Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 47

How the devil was deceived by an old woman of Pope-Figland.

The country lob trudged home very much concerned and thoughtful, you may swear; insomuch that his good woman, seeing him thus look moping, weened that something had been stolen from him at market; but when she had heard the cause of his affliction and seen his budget well lined with coin, she bade him be of good cheer, assuring him that he would be never the worse for the scratching bout in question; wishing him only to leave her to manage that business, and not trouble his head about it; for she had already contrived how to bring him off cleverly. Let the worst come to the worst, said the husbandman, it will be but a scratch; for I’ll yield at the first stroke, and quit the field. Quit a fart, replied the wife; he shall have none of the field. Rely upon me, and be quiet; let me alone to deal with him. You say he is a pimping little devil, that is enough; I will soon make him give up the field, I will warrant you. Indeed, had he been a great devil, it had been somewhat.

The day that we landed in the island happened to be that which the devil had fixed for the combat. Now the countryman having, like a good Catholic, very fairly confessed himself, and received betimes in the morning, by the advice of the vicar had hid himself, all but the snout, in the holy-water pot, in the posture in which we found him; and just as they were telling us this story, news came that the old woman had fooled the devil and gained the field. You may not be sorry, perhaps, to hear how this happened.

The devil, you must know, came to the poor man’s door, and rapping there, cried, So ho! ho, the house! ho, clodpate! where art thou? Come out with a vengeance; come out with a wannion; come out and be damned; now for clawing. Then briskly and resolutely entering the house, and not finding the countryman there, he spied his wife lying on the ground, piteously weeping and howling. What is the matter? asked the devil. Where is he? what does he? Oh! that I knew where he is, replied threescore and five; the wicked rogue, the butcherly dog, the murderer! He has spoiled me; I am undone; I die of what he has done me. How, cried the devil, what is it? I’ll tickle him off for you by-and-by. Alas! cried the old dissembler, he told me, the butcher, the tyrant, the tearer of devils told me that he had made a match to scratch with you this day, and to try his claws he did but just touch me with his little finger here betwixt the legs, and has spoiled me for ever. Oh! I am a dead woman; I shall never be myself again; do but see! Nay, and besides, he talked of going to the smith’s to have his pounces sharpened and pointed. Alas! you are undone, Mr. Devil; good sir, scamper quickly, I am sure he won’t stay; save yourself, I beseech you. While she said this she uncovered herself up to the chin, after the manner in which the Persian women met their children who fled from the fight, and plainly showed her what do ye call them. The frightened devil, seeing the enormous solution of the continuity in all its dimensions, blessed himself, and cried out, Mahon, Demiourgon, Megaera, Alecto, Persephone! ‘slife, catch me here when he comes! I am gone! ‘sdeath, what a gash! I resign him the field.

Having heard the catastrophe of the story, we retired a-shipboard, not being willing to stay there any longer. Pantagruel gave to the poor’s box of the fabric of the church eighteen thousand good royals, in commiseration of the poverty of the people and the calamity of the place.

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