Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 14

A further account of catchpoles who were drubbed at Basche’s house.

Four days after another young, long-shanked, raw-boned catchpole coming to serve Basche with a writ at the fat prior’s request, was no sooner at the gate but the porter smelt him out and rung the bell; at whose second pull all the family understood the mystery. Loire was kneading his dough; his wife was sifting meal; Oudart was toping in his office; the gentlemen were playing at tennis; the Lord Basche at in-and-out with my lady; the waiting-men and gentle-women at push-pin; the officers at lanterloo, and the pages at hot-cockles, giving one another smart bangs. They were all immediately informed that a catchpole was housed.

Upon this Oudart put on his sacerdotal, and Loire and his wife their nuptial badges; Trudon piped it, and then tabored it like mad; all made haste to get ready, not forgetting the gauntlets. Basche went into the outward yard; there the catchpole meeting him fell on his marrow-bones, begged of him not to take it ill if he served him with a writ at the suit of the fat prior; and in a pathetic speech let him know that he was a public person, a servant to the monking tribe, apparitor to the abbatial mitre, ready to do as much for him, nay, for the least of his servants, whensoever he would employ and use him.

Nay, truly, said the lord, you shall not serve your writ till you have tasted some of my good Quinquenays wine, and been a witness to a wedding which we are to have this very minute. Let him drink and refresh himself, added he, turning towards the levitical butler, and then bring him into the hall. After which, Catchpole, well stuffed and moistened, came with Oudart to the place where all the actors in the farce stood ready to begin. The sight of their game set them a-laughing, and the messenger of mischief grinned also for company’s sake. Then the mysterious words were muttered to and by the couple, their hands joined, the bride bussed, and all besprinkled with holy water. While they were bringing wine and kickshaws, thumps began to trot about by dozens. The catchpole gave the levite several blows. Oudart, who had his gauntlet hid under his canonical shirt, draws it on like a mitten, and then, with his clenched fist, souse he fell on the catchpole and mauled him like a devil; the junior gauntlets dropped on him likewise like so many battering rams. Remember the wedding by this, by that, by these blows, said they. In short, they stroked him so to the purpose that he pissed blood out at mouth, nose, ears, and eyes, and was bruised, thwacked, battered, bebumped, and crippled at the back, neck, breast, arms, and so forth. Never did the bachelors at Avignon in carnival time play more melodiously at raphe than was then played on the catchpole’s microcosm. At last down he fell.

They threw a great deal of wine on his snout, tied round the sleeve of his doublet a fine yellow and green favour, and got him upon his snotty beast, and God knows how he got to L’Isle Bouchart; where I cannot truly tell you whether he was dressed and looked after or no, both by his spouse and the able doctors of the country; for the thing never came to my ears.

The next day they had a third part to the same tune, because it did not appear by the lean catchpole’s bag that he had served his writ. So the fat prior sent a new catchpole, at the head of a brace of bums for his garde du corps, to summon my lord. The porter ringing the bell, the whole family was overjoyed, knowing that it was another rogue. Basche was at dinner with his lady and the gentlemen; so he sent for the catchpole, made him sit by him, and the bums by the women, and made them eat till their bellies cracked with their breeches unbuttoned. The fruit being served, the catchpole arose from table, and before the bums cited Basche. Basche kindly asked him for a copy of the warrant, which the other had got ready; he then takes witness and a copy of the summons. To the catchpole and his bums he ordered four ducats for civility money. In the meantime all were withdrawn for the farce. So Trudon gave the alarm with his tabor. Basche desired the catchpole to stay and see one of his servants married, and witness the contract of marriage, paying him his fee. The catchpole slapdash was ready, took out his inkhorn, got paper immediately, and his bums by him.

Then Loire came into the hall at one door, and his wife with the gentlewomen at another, in nuptial accoutrements. Oudart, in pontificalibus, takes them both by their hands, asketh them their will, giveth them the matrimonial blessing, and was very liberal of holy water. The contract written, signed, and registered, on one side was brought wine and comfits; on the other, white and orange-tawny-coloured favours were distributed; on another, gauntlets privately handed about.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:59