The Child With Two Fathers
_Of a gentleman who seduced a young girl, and then went away and joined
the army. And before his return she made the acquaintance of another,
and pretended her child was by him. When the gentleman returned from the
war he claimed the child, but she begged him to leave it with her second
lover, promising that the next she had she would give to him, as is
Formerly there was a gentleman living at Bruges who was so often and so
long in the company of a certain pretty girl that at last he made her
And about the same time that he was aware of this, the Duke called
together his men-at-arms, and our gentleman was forced to abandon his
lady-love and go with others to serve the said lord, which he willingly
did. But, before leaving, he provided sponsors and a nurse against the
time his child should come into the world, and lodged the mother with
good people to whose care he recommended her, and left money for her.
And when he had done all this as quickly as he could, he took leave of
his lady, and promised that, if God pleased, he would return quickly.
You may fancy if she wept when she found that he whom she loved better
than any one in the world, was going away. She could not at first speak,
so much did her tears oppress her heart, but at last she grew calmer
when she saw that there was nothing else to be done.
About a month after the departure of her lover, desire burned in her
heart, and she remembered the pleasures she had formerly enjoyed, and of
which the unfortunate absence of her friend now deprived her. The God of
Love, who is never idle, whispered to her of the virtues and riches of a
certain merchant, a neighbour, who many times, both before and since the
departure of her lover, had solicited her love, so that she decided
that if he ever returned to the charge he should not be sent away
discouraged, and that even if she met him in the street she would behave
herself in such a way as would let him see that she liked him.
Now it happened that the day after she arrived at this determination,
Cupid sent round the merchant early in the morning to present her with
dogs and birds and other gifts, which those who seek after women are
always ready to present.
He was not rebuffed, for if he was willing to attack she was not the
less ready to surrender, and prepared to give him even more than he
dared to ask; for she found in him such chivalry, prowess, and virtue
that she quite forgot her old lover, who at that time suspected nothing.
The good merchant was much pleased with his new lady, and they so loved
each other, and their wills, desires, and thoughts so agreed, that it
was as though they had but a single heart between them. They could
not be content until they were living together, so one night the wench
packed up all her belongings and went to the merchant's house, thus
abandoning her old lover, her landlord and his wife, and a number of
other good people to whose care she had been recommended.
She was not a fool, and as soon as she found herself well lodged,
she told the merchant she was pregnant, at which he was very joyful,
believing that he was the cause; and in about seven months the wench
brought forth a fine boy, and the adoptive father was very fond both of
the child and its mother.
A certain time afterwards the gentleman returned from the war, and came
to Bruges, and as soon as he decently could, took his way to the house
where he had left his mistress, and asked news of her from those whom he
had charged to lodge her and clothe her, and aid her in her confinement.
"What!" they said. "Do you not know? Have you not had the letters which
were written to you?"
"No, by my oath," said he. "What has happened?'
"Holy Mary!" they replied, "you have good reason to ask. You had not
been gone more than a month when she packed up her combs and mirrors
and betook herself to the house of a certain merchant, who is greatly
attached to her. And, in fact, she has there been brought to bed of a
fine boy. The merchant has had the child christened, and believes it to
be his own."
"By St. John! that is something new," said the gentleman, "but, since
she is that sort of a woman, she may go to the devil. The merchant may
have her and keep her, but as for the child I am sure it is mine, and I
Thereupon he went and knocked loudly at the door of the merchant's
house. By chance, the lady was at home and opened the door, and when
she recognised the lover she had deserted, they were both astonished.
Nevertheless, he asked her how she came in that place, and she replied
that Fortune had brought her there.
"Fortune?" said he; "Well then, fortune may keep you; but I want my
child. Your new master may have the cow, but I will have the calf; so
give it to me at once, for I will have it whatever may happen."
"Alas!" said the wench, "what will my man say? I shall be disgraced, for
he certainly believes the child is his."
"I don't care what he thinks," replied the other, "but he shall not have
what is mine."
"Ah, my friend, I beg and request of you to leave the merchant this
child; you will do him a great service and me also. And by God! you will
not be tempted to have the child when once you have seen him, for he is
an ugly, awkward boy, all scrofulous and mis-shapen."
"Whatever he is," replied the other, "he is mine, and I will have him."
"Don't talk so loud, for God's sake!" said the wench, "and be calm, I
beg! And if you will only leave me this child, I promise you that I will
give you the next I have."
Angry as the gentleman was, he could not help smiling at hearing these
words, so he said no more and went away, and never again demanded the
child, which was brought up by the merchant.