Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 16

How Pantagruel came to the island of the Apedefers, or Ignoramuses, with long claws and crooked paws, and of terrible adventures and monsters there.

As soon as we had cast anchor and had moored the ship, the pinnace was put over the ship’s side and manned by the coxswain’s crew. When the good Pantagruel had prayed publicly, and given thanks to the Lord that had delivered him from so great a danger, he stepped into it with his whole company to go on shore, which was no ways difficult to do, for, as the sea was calm and the winds laid, they soon got to the cliffs. When they were set on shore, Epistemon, who was admiring the situation of the place and the strange shape of the rocks, discovered some of the natives. The first he met had on a short purple gown, a doublet cut in panes, like a Spanish leather jerkin, half sleeves of satin, and the upper part of them leather, a coif like a black pot tipped with tin. He was a good likely sort of a body, and his name, as we heard afterwards, was Double-fee. Epistemon asked him how they called those strange craggy rocks and deep valleys. He told them it was a colony brought out of Attorneyland, and called Process, and that if we forded the river somewhat further beyond the rocks we should come into the island of the Apedefers. By the memory of the decretals, said Friar John, tell us, I pray you, what you honest men here live on? Could not a man take a chirping bottle with you to taste your wine? I can see nothing among you but parchment, ink-horns, and pens. We live on nothing else, returned Double-fee; and all who live in this place must come through my hands. How, quoth Panurge, are you a shaver, then? Do you fleece ‘em? Ay, ay, their purse, answered Double-fee; nothing else. By the foot of Pharaoh, cried Panurge, the devil a sou will you get of me. However, sweet sir, be so kind as to show an honest man the way to those Apedefers, or ignorant people, for I come from the land of the learned, where I did not learn over much.

Still talking on, they got to the island of the Apedefers, for they were soon got over the ford. Pantagruel was not a little taken up with admiring the structure and habitation of the people of the place. For they live in a swingeing wine-press, fifty steps up to it. You must know there are some of all sorts, little, great, private, middle-sized, and so forth. You go through a large peristyle, alias a long entry set about with pillars, in which you see, in a kind of landscape, the ruins of almost the whole world, besides so many great robbers’ gibbets, so many gallows and racks, that ’tis enough to fright you out of your seven senses. Double-fee perceiving that Pantagruel was taken up with contemplating those things, Let us go further, sir, said he to him; all this is nothing yet. Nothing, quotha, cried Friar John; by the soul of my overheated codpiece, friend Panurge and I here shake and quiver for mere hunger. I had rather be drinking than staring at these ruins. Pray come along, sir, said Double-fee. He then led us into a little wine-press that lay backwards in a blind corner, and was called Pithies in the language of the country. You need not ask whether Master John and Panurge made much of their sweet selves there; it is enough that I tell you there was no want of Bolognia sausages, turkey poots, capons, bustards, malmsey, and all other sorts of good belly-timber, very well dressed.

A pimping son of ten fathers, who, for want of a better, did the office of a butler, seeing that Friar John had cast a sheep’s eye at a choice bottle that stood near a cupboard by itself, at some distance from the rest of the bottellic magazine, like a jack-in-an-office said to Pantagruel, Sir, I perceive that one of your men here is making love to this bottle. He ogles it, and would fain caress it; but I beg that none offer to meddle with it; for it is reserved for their worships. How, cried Panurge, there are some grandees here then, I see. It is vintage time with you, I perceive.

Then Double-fee led us up to a private staircase, and showed us into a room, whence, without being seen, out at a loophole we could see their worships in the great wine-press, where none could be admitted without their leave. Their worships, as he called them, were about a score of fusty crack-ropes and gallow-clappers, or rather more, all posted before a bar, and staring at each other like so many dead pigs. Their paws were as long as a crane’s foot, and their claws four-and-twenty inches long at least; for you must know they are enjoined never to pare off the least chip of them, so that they grow as crooked as a Welsh hook or a hedging-bill.

We saw a swingeing bunch of grapes that are gathered and squeezed in that country, brought in by them. As soon as it was laid down, they clapped it into the press, and there was not a bit of it out of which each of them did not squeeze some oil of gold; insomuch that the poor grape was tried with a witness, and brought off so drained and picked, and so dry, that there was not the least moisture, juice, or substance left in it; for they had pressed out its very quintessence.

Double-fee told us they had not often such huge bunches; but, let the worst come to the worst, they were sure never to be without others in their press. But hark you me, master of mine, asked Panurge, have they not some of different growth? Ay, marry have they, quoth Double-fee. Do you see here this little bunch, to which they are going to give t’other wrench? It is of tithe-growth, you must know; they crushed, wrung, squeezed and strained out the very heart’s blood of it but the other day; but it did not bleed freely; the oil came hard, and smelt of the priest’s chest; so that they found there was not much good to be got out of it. Why then, said Pantagruel, do they put it again into the press? Only, answered Double-fee, for fear there should still lurk some juice among the husks and hullings in the mother of the grape. The devil be damned! cried Friar John; do you call these same folks illiterate lobcocks and duncical doddipolls? May I be broiled like a red herring if I do not think they are wise enough to skin a flint and draw oil out of a brick wall. So they are, said Double-fee; for they sometimes put castles, parks, and forests into the press, and out of them all extract aurum potabile. You mean portabile, I suppose, cried Epistemon, such as may be borne. I mean as I said, replied Double-fee, potabile, such as may be drunk; for it makes them drink many a good bottle more than otherwise they should.

But I cannot better satisfy you as to the growth of the vine-tree sirup that is here squeezed out of grapes, than in desiring you to look yonder in that back-yard, where you will see above a thousand different growths that lie waiting to be squeezed every moment. Here are some of the public and some of the private growth; some of the builders’ fortifications, loans, gifts, and gratuities, escheats, forfeitures, fines, and recoveries, penal statutes, crown lands, and demesne, privy purse, post-offices, offerings, lordships of manors, and a world of other growths, for which we want names. Pray, quoth Epistemon, tell me of what growth is that great one, with all those little grapelings about it. Oh, oh! returned Double-fee, that plump one is of the treasury, the very best growth in the whole country. Whenever anyone of that growth is squeezed, there is not one of their worships but gets juice enough of it to soak his nose six months together. When their worships were up, Pantagruel desired Double-fee to take us into that great wine-press, which he readily did. As soon as we were in, Epistemon, who understood all sorts of tongues, began to show us many devices on the press, which was large and fine, and made of the wood of the cross — at least Double-fee told us so. On each part of it were names of everything in the language of the country. The spindle of the press was called receipt; the trough, cost and damages; the hole for the vice-pin, state; the side-boards, money paid into the office; the great beam, respite of homage; the branches, radietur; the side-beams, recuperetur; the fats, ignoramus; the two-handled basket, the rolls; the treading-place, acquittance; the dossers, validation; the panniers, authentic decrees; the pailes, potentials; the funnels, quietus est.

By the Queen of the Chitterlings, quoth Panurge, all the hieroglyphics of Egypt are mine a — to this jargon. Why! here are a parcel of words full as analogous as chalk and cheese, or a cat and a cart-wheel! But why, prithee, dear Double-fee, do they call these worshipful dons of yours ignorant fellows? Only, said Double-fee, because they neither are, nor ought to be, clerks, and all must be ignorant as to what they transact here; nor is there to be any other reason given, but, The court hath said it; The court will have it so; The court has decreed it. Cop’s body, quoth Pantagruel, they might full as well have called ‘em necessity; for necessity has no law.

From thence, as he was leading us to see a thousand little puny presses, we spied another paltry bar, about which sat four are five ignorant waspish churls, of so testy, fuming a temper, (like an ass with squibs and crackers tied to its tail,) and so ready to take pepper in the nose for yea and nay, that a dog would not have lived with ‘em. They were hard at it with the lees and dregs of the grapes, which they gripped over and over again, might and main, with their clenched fists. They were called contractors in the language of the country. These are the ugliest, misshapen, grim-looking scrubs, said Friar John, that ever were beheld, with or without spectacles. Then we passed by an infinite number of little pimping wine-presses all full of vintage-mongers, who were picking, examining, and raking the grapes with some instruments called bills-of-charge.

Finally we came into a hall downstairs, where we saw an overgrown cursed mangy cur with a pair of heads, a wolf’s belly, and claws like the devil of hell. The son of a bitch was fed with costs, for he lived on a multiplicity of fine amonds and amerciaments by order of their worships, to each of whom the monster was worth more than the best farm in the land. In their tongue of ignorance they called him Twofold. His dam lay by him, and her hair and shape was like her whelp’s, only she had four heads, two male and two female, and her name was Fourfold. She was certainly the most cursed and dangerous creature of the place, except her grandam, which we saw, and had been kept locked up in a dungeon time out of mind, and her name was Refusing-of-fees.

Friar John, who had always twenty yards of gut ready empty to swallow a gallimaufry of lawyers, began to be somewhat out of humour, and desired Pantagruel to remember he had not dined, and bring Double-fee along with him. So away we went, and as we marched out at the back-gate whom should we meet but an old piece of mortality in chains. He was half ignorant and half learned, like an hermaphrodite of Satan. The fellow was all caparisoned with spectacles as a tortoise is with shells, and lived on nothing but a sort of food which, in their gibberish, was called appeals. Pantagruel asked Double-fee of what breed was that prothonotary, and what name they gave him. Double-fee told us that time out of mind he had been kept there in chains, to the great grief of their worships, who starved him, and his name was Review. By the pope’s sanctified two-pounders, cried Friar John, I do not much wonder at the meagre cheer which this old chuff finds among their worships. Do but look a little on the weather-beaten scratch-toby, friend Panurge; by the sacred tip of my cowl, I’ll lay five pounds to a hazel-nut the foul thief has the very looks of Gripe-me-now. These same fellows here, ignorant as they be, are as sharp and knowing as other folk. But were it my case, I would send him packing with a squib in his breech like a rogue as he is. By my oriental barnacles, quoth Panurge, honest friar, thou art in the right; for if we but examine that treacherous Review’s ill-favoured phiz, we find that the filthy snudge is yet more mischievous and ignorant than these ignorant wretches here, since they (honest dunces) grapple and glean with as little harm and pother as they can, without any long fiddle-cum-farts or tantalizing in the case; nor do they dally and demur in your suit, but in two or three words, whip-stitch, in a trice, they finish the vintage of the close, bating you all these damned tedious interlocutories, examinations, and appointments which fret to the heart’s blood your furred law-cats.

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