Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 20

How Goatsnose by signs maketh answer to Panurge.

Goatsnose being sent for, came the day thereafter to Pantagruel’s court; at his arrival to which Panurge gave him a fat calf, the half of a hog, two puncheons of wine, one load of corn, and thirty francs of small money; then, having brought him before Pantagruel, in presence of the gentlemen of the bed-chamber he made this sign unto him. He yawned a long time, and in yawning made without his mouth with the thumb of his right hand the figure of the Greek letter Tau by frequent reiterations. Afterwards he lifted up his eyes to heavenwards, then turned them in his head like a she-goat in the painful fit of an absolute birth, in doing whereof he did cough and sigh exceeding heavily. This done, after that he had made demonstration of the want of his codpiece, he from under his shirt took his placket-racket in a full grip, making it therewithal clack very melodiously betwixt his thighs; then, no sooner had he with his body stooped a little forwards, and bowed his left knee, but that immediately thereupon holding both his arms on his breast, in a loose faint-like posture, the one over the other, he paused awhile. Goatsnose looked wistly upon him, and having heedfully enough viewed him all over, he lifted up into the air his left hand, the whole fingers whereof he retained fistwise close together, except the thumb and the forefinger, whose nails he softly joined and coupled to one another. I understand, quoth Pantagruel, what he meaneth by that sign. It denotes marriage, and withal the number thirty, according to the profession of the Pythagoreans. You will be married. Thanks to you, quoth Panurge, in turning himself towards Goatsnose, my little sewer, pretty master’s mate, dainty bailie, curious sergeant-marshal, and jolly catchpole-leader. Then did he lift higher up than before his said left hand, stretching out all the five fingers thereof, and severing them as wide from one another as he possibly could get done. Here, says Pantagruel, doth he more amply and fully insinuate unto us, by the token which he showeth forth of the quinary number, that you shall be married. Yea, that you shall not only be affianced, betrothed, wedded, and married, but that you shall furthermore cohabit and live jollily and merrily with your wife; for Pythagoras called five the nuptial number, which, together with marriage, signifieth the consummation of matrimony, because it is composed of a ternary, the first of the odd, and binary, the first of the even numbers, as of a male and female knit and united together. In very deed it was the fashion of old in the city of Rome at marriage festivals to light five wax tapers; nor was it permitted to kindle any more at the magnific nuptials of the most potent and wealthy, nor yet any fewer at the penurious weddings of the poorest and most abject of the world. Moreover, in times past, the heathen or paynims implored the assistance of five deities, or of one helpful, at least, in five several good offices to those that were to be married. Of this sort were the nuptial Jove, Juno, president of the feast, the fair Venus, Pitho, the goddess of eloquence and persuasion, and Diana, whose aid and succour was required to the labour of child-bearing. Then shouted Panurge, O the gentle Goatsnose, I will give him a farm near Cinais, and a windmill hard by Mirebalais! Hereupon the dumb fellow sneezeth with an impetuous vehemency and huge concussion of the spirits of the whole body, withdrawing himself in so doing with a jerking turn towards the left hand. By the body of a fox new slain, quoth Pantagruel, what is that? This maketh nothing for your advantage; for he betokeneth thereby that your marriage will be inauspicious and unfortunate. This sneezing, according to the doctrine of Terpsion, is the Socratic demon. If done towards the right side, it imports and portendeth that boldly and with all assurance one may go whither he will and do what he listeth, according to what deliberation he shall be pleased to have thereupon taken; his entries in the beginning, progress in his proceedings, and success in the events and issues will be all lucky, good, and happy. The quite contrary thereto is thereby implied and presaged if it be done towards the left. You, quoth Panurge, do take always the matter at the worst, and continually, like another Davus, casteth in new disturbances and obstructions; nor ever yet did I know this old paltry Terpsion worthy of citation but in points only of cosenage and imposture. Nevertheless, quoth Pantagruel, Cicero hath written I know not what to the same purpose in his Second Book of Divination.

Panurge then, turning himself towards Goatsnose, made this sign unto him. He inverted his eyelids upwards, wrenched his jaws from the right to the left side, and drew forth his tongue half out of his mouth. This done, he posited his left hand wholly open, the mid-finger wholly excepted, which was perpendicularly placed upon the palm thereof, and set it just in the room where his codpiece had been. Then did he keep his right hand altogether shut up in a fist, save only the thumb, which he straight turned backwards directly under the right armpit, and settled it afterwards on that most eminent part of the buttocks which the Arabs call the Al-Katim. Suddenly thereafter he made this interchange: he held his right hand after the manner of the left, and posited it on the place wherein his codpiece sometime was, and retaining his left hand in the form and fashion of the right, he placed it upon his Al-Katim. This altering of hands did he reiterate nine several times; at the last whereof he reseated his eyelids into their own first natural position. Then doing the like also with his jaws and tongue, he did cast a squinting look upon Goatsnose, diddering and shivering his chaps, as apes use to do nowadays, and rabbits, whilst, almost starved with hunger, they are eating oats in the sheaf.

Then was it that Goatsnose, lifting up into the air his right hand wholly open and displayed, put the thumb thereof, even close unto its first articulation, between the two third joints of the middle and ring fingers, pressing about the said thumb thereof very hard with them both, and, whilst the remanent joints were contracted and shrunk in towards the wrist, he stretched forth with as much straightness as he could the fore and little fingers. That hand thus framed and disposed of he laid and posited upon Panurge’s navel, moving withal continually the aforesaid thumb, and bearing up, supporting, or under-propping that hand upon the above-specified fore and little fingers, as upon two legs. Thereafter did he make in this posture his hand by little and little, and by degrees and pauses, successively to mount from athwart the belly to the stomach, from whence he made it to ascend to the breast, even upwards to Panurge’s neck, still gaining ground, till, having reached his chin, he had put within the concave of his mouth his afore-mentioned thumb; then fiercely brandishing the whole hand, which he made to rub and grate against his nose, he heaved it further up, and made the fashion as if with the thumb thereof he would have put out his eyes. With this Panurge grew a little angry, and went about to withdraw and rid himself from this ruggedly untoward dumb devil. But Goatsnose in the meantime, prosecuting the intended purpose of his prognosticatory response, touched very rudely, with the above-mentioned shaking thumb, now his eyes, then his forehead, and after that the borders and corners of his cap. At last Panurge cried out, saying, Before God, master fool, if you do not let me alone, or that you will presume to vex me any more, you shall receive from the best hand I have a mask wherewith to cover your rascally scroundrel face, you paltry shitten varlet. Then said Friar John, He is deaf, and doth not understand what thou sayest unto him. Bulliballock, make sign to him of a hail of fisticuffs upon the muzzle.

What the devil, quoth Panurge, means this busy restless fellow? What is it that this polypragmonetic ardelion to all the fiends of hell doth aim at? He hath almost thrust out mine eyes, as if he had been to poach them in a skillet with butter and eggs. By God, da jurandi, I will feast you with flirts and raps on the snout, interlarded with a double row of bobs and finger-fillipings! Then did he leave him in giving him by way of salvo a volley of farts for his farewell. Goatsnose, perceiving Panurge thus to slip away from him, got before him, and, by mere strength enforcing him to stand, made this sign unto him. He let fall his right arm toward his knee on the same side as low as he could, and, raising all the fingers of that hand into a close fist, passed his dexter thumb betwixt the foremost and mid fingers thereto belonging. Then scrubbing and swingeing a little with his left hand alongst and upon the uppermost in the very bough of the elbow of the said dexter arm, the whole cubit thereof, by leisure, fair and softly, at these thumpatory warnings, did raise and elevate itself even to the elbow, and above it; on a sudden did he then let it fall down as low as before, and after that, at certain intervals and such spaces of time, raising and abasing it, he made a show thereof to Panurge. This so incensed Panurge that he forthwith lifted his hand to have stricken him the dumb roister and given him a sound whirret on the ear, but that the respect and reverence which he carried to the presence of Pantagruel restrained his choler and kept his fury within bounds and limits. Then said Pantagruel, If the bare signs now vex and trouble you, how much more grievously will you be perplexed and disquieted with the real things which by them are represented and signified! All truths agree and are consonant with one another. This dumb fellow prophesieth and foretelleth that you will be married, cuckolded, beaten, and robbed. As for the marriage, quoth Panurge, I yield thereto, and acknowledge the verity of that point of his prediction; as for the rest, I utterly abjure and deny it: and believe, sir, I beseech you, if it may please you so to do, that in the matter of wives and horses never any man was predestinated to a better fortune than I.

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