Story 55

December 25, 2020

In our tale for today—Christmas—Nomerfide tells about a wealthy merchant who, feeling guilty on his deathbed about the way he has acquired his riches and hoping to appease God, asks his wife to sell one of his horses and give the proceeds to the poor. Note that it becomes clear later in the story that the “poor” here are the “poor mendicants,” i.e., the Franciscans. The man’s clever widow manages to fulfill his wishes but keep most of the money for herself and her children by selling his “fine Spanish horse” and her “excellent cat” as a package deal, charging one ducat for the horse and ninety-nine for the cat, and giving to the mendicants only a single ducat!

Readers today may find the woman’s actions a bit Scrooge-like—Geburon certainly does—but Parlamente and Oisille express strong approval, pointing out that she was driven not by greed but by a desire to support her family and that her husband was motivated not by generosity but only by a desire to placate God. Referencing Paul, Oisille states that “He who reads men’s hearts will not be deceived, and He will judge them not only according to their works, but according to the faith and charity that they have shown towards him.” The word only in this sentence—non seulement selon leurs euvres in the original French—suggests, however, that works are not entirely without value…

Maria Colino’s last panel for this story shows the widow waving good-bye to the poor mendicants, who creep dejectedly away with their single ducat.

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