[Notes by LKG]
This story is part of the Decameron unit. Story source: The Decameron by Boccaccio, translated by J. M. Rigg (1903).
Girolamo and Salvestra (cont.)
(see previous page for audio)To Paris accordingly our ardent lover went and there, under one pretext or another, was kept for two years. He returned more in love than ever to find his Salvestra married to a good youth that was a tent-maker, whereat his mortification knew no bounds. But, seeing that what must be must be, he sought to compose his mind, and, having got to know where she lived, he took to crossing her path, according to the wont of young men in love, thinking that she could no more have forgotten him than he her.
'Twas otherwise, however: she remembered him no more than if she had never seen him, or, if she had any recollection of him, she dissembled it, whereof the young man was very soon ware, to his extreme sorrow. Nevertheless he did all that he could to recall himself to her mind but, as thereby he seemed to be nothing advantaged, he made up his mind, though he should die for it, to speak to her himself.
So, being instructed as to her house by a neighbour, he entered it privily one evening when she and her husband were gone to spend the earlier hours with some neighbours, and hid himself in her room behind some tent-cloths that were stretched there, and waited till they were come back, and gone to bed, and he knew the husband to be asleep. Whereupon he got him to the place where he had seen Salvestra lie down and said as he gently laid his hand upon her bosom: "O my soul, art thou yet asleep?"
The girl was awake and was on the point of uttering a cry when he forestalled her, saying: "Hush! for God's sake. I am thy Girolamo."
Whereupon she, trembling in every limb: "Nay, but for God's sake, Girolamo, begone: 'tis past, the time of our childhood, when our love was excusable. Thou seest I am married, wherefore 'tis no longer seemly that I should care for any other man than my husband, and so by the one God, I pray thee, begone, for, if my husband were to know that thou art here, the least evil that could ensue would be that I should never more be able to live with him in peace or comfort, whereas, having his love, I now pass my days with him in tranquil happiness."
Which speech caused the young man grievous distress, but 'twas in vain that he reminded her of the past and of his love that distance had not impaired, and therewith mingled many a prayer and the mightiest protestations. Wherefore, yearning for death, he besought her at last that she would suffer him to lie a while beside her till he got some heat, for he was chilled through and through, waiting for her, and promised her that he would say never a word to her nor touch her, and that as soon as he was a little warmed he would go away. On which terms Salvestra, being not without pity for him, granted his request.
So the young man lay down beside her and touched her not, but, gathering up into one thought the love he had so long borne her, the harshness with which she now requited it, and his ruined hopes, resolved to live no longer, and in a convulsion, without a word and with fists clenched, expired by her side.
After a while the girl, marvelling at his continence and fearing lest her husband should awake, broke silence, saying: "Nay, but, Girolamo, why goest thou not?"
But, receiving no answer, she supposed that he slept. Wherefore, reaching forth her hand to arouse him, she touched him and found him to her great surprise cold as ice, and touching him again and again somewhat rudely, and still finding that he did not stir, she knew that he was dead.
Her grief was boundless, and 'twas long before she could bethink her how to act. But at last she resolved to sound her husband's mind as to what should be done in such a case without disclosing that 'twas his own. So she awakened him and told him how he was then bested, as if it were the affair of another, and then asked him, if such a thing happened to her, what course he would take.