Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 17

How Panurge gained the pardons, and married the old women, and of the suit in law which he had at Paris.

One day I found Panurge very much out of countenance, melancholic, and silent; which made me suspect that he had no money; whereupon I said unto him, Panurge, you are sick, as I do very well perceive by your physiognomy, and I know the disease. You have a flux in your purse; but take no care. I have yet sevenpence halfpenny that never saw father nor mother, which shall not be wanting, no more than the pox, in your necessity. Whereunto he answered me, Well, well; for money one day I shall have but too much, for I have a philosopher’s stone which attracts money out of men’s purses as the adamant doth iron. But will you go with me to gain the pardons? said he. By my faith, said I, I am no great pardon-taker in this world — if I shall be any such in the other, I cannot tell; yet let us go, in God’s name; it is but one farthing more or less; But, said he, lend me then a farthing upon interest. No, no, said I; I will give it you freely, and from my heart. Grates vobis dominos, said he.

So we went along, beginning at St. Gervase, and I got the pardons at the first box only, for in those matters very little contenteth me. Then did I say my small suffrages and the prayers of St. Brigid; but he gained them all at the boxes, and always gave money to everyone of the pardoners. From thence we went to Our Lady’s Church, to St. John’s, to St. Anthony’s, and so to the other churches, where there was a banquet (bank) of pardons. For my part, I gained no more of them, but he at all the boxes kissed the relics, and gave at everyone. To be brief, when we were returned, he brought me to drink at the castle-tavern, and there showed me ten or twelve of his little bags full of money, at which I blessed myself, and made the sign of the cross, saying, Where have you recovered so much money in so little time? Unto which he answered me that he had taken it out of the basins of the pardons. For in giving them the first farthing, said he, I put it in with such sleight of hand and so dexterously that it appeared to be a threepence; thus with one hand I took threepence, ninepence, or sixpence at the least, and with the other as much, and so through all the churches where we have been. Yea but, said I, you damn yourself like a snake, and are withal a thief and sacrilegious person. True, said he, in your opinion, but I am not of that mind; for the pardoners do give me it, when they say unto me in presenting the relics to kiss, Centuplum accipies, that is, that for one penny I should take a hundred; for accipies is spoken according to the manner of the Hebrews, who use the future tense instead of the imperative, as you have in the law, Diliges Dominum, that is, Dilige. Even so, when the pardon-bearer says to me, Centuplum accipies, his meaning is, Centuplum accipe; and so doth Rabbi Kimy and Rabbi Aben Ezra expound it, and all the Massorets, et ibi Bartholus. Moreover, Pope Sixtus gave me fifteen hundred francs of yearly pension, which in English money is a hundred and fifty pounds, upon his ecclesiastical revenues and treasure, for having cured him of a cankerous botch, which did so torment him that he thought to have been a cripple by it all his life. Thus I do pay myself at my own hand, for otherwise I get nothing upon the said ecclesiastical treasure. Ho, my friend! said he, if thou didst know what advantage I made, and how well I feathered my nest, by the Pope’s bull of the crusade, thou wouldst wonder exceedingly. It was worth to me above six thousand florins, in English coin six hundred pounds. And what a devil is become of them? said I; for of that money thou hast not one halfpenny. They returned from whence they came, said he; they did no more but change their master.

But I employed at least three thousand of them, that is, three hundred pounds English, in marrying — not young virgins, for they find but too many husbands — but great old sempiternous trots which had not so much as one tooth in their heads; and that out of the consideration I had that these good old women had very well spent the time of their youth in playing at the close-buttock game to all comers, serving the foremost first, till no man would have any more dealing with them. And, by G — I will have their skin-coat shaken once yet before they die. By this means, to one I gave a hundred florins, to another six score, to another three hundred, according to that they were infamous, detestable, and abominable. For, by how much the more horrible and execrable they were, so much the more must I needs have given them, otherwise the devil would not have jummed them. Presently I went to some great and fat wood-porter, or such like, and did myself make the match. But, before I did show him the old hags, I made a fair muster to him of the crowns, saying, Good fellow, see what I will give thee if thou wilt but condescend to duffle, dinfredaille, or lecher it one good time. Then began the poor rogues to gape like old mules, and I caused to be provided for them a banquet, with drink of the best, and store of spiceries, to put the old women in rut and heat of lust. To be short, they occupied all, like good souls; only, to those that were horribly ugly and ill-favoured, I caused their head to be put within a bag, to hide their face.

Besides all this, I have lost a great deal in suits of law. And what lawsuits couldst thou have? said I; thou hast neither house nor lands. My friend, said he, the gentlewomen of this city had found out, by the instigation of the devil of hell, a manner of high-mounted bands and neckerchiefs for women, which did so closely cover their bosoms that men could no more put their hands under. For they had put the slit behind, and those neckcloths were wholly shut before, whereat the poor sad contemplative lovers were much discontented. Upon a fair Tuesday I presented a petition to the court, making myself a party against the said gentlewomen, and showing the great interest that I pretended therein, protesting that by the same reason I would cause the codpiece of my breeches to be sewed behind, if the court would not take order for it. In sum, the gentlewomen put in their defences, showing the grounds they went upon, and constituted their attorney for the prosecuting of the cause. But I pursued them so vigorously, that by a sentence of the court it was decreed those high neckcloths should be no longer worn if they were not a little cleft and open before; but it cost me a good sum of money. I had another very filthy and beastly process against the dung-farmer called Master Fifi and his deputies, that they should no more read privily the pipe, puncheon, nor quart of sentences, but in fair full day, and that in the Fodder schools, in face of the Arrian (Artitian) sophisters, where I was ordained to pay the charges, by reason of some clause mistaken in the relation of the sergeant. Another time I framed a complaint to the court against the mules of the presidents, counsellors, and others, tending to this purpose, that, when in the lower court of the palace they left them to champ on their bridles, some bibs were made for them (by the counsellors’ wives), that with their drivelling they might not spoil the pavement; to the end that the pages of the palace what play upon it with their dice, or at the game of coxbody, at their own ease, without spoiling their breeches at the knees. And for this I had a fair decree, but it cost me dear. Now reckon up what expense I was at in little banquets which from day to day I made to the pages of the palace. And to what end? said I. My friend, said he, thou hast no pastime at all in this world. I have more than the king, and if thou wilt join thyself with me, we will do the devil together. No, no, said I; by St. Adauras, that will I not, for thou wilt be hanged one time or another. And thou, said he, wilt be interred some time or other. Now which is most honourable, the air or the earth? Ho, grosse pecore!

Whilst the pages are at their banqueting, I keep their mules, and to someone I cut the stirrup-leather of the mounting side till it hang but by a thin strap or thread, that when the great puffguts of the counsellor or some other hath taken his swing to get up, he may fall flat on his side like a pork, and so furnish the spectators with more than a hundred francs’ worth of laughter. But I laugh yet further to think how at his home-coming the master-page is to be whipped like green rye, which makes me not to repent what I have bestowed in feasting them. In brief, he had, as I said before, three score and three ways to acquire money, but he had two hundred and fourteen to spend it, besides his drinking.

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