Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 36

A continuation of the answer of the Ephectic and Pyrrhonian philosopher Trouillogan.

You speak wisely, quoth Panurge, if the moon were green cheese. Such a tale once pissed my goose. I do not think but that I am let down into that dark pit in the lowermost bottom whereof the truth was hid, according to the saying of Heraclitus. I see no whit at all, I hear nothing, understand as little, my senses are altogether dulled and blunted; truly I do very shrewdly suspect that I am enchanted. I will now alter the former style of my discourse, and talk to him in another strain. Our trusty friend, stir not, nor imburse any; but let us vary the chance, and speak without disjunctives. I see already that these loose and ill-joined members of an enunciation do vex, trouble, and perplex you.

Now go on, in the name of God! Should I marry?

Trouillogan. There is some likelihood therein.

Panurge. But if I do not marry?

Trouil. I see in that no inconvenience.

Pan. You do not?

Trouil. None, truly, if my eyes deceive me not.

Pan. Yea, but I find more than five hundred.

Trouil. Reckon them.

Pan. This is an impropriety of speech, I confess; for I do no more thereby but take a certain for an uncertain number, and posit the determinate term for what is indeterminate. When I say, therefore, five hundred, my meaning is many.

Trouil. I hear you.

Pan. Is it possible for me to live without a wife, in the name of all the subterranean devils?

Trouil. Away with these filthy beasts.

Pan. Let it be, then, in the name of God; for my Salmigondinish people use to say, To lie alone, without a wife, is certainly a brutish life. And such a life also was it assevered to be by Dido in her lamentations.

Trouil. At your command.

Pan. By the pody cody, I have fished fair; where are we now? But will you tell me? Shall I marry?

Trouil. Perhaps.

Pan. Shall I thrive or speed well withal?

Trouil. According to the encounter.

Pan. But if in my adventure I encounter aright, as I hope I will, shall I be fortunate?

Trouil. Enough.

Pan. Let us turn the clean contrary way, and brush our former words against the wool: what if I encounter ill?

Trouil. Then blame not me.

Pan. But, of courtesy, be pleased to give me some advice. I heartily beseech you, what must I do?

Trouil. Even what thou wilt.

Pan. Wishy, washy; trolly, trolly.

Trouil. Do not invocate the name of anything, I pray you.

Pan. In the name of God, let it be so! My actions shall be regulated by the rule and square of your counsel. What is it that you advise and counsel me to do?

Trouil. Nothing.

Pan. Shall I marry?

Trouil. I have no hand in it.

Pan. Then shall I not marry?

Trouil. I cannot help it.

Pan. If I never marry, I shall never be a cuckold.

Trouil. I thought so.

Pan. But put the case that I be married.

Trouil. Where shall we put it?

Pan. Admit it be so, then, and take my meaning in that sense.

Trouil. I am otherwise employed.

Pan. By the death of a hog, and mother of a toad, O Lord! if I durst hazard upon a little fling at the swearing game, though privily and under thumb, it would lighten the burden of my heart and ease my lights and reins exceedingly. A little patience nevertheless is requisite. Well then, if I marry, I shall be a cuckold.

Trouil. One would say so.

Pan. Yet if my wife prove a virtuous, wise, discreet, and chaste woman, I shall never be cuckolded.

Trouil. I think you speak congruously.

Pan. Hearken.

Trouil. As much as you will.

Pan. Will she be discreet and chaste? This is the only point I would be resolved in.

Trouil. I question it.

Pan. You never saw her?

Trouil. Not that I know of.

Pan. Why do you then doubt of that which you know not?

Trouil. For a cause.

Pan. And if you should know her.

Trouil. Yet more.

Pan. Page, my pretty little darling, take here my cap — I give it thee. Have a care you do not break the spectacles that are in it. Go down to the lower court. Swear there half an hour for me, and I shall in compensation of that favour swear hereafter for thee as much as thou wilt. But who shall cuckold me?

Trouil. Somebody.

Pan. By the belly of the wooden horse at Troy, Master Somebody, I shall bang, belam thee, and claw thee well for thy labour.

Trouil. You say so.

Pan. Nay, nay, that Nick in the dark cellar, who hath no white in his eye, carry me quite away with him if, in that case, whensoever I go abroad from the palace of my domestic residence, I do not, with as much circumspection as they use to ring mares in our country to keep them from being sallied by stoned horses, clap a Bergamasco lock upon my wife.

Trouil. Talk better.

Pan. It is bien chien, chie chante, well cacked and cackled, shitten, and sung in matter of talk. Let us resolve on somewhat.

Trouil. I do not gainsay it.

Pan. Have a little patience. Seeing I cannot on this side draw any blood of you, I will try if with the lancet of my judgment I be able to bleed you in another vein. Are you married, or are you not?

Trouil. Neither the one nor the other, and both together.

Pan. O the good God help us! By the death of a buffle-ox, I sweat with the toil and travail that I am put to, and find my digestion broke off, disturbed, and interrupted, for all my phrenes, metaphrenes, and diaphragms, back, belly, midriff, muscles, veins, and sinews are held in a suspense and for a while discharged from their proper offices to stretch forth their several powers and abilities for incornifistibulating and laying up into the hamper of my understanding your various sayings and answers.

Trouil. I shall be no hinderer thereof.

Pan. Tush, for shame! Our faithful friend, speak; are you married?

Trouil. I think so.

Pan. You were also married before you had this wife?

Trouil. It is possible.

Pan. Had you good luck in your first marriage?

Trouil. It is not impossible.

Pan. How thrive you with this second wife of yours?

Trouil. Even as it pleaseth my fatal destiny.

Pan. But what, in good earnest? Tell me — do you prosper well with her?

Trouil. It is likely.

Pan. Come on, in the name of God. I vow, by the burden of Saint Christopher, that I had rather undertake the fetching of a fart forth of the belly of a dead ass than to draw out of you a positive and determinate resolution. Yet shall I be sure at this time to have a snatch at you, and get my claws over you. Our trusty friend, let us shame the devil of hell, and confess the verity. Were you ever a cuckold? I say, you who are here, and not that other you who playeth below in the tennis-court?

Trouil. No, if it was not predestinated.

Pan. By the flesh, blood, and body, I swear, reswear, forswear, abjure, and renounce, he evades and avoids, shifts, and escapes me, and quite slips and winds himself out of my grips and clutches.

At these words Gargantua arose and said, Praised be the good God in all things, but especially for bringing the world into that height of refinedness beyond what it was when I first came to be acquainted therewith, that now the learnedst and most prudent philosophers are not ashamed to be seen entering in at the porches and frontispieces of the schools of the Pyrrhonian, Aporrhetic, Sceptic, and Ephectic sects. Blessed be the holy name of God! Veritably, it is like henceforth to be found an enterprise of much more easy undertaking to catch lions by the neck, horses by the main, oxen by the horns, bulls by the muzzle, wolves by the tail, goats by the beard, and flying birds by the feet, than to entrap such philosophers in their words. Farewell, my worthy, dear, and honest friends.

When he had done thus speaking, he withdrew himself from the company. Pantagruel and others with him would have followed and accompanied him, but he would not permit them so to do. No sooner was Gargantua departed out of the banqueting-hall than that Pantagruel said to the invited guests: Plato’s Timaeus, at the beginning always of a solemn festival convention, was wont to count those that were called thereto. We, on the contrary, shall at the closure and end of this treatment reckon up our number. One, two, three; where is the fourth? I miss my friend Bridlegoose. Was not he sent for? Epistemon answered that he had been at his house to bid and invite him, but could not meet with him; for that a messenger from the parliament of Mirlingois, in Mirlingues, was come to him with a writ of summons to cite and warn him personally to appear before the reverend senators of the high court there, to vindicate and justify himself at the bar of the crime of prevarication laid to his charge, and to be peremptorily instanced against him in a certain decree, judgment, or sentence lately awarded, given, and pronounced by him; and that, therefore, he had taken horse and departed in great haste from his own house, to the end that without peril or danger of falling into a default or contumacy he might be the better able to keep the prefixed and appointed time.

I will, quoth Pantagruel, understand how that matter goeth. It is now above forty years that he hath been constantly the judge of Fonsbeton, during which space of time he hath given four thousand definitive sentences, of two thousand three hundred and nine whereof, although appeal was made by the parties whom he had judicially condemned from his inferior judicatory to the supreme court of the parliament of Mirlingois, in Mirlingues, they were all of them nevertheless confirmed, ratified, and approved of by an order, decree, and final sentence of the said sovereign court, to the casting of the appellants, and utter overthrow of the suits wherein they had been foiled at law, for ever and a day. That now in his old age he should be personally summoned, who in all the foregoing time of his life hath demeaned himself so unblamably in the discharge of the office and vocation he had been called unto, it cannot assuredly be that such a change hath happened without some notorious misfortune and disaster. I am resolved to help and assist him in equity and justice to the uttermost extent of my power and ability. I know the malice, despite, and wickedness of the world to be so much more nowadays exasperated, increased, and aggravated by what it was not long since, that the best cause that is, how just and equitable soever it be, standeth in great need to be succoured, aided, and supported. Therefore presently, from this very instant forth, do I purpose, till I see the event and closure thereof, most heedfully to attend and wait upon it, for fear of some underhand tricky surprisal, cavilling pettifoggery, or fallacious quirks in law, to his detriment, hurt, or disadvantage.

Then dinner being done, and the tables drawn and removed, when Pantagruel had very cordially and affectionately thanked his invited guests for the favour which he had enjoyed of their company, he presented them with several rich and costly gifts, such as jewels, rings set with precious stones, gold and silver vessels, with a great deal of other sort of plate besides, and lastly, taking of them all his leave, retired himself into an inner chamber.

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