The Scarlet Backside

By Pierre David.

_Of one who saw his wife with a man to whom she gave the whole of her

body, except her backside, which she left for her husband and he made

her dress one day when his friends were present in a woollen gown on the

backside of which was a piece of fine scarlet, and so left her before

all their friends._

I am well aware that formerly there lived in the city of Arras, a worthy
merchant, who had the misfortune to have married a wife who was not the

best woman in the world, for, when she saw a chance, she would slip as

easily as an old cross-bow.

The good merchant suspected his wife's misdeeds, and was also informed

by several of his friends and neighbours. Thereupon he fell into a great

frenzy and profound melancholy; which did not mend matters. Then he

determined to try whether he could know for certain that which was

hardly likely to please him--that is to see one or more of those who

were his deputies come to his house to visit his wife.

So one day he pretended to go out, and hid himself in a chamber of his

house of which he alone had the key. The said chamber looked upon the

street and the courtyard, and by several secret openings and chinks upon

several other chambers in the house.

As soon as the good woman thought her husband had gone, she let one of

the lovers who used to come to her know of it, and he obeyed the summons

as he should, for he followed close on the heels of the wench who was

sent to fetch him.

The husband, who as has been said, was in his secret chamber, saw the

man who was to take his place enter the house, but he said not a word,

for he wished to know more if possible.

"When the lover was in the house, the lady led him by the hand into her

chamber, conversing all the while. Then she locked the door, and they

began to kiss and to cuddle, and enjoy themselves, and the good woman

pulled off her gown and appeared in a plain petticoat, and her companion

threw his arms round her, and did that for which he came. The poor

husband, meanwhile, saw all this through a little grating, and you may

imagine was not very comfortable; he was even so close to them that he

could hear plainly all they said. When the battle between the good woman

and her lover was over, they sat upon a couch that was in the chamber,

and talked of various matters. And as the lover looked upon his

mistress, who was marvellously fair, he began to kiss her again, and as

he kissed her he said;

"Darling, to whom does this sweet mouth belong?"

"It is yours, sweet friend," she replied.

"I thank you. And these beautiful eyes?"

"Yours also," she said.

"And this fair rounded bosom-does that belong to me?" he asked.

"Yes, by my oath, to you and none other," she replied.

Afterwards he put his hand upon her belly, and upon her "front" and each

time asked, "Whose is this, darling?"

"There is no need to ask; you know well enough that it is all yours."

Then he put his hand upon her big backside, and asked smiling,

"And whose is this?"

"It is my husband's," she said. "That is his share; but all the rest is


"Truly," he said, "I thank you greatly. I cannot complain, for you have

given me all the best parts. On the other hand, be assured that I am

yours entirely."

"I well know it," she said, and with that the combat of love began again

between them, and more vigorously than ever, and that being finished,

the lover left the house.

The poor husband, who had seen and heard everything, could stand no

more; he was in a terrible rage, nevertheless he suppressed his wrath,

and the next day appeared, as though he had just come back from a


At dinner that day, he said that he wished to give a great feast on

the following Sunday to her father and mother, and such and such of

her relations and cousins, and that she was to lay in great store of

provisions that they might enjoy themselves that day. She promised to do

this and to invite the guests.

Sunday came, the dinner was prepared, those who were bidden all

appeared, and each took the place the host designated, but the merchant

remained standing, and so did his wife, until the first course was


When the first course was placed on the table, the merchant who had

secretly caused to be made for his wife a robe of thick duffle grey with

a large patch of scarlet cloth on the backside, said to his wife, "Come

with me to the bedroom."

He walked first, and she followed him. When they were there, he made her

take off her gown, and showing her the aforesaid gown of duffle grey,

said, "Put on this dress!"

She looked, and saw that it was made of coarse stuff, and was much

surprised, and could not imagine why her husband wished her to dress in

this manner.

"For what purpose do you wish me to put this on?" she asked. "Never

mind," he replied, "I wish you to wear it." "Faith!" she replied,

"I don't like it! I won't put it on! Are you mad? Do you want all your

people and mine to laugh at us both?"

"Mad or sane," he said, "you will wear it." "At least," she answered,

"let me know why." "You will know that in good time." In short, she was

compelled to put on this gown, which had a very strange appearance, and

in this apparel she was led to the table, where most of her relations

and friends were seated.

But you imagine they were very astonished to see her thus dressed, and,

as you may suppose, she was very much ashamed, and would not have come

to the table if she had not been compelled.

Some of her relatives said they had the right to know the meaning of

this strange apparel, but her husband replied that they were to enjoy

their dinner, and afterwards they should know.

The poor woman who was dressed in this strange garb could eat but

little; there was a mystery connected with the gown which oppressed her

spirits. She would have been even more troubled if she had known the

meaning of the scarlet patch, but she did not.

The dinner was at length over, the table was removed, grace was said,

and everyone stood up. Then the husband came forward and began to speak,

and said;

"All you who are here assembled, I will, if you wish, tell you briefly

why I have called you together, and why I have dressed my wife in this

apparel. It is true that I had been informed that your relative here

kept but ill the vows she had made to me before the priest, nevertheless

I would not lightly believe that which was told me, but wished to learn

the truth for myself, and six days ago I pretended to go abroad, and hid

myself in an upstairs chamber. I had scarcely come there before there

arrived a certain man, whom my wife led into her chamber, where they

did whatsoever best pleased them. And amongst other questions, the man

demanded of her to whom belonged her mouth, her eyes, her hands, her

belly, her 'front', and her thighs? And she replied, '_To you, dear_'.

And when he came to her backside, he asked, '_And whose is this,

darling?_' '_My husband's_' she replied. Therefore I have dressed her

thus. She said that only her backside was mine, and I have caused it it

to be attired as becomes my condition. The rest of her have I clad in

the garb which is befitting an unfaithful and dishonoured woman, for

such she is, and as such I give her back to you."

The company was much astonished to hear this speech, and the poor

woman overcome with shame. She never again occupied a position in her

husband's house, but lived, dishonoured and ashamed, amongst her own