In the town of Amboise there lived one Brimbaudier, () saddler to theQueen of Navarre, and a man whose colour of feature showed him to beby nature rather a servant of Bacchus than a priest of Diana. He hadmarried a virtuous woman who controlled his household very discreetly,and with whom he was well content.
One day it was told him that his good wife was sick and in great danger,at which tidings he was in the greatest trouble imaginable. He went withall speed to her aid, and found her so low, poor woman, that she hadmore need of a confessor than a doctor. Thereupon he made the mostpitiful lamentation that could be, but to represent it well 'twereneedful to speak thickly as he did, (2) and better still to paint one'sface like his.
When he had done all that he could for her, she asked for the cross, andit was brought. On seeing this, the good man flung himself upon a bed indespair, crying and saying in his thick speech—
"Ah God! I am losing my poor wife! What shall I do, unhappy man that Iam?"
After uttering many such complaints, he perceived that there was no onein the room but a young servant-maid, passably fair and buxom, and hecalled to her in a whisper.
"Sweetheart," he said, "I am dying. I am more than dead to see yourmistress dying in this manner. I know not what to do or say, exceptthat I commend myself to you, and beg you to care for my house and mychildren. Take therefore the keys from my side, and order the household,for I myself can attend to nothing more."
The poor girl had pity on him and comforted him, begging him not todespair, so that, if she must lose her mistress, she might not also loseher good master.
"Sweetheart," he replied, "'tis all of no avail, for I am indeed dying.See yourself how cold my face is; bring your cheeks close to mine andwarm them."
With this he laid his hand upon her breast. She tried to make somedifficulty, but he begged her to have no fear, since they must indeedsee each other more closely. And speaking in this wise, he took her inhis arms and threw her upon the bed.
Then his wife, whose only company was the cross and the holy water,and who had not spoken for two days, began to cry out as loudly as herfeeble voice enabled her—
"Ah! ah! ah! I am not dead yet!" And threatening them with her hand, sherepeated—"Villain! monster! I am not dead yet!"
On hearing her voice, the husband and maid rose up, but she was in sucha rage against them that her anger consumed the catarrhal humour thathad prevented her from speaking, and she poured upon them all the abusethat she could think of. And from that hour she began to mend, thoughnot without often reproaching her husband for the little love he boreher. (3)
"By this you see, ladies, the hypocrisy of men, and how a littleconsolation will make them forget their sorrow for their wives."
"How do you know," said Hircan, "that he had not heard that such was thebest remedy his wife could have? Since his kindly treatment availednot to cure her, he wished to try whether the opposite would prove anybetter, and the trial was a very fortunate one. But I marvel that youwho are a woman should have shown how the constitution of your sex isbrought to amendment rather by foul means than by fair."
"Without doubt," said Longarine, "behaviour of that kind would make merise not merely from my bed, but from a grave such as that yonder."
"And what wrong did he do her," asked Saffre-dent, "by comfortinghimself when he thought that she was dead? It is known that themarriage-tie lasts only through life, and that when this is ended it isloosed."
"Ay," said Oisille, "loosed from oath and bond, but a good heart isnever loosed from love. The husband you have told us of was indeed quickto forget his grief, since he could not wait until his wife had breathedher last."
"What I think strangest of all," said Nomerfide, "is that, when deathand the cross were before his eyes, he should not have lost all desireto offend against God."
"A brave argument!" said Simontault. "You would therefore not besurprised to see a man act wantonly provided he were a good distancefrom the church and cemetery?"
"You may laugh at me as much as you please," said Nomerfide;"nevertheless the contemplation of death must greatly chill a heart,however young it may be."
"I should indeed be of the same opinion as yourself," said Dagoucin, "ifI had not heard a Princess say the opposite."
"In other words." said Parlamente, "she told some story about it. If itbe so, I will give you my place that you may relate it to us."
Then Dagoucin began as follows:—More ...