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

also happy.

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

her face.

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.