Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 43

How the scouts and fore-party of Picrochole were met with by Gargantua, and how the Monk slew Captain Drawforth (Tirevant.), and then was taken prisoner by his enemies.

Picrochole, at the relation of those who had escaped out of the broil and defeat wherein Tripet was untriped, grew very angry that the devils should have so run upon his men, and held all that night a counsel of war, at which Rashcalf and Touchfaucet (Hastiveau, Touquedillon.), concluded his power to be such that he was able to defeat all the devils of hell if they should come to jostle with his forces. This Picrochole did not fully believe, though he doubted not much of it. Therefore sent he under the command and conduct of the Count Drawforth, for discovering of the country, the number of sixteen hundred horsemen, all well mounted upon light horses for skirmish and thoroughly besprinkled with holy water; and everyone for their field-mark or cognizance had the sign of a star in his scarf, to serve at all adventures in case they should happen to encounter with devils, that by the virtue, as well of that Gregorian water as of the stars which they wore, they might make them disappear and evanish.

In this equipage they made an excursion upon the country till they came near to the Vauguyon, which is the valley of Guyon, and to the spital, but could never find anybody to speak unto; whereupon they returned a little back, and took occasion to pass above the aforesaid hospital to try what intelligence they could come by in those parts. In which resolution riding on, and by chance in a pastoral lodge or shepherd’s cottage near to Coudray hitting upon the five pilgrims, they carried them way-bound and manacled, as if they had been spies, for all the exclamations, adjurations, and requests that they could make. Being come down from thence towards Seville, they were heard by Gargantua, who said then unto those that were with him, Comrades and fellow-soldiers, we have here met with an encounter, and they are ten times in number more than we. Shall we charge them or no? What a devil, said the monk, shall we do else? Do you esteem men by their number rather than by their valour and prowess? With this he cried out, Charge, devils, charge! Which when the enemies heard, they thought certainly that they had been very devils, and therefore even then began all of them to run away as hard as they could drive, Drawforth only excepted, who immediately settled his lance on its rest, and therewith hit the monk with all his force on the very middle of his breast, but, coming against his horrific frock, the point of the iron being with the blow either broke off or blunted, it was in matter of execution as if you had struck against an anvil with a little wax-candle.

Then did the monk with his staff of the cross give him such a sturdy thump and whirret betwixt his neck and shoulders, upon the acromion bone, that he made him lose both sense and motion and fall down stone dead at his horse’s feet; and, seeing the sign of the star which he wore scarfwise, he said unto Gargantua, These men are but priests, which is but the beginning of a monk; by St. John, I am a perfect monk, I will kill them to you like flies. Then ran he after them at a swift and full gallop till he overtook the rear, and felled them down like tree-leaves, striking athwart and alongst and every way. Gymnast presently asked Gargantua if they should pursue them. To whom Gargantua answered, By no means; for, according to right military discipline, you must never drive your enemy unto despair, for that such a strait doth multiply his force and increase his courage, which was before broken and cast down; neither is there any better help or outrage of relief for men that are amazed, out of heart, toiled, and spent, than to hope for no favour at all. How many victories have been taken out of the hands of the victors by the vanquished, when they would not rest satisfied with reason, but attempt to put all to the sword, and totally to destroy their enemies, without leaving so much as one to carry home news of the defeat of his fellows. Open, therefore, unto your enemies all the gates and ways, and make to them a bridge of silver rather than fail, that you may be rid of them. Yea, but, said Gymnast, they have the monk. Have they the monk? said Gargantua. Upon mine honour, then, it will prove to their cost. But to prevent all dangers, let us not yet retreat, but halt here quietly as in an ambush; for I think I do already understand the policy and judgment of our enemies. They are truly more directed by chance and mere fortune than by good advice and counsel. In the meanwhile, whilst these made a stop under the walnut-trees, the monk pursued on the chase, charging all he overtook, and giving quarter to none, until he met with a trooper who carried behind him one of the poor pilgrims, and there would have rifled him. The pilgrim, in hope of relief at the sight of the monk, cried out, Ha, my lord prior, my good friend, my lord prior, save me, I beseech you, save me! Which words being heard by those that rode in the van, they instantly faced about, and seeing there was nobody but the monk that made this great havoc and slaughter among them, they loaded him with blows as thick as they use to do an ass with wood. But of all this he felt nothing, especially when they struck upon his frock, his skin was so hard. Then they committed him to two of the marshal’s men to keep, and, looking about, saw nobody coming against them, whereupon they thought that Gargantua and his party were fled. Then was it that they rode as hard as they could towards the walnut-trees to meet with them, and left the monk there all alone, with his two foresaid men to guard him. Gargantua heard the noise and neighing of the horses, and said to his men, Comrades, I hear the track and beating of the enemy’s horse-feet, and withal perceive that some of them come in a troop and full body against us. Let us rally and close here, then set forward in order, and by this means we shall be able to receive their charge to their loss and our honour.


Comrades, said Gargantua to his men, I hear the enemies’ horse-feet; let us rally and close here, then set forward in order, and by this means we shall be able to receive their charge to their loss and our honour.

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