Heptameron: A Villager, His Wife, and the Priest

As this story is quite short, I've included more of the commentary at the end so tha tyou can get a sense of what the book itself is like, with social commentary at the end of each story. You can find the entire book online in various formats: The Heptameron of Margaret, Queen of Navarre.

[Notes by LKG]

This story is part of the Heptameron unit. Story source: The Heptameron of Margaret, Queen of Navarre, translated by Walter K. Kelly (1855).

A Villager, His Wife, and the Priest
(Day 3, Story 9)

Nomerfide began,  I shall relate to you a piece of cleverness exhibited by a priest through the prompting of love alone; for he was so ignorant in all other things, that he could hardly say mass."

THERE was at Carrelles, a village in the county of Maine, a rich husbandman who, in his old age, married a handsome young wife by whom he had no children, but she consoled herself for this disappointment with several friends. When gentlemen and persons of mark failed her, she reverted to her last resource, which was the church, and chose for the accomplice of her sin him who could absolve her — that is to say, her priest — who paid frequent visits to his sheep. The dull old husband suspected nothing, but as he was a rough and sturdy old fellow, she played her game as secretly as she could, being afraid that her husband would kill her if he came to know of it.

One day, when the husband was gone into the fields and his wife did not expect him back for some time, she sent for master parson to confess her, but during the time they were making good cheer together, the husband arrived so suddenly that the priest had not time to steal off. Intending then to hide, he went by the wife's directions up into a loft and covered the trap-hole in the floor by which he had got in with a winnowing basket.

Meanwhile the wife, who was afraid her husband might suspect something, regaled him well at dinner and plied him so well with wine that the good man, having taken a little drop too much and being fatigued with walking, fell asleep in a chair by the fireside. The priest, who found it dull work waiting in the loft, on ceasing to hear any noise in the room below, leaned over the trap-hole and, stretching out his neck as far as he could, saw that the good man was asleep.

But while making his observations, he inadvertently leaned with so much weight on the winnowing basket that down fell basket, priest and all, by the side of the good man and woke him up with the noise. But the priest was on his legs before the other had opened his eyes, and said, "There's your winnowing basket, gossip, and I'm much obliged to you," and so saying, he walked off.

The poor husbandman, quite bewildered, asked his wife what was the matter.

"It is your winnowing basket, my dear," she replied, "which the priest had borrowed and has now returned."

"It is a very clumsy way of returning what one has borrowed," said the good man, grumbling, "for I thought the house was falling."

In this way the priest saved himself at the expense of the husbandman, who objected to nothing but the abrupt manner in which his reverence had returned his winnowing basket. The master he served, ladies, saved him for that time, in order to possess and torment him longer.

"Do not imagine that simple folk are more exempt from craft than we are," said Geburon; "far from it, they have a great deal more. Look at thieves, murderers, sorcerers, false coiners, and other people of that sort, whose wits are always at work; they are all simple folk."

"I am not surprised that they have more craft than others," said Parlamente, "but I am surprised that, having their wits directed to so many other things, they can think of love. Is it not strange that so fine a passion can enter such vulgar hearts?"

"The poor, who have not wealth and honors like us, have in compensation more of the commodities of nature. Their viands are not so delicate as ours, but good appetite makes amends for that deficiency, and they fare better on coarse bread than we on dainties. Their beds are not so handsome or so well made as ours, but their sleep is sounder. Their ladies are neither painted nor decked out like ours whom we idolize, but they receive pleasure from them much oftener than we, without fearing any other tongues than those of the beasts and birds that see them. In a word, they lack what we have, and have abundance of what we have not." [...]

(700 words)

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