Gesta Romanorum Vol. I (1871)/Of the Measure of Temptation, and of Skill



Macrobius relates, (38) that a certain soldier, in consequence of something he had witnessed, suspected his wife of transferring her affections from himself to another. He interrogated her on the subject, but she vehemently and loudly denied it. Not satisfied with her asseverations, the soldier enquired for a cunning clerk; and having found such as he wanted, he proposed to him the question which disturbed his rest. The clerk answered, "Unless I am permitted to see and converse with the lady, I cannot take upon me to decide." "I pray you, then," said the soldier, "dine with me to-day, and I will give you the opportunity you require." Accordingly the clerk went to the soldier's house to dinner. The meal being concluded, our clerk entered into conversation with the suspected lady, and spoke to her on various topics. This done, he took hold of her hand; and, as if accidentally, pressed his finger upon her pulse. Then, in a careless tone, adverting to the person whom she was presumed to love, her pulse immediately quickened to a surprizing degree, and acquired a feverish heat. By and by the clerk mentioned her husband, and spoke of him in much the same way as he had done of the other; when the motion of her pulse abated, and its heat was entirely lost. Whereby he plainly perceived that her affections were alienated; and, moreover, that they were placed upon the very person respecting whom she had been accused. Thus, by the management of a learned clerk, the soldier ascertained the truth of his suspicion.


My beloved, the soldier is Christ, who, having warred in our behalf against the devil, was joined to the soul in baptism, which is emblemed by the wife. That wife too often regards another—that is, the world. As the motion of the pulse revealed the lady's attachment, so does the beating of the heart, our love of worldly vanities.

Note 38.Page 148.

Macrobius, I believe, furnishes no relation resembling the present: nor is it likely, perhaps.