And a-noon þe creature was stabelyd in hir wyttys & in her reson as wel as euyr sche was be-forn, and preyd hir husbond as so soon as he cam to hir þat sche myght haue þe keys of þe botery [buttery] to takyn hir mete & drynke as sche had don be-forn. Hyr maydens & hir kepars cownseld hym he xulde [should] delyuyr hir no keys, for þei seyd sche wold but 3eue [give] away swech [such] good as þer was, for sche wyst not what sche seyde as þei wende [thought]. Neuyr-þe-les, hir husbond, euyr hauyng tendyrnes & compassyon of hir, comawndyd þei xulde delyuyr to hyr þe keyys.
That delivery of the household keys marks Margery Kempe's recovery from the madness which had kept her confined to her bed for eight months following the birth of her first child. The keys embody the circumscribed, but real, authority over her household, its resources and its servants which, as a married woman of the urban elite, she might normally expect. Her servants, perhaps aware of the sometimes inconvenient consequences of religious conversion, fear that Margery, like other urban holy women, will engage in excessive charity, but at this stage her vocation takes less dramatic forms, and she is content to resume her former role in the household. Margery does not tell us what she did with the keys once she had regained them. Her Book is interested in housewifery only when it can be shown to have spiritual significance, as when Margery undertakes the nursing of her aged husband as a penance for her earlier sins (p. 181). Margery and her amanuenses assume that she is of interest only insofar as she is not a housewife, and her later spiritual career demands that she leave the house and her duties there. This chapter is about the life she refused, and about everything symbolized by her keys.
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