The Mouse in the Basket





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Translated from 'La Sorisete des Estopes', from Nouveau Receuil complet des Fabliaux, ed. Willem Noomen, vol. 6 (Assen/Maastricht, 1991), pp. 173-83. Translation copyright H. J. Nicholson.

One manuscript survives. Dates from the thirteenth century, probably the first half.

Now I'll tell you a tale about a foolish peasant, who took a wife and knew nothing about the amusement which goes with taking a wife, because he had never been involved with it before. But his wife already knew how to do all that people should know, because, to tell the truth, the priest used to have his way with her, when he wished and it pleased her. And when it came to the day that she was joined to her husband, the priest said to her: 'My dear, don't get upset, but if it's possible I want to sleep with you before that peasant touches you.' She replied, 'Willingly, sir; I don't dare refuse you. But come quickly without delay when you know that it's going to happen, before my husband does it to me, because I don't want to lose your approval.' So it was decided.

A little after this the peasant came to bed. But she didn't care much for him, his amusement or his pleasure. He took her in his arms, and hugged her tight - that was the only way he knew - and laid her right out full length beneath him. But she fended him off, and said, 'What are you wanting to do?'

'I want to get my willy out and fuck you if I can,' he said, 'if I can get at your cunt.'

She replied immediately, 'My cunt? You won't find my cunt.'

'Where is it, then? Don't hide it!'

'Sir,' she said, 'as you want to know, by my soul! I will tell you where it is: hidden at the foot of my mother's bed. I left it there this morning.'

'Then, by St Martin, I'll go and fetch it, if that's the only way to get it!'

He waited no longer, but set out to find her cunt. But the town where his wife had been born was more than a league away. While the peasant was gone for the cunt, the chaplain came and laid down in the bed, with great joy and delight, and did whatever pleased him. But it is not worth going into detail about how the peasant was tricked: you never saw such a fool!

When he came to his wife's mother's house, he said to her: 'My dear lady, your daughter has sent me here for her cunt, which she says she hid at the foot of your bed.'

The lady thought a little, and realised that her daughter had deceived him and was up to no good. She went into the bedchamber and found a basket full of yarn. 'Whoever is to blame,' she said, 'I'll give him this basket.' She picked up the basket; not knowing that in the basket a female mouse was hidden, well wrapped up in the yarn. She gave him the basket, and he thrust it under his cape and hurried away as quickly as possible to return back the way he had come.

When he came out on to the heath, he said an astonishing thing: 'I don't know whether my wife's cunt is asleep or awake, by St Paul; but if I could have what I want, I would very willingly fuck it before I get back home, if I wasn't afraid that it would escape from me on the way. But I will fuck it anyway, to see whether it's true what they say that the cunt is a very gentle and tender beast.'

Then he lifted the end of his willy and it was as straight as a lance. He shoved it into the yarn, and began to rummage about. The mouse leapt out of the basket, and ran away through the field. The peasant ran after her at a great pace. He thought that she was teasing him. 'God, such a lovely beast!' he said, 'I'm sure that she's not yet acting like an adult; she's only just been born - I see clearly that she is very small. I commend her to God and the Holy Spirit and the Saviour! I'm sure that she was afraid of my willy; she was really alarmed, by God's eyes, when she saw it all black and its muzzle in front all red. Alas, now I realise that she was very frightened of it! Poor thing, what a great loss it will be to me if she dies, Holy Mary! If she's fallen in the ditch, she's already lost and drowned; her stomach and all her back and sides are all soaked! No, good lord God, no! What will I do if she dies?' The peasant wrung his hands over the squealing, squeaking mouse. Anyone who could have seen him pouting and pulling on his cheek in his distress would have thought of the grimaces a monkey makes when he laughs.

Very gently, the peasant said, 'pretty cunt, sweet cunt, come back quickly! Believe me, if I can have you back safe out of the dew I will not touch you again until I get back home and hand you over to my wife. What a great laugh there will be if it's discovered that you escaped from me! Alas, pretty cunt, you'll be drowned in the heavy dew! Come and climb into my glove, and I'll put you inside the breast of my shirt!' But he laboured in vain, because no matter what he said, she did not wish to return; instead, she disappeared into the thick grass.

When he saw that he had lost her, he became downcast and sad. He set off on his way, not stopping until he reached his house. Without saying a word or anything, he took off his shoes and socks and sat down on a bench. You can be sure that he was not happy! His wife said to him, 'Good sir, what's wrong? I don't hear you speak a word! Aren't you safe and well?'

'I am not, lady,' said the peasant, who was still taking off his trousers and getting undressed. She lifted the bedcover up for him, and he leapt in next to her and lay down with his back to her, saying no more than a monk who has taken a vow of silence. He lay flat out.

When she saw that he was mute and hadn't a word to say, she said at once, 'Sir, don't you have my cunt, then?'

'I don't, lady, I don't, I don't! I wish I'd never gone to look for it. While I was outside it fell on to the ground, and has drowned in the meadows.'

'Oh,' she cried, 'you're teasing me!'

'I certainly am not, lady!' he replied.

She took him into her arms. 'Sir,' she said, 'don't worry about it; he must have been scared of you, because he didn't recognise you, and I think you wanted to do something which he didn't like. If you had him now, tell me, what would you do?'

'I would fuck him, by my faith! I would strike him right in the eye and smash it, in return for the trouble he's given me!'

She at once replied: 'Sir, he is already between my legs. But I wouldn't wish for the whole of Étampes that he should be so badly treated when he has returned to your hands so sweetly and quietly!'

The peasant stretched out his hand, and took hold of it and said, 'I'm holding him in my hands.'

'Now stroke him gently,' she said, 'so that he doesn't get away from you again, and don't be afraid that he'll bite you. Hold him so that he doesn't escape!'

'True, because what I think is, if our cat meets him,' said the peasant, 'may God never have mercy on me if the cat doesn't eat him!' Then he began to stroke him, and felt that he was damp. 'Oh, dear, he is still wet from the dew where he fell in it! Ah, ah,' the peasant said, 'how angry you have made me today!'

'But I'm never going to complain about him being covered in dew. Now you rest and go to sleep, because I don't want you troubling yourself any more today; you are tired from running about.'

I want to point out through this fable that a woman knows more than a devil. You can be certain of this, and may both my eyes be put out if I'm not telling what I know to be the truth! When she wants to deceive a man, she deceives him and makes him more of a fool solely by talking than a man can do by all his ingenuity. The ending of my fable is that each should guard himself against his own woman so that she doesn't make him a cuckold!