Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 43

How Pantagruel excuseth Bridlegoose in the matter of sentencing actions at law by the chance of the dice.

With this Bridlegoose held his peace. Whereupon Trinquamelle bid him withdraw from the court — which accordingly was done — and then directed his discourse to Pantagruel after this manner: It is fitting, most illustrious prince, not only by reason of the deep obligations wherein this present parliament, together with the whole marquisate of Mirelingues, stand bound to your royal highness for the innumerable benefits which, as effects of mere grace, they have received from your incomparable bounty, but for that excellent wit also, prime judgment, and admirable learning wherewith Almighty God, the giver of all good things, hath most richly qualified and endowed you, we tender and present unto you the decision of this new, strange, and paradoxical case of Bridlegoose; who, in your presence, to your both hearing and seeing, hath plainly confessed his final judging and determinating of suits of law by the mere chance and fortune of the dice. Therefore do we beseech you that you may be pleased to give sentence therein as unto you shall seem most just and equitable. To this Pantagruel answered: Gentlemen, it is not unknown to you how my condition is somewhat remote from the profession of deciding law controversies; yet, seeing you are pleased to do me the honour to put that task upon me, instead of undergoing the office of a judge I will become your humble supplicant. I observe, gentlemen, in this Bridlegoose several things which induce me to represent before you that it is my opinion he should be pardoned. In the first place, his old age; secondly, his simplicity; to both which qualities our statute and common laws, civil and municipal together, allow many excuses for any slips or escapes which, through the invincible imperfection of either, have been inconsiderately stumbled upon by a person so qualified. Thirdly, gentlemen, I must needs display before you another case, which in equity and justice maketh much for the advantage of Bridlegoose, to wit, that this one, sole, and single fault of his ought to be quite forgotten, abolished, and swallowed up by that immense and vast ocean of just dooms and sentences which heretofore he hath given and pronounced; his demeanours, for these forty years and upwards that he hath been a judge, having been so evenly balanced in the scales of uprightness, that envy itself till now could not have been so impudent as to accuse and twit him with any act worthy of a check or reprehension; as, if a drop of the sea were thrown into the Loire, none could perceive or say that by this single drop the whole river should be salt and brackish.

Truly, it seemeth unto me, that in the whole series of Bridlegoose’s juridical decrees there hath been I know not what of extraordinary savouring of the unspeakable benignity of God, that all those his preceding sentences, awards, and judgments, have been confirmed and approved of by yourselves in this your own venerable and sovereign court. For it is usual, as you know well, with him whose ways are inscrutable, to manifest his own ineffable glory in blunting the perspicacy of the eyes of the wise, in weakening the strength of potent oppressors, in depressing the pride of rich extortioners, and in erecting, comforting, protecting, supporting, upholding, and shoring up the poor, feeble, humble, silly, and foolish ones of the earth. But, waiving all these matters, I shall only beseech you, not by the obligations which you pretend to owe to my family, for which I thank you, but for that constant and unfeigned love and affection which you have always found in me, both on this and on the other side of Loire, for the maintenance and establishment of your places, offices, and dignities, that for this one time you would pardon and forgive him upon these two conditions. First, that he satisfy, or put a sufficient surety for the satisfaction of the party wronged by the injustice of the sentence in question. For the fulfilment of this article I will provide sufficiently. And, secondly, that for his subsidiary aid in the weighty charge of administrating justice you would be pleased to appoint and assign unto him some pretty little virtuous counsellor, younger, learneder, and wiser than he, by the square and rule of whose advice he may regulate, guide, temper, and moderate in times coming all his judiciary procedures; or otherwise, if you intend totally to depose him from his office, and to deprive him altogether of the state and dignity of a judge, I shall cordially entreat you to make a present and free gift of him to me, who shall find in my kingdoms charges and employments enough wherewith to embusy him, for the bettering of his own fortunes and furtherance of my service. In the meantime, I implore the Creator, Saviour, and Sanctifier of all good things, in his grace, mercy, and kindness, to preserve you all now and evermore, world without end.

These words thus spoken, Pantagruel, vailing his cap and making a leg with such a majestic garb as became a person of his paramount degree and eminency, farewelled Trinquamelle, the president and master-speaker of that Mirelinguesian parliament, took his leave of the whole court, and went out of the chamber; at the door whereof finding Panurge, Epistemon, Friar John, and others, he forthwith, attended by them, walked to the outer gate, where all of them immediately took horse to return towards Gargantua. Pantagruel by the way related to them from point to point the manner of Bridlegoose’s sententiating differences at law. Friar John said that he had seen Peter Dandin, and was acquainted with him at that time when he sojourned in the monastery of Fontaine le Comte, under the noble Abbot Ardillon. Gymnast likewise affirmed that he was in the tent of the grand Christian cavalier De Crissie, when the Gascon, after his sleep, made answer to the adventurer. Panurge was somewhat incredulous in the matter of believing that it was morally possible Bridlegoose should have been for such a long space of time so continually fortunate in that aleatory way of deciding law debates. Epistemon said to Pantagruel, Such another story, not much unlike to that in all the circumstances thereof, is vulgarly reported of the provost of Montlehery. In good sooth, such a perpetuity of good luck is to be wondered at. To have hit right twice or thrice in a judgment so given by haphazard might have fallen out well enough, especially in controversies that were ambiguous, intricate, abstruse, perplexed, and obscure.

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