The Muddled Marriages
By The Archivist Of Brussels.
_Of two men and two women who were waiting to be married at the first
Mass in the early morning; and because the priest could not see well, he
took the one for the other, and gave to each man the wrong wife, as you
One morning there were assembled in the cathedral of Sainte Gudule at
Brussels, many men and women who wished to be married at the first
which is said between four and five o'clock; and amongst others who
wished to enter this sweet and happy condition, and promise before the
priest to live honestly and uprightly, were a young man and a young
woman who were not rich, who were standing near each other, waiting for
the priest to call them to marry them.
Near them were an old man and an old woman, who had great possessions
and wealth, but who, out of covetousness and the desire to have more,
had also promised troth to one another, and were also waiting to be
married at this first Mass.
The priest came and recited this much-desired Mass, and at the end
thereof, as is the custom, had ranged before him those who wished to
be married, of whom there were many, without counting the four I have
Now you must know that the good priest who was standing ready before the
altar to accomplish the wedding rites, was blind of one eye, having lost
an eye by some mischance a little time before. Also there was hardly any
light in the chapel or on the altar, and, as it was winter, it was very
dark. So he could not see the couples properly, and when he came to
marry them, he took the rich old man and the poor, young girl, and
joined them together with the wedding ring.
On the other hand, he also took the poor, young man and married him to
the rich, old woman,--without any of those in the church noticing it,
either men or women--which was very strange, especially on the part of
the men, for they dare to raise their heads and their eyes when they are
on their knees before the priest, whilst the women who are modest and
shy, always look down on the ground.
It is the custom on leaving the church for the friends of the bride to
meet her, and conduct her to her husband's house. So it was that the
poor, young girl was taken to the house of the rich man, and also the
rich, old woman was escorted to the cottage of the young man.
When the young bride found herself in the court, and then in the great
hall of the house of the man she had married by mistake, she was much
astonished, and knew well that was not the house she had left that
morning. When she was in the dressing-room, which was hung round with
rich tapestries, she saw a large fire, a table well covered, on which a
good breakfast was all ready, and a handsome sideboard, well garnished
with vessels of all sorts, and was more astonished than ever, and
thought it strange she did not know a soul present to whom she could
She was soon relieved of the cloak in which she was huddled-up, and when
the bridegroom and the others who were there saw her uncovered, you
may guess they were as much surprised as though horns had cropped up on
"What?" said the bridegroom. "Is that my wife? By Our Lady, I am very
lucky. She is much changed since yesterday; I think she must have been
to the fountain of youth."
"We do not know," replied those who had brought her, "whence she comes,
or what she has done; but we are certain that is the woman you have
married, for we took her at the altar, and since then she has never left
They were all much astonished, and remained long without saying a word,
but the most foolish-looking and surprised of all was the poor bride;
she was quite downcast and wept gently, for she would have much
preferred to be with her lover, whom she had expected to marry that day.
The bridegroom, seeing her so miserable, had pity on her, and said,
"My dear, do not be downcast; you are in a good house, please God, and
no one is going to do you any harm. But tell me, if you please, who you
are, and what information you can as to how you came here."
When she heard herself spoken to so courteously, she regained a little
courage, and gave the names of her father and mother, and said that
she was of Brussels, and was betrothed to a certain young man, whom she
named, and whom she had expected to have married.
The bridegroom, and all those who were there, began to laugh, and said
that the priest had played them this trick.
"Well, God be praised for the change!" said the bridegroom at last. "I
do not greatly regret that God sent you to me, and I promise you on my
word to make you a good husband."
"No, no," she said, weeping. "You are not my husband. I wish to go back
to him to whom my father gave me."
"That shall not be," said he. "I married you in the holy church, and you
cannot deny it. You are, and you will remain, my wife; and be content,
for you are very lucky. I have, thank God, riches enough, of which you
shall be the lady and mistress, and you will be very comfortable."
He, and the others who were there, talked her over till at last she
consented. So they had a light breakfast together, and then went to bed,
and the old man did the best he knew how.
But let us return to the old woman, and the young man.
When she found herself in the house, she was in a great rage, and said;
"What am I doing here? Why do you not take me either to my own house, or
to the house of my husband?"
The bridegroom, when he saw the old woman, and heard her speak, was much
surprised, and so were his father and mother, and all who were there
assembled. Then came out the father and mother, who knew the old woman,
and the father spoke to his son, and said,
"My son, they have given you the wife of some one else, and it is to be
supposed he has your wife. It is all the fault of our cure, who sees
so badly, and--God help me--I was so far away from you when you were
married that I never perceived the change."
"What must I do?" asked the bridegroom.
"Upon my word," said his father, "I do not well know, but I greatly
doubt if you can have any other wife than this."
"St. John!" said the old woman, "I will not have him. I do not care for
such a sorry fellow! I should be very happy, should I not? with a young
fellow who did not care for me and would spend all my money, and if, I
ventured to say a word would give me a crack on the head. Go away! go
away! and fetch your wife, and let me go where I ought to be."
"By Our Lady!" said the bridegroom, "if I can get her back, I would
rather have her than you, however poor she may be; but if I cannot
obtain her, you will not go."
His father, and some of his relations, went to the house where the
old woman wished to be, and found the company breakfasting well, and
preparing the caudle for the bride and bridegroom.
The father stated the case, but the others replied,
"You come too late; each must keep what he has; the master of the house
is content with the wife that God has given him; he wedded her, and he
does not want any other. And do not complain, for you would never have
been so fortunate as to get your daughter married so well; now you will
all be rich."
The father returned home, and reported the answer he had, at which the
old woman was in a great rage.
"Indeed!" she said, "am I to be deceived in this manner? By God, the
matter shall not rest here; justice shall be done me!"
If the old woman was displeased, as much, or more, was the young man,
who was deprived of his ladylove. Still, he might have looked over that
if he could have had the old woman, and all her money, but it was no
good, she made herself so disagreeable that he was obliged to let her
So he was advised to summon her before the Bishop of Cambrai; and she
also summoned the old man who had married the young woman, and a great
lawsuit began, judgment in which is not given yet, so I can tell you no
more about it.