Story 61

December 31, 2020

On this last day of the year 2020, the last full day of storytelling in the Heptameron begins. Be sure to read this excellent introduction to the seventh day of stories written by Scott Francis, which includes a preview of coming attractions!

In today’s tale, which bears many similarities to the one that ended the sixth day, Saffredent tells of a married woman living near the town of Autun (in Burgundy) who falls in love with a wealthy canon and leaves her husband to be with him. Thrown into prison for her misdeeds by the bishop’s archdeacon, she agrees to return to her husband, but one day she pretends to be dying and, like the woman in story 60, crafts a convincing death-scene, writing a will, making a final confession, receiving last rites, and then asking to be left alone to rest. Once she is alone, she sneaks out of the house and walks to Autun with bare feet and wearing only her nightdress—hiding among the reeds and mud of a swamp when her husband rides by in pursuit of her—finds the canon and lives with him, again, for “fourteen or fifteen years.” The two live as husband and wife, have children, and even marry their daughter to a rich merchant. This case also comes before Claude de France, who is joined this time not only by Louise de Savoie but also by Marguerite—not yet Queen of Navarre, but Duchess of Alençon. The queen, regent, and duchess listen to the woman, who, “far from being ashamed,” has become “proud of the distinction of being mistress in such a rich man’s household.” They then call for the archdeacon, and he sends her back to prison. She finally repents and again returns to her husband, and the two spend the rest of their days together in happiness and peace.

Our storytellers disagree about whether the woman was motivated to repent by the regent’s gaze and words, by the discomfort of being in prison, or by the fact that the canon was, by this point, eighty years old and her husband was half his age!

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