January 10, 2021
As the eighth day begins, our storytellers regret the fact that the bridge whose completion they await will be finished in two or three days and they will be able to journey back to their homes. “[T]hey would have liked it to take longer,” we read, “so that they might continue to enjoy the happy life they were leading.” But they resolve to make the most of their remaining time together, and so Parlamente begins the day with the story that ends up being the second-to-last tale in the collection.
For some thoughts on the missing stories, Marguerite de Navarre’s goals for the Heptameron, and her legacy, be sure to read Jonathan Reid’s Introduction to the Eighth Day!
In today’s tale, which brings us back to Amboise, a dissolute saddle-maker (to Marguerite de Navarre) who is married to a good woman receives the distressing news that his wife is near death. As he attends her on her deathbed and laments her coming demise, he calls to a chambermaid in the room, tells her to take his keys, to look after his house and children, and to do the housekeeping for him, then throws her on the bed so that they can “get to know one another a bit better.” Roused by his attempt to replace her while she is still alive, his wife, who has not spoken for two days, shakes her fist and shouts, “I’m not dead yet! I’m not dead yet! […] Swine! Brute! I’m not dead yet!” Her anger heals her, and she lives to reproach her husband for the rest of their lives for not loving her enough.
One thought on “Story 71”
Here is a different humorous twist on the theme of the husband, wife, and chambermaid narrative we saw in story 8, where the wife took the place of her chambermaid in bed, thus deceiving her husband, whom she confronted later on, in order to mend their marriage. In this story, the chambermaid is left by herself to fight off a drunkard husband, and chooses not to, probably out of a variety of reasons: fear of losing her livelihood if she refuses him and is sent away, or because she thinks he will rape her anyway and she doesn’t have the strength to fight him, or because she might be better off acquiescing and accepting to keep serving him…At any rate, the humor comes from the wife rising almost from the dead, which might be the only way to scare the husband into better behavior…Of course, Hircan, Saffredent and Simontault refuse to give women any good points no matter what Parlemente, Longarine and Nomerfide argue about that man’s lack of morals or fear of God…