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
About the month of July (*) a great meeting and assembly was held
between Calais and Gravelines, and near the castle of Oye, a
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.
(**) 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.