The Sleeveless Robe
_Of a gentleman of Flanders, who went to reside in France, but whilst he
was there his mother was very ill in Flanders; and how he often went
to visit her believing that she would die, and what he said and how he
behaved, as you will hear later._
A gentleman of Flanders had a mother who was very old and much weakened
by disease, and more sick and infirm than any wom
n of her age. Hoping
that she would get better, and be cured, he often came to see her,
although he resided in France, and each time that he came he found her
suffering so much that he thought her soul was about to leave her body.
On one occasion that he came to see her, she said to him at his
"Adieu, my son; I am sure that you will never see me again for I am
about to die."
"Devil take it, mother, you have said that so often that I am sick of
it. For three years past you have been repeating that, but you have done
nothing of the kind. Choose a day, I beg, and keep to it."
The good woman, when she heard her son's reply, smiled, though she was
so sick and old, and said farewell.
One year, then two years, passed, and still she lingered on. She was
again visited by her son, and one night when he was in bed in her house,
and she was so ill that all believed she was about to go to Mortaigne,
(*) those who watched her called her son, and told him to come to his
mother quickly, for that certainly she was about to die.
(*) Mild puns on the names of places were very common in the
"Do you say that she is about to die?" he replied. "By my soul, I will
not believe it; she always says that, but she never does it."
"No, no," said the nurses; "this time it is certain. Come quickly for it
is sure that she is dying."
"Very well, you go first and I will follow you; and tell my mother that
if she must go, not to go by Douai, for the road is so bad that I and my
horses were nearly swallowed up yesterday."
Nevertheless he rose, and put on his dressing-gown, and went off to see
his mother give her last grin. When he came he found her very ill, for
she had been in a swoon which all thought would carry her off, but,
thank God, she was now a little better.
"Did I not tell you so?" said this good son. "Every body in this house
declares, and she does herself, that she is dying--but nothing comes of
it. For God's sake choose a day--as I have often told you--and see that
you keep to it! I am going to return whence I came, and I recommend you
not to call me again. If she does die she must die alone, for I will not
keep her company."
Now I must tell you the end of this history. The lady, ill as she was,
recovered from this extreme sickness, and lived and languished as before
for the space of three years, during which time her good son visited her
once, and that was just as she was about to give up the ghost. But when
they came to seek him to come to her deathbed, he was trying on a new
habit and would not come. Message after message was sent to him, for his
good mother, who was nearing her end, wished to recommend her soul to
her son's care,--but to all the messages he replied;
"I am sure there is no hurry: she will wait till my habit is finished."
At last so many remonstrances were made to him that he went to his
mother, wearing a doublet with no sleeves to it, which, when she saw,
she asked him where were the sleeves.
"They are within there,--waiting to be finished as soon as you clear out
of the place."
"Then they will be soon finished," she replied; "for I go to God, to
whom I humbly recommend my soul; and to you also, my son."
Without another word she rendered her soul to God, with the Cross
between her arms; on seeing which her good son began to weep so loudly
that no one had ever heard the like; he could not be comforted, and at
the end of a fortnight he died of grief.