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
"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
"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,
"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