The Three Reminders
By Monseigneur De La Roche.
_Of three counsels that a father when on his deathbed gave his son, but
to which the son paid no heed. And how he renounced a young girl he had
married, because he saw her lying with the family chaplain the first
night after their wedding._
Once upon a time there was a nobleman who was wise, prudent, and
virtuous. When he was on his deathbed, he sett
ed his affairs, eased
his conscience as best he could, and then called his only son to whom he
left his worldly wealth.
After asking his son to be sure and pray for the repose of his soul and
that of his mother, to help them out of purgatory, he gave him three
farewell counsels, saying; "My dear son, I advise you first of all
never to stay in the house of a friend who gives you black bread to eat.
Secondly, never gallop your horse in a valley. Thirdly, never choose a
wife of a foreign nation. Always bear these three things in mind, and I
have no doubt you will be fortunate,--but, if you act to the contrary,
be sure you would have done better to follow your father's advice."
The good son thanked his father for his wise counsels, and promised that
he would heed them, and never act contrary to them.
His father died soon after, and was buried with all befitting pomp
and ceremony; for his son wished to do his duty to one to whom he owed
Some time after this, the young nobleman, who was now an orphan and did
not understand household affairs, made the acquaintance of a neighbour,
whom he constantly visited, drinking and eating at his house.
This friend, who was married and had a beautiful wife, became very
jealous, and suspected that our young nobleman came on purpose to see
his wife, and that he was in reality her lover.
This made him very uncomfortable but he could think of no means of
getting rid of his guest, for it would have been useless to have told
him what he thought, so he determined that little by little he would
behave in such a way that, if the young man were not too stupid, he
would see that his frequent visits were far from welcome.
To put this project into execution, he caused black bread to be served
at meals, instead of white. After a few of these repasts, the young
nobleman remembered his father's advice. He knew that he done wrong, and
secretly hid a piece of the black bread in his sleeve, and took it home
with him, and to remind himself, he hung it by a piece of string from a
nail in the wall of his best chamber, and did not visit his neighbour's
house as formerly.
One day after that, he, being fond of amusement, was in the fields, and
his dogs put up a hare. He spurred his horse after them, and came
up with them in a valley, when his horse, which was galloping fast,
slipped, and broke its neck.
He was very thankful to find that his life was safe, and that he had
escaped without injury. He had the hare for his reward, and as he held
it up, and then looked at the horse of which he had been so fond, he
remembered the second piece of advice his father had given him, and
which, if he had kept in mind, he would have been spared the loss of his
horse, and also the risk of losing his life.
When he arrived home, he had the horse's skin hung by a cord next to the
black bread; to remind him of the second counsel his father had given
Some time after this, he took it in his head to travel and see foreign
countries, and having arranged all his affairs, he set out on his
journey, and after seeing many strange lands, he at last took up his
abode in the house of a great lord, where he became such a favourite
that the lord was pleased to give him his daughter in marriage, on
account of his pleasant manners and virtues.
In short, he was betrothed to the girl, and the wedding-day came. But
when he supposed that he was to pass the night with her, he was told
that it was not the custom of the country to sleep the first night with
one's wife, and that he must have patience until the next night.
"Since it is the custom of the country," he said, "I do not wish it
broken for me."
After the dancing was over, his bride was conducted to one room, and
he to another. He saw that there was only a thin partition of plaster
between the two rooms. He made a hole with his sword in the partition,
and saw his bride jump into bed; he saw also the chaplain of the
household jump in after her, to keep her company in case she was afraid,
or else to try the merchandise, or take tithes as monks do.
Our young nobleman, when he saw these goings on, reflected that he still
had some tow left on his distaff, and then there flashed across his mind
the recollection of the counsel his good father had given him, and which
he had so badly kept.
He comforted himself with the thought that the affair had not gone so
far that he could not get out of it.
The next day, the good chaplain, who had been his substitute for the
night, rose early in the morning, but unfortunately left his breeches
under the bride's bed. The young nobleman, not pretending to know
anything, came to her bedside, and politely saluted her, as he well knew
how, and found means to surreptitiously take away the priest's breeches
without anyone seeing him.
There were great rejoicings all that day, and when evening came, the
bride's bed was prepared and decorated in a most marvellous manner, and
she went to bed. The bridegroom was told that that night he could sleep
with his wife. He was ready with a reply, and said to the father and
mother, and other relations.
"You know not who I am, and yet you have given me your daughter, and
bestowed on me the greatest honour ever done to a foreign gentleman,
and for which I cannot sufficiently thank you. Nevertheless, I have
determined never to lie with my wife until I have shown her, and you
too, who I am, what I possess, and how I am housed."
The girl's father immediately replied,
"We are well aware that you are a nobleman, and in a high position, and
that God has not given you so many good qualities without friends and
riches to accompany them. We are satisfied, therefore do not leave
your marriage unconsummated; we shall have time to see your state and
condition whenever you like."
To shorten the story, he vowed and swore that he would never sleep
with her if it were not in his own house, and he conducted thither the
bride's father and mother, and many of her relations and friends. He
put his house in order to receive them, and to do so arrived there a day
before them. And as soon as he alighted, he took the priest's breeches,
and hung them in the chamber, by the black bread and the horse's skin.
Most cordially received were the relations and friends of the fair
bride, and they were much astonished to see the house of the young
gentleman so well furnished with vessels, carpets, and all other kinds
of furniture, and they thought themselves lucky to have procured such a
husband for the girl.
As they were looking round, they came to the great chamber, which was
all hung round with fair tapestry, and they perceived the brown bread,
the horse's skin, and a pair of breeches hanging there; at which they
were much astonished, and asked their host the meaning.
He replied that he would willingly, and for a very good reason, tell
them the meaning,--but after they had eaten.
Dinner was prepared, and God knows that it was well served, They had no
sooner dined, than they demanded the interpretation of the mystery of
the black bread, the horse's skin etc., and the worthy young gentleman
related the story at length, and told how his father,--being on his
death-bed as has been already narrated,--gave him three counsels.
"The first was never to remain in a house where they gave me black
bread. I paid no heed to this advice, for, after his death, I frequented
the house of a neighbour, who became jealous of his wife, and in place
of the white bread with which I was always served, gave me black; so in
recollection and acknowledgment of the truth of that advice, I hung that
piece of black bread there. The second counsel that my father gave me,
was never to gallop my horse in a valley. I did not bear that in mind,
and suffered for it, for one day, when riding in a valley after a hare
pursued by my dogs, my horse fell and broke its neck, and it is a wonder
I was not badly hurt. To remind me of my escape from death, the skin of
the horse I then lost is hung there. The third counsel and advice that
my father--whose soul is with God--gave me, was never to marry a woman
of a strange nation. In this also I failed, and I will tell you what
happened to me. The first night after I was married to your daughter,
and you refused to let me sleep with her, I was lodged in a chamber
close to hers, and as the partition between her and me was but thin, I
pierced a hole with my sword, and I saw the chaplain of your household
come and lie with her; but he left his breeches under the bed when he
rose in the morning--which breeches I obtained possession of, and
have hung them there as evidence of the everlasting truth of the third
counsel that my late father gave me, and which I had not duly remembered
and borne in mind; but in order that I may not again fall into the same
errors, have placed here these three objects to render me prudent. And
because--thank God--I am not so much committed to your daughter that she
cannot now leave me, I would ask of you to take her back, and return to
your own country, for as long as I live I will never come near her. But,
because I have made you come a long way to show you that I am not the
sort of man to take a priest's leavings, I am prepared to pay your
The others did not know what to say, but seeing that their misdeeds were
discovered, and seeing also that being far from their own country, force
would not be on their side, were content to take the money for their
expenses, and return whence they came; for if they had staked more they
would have lost more.
Such, as you have heard, were the three counsels which the good father
gave his son, and which should not be forgotten; let everyone remember
them, so far as they concern himself.