Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 14

How the Furred Law-cats live on corruption.

Friar John had hardly said those words ere he perceived seventy-eight galleys and frigates just arriving at the port. So he hied him thither to learn some news; and as he asked what goods they had o’ board, he soon found that their whole cargo was venison, hares, capons, turkeys, pigs, swine, bacon, kids, calves, hens, ducks, teals, geese, and other poultry and wildfowl.

He also spied among these some pieces of velvet, satin, and damask. This made him ask the new-comers whither and to whom they were going to carry those dainty goods. They answered that they were for Gripe-men-all and the Furred Law-cats.

Pray, asked he, what is the true name of all these things in your country language? Corruption, they replied. If they live on corruption, said the friar, they will perish with their generation. May the devil be damned, I have it now: their fathers devoured the good gentlemen who, according to their state of life, used to go much a-hunting and hawking, to be the better inured to toil in time of war; for hunting is an image of a martial life, and Xenophon was much in the right of it when he affirmed that hunting had yielded a great number of excellent warriors, as well as the Trojan horse. For my part, I am no scholar; I have it but by hearsay, yet I believe it. Now the souls of those brave fellows, according to Gripe-men-all’s riddle, after their decease enter into wild boars, stags, roebucks, herns, and such other creatures which they loved, and in quest of which they went while they were men; and these Furred Law-cats, having first destroyed and devoured their castles, lands, demesnes, possessions, rents, and revenues, are still seeking to have their blood and soul in another life. What an honest fellow was that same mumper who had forewarned us of all these things, and bid us take notice of the mangers above the racks!

But, said Panurge to the new-comers, how do you come by all this venison? Methinks the great king has issued out a proclamation strictly inhibiting the destroying of stags, does, wild boars, roebucks, or other royal game, on pain of death. All this is true enough, answered one for the rest, but the great king is so good and gracious, you must know, and these Furred Law-cats so curst and cruel, so mad, and thirsting after Christian blood, that we have less cause to fear in trespassing against that mighty sovereign’s commands than reason to hope to live if we do not continually stop the mouths of these Furred Law-cats with such bribes and corruption. Besides, added he, to-morrow Gripe-men-all marries a furred law-puss of his to a high and mighty double-furred law-tybert. Formerly we used to call them chop-hay; but alas! they are not such neat creatures now as to eat any, or chew the cud. We call them chop-hares, chop-partridges, chop-woodcocks, chop-pheasants, chop-pullets, chop-venison, chop-coneys, chop-pigs, for they scorn to feed on coarser meat. A t — d for their chops, cried Friar John, next year we’ll have ‘em called chop-dung, chop-stront, chop-filth.

Would you take my advice? added he to the company. What is it? answered we. Let’s do two things, returned he. First, let us secure all this venison and wild fowl — I mean, paying well for them; for my part, I am but too much tired already with our salt meat, it heats my flanks so horribly. In the next place, let’s go back to the wicket, and destroy all these devilish Furred Law-cats. For my part, quoth Panurge, I know better things; catch me there, and hang me. No, I am somewhat more inclined to be fearful than bold; I love to sleep in a whole skin.

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