Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 25

How Panurge, Carpalin, Eusthenes, and Epistemon, the gentlemen attendants of Pantagruel, vanquished and discomfited six hundred and threescore horsemen very cunningly.


How six hundred and threescore horsemen were very cunningly vanquished and discomfited.

As he was speaking this, they perceived six hundred and threescore light horsemen, gallantly mounted, who made an outroad thither to see what ship it was that was newly arrived in the harbour, and came in a full gallop to take them if they had been able. Then said Pantagruel, My lads, retire yourselves unto the ship; here are some of our enemies coming apace, but I will kill them here before you like beasts, although they were ten times so many; in the meantime, withdraw yourselves, and take your sport at it. Then answered Panurge, No, sir; there is no reason that you should do so, but, on the contrary, retire you unto the ship, both you and the rest, for I alone will here discomfit them; but we must not linger; come, set forward. Whereunto the others said, It is well advised, sir; withdraw yourself, and we will help Panurge here, so shall you know what we are able to do. Then said Pantagruel, Well, I am content; but, if that you be too weak, I will not fail to come to your assistance. With this Panurge took two great cables of the ship and tied them to the kemstock or capstan which was on the deck towards the hatches, and fastened them in the ground, making a long circuit, the one further off, the other within that. Then said he to Epistemon, Go aboard the ship, and, when I give you a call, turn about the capstan upon the orlop diligently, drawing unto you the two cable-ropes; and said to Eusthenes and to Carpalin, My bullies, stay you here, and offer yourselves freely to your enemies. Do as they bid you, and make as if you would yield unto them, but take heed you come not within the compass of the ropes — be sure to keep yourselves free of them. And presently he went aboard the ship, and took a bundle of straw and a barrel of gunpowder, strewed it round about the compass of the cords, and stood by with a brand of fire or match lighted in his hand. Presently came the horsemen with great fury, and the foremost ran almost home to the ship, and, by reason of the slipperiness of the bank, they fell, they and their horses, to the number of four and forty; which the rest seeing, came on, thinking that resistance had been made them at their arrival. But Panurge said unto them, My masters, I believe that you have hurt yourselves; I pray you pardon us, for it is not our fault, but the slipperiness of the sea-water that is always flowing; we submit ourselves to your good pleasure. So said likewise his two other fellows, and Epistemon that was upon the deck. In the meantime Panurge withdrew himself, and seeing that they were all within the compass of the cables, and that his two companions were retired, making room for all those horses which came in a crowd, thronging upon the neck of one another to see the ship and such as were in it, cried out on a sudden to Epistemon, Draw, draw! Then began Epistemon to wind about the capstan, by doing whereof the two cables so entangled and empestered the legs of the horses, that they were all of them thrown down to the ground easily, together with their riders. But they, seeing that, drew their swords, and would have cut them; whereupon Panurge set fire to the train, and there burnt them up all like damned souls, both men and horses, not one escaping save one alone, who being mounted on a fleet Turkey courser, by mere speed in flight got himself out of the circle of the ropes. But when Carpalin perceived him, he ran after him with such nimbleness and celerity that he overtook him in less than a hundred paces; then, leaping close behind him upon the crupper of his horse, clasped him in his arms, and brought him back to the ship.

This exploit being ended, Pantagruel was very jovial, and wondrously commended the industry of these gentlemen, whom he called his fellow-soldiers, and made them refresh themselves and feed well and merrily upon the seashore, and drink heartily with their bellies upon the ground, and their prisoner with them, whom they admitted to that familiarity; only that the poor devil was somewhat afraid that Pantagruel would have eaten him up whole, which, considering the wideness of his mouth and capacity of his throat was no great matter for him to have done; for he could have done it as easily as you would eat a small comfit, he showing no more in his throat than would a grain of millet-seed in the mouth of an ass.

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