Necessity Is The Mother Of Invention
By Monseigneur De Commensuram.
_Of a gentleman of Picardy who was enamoured of the wife of a knight his
neighbour; and how he obtained the lady's favours and was nearly caught
with her, and with great difficulty made his escape, as you will hear
Apropos of the previous story, there lived formerly in Picardy--and I
believe he is living there now--a gentlemen who was so e
amoured of the
wife of a knight, his neighbour, that he deemed no day or hour happy if
he were not with her, or at least had news of her;--and he was quite as
dear to her--which is no small matter.
But the misfortune was that they could find no means of meeting secretly
to open their hearts to each other, and in no case would they do so in
the presence of a third person, however good a friend he or she might
be. At last, after many sad nights and days, Love, who aids and succours
his loyal servants when he pleases, procured for them the much-desired
day, when the poor husband,--the most jealous man living--was obliged to
leave his house on account of some pressing business by which he would
gain a large sum if he were present, and would lose his money if he were
absent. By gaining which sum he reaped an even better reward--that of
being called a cuckold as well as a jealous man--for he had no sooner
left his house than the gentleman, who was watching for no other quarry,
popped into the house, and without staying long, at once performed that
for which he came, and received from his lady all that a lover can and
dare demand; as pleasantly and as leisurely as they could both wish.
And they did not suppose that the husband would surprise them, but
looked forward to a time of unalloyed pleasure, hoping that the night
would complete that which the most joyful day--by far too short--had
begun, and really believing that the poor devil of a husband could not
return before dinner-time the following day at the earliest.
But it happened otherwise, for the devil brought him home. I know not,
and care not to know how it was that he could get through his business
so quickly, suffice it to say that he came back that night, at which the
company--that is to say the two lovers--was much alarmed, and so taken
by surprise, (for they did not expect this inopportune return) that the
poor gentleman could think of nothing else to do than to hide in the
privy which was close to the chamber, hoping to escape by some means
that his mistress would find before the knight came into the chamber.
It chanced that our knight, who that day had ridden sixteen or eighteen
long leagues, was so tired and stiff that he would sup in his chamber,
where he had his boots taken off, and would not go to the dining-hall.
You may guess that the poor gentleman paid dear for the pleasure he had
had that day, for he was half dead with hunger, cold, and fear; and, to
aggravate his misfortune, he was taken with such a horrible cough
that it was wonderful that it was not heard in the chamber, where were
assembled, the knight, the lady, and the other knights of the household.
The lady, whose eyes and ears were open for any sign of her lover, heard
him by chance, and her heart sank within her, for she feared that her
husband would hear also. Soon after supper she found an opportunity to
go to the privy, and told her lover to take care, for God's sake, and
not cough like that.
"Alas, my dear," he said, "I cannot help it. God knows how I am
punished. And for God's sake think of some way of getting me out of
"I will," she said, and with that she went away, and the good squire
began his song over again, so loud indeed that he was much afraid he
would be heard in the chamber; and might have been had not the lady
talked very loudly in order to drown the noise.
When the squire had this fresh attack of coughing, he knew of nothing
better to do to prevent being heard than to stuff his head down the
hole of the privy, where he was well "incensed", God knows, by the stuff
therein, but he preferred that to being heard. In short, he was there a
long time, with his head down the hole, spitting, sniffing, and coughing
so much that it seemed as though he would never do anything else.
After this fit finished, the cough left him, and then he tried to draw
out his head, but it was not in his power, so far had he pushed his
shoulders through, and you may fancy that he was not very comfortable.
In short he could not find means to get out, try as he would. He scraped
his neck, and nearly pulled his ears off, and in the end, by God's will,
he pulled so hard that he tore away the seat of the privy, which
hung round his neck. It was beyond his power to get out of it, but
troublesome as it was, he preferred that to his previous position:
His mistress came and found him in that state, and was much astonished.
She could not help him, and all the consolation she could give him
was to tell him that she could find no means of getting him out of the
"Is that so?" he said. "Morbleu! I am well armed to fight any one, but I
must have a sword in my hand."
He was soon provided with a good one, and the lady, seeing his
extraordinary appearance, although her heart was lull of doubt and
uncertainty, could not refrain from laughing, and the squire also.
"Now I commend myself to God," he said. "I am going to try if I can get
out of the house; but first black my face well."
She did so, and recommended him to God, and the poor fellow, with the
seat of the privy round his neck, a drawn sword in his hand, and his
face blacker than charcoal, sallied out into the room, and by luck the
first person he met was the husband, who was in such mortal fear at the
sight of him--believing it was the Devil himself--that he tumbled full
length on the floor and nearly broke his neck, and was for a long time
in a swoon.
His wife, seeing him in this condition, came forward, and pretending to
show much more fear than she really felt, supported him in her arms, and
asked him what was the matter. As soon as he came to himself, he said in
broken accents, and with a piteous air; "Did you see that devil I met."
"Yes, I did," she replied, "and I nearly died of fright at the sight."
"Why does it come to our house?" he asked, "And who could have sent
it? I shall not recover myself for a year or two, I have been so
"Nor shall I, by God," said the pious lady. "I believe it must mean
something. May God keep us, and protect us from all evil fortune. My
heart forebodes some mischief from this vision."
Every one in the castle gave his or her version of the devil with a
drawn sword, and they all believed it was a real devil. The good lady,
who held the key of the mystery, was very glad to see them of that
opinion. Ever after that the said devil continued to do the work that
everyone does so willingly, though the husband, and everybody except a
discreet waiting woman, were ignorant of the fact.