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The Lenten Preacher

The Lenten Preacher

A friar came to preach the Lenten sermons in a country place. The wife of a rich peasant sat under the pulpit, and thought all the time what a nice-looking man he was, instead of listening to his exhortations to penance.

When the sermon was over she went home and took out half-a-dozen nice fine pocket-handkerchiefs, and sent them to him by her maid, with a very civil note to beg him to come and see her.

As the maid was going out, the husband met her.

‘Where are you going?' said he.

The maid, who did not at all like her errand, promised if he would not be angry with her, and would not let her mistress know it, she would tell him all.

The husband promised to hold her harmless, and she gave him the handkerchiefs and the note.

‘Come here,' said the husband; and he took her into his room and wrote a note as if from the friar, saying he was much obliged by her presents, and would like to see the lady very much, but that it was impossible they could meet, so she must not think of it. This note the maid took back to her mistress as if from the friar.

A few days after this the husband gave out that he would have to go to a fair, and would be away two or three days. Immediately the wife took a pound of the best snuff and sent it as a present to the friar by the same maid with another note, saying the husband was going away on such an evening, and if he then came to see her at an hour after the Ave he would find the door open. This also the maid took to her master; the husband took the snuff and wrote an answer, as if from the friar, to say he would keep the appointment. In the evening he said good-bye to his wife, and went away. But he went to the butcher and bought a stout beef sinew, and at the hour appointed for the friar, he came back dressed as a friar, and beat her with the beef sinew till she was half dead. Then he went down in the kitchen and sent the servant up to heal her, and went away for three days. When he came back the wife was still doubled up, and suffering from the beating.

‘What is the matter?' he said, sympathisingly.

‘Oh! I fell down the cellar stairs.'

‘What do you mean by leaving your mistress to go down to the cellar?' he cried out to the servant, with great solicitude. ‘How can you allow her to do such things? What's the use of you?'

‘Don't scold the servant,' answered the wife; ‘it wasn't her fault. I shall be all right soon.' And she made as light of her ailment as she could, to keep him from asking her any more questions. But he was discreet enough to say no more.

Only when she was well again he sent to the friar and asked him to come home to dine with them.

‘My wife is subject to odd fancies sometimes,' he said, as they walked home. ‘If she should do anything extravagant, don't you mind; I shall be there to call her to order.'

Then he told the servant to bring in the soup and the boiled meat without waiting for orders, but to keep the grill back till he came to the kitchen door to call her.

At the time for the grill, therefore, he got up from table to go and call her, and thus left his wife and the friar alone together. They were no sooner alone than she got up, and calling him a horrid friar, gave him a sound drubbing. The husband came back in time to prevent mischief, and to make excuses; and finding she was cured of her affection, said no more of the affair.