The Pious Lady and The Gray Friar

(From the Heptameron, Tale 56)

A french lady, whilst sojourning at Padua, was informed that there was a Gray Friar in the Bishop’s prison there, and finding that everyone spoke jestingly about him, she inquired the reason. She was told that this Gray Friar, who was an old man, had been confessor to a very honorable and pious widow lady, mother of only one daughter, whom she loved so dearly as to be at all pains to amass riches for her and to find her a good husband. Now, seeing that her daughter was grown up, she was unceasingly anxious to find her a husband who might live with them in peace and quiet, a man, that is, of a good conscience, such as she deemed herself to possess. And since she had heard some foolish preacher say that it were better to do evil by the counsel of theologians than to do well through the belief in the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, she had recourse to her Father Confessor, a man already old, a doctor of theology and one who was held to lead a holy life by the whole town, for she felt sure that, with his counsel and good prayers, she could not fail to find peace both for herself and for her daughter. After she had earnestly begged him to choose for her daughter such a husband as he knew a woman that loved God and her honor ought to desire, he replied that first of all it was needful to implore the grace of the Holy Spirit with prayer and fasting, and then, God guiding his judgment, he hoped to find what she required.

So the Friar retired to think over the matter; and whereas he had heard from the lady that she had got five hundred ducats together to give to her daughter’s husband, and that she would take upon herself the charge of maintaining both husband and wife with lodgment, furniture and clothes, he bethought himself that he had a young comrade of handsome figure and pleasant countenance, to whom he might give the fair maiden, the house, the furniture, maintenance and food, whilst he himself kept the five hundred ducats to gratify his burning greed. And when he spoke to his comrade of the matter, he found that they were both of one mind upon it.

He therefore returned to the lady and said:

“I verily believe that God has sent his angel Raphael to me as he did to Tobit, to enable me to find a perfect husband for your daughter. I have in my house the most honorable gentleman in Italy, who has sometimes seen your daughter and is deeply in love with her. And so to-day, whilst I was at prayer, God sent him to me, and he told me of his desire for the marriage, whereupon, knowing his lineage and kindred and notable descent, I promised him to speak to you on the matter. There is, indeed, one defect in him, of which I alone have knowledge, and it is this: Wishing to save one of his friends whom another man was striving to slay, he drew his sword in order to separate them; but it chanced that his friend slew the other, and thus, although he himself had not dealt a blow, yet inasmuch as he had been present at a murder, and had drawn his sword, he became a fugitive from his native town. By the advice of his kinsfolk he came hither in the garb of a scholar, and he dwells here unknown, until his kinsfolk shall have ended the matter; and this he hopes will shortly be done. For this reason, then, it would be needful that the marriage should be performed in secret, and that you should suffer him to go in the daytime to the public lectures and return home every evening to sup and sleep.”

“Sir,” replied the worthy woman, “I look upon what you tell me as of great advantage to myself, for I shall at least have by me what I most desire in the world.”

Thereupon the Gray Friar brought his comrade, bravely attired with a crimson satin doublet, and the lady was well pleased with him. And as soon as he was come the betrothal took place, and, immediately after midnight, a mass was said and they were married. Then they went to bed together until daybreak, when the bridegroom told his wife that to escape discovery he must needs return to the college.

After putting on his crimson satin doublet and his long robe, without forgetting his coif of black silk, he bade his wife, who was still in bed, good-by, promising that he would come every evening to sup with her, but that at dinner they must not wait for him. So he went away and left his wife, who esteemed herself the happiest woman alive to have found so excellent a match. And the young wedded Friar returned

  By PanEris using Melati.

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