The Husband In The Clothes-chest
By Monseigneur De Beauvoir.
_Of a great lord of this kingdom and a married lady, who in order
that she might be with her lover caused her husband to be shut in a
clothes-chest by her waiting women, and kept him there all the night,
whilst she passed the time with her lover; and of the wagers made
between her and the said husband, as you will find afterwards recorded._
It is not
an unusual thing, especially in this country, for fair dames
and damsels to often and willingly keep company with young gentlemen,
and the pleasant joyful games they have together, and the kind requests
which are made, are not difficult to guess.
Not long ago, there was a most noble lord, who might be reckoned as one
of the princes, but whose name shall not issue from my pen, who was much
in the good graces of a damsel who was married, and of whom report spoke
so highly that the greatest personage in the kingdom might have deemed
himself lucky to be her lover.
She would have liked to prove to him how greatly she esteemed him,
but it was not easy; there were so many adversaries and enemies to be
outwitted. And what more especially annoyed her was her worthy husband,
who kept to the house and played the part of the cursed Dangier, (*) and
the lover could not find any honourable excuse to make him leave.
(*) Allegorical personage typifying jealousy, taken from _Le
Romaunt de la Rose_.
As you may imagine, the lover was greatly dissatisfied at having to wait
so long, for he desired the fair quarry, the object of his long chase,
more than he had ever desired anybody in all his life.
For this cause he continued to importune his mistress, till she said to
"I am quite as displeased as you can be that I can give you no better
welcome; but, you know, as long as my husband is in the house he must be
"Alas!" said he, "cannot you find any method to abridge my hard and
She--who as has been said above, was quite as desirous of being with her
lover as he was with her--replied;
"Come to-night, at such and such an hour, and knock at my chamber
door. I will let you in, and will find some method to be freed from my
husband, if Fortune does not upset our plans."
Her lover had never heard anything which pleased him better, and after
many gracious thanks,--which he was no bad hand at making--he left her,
and awaited the hour assigned.
Now you must know that a good hour or more before the appointed time,
our gentle damsel, with her women and her husband, had withdrawn to her
chamber after supper; nor was her imagination idle, but she studied
with all her mind how she could keep her promise to her lover. Now she
thought of one means, now of another, but nothing occurred to her by
which she could get rid of her cursed husband; and all the time the
wished-for hour was fast approaching.
Whilst she was thus buried in thought, Fortune was kind enough to do her
a good turn, and her husband a bad one.
He was looking round the chamber, and by chance he saw at the foot of
the bed his wife's clothes-chest. In order to make her speak, and arouse
her from her reverie, he asked what that chest was used for, and why
they did not take it to the wardrobe, or some other place where it would
be more suitable.
"There is no need, Monseigneur," said Madame; "no one comes here but us.
I left it here on purpose, because there are still some gowns in it, but
if you are not pleased, my dear, my women will soon take it away."
"Not pleased?" said he. "No, I am not; but I like it as much here as
anywhere else, since it pleases you; but it seems to me much too small
to hold your gowns well without crumpling them, seeing what great and
long trains are worn now."
"By my word, sir," said she, "it is big enough."
"It hardly seems so," replied he, "really; and I have looked at it
"Well, sir," said she, "will you make a bet with me?"
"Certainly I will," he answered; "what shall it be?"
"I will bet, if you like, half a dozen of the best shirts against the
satin to make a plain petticoat, that we can put you inside the box just
as you are."
"On my soul," said he, "I will bet I cannot get in."
"And I will bet you can."
"Come on!" said the women. "We will soon see who is the winner."
"It will soon be proved," said Monsieur, and then he made them take
out of the chest all the gowns which were in it, and when it was empty,
Madam and her women put in Monsieur easily enough.
Then there was much chattering, and discussion, and laughter, and Madam
"Well, sir; you have lost your wager! You own that, do you not?"
"Yes," said he, "you are right."
As he said these words, the chest was locked, and the girls all
laughing, playing, and dancing, carried both chest and man together, and
put it in a big cupboard some distance away from the chamber.
He cried, and struggled, and made a great noise; but it was no good,
and he was left there all the night. He could sleep, or think, or do the
best he could, but Madam had given secret instructions that he was not
to be let out that day, because she had been too much bothered by him
But to return to the tale we had begun. We will leave our man in his
chest, and talk about Madam, who was awaiting her lover, surrounded
by her waiting women, who were so good and discreet that they never
revealed any secrets. They knew well enough that the dearly beloved
adorer was to occupy that night the place of the man who was doing
penance in the clothes-chest.
They did not wait long before the lover, without making any noise or
scare, knocked at the chamber door, and they knew his knock, and quickly
let him in. He was joyfully received and kindly entertained by Madam and
her maids; and he was glad to find himself alone with his lady love, who
told him what good fortune God had given her, that is to say how she had
made a bet with her husband that he could get into the chest, how he had
got in, and how she and her women had carried him away to a cupboard.
"What?" said her lover. "I cannot believe that he is in the house. By my
word, I believed that you had found some excuse to send him out whilst I
took his place with you for a time."
"You need not go," she said. "He cannot get out of where he is. He may
cry as much as he will, but there is no one here likes him well enough
to let him out, and there he will stay; but if you would like to have
him set free, you have but to say so."
"By Our Lady," said he, "if he does not come out till I let him out, he
will wait a good long time."
"Well then, let us enjoy ourselves," said she, "and think no more about
To cut matters short, they both undressed, and the two lovers lay down
in the fair bed, and did what they intended to do, and which is better
imagined than described.
When day dawned, her paramour took leave of her as secretly as he could,
and returned to his lodgings to sleep, I hope, and to breakfast, for he
had need of both.
Madam, who was as cunning as she was wise and good, rose at the usual
hour, and said to her women;
"It will soon be time to let out our prisoner. I will go and see what he
says, and whether he will pay his ransom."
"Put all the blame on us," they said. "We will appease him."
"All right, I will do so," she said.
With these words she made the sign of the Cross, and went nonchalantly,
as though not thinking what she was doing, into the cupboard where her
husband was still shut up in the chest. And when he heard her he began
to make a great noise and cry out, "Who is there? Why do you leave me
locked up here?"
His good wife, who heard the noise he was making replied timidly, as
though frightened, and playing the simpleton;
"Heavens! who is it that I hear crying?"
"It is I! It is I!" cried the husband.
"You?" she cried; "and where do you come from at this time?"
"Whence do I come?" said he. "You know very well, madam. There is no
need for me to tell you--but what you did to me I will some day do to
you,"--for he was so angry that he would willingly have showered abuse
upon his wife, but she cut him short, and said;
"Sir, for God's sake pardon me. On my oath I assure you that I did not
know you were here now, for, believe me, I am very much astonished that
you should be still here, for I ordered my women to let you out whilst I
was at prayers, and they told me they would do so; and, in fact, one of
them told me that you had been let out, and had gone into the town,
and would not return home, and so I went to bed soon afterwards without
waiting for you."
"Saint John!" said he; "you see how it is. But make haste and let me
out, for I am so exhausted that I can stand it no longer."
"That may well be," said she, "but you will not come out till you have
promised to pay me the wager you lost, and also pardon me, or otherwise
I will not let you out."
"Make haste, for God's sake! I will pay you--really."
"And you promise?"
"Yes--on my oath!"
This arrangement being concluded, Madam opened the chest, and Monsieur
came out, tired, cramped, and exhausted.
She took him by the arm, and kissed him, and embraced him as gently as
could be, praying to God that he would not be angry.
The poor blockhead said that he was not angry with her, because she knew
nothing about it, but that he would certainly punish her women.
"By my oath, sir," said she, "they are well revenged upon you--for I
expect you have done something to them."
"Not I certainly, that I know of--but at any rate the trick they have
played me will cost them dear."
He had hardly finished this speech, when all the women came into the
room, and laughed so loudly and so heartily that they could not say a
word for a long time; and Monsieur, who was going to do such wonders,
when he saw them laugh to such a degree, had not the heart to interfere
with them. Madame, to keep him company, did not fail to laugh also.
There was a marvellous amount of laughing, and he who had the least
cause to laugh, laughed one of the loudest.
After a certain time, this amusement ceased, and Monsieur said;
"Mesdames, I thank you much for the kindness you have done me."
"You are quite welcome, sir," said one of the women, "and still we are
not quits. You have given us so much trouble, and caused as so much
mischief, that we owed you a grudge, and if we have any regret it is
that you did not remain in the box longer. And, in fact, if it had not
been for Madame you would still be there;--so you may take it how you
"Is that so?" said he. "Well, well, you shall see how I will take it.
By my oath I am well treated, when, after all I have suffered, I am only
laughed, at, and what is still worse, must pay for the satin for the
petticoat. Really, I ought to have the shirts that were bet, as a
compensation for what I have suffered."
"By Heaven, he is right," said the women. "We are on your side as to
that, and you shall have them. Shall he not have them, Madame?"
"On what grounds?" said she. "He lost the wager."
"Oh, yes, we know that well enough: he has no right to them,--indeed he
does not ask for them on that account, but he has well deserved them for
"Never mind about that," said Madame. "I will willingly give the
material out of love for you, mesdames, who have so warmly pleaded for
him, if you will undertake to do the sewing."
"Yes, truly, Madame."
Like one who when he wakes in the morning has but to give himself a
shake and he is ready, Monsieur needed but a bunch of twigs to beat his
clothes and he was ready, and so he went to Mass; and Madame and her
women followed him, laughing loudly at him I can assure you.
And you may imagine that during the Mass there was more than one giggle
when they remembered that Monsieur, whilst he was in the chest (though
he did not know it himself) had been registered in the book which has no
name. (*) And unless by chance this book falls into his hands, he will
never,--please God--know of his misfortune, which on no account would I
have him know. So I beg of any reader who may know him, to take care not
to show it to him.
(*) The Book of Cuckolds.