Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 7

Which if you read you’ll find how Panurge bargained with Dingdong.

Neighbour, my friend, answered Dingdong, they are meat for none but kings and princes; their flesh is so delicate, so savoury, and so dainty that one would swear it melted in the mouth. I bring them out of a country where the very hogs, God be with us, live on nothing but myrobolans. The sows in the styes when they lie-in (saving the honour of this good company) are fed only with orange-flowers. But, said Panurge, drive a bargain with me for one of them, and I will pay you for’t like a king, upon the honest word of a true Trojan; come, come, what do you ask? Not so fast, Robin, answered the trader; these sheep are lineally descended from the very family of the ram that wafted Phryxus and Helle over the sea since called the Hellespont. A pox on’t, said Panurge, you are clericus vel addiscens! Ita is a cabbage, and vere a leek, answered the merchant. But, rr, rrr, rrrr, rrrrr, hoh Robin, rr, rrrrrrr, you don’t understand that gibberish, do you? Now I think on’t, over all the fields where they piss, corn grows as fast as if the Lord had pissed there; they need neither be tilled nor dunged. Besides, man, your chemists extract the best saltpetre in the world out of their urine. Nay, with their very dung (with reverence be it spoken) the doctors in our country make pills that cure seventy-eight kinds of diseases, the least of which is the evil of St. Eutropius of Xaintes, from which, good Lord, deliver us! Now what do you think on’t, neighbour, my friend? The truth is, they cost me money, that they do. Cost what they will, cried Panurge, trade with me for one of them, paying you well. Our friend, quoth the quacklike sheepman, do but mind the wonders of nature that are found in those animals, even in a member which one would think were of no use. Take me but these horns, and bray them a little with an iron pestle, or with an andiron, which you please, it is all one to me; then bury them wherever you will, provided it be where the sun may shine, and water them frequently; in a few months I’ll engage you will have the best asparagus in the world, not even excepting those of Ravenna. Now, come and tell me whether the horns of your other knights of the bull’s feather have such a virtue and wonderful propriety?

Cost what they will, cried Panurge, trade with me for one of them, paying you well.

Patience, said Panurge. I don’t know whether you be a scholar or no, pursued Dingdong; I have seen a world of scholars, I say great scholars, that were cuckolds, I’ll assure you. But hark you me, if you were a scholar, you should know that in the most inferior members of those animals, which are the feet, there is a bone, which is the heel, the astragalus, if you will have it so, wherewith, and with that of no other creature breathing, except the Indian ass and the dorcades of Libya, they used in old times to play at the royal game of dice, whereat Augustus the emperor won above fifty thousand crowns one evening. Now such cuckolds as you will be hanged ere you get half so much at it. Patience, said Panurge; but let us despatch. And when, my friend and neighbour, continued the canting sheepseller, shall I have duly praised the inward members, the shoulders, the legs, the knuckles, the neck, the breast, the liver, the spleen, the tripes, the kidneys, the bladder, wherewith they make footballs; the ribs, which serve in Pigmyland to make little crossbows to pelt the cranes with cherry-stones; the head, which with a little brimstone serves to make a miraculous decoction to loosen and ease the belly of costive dogs? A turd on’t, said the skipper to his preaching passenger, what a fiddle-faddle have we here? There is too long a lecture by half: sell him if thou wilt; if thou won’t, don’t let the man lose more time. I hate a gibble-gabble and a rimble-ramble talk. I am for a man of brevity. I will, for your sake, replied the holder-forth; but then he shall give me three livres, French money, for each pick and choose. It is a woundy price, cried Panurge; in our country I could have five, nay six, for the money; see that you do not overreach me, master. You are not the first man whom I have known to have fallen, even sometimes to the endangering, if not breaking, of his own neck, for endeavouring to rise all at once. A murrain seize thee for a blockheaded booby, cried the angry seller of sheep; by the worthy vow of Our Lady of Charroux, the worst in this flock is four times better than those which the Coraxians in Tuditania, a country of Spain, used to sell for a gold talent each; and how much dost thou think, thou Hibernian fool, that a talent of gold was worth? Sweet sir, you fall into a passion, I see, returned Panurge; well, hold, here is your money. Panurge, having paid his money, chose him out of all the flock a fine topping ram; and as he was hauling it along, crying out and bleating, all the rest, hearing and bleating in concert, stared to see whither their brother-ram should be carried. In the meanwhile the drover was saying to his shepherds: Ah! how well the knave could choose him out a ram; the whoreson has skill in cattle. On my honest word, I reserved that very piece of flesh for the Lord of Cancale, well knowing his disposition; for the good man is naturally overjoyed when he holds a good-sized handsome shoulder of mutton, instead of a left-handed racket, in one hand, with a good sharp carver in the other. God wot, how he belabours himself then.

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