The Muddled Marriages

By The Archivist Of Brussels.

_Of two men and two women who were waiting to be married at the first

Mass in the early morning; and because the priest could not see well, he

took the one for the other, and gave to each man the wrong wife, as you

will hear._

One morning there were assembled in the cathedral of Sainte Gudule at

Brussels, many men and women who wished to be married at the first

which is said between four and five o'clock; and amongst others who

wished to enter this sweet and happy condition, and promise before the

priest to live honestly and uprightly, were a young man and a young

woman who were not rich, who were standing near each other, waiting for

the priest to call them to marry them.

Near them were an old man and an old woman, who had great possessions

and wealth, but who, out of covetousness and the desire to have more,

had also promised troth to one another, and were also waiting to be

married at this first Mass.

The priest came and recited this much-desired Mass, and at the end

thereof, as is the custom, had ranged before him those who wished to

be married, of whom there were many, without counting the four I have


Now you must know that the good priest who was standing ready before the

altar to accomplish the wedding rites, was blind of one eye, having lost

an eye by some mischance a little time before. Also there was hardly any

light in the chapel or on the altar, and, as it was winter, it was very

dark. So he could not see the couples properly, and when he came to

marry them, he took the rich old man and the poor, young girl, and

joined them together with the wedding ring.

On the other hand, he also took the poor, young man and married him to

the rich, old woman,--without any of those in the church noticing it,

either men or women--which was very strange, especially on the part of

the men, for they dare to raise their heads and their eyes when they are

on their knees before the priest, whilst the women who are modest and

shy, always look down on the ground.

It is the custom on leaving the church for the friends of the bride to

meet her, and conduct her to her husband's house. So it was that the

poor, young girl was taken to the house of the rich man, and also the

rich, old woman was escorted to the cottage of the young man.

When the young bride found herself in the court, and then in the great

hall of the house of the man she had married by mistake, she was much

astonished, and knew well that was not the house she had left that

morning. When she was in the dressing-room, which was hung round with

rich tapestries, she saw a large fire, a table well covered, on which a

good breakfast was all ready, and a handsome sideboard, well garnished

with vessels of all sorts, and was more astonished than ever, and

thought it strange she did not know a soul present to whom she could


She was soon relieved of the cloak in which she was huddled-up, and when

the bridegroom and the others who were there saw her uncovered, you

may guess they were as much surprised as though horns had cropped up on

their heads.

"What?" said the bridegroom. "Is that my wife? By Our Lady, I am very

lucky. She is much changed since yesterday; I think she must have been

to the fountain of youth."

"We do not know," replied those who had brought her, "whence she comes,

or what she has done; but we are certain that is the woman you have

married, for we took her at the altar, and since then she has never left

our hands."

They were all much astonished, and remained long without saying a word,

but the most foolish-looking and surprised of all was the poor bride;

she was quite downcast and wept gently, for she would have much

preferred to be with her lover, whom she had expected to marry that day.

The bridegroom, seeing her so miserable, had pity on her, and said,

"My dear, do not be downcast; you are in a good house, please God, and

no one is going to do you any harm. But tell me, if you please, who you

are, and what information you can as to how you came here."

When she heard herself spoken to so courteously, she regained a little

courage, and gave the names of her father and mother, and said that

she was of Brussels, and was betrothed to a certain young man, whom she

named, and whom she had expected to have married.

The bridegroom, and all those who were there, began to laugh, and said

that the priest had played them this trick.

"Well, God be praised for the change!" said the bridegroom at last. "I

do not greatly regret that God sent you to me, and I promise you on my

word to make you a good husband."

"No, no," she said, weeping. "You are not my husband. I wish to go back

to him to whom my father gave me."

"That shall not be," said he. "I married you in the holy church, and you

cannot deny it. You are, and you will remain, my wife; and be content,

for you are very lucky. I have, thank God, riches enough, of which you

shall be the lady and mistress, and you will be very comfortable."

He, and the others who were there, talked her over till at last she

consented. So they had a light breakfast together, and then went to bed,

and the old man did the best he knew how.

But let us return to the old woman, and the young man.

When she found herself in the house, she was in a great rage, and said;

"What am I doing here? Why do you not take me either to my own house, or

to the house of my husband?"

The bridegroom, when he saw the old woman, and heard her speak, was much

surprised, and so were his father and mother, and all who were there

assembled. Then came out the father and mother, who knew the old woman,

and the father spoke to his son, and said,

"My son, they have given you the wife of some one else, and it is to be

supposed he has your wife. It is all the fault of our cure, who sees

so badly, and--God help me--I was so far away from you when you were

married that I never perceived the change."

"What must I do?" asked the bridegroom.

"Upon my word," said his father, "I do not well know, but I greatly

doubt if you can have any other wife than this."

"St. John!" said the old woman, "I will not have him. I do not care for

such a sorry fellow! I should be very happy, should I not? with a young

fellow who did not care for me and would spend all my money, and if, I

ventured to say a word would give me a crack on the head. Go away! go

away! and fetch your wife, and let me go where I ought to be."

"By Our Lady!" said the bridegroom, "if I can get her back, I would

rather have her than you, however poor she may be; but if I cannot

obtain her, you will not go."

His father, and some of his relations, went to the house where the

old woman wished to be, and found the company breakfasting well, and

preparing the caudle for the bride and bridegroom.

The father stated the case, but the others replied,

"You come too late; each must keep what he has; the master of the house

is content with the wife that God has given him; he wedded her, and he

does not want any other. And do not complain, for you would never have

been so fortunate as to get your daughter married so well; now you will

all be rich."

The father returned home, and reported the answer he had, at which the

old woman was in a great rage.

"Indeed!" she said, "am I to be deceived in this manner? By God, the

matter shall not rest here; justice shall be done me!"

If the old woman was displeased, as much, or more, was the young man,

who was deprived of his ladylove. Still, he might have looked over that

if he could have had the old woman, and all her money, but it was no

good, she made herself so disagreeable that he was obliged to let her

return home.

So he was advised to summon her before the Bishop of Cambrai; and she

also summoned the old man who had married the young woman, and a great

lawsuit began, judgment in which is not given yet, so I can tell you no

more about it.