The Husband Pandar To His Own Wife
_Of a knight of Burgundy, who was marvellously amorous of one of his
wife's waiting women, and thinking to sleep with her, slept with his
wife who was in the bed of the said tire-woman. And how he caused, by
his order, another knight, his neighbour to sleep with the said woman,
believing that it was really the tirewoman--and afterwards he was not
well pleased, albeit that the lady knew noth
ng, and was not aware, I
believe, that she had had to do with aught other than her own husband._
In order to properly continue these stories, the incidents of which
happen in divers places and under various circumstances, there should
not be omitted the tale of a gentle knight of Burgundy, who lived in
a castle of his own that was fair and strong, and well provided with
retainers and artillery, as his condition required.
He fell in love with a fair damsel of his household, who was chief
tire-woman to his wife, and his great affection for her took such
hold upon him that he could not be happy without her, and was always
conversing with her and beseeching her, and, in short, life seemed no
good without her, so filled with love of her was he.
The girl, being chaste and prudent, wished to keep her honour, which she
valued as she did her own soul, and would not betray the duty she owed
to her mistress, and therefore she lent no ear to her master when he
importuned her. And whenever he spoke to her, God knows what a rebuff
he met, and how she remonstrated with him as to his boldness and
ill-conduct. Moreover, she told him that if he continued she would
inform her mistress.
But, in spite of her threats, he would not abandon the enterprise, but
pursued her more and more, so that at last the girl was forced to tell
The lady being informed of her lord's love affair, though she did not
show it, was not well pleased; but she devised a plan, which was this.
She charged the girl that the next time the knight solicited her, that
she should lay aside all reserve, and inform him that on the following
night she would expect him in her chamber and in her bed; "And if he
should accept the rendezvous," added the lady; "I will take your place;
and leave the rest to me."
The girl was pleased to obey her mistress, as was her duty, and promised
she would do as she was bid.
It was not long before my lord again returned to the charge, and prayed
her more warmly than before, saying that if she did not grant his
prayer, he would rather die than live longer in this hopeless passion.
What need is there of a long story? The girl, being thoroughly
well-instructed by her mistress, appointed an hour at which he should
come to her the next night, at which he was so well-pleased that his
heart leapt for joy, and he promised himself that he would not fail to
The desired day arrived, but in the evening, a gentle knight, a
neighbour of my lord and his great friend, came to see him, for whom my
lord made, as he well knew how, great cheer; as did my lady also, and
the rest of the household were not behind-hand, knowing that to be the
good pleasure of my lord and my lady.
After much feasting and a supper and a banquet, it was time to retire
to rest, and having said good-night to the lady and her women, the two
knights began to talk over various matters, and, amongst other
things, the visitor asked my lord if there were any pretty women with
shoulder-knots in the village, (*) for the weather being fine, and
having made good cheer, he had a desire for a woman.
(*) In some towns of the south of France, in the Middle
Ages, the courtesans used to wear a knot of coloured ribbon
on the shoulder.
My lord, on account of the great love he bore his friend, would hide
nothing from him, and told him how he had that night agreed to sleep
with the tire-woman; and that he might do his friend pleasure, when he
had been with her a certain time, he would, he said, rise gently, and go
away, and let the visitor do the rest.
The visitor thanked his host, and God knows that the hour seemed long in
coming. At last the host took leave of his guest, and went to his room,
as was his custom, to undress.
Now you must know that whilst the knights were talking, my lady went to
the bed in which my lord expected to find the tiring-maid, and there she
awaited whatever God might be pleased to send her.
My lord was a long time undressing, to give time to his wife to go to
sleep. He then dismissed his valet, and in his long dressing-gown went
to where his lady awaited him,--he thinking to find some-one else,--and
silently undressed and got into bed.
And as the candle was put out, and the lady uttered no word, he believed
he was with the woman. Hardly had he got into bed before he began to
perform his duty, and so well did he acquit himself, that three, even
four, times did not content him; whereat his wife felt great pleasure,
and thinking that that was all, fell asleep.
My lord, now much lighter than when he came, seeing that the lady slept,
and remembering his promise, rose quietly and went to his friend, who
was awaiting orders to go into action, and told him to take his place,
but that he must not speak a word, and must come away when he had done
all that he wished.
The other, as wide-awake as a rat, and straining at the leash like a
greyhound,--went, and lay down by the lady without her knowing of it.
And though he felt assured that my lord had already worked well, and
he was in haste, he did better, at which my lady was in no small degree
astonished, and after this amusement--which was not distasteful to
her--she again fell asleep.
Then the good knight left her, and returned to my lord, who again
resumed his place by my lady's side as before, and made a fresh attack
upon her--so well did the exercise please him.
Thus the hours passed,--either in sleeping or doing something
else,--until day broke; and as he turned round in bed, expecting
to behold the tire-woman, he saw and knew that it was his wife, who
thereupon said to him.
"Are you not a recreant, cowardly, and wicked whoremonger? You thought
to have had my tire-woman, and it is upon me that you have so many times
essayed your unbridled and measureless lust. Thank God you have been
deceived, for no one else shall ever have that which belongs to me."
The good knight was both astonished and angry, and no wonder. And when
he spoke at last, he said.
"My dear, I cannot hide from you my folly, and I greatly grieve ever to
have undertaken such an enterprise. I beg of you to be satisfied with
what you have done, and never mention it for never in all my life shall
it occur again. That I promise you on my honour; and that you may never
have occasion to be reminded of it, I will send away the woman who has
played this trick upon me."
The lady, who was more satisfied with this adventure than her woman, and
seeing how contrite her husband was, allowed herself to be gained-over,
but not without making some remonstrances and scoldings.
In the end, all was arranged satisfactorily, but the knight, who had a
flea in his ear, as soon as he rose, went to his companion, to whom
he related the adventure at full length, and demanded from him two
promises; the first was that he should strictly promise to say nothing
of the matter, and the second that he should never meet his wife again.
The other, who was much vexed at this unfortunate affair, comforted the
knight as best he could, and promised to perform his very reasonable
requests; then mounted his horse and rode off. The tire-woman, who was
not to blame for the _contretemps_, bore the punishment however, and was
sent away. The knight and the lady lived long together without her ever
being aware that she had had to do with a strange knight.