With the last rays of sunset fading from the flowering hillsides of June, as she did many evenings, Jeanne Boulet sat keeping watch over her family’s flock. Like most girls of fourteen years, Jeanne spent her idle hours considering what future the fates might have planned for her and what prospects for marriage might present themselves. On this particular evening however, fanciful imaginings were put aside as she debated whether or not to return home. It was not uncommon for the young shepherdess to spend the night in the company of her sheep; although her vigil was due in large part to a summer night’s solitude being preferable to the combative atmosphere of her household.
Vain and selfish, Jeanne’s mother, Claudette, believed she’d been forced to marry well below her anticipated station in life. Expressing disappointment with an ever-present scowl, even as a woman grown to maturity she continued to fantasize of life as an ingénue. Garbed in the latest fashions Paris might offer, in her daydreams she would wander the grand hallways of the royal court always the focus of a passionate intrigue. In these moments, when so distantly drawn from her farm-life fate, Claudette was almost bearable company.
Of late however, the matron’s mood turned toward the darkly morose with escalating outbursts of uncontrolled violence. Striking out with her hands and throwing about tableware, Claudette’s behavior was becoming ever more erratic. So bad had it become that for all of the past week Jeanne feared to share a roof with her, considering herself better off far removed from her mother’s presence.
Jeanne’s father however, was of completely opposite temperament. Lacking any formal education, Françoise was a simple man. Good of heart and honest, he did not share his wife’s disposition for violence. Only when earnestly threatened or provoked would he place his hands upon another. What he did want was for his family to have those comforts they desired, but unfortunately could only provide those resulting from his endless hours of labor.
Loving his daughter dearly for her vibrant personality and ability to find charm in the common things life might offer; in Françoise’s eyes Jeanne could do no wrong. Yet being forever on the receiving end of his wife’s saber edged tongue, he lived in dread of provoking her and coming to his daughter’s defense, which seemed almost daily of late, inevitably resulted in another of Claudette’s hysterical episodes. So as to avoid engaging her mother’s brawling temperament, and likely a beating for abandoning her charges in exchange for mere comforts of the hearth, Jeanne elected to remain another night among her flock.