The Monk-doctor

By Monseigneur

_The second story, related by Duke Philip, is of a young girl who had

piles, who put out the only eye he had of a Cordelier monk who was

healing her, and of the lawsuit that followed thereon._

In the chief town of England, called London, which is much resorted to

by many folks, there lived, not long ago, a rich and powerful man who

was a merchant and citizen, who
beside his great wealth and treasures,

was enriched by the possession of a fair daughter, whom God had given

him over and above his substance, and who for goodness, prettiness,

and gentleness, surpassed all others of her time, and who when she was

fifteen was renowned for her virtue and beauty.

God knows that many folk of good position desired and sought for her

good grace by all the divers manners used by lovers,--which was no

small pleasure to her father and mother, and increased their ardent and

paternal affection for their beloved daughter.

But it happened that, either by the permission of God, or that Fortune

willed and ordered it so, being envious and discontented at the

prosperity of this beautiful girl, or of her parents, or all of

them,--or may be from some secret and natural cause that I leave to

doctors and philosophers to determine, that she was afflicted with an

unpleasant and dangerous disease which is commonly called piles.

The worthy family was greatly troubled when they found the fawn they so

dearly loved, set on by the sleuth-hounds and beagles of this unpleasant

disease, which had, moreover, attacked its prey in a dangerous place.

The poor girl--utterly cast down by this great misfortune,--could do

naught else than weep and sigh. Her grief-stricken mother was much

troubled; and her father, greatly vexed, wrung his hands, and tore his

hair in his rage at this fresh misfortune.

Need I say that all the pride of that household was suddenly cast down

to the ground, and in one moment converted into bitter and great grief.

The relations, friends, and neighbours of the much-enduring family came

to visit and comfort the damsel; but little or nothing might they profit

her, for the poor girl was more and more attacked and oppressed by that


Then came a matron who had much studied that disease, and she turned and

re-turned the suffering patient, this way, and that way, to her great

pain and grief, God knows, and made a medicine of a hundred thousand

sorts of herbs, but it was no good; the disease continued to get worse,

so there was no help but to send for all the doctors of the city and

round about, and for the poor girl to discover unto them her most

piteous case.

There came Master Peter, Master John, Master This, Master That--as many

doctors as you would, who all wished to see the patient together, and

uncover that portion of her body where this cursed disease, the piles

had, alas, long time concealed itself.

The poor girl, as much cast down and grieved as though she were

condemned to die, would in no wise agree or permit that her affliction

should be known; and would rather have died than shown such a secret

place to the eyes of any man.

This obstinacy though endured not long, for her father and her mother

came unto her, and remonstrated with her many times,--saying that she

might be the cause of her own death, which was no small sin; and many

other matters too long to relate here.

Finally, rather to obey her father and mother than from fear of death,

the poor girl allowed herself to be bound and laid on a couch, head

downwards, and her body so uncovered that the physicians might see

clearly the seat of the disease which troubled her.

They gave orders what was to be done, and sent apothecaries with

clysters, powders, ointments, and whatsoever else seemed good unto them;

and she took all that they sent, in order that she might recover her


But all was of no avail, for no remedy that the said physicians could

apply helped to heal the distressing malady from which she suffered, nor

could they find aught in their books, until at last the poor girl, what

with grief and pain was more dead than alive, and this grief and great

weakness lasted many days.

And whilst the father and mother, relations, and neighbours sought for

aught that might alleviate their daughter's sufferings, they met with

an old Cordelier monk, who was blind of one eye, and who in his time

had seen many things, and had dabbled much in medicine, therefore his

presence was agreeable to the relations of the patient, and he having

gazed at the diseased part at his leisure, boasted much that he could

cure her.

You may fancy that he was most willingly heard, and that all the

grief-stricken assembly, from whose hearts all joy had been banished,

hoped that the result would prove as he had promised.

Then he left, and promised that he would return the next day, provided

and furnished with a drug of such virtue, that it would at once remove

the great pain and martyrdom which tortured and annoyed the poor


The night seemed over-long, whilst waiting for the wished-for morrow;

nevertheless, the long hours passed, and our worthy Cordelier kept his

promise, and came to the patient at the hour appointed. You may guess

that he was well and joyously received; and when the time came when he

was to heal the patient, they placed her as before on a couch, with her

backside covered with a fair white cloth of embroidered damask, having,

where her malady was, a hole pierced in it through which the Cordelier

might arrive at the said place.

He gazed at the seat of the disease, first from one side, then from the

other: and anon he would touch it gently with his finger, or inspect the

tube by which he meant to blow in the powder which was to heal her, or

anon would step back and inspect the diseased parts, and it seemed as

though he could never gaze enough.

At last he took the powder in his left hand, poured upon a small flat

dish, and in the other hand the tube, which he filled with the said

powder, and as he gazed most attentively and closely through the opening

at the seat of the painful malady of the poor girl, she could not

contain herself, seeing the strange manner in which the Cordelier gazed

at her with his one eye, but a desire to burst out laughing came upon

her, though she restrained herself as long as she could.

But it came to pass, alas! that the laugh thus held back was converted

into a f--t, the wind of which caught the powder, so that the greater

part of it was blown into the face and into the eye of the good

Cordelier, who, feeling the pain, dropped quickly both plate and tube,

and almost fell backwards, so much was he frightened. And when he came

to himself, he quickly put his hand to his eye, complaining loudly, and

saying that he was undone, and in danger to lose the only good eye he


Nor did he lie, for in a few days, the powder which was of a corrosive

nature, destroyed and ate away his eye, so that he became, and remained,


Then he caused himself to be led one day to the house where he had met

with this sad mischance, and spoke to the master of the house, to whom

he related his pitiful case, demanding, as was his right, that there

should be granted to him such amends as his condition deserved, in order

that he might live honourably.

The merchant replied that though the misadventure greatly vexed him, he

was in nowise the cause of it, nor could he in any way be charged with

it, but that he would, out of pity and charity, give him some money, and

though the Cordelier had undertaken to cure his daughter and had not

so done, would give him as much as he would if she had been restored to

health, though not forced to do so.

The Cordelier was not content with this offer, but required that he

should be kept for the rest of his life, seeing that the merchant's

daughter had blinded him, and that in the presence of many people, and

thereby he was deprived from ever again performing Mass or any of the

services of the Holy Church, or studying what learned men had written

concerning the Holy Scriptures, and thus could no longer serve as a

preacher; which would be his destruction, for he would be a beggar and

without means, save alms, and these he could no longer obtain.

But all that he could say was of no avail, and he could get no other

answer than that given. So he cited the merchant before the Parliament

of the said city of London, which called upon the aforesaid merchant to

appear. When the day came, the Cordelier's case was stated by a lawyer

well-advised as to what he should say, and God knows that many came to

the Court to hear this strange trial, which much pleased the lords of

the said Parliament, as much for the strangeness of the case as for the

allegations and arguments of the parties debating therein, which were

not only curious but amusing.

To many folk was this strange and amusing case known, and was often

adjourned and left undecided by the judges, as is their custom. And

so she, who before this was renowned for her beauty, goodness, and

gentleness, became notorious through this cursed disease of piles, but

was in the end cured, as I have been since told.