Between the Pyrenees Mountains and the Alps, there dwelt a gentlemannamed Thogas, (1) who had a wife and children, with a very beautifulhouse, and so much wealth and pleasure at his hand, that there wasreason he should live in contentment, had it not been that he wassubject to great pain beneath the roots of the hair, in such wise thatthe doctors advised him to sleep no longer with his wife. She, whosechief thought was for her husband's life and health, readily consented,and caused her bed to be set in another corner of the room directlyopposite her husband's, so that they could neither of them put out theirheads without seeing each other.
This lady had two serving-women, and often when the lord and his ladywere in bed, they would each take some diverting book to read, whilstthe serving-women held candles, the younger, that is, for the gentleman,and the other for his wife.
The gentleman, finding that the maid was younger and handsomer than hermistress, took such great pleasure in observing her that he would breakoff his reading in order to converse with her. His wife could hear thisvery plainly, but believing that her husband loved none but herself, shewas well pleased that her servants should amuse him.
It happened one evening, however, when they had read longer than wastheir wont, that the lady looked towards her husband's bed where was theyoung serving-maid holding the candle. Of her she could see nothing buther back, and of her husband nothing at all excepting on the side ofthe chimney, which jutted out in front of his bed, and the white wall ofwhich was bright with the light from the candle. And upon this wallshe could plainly see the shadows both of her husband and of her maid;whether they drew apart, or came near together or laughed, it was all asclear to her as though she had veritably beheld them.
The gentleman, using no precaution since he felt sure that his wifecould not see them, kissed her maid, and on the first occasion his wifesuffered this to pass without uttering a word. But when she saw that theshadows frequently returned to this fellowship, she feared that theremight be some reality beneath it all, and burst into a loud laugh,whereat the shadows were alarmed and separated.
The gentleman then asked his wife why she was laughing so heartily, sothat he might have a share in her merriment.
"Husband," she replied, "I am so foolish that I laugh at my own shadow."
Inquire as he might, she would never acknowledge any other reason, but,nevertheless, he thenceforward refrained from kissing such shadow-faces.
"That is the story of which I was reminded when I spoke of the lady wholoved her husband's sweetheart."
"By my faith," said Ennasuite, "if my maid had treated me in thatfashion, I should have risen and extinguished the candle upon her nose."
"You are indeed terrible," said Hircan, "but it had been well doneif your husband and the maid had both turned upon you and beaten yousoundly. There should not be so much ado for a kiss; and 'twould havebeen better if his wife had said nothing about it, and had suffered himto take his pastime, which might perchance have cured his complaint."
"Nay," said Parlamente, "she was afraid that the end of the pastimewould make him worse."
"She was not one of those," said Oisille, "against whom our Lord says,'We have mourned to you and ye have not lamented, we have sung to youand ye have not danced,' (2) for when her husband was ill, she wept, andwhen he was merry, she laughed. In the same fashion every virtuouswoman ought to share the good and evil, the joy and the sadness of herhusband, and serve and obey him as the Church does Jesus Christ."
"Then, ladies," said Parlamente, "our husbands should be to us whatChrist is to the Church."
"So are we," said Saffredent, "and, if it were possible, something more;for Christ died but once for His Church, whereas we die daily for ourwives."
"Die!" said Longarine. "Methinks that you and the others here presentare now worth more crowns than you were worth pence before you werewed."
"And I know why," said Saffredent; "it is because our worth is oftentried. Still our shoulders are sensible of having worn the cuirass solong."
"If," said Ennasuite, "you had been obliged to wear harness for a monthand lie on the hard ground, you would greatly long to regain the bed ofyour excellent wife, and wear the cuirass of which you now complain.But it is said that everything can be endured except ease, and thatnone know what rest is until they have lost it. This foolish woman, wholaughed when her husband was merry, was fond of taking her rest underany circumstances."
"I am sure," said Longarine, "that she loved her rest better than herhusband, since she took nothing that he did to heart."
"She did take to heart," said Parlamente, "those things which might havebeen hurtful to his conscience and his health, but she would not dwellupon trifles."
"When you speak of conscience," said Simontault "you make me laugh. 'Tisa thing to which I would have no woman give heed."
"It would be a good thing," said Nomerfide, "if you had a wife like onewho, after her husband's death, proved that she loved her money betterthan her conscience."
"I pray you," said Saffredent, "tell us that tale. I give you my vote."
"I had not intended," said Nomcrfide, "to relate so short a story, but,since it is suited to the occasion, I will do so."