The Eel Pasties
By Monseigneur de la Roche
_Of a knight of England, who, after he was married, wished his mignon to
procure him some pretty girls, as he did before; which the mignon would
not do, saying that one wife sufficed; but the said knight brought him
back to obedience by causing eel pasties to be always served to him,
both at dinner and at supper._
Many wonderful and curious adventures
have occurred in England, though
their recital would be out of place amongst these tales. Nevertheless,
the present story is appropriate to be told here to increase the number
of these tales, and is of a great lord of the kingdom of England, who
was very rich and powerful, and who, amongst all his servitors, had
especial trust, confidence, and affection in a young gentleman of his
household, and that for various reasons. And because of his loyalty,
diligence, cunning, and prudence, and other good qualities he found in
him, he hid from him nothing concerning his love-affairs.
As time went on, the said young gentleman, by his cleverness, grew
so much in his master's favour, that he not only knew his master's
love-affairs, but acted as emissary and go-between on every occasion, as
long as his master was unmarried.
But a certain time after that, it happened that by the advice of
his relatives, friends, and well-wishers, my lord was married to a
beautiful, noble, good, and rich lady, much to the joy of many persons;
and amongst other our _mignon_ was not the least joyful, as he said to
himself that the marriage would be to his master's welfare and honour,
and would cause him he hoped to cease from those pleasures of love which
he had hitherto practised.
One day he told the lord how glad he was that he had married a fair and
good lady, for now he would not need to have women sought for him as
before. To which my lord replied that nevertheless he did not intend
to abandon all his love-affairs, and although he was married would
sometimes employ the young man's services.
The youth was not pleased to hear this, and replied that such amours
should cease now that his love was shared by a lady who excelled all
others in beauty, prudence, and goodness.
"Do as you please, my lord," said he, "but, for my part, I will never
carry a message to any woman if it is to prejudice my mistress."
"I know not what you mean by prejudice," said his master, "but you must
prepare to go to such and such ladies. For I would have you know that
your duties will be as they were before."
"Oh, my lord," said the youth, "it seems that you take a pleasure in
abusing women, which is not right; for you know well that all those
you have named are not to be compared in beauty or other respects to my
lady, to whom you are offering a deadly insult if she should ever hear
of your misconduct. And what is more, you cannot be ignorant that in so
doing you damn your own soul."
"Cease your preaching," said my lord, "and do as I command."
"Pardon me, my lord," said the youth. "I would rather die than, through
my means, trouble should arise between you and my lady; and I beg of you
to be satisfied with me as I am, for certainly I will no more act as I
My lord, who saw how obstinate the young man was, pressed him no more
at that time. But three or four days after that, without alluding to the
conversation they had had, he demanded of the young man, amongst other
things, what dish he preferred, and he replied that no dish pleased him
so much as eel pasties.
"By St. John, it is a good dish," said his master; "you have not chosen
That being said, my lord retired, and caused to be sent to him his
major-domo, whom he charged by his obedience that he should serve to the
young man nothing but eel pasties, whatsoever he might say or do; and
the major-domo promised to perform his commands, which he did, for on
the same day, as the said youth was seated at table in his chamber, his
servant brought unto him many fair and large eel pasties which had been
delivered to him from the kitchen,--at which he was pleased, and ate his
On the morrow it was the same, and the five or six following days he was
brought like pasties, of which he was already weary. So the youth asked
of his servants why they brought him nothing but these pasties?
"By my faith, sir," they replied, "they will give us nothing else. We
see very well that they send to the hall and elsewhere, other meats; but
for you there is nothing but pasties."
The young man, being wise and prudent, and caring little for his
stomach, made no complaint, and several days passed; during which he
was still served with these everlasting pies, at which he was not best
One day he determined to go and dine with the stewards, where he was
served as before with eel pasties. And when he saw that, he could not
help asking why they served him differently to the others.
"God's death!" quoth he, "I am so stuffed that I can eat no more. It
seems to me that I see nothing but eel pies. Let me tell you there is no
sense in it,--you carry the joke too far. For more than a month you have
played this trick upon me. I am so worn-out that I have neither health
nor strength. I do not like to be treated in this manner."
The stewards told him that they only did as their master had bidden
them, and that it was not their own doing. The young man, wearied of
these pies, determined to complain to my lord, and ask him why he had
caused the eel pies to be always served, and forbidden the cooks to
supply any other dish.
In reply, my lord said unto him, "Did you not tell me that eel pie was
the dish that you most liked in all the world?"
"By St. John, yes, my lord," said the youth.
"Then why do you complain now," said my lord, "since I cause you to be
served with that which you like?"
"I like them," replied the young man, "in moderation. I like exceedingly
to have eel pies once, or twice, or three times, or now and then, and
there is no dish I love better. But to eat it always, and nothing else
beside,--by Our Lady I will not. Any man would be sick and weary. My
stomach is so sick of eel pasties, that the moment I smell them I have
already dined. For God's sake, my lord, command that I be given some
other food that I may recover my appetite; otherwise I am a dead man."
"Ah!" said my lord, "Yet it seems that you do not think I shall be a
dead man if I content myself with the charms of my wife. By my soul, you
may believe that I am as weary of them as you are of the pasties,
and would as willingly have a change,--though there is none I love
so much--as you desire another dish, though you like pasties best. In
short, you shall eat no other food until you consent to serve me as you
did before, and bring me a variety of women,--even as you would have a
variety of dishes."
The young man, when he heard this subtle comparison, was confused, and
promised his master that he would do all that was desired, if he
could but be quit of his pasties, and would carry messages and conduct
intrigues as before. And from that time forth my lord, to spare my lady,
and by the good help of his _mignon_, passed his time with fair and
honest damsels, and the young man was relieved of his eel pasties, and
restored to his old office.