The Bird In The Cage
By Jehan Lambin.
_Of a cure who was in love with the wife of one of his parishioners,
with whom the said cure was found by the husband of the woman, the
neighbours having given him warning--and how the cure escaped, as you
In the district of Saint Pol, in a village near that town, there
formerly resided a worthy man, a labourer, married to a fair and buxom
woman with whom the cure of the village was in love. He was burning with
love for her, but he foresaw that his intentions might be suspected,
and thought that the best way to win her would be to first gain the
friendship of her husband.
He confided this opinion to the woman, and asked her advice, and she
replied that it was a very good plan to enable them to carry out their
The cure, by flattery and subtle means, made the acquaintance of the
good man, and managed him so well that he was always talking of "his
cure", and would not eat or do anything else without him. Every day he
would have him to dinner and supper, in short there was nothing done at
the good man's house without the cure being present. By this means he
could come to the house as often as he pleased, and whatever time he
But the neighbours of this foolish labourer, seeing what he could not
see, his eyes being bandaged by weakness and confidence,--told him that
it was not right and proper to have the cure at his house every day,
and that, if it continued, his wife's reputation would suffer, these
frequent visits having been noticed and spoken about by his neighbours
When the good man found himself thus sharply reproved by his neighbours
for the frequent visits of the cure to his house, he was obliged to
tell the cure that he must cease his constant calls, and forbade him
by strict orders and menaces ever to come again until he was invited;
affirming by a great oath that if ever he found the cure in his house
there would be an account to settle between them, and it would not be
pleasant for the visitor.
This prohibition displeased the cure more than I can tell you, but
though vexed, he would not break off his love affair, for it was so
deeply rooted in the hearts of both parties that it could not be easily
eradicated. But hear how the cure managed after this prohibition. By an
agreement with his mistress, he used to be informed of the times when
her husband was absent, and then visit her. But he managed clumsily, for
he could not pay his visits without the knowledge of the neighbours, who
had been the cause of the interdict, and who were as much displeased at
the cure's acts as though they had been personally concerned.
The good man was again informed that the cure used to come and put out
the fire at his house every night, (*) as he did before he was
forbidden. The foolish husband, hearing that, was much astonished and
also angry, and to remedy this state of affairs, thought of the means
which I will relate.
(*) That is to say came at curfew time.
He told his wife that he was going, on a certain day which he named, to
take to St. Orner a waggon-load of corn, and that the work might be well
done, was going himself. When the day named for his departure arrived,
he did, as is usual in Picardy, especially round St. Omer, that is
loaded his waggon of corn at midnight, and at that hour took leave of
his wife and departed with his waggon.
As soon as he was gone, his wife closed all the doors of the house. Now
you must know that the St. Omer to which our merchant was going was the
house of one of his friends who lived at the other end of the
village. He arrived there, put his waggon in the courtyard of the said
friend--who knew all the business--and sent him to keep watch and listen
round the house to see if any thief might come.
When he arrived, he concealed himself at the corner of a thick hedge,
from which spot he could see all the doors of the house of the merchant,
of whom he was the friend and servant.
Hardly had he taken his place than there arrived the cure, who had come
to light his candle--or rather to put it out--and softly and secretly
knocked at the door, which was soon opened by one who was not inclined
to sleep at that time, who came down in her chemise, and let in her
confessor, and then closed the door and led him to the place where her
husband ought to have been.
The watcher, when he perceived what was done, left his post, and went
and informed the husband. Upon which news, the following plan was
quickly arranged between them. The corn-merchant pretended to have
returned from his journey on account of certain adventures which had, or
might have, happened to him.
He knocked at the door, and shouted to his wife, who was much alarmed
when she heard his voice, and made haste to conceal her lover, the cure,
in a _casier_ that was in the chamber; and you must know that a _casier_
is a kind of pantry-cupboard, long and narrow and fairly deep, and very
much like a trough.
As soon as the cure was concealed amongst the eggs, butter cheese, and
other such victuals, the brave housewife, pretending to be half awake
half asleep, let in her husband, and said.
"Oh, my dear husband, what can have happened that you have returned
so quickly? There must be some reason why you did not go on your
journey--for God's sake tell it me quickly!"
The good man, who was as angry as he could be, although he did not show
it, insisted on going to their bedroom and there telling her the cause
of his sudden return. When he was where he expected to find the cure,
that is to say in the bedroom, he began to relate his reasons for
breaking his journey. Firstly, he said he had such suspicion of her
virtue that he feared much to be numbered amongst the blue vestments,
(*) or "our friends" as they are commonly called, and that it was
because of this suspicion that he had returned so quickly. Also that
when he was out of the house it had occurred to his mind that the cure
was his deputy whilst he was away. So to put his suspicions to the test,
he had come back, and now wanted the candle to see whether his wife had
been sleeping alone during his absence.
(*) In the present day, yellow is the emblematic colour for
jealous or cuckolded husbands, but it would appear from this
passage that in the 15th century it was blue-possibly,
Bibliophile Jacob thinks, from its being the colour of the
When he had finished relating the causes of his return, the good woman
"Oh, my dear husband, whence comes this baseless jealousy? Have you ever
seen in my conduct anything that should not be seen in that of a good,
faithful, and virtuous wife? Cursed be the hour I first knew you, since
you suspect me of that which my heart could never imagine. You know
me badly if you do not know how clean and pure my heart is, and will
The good man paid little heed to these words, but said that he wished to
allay his suspicions, and to at once inspect every corner of the chamber
as well as possible,--but he did not find what he sought.
Then he caught sight of the _casier_, and he guessed that the man he
wanted was inside, but he made no sign, and calling his wife said;
"My dear, I was wrong to presume that you were untrue to me, and such
as my false suspicions imagined. Nevertheless, I am so obstinate in my
opinions, that it would be impossible for me to live comfortably with
you henceforth. And therefore I hope you will agree that a separation
should be made between us, and that we divide our goods equally in a
The wench, who was pleased with this arrangement, in order that she
might more easily see her cure, agreed with scarcely any difficulty to
her husband's request, but she made it a condition that in the division
of the furniture she should have first choice.
"And why," said the husband, "should you have first choice? It is
against all right and justice."
They were a long time squabbling about first choice, but in the end
the husband won, and took the _casier_ in which there was nothing but
custards, tarts, cheeses, and other light provisions, amongst which was
the good cure buried, and he heard all the discussion that went on.
When the husband chose the _casier_, his wife chose the copper; then the
husband chose another article then she chose; and so on until all the
articles were apportioned out.
After the division was made, the husband said;
"I will allow you to live in my house until you have found another
lodging, but I am going now to take my share of the furniture, and put
it in the house of one of my neighbours."
"Do so," she said, "when you like."
He took a good cord and tightly tied up the _casier_; then sent for his
waggoner and told him to put the _casier_ on a horse's back and take it
to the house of a certain neighbour.
The good woman heard these orders, but did not dare to interfere, for
she feared that if she did it would not advance matters, but perhaps
cause the _casier_ to be opened, so she trusted to luck.
The _casier_ was placed on the horse, and taken through the streets to
the house the good man had mentioned. But they had not gone far before
the cure, who was choked and blinded with eggs and butter, cried,
"For God's sake! mercy!"
The waggoner hearing this piteous appeal come out of the _casier_,
jumped off the horse much frightened, and called the servants and his
master, and they opened the _casier_, and found the poor prisoner all
smeared and be-yellowed with eggs, cheese, milk, and more than a hundred
other things, indeed it would have been hard to say which there was most
of,--in such a pitiable condition was the poor lover.
When the husband saw him in that state, he could not help laughing,
although he felt angry; He let him go, and then went back to his wife to
tell her that he had not been wrong in suspecting her of unchastity. She
seeing herself fairly caught, begged for mercy, and was pardoned on this
condition, that if ever the case occurred again, she should be better
advised than to put her lover in the _casier_, for the cure had stood a
good chance of being killed.
After that they lived together for a long time, and the husband brought
back his _casier_, but I do not think that the cure was ever found in
it again, but ever after that adventure he was known, and still is, as
"Sire Vadin Casier".