Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 67

How Panurge berayed himself for fear; and of the huge cat Rodilardus, which he took for a puny devil.

Panurge, like a wild, addle-pated, giddy-goat, sallies out of the bread-room in his shirt, with nothing else about him but one of his stockings, half on, half off, about his heel, like a rough-footed pigeon; his hair and beard all bepowdered with crumbs of bread in which he had been over head and ears, and a huge and mighty puss partly wrapped up in his other stocking. In this equipage, his chaps moving like a monkey’s who’s a-louse-hunting, his eyes staring like a dead pig’s, his teeth chattering, and his bum quivering, the poor dog fled to Friar John, who was then sitting by the chain-wales of the starboard side of the ship, and prayed him heartily to take pity on him and keep him in the safeguard of his trusty bilbo; swearing, by his share of Papimany, that he had seen all hell broke loose.

Woe is me, my Jacky, cried he, my dear Johnny, my old crony, my brother, my ghostly father! all the devils keep holiday, all the devils keep their feast to-day, man. Pork and peas choke me if ever thou sawest preparations in thy life for an infernal feast. Dost thou see the smoke of hell’s kitchens? (This he said, showing him the smoke of the gunpowder above the ships.) Thou never sawest so many damned souls since thou wast born; and so fair, so bewitching they seem, that one would swear they are Stygian ambrosia. I thought at first, God forgive me! that they had been English souls; and I don’t know but that this morning the isle of Horses, near Scotland, was sacked, with all the English who had surprised it, by the lords of Termes and Essay.

Friar John, at the approach of Panurge, was entertained with a kind of smell that was not like that of gunpowder, nor altogether so sweet as musk; which made him turn Panurge about, and then he saw that his shirt was dismally bepawed and berayed with fresh sir-reverence. The retentive faculty of the nerve which restrains the muscle called sphincter (’tis the arse-hole, an it please you) was relaxated by the violence of the fear which he had been in during his fantastic visions. Add to this the thundering noise of the shooting, which seems more dreadful between decks than above. Nor ought you to wonder at such a mishap; for one of the symptoms and accidents of fear is, that it often opens the wicket of the cupboard wherein second-hand meat is kept for a time. Let’s illustrate this noble theme with some examples.

Messer Pantolfe de la Cassina of Siena, riding post from Rome, came to Chambery, and alighting at honest Vinet’s took one of the pitchforks in the stable; then turning to the innkeeper, said to him, Da Roma in qua io non son andato del corpo. Di gratia piglia in mano questa forcha, et fa mi paura. (I have not had a stool since I left Rome. I pray thee take this pitchfork and fright me.) Vinet took it, and made several offers as if he would in good earnest have hit the signor, but all in vain; so the Sienese said to him, Si tu non fai altramente, tu non fai nulla; pero sforzati di adoperarli piu guagliardamente. (If thou dost not go another way to work, thou hadst as good do nothing; therefore try to bestir thyself more briskly.) With this, Vinet lent him such a swinging stoater with the pitchfork souse between the neck and the collar of his jerkin, that down fell signor on the ground arsyversy, with his spindle shanks wide straggling over his poll. Then mine host sputtering, with a full-mouthed laugh, said to his guest, By Beelzebub’s bumgut, much good may it do you, Signore Italiano. Take notice this is datum Camberiaci, given at Chambery. ’Twas well the Sienese had untrussed his points and let down his drawers; for this physic worked with him as soon as he took it, and as copious was the evacuation as that of nine buffaloes and fourteen missificating arch-lubbers. Which operation being over, the mannerly Sienese courteously gave mine host a whole bushel of thanks, saying to him, Io ti ringratio, bel messere; cosi facendo tu m’ ai esparmiata la speza d’un servitiale. (I thank thee, good landlord; by this thou hast e’en saved me the expense of a clyster.)

I’ll give you another example of Edward V., King of England. Master Francis Villon, being banished France, fled to him, and got so far into his favour as to be privy to all his household affairs. One day the king, being on his close-stool, showed Villon the arms of France, and said to him, Dost thou see what respect I have for thy French kings? I have none of their arms anywhere but in this backside, near my close-stool. Ods-life, said the buffoon, how wise, prudent, and careful of your health your highness is! How carefully your learned doctor, Thomas Linacre, looks after you! He saw that now you grow old you are inclined to be somewhat costive, and every day were fain to have an apothecary, I mean a suppository or clyster, thrust into your royal nockandroe; so he has, much to the purpose, induced you to place here the arms of France; for the very sight of them puts you into such a dreadful fright that you immediately let fly as much as would come from eighteen squattering bonasi of Paeonia. And if they were painted in other parts of your house, by jingo, you would presently conskite yourself wherever you saw them. Nay, had you but here a picture of the great oriflamme of France, ods-bodikins, your tripes and bowels would be in no small danger of dropping out at the orifice of your posteriors. But henh, henh, atque iterum henh.

A silly cockney am I not,

As ever did from Paris come?

And with a rope and sliding knot

My neck shall know what weighs my bum.

A cockney of short reach, I say, shallow of judgment and judging shallowly, to wonder that you should cause your points to be untrussed in your chamber before you come into this closet. By’r lady, at first I thought your close-stool had stood behind the hangings of your bed; otherwise it seemed very odd to me you should untruss so far from the place of evacuation. But now I find I was a gull, a wittol, a woodcock, a mere ninny, a dolt-head, a noddy, a changeling, a calf-lolly, a doddipoll. You do wisely, by the mass, you do wisely; for had you not been ready to clap your hind face on the mustard-pot as soon as you came within sight of these arms — mark ye me, cop’s body — the bottom of your breeches had supplied the office of a close-stool.

Friar John, stopping the handle of his face with his left hand, did, with the forefinger of the right, point out Panurge’s shirt to Pantagruel, who, seeing him in this pickle, scared, appalled, shivering, raving, staring, berayed, and torn with the claws of the famous cat Rodilardus, could not choose but laugh, and said to him, Prithee what wouldst thou do with this cat? With this cat? quoth Panurge; the devil scratch me if I did not think it had been a young soft-chinned devil, which, with this same stocking instead of mitten, I had snatched up in the great hutch of hell as thievishly as any sizar of Montague college could have done. The devil take Tybert! I feel it has all bepinked my poor hide, and drawn on it to the life I don’t know how many lobsters’ whiskers. With this he threw his boar-cat down.

Go, go, said Pantagruel, be bathed and cleaned, calm your fears, put on a clean shift, and then your clothes. What! do you think I am afraid? cried Panurge. Not I, I protest. By the testicles of Hercules, I am more hearty, bold, and stout, though I say it that should not, than if I had swallowed as many flies as are put into plumcakes and other paste at Paris from Midsummer to Christmas. But what’s this? Hah! oh, ho! how the devil came I by this? Do you call this what the cat left in the malt, filth, dirt, dung, dejection, faecal matter, excrement, stercoration, sir-reverence, ordure, second-hand meats, fumets, stronts, scybal, or spyrathe? ’Tis Hibernian saffron, I protest. Hah, hah, hah! ’tis Irish saffron, by Shaint Pautrick, and so much for this time. Selah. Let’s drink.

End of Book IV

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