The Use Of Dirty Water
By Monseigneur De La Roche.
_Of a jealous man who recorded all the tricks which he could hear or
learn by which wives had deceived their husbands in old times; but at
last he was deceived by means of dirty water which the lover of the said
lady threw out of window upon her as she was going to Mass, as you shall
Whilst others are thinking and ransacking their me
ories for adventures
and deeds fit to be narrated and added to the present history, I will
relate to you, briefly, how the most jealous man in this kingdom, in his
time, was deceived. I do not suppose that he was the only one who ever
suffered this misfortune, but at any rate I will not omit to describe
the clever trick that was played upon him.
This jealous old hunks was a great historian, and had often read and
re-read all sorts of stories; but the principal end and aim of all his
study was to learn and know all the ways and manners in which wives had
deceived their husbands. For--thank God--old histories like Matheolus
(*), Juvenal, the Fifteen Joys of Marriage (**), and more others than I
can count, abound in descriptions of deceits, tricks, and deceptions of
(*) _Le Lime_, de Matheolus, a poem of the early part of the
15th Century, written by Jean le Febvre, Bishop of
Therouenne. It is a violent satire against women.
(**) A curious old work the authorship of which is still
doubtful. It is often ascribed to Antoine de la Sale, who is
believed to have partly written and edited the _Cent
Nouvelles Nouvelles_. The allusion is interesting as showing
that the Quinze Joyes de mariage was written before the
Our jealous husband had always one or other of these books in his hand,
and was as fond of them as a fool is of his bauble,--reading or studying
them; and indeed he had made from these books a compendium for his own
use, in which all the tricks and deceits practised by wives on their
husbands were noted and described.
This he had done in order to be forewarned and on his guard, should
his wife perchance use any of the plans or subterfuges chronicled or
registered in his book. For he watched his wife as carefully as the most
jealous Italian would, and still was not content, so ruled was he by
this cursed passion of jealousy.
In this delectable state did the poor man live three or four years with
his wife, and the only amusement she had in that time was to escape
out of his hateful presence by going to Mass, and then she was always
accompanied by an old servant, who was charged to watch over her.
A gentle knight, who had heard how the fair lady was watched, one day
met the damsel, who was both beautiful and witty, and told her how
willing he was to do her a service, that he sighed for her love, and
condoled with her evil fortune in being allied to the most jealous
wretch there was on the face of the earth, and saying, moreover, that
she was the sole person on earth for whom he cared.
"And since I cannot tell you here how much I love you, and many other
things which I hope you will be glad to hear, I will, if you wish, put
it all in writing and give it you to-morrow, begging also that any small
service that I most willingly do for you, be not refused."
She gladly listened, but owing to the presence of Dangier, (*) who was
near, hardly replied; nevertheless she said she would be glad to have
his letter when it came.
(*) See note page 159.
Her lover was very joyful when he took leave of her, and with good
cause, and the damsel said farewell to him in a kind and gracious
manner, but the old woman, who watched her, did not fail to ask her what
conversation had taken place between her and the man who had just left.
"He brought me news of my mother," she replied; "at which I am very
joyful, for she is in good health."
The old woman asked no more, and they returned home.
On the morrow, the lover, provided with a letter written God knows
in what terms, met the lady, and gave her this letter so quickly and
cunningly that the old servant, who was watching, saw nothing.
The letter was opened by her most joyfully when she was alone. The gist
of the contents was that he had fallen in love with her, and that he
knew not a day's happiness when he was absent from her, and finally
hoped that she would of her kindness appoint a suitable place where she
could give him a reply to this letter.
She wrote a reply in which she said she could love no one but her
husband, to whom she owed all faith and loyalty; nevertheless, she was
pleased to know the writer was so much in love with her, but, though she
could promise him no reward, would be glad to hear what he had to say,
but certainly that could not be, because her husband never left her
except when she went to church, and then she was guarded, and more than
guarded, by the dirtiest old hag that ever interfered with anybody.
The lover, dressed quite differently to what he had been the preceding
day, met the lady, who knew him at once, and as he passed close to her,
received from her hand the letter already mentioned. That he was anxious
to know the contents was no marvel. He went round a corner, and there,
at his leisure, learned the condition of affairs, which seemed to be
It needed but time and place to carry out his enterprise, and he thought
night and day how this was to be accomplished. At last he thought of
a first-rate trick, for he remembered that a lady friend of his lived
between the church where his lady went to Mass and her house, and he
told her the history of his love affair, concealing nothing from her,
and begging her to help him.
"Whatever I can do for you, I will do with all my heart," she said.
"I thank you," said he. "Would you mind if I met her here?"
"Faith!" she said, "to please you, I do not mind!"
"Well!" he replied, "if ever it is in my power to do you a service, you
may be sure that I will remember this kindness."
He was not satisfied till he had written again to his lady-love and
given her the letter, in which he said that he had made an arrangement
with a certain woman, "who is a great friend of mine, a respectable
woman, who can loyally keep a secret, and who knows you well and loves
you, and who will lend us her house where we may meet. And this is the
plan I have devised. I will be to-morrow in an upper chamber which looks
on the street, and I will have by me a large pitcher of water mingled
with ashes, which I will upset on you suddenly as you pass. And I shall
be so disguised that neither your old woman, nor anyone else in the
world, will recognise me. When you have been drenched with this water,
you will pretend to be very angry and surprised, and take refuge in the
house, and send your Dangier to seek another gown; and while she is on
the road we will talk together."
To shorten the story, the letter was given, and the lady, who was very
well pleased, sent a reply.
The next day came, and the lady was drenched by her lover with a pitcher
of water and cinders, in such fashion that her kerchief, gown, and other
habiliments were all spoiled and ruined. God knows that she was very
astonished and displeased, and rushed into the house, as though she were
beside herself, and ignorant of where she was.
When she saw the lady of the house, she complained bitterly of the
mischief which had been done, and I cannot tell you how much she grieved
over this misadventure. Now she grieved for her kerchief, now for her
gown, and another time for her other clothes,--in short, if anyone had
heard her, they would have thought the world was coming to an end.
The old woman, who was also in a great rage, had a knife in her hand,
with which she scraped the gown as well as she could.
"No, no, my friend! you only waste your time. It cannot be cleaned as
easily as that: you cannot do any good. I must have another gown and
another kerchief-there is nothing else to be done. Go home and fetch
them, and make haste and come back, or we shall lose the Mass in
addition to our other troubles."
The old woman seeing that there was imperative need of the clothes, did
not dare to refuse her mistress, and took the gown and kerchief under
her mantle, and went home.
She had scarcely turned on her heels, before her mistress was conducted
to the chamber where her lover was, who was pleased to see her in a
simple petticoat and with her hair down.
Whilst they are talking together, let us return to the old woman, who
went back to the house, where she found her master, who did not wait for
her to speak, but asked her at once,
"What have you done with my wife? where is she?"
"I have left her," she replied, "at such a person's house, in such a
"And for what purpose?" said he.
Then she showed him the gown and the kerchief, and told him about the
pitcher of water and ashes, and said that she had been sent to seek
other clothes, for her mistress could not leave the place where she was
in that state.
"Is that so?" said he. "By Our Lady! that trick is not in my book! Go!
Go! I know well what has happened."
He would have added that he was cuckolded, and I believe he was at that
time, and he never again kept a record of the various tricks that had
been played on husbands. Moreover, it is believed that he never forgot
the trick which had been played on him. There was no need for him to
write it down--he preserved a lively memory of it the few good days that
he had to live.