The Three Cordeliers
By Monsigneur De Beauvoir
_Of three merchants of Savoy who went on a pilgrimage to St. Anthony in
Bienne, (*) and who were deceived and cuckolded by three Cordeliers who
slept with their wives. And how the women thought they had been with
their husbands, and how their husbands came to know of it, and of the
steps they took, as you shall shortly hear._
(*) This according to M. Lacroix is
the old town of La Mothe
St. Didier in Dauphine, which took the name of Saint Antoine
on account of the relics of the Saint, which were brought
there in the 11th century.
It is as true as the Gospel, that three worthy merchants of Savoy set
out with their wives to go on a pilgrimage to St. Anthony of Vienne. And
in order to render their journey more devout and more agreeable to God
and St. Anthony, they determined that from the time they left their
houses, and all through the journey, they would not sleep with their
wives, but live in continence, both going and returning.
They arrived one night in the town, where they found good lodgings, and
had excellent cheer at supper, like those who have plenty of money and
know well what to do with it, and enjoyed themselves so much that each
determined to break his oath, and sleep with his wife.
However, it happened otherwise, for when it was time to retire to rest,
the women said good night to their husbands and left them, and shut
themselves up in a chamber near, where each had ordered her bed to be
Now you must know that that same evening there arrived in the house
three Cordeliers, who were going to Geneva, and who ordered a chamber
not very far from that of the merchant's wives.
The women, when they were alone, began to talk about a hundred thousand
things, and though there were only three of them they made enough noise
The good Cordeliers, hearing all this womens' chatter, came out of their
chamber, without making any noise, and approached the door without being
heard. They saw three pretty women, each lying by herself in a fair bed,
big enough to accommodate a second bed-fellow; then they saw and heard
also the three husbands go to bed in another chamber, and they said to
themselves that fortune had done them a good turn, and that they would
be unworthy to meet with any other good luck if they were cowardly
enough to allow this opportunity to escape them.
"So," said one of them, "there needs no further deliberation as to what
we are to do; we are three and they are three--let each take his place
when they are asleep."
As it was said, so it was done, and such good luck had the good brothers
that they found the key of the room in which the women were, and opened
the door so gently that they were not heard by a soul, and they were not
such fools when they had gained the outworks as not to close the door
after them and take out the key, and then, without more ado, each picked
out a bed-fellow, and began to ruffle her as well as he could.
One of the women, believing it was her husband, spoke, and said;
"What are you doing? Do you not remember your vow?" But the good
Cordelier answered not a word, but did that for which he came, and did
it so energetically that she could not help assisting in the
The other two also were not idle, and the good women did not know what
had caused their husbands thus to break their vow. Nevertheless, they
thought they ought to obey, and bear it all patiently without speaking,
each being afraid of being heard by her companions, for really each
thought that she alone was getting the benefit.
When the good Cordeliers had done all they could, they left without
saying a word, and returned to their chamber, each recounting his
adventures. One had broken three lances; another, four; and the other,
six. They rose early in the morning, and left the town.
The good ladies, who had not slept all night, did not rise very early in
the morning, for they fell asleep at daybreak, which caused them to get
On the other hand, their husbands, who had supped well the previous
night, and who expected to be called by their wives, slept heavily till
an hour so late that on other days they had generally travelled two
leagues by that time.
At last the women got up, and dressed themselves as quickly as they
could, and not without talking. And, amongst other things, the one who
had the longest tongue, said;
"Between ourselves, mesdames--how have you passed the night? Have
your husbands worked like mine did? He has not ceased to ruffle me all
"By St. John!" said they, "if your husband ruffled you well last night,
ours have not been idle. They have soon forgotten what they promised at
parting; though believe us we did not forget to remind them."
"I warned mine also," said the first speaker, "when he began, but he
did not leave off working, and hurried on like a hungry man who had been
deprived of my company for two nights."
When they were attired, they went to find their husbands, who were
"Good morning, good morning! you sleepers!" cried the ladies.
"Thank you," said the men, "for having called us."
"By my oath!" said one lady. "We have no more qualms of conscience for
not calling you than you have for breaking your vow."
"What vow?" said one of the men.
"The vow," said she, "that you made on leaving, not to sleep with your
"And who has slept with his wife?" asked he. "You know well enough,"
said she, "and so do I."
"And I also," said her companion. "Here is my husband who never gave me
such a tumbling as he did last night--indeed if he had not done his duty
so well I should not be so pleased that he had broken his vow, but I
pass over that, for I suppose he is like young children, who when they
know they deserve punishment, think they may as well be hanged for a
sheep as a lamb."
"By St. John! so did mine!" cried the third. "But I am not going to
scold him for it. If there was any harm done there was good reason for
"And I declare by my oath," cried one of the men, "that you dream, and
that you are drunken with sleep. As for me I slept alone, and did not
leave my bed all night."
"Nor did I," said another.
"Nor I, by St. John!" said the third. "I would not on any account break
my oath. And I feel sure that my friend here, and my neighbour there,
who also promised, have not so quickly forgotten."
The women began to change colour and to suspect some trickery, when one
of the husbands began to fear the truth. Without giving the women time
to reply, he made a sign to his companions, and said, laughing;
"By my oath, madam, the good wine here, and the excellent cheer
last night made us forget our promise; but be not displeased at the
adventure; if it please God we each last night, with your help, made
a fine baby, which is a work of great merit, and will be sufficient to
wipe out the fault of breaking our vow!"
"May God will it so!" said the women. "But you so strongly declared that
you had not been near us that we began to doubt a little."
"We did it on purpose," said he, "in order to hear what you would say."
"And so you committed a double sin; first to break your oath, then to
knowingly lie about it; and also you have much troubled us."
"Do not worry yourselves about that," said he; "it is no great matter;
but go to Mass, and we will follow you."
The women set out towards the church, and their husbands remained
behind, without following them too closely; then they all said together,
without picking their words;
"We are deceived! Those devils of Cordeliers have cuckolded us; they
have taken our places, and shown us the folly of not sleeping with our
wives. They should never have slept out of our rooms, and if it was
dangerous to be in bed with them, is there not plenty of good straw to
"Marry!" said one of them, "we are well punished this time; but at any
rate it is better that the trick should only be known to us than to
us and our wives, for there would be much danger if it came to their
knowledge. You hear by their confession that these ribald monks have
done marvels--both more and better than we could do. And, if our wives
knew that, they would not be satisfied with this experience only. My
advice is that we swallow the business without chewing it."
"So help me God!" cried the third, "my friend speaks well. As for me, I
revoke my vow, for it is not my intention to run any more risks."
"As you will," said the other two; "and we will follow your example."
So all the rest of the journey the wives slept with their husbands,
though the latter took care not to explain the cause. And when the
women saw that, they demanded the cause of this sudden change. And they
answered deceitfully, that as they had begun to break their vow they had
better go on.
Thus were the three worthy merchants deceived by the three good
Cordeliers, without it ever coming to the knowledge of their wives, who
would have died of grief had they known the truth; for every day we see
women die for less cause and occasion.