The Reverse Of The Medal
By Monseigneur Le Duc
_The first story tells of how one found means to enjoy the wife of his
neighbour, whose husband he had sent away in order that he might have
her the more easily, and how the husband returning from his journey,
found his friend bathing with his wife. And not knowing who she was, he
wished to see her, but was permitted only to see her back--, and then
thought that she resembled his wif
, but dared not believe it. And
thereupon left and found his wife at home, she having escaped by a
postern door, and related to her his suspicions._
In the town of Valenciennes there lived formerly a notable citizen, who
had been receiver of Hainault, who was renowned amongst all others
for his prudence and discretion, and amongst his praiseworthy virtues,
liberality was not the least, and thus it came to pass that he enjoyed
the grace of princes, lords, and other persons of good estate. And this
happy condition, Fortune granted and preserved to him to the end of his
Both before and after death unloosed him from the chains of matrimony,
the good citizen mentioned in this Story, was not so badly lodged in
the said town but that many a great lord would have been content and
honoured to have such a lodging. His house faced several streets, in
one of which was a little postern door, opposite to which lived a good
comrade of his, who had a pretty wife, still young and charming.
And, as is customary, her eyes, the archers of the heart, shot so many
arrows into the said citizen, that unless he found some present remedy,
he felt his case was no less than mortal.
To more surely prevent such a fate, he found many and subtle manners of
making the good comrade, the husband of the said quean, his private and
familiar friend, so, that few of the dinners, suppers, banquets, baths,
and other such amusements took place, either in the hotel or elsewhere,
without his company. And of such favours his comrade was very proud, and
When our citizen, who was more cunning than a fox, had gained the
good-will of his friend, little was needed to win the love of his wife,
and in a few days he had worked so much and so well that the gallant
lady was fain to hear his case, and to provide a suitable remedy
thereto. It remained but to provide time and place; and for this she
promised him that, whenever her husband lay abroad for a night, she
would advise him thereof.
The wished-for day arrived when the husband told his wife that he was
going to a chateau some three leagues distant from Valenciennes, and
charged her to look after the house and keep within doors, because his
business would not permit him to return that night.
It need not be asked if she was joyful, though she showed it not either
in word, or deed, or otherwise. Her husband had not journeyed a league
before the citizen knew that the opportunity had come.
He caused the baths to be brought forth, and the stoves to be heated,
and pasties, tarts, and hippocras, and all the rest of God's good gifts,
to be prepared largely and magnificently.
When evening came, the postern door was unlocked, and she who was
expected entered thereby, and God knows if she was not kindly received.
I pass over all this.
Then they ascended into a chamber, and washed in a bath, by the side of
which a good supper was quickly laid and served. And God knows if they
drank often and deeply. To speak of the wines and viands would be
a waste of time, and, to cut the story short, there was plenty of
everything. In this most happy condition passed the great part of this
sweet but short night; kisses often given and often returned, until they
desired nothing but to go to bed.
Whilst they were thus making good cheer, the husband returned from his
journey, and knowing nothing of this adventure, knocked loudly at the
door of the house. And the company that was in the ante-chamber refused
him entrance until he should name his surety.
Then he gave his name loud and clear, and so his good wife and the
citizen heard him and knew him. She was so amazed to hear the voice of
her husband that her loyal heart almost failed her; and she would have
fainted, had not the good citizen and his servants comforted her.
The good citizen being calm and well advised how to act, made haste
to put her to bed, and lay close by her; and charged her well that she
should lie close to him and hide her face, so that no one could see it.
And that being done as quickly as may be, yet without too much haste,
he ordered that the door should be opened. Then his good comrade sprang
into the room, thinking to himself that there must be some mystery, else
they had not kept him out of the room. And when he saw the table laid
with wines and goodly viands, also the bath finely prepared, and the
citizen in a handsome bed, well curtained, with a second person by
his side, God knows he spoke loudly, and praised the good cheer of his
neighbour. He called him rascal, and whore-monger, and drunkard, and
many other names, which made those who were in the chamber laugh long
and loud; but his wife could not join in the mirth, her face being
pressed to the side of her new friend.
"Ha!" said the husband, "Master whore-monger, you have well hidden from
me this good cheer; but, by my faith, though I was not at the feast, you
must show me the bride."
And with that, holding a candle in his hand, he drew near the bed, and
would have withdrawn the coverlet, under which, in fear and silence,
lay his most good and perfect wife, when the citizen and his servants
prevented him; but he was not content, and would by force, in spite of
them all, have laid his hand upon the bed.
But he was not master there, and could not have his will, and for good
cause, and was fain to be content with a most gracious proposal which
was made to him, and which was this, that he should be shown the
backside of his wife, and her haunches, and thighs--which were big and
white, and moreover fair and comely--without uncovering and beholding
The good comrade, still holding a candle in his hand, gazed for long
without saying a word; and when he did speak, it was to praise highly
the great beauty of that dame, and he swore by a great oath that he had
never seen anything that so much resembled the back parts of his own
wife, and that were he not well sure that she was at home at that time,
he would have said it was she.
She had by this somewhat recovered, and he drew back much disconcerted,
but God knows that they all told him, first one and then the other, that
he had judged wrongly, and spoken against the honour of his wife, and
that this was some other woman, as he would afterwards see for himself.
To restore him to good humour, after they had thus abused his eyes, the
citizen ordered that they should make him sit at the table, where he
drowned his suspicions by eating and drinking of what was left of the
supper, whilst they in the bed were robbing him of his honour.
The time came to leave, and he said good night to the citizen and his
companions, and begged they would let him leave by the postern door,
that he might the sooner return home. But the citizen replied that he
knew not then where to find the key; he thought also that the lock was
so rusted that they could not open the door, which they rarely if ever
used. He was content therefore to leave by the front gate, and make a
long detour to reach his house, and whilst the servants of the citizen
led him to the door, the good wife was quickly on her feet, and in a
short time, clad in a simple sark, with her corset on her arm, and come
to the postern. She made but one bound to her house, where she awaited
her husband (who came by a longer way) well-prepared as to the manner in
which she should receive him.
Soon came our man, and seeing still a light in the house, knocked at the
door loudly; and this good wife, who was pretending to clean the house,
and had a besom in her hands, asked -- what she knew well; "Who is
And he replied; "It is your husband."
"My husband!" said she. "My husband is not here! He is not in the town!"
With that he knocked again, and cried, "Open the door! I am your
"I know my husband well," quoth she, "and it is not his custom to return
home so late at night, when he is in the town. Go away, and do not knock
here at this hour."
But he knocked all the more, and called her by name once or twice. Yet
she pretended not to know him, and asked why he came at that hour, but
for all reply he said nothing but, "Open! Open!"
"Open!" said she. "What! are you still there you rascally whore-monger?
By St. Mary, I would rather see you drown than come in here! Go! and
sleep as badly as you please in the place where you came from."
Then her good husband grew angry, and thundered against the door as
though he would knock the house down, and threatened to beat his wife,
such was his rage,--of which she had not great fear; but at length,
because of the noise he made, and that she might the better speak her
mind to him, she opened the door, and when he entered, God knows whether
he did not see an angry face, and have a warm greeting. For when her
tongue found words from a heart overcharged with anger and indignation,
her language was as sharp as well-ground Guingant razors.
And, amongst other things, she reproached him that he had wickedly
pretended a journey in order that he might try her, and that he was a
coward and a recreant, unworthy to have such a wife as she was.
Our good comrade, though he had been angry, saw how wrong he had been,
and restrained his wrath, and the indignation that in his heart he had
conceived when he was standing outside the door was turned aside. So he
said, to excuse himself, and to satisfy his wife, that he had returned
from his journey because he had forgotten a letter concerning the object
of his going.
Pretending not to believe him, she invented more stories, and charged
him with having frequented taverns and bagnios, and other improper and
dissolute resorts, and that he behaved as no respectable man should, and
she cursed the hour in which she had made his acquaintance, and doubly
cursed the day she became his wife.
The poor man, much grieved, seeing his wife more troubled than he liked,
knew not what to say. And his suspicions being removed, he drew near
her, weeping and falling upon his knees and made the following fine
"My most dear companion, and most loyal wife, I beg and pray of you
to remove from your heart the wrath you have conceived against me, and
pardon me for all that I have done against you. I own my fault, I see
my error. I have come now from a place where they made good cheer, and
where, I am ashamed to say, I fancied I recognised you, at which I was
much displeased. And so I wrongfully and causelessly suspected you to be
other than a good woman, of which I now repent bitterly, and pray of you
to forgive me, and pardon my folly."
The good woman, seeing her husband so contrite, showed no great anger.
"What?" said she, "You have come from filthy houses of ill-fame, and you
dare to think that your honest wife would be seen in such places?"
"No, no, my dear, I know you would not. For God's sake, say no more
about it." said the good man, and repeated his aforesaid request.
She, seeing his contrition, ceased her reproaches, and little by little
regained her composure, and with much ado pardoned him, after he had
made a hundred thousand oaths and promises to her who had so wronged
him. And from that time forth she often, without fear or regret, passed
the said postern, nor were her escapades discovered by him who was most
concerned. And that suffices for the first story.