The Millers Tale

 

 

Adapted from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales

An old carpenter, John, owned a nice house in Oxford where he lived with his beautiful young wife, Alison. They had enough rooms that they could take in lodgers and a scholar called Nicholas occupied one of these rooms. He was a handsome young man, who took care with his appearance, kept his room beautifully neat and tidy and felt himself superior to those who laboured for a living. He was also about the same age as Alison.

Now it so happened that the carpenter often had to go away for a few days on business and it was at one of these times that young Nicholas noticed and made a pass at Alison. At first she refused his advances but eventually she succumbed and after a long and lingering kiss they decided to wait for the opportunity to consummate their passions.

But it also happened that another young man of the parish, the clerk, no less, also had eyes for Alison. His name was Absalom and he had a shock of red curly hair that stuck out from the side of his head making it look like he was wearing a fan on his head. To put it bluntly he was not blessed in the looks department, but he could play the lute rather well.

Absalom, ignoring the fact that Alison was married, decided one night to go and serenade her, under her bedroom window, waking both Alison and her husband John. Alison told him to go away but he didn't give up, continuing in his attempts to woo her, by sending her little gifts. He did not know that his attentions were lost on Alison, as she was in love with Nicholas the lodger.

On the next weekend that John went away Nicholas informed Alison that he had found a way to secure their time alone together. He planned to play a trick on the carpenter. When Alison begged for his assurance that it would work, he added that if he could not, with all his education, get the better of a carpenter, then his studies will have been worthless.

Nicholas locked himself away in his room in silence for the whole of the weekend, arousing the concerns of others in the house. When John returned home he was very concerned for the scholars welfare. He told his wife that he was concerned that Nicholas had studied too hard, for it is said that too much knowledge was a dangerous thing!

Eventually, after receiving no response to knocks upon the door, John and the servants broke into room to find out what was wrong with Nicholas only to find him sprawled over his bed as if in a trance. John then attempted to rouse Nicholas. The scholar, appearing dazed and confused explained that he his astrological charts indicated that there was to be a huge flood, in two days time, twice as bad as at the time when Noah built the ark. They could all be drowned if he had not found out and devised a plan!

Nicholas suggested that John find three kneading troughs big enough for each to sit in one as a canoe and fill each with enough food and drink to last for one day. He should tie these troughs to the eves of the barn roof, below the thatch and leave the barn doors open. When the floods came they would just cut the troughs free and sail away to safety.

John spent all of the rest of that day and much of the next fixing the troughs to the roofs, installing three ladders so that they could climb up to them and filling the vessels with provisions. He also sent his servants on an errand to a place that was built on high ground.

When the night of the foreseen flood came, Alison, John and Nicholas all climbed into their troughs in the rafters, and on the advise of Nicholas, lay quietly praying. John, exhausted from his hard work, soon fell asleep, and as soon as they heard his gently snores, Nicholas and Alison climbed down their ladders and went to bed where they spent the night exploring their passion.

But Absalom also came to visit Alison that night. He had noticed that John had been absent from church that weekend and realising that he had not been seen the next day either, he thought that if he serenaded Alison again, she might, with her husband away, accept his advances.

Absalon arrived at the carpenter's home and standing beneath the low bedroom window, he called out to her. She told him to go away but he asked for a kiss. Alison, in her frustration at being stopped from enjoying her pleasure with Nicholas, got out of bed and told Absalom to climb onto a barrel so that he can reach the window sill and to close his eyes. He did so and Alison stuck her bum out of the window. He kissed it and was disgusted at the taste and the smell that met his lips. He jumped down from the barrel and as he heard the giggles of Alison and Nicholas in the room, his love turned to hate and he swore revenge.

Absalon visited the local blacksmith, borrowed a hot branding iron and returned to the carpenter's house. Underneath the same window he called out that he would wish for another kiss in return for a gift. Alison asked what the gift was and he said it was a ring. She consented to a kiss if he would just close his eyes again, but as she was about to get out of bed, Nicholas signalled that he would go this time. Nicholas, on putting his bum through the window, let out a big fart. As he did so, Absalon placed the branding iron on his buttocks!

The ensuing yells and screams of 'Help, Water, Water' from Nicholas awoke John the carpenter in the trough in the barn. He cut his rope and fell, with the trough to the barn floor, breaking his leg as he did so. His agonised screams, and those of Nicholas, brought the neighbours from their homes. John kept rambling on about 'Nowell's Flood' , to which Alison and Nicholas, nursing a sore bum, did not respond. The whole affair became a village joke.