The Lost Ring

By Monseigneur De Commesuram.

_Of two friends, one of whom left a diamond in the bed of his hostess,

where the other found it, from which there arose a great discussion

between them, which the husband of the said hostess settled in an

effectual manner._

About the month of July (*) a great meeting and assembly was held

between Calais and Gravelines, and near the castle of Oye, a
which were

assembled many princes and great lords, both of France and of England,

to consider the question of the ransom of the Duke of Orleans, (**) then

prisoner to the king of England. Amongst the English representatives

was the Cardinal of Winchester, who had come to the said assembly in

great and noble state, with many knights, and squires and ecclesiastics.

(*) 1440.

(**) Charles, Duke of Orleans, was taken prisoner at the

battle of Agincourt in 1415, and, as his ransom was not

forthcoming was detained a captive for 25 years, when the

Duke and Duchess of Burgundy intervened to procure his

freedom. Cardinal Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester, accepted a

ransom of 200,000 gold crowns, payment of which was

guaranteed by the Dauphin of France, Duke Philip of

Burgundy, and other princes, with the consent of the King of

France. The agreement was signed 22 Nov. 1440.

And amongst the other noblemen were two named John Stockton, squire, and

carver, and Thomas Brampton, cup-bearer to the said Cardinal--which said

John and Thomas loved each other like two brothers, for their clothes,

harness, and arms were always as nearly alike as possible, and they

usually shared the same room and the said bed, and never was there heard

any quarrel, dispute, or misunderstanding between them.

When the said Cardinal arrived at the said town of Calais, there was

hired for him to lodge the said noblemen, the house of Richard Fery,

which is the largest house in the town of Calais, and it is the custom

of all great lords passing through the town to lodge there.

The said Richard was married to a Dutchwoman; who was beautiful,

courteous, and well accustomed to receive guests.

While the treaty was being discussed, which was for more than two

months, John Stockton and Thomas Brampton, who were both of the age

of 26 or 28 years, wore bright crimson clothes, (*) and were ready for

feats of arms by night or day--during this time, I say, notwithstanding

the intimacy and friendship which existed between these two

brothers-in-arms, the said John Stockton, unknown to the said Thomas,

found means to visit their hostess, and often conversed with her, and

paid her many of those attentions customary in love affairs, and finally

was emboldened to ask the said hostess if he might be her friend, and

she would be his lady-love.

(*) Shakespeare several times in the course of the First

Part of Henry VI mentions "the tawny robes of Winchester."

Which is right?

To which, as though pretending to be astonished at such a request, she

replied coldly that she did not hate him, or anyone, nor wish to, but

that she loved all the world as far as in honour she could, but if she

rightly understood his request, she could not comply with it without

great danger of dishonour and scandal, and perhaps risk to her life, and

for nothing in the world would she consent thereto.

John replied that she might very well grant his request, for that he

would rather perish, and be tormented in the other world, than that she

should be dishonoured by any fault of his, and that she was in no wise

to suspect that her honour would not be safe in his keeping, and he

again begged her to grant him this favour, and always deem him her

servant and loving friend.

She pretended to tremble, and replied that truly he made all the blood

freeze in her veins, such fear and dread had she of doing that which he

asked. Then he approached her and requested a kiss, which the ladies and

damsels of the said country of England are ready enough to grant, (*)

and kissing her, begged her tenderly not to be afraid, for no person

living should ever be made acquainted with what passed between them.

(*) Is this a libel on the English ladies of the 16th

century, or is it true--as Bibliophile Jacob asserts in the

foot-note to this passage--that "English prudery is a

daughter of the Reformation?"

Then she said;

"I see that there is no escape, and that I must do as you wish, and as

this must be so, in order to guard my honour, let me tell you that a

regulation has been made by all the lords now living in Calais that

every householder shall watch one night a week on the town walls. But as

my husband has done so much, either himself or by his friends, for the

lords and noblemen of the Cardinal, your master, who lodge here, he has

only to watch half the night, and he will do so on Thursday next, from

the time the bell rings in the evening until midnight; and whilst my

husband is away on his watch, if you have anything to say to me, you

will find me in my chamber, quite willing to listen to you, and along

with my maid;"--who was quite ready to perform whatever her mistress


John Stockton was much pleased with this answer, and thanked his

hostess, and told her that it would not be his fault if he did not come

at the appointed hour.

This conversation took place on the Monday, after dinner. But it should

here be stated that Thomas Brampton had, unknown to his friend John

Stockton, made similar requests to their hostess, but she would not

grant his desire, but now raised his hopes and then dashed them to the

ground, saying that he must have but a poor idea of her virtue, and

that, if she did what he wished, she was sure that her husband and his

relations and friends would take her life.

To this Thomas replied;

"My beloved mistress and hostess, I am a nobleman, and for no

consideration would I bring upon you blame or dishonour, or I should be

unworthy of the name of a gentleman. Believe me, that I would guard your

honour as I do my own, and would rather die than reveal your secret; and

that there is no friend or other person in the world, however dear to

me, to whom I would relate our love-affair."

She, therefore, noting the great affection and desire of the said

Thomas, told him, on the Wednesday following the day on which she had

given John the gracious reply recorded above--that, as he had a great

desire to do her any service, she would not be so ungrateful as not to

repay him. And then she told him how it was arranged that her husband

should watch the morrow night, like the other chief householders of the

town, in compliance with the regulation made by the lords then staying

in Calais. But as--thank God--her husband had powerful friends to speak

to the Cardinal for him, he had only to watch half the night, that is to

say from midnight till the morning, and that if Thomas wished to speak

to her during that time, she would gladly hear him, but, for God's sake

let him come so secretly that no blame could attach to her.

Thomas replied that he desired nothing better, and with that he took

leave of her.

On the morrow, which was Thursday, at vespers, after the bell had rung

for the watch, John Stockton did not forget to appear at the hour his

hostess had appointed. He went to her chamber, and found her there quite

alone, and she received him and made him welcome, for the table was


John requested that he might sup with her, that they might the better

talk together,--which she would not at first grant, saying that it might

cause scandal if he were found with her. But she finally gave way, and

the supper--which seemed to John to take a long time--being finished, he

embraced his hostess, and they enjoyed themselves together, both naked.

Before he entered the chamber, he had put on one of his fingers, a gold

ring set with a large fine diamond, of the value of, perhaps, thirty

nobles. And in playing together, the ring slipped from his finger in the

bed without his knowing it.

When it was about 11 o'clock, the damsel begged him kindly to dress and

leave, that he might not be found by her husband, whom she expected as

soon as midnight sounded, and that he would guard her honour as he had


He, supposing that her husband would return soon, rose, dressed,

and left the chamber as soon as the clock struck twelve, and without

remembering the diamond he had left in the bed.

Not far from the door of the chamber John Stockton met Thomas Brampton,

whom he mistook for his host, Richard. Thomas,--who had come at the hour

the lady appointed,--made a similar mistake, and took John Stockton for

Richard, and waited a few moments to see which way he would go.

Having watched the other disappear, Thomas went to the chamber, found

the door ajar, and entered. The lady pretended to be much frightened and

alarmed, and asked Thomas, with doubt and fear, whether he had met her

husband who had just left to join the watch? He replied that he had met

a man, but did not know whether it was her husband or another, and had

waited a little in order to see which way he would go.

When she heard this, she kissed him boldly, and told him he was welcome,

and Thomas, without more ado, laid her on the bed and tumbled her. When

she found what manner of man he was, she made haste to undress, and he

also, and they both got into bed, and sacrificed to the god of love, and

broke several lances.

But in performing these feats, Thomas met with an adventure, for he

suddenly felt under his thigh, the diamond that John Stockton had left

there, and without saying anything, or evincing any surprise, he picked

it up, and put it on his finger.

They remained together until the morning, when the watch bell was about

to ring, when, at the request of the damsel he rose, but before he

left they embraced with a long, loving kiss. He had scarcely gone when

Richard came off the watch, on which he had been all night, very cold

and sleepy, and found his wife just getting up. She made him a fire, and

then he went to bed, for he had worked all night,--and so had his wife

though not in the same fashion.

It is the custom of the English, after they have heard Mass, to

breakfast at a tavern, with the best wine; and about two days after

these events, John and Thomas were in a company of other gentlemen and

merchants, who were breakfasting together, and Stockton and Brampton

were seated opposite each other.

Whilst they were eating, John looked at Thomas, and saw on one of

his fingers the diamond. He gazed at it a long time, and came to the

conclusion that it was the ring he had lost, he did not know where or

when, and he begged Thomas to show him the diamond, who accordingly

handed it to him, and when he had it in his hand he saw that it was his

own, and told Thomas so, and asked him how he came by it. To this Thomas

replied that it belonged to _him_. Stockton maintained, on the contrary,

that he had lost it but a short time before, and that if Thomas had

found it in the chamber where they slept, it was not right of him to

keep it, considering the affection and fraternity which had always

existed between them. High words ensued, and both were angry and

indignant with each other.

Thomas wished to get the diamond back, but could not obtain it. When

the other gentlemen and merchants heard the dispute, all tried to bring

about a reconciliation, but it was no good, for he who had lost the

diamond would not let it out of his hands, and he who had found it

wanted it back, as a memento of his love-encounter with his mistress, so

that it was difficult to settle the dispute.

Finally, one of the merchants, seeing that all attempts to make up the

quarrel were useless, said that he had hit upon a plan with which both

John and Thomas ought to be satisfied, but he would not say what it was

unless both parties promised, under a penalty of ten nobles, to abide

by what he said. All the company declared that the merchant had spoken

well, and persuaded John and Thomas to abide by this decision, which

they at last consented to do.

The merchant ordered the diamond to be placed in his hands, then that

all those who had tried to settle the difference should be silent, and

that they should leave the house where they were, and the first man they

met, whatever his rank or condition should be told the whole matter of

the dispute between the said John and Thomas, and, whatever he decided,

his verdict should be accepted without demur by both parties.

Thereupon all the company left the house, and the first person they met

was Richard, the host of both disputants, to whom the merchant narrated

the whole of the dispute.

Richard--after he had heard all, and had asked those, who were present

if the account was correct, and the two were unwilling to let

this dispute be settled by so many notable persons,--delivered his

verdict--namely that the diamond should remain his, and that neither of

the parties should have it.

When Thomas saw himself deprived of the diamond he had found, he was

much vexed; and most probably so also was John Stockton, who had lost


Then Thomas requested all the company, except their host, to return to

the house where they had breakfasted, and he would give them a dinner in

order that they might hear how the diamond had come into his hands,

to which they all agreed. And whilst the dinner was being prepared,

he related the conversation he had had with his hostess, how she had

appointed him an hour for him to visit her, whilst her husband was out

with the watch, and how the diamond was found.

When John Stockton heard this he was astonished, and declared that

exactly the same had occurred to him, and on the same night, and that

he was convinced that he must have dropped his diamond where Thomas had

found it, and that it was far worse for him to lose it than it was for

Thomas, for it had cost him dear, whereas Thomas had lost nothing.

To which Thomas replied that he ought not to complain that their host

had adjudged it to be his, considering what their hostess had had to

suffer, and that he (John) had had first innings, whilst Thomas had had

to act as his page or squire, and come after him.

So John Stockton was tolerably reconciled to the loss of his ring, since

he could not otherwise help it. And all those who were present laughed

loudly at the story of this adventure; and after they had all dined,

each returned whithersoever he wished.