A Guernseyman is duped, 1590
A cheeky tale, suspiciously similar to Boccaccio's Decameron, from The Stranger's Guide to Guernsey and Jersey, 1833, pp. 128 ff., written by Dr Thomas Bellamy. 'In an old book, now out of print and very scarce, published in 1590, entitled Morgan's Feats of the Cardinals, is the following ludicrous account of the midnight ramble of a gentleman, sent from the island of Guernsey to Naples, in Italy, to buy horses.' The detail is from the frontispiece of the Library's 1566 edition of the Chroniques et Annales de France, Vol. I.
'The seigniour Grenville, of the isle of Sernia, or as it is now called Guarnezey, sent Monsieur De Jardin, his friend, to Naples, with three hundred pieces of money to buy horses; being arrived there, as he was standing the next evening in the gate of the inn, playing with his purse of gold out of one hand into the other, he was observed by a young courtezan, who wanted neither wit nor beauty. The next morning she sent one of her spies privately, to enquire who such a gentleman was, his business, and what other circumstances could advantage her desire? Being informed of particulars whereon to found her plot, she dispatched away one of her emissaries, a cunning gipsey, to acquaint him that a lady of quality, and a relation of his, entreated the favor of a visit from him. The crafty decoy hovered at a distance till De Jardin came out, who, as his custom was standing at the gate alone, she with a modesty as counterfeit as her innocence, asked if Monsieur De Jardin was within? Yes, Belle Demoiselle, says he, my name is so. Seignior, says she, my Lady commands me to let you know she has the honour to be related to you, and if it is not too great a condescension, she begs you would spare half an hour from your more important affairs, and bestow it upon her. De Jardin was not much surprized at so obliging an invitation, for though he knew of none of his relations who either wore the title of lady or lived in Italy, yet presuming upon the comeliness of his person, and taking mein, imagined it was some lady of quality who was enamoured of him, and with this pretence courted an opportunity of discovering her passion: Madam, says he, I could wish myself worthy of so great a blessing as I now receive, and since a ready submission to your lady's commands is the best proof I can give of my zeal and affection to her service, I will this very moment pay my devotion to her. De Jardin, without going into his lodgings, went directly along with her, who led him along several cross streets and by-ways, until they came to the house, which, in the front, appeared fair and reputable.
At the door a person attended, who conducted De Jardin into a room richly furnished, both for pleasure and state. As soon as the lady was acquainted that Monsieur De Jardin was below, she descended with a grace portly and majestic, which, lest it should strike too great an awe and distance upon her tender kinsman, she sweetened with an affectionate familiarity and respect. The wily courtezan wove her net so fine, his dull eye could not discover the least thread, she displayed her pedigree with so much artifice, that his obscure name was now derived from one of the most noble houses in all Italy, of which she had the honor to be no inconsiderable branch, all of which his pride and folly easily credited. Supper being done, De Jardin considering it grew late and he was a stranger to the streets, was ready, with a large harangue of thanks, to take leave of so honorable a kinswoman; "pray cousin, says she, tho' I am well assured your reception here has been too ordinary for your merit, yet I must flatter myself so far, that my house can afford you equal accommodation to that of your inn, and if you rob me of your company to night, you have not that esteem for me I am so ambitious of." De Jardin, whose better genius was then out of the way, accepted of it. The lady called for a flask of Florence, and recommended the glass to him, titled with some magnifico's health, all within the circle of his own relations.
It now grew bedtime and De Jardin was attended to his apartment by the lady and two of her servants, who, after a solemn good night, withdrew to her own. De Jardin being undressed, as he was stepping into bed, the wine began to rumble in his stomach, which was physically prepared for the purpose, asking one of the servants for a convenient easement, he was directed into a little room adjoining—his business required haste. Boldly stepping in, a board which lay designedly loose, gave way, and down he dropped to the bottom, which had certainly bruised him to a jelly, had not the softness of the carpet prevented the danger of the fall. As soon as he recovered himself from the fright, (for hurt he had none, but what was above stairs,) he cried out for help, but nobody answered, tho' he heard his kinswoman's voice very merry and loud. They were too busy in ransacking his pockets, where they found the prize they wanted, with bulk unbroken.
In this great distress he at last discovered a wall which parted it from the street; this he endeavoured to scale, but with often slips, mired himself over head and ears. But good fortune had not quite forsaken him, at last he conquered it, and found himself in the middle of the street. By the light of the moon, he guessed at the house, and with the clapper rung so loud a peal upon the door, that a grim fellow opened a window and asked "what drunken royster gave that unmannerly alarm?" "I am sir, says he, the lady's cousin." Sirrah, says he, you are an impudent liar, I know no such person, begone in time, or you will too late repent this saucy affront. At this, De Jardin, heard the watch a coming, which forced him to break off the dialogue and secure himself. As he was looking for shelter, he spied an open hulk, where, in the day-time, a cobbler and an herb-woman kept their shop. Creeping in as far as he could to conceal himself, until the watch was gone by, three fellows who that night designed to rob a cardinal's tomb, who was lately buried in the great church, had here hid their tools, and now came for them. De Jardin, hearing men talk, lay close, when one of them groping for the instruments, and often complaining of a horrible stench, at last catched De Jardin by the leg; the fright was equal on both sides, but the fellow had the courage to pull him out and see what sort of a creature lay dormant there. De Jardin had no reason to be ashamed of his clothes, his shirt was the worst, which was so offensive they forced him to denude, and considering he might be of use to them in their present design, and had possibly overheard part of their discourse, they obliged him to go along with them. Notwithstanding he was now as naked as ever he was born, yet the filth was thick crusted upon his skin, and the smell so noisome they could not endure it. For this one of them thought of a proper remedy: hard by there was a deep pond, with a long sweep and a bucket at the end of it, hither brought they De Jardin, and put him into the bucket and let him down into the pond, and told him as soon as he had washed himself clean he must pull the rope and they would draw him up. Whilst they staid for De Jardin, the watch came, it being very hot, to refresh themselves with some water, the only element that could be had at that late hour. His companions were forced to run for it, and the watch had now laid down their cloaks and halberts and drew up the bucket. De Jardin with a sudden spring leapt ashore, which struck such a panic of fear upon them that they fled, and left the pillage of the field, their cloaks and halberts, to De Jardin and his comrades.
Having now closed company again, they went directly to the Cardinal's tomb, and raised up the heavy marble; but a dispute arose who should go in :—one said he would not, 'Nor I,' says De Jardin, 'No' says one of them, 'wont you? but you shall, what did we bring you here for else?' By consent they forced De Jardin to go in, who reached them out his mitre, his crosier, and pulled off his gold fringed gloves, which were richly embroidered; he had heard them talk much of a diamond ring of great value; this he slipt off, and put upon his own finger, to secure something for fear of the worst; they still bid him look for the ring, he told them he could find none, they must come in, if they either suspected his honor or his honesty, and look for it themselves. I am sure, says one, it is said he had a very rich ring, feel upon t'other hand; while they were thus arguing the case, they heard a sudden noise in the church which they suspected might be some of the officers: this frightened them so that away they run, and let the stone fall down and left poor De Jardin intombed with the dead cardinal. This was a misfortune a thousand times worse than any that had yet befallen him: it was impossible for him to raise up the stone, and if he made a noise to discover himself, he should certainly be executed for sacrilege and robbing the dead, or else lie there and starve, or be poisoned with the stench of the corrupting body. It fortuned that the noise which frightened his companions, was from some persons then breaking into the church upon the same design. When they came to the tomb they raised up the marble, and strongly underpropped it, and put the same question which was before, each person unwilling to go in, 'what,' says a bold fellow, 'are you afraid the dead cardinal should bite you? I'll go in.' As he was letting himself down De Jardin catched fast hold of his legs : the fellow frighted out of his wits, cried out 'Help, help, the cardinal has caught me by the legs,' and struggling got out, and followed his companions, who every step he made expected the cardinal should catch him by his pole. This gave De Jardin an opportunity, who immediately quitted the church the same way he came in, and with one of the watchmen's cloaks walked about till morning. When it was light he inquired out his inn, where he borrowed some clothes and gave them a relation of his misfortunes, but not a word of the ring.
That evening he left Naples and set forward on his return for Guernsey, without the purchase of horse's tail, and though he had lost his money and clothes, he had a ring, whose value balanced the account.'