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The Canterbury Tales: The Reeve's Tale

The Canterbury Tales: The Reeve's Tale


by Geoffrey Chaucer

The Canterbury Tales: The Reeve's Tale Lines 414 – 470 Summary

  • "You false harlot!" cries the miller, "have you? Ah, false traitor! False clerk! You shall die, by God's dignity! Who dares be so bold as to disparage my daughter, come of such highborn lineage?"
  • He catches Aleyn by the throat and handles him roughly, hitting him on the nose with his fist.
  • The bloody stream runs down his body, his nose, and mouth broken.
  • The two men wallow like pigs in a bag searching for food. They writhe up and down until the miller stumbles on a stone and falls backward on his wife.
  • She knows nothing about this silly fight, for she has fallen asleep, exhausted by her all-night labors with John the clerk.
  • Starting suddenly from her sleep, she cries out, "Help! Holy cross of Bromeholm! Lord, I call out to you!"
  • "My heart is broken! Help, I am surely dead! One lies on my stomach, the other on my head! Help, Symkyn, for the false clerks are fighting!"
  • John gets up as quickly as he can, groping on the walls to find a staff.
  • The wife gets up also. She knows the room better than John, and quickly finds a staff on the wall.
  • She sees a little shimmering of light through a hole in which the moon casts its beams. By that light, she sees both of the men (her husband and Aleyn), but does not know which one is which.
  • She sees a white thing out of the corner of her eye, though, and thinks it's a nightcap belonging to the clerk.
  • With the staff, she creeps closer and closer, and then she strikes her husband on his bald, white head.
  • He falls down and cries out, "Help! I die!"
  • The clerks beat him hard, and leave him lying there.
  • They get dressed, then take their horses and their meal and go on their way.
  • When they pass the mill, they take their cake made of half a bushel's worth of flour, well baked.
  • The proud miller was thoroughly beaten. He has received no pay for grinding the wheat, and has certainly paid well for Aleyn and John's supper with the beating they gave him.
  • His wife has been screwed, and so has his daughter.
  • It's in a miller's nature to be dishonest. Therefore, the proverb is well said that goes "An evil end will come to an evil man."
  • A cheater shall himself be cheated.
  • And may God, who sits high in heaven, save all this company, both great and small!
  • So have I requited the Miller's tale with my own.

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