Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 13

How Panurge solved Gripe-men-all’s riddle.

Gripe-men-all, as if he had not heard what Friar John said, directed his discourse to Panurge, saying to him, Well, what have you to say for yourself, Mr. Rogue-enough, hah? Give, give me out of hand — an answer. Say? quoth Panurge; why, what would you have me say? I say that we are damnably beshit, since you give no heed at all to the equity of the plea, and the devil sings among you. Let this answer serve for all, I beseech you, and let us go out about our business; I am no longer able to hold out, as gad shall judge me.

Go to, go to, cried Gripe-men-all; when did you ever hear that for these three hundred years last past anybody ever got out of this weel without leaving something of his behind him? No, no, get out of the trap if you can without losing leather, life, or at least some hair, and you will have done more than ever was done yet. For why, this would bring the wisdom of the court into question, as if we had took you up for nothing, and dealt wrongfully by you. Well, by hook or by crook, we must have something out of you. Look ye, it is a folly to make a rout for a fart and ado; one word is as good as twenty. I have no more to say to thee, but that, as thou likest thy former entertainment, thou wilt tell me more of the next; for it will go ten times worse with thee unless, by gold, you give me — a solution to the riddle I propounded. Give, give — it, without any more ado.

By gold, quoth Panurge, ’tis a black mite or weevil which is born of a white bean, and sallies out at the hole which he makes gnawing it; the mite being turned into a kind of fly, sometimes walks and sometimes flies over hills and dales. Now Pythagoras, the philosopher, and his sect, besides many others, wondering at its birth in such a place (which makes some argue for equivocal generation), thought that by a metempsychosis the body of that insect was the lodging of a human soul. Now, were you men here, after your welcomed death, according to his opinion, your souls would most certainly enter into the body of mites or weevils; for in your present state of life you are good for nothing in the world but to gnaw, bite, eat, and devour all things, so in the next you’ll e’en gnaw and devour your mother’s very sides, as the vipers do. Now, by gold, I think I have fairly solved and resolved your riddle.

May my bauble be turned into a nutcracker, quoth Friar John, if I could not almost find in my heart to wish that what comes out at my bunghole were beans, that these evil weevils might feed as they deserve.

Panurge then, without any more ado, threw a large leathern purse stuffed with gold crowns (ecus au soleil) among them.

The Furred Law-cats no sooner heard the jingling of the chink but they all began to bestir their claws, like a parcel of fiddlers running a division; and then fell to’t, squimble, squamble, catch that catch can. They all said aloud, These are the fees, these are the gloves; now, this is somewhat like a tansy. Oh! ’twas a pretty trial, a sweet trial, a dainty trial. O’ my word, they did not starve the cause. These are none of your snivelling forma pauperis’s; no, they are noble clients, gentlemen every inch of them. By gold, it is gold, quoth Panurge, good old gold, I’ll assure you.

Saith Gripe-men-all, The court, upon a full hearing (of the gold, quoth Panurge), and weighty reasons given, finds the prisoners not guilty, and accordingly orders them to be discharged out of custody, paying their fees. Now, gentlemen, proceed, go forwards, said he to us; we have not so much of the devil in us as we have of his hue; though we are stout, we are merciful.

As we came out at the wicket, we were conducted to the port by a detachment of certain highland griffins, scribere cum dashoes, who advised us before we came to our ships not to offer to leave the place until we had made the usual presents, first to the Lady Gripe-men-all, then to all the Furred Law-pusses; otherwise we must return to the place from whence we came. Well, well, said Friar John, we’ll fumble in our fobs, examine every one of us his concern, and e’en give the women their due; we’ll ne’er boggle or stick out on that account; as we tickled the men in the palm, we’ll tickle the women in the right place. Pray, gentlemen, added they, don’t forget to leave somewhat behind you for us poor devils to drink your healths. O lawd! never fear, answered Friar John, I don’t remember that I ever went anywhere yet where the poor devils are not remembered and encouraged.

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