The Cow And The Calf
_Of a gentleman to whom--the first night that he was married, and after
he had but tried one stroke--his wife brought forth a child, and of
the manner in which he took it,--and of the speech that he made to his
companions when they brought him the caudle, as you shall shortly hear._
It is not a hundred years ago since a young gentleman of this country
wished to k
ow and experience the joys of matrimony, and--to cut matters
short--the much-desired day of his marriage duly came.
After much good cheer and the usual amusements, the bride was put to
bed, and a short time afterwards her husband followed, and lay close to
her, and without delay duly began the assault on her fortress. With some
trouble he entered in and gained the stronghold, but you must understand
that he did not complete the conquest without accomplishing many feats
of arms which it would take long to enumerate; for before he came to the
donjon of the castle he had other outworks, with which it was provided,
to carry, like a place that had never been taken or was still quite new,
and which nature had provided with many defences.
When he was master of the place, he broke his lance, and ceased the
assault. But the fair damsel when she saw herself at the mercy of her
husband, and how he had foraged the greater part of her manor, wished
to show him a prisoner whom she held confined in a secret place,--or to
speak plainly she was delivered on the spot, after this first encounter,
of a fine boy; at which her husband was so ashamed and so astonished
that he did not know what to do except to hold his tongue.
Out of kindness and pity, he did all that he possibly could for both
mother and child, but, as you may believe, the poor woman could not
restrain from uttering a loud cry when the child was born. Many persons
heard this cry, and believed that it was "the cry of the maidenhead,"
(*) which is a custom of this country.
(*) A singular custom which obliged the bride to utter a
loud cry when she lost her virginity, and to which the
groomsmen replied by bringing a large bowl of caudle or some
invigorating drink into the bed chamber. From some verses
written by Clement Marot on the marriage of the Duke of
Ferrara to Princess Renee, it would appear that the custom
existed at the Court of France.
Immediately all the gentlemen in the house where the bridegroom resided,
came and knocked at the door of the chamber, and brought the caudle; but
though they knocked loudly they received no reply, for the bride was in
a condition in which silence is excusable, and the bridegroom had not
much to chatter about.
"What is the matter?" cried the guests. "Why do you not open the door?
If you do not make haste we will break it open; the caudle we have
brought you will be quite cold;" and they began to knock louder than
But the bridegroom would not have uttered a word for a hundred francs;
at which those outside did not know what to think, for he was not
ordinarily a silent man. At last he rose, and put on a dressing-gown he
had, and let in his friends, who soon asked him whether the caudle had
been earned, and what sort of a time he had had? Then one of them
laid the table-cloth, and spread the banquet, for they had everything
prepared, and spared nothing in such cases. They all sat round to eat,
and the bridegroom took his seat in a high-backed chair placed near his
bed, looking very stupid and pitiful as you may imagine. And whatever
the others said, he did not answer a word, but sat there like a statue
or a carved idol.
"What is the matter?" cried one. "You take no notice of the excellent
repast that our host has provided. You have not said a single word yet."
"Marry!" said another, "he has no jokes ready."
"By my soul!" said another, "marriage has wondrous properties. He has
but been married an hour and he has lost his tongue. If he goes on at
that rate there will soon be nothing left of him."
To tell the truth, he had formerly been known as a merry fellow, fond of
a joke, and never uttered a word but a jest; but now he was utterly cast
The gentlemen drank to the bride and bridegroom, but devil a drop would
either of them quaff in return; the one was in a violent rage, and the
other was far from being at ease.
"I am not experienced in these affairs," said a gentleman, "but it seems
we must feast by ourselves. I never saw a man with such a grim-looking
face, and so soon sobered by a woman. You might hear a pin drop in his
company. Marry! his loud jests are small enough now!"
"I drink to the bridegroom," said another, but the bridegroom neither
drank, eat, laughed, or spoke. Nevertheless, after some time that he had
been both scolded and teased by his friends, like a wild boar at bay, he
"Gentlemen, I have listened for some time to your jokes and reproofs. I
would like you to understand that I have good reason to reflect and keep
silent, and I am sure that there is no one here but would do the same
if he had the same reasons that I have. By heavens! if I were as rich
as the King of France, or the Duke of Burgundy, or all the princes of
Christendom, I should not be able to provide that which, apparently, I
shall _have_ to provide. I have but touched my wife once, and she has
brought forth a child! Now if each time that I begin again she does the
same, how shall I be able to keep my family?"
"What? a child?" said his friends.
"Yes, yes! Really a child! Look here!" and he turned towards the bed and
lifted up the clothes and showed them.
"There!" said he. "There is the cow and the calf! Am I not well
Many of his friends were much astonished, and quite excused their host's
conduct, and went away each to his own home. And the poor bridegroom
abandoned his newly-delivered bride the first night, fearing that she
would do the same another time, and not knowing what would become of him