceitful speeches, and obeyed you in all
things, which is the reason you now think so little of me. Another
reason why you speak to me thus, is that you know that I am so much in
love with you that I cannot bear to live out of your presence. And for
this cause, and many others that I need not mention, you deem me your
subject and slave, with no right to speak or look at any but you. Since
that pleases you, I am satisfied, but you have no right to suspect me
with regard to any living person, nor have I any need to excuse myself.
Truth, which conquers all things, will right me in the end!"
"By God, my dear," said the young man, "the truth is what I have already
told you--as both and he will find to your cost if you do not take
After these speeches, and others too long to recount here, he left, and
did not forget on the following morning to recount everything to his
friend the last-comer; and God knows what laughter and jests they had
The wench, who still had wool on her distaff (*), saw and knew very well
that each of her lovers suspected the other, nevertheless she continued
to receive them each in his turn, without sending either away. She
warned each earnestly that he must come to her in the most secret
manner, in order that he should not be perceived.
(*) i.e. plenty of tricks or resources.
You must know that when the first-comer had his turn that he did not
forget to complain as before, and threatened to kill his rival should he
meet him. Also at his last meeting, he pretended to be more angry than
he really was, and made very light of his rival, who, according to him,
was as good as dead if he were caught with her. But the cunning and
double-dealing jade had so many deceitful speeches ready that her
excuses sounded as true as the Gospel. For she believed that, whatever
doubts and suspicions they had, the affair would never really be found
out, and that she was capable of satisfying them both.
It was otherwise in the end, for the last-comer, whom she was greatly
afraid to lose, one day read her a sharp lesson. In fact he told
her that he would never see her again, and did not for a long time
afterwards, at which she was much displeased and dissatisfied.
And in order to embarrass and annoy her still more, he sent to her a
gentleman, a confidential friend, to point out how disgusted he was to
find he had a rival, and to tell her, in short, that if she did not send
away this rival, that he would never see her again as long as he lived.
As you have already heard, she would not willingly give up his
acquaintance, and there was no male or female saint by whom she did
not perjure herself in explaining away her love passages with her other
lover, and at last, quite beside herself, she said to the squire;
"I will show your master that I love him; give me your knife."
Then, when she had the knife, she took off her headdress, and with the
knife cut off all her hair--not very evenly.
The squire, who knew the facts of the case, took this present, and said
he would do his duty and give it to his master, which he soon did. The
last-comer received the parcel, which he undid, and found the hair of
his mistress, which was very long and beautiful. He did not feel much at
ease until he had sent for his friend and revealed to him the message he
had sent, and the valuable present she had given him in return, and then
he showed the beautiful long tresses.
"I fancy," said he, "I must be very high in her good graces. You can
scarcely expect that she would do as much for you."
"By St. John!" said the other, "this is strange news. I see plainly that
I am left out in the cold. It is finished! You are the favoured one. But
let us" he added, "think what is to be done. We must show her plainly
that we know what she is."
"That's what I wish," said the other.
They thought the matter over, and arranged their plan as follows.
The next day, or soon afterwards, the two friends were in a chamber
where there were assembled their fair lady and many others. Each took
his place where he liked; the first-comer sat near the damsel, and after
some talk, he showed her the hair which she had sent to his friend.
Whatever she may have thought, she was not startled, but said she did
not know whose hair it was, but it did not belong to her.
"What?" he said. "Has it so quickly changed that it cannot be
"That I cannot say," she replied, "but it does not belong to me."
When he heard that, he thought it was time to play his best card, and,
as though by accident, gave her _chaperon_ (*) such a twitch that it
fell to the ground, at which she was both angry and ashamed. And all
those who were present saw that her hair was short, and had been badly
(*) The chaperon, in the time of Charles VII, was fastened
to the shoulder by a long band which sometimes passed two or
three times round the neck, and sometimes hung down the
She rose in haste, and snatched up her head-dress, and ran into another
chamber to attire herself, and he followed her. He found her angry and
ashamed, and weeping bitterly with vexation at being thus caught. He
asked her what she had to weep about, and at what game she had lost her
She did not know what to reply, she was so vexed and astonished; and he,
who was determined to carry out the arrangement he had concluded with
his friend, said to her;
"False and disloyal as you are, you have not cared that I and my
friend were deceived and dishonoured. You wished,--as you have plainly
shown--to add two more victims to your list, but, thank God, we were on
our guard. And, in order that you may see that we both know you, here is
your hair which you sent him, and which he has presented to me; and do
not believe that we are such fools as you have hitherto thought us."
Then he called his friend, who came, and the first said,
"I have given back this fair damsel her hair, an have begun to tell her
how she has accepted the love of both of us, and how by her manner of
acting she has shown us that she did not care whether she disgraced us
both--may God save us!"
"Truly--by St. John!" said the other, and thereupon he made a long
speech to the wench, and God knows he talked to her well, remonstrating
with her on her cowardice and disloyal heart. Never was woman so well
lectured as she was at that time, first by one then by the other.
She was so taken by surprise that she did not know what to reply, except
by tears, which she shed abundantly.
She had never had enough pleasure out of both her lovers to compensate
for the vexation she suffered at that moment.
Nevertheless, in the end they did not desert her, but lived as they did
before, each taking his turn, and if by chance they both came to her
together, the one gave place to the other, and they were both good
friends as before, without ever talking of killing or fighting.
For a long time the two friends continued this pleasant manner of
loving, and the poor wench never dared to refuse either of them. And
whenever the one wished to have intercourse with her, he told the other,
and whenever the second went to see her, the first stayed at home. They
made each other many compliments, and sent one another rondels and
songs which are now celebrated, about the circumstances I have already
related, and of which I now conclude the account.