King Louis the Eleventh (1) sent the Lord de Montmorency to England ashis ambassador, and so welcome was the latter in that country that theKing and all the Princes greatly esteemed and loved him, and evenmade divers of their private affairs known to him in order to have hiscounsel upon them.
One day, at a banquet that the King gave to him, he was seated beside alord (2) of high lineage, who had on his doublet a little glove, suchas women wear, fastened with hooks of gold and so adorned upon thefinger-seams with diamonds, rubies, emeralds and pearls, that it wasindeed a glove of great price.
The Lord de Montmorency looked at it so often that the English lordperceived he was minded to inquire why it was so choicely ordered; so,deeming its story to be greatly to his own honour, he thus began—
"I can see that you think it strange I should have so magnificentlyarrayed a simple glove, and on my part I am still more ready to tell youthe reason, for I deem you an honest gentleman and one who knows whatmanner of passion love is, so that if I did well in the matter you willpraise me for it, and if not, make excuse for me, knowing that everyhonourable heart must obey the behests of love. You must know, then,that I have all my life long loved a lady whom I love still, and shalllove even when I am dead, but, as my heart was bolder to fix itselfworthily than were my lips to speak, I remained for seven years withoutventuring to make her any sign, through fear that, if she perceivedthe truth, I should lose the opportunities I had of often being in hercompany; and this I dreaded more than death. However, one day, while Iwas observing her in a meadow, a great throbbing of the heart came uponme, so that I lost all colour and control of feature. Perceivingthis, she asked me what the matter was, and I told her that I feltan intolerable pain of the heart. She, believing it to be caused by adifferent sickness than love, showed herself pitiful towards me, whichprompted me to beg her to lay her hand upon my heart and see how it wasbeating. This, more from charity than from any other affection, she did,and while I held her gloved hand against my heart, it began to beat andstrain in such wise, that she felt that I was speaking the truth. Then Ipressed her hand to my breast, saying—
"'Alas, madam, receive the heart which would fain break forth from mybreast to leap into the hand of her from whom I look for indulgence,life and pity, and which now constrains me to make known to you thelove that I have so long concealed, for neither my heart nor I can nowcontrol this potent God.'
"When she heard those words, she deemed them very strange. She wishedto withdraw her hand, but I held it fast, and the glove remained in hercruel hand's place; and having neither before nor since had any moreintimate favour from her, I have fastened this glove upon my heart asthe best plaster I could give it. And I have adorned it with therichest rings I have, though the glove itself is wealth that I would notexchange for the kingdom of England, for I deem no happiness on earth sogreat as to feel it on my breast."
The Lord de Montmorency, who would have rather had a lady's hand thanher glove, praised his very honourable behaviour, telling him thathe was the truest lover he had ever known, and was worthy of bettertreatment, since he set so much value upon so slight a thing; thoughperchance, if he had obtained aught better than the glove, the greatnessof his love might have made him die of joy. With this the English lordagreed, not suspecting that the Lord de Montmorency was mocking him. (3)
"If all men were so honourable as this one, the ladies might well trustthem, since the cost would be merely a glove."
"I knew the Lord de Montmorency well," said Geburon, "and I am sure thathe would not have cared to fare after the English fashion. Had he beencontented with so little, he would not have been so successful in loveas he was, for the old song says—
'Of a cowardly lover No good is e'er heard.'"
"You may be sure," said Saffredent, "that the poor lady withdrew herhand with all speed, when she felt the beating of his heart, because shethought that he was about to die, and people say that there is nothingwomen loathe more than to touch dead bodies." (4)
"If you had spent as much time in hospitals as in taverns," saidEnnasuite, "you would not speak in that way, for you would have seenwomen shrouding dead bodies, which men, bold as they are, often fear totouch."
"It is true," said Saffredent, "that there is none upon whom penance hasbeen laid but does the opposite of that wherein he formerly had delight,like a lady I once saw in a notable house, who, to atone for her delightin kissing one she loved, was found at four o'clock in the morningkissing the corpse of a gentleman who had been killed the day before,and whom she had never liked more than any other. Then every one knewthat this was a penance for past delights. But as all the good deedsdone by women are judged ill by men, I am of opinion that, dead oralive, there should be no kissing except after the fashion that Godcommands."
"For my part," said Hircan, "I care so little about kissing women,except my own wife, that I will assent to any law you please, yet Ipity the young folk whom you deprive of this trifling happiness, thusannulling the command of St. Paul, who bids us kiss in osculo sancto."(5)
"If St. Paul had been such a man as you are," said Nomerfide, "we shouldindeed have required proof of the Spirit of God that spoke in him."
"In the end," said Geburon, "you will doubt Holy Scripture rather thangive up one of your petty affectations."
"God forbid," said Oisille, "that we should doubt Holy Scripture, butwe put small faith in your lies. There is no woman but knows what herbelief should be, namely, never to doubt the Word of God or believe theword of man."
"Yet," said Simontauit, "I believe that there are more men deceived bywomen than [women] by men. The slenderness of women's love towards uskeeps them from believing our truths, whilst our exceeding love towardsthem makes us trust so completely in their falsehoods, that we aredeceived before we suspect such a thing to be possible."
"Methinks," said Parlamente, "you have been hearing some fool complainof being duped by a wanton woman, for your words carry but littleweight, and need the support of an example. If, therefore, you know ofone, I give you my place that you may tell it to us. I do not say thatwe are bound to believe you on your mere word, but it will assuredly notmake our ears tingle to hear you speak ill of us, since we know what isthe truth."
"Well, since it is for me to speak," said Dagoucin, "'tis I who willtell you the tale."