Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 34

How Gargantua left the city of Paris to succour his country, and how Gymnast encountered with the enemy.

In this same very hour Gargantua, who was gone out of Paris as soon as he had read his father’s letters, coming upon his great mare, had already passed the Nunnery-bridge, himself, Ponocrates, Gymnast, and Eudemon, who all three, the better to enable them to go along with him, took post-horses. The rest of his train came after him by even journeys at a slower pace, bringing with them all his books and philosophical instruments. As soon as he had alighted at Parille, he was informed by a farmer of Gouguet how Picrochole had fortified himself within the rock Clermond, and had sent Captain Tripet with a great army to set upon the wood of Vede and Vaugaudry, and that they had already plundered the whole country, not leaving cock nor hen, even as far as to the winepress of Billard. These strange and almost incredible news of the enormous abuses thus committed over all the land, so affrighted Gargantua that he knew not what to say nor do. But Ponocrates counselled him to go unto the Lord of Vauguyon, who at all times had been their friend and confederate, and that by him they should be better advised in their business. Which they did incontinently, and found him very willing and fully resolved to assist them, and therefore was of opinion that they should send some one of his company to scout along and discover the country, to learn in what condition and posture the enemy was, that they might take counsel, and proceed according to the present occasion. Gymnast offered himself to go. Whereupon it was concluded, that for his safety and the better expedition, he should have with him someone that knew the ways, avenues, turnings, windings, and rivers thereabout. Then away went he and Prelingot, the equerry or gentleman of Vauguyon’s horse, who scouted and espied as narrowly as they could upon all quarters without any fear. In the meantime Gargantua took a little refreshment, ate somewhat himself, the like did those who were with him, and caused to give to his mare a picotine of oats, that is, three score and fourteen quarters and three bushels. Gymnast and his comrade rode so long, that at last they met with the enemy’s forces, all scattered and out of order, plundering, stealing, robbing, and pillaging all they could lay their hands on. And, as far off as they could perceive him, they ran thronging upon the back of one another in all haste towards him, to unload him of his money, and untruss his portmantles. Then cried he out unto them, My masters, I am a poor devil, I desire you to spare me. I have yet one crown left. Come, we must drink it, for it is aurum potabile, and this horse here shall be sold to pay my welcome. Afterwards take me for one of your own, for never yet was there any man that knew better how to take, lard, roast, and dress, yea, by G — to tear asunder and devour a hen, than I that am here: and for my proficiat I drink to all good fellows. With that he unscrewed his borracho (which was a great Dutch leathern bottle), and without putting in his nose drank very honestly. The maroufle rogues looked upon him, opening their throats a foot wide, and putting out their tongues like greyhounds, in hopes to drink after him; but Captain Tripet, in the very nick of that their expectation, came running to him to see who it was. To him Gymnast offered his bottle, saying, Hold, captain, drink boldly and spare not; I have been thy taster, it is wine of La Faye Monjau. What! said Tripet, this fellow gibes and flouts us? Who art thou? said Tripet. I am, said Gymnast, a poor devil (pauvre diable). Ha, said Tripet, seeing thou art a poor devil, it is reason that thou shouldst be permitted to go whithersoever thou wilt, for all poor devils pass everywhere without toll or tax. But it is not the custom of poor devils to be so well mounted; therefore, sir devil, come down, and let me have your horse, and if he do not carry me well, you, master devil, must do it: for I love a life that such a devil as you should carry me away.

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Last updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 15:33