The Butcher's Wife Who Played The Ghost In The Chimney
By Michault De Changy.
_Of a Jacobin who left his mistress, a butcher's wife, for another woman
who was younger and prettier, and how the said butcher's wife tried to
enter his house by the chimney._
It happened formerly at Lille, that a famous clerk and preacher of the
order of St. Dominic, converted, by his holy and eloquent preaching,
the wife of a butcher; in such wise that
she loved him more than all the
world, and was never perfectly happy when he was not with her.
But in the end Master Monk tired of her, and wished that she would not
visit him so often, at which she was as vexed as she could be, but the
rebuff only made her love him the more.
The monk, seeing that, forbade her to come to his chamber, and charged
his clerk not to admit her, whatever she might say; at which she was
more vexed and infuriated than ever, and small marvel.
If you ask me why the monk did this, I should reply that it was not from
devotion, or a desire to lead a chaste life, but that he had made the
acquaintance of another woman, who was prettier, much younger, and
richer, and with whom he was on such terms that she had a key to his
Thus it was that the butcher's wife never came to him, as she had been
accustomed, so that his new mistress could in all leisure and security
come and gain her pardons and pay her tithe, like the women of
Ostelleria, of whom mention has been made.
One day, after dinner, there was a great feast held in the chamber of
Master Monk, and his mistress had promised to come and bring her
share both of wine and meat. And as some of the other brothers in that
monastery were of the same kidney, he secretly invited two or three of
them; and God knows they had good cheer at this dinner, which did not
finish without plenty of drink.
Now you must know that the butcher's wife was acquainted with many of
the servants of these preachers, and she saw them pass her house, some
bearing wine, some pasties, some tarts, and so many other things that it
She could not refrain from asking what feast was going forward at
their house? And the answer was that all this dainties were for such an
one,--that is to say her monk--who had some great people to dinner.
"And who are they?" she asked.
"Faith! I know not," he said. "I only carry my wine to the door, and
there our master takes it from us. I know not who is there!"
"I see," she said, "that it is a secret. Well, well! go on and do your
Soon there passed another servant, of whom she asked the same questions,
and he replied as his fellow had done, but rather more, for he said,
"I believe there is a damsel there;--but she wishes her presence to be
neither seen nor known."
She guessed who it was, and was in a great rage, and said to herself
that she would keep an eye upon the woman who had robbed her of the love
of her friend, and, no doubt, if she had met her she would have read her
a pretty lesson, and scratched her face.
She set forth with the intention of executing the plan she had
conceived. When she arrived at the place, she waited long to meet the
person she most hated in the world, but she had not the patience to wait
till her rival came out of the chamber where the feast was being held,
so at last she determined to use a ladder that a tiler, who was at work
at the roof, had left there whilst he went to dinner.
She placed this ladder against the kitchen chimney of the house, with
the intention of dropping in and saluting the company, for she knew well
that she could not enter in any other way.
The ladder being placed exactly as she wished it, she ascended it to
the chimney, round which she tied a fairly thick cord that by chance she
found there. Having tied that firmly, as she believed, she entered the
said chimney and began to descend; but the worst of it was that she
stuck there without being able to go up or down, however much she
tried--and this was owing to her backside being so big and heavy, and to
the fact that the cord broke, so that she could not climb back. She was
in sore distress, God knows, and did not know what to say or do. She
reflected that it would be better to await the arrival of the tiler, and
make an appeal to him when he came to look for his ladder and his rope;
but this hope was taken from her, for the tiler did not come to work
until the next morning, on account of the heavy rain, of which she had
her share, for she was quite drenched.
When the evening grew late, the poor woman heard persons talking in
the kitchen, whereupon she began to shout, at which they were much
astonished and frightened, for they knew not who was calling them,
or whence the voice came. Nevertheless, astonished as they were, they
listened a little while, and heard the voice now in front and now
behind, shrieking shrilly. They believed it was a spirit, and went to
tell their master, who was in the dormitory, and was not brave enough to
come and see what it was, but put it off till the morning.
You may guess what long hours the poor woman spent, being all night in
the chimney. And, by bad luck, it rained heavily for a long time.
The next day, early in the morning, the tiler came to work, to make
up for the time the rain had made him lose on the previous day. He was
quite astonished to find his ladder in another place than where he left
it, and the rope tied round the chimney, and did not know who had done
it. He determined to fetch the rope, and mounted the ladder and came
to the chimney, and undid the cord, and put his head down the chimney,
where he saw the butcher's wife, looking more wretched than a drowned
cat, at which he was much astonished.
"What are you doing here, dame?" he asked. "Do you want to rob the poor
monks who live here?"
"Alas, friend," she replied, "by my oath I do not. I beg of you to help
me to get out, and I will give you whatever you ask."
"I will do nothing of the kind," he said, "if I do not know who you are
and whence you come."
"I will tell you if you like," she said, "but I beg of you not to repeat
Then she told him all about her love affair with the monk, and why she
had come there. The tiler took pity on her, and with some trouble,
and by means of his rope, pulled her out, and brought her down to the
ground. And she promised him that if he held his tongue she would give
him beef and mutton enough to supply him and his family all the year,
which she did. And the other kept the matter so secret that everybody
heard of it.