The Sick Lover
_Of a lord who pretended to be sick in order that he might lie with the
servant maid, with whom his wife found him._
In the town of St. Omer there lived formerly a a good fellow, sergeant
to the king, who was married to a good and chaste woman, who had, by a
former marriage, a son grown up and married.
This good fellow, notwithstanding that he had a v
rtuous and prudent
wife, made love day and night with whomsoever he had a chance, and as
often as possible. And as in winter it was often inconvenient to go far
to seek for his love affairs, he bethought himself and reflected that he
need not leave home for a mistress, for that his wife's maid was a very
pretty, young, and well-mannered girl, and he might manage to become her
In short, by gifts and promises, he obtained the girl's permission to
do whatever he wished, but there were difficulties in the way, for his
wife, knowing her husband's character, always kept an eye upon him.
Nevertheless, Cupid, who always comes to the help of his true followers,
inspired his good and loyal worshipper with an idea by which he could
accomplish his ends; for he pretended to be very sick of a chill, and
said to his wife;
"My dear helpmate, come here! I am as ill as I can be; I must go to bed,
and I beg of you to make all the servants go to bed too, in order that
there may be no noise or disturbance, and then come to our chamber."
The worthy woman, who was much vexed at her husband's illness, did as
she was ordered, and took fair sheets and warmed them, and put them over
her husband after he was in bed. And when he had been well warmed for a
long time, he said.
"My dear, that will suffice. I am well enough now, thanks be to God and
to you for the trouble you have taken; and I beg of you to come and lie
down by my side."
She only desired her husband's health and repose, and did as she
was desired, and went to sleep as quickly as possible. As soon as he
perceived she was asleep, he slipped quietly out of bed, and went to the
servant's bed, where he was well received, and broke so many lances that
he was tired and worn out, and dropped off to sleep in her fair arms.
It often happens that when we go to bed vexed or melancholy we are
easily awakened,--indeed that may be the cause of our waking, and so it
happened to the wife. And as she took great care of her husband, she put
out her hand to touch him, and discovered that he was not in the bed;
and on feeling the pillow and the place where he had been lying, she
found that they were cold, and that he had been out of bed a long time.
Then, in despair, she jumped out of bed and put on a chemise and a
petticoat, and said to herself;
"Idle and worthless wretch that you are, you have much to reproach
yourself with, for by your neglect you have let your husband die. Alas!
why did I come to bed to-night and fall asleep; O Virgin Mary! I pray
that nothing has happened to him through my fault, or I shall deem
myself guilty of his death."
After these regrets and lamentations, she went off to seek a light, and
in order that the servant-maid might help her to find her lost husband,
she went to her room to arouse her, and there found the happy pair,
asleep locked in each other's arms, and it seemed that they must have
worked well that night, for they were not awakened by her coming into
the room or by the light she carried.
She was glad that her husband was not as ill as she had feared or
expected; and went to seek her children and all the servants of the
household, and brought them to see the couple, and asked them in a
low voice, who that was in the maid's bed, sleeping with her? And the
children replied that it was their father, and the servants that it was
their master. Then she led them out, and made them go to bed again, for
it was too early to get up, and she also went back to bed, but did not
sleep again till it was time to rise.
Soon after she had left the lovers, they woke up, and took leave of each
other amorously. The master returned to bed, to his wife's side, without
saying a word, nor did she, but pretended to be asleep, at which he
was very glad, thinking that she knew nothing of his adventure, for he
greatly feared her, both for his peace and that of the girl. So he slept
soundly, and his wife, as soon as it was time to get up, rose, and to
please her husband, and give him something comforting after the laxative
medicine that he had taken that night, woke up her servants, and called
her maid, and told her to kill the two fattest capons in the fowl-house,
and prepare them nicely, and then go to the butcher and buy the best bit
of beef she could procure, and put it in water to make a good soup, as
she well knew how, for she was a capital cook.
The girl, who heartily desired to please her mistress and her master,
the one for love and the other from fear, said that she would willingly
do all that was commanded.
Then the wife went to Mass, and on her return passed by the house of
her son, of whom I have spoken, and asked him to come and dine with
her husband, and to bring with him three or four good fellows whom she
named, and whom she and her husband wished invited.
Then she returned home to see after the dinner, and found that her
husband had gone to church. Meanwhile, her son had gone round to invite
the guests his mother had named, and who were the greatest jokers in St.
The good man came back from Mass, and embraced his wife, and she did the
same to him, and, in order that he should not suspect anything, she said
that she rejoiced at his recovery, for which he thanked her, and said;
"Indeed I am in fairly good health, my dear, after last night, and I
think I have a very good appetite, so we will have dinner at once if you
She replied, "I am very glad to hear, it but you must wait a little till
the dinner is ready; and until such and such people, whom I have invited
to dine with you, have arrived."
"Invited!" said he, "and for what reason? I do not care about them and
would rather they stayed where they are; for they jest at everything,
and if they know I have been ill, they will tease me about it. At least,
my dear, let me beg of you to say nothing about it. And there is another
thing--what will they eat?"
She said he need not trouble about that; they would have enough to eat,
for she had dressed the two best capons, as well as a fine piece of
beef, and all in his honour, at which he was very glad, and said it was
Soon after came those who had been invited, and the woman's son.
And when all was ready, they sat at the table and made good cheer,
especially the host, and they drank often one to another.
The host said to his stepson;
"John, my friend, drink with your mother, and enjoy yourself."
And he replied that he would willingly do so; and when he drank to his
mother, the maid, who was waiting at table came into the room.
Then the wife called her, and said,
"Come here, my dear friend and companion! drink to me, and I will pledge
"Friend and companion!" said the host. "What is the meaning of all this
affection? What mischief is brewing now? This is something new!"
"Indeed, she is truly my honest and trusted companion! Why do you wonder
"Oh, the devil, Joan! take care what you say! Any one would think there
was something between her and me."
"And why should they not?" she said. "Did I not find you last night
lying in her bed, and sleeping in her arms?"
"In her bed?" he said.
"Truly, yes," she replied.
"On my honour, gentlemen, it is not true, and she only says so to spite
me, and bring shame on the poor girl, for she never saw me there."
"The devil I did not!" she replied. "You shall hear the statement again
from those of your own household."
With that she called the children, and the servants who were standing
there, and asked them if they had not seen their father lying with the
maid, and they answered, yes.
"You lie, you naughty boys," replied their father. "Your mother told you
to say it."
"Begging your pardon, father, we saw you there; and so did the
"Is that so?" asked the lady of the servants.
"That is quite true," they replied.
Then all who were present laughed loudly, and teased him terribly, for
his wife related all about his pretended illness, and what he had done,
and how she had prepared the dinner and invited his friends in order to
make the story known, at which he was so ashamed that he hardly dared
hold up his head, and did not know what to reply except to say,
"Go on! you are all against me, so I will hold my tongue and let you
have your own way, for I can't contend against the lot of you."
Afterwards he ordered the table to be removed, and when grace was said,
he called his stepson and whispered to him;
"John, my friend, although the others accuse me, I know that you believe
me. See how much is owing to that poor girl, and pay her so liberally
that she will have no cause to complain, and send her away; for I know
well that your mother will never permit her to stay in the house."
The stepson went and did as he was ordered, then he returned to the
friends whom he had brought, whom he found talking to his mother, then
they thanked her for their entertainment, and took leave and went.
The husband and wife remained at home, and it is to be supposed that he
did not hear the last of it for some time. For the poor husband did
not drain his cup of bitterness at the dinner-table, but found that the
proverb about dogs, hawks, war, and love, which says, "Every pleasure
has a thousand sorrows," is true. But none should run the risk if
they are not prepared to pay the penalty. Thus did it happen that the
adventure of this worthy fellow ended in the manner related.