Neifile told the eighth story of the fourth day.
Girolamo’s father was a wealthy merchant, who died shortly after Girolamo was born leaving him to be raised by his mother and guardians. He grew up playing with the neighborhood children, taking particular interest in the tailor’s daughter Salvestra. As they grew up their friendship turned into a passionate love. He was fourteen when his mother found out that he was in love with Salvestra; she immediately punished him, but found that ineffective, so she complained to his guardians. She begged his guardians to send him off far away on business, so that he could forget about her and fall in love with a more appropriate match. The guardians agreed.
Girolamo’s guardians sat him down and affectionately told him that it was time that he go to Paris and learn how to manage his own wealth. Paris would bring him many advantages both socially and financially, and when he learned everything that he needed to know he could return home. Girolamo refused to go despite all of their begging. His mother was furious and scolded him severely, but once she realized that her anger would not change his mind she adopted a more sweet and praising tone. She managed to convince him to go to Paris for one year.
His mother and guardians managed to detain him in Paris for two years, but that did not deter his burning love for Salvestra. When he finally returned home he found out that Salvestra had married a tentmaker; Girolamo was overwhelmed with sadness. He found out where she lived and like other lovesick youths he began pacing in front of her house believing that she could not have forgotten about the love that they had shared. He soon realized that she did not remember him at all, which frustrated him to the point of endangering his life by talking to her directly.
He snuck into her house while she and her husband were gone and hid in her bedroom. The couple came home and went to bed; when Girolamo was sure that Salvestra’s husband was asleep he went over to Salvestra and placed his hand on her breast. She was about to scream out when Girolamo identified himself, which surprised her. She told him to go away. He was hurt that she could so cruelly cast him off. He begged her to let him warm himself at her side, because he had gotten chilly while waiting for her, and after promising not to touch her or say a word she let him. He no longer wished to live, so he clenched his fists, “suppressed his vital spirits” and died (346).
It took a while for Salvestra to realize that Girolamo was dead, but when she did finally discover it she was very distressed. She decided to awaken her husband and asked him what she should do if her ex ever came over in the middle of the night, begged her to return to him, and then died next to her. He told her that the man should be carried to his own house, so that she would not be blamed for his death. Salvestra then took her husband’s hand and put it on Girolamo’s body. Her husband immediately got up and put Girolamo over his shoulder and took him to Girolamo’s house and left him on the doorstep.
When the body of Girolamo was discovered his mother was overtaken by grief. Physicians looked over the body and determined that he had died from grief. His body was taken to the church and many people came to mourn him. Salvestra and her husband went to the church to hear what was being said about Girolamo’s death to make sure that they had not been implicated. While mingling amongst the women in the church Salvestra caught sight of Girolamo’s face and all her old feelings of love came rushing back. She went up to his body and threw herself down upon it. She died instantly of grief. Her husband was deeply grieved, but after a while he told those around him what had happened the previous night between his wife and Girolamo. Salvestra and Girolamo were buried together in the same tomb.
Boccaccio, Giovanni. The Decameron. New York: Signet Classic, 1982.