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

for forty.

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

up late.

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

already dressed;

"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

be had?"

"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.