The World's Greatest Books — Volume 07 — Fiction online

. (page 5 of 24)
Online LibraryVariousThe World's Greatest Books — Volume 07 — Fiction → online text (page 5 of 24)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

him with great admiration. For the people of this city are by nature so
sottish, idle, and good-for-nothing, that a mountebank, a pardoner come
from Rome to sell indulgences, or a fiddler in the crossways, will
attract together more of them than a good preacher of the Gospel. So
troublesome were they in pursuing Gargantua, that he was compelled to
seek a resting-place on the towers of Notre Dame. There he amused
himself by ringing the great bells, and it came into his mind that they
would serve as cowbells to hang on the neck of his mare, so he carried
them off to his lodging.

At this all the people of Paris rose up in sedition. They are, as you
know, so ready to uproars and insurrections, that foreign nations wonder
at the stupidity of the kings of France at not restraining them from
such tumultuous courses, seeing the manifold inconveniences which thence
arise from day to day. Believe for a truth, that the place where the
people gathered together was called Nesle; there, after the case was
proposed and argued, they resolved to send the oldest and most able of
their learned men unto Gargantua to explain to him the great and
horrible prejudice they sustained by the want of their bells. Thereupon
Gargantua put up the bells again in their place, and in acknowledgement
of his courtesy, the citizens offered to maintain and feed his mare as
long as he pleased. And they sent her to graze in the forest of Biére,
but I do not think she is there now.

For some years Gargantua studied at Paris under a wise and able master,
and grew expert in manly sports of all kinds, as well as in learning of
every sort. Then he was called upon to return to his country to take
part in a great and horrible war.

_II. - The Marvellous Deeds of Friar John_

The war began in this way: At the time of the vintage, the shepherds of
Grangousier's country were set to guard the vines and hinder the
starlings from eating the grapes. Seeing some cake-bakers of Lerné
passing down the highway with ten or twelve loads of cakes, the
shepherds courteously asked them to sell some of their wares at the
market price. The cake-bakers, however, were in no way inclinable to the
request of the shepherds; and, what is worse, they insulted them hugely,
calling them babblers, broken-mouths, carrot-pates, tunbellies,
fly-catchers, sneakbies, joltheads, slabberdegullion druggels, and other
defamatory epithets. And when one honest shepherd came forward with the
money to buy some of the cakes, a rude cake-baker struck him a rude lash
with a whip. Thereupon some farmers and their men, who were watching
their walnuts close by, ran up with their great poles and long staves,
and thrashed the cake-bakers as if they had been green rye.

When they were returned to Lerné, the cake-makers complained to their
king, Picrochole, saying that all the mischief was done by the shepherds
of Grangousier. Picrochole incontinently grew angry and furious, and
without making any further question, he had it cried throughout his
country that every man, under pain of hanging, should assemble in arms
at noon before his castle. Thereupon, without order or measure, his men
took the field, ravaging and wasting everything wherever they passed
through. All that they said to any man that cried them mercy, was: "We
will teach you to eat cakes!"

Having pillaged the town of Seuillé, they went on with the horrible
tumult to an abbey. Finding it well barred and made fast, seven
companies of foot and two hundred lances broke down the walls of the
close, and began to lay waste the vineyard. The poor devils of monks did
not know to what saint to pray in their extremity, and they made
processions and said litanies against their foes. But in the abbey at
that time was a cloister-monk named Friar John of the Trenchermen,
young, gallant, frisky, lusty, nimble, quick, active, bold, resolute,
tall, wide-mouthed, and long-nosed; a fine mumbler of matins, a fair
runner through masses, and a great scourer of vigils - to put it short, a
true monk, if ever there was one since the monking world monked a
monkery. This monk, hearing the noise that the enemy made in the
vineyard, went to see what they were doing, and perceiving that they
were gathering the grapes out of which next year's drink of the abbey
ought to be made, he grew mighty angry. "The devil take me," he cried,
"if they have not already chopped our vines so that we shall have no
drink for years to come! Did not St. Thomas of England die for the goods
of the church? If I died in the same cause should I not be a saint
likewise? However, I shall not die for them, but make other men to do

Throwing off his monk's habit, he took up a cross made out of a sour
apple-tree, which was as long as a lance, and with it he laid on lustily
upon his enemies. He scattered the brains of some, and the legs and arms
of others. He broke their necks; he had off their heads; he smashed
their bones; he caved in their ribs; he impaled them, and he transfixed
them. Believe me, it was a most horrible spectacle that ever man saw.
Some died without speaking, others spoke without dying; some died while
they were speaking, others spoke while they were dying. So great was the
cry of the wounded, that the prior and all his monks came forth, and
seeing the poor wretches hurt to death, began to confess them. But when
those who had been shriven tried to depart, Friar John felled them with
a terrible blow, saying, "These men have had confession and are
repentant, so straight they go into Paradise!"

Thus by his prowess and valour were discomfited all those of the army,
under the number of thirteen thousand six hundred and twenty-two, that
entered the abbey close. Gargantua, who had come from Paris to help his
father against Picrochole, heard of the marvellous feats of Friar John,
and sought his aid, and by means of it utterly defeated the enemy. What
became of Picrochole after his defeat I cannot say with certainty, but I
was told that he is now a porter at Lyons. He always inquires of all
strangers on the coming of the Cocquecigrues, for an old woman has
prophesied that at their coming he shall be re-established in his

_III. - The Abbey of Thelema_

Gargantua was mightily pleased with Friar John, and he wanted to make
him abbot of several abbeys in his country. But the monk said he would
never take upon him the government of monks. "Give me leave," he said,
"to found an abbey after my own fancy." The notion pleased Gargantua,
who thereupon offered him all the country of Thelema by the river of
Loire. Friar John then asked Gargantua to institute his religious order
contrary to all others. At that time they placed no women into nunneries
save those who were ugly, ill-made, foolish, humpbacked, or corrupt; nor
put any men into monasteries save those that were sickly, ill-born,
simple-witted, and a burden to their family. Therefore, it was ordained
that into this abbey of Thelema should be admitted no women that were
not beautiful and of a sweet disposition, and no men that were not
handsome, well-made, and well-conditioned. And because both men and
women that are received into religious orders are constrained to stay
there all the days of their lives, it was therefore laid down that all
men and women admitted to Thelema should have leave to depart whenever
it seemed good to them. And because monks and nuns made three vows of
poverty, chastity, and obedience, it was appointed that those who
entered into the new order might be rich and honourably married and live
at liberty.

For the building of the abbey Gargantua gave twenty-seven hundred
thousand eight hundred and thirty-one long-wooled sheep; and for the
maintenance thereof he gave an annual fee-farm rent of twenty-three
hundred and sixty-nine thousand five hundred and fourteen rose nobles.
In the building were nine thousand three hundred and thirty-two
apartments, each furnished with an inner chamber, a cabinet, a wardrobe,
a chapel, and an opening into a great hall. The abbey also contained
fine great libraries and spacious picture galleries.

All the life of the Thelemites was laid out, not by laws and rules, but
according to their own free will and pleasure. They rose from their beds
when it seemed good to them; they drank, worked, ate, slept, when the
wish came upon them. No one constrained them in anything, for so had
Gargantua established it. Their rule consisted of this one clause:


Because men are free, well-born, well-bred, conversant in honest
company, have by nature an instinct and a spur that always prompt them
to virtuous actions and withdraw them from vice; and this they style
honour. When the time was come that any man wished to leave the abbey,
he carried with him one of the ladies who had taken him for her faithful
servant, and they were married together; and if they had formerly lived
together in Thelema in devotion and friendship, still more did they so
continue in wedlock; insomuch that they loved one another to the end of
their lives, as on the first day of their marriage.

_IV. - Pantagruel and Panurge_

At the age of four hundred four score and forty-four years, Gargantua
had a son by his wife, Badebec, daughter of one of the kings of Utopia.
And because in the year that his son was born there was a great drought,
Gargantua gave him the name of Pantagruel; for panta in Greek is as much
as to say all, and gruel in the Arabic language has the same meaning as
thirsty. Moreover, Gargantua foresaw, in the spirit of prophesy, that
Pantagruel would one day be the ruler of the thirsty race, and that if
he lived very long he would arrive at a goodly age.

Like his father, Pantagruel went to Paris to study. There his spirit
among his books was like fire among heather, so indefatigable was it and
ardent. One day as Pantagruel was taking a walk without the city he met
a man of a comely stature and elegant in all the lineaments of his body,
but most pitifully wounded, and clad in tatters and rags.

"Who are you, my friend?" said Pantagruel. "What do you want, and what
is your name?" The man answered him in German, gibberish, Italian,
English, Basque, Lantern-language, Dutch, Spanish, Danish, Hebrew,
Greek, Breton, and Latin.

"Well, well, my friend," replied Pantagruel, when the man had come to an
end, "can you speak French?"

"That I can very well, sir," he replied, "for my name is Panurge, and I
was bred and born in Touraine, which is the garden of France. I have
just come from Turkey, where I was taken prisoner, and my throat is so
parched and my stomach so empty that if you will only put a meal before
me, it will be a fine sight for you to see me walk into it."

Pantagruel had conceived a great affection for the wandering scholar,
and he took him home and set a great store of food before him. Panurge
ate right on until the evening, went to bed as soon as he finished,
slept till dinner time next day, so that he only made three steps and a
jump from bed to table. Panurge was of a middle height, and had a nose
like that of the handle of a razor. He was a very gallant and proper man
in his person, and the greatest thief, drinker, roysterer, and rake in
Paris. With all that, he was the best fellow in the world, and he was
always contriving some mischief or other. Pantagruel, being pleased with
him, gave him the castellany of Salmigondin, which was yearly worth
6,789,106,789 royals of certain rent; besides the uncertain revenue of
cockchafers and snails, amounting one year with another to the value of
2,435,768, or 2,435,769 French crowns of Berry. Sometimes it amounted to
1,234,554,321 seraphs, when it was a good season, and cockchafers and
snails in request; but that was not every year.

The new castellan conducted himself so well and prudently than in less
than fourteen days he wasted all the revenue of his castellany for three
whole years. Yet he did not throw it away in building churches and
founding monasteries, but spent it in a thousand little banquets and
joyful festivals, keeping open house for all good fellows and pretty
girls who came that way.

Pantagruel being advertised of the affair was in no wise offended. He
only took Panurge aside, and sweetly represented to him that if he
continued to live in this manner it would be difficult at any time to
make him rich.

"Rich?" answered Panurge. "Have you undertaken the impossible task to
make me rich? Be prudent, like me, and borrow money beforehand, for you
never know how things will turn out."

"But," said Pantagruel, "when will you be out of debt?"

"The Lord forbid I should ever be out of debt," replied Panurge. "Are
you indebted to somebody? He will pray night and morning that your life
may be blessed, long and prosperous. Fearing to lose his debt, he will
always speak good of you in every company; moreover, he will continually
get new creditors for you, in the hope, that, through them, you will be
able to pay him."

To this Pantagruel answering nothing. Panurge went on with his
discourse, saying: "To think that you should run full tilt at me and
twit me with my debts and creditors! In this one thing only do I esteem
myself worshipful, reverend, and formidable. I have created something
out of nothing - a line of fair and jolly creditors! Imagine how glad I
am when I see myself, every morning, surrounded by them, humble,
fawning, and full of reverence. You ask me when I will be out of debt.
May the good Saint Babolin snatch me, if I have not always held that
debt was the connection and tie between the heavens and the earth; the
only bond of union of the human race; without it the whole progeny of
Adam would soon perish. A world without debts! Everything would be in
disorder. The planets, reckoning they were not indebted to each other,
would thrust themselves out of their sphere. The sun would not lend any
light to the earth. No rain would descend on it, no wind blow there, and
there would be no summer or harvest. Faith, hope, and charity will be
quite banished from such a world; and what would happen to our bodies?
The head would not lend the sight of its eyes to guide the hands and the
feet; the feet would refuse to carry the head, and the hands would leave
off working for it. Life would go out of the body, and the chafing soul
would take its flight after my money.

"On the contrary, I shall be pleased to represent unto your fancy
another world, in which everyone lends and everyone owes. Oh, how great
will be the harmony among mankind! I lose myself in this contemplation.
There will be peace among men; love, affection, fidelity, feastings,
joy, and gladness; gold, silver, and merchandise will trot from hand to
hand. There will be no suits of law, no wars, no strife. All will be
good, all will be fair, all will be just. Believe me, it is a divine
thing to lend, and an heroic virtue to owe. Yet this is not all. We owe
something to posterity."

"What is that?" said Pantagruel.

"The task of creating it," said Panurge. "I have a mind to marry and get

"We must consult the Oracle of the Divine Bottle," exclaimed Pantagruel,
"before you enter on so dangerous an undertaking. Come, let us prepare
for the voyage."

_V. - The Divine Bottle_

Pantagruel knew that the Oracle of the Divine Bottle could only be
reached by a perilous voyage in unknown seas and strange islands. But,
undismayed by this knowledge, he fitted out a great fleet at St. Malo,
and sailed beyond the Cape of Good Hope to Lantern Land. As they were
voyaging along, beyond the desolate land of the Popefigs and the blessed
island of the Papemanes, Pantagruel heard voices in the air, and the
pilot said: "Be not afraid, my lord! We are on the confines of the
frozen sea, where there was a great fight last winter between the
Arimaspians and the Nepheliabetes. The cries of the men, the neighing of
the horses, and all the din of battle froze in the air, and now that the
warm season is come, they are melting into sound."

"Look," said Pantagruel, "here are some that are not yet thawed." And he
threw on deck great handfuls of frozen words, seeming like sugar-plums
of many colours. Panurge warmed some of them in his hands, and they
melted like snow into a barbarous gibberish. Panurge prayed Pantagruel
to give him some more, but Pantagruel told him that to give words was
the part of a lover.

"Sell me some, then," cried Panurge.

"That is the part of a lawyer," said Pantagruel. But he threw three or
four more handfuls of them on the deck, and as they melted all the
noises of the battle rang about the ship.

From this point Pantagruel sailed straight for Lantern Land, and came to
the desired island in which was the Oracle of the Bottle. On the front
of the Doric portal was engraved in fine gold the sentence: "In Wine,
Truth." The noble priestess, Bachuc, led Panurge to the fountain in the
temple, within which was placed the Divine Bottle. After he had danced
round it three Bacchic dances, she threw a magic powder into the
fountain, and its water began to boil violently and Panurge sat upon the
ground and waited for the oracle. First of all a noise like that made by
bees at their birth came from the Divine Bottle, and immediately after
this was heard the word, "Drink!"

The priestess then filled some small leather vessels with this fantastic
water, and gave them to Panurge and Pantagruel, saying: "If you have
observed what is written above the temple gates, you at last know that
truth is hidden in wine. Be yourselves the expounders of your
undertaking, and now go, friends, in the protection of that intellectual
sphere, the centre of which is in all places and the circumference
nowhere, which we call God. What has become of the art of calling down
from heaven, thunder and celestial fire, once invented by the wise
Prometheus? You have certainly lost it. Your philosophers who complain
that all things were written by the ancients, and that nothing is left
for them to invent, are evidently wrong. When they shall give their
labour and study to search out, with prayer to the sovereign God (whom
the Egyptians named the Hidden and Concealed, and invoking Him by that
name, besought Him to manifest and discover Himself to them), He will
grant to them, partly guided by good Lanterns, knowledge of Himself and
His creatures. For all philosophers and ancient sages have considered
two things necessary for the sure and pleasant pursuit of the way of
divine knowledge and choice of wisdom - the goodness of God, and the
company of men.

"Now go, in the name of God, and may He guide you."

* * * * *


Hard Cash

Charles Reade made his first appearance as an author
comparatively late in life. He was the son of an English
squire, born at Ipsden on June 8, 1814, and was educated for
the Bar, being entered at Lincoln's Inn in 1843. His literary
career began as dramatist, and it is significant that it was
his own wish that the word "dramatist" should stand first in
the description of his works on his tombstone. His maiden
effort in stage literature, "The Ladies' Battle," was produced
in 1851; but it was not until November, 1852, with the
appearance of "Masks and Faces" - the story which he afterwards
adapted into prose under the title of "Peg Woffington" - that
Reade became famous as a playwright. From 1852 until his
death, which occurred on April 11, 1884, Reade's life is
mainly a catalogue of novels and dramas. Like many of Charles
Reade's works, "Hard Cash, a Matter-of-Fact Romance," is a
novel with a purpose, and was written with the object of
exposing abuses connected with the lunacy laws and the
management of private lunatic asylums. Entitled "Very Hard
Cash," it first appeared serially in the pages of "All the
Year Round," then under the editorship of Charles Dickens, and
although its success in that form was by no means
extraordinary, its popularity on its publication in book form
in 1863 was well deserved and emphatic. The appearance of
"Hard Cash," which is a sequel to a comparatively trivial
tale, "Love me Little, Love me Long," provoked much hostile
criticism from certain medical quarters - criticism to which
Reade replied with vehemence and characteristic vigour. His
activity in the campaign against the abuses of lunacy law did
not end with the publication of this story, since he conducted
personal investigations in many individual cases of false
imprisonment under pretence of lunacy.

_I. - The Dodd and Hardie Families_

In a snowy-villa, just outside the great commercial seaport, Barkington,
there lived, a few years ago, a happy family. A lady, middle-aged, but
still charming; two young friends of hers, and an occasional visitor.

The lady was Mrs. Dodd; her periodical visitor her husband, the captain
of an East Indiaman; her friends were her son Edward, aged twenty, and
her daughter, Julia, nineteen.

Mrs. Dodd was the favourite companion and bosom friend of both her
children. They were remarkably dissimilar. Edward was comely and manly,
no more; could walk up to a five-barred gate and clear it; could row all
day, and then dance all night; and could not learn his lessons to save
his life.

In his sister Julia modesty, intelligence, and, above all, enthusiasm
shone, and made her an incarnate sunbeam.

This one could learn her lessons with unreasonable rapidity, and Mrs.
Dodd educated her herself, from first to last; but Edward she sent to
Eton, where he made good progress - in aquatics and cricket.

In spite of his solemn advice - "you know, mamma, I've got no
headpiece" - he was also sent to Oxford, and soon found he could not have
carried his wares to a better market. Advancing steadily in that line of
study towards which his genius lay, he was soon as much talked about in
the university as any man in his college, except one. Singularly enough,
that one was his townsman - much Edward's senior in standing, though not
in age. Young Alfred Hardie was doge of a studious clique, and careful
to make it understood that he was a reading man who boated and cricketed
to avoid the fatigue of lounging.

To this young Apollo, crowned with variegated laurel, Edward looked up
from a distance, praised him and recorded his triumphs in all his
letters; but he, thinking nothing human worthy of reverence but
intellect, was not attracted by Edward, till at Henley he saw Julia, and
lo! true life had dawned. He passed the rest of the term in a soft
ecstasy, called often on Edward, and took a prodigious interest in him,
and counted the days till he should be for four months in the same town
as his enchantress. Within a month of his arrival in Barkington he
obtained Mrs. Dodd's permission to ask his father's consent to propose
an engagement to Julia, which was promptly refused; and inquiry,
petulance, tenderness, and logic were alike wasted on Mr. Hardie by his
son in vain. He would give no reason. But Mrs. Dodd, knowing him of old,
had little doubt, and watched her daughter day and night to find whether
love or pride was the stronger, all the mother in arms to secure her
daughter's happiness. Finding this really at stake, she explained that
she knew the nature of Mr. Hardie's objections, and they were objections
that her husband, on his return, would remove. "My darling," she said,
"pray for your father's safe return, for on him, and on him alone, your
happiness depends, as mine does."

Next day Mrs. Dodd walked two hours with Alfred, and his hopes revived
under her magic, as Julia's had. The wise woman quietly made terms. He
was not to come to the house except on her invitation, unless indeed he
had news of the Agra to communicate; but he might write once a week, and
enclose a few lines to Julia. On this he proceeded to call her his best,
dearest, loveliest friend - his mother. That touched her. Hitherto he had
been to her but a thing her daughter loved. Her eyes filled.

"My poor, warm-hearted, motherless boy," she said, "pray for my
husband's safe return."

So now two more bright eyes looked longingly seaward for the Agra,
homeward bound.

_II. - Richard Hardie's Villainy_

Richard Hardie was at that moment the unlikeliest man in Barkington to
decline Julia Dodd, with hard cash in five figures, for his

The great banker stood, a colossus of wealth and stability to the eye,
though ready to crumble at a touch, and, indeed, self-doomed; for
bankruptcy was now his game. This was a miserable man, far more so than

Online LibraryVariousThe World's Greatest Books — Volume 07 — Fiction → online text (page 5 of 24)