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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Extract from a Sixteenth-Century Letter
By Charles Reade (1814–1884)
 
        
From ‘The Cloister and the Hearth’
  
  [Margaret has received a letter from her young husband, Gerard, who is traveling afoot to Italy. She reads it to his father and mother, brothers and sister.]

ELI—“Whisht, wife!”  1
  “And I did sigh, loud and often. And me sighing so, one came caroling like a bird adown t’other road. ‘Ay, chirp and chirp,’ cried I bitterly. ‘Thou hast not lost sweetheart and friend, thy father’s hearth, thy mother’s smile, and every penny in the world.’ And at last he did so carol and carol, I jumped up in ire to get away from his most jarring mirth. But ere I fled from it, I looked down the path to see what could make a man so light-hearted in this weary world; and lo! the songster was a humpbacked cripple, with a bloody bandage o’er his eye, and both legs gone at the knee.”  2
  “He! he! he! he! he!” went Sybrandt, laughing and cackling.  3
  Margaret’s eyes flashed; she began to fold the letter up.  4
  “Nay, lass,” said Eli, “heed him not! Thou unmannerly cur, offer’t but again and I put thee to the door.”  5
  “Why, what was there to gibe at, Sybrandt?” remonstrated Catherine more mildly. “Is not our Kate afflicted? and is she not the most content of us all, and singeth like a merle at times between her pains? But I am as bad as thou: prithee read on, lass, and stop our gabble wi’ somewhat worth the hearkening.”  6
  “‘Then,’ said I, ‘may this thing be?’ And I took myself to task: ‘Gerard, son of Eli, dost thou well to bemoan thy lot, that hast youth and health; and here comes the wreck of nature on crutches, praising God’s goodness with singing like a mavis?’”  7
  Catherine—“There you see.”  8
  Eli—“Whisht, dame, whisht!”  9
  “And whenever he saw me, he left caroling and presently hobbled up and chanted, ‘Charity, for love of Heaven, sweet master, charity;’ with a whine as piteous as wind at keyhole. ‘Alack, poor soul,’ said I, ‘charity is in my heart, but not my purse; I am poor as thou.’ Then he believed me none, and to melt me undid his sleeve, and showed a sore wound on his arm, and said he, ‘Poor cripple though I be, I am like to lose this eye to boot, look else.’ I saw and groaned for him, and to excuse myself, let him wot how I had been robbed of my last copper. Thereat he left whining all in a moment, and said in a big manly voice, ‘Then I’ll e’en take a rest. Here, youngster, pull thou this strap: nay, fear not!’ I pulled, and down came a stout pair of legs out of his back; and half his hump had melted away, and the wound in his eye no deeper than the bandage.”  10
  “Oh!” ejaculated Margaret’s hearers in a body.  11
  “Whereat, seeing me astounded, he laughed in my face, and told me I was not worth gulling, and offered me his protection. ‘My face was prophetic,’ he said. ‘Of what?’ said I. ‘Marry,’ said he, ‘that its owner will starve in this thievish land.’ Travel teaches e’en the young wisdom. Time was I had turned and fled this impostor as a pestilence; but now I listened patiently to pick up crumbs of counsel. And well I did; for nature and his adventurous life had crammed the poor knave with shrewdness and knowledge of the homelier sort—a child was I beside him. When he had turned me inside out, said he, ‘Didst well to leave France and make for Germany; but think not of Holland again. Nay, on to Augsburg and Nürnberg, the Paradise of craftsmen; thence to Venice, an thou wilt. But thou wilt never bide in Italy nor any other land, having once tasted the great German cities. Why, there is but one honest country in Europe, and that is Germany; and since thou art honest, and since I am a vagabone, Germany was made for us twain.’ I bade him make that good: how might one country fit true men and knaves! ‘Why, thou novice,’ said he, ‘because in an honest land are fewer knaves to bite the honest man, and many honest men for the knave to bite.’ ‘I was in luck, being honest, to have fallen in with a friendly sharp.’ ‘Be my pal,’ said he: ‘I go to Nürnberg; we will reach it with full pouches. I’ll learn ye the cul de bois, and the cul de jatte, and how to maund, and chaunt, and patter, and to raise swellings, and paint sores and ulcers on thy body would take in the divell.’ I told him, shivering, I’d liefer die than shame myself and my folk so.”  12
  Eli—“Good lad! good lad!”  13
  “‘Why, what shame was it for such as I to turn beggar? Beggary was an ancient and most honorable mystery. What did holy monks, and bishops, and kings, when they would win Heaven’s smile? why, wash the feet of beggars, those favorites of the saints. The saints were no fools,’ he told me. Then he did put out his foot. ‘Look at that, that was washed by the greatest king alive, Louis of France, the last holy Thursday that was. And the next day, Friday, clapped in the stocks by the warden of a petty hamlet.’  14
  “So I told him my foot should walk between such high honor and such low disgrace, on the safe path of honesty, please God. ‘Well then, since I had not spirit to beg, he would indulge my perversity. I should work under him; he be the head, I the fingers.’ And with that he set himself up like a judge, on a heap of dust by the road’s side, and questioned me strictly what I could do. I began to say I was strong and willing. ‘Bah!’ said he, ‘so is an ox. Say, what canst do that Sir Ox cannot?’—I could write; I had won a prize for it. ‘Canst write as fast as the printers?’ quo’ he, jeering: ‘what else?’—I could paint. ‘That was better.’ I was like to tear my hair to hear him say so, and me going to Rome to write.—I could twang the psaltery a bit. ‘That was well. Could I tell stories?’ Ay, by the score. ‘Then,’ said he, ‘I hire you from this moment.’ ‘What to do?’ said I. ‘Naught crooked, Sir Candor,’ says he. ‘I will feed thee all the way and find thee work; and take half thine earnings, no more.’ ‘Agreed,’ said I, and gave my hand on it.  15
  “‘Now, servant, said he, ‘we will dine. But ye need not stand behind my chair, for two reasons: first, I ha’ got no chair; and next, good-fellowship likes me better than state.’ And out of his wallet he brought flesh, fowl, and pastry, a good dozen of spices lapped in flax-paper, and wine fit for a king. Ne’er feasted I better than out of this beggar’s wallet, now my master. When we had well eaten I was for going on. ‘But,’ said he, ‘servants should not drive their masters too hard, especially after feeding, for then the body is for repose and the mind turns to contemplation;’ and he lay on his back gazing calmly at the sky, and presently wondered whether there were any beggars up there. I told him I knew but of one, called Lazarus. ‘Could he do the cul de jatte better than I?’ said he, and looked quite jealous like. I told him nay; Lazarus was honest, though a beggar, and fed daily of the crumbs fal’n from a rich man’s table, and the dogs licked his sores. ‘Servant,’ quo’ he, ‘I spy a foul fault in thee. Thou liest without discretion; now, the end of lying being to gull, this is no better than fumbling with the divell’s tail. I pray Heaven thou mayst prove to paint better than thou cuttest whids, or I am done out of a dinner. No beggar eats crumbs, but only the fat of the land; and dogs lick not a beggar’s sores, being made with spearwort, or ratsbane, or biting acids,—from all which dogs, and even pigs, abhor. My sores are made after my proper receipt; but no dog would lick e’en them twice. I have made a scurvy bargain: art a cozening knave, I doubt, as well as a nincompoop.’ I deigned no reply to this bundle of lies, which did accuse heavenly truth of falsehood for not being in a tale with him.  16
  “He rose and we took the road; and presently we came to a place where were two little wayside inns, scarce a furlong apart. ‘Halt,’ said my master. ‘Their armories are sore faded—all the better. Go thou in; shun the master; board the wife; and flatter her inn sky-high, all but the armories, and offer to color them dirt cheap.’ So I went in and told the wife I was a painter, and would revive her armories cheap; but she sent me away with a rebuff. I to my master. He groaned. ‘Ye are all fingers and no tongue,’ said he: ‘I have made a scurvy bargain. Come and hear me patter and flatter.’ Between the two inns was a high hedge. He goes behind it a minute and comes out a decent tradesman. We went on to the other inn, and then I heard him praise it so fulsome as the very wife did blush. ‘But,’ says he, ‘there is one little, little fault: your armories are dull and faded. Say but the word, and for a silver franc my apprentice here, the cunningest e’er I had, shall make them bright as ever.’ Whilst she hesitated, the rogue told her he had done it to a little inn hard by, and now the inn’s face was like the starry firmament. ‘D’ye hear that, my man?’ cries she: ‘The Three Frogs have been and painted up their armories. Shall The Four Hedgehogs be outshone by them?’ So I painted, and my master stood by like a lord, advising me how to do, and winking to me to heed him none, and I got a silver franc. And he took me back to The Three Frogs, and on the way put me on a beard and disguised me, and flattered The Three Frogs, and told them how he had adorned The Four Hedgehogs, and into the net jumped the three poor simple frogs, and I earned another silver franc. Then we went on and he found his crutches, and sent me forward, and showed his cicatrices d’emprunt, as he called them, and all his infirmities, at The Four Hedgehogs, and got both food and money.  17
  “‘Come, share and share,’ quoth he: so I gave him one franc. ‘I have made a good bargain,’ said he. ‘Art a master limnor, but takest too much time.’ So I let him know that in matters of honest craft things could not be done quick and well. ‘Then do them quick,’ quoth he. And he told me my name was Bon Bec; and I might call him Cul de Jatte, because that was his lay at our first meeting. And at the next town my master Cul de Jatte bought me a psaltery, and sat himself up again by the roadside in state like him that erst judged Marsyas and Apollo, piping for vain glory. So I played a strain. ‘Indifferent well, harmonious Bon Bec,’ said he haughtily. ‘Now tune thy pipes.’ So I did sing a sweet strain the good monks taught me; and singing it reminded poor Bon Bec, Gerard erst, of his young days and home, and brought the water to my e’en. But looking up, my master’s visage was as the face of a little boy whipt soundly, or sipping foulest medicine. ‘Zounds, stop that belly-ache blether,’ quoth he: ‘that will ne’er wile a stiver out o’ peasants’ purses; ’twill but sour the nurses’ milk, and gar the kine jump into rivers to be out of earshot on’t. What, false knave, did I buy thee a fine new psaltery to be minded o’ my latter end withal? Hearken! these be the songs that glad the heart and fill the minstrel’s purse.’ And he sung so blasphemous a stave, and eke so obscene, as I drew away from him a space that the lightning might not spoil the new psaltery. However, none came, being winter; and then I said, ‘Master, the Lord is debonair. Held I the thunder, yon ribaldry had been thy last, thou foul-mouthed wretch.’  18
  “‘Why, Bon Bec, what is to do?’ quoth he. ‘I have made an ill bargain. O perverse heart, that turneth from doctrine.’ So I bade him keep his breath to cool his broth: ne’er would I shame my folk with singing ribald songs….  19
  “Then I to him, ‘Take now thy psaltery, and part we here; for art a walking prison, a walking hell.’ But lo! my master fell on his knees, and begged me for pity’s sake not to turn him off. ‘What would become of him? He did so love honesty.’ ‘Thou love honesty?’ said I. ‘Ay,’ said he: ‘not to enact it; the saints forbid: but to look on. ’Tis so fair a thing to look on. Alas, good Bon Bec,’ said he; ‘hadst starved peradventure but for me. Kick not down thy ladder! Call ye that just? Nay, calm thy choler! Have pity on me! I must have a pal: and how could I bear one like myself after one so simple as thou? He might cut my throat for the money that is hid in my belt. ’Tis not much; ’tis not much. With thee I walk at mine ease; with a sharp I dare not go before in a narrow way. Alas! forgive me. Now I know where in thy bonnet lurks the bee, I will ’ware his sting; I will but pluck the secular goose.’ ‘So be it,’ said I. ‘And example was contagious: he should be a true man by then we reached Nürnberg. ’Twas a long way to Nürnberg.’ Seeing him so humble, I said, ‘Well, doff rags, and make thyself decent: ’twill help me forget what thou art.’ And he did so; and we sat down to our nonemete.  20
  “Presently came by a reverend palmer with hat stuck round with cockle-shells from Holy Land, and great rosary of beads like eggs of teal, and sandals for shoes. And he leaned aweary on his long staff, and offered us a shell apiece. My master would none. But I, to set him a better example, took one, and for it gave the poor pilgrim two batzen, and had his blessing. And he was scarce gone when we heard savage cries, and came a sorry sight,—one leading a wild woman in a chain, all rags, and howling like a wolf. And when they came nigh us, she fell to tearing her rags to threads. The man sought an alms of us, and told us his hard case. ’Twas his wife stark raving mad; and he could not work in the fields, and leave her in his house to fire it, nor cure her could he without the saintys help, and had vowed six pounds of wax to St. Anthony to heal her, and so was fain beg of charitable folk for the money. And now she espied us, and flew at me with her long nails, and I was cold with fear, so devilish showed her face and rolling eyes and nails like birdys talons. But he with the chain checked her sudden, and with his whip did cruelly lash her for it, that I cried, ‘Forbear! forbear! She knoweth not what she doth;’ and gave him a batz.  21
  “And being gone, said I, ‘Master, of those twain I know not which is the more pitiable.’ And he laughed in my face. ‘Behold thy justice, Bon Bec,’ said he. ‘Thou railest on thy poor, good, within-an-ace-of-honest master, and bestowest alms on a “vopper.”’ ‘Vopper!’ said I: ‘what is a vopper?’ ‘Why, a trull that feigns madness. That was one of us, that sham maniac, and wow but she did it clumsily. I blushed for her and thee. Also gavest two batzen for a shell from Holy Land, that came no farther than Normandy. I have culled them myself on that coast by scores, and sold them to pilgrims true and pilgrims false, to gull flats like thee withal.’ ‘What!’ said I: ‘that reverend man?’ ‘One of us!’ cried Cul de Jatte; ‘one of us! In France we call them “Coquillarts,” but here “Calmierers.” Railest on me for selling a false relic now and then, and wastest thy earnings on such as sell naught else. I tell thee, Bon Bec,’ said he, ‘there is not one true relic on earth’s face. The saints died a thousand years agone, and their bones mixed with the dust: but the trade in relics, it is of yesterday; and there are forty thousand tramps in Europe live by it, selling relics of forty or fifty bodies: oh, threadbare lie! And of the true Cross enow to build Cologne Minster. Why then may not poor Cul de Jatte turn his penny with the crowd? Art but a scurvy tyrannical servant to let thy poor master from his share of the swag with your whorson pilgrims, palmers, and friars, black, gray, and crutched; for all these are of our brotherhood and of our art,—only masters they, and we but poor apprentices, in guild.’ For his tongue was an ell and a half.  22
  “‘A truce to thy irreverend sophistries,’ said I, ‘and say what company is this a-coming.’ ‘Bohemians,’ cried he. ‘Ay, ay, this shall be the rest of the band.’ With that came along so motley a crew as never your eyes beheld, dear Margaret. Marched at their head one with a banner on a steel-pointed lance, and girded with a great long sword, and in velvet doublet and leathern jerkin, the which stuffs ne’er saw I wedded afore on mortal flesh, and a gay feather in his lordly cap, and a couple of dead fowls at his back,—the which an the spark had come by honestly, I am much mistook. Him followed wives and babes on two lean horses, whose flanks still rattled like parchment drum, being beaten by kettles and caldrons. Next an armed man a-riding of a horse, which drew a cart full of females and children: and in it, sitting backwards, a lusty, lazy knave, lance in hand, with his luxurious feet raised on a holy-water pail that lay along; and therein a cat, new kittened, sat glowing o’er her brood, and sparks for eyes. And the cart-horse cavalier had on his shoulders a round bundle; and thereon did perch a cock and crowed with zeal, poor ruffler, proud of his brave feathers as the rest,—and haply with more reason, being his own. And on an ass another wife and new-born child; and one poor quean afoot scarce dragged herself along, so near her time was she, yet held two little ones by the hand, and helplessly helped them on the road. And the little folk were just a farce: some rode sticks with horses’ heads between their legs, which pranced and caracoled, and soon wearied the riders so sore they stood stock-still and wept, which cavaliers were presently taken into cart and cuffed. And one, more grave, lost in a man’s hat and feather, walked in Egyptian darkness, handed by a girl; another had the great saucepan on his back, and a tremendous three-footed clay pot sat on his head and shoulders, swallowing him so as he too went darkling, led by his sweetheart three foot high. When they were gone by, and we had both laughed lustily, said I, ‘Natheless, master, my bowels they yearn for one of that tawdry band; even for the poor wife so near the down-lying, scarce able to drag herself, yet still, poor soul, helping the weaker on the way.’”  23
  Catherine—“Nay, nay, Margaret. Why, wench, pluck up heart. Certes thou art no Bohemian.”  24
  Kate—“Nay, mother, ’tis not that, I trow, but her father. And dear heart, why take notice to put her to the blush?”  25
  Richart—“So I say.”  26
  “And he derided me. ‘Why, that is a “biltreger,”’ said he, ‘and you waste your bowels on a pillow,’ or so forth. I told him he lied. ‘Time would show,’ said he: ‘wait till they camp.’ And rising after meat and meditation, and traveling forward, we found them camped between two great trees on a common by the wayside; and they had lighted a great fire, and on it was their caldron; and one of the trees slanting o’er the fire, a kid hung down by a chain from the tree-fork to the fire, and in the fork was wedged an urchin turning still the chain to keep the meat from burning, and a gay spark with a feather in his cap cut up a sheep; and another had spitted a leg of it on a wooden stake; and a woman ended chanticleer’s pride with wringing of his neck.  27
  “And under the other tree four rufflers played at cards and quarreled, and no word sans oath; and of these lewd gamblers one had cockles in his hat and was my reverend pilgrim. And a female, young and comely and dressed like a butterfly, sat and mended a heap of dirty rags. And Cul de Jatte said, ‘Yon is the “vopper”’; and I looked incredulous, and looked again, and it was so: and at her feet sat he that had so late lashed her—but I ween he had wist where to strike, or woe betide him; and she did now oppress him sore, and made him thread her very needle, the which he did with all humility: so was their comedy turned seamy side without; and Cul de Jatte told me ’twas still so with “voppers” and their men in camp: they would don their bravery though but for an hour, and with their tinsel, empire; and the man durst not the least gainsay the ‘vopper,’ or she would turn him off at these times, as I my master, and take another tyrant more submissive. And my master chuckled over me.  28
  “Natheless we soon espied a wife set with her back against the tree, and her hair down, and her face white; and by her side a wench held up to her eye a new-born babe, with words of cheer; and the rough fellow, her husband, did bring her hot wine in a cup, and bade her take courage. And just o’er the place she sat, they had pinned from bough to bough of those neighboring trees two shawls, and blankets two, together, to keep the drizzle off her. And so had another poor little rogue come into the world: and by her own particular folk tended gipsy wise; but of the roasters and boilers, and voppers and gamblers, no more noticed—no, not for a single moment—than sheep which droppeth her lamb in a field, by travelers upon the way. Then said I, ‘What of thy foul suspicions, master? over-knavery blinds the eye as well as over-simplicity.’ And he laughed and said, ‘Triumph, Bon Bec, triumph. The chances were nine in ten against thee.’ Then I did pity her, to be in a crowd at such a time; but he rebuked me:—‘I should pity rather your queens and royal duchesses, which by law are condemned to groan in a crowd of nobles and courtiers, and do writhe with shame as well as sorrow, being come of decent mothers; whereas these gipsy women have no more shame under their skins than a wolf ruth, or a hare valor. And, Bon Bec,’ quoth he, ‘I espy in thee a lamentable fault. Wastest thy bowels. Wilt have none left for thy poor good master which doeth thy will by night and day.’  29
  “Then we came forward; and he talked with the men in some strange Hebrew cant whereof no word knew I; and the poor knaves bade us welcome and denied us naught. With them, and all they had, ’twas lightly come and lightly go; and when we left them my master said to me, ‘This is thy first lesson, but to-night we shall lie at Hansburg. Come with me to the “rotboss” there, and I’ll show thee all our folk and their lays; and especially the “lossners,” the “dutzers,” the “schleppers,” the “gickisses,” the “schwanfelders” (whom in England we call “shivering Jemmies”), the “süntvegers,” the “schwiegers,” the “joners,” the “sessel-degers,” the “gennscherers” (in France “marcandiers” or “rifodés”), the “veranerins,” the “stabulers,” with a few foreigners like ourselves, such as “pietres,” “francmitoux,” “polissons,” “malingreux,” “traters,” “rufflers,” “whipjalks,” “dommerars,” “glymmerars,” “jarkmen,” “patricos,” “swadders,” “autem morts,” “walking morts”’— ‘Enow,’ cried I, stopping him: ‘art as gleesome as the Evil One a-counting of his imps. I’ll jot down in my tablet all these caitiffs and their accursed names; for knowledge is knowledge. But go among them, alive or dead, that will I not with my good will. Moreover,’ said I, ‘what need, since I have a companion in thee who is all the knaves on earth in one?’ and thought to abash him; but his face shone with pride, and hand on breast he did bow low to me. ‘If thy wit be scant, good Bon Bec, thy manners are a charm. I have made a good bargain.’  30
  “So he to the ‘rotboss’: and I to a decent inn, and sketched the landlord’s daughter by candlelight, and started at morn batzen three the richer, but could not find my master; so loitered slowly on, and presently met him coming west for me, and cursing the quiens. Why so? Because he could blind the culls but not the quiens. At last I prevailed on him to leave cursing and canting, and tell me his adventure.  31
  “Said he, ‘I sat outside the gate of yon monastery, full of sores, which I showed the passers-by. O Bon Bec, beautifuller sores you never saw; and it rained coppers in my hat. Presently the monks came home from some procession, and the convent dogs ran out to meet them, curse the quiens!’ ‘What, did they fall on thee and bite thee, poor soul?’ ‘Worse, worse, dear Bon Bec. Had they bitten me I had earned silver. But the great idiots—being, as I think, puppies, or little better—fell on me where I sat, downed me, and fell a-licking my sores among them. As thou, false knave, didst swear the whelps in heaven licked the sores of Lazybones, a beggar of old.’ ‘Nay, nay,’ said I, ‘I said no such thing. But tell me, since they bit thee not, but sportfully licked thee, what harm?’—‘What harm, noodle? why, the sores came off.’—‘How could that be?’—‘How could aught else be, and them just fresh put on? Did I think he was so weak as bite holes in his flesh with ratsbane? Nay, he was an artist, a painter like his servant; and had put on sores made of pig’s blood, rye meal, and glue.’—‘So when the folk saw my sores go on tongues of puppies, they laughed, and I saw cord or sack before me. So up I jumped, and shouted, “A miracle! a miracle! The very dogs of this holy convent be holy, and have cured me. Good fathers,” cried I, “whose day is this?” “St. Isidore’s,” said one. “St. Isidore!” cried I, in a sort of rapture. “Why, St. Isidore is my patron saint; so that accounts.” And the simple folk swallowed my miracle as those accursed quiens my wounds. But the monks took me inside and shut the gate, and put their heads together: but I have a quick ear, and one did say “Caret miraculo monasterium”; which is Greek patter, I trow—leastways it is no beggar’s cant. Finally they bade the lay brethren give me a hiding, and take me out a back way and put me on the road; and threatened me did I come back to the town to hand me to the magistrate and have me drowned for a plain impostor. “Profit now by the Church’s grace,” said they, “and mend thy ways.” So forward, Bon Bec, for my life is not sure nigh hand this town.’  32
  “As we went he worked his shoulders. ‘Wow, but the brethren laid on! And what means yon piece of monk’s cant, I wonder?’ So I told him the words meant ‘The monastery is in want of a miracle,’ but the application thereof was dark to me. ‘Dark!’ cried he: ‘dark as noon. Why, it means they are going to work the miracle, my miracle, and gather all the grain I sowed. Therefore these blows on their benefactor’s shoulders; therefore is he that wrought their scurvy miracle driven forth with stripes and threats. Oh, cozening knaves!’ Said I, ‘Becomes you to complain of guile.’ ‘Alas, Bon Bec,’ said he, ‘I but outwit the simple; but these monks would pluck Lucifer of his wing-feathers.’ And went a league bemoaning himself that he was not convent-bred like his servant,—‘he would put it to more profit’; and railing on quiens. ‘And as for those monks, there was one Above—’ ‘Certes,’ said I, ‘there is one Above: what then?’ ‘—who will call those shavelings to compt, one day,’ quoth he. ‘And all deceitful men,’ said I.  33
  “At one that afternoon I got armories to paint; so my master took the yellow jaundice, and went begging through the town, and with his oily tongue and saffron-water face did fill his hat. Now in all the towns are certain licensed beggars, and one of these was an old favorite with the townsfolk; had his station at St. Martin’s porch, the greatest church: a blind man; they called him Blind Hans. He saw my master drawing coppers on the other side the street, and knew him by his tricks for an impostor; so sent and warned the constables, and I met my master in the constable’s hands, and going to his trial in the town-hall. I followed, and many more; and he was none abashed, neither by the pomp of justice nor memory of his misdeeds, but demanded his accuser like a trumpet. And blind Hans’s boy came forward, but was sifted narrowly by my master, and stammered and faltered, and owned he had seen nothing, but only carried blind Hans’s tale to the chief constable. ‘This is but hearsay,’ said my master. ‘Lo ye, now, here standeth Misfortune backbit by Envy. But stand thou forth, blind Envy, and vent thine own lie.’ And blind Hans behoved to stand forth, sore against his will. Him did my master so press with questions, and so pinch and torture, asking him again and again how, being blind, he could see all that befell, and some that befell not, across a way; and why, an he could not see, he came there holding up his perjured hand, and maligning the misfortunate, that at last he groaned aloud and would utter no word more. And an alderman said, ‘In sooth, Hans, ye are to blame; hast cast more dirt of suspicion on thyself than on him.’ But the burgomaster, a wondrous fat man, and methinks of his fat some had gotten into his head, checked him, and said: ‘Nay, Hans we know this many years, and be he blind or not, he hath passed for blind so long, ’tis all one. Back to thy porch, good Hans, and let the strange varlet leave the town incontinent on pain of whipping.’  34
  “Then my master winked to me: but there rose a civic officer in his gown of state and golden chain,—a Dignity with us lightly prized, and even shunned of some, but in Germany and France much courted save by condemned malefactors, to wit the hangman; and says he, ‘An’t please you, first let us see why he weareth his hair so thick and low.’ And his man went and lifted Cul de Jatte’s hair, and lo the upper gristle of both ears was gone. ‘How is this, knave?’ quoth the burgomaster. My master said carelessly, he minded not precisely: his had been a life of misfortunes and losses. ‘When a poor soul has lost the use of his legs, noble sirs, these more trivial woes rest lightly in his memory.’ When he found this would not serve his turn, he named two famous battles, in each of which he had lost half an ear, a-fighting like a true man against traitors and rebels. But the hangman showed them the two cuts were made at one time, and by measurement. ‘’Tis no bungling soldier’s-work, my masters,’ said he; ‘’tis ourn.’ Then the burgomaster gave judgment: ‘The present charge is not proven against thee; but an thou beest not guilty now, thou hast been at other times, witness thine ears. Wherefore I send thee to prison for one month, and to give a florin towards the new hall of the guilds now a-building, and to be whipt out of the town and pay the hangman’s fee for the same.’ And all the aldermen approved, and my master was haled to prison with one look of anguish. It did strike my bosom.  35
  “I tried to get speech of him, but the jailer denied me. But lingering near the jail I heard a whistle, and there was Cul de Jatte at a narrow window twenty feet from earth. I went under, and he asked me what made I there? I told him I was loath to go forward and not bid him farewell. He seemed quite amazed; but soon his suspicious soul got the better. That was not all mine errand, I told him—not all: the psaltery. ‘Well, what of that?’ ’Twas not mine, but his: I would pay him the price of it. ‘Then throw me a rix-dollar,’ said he. I counted out my coins, and they came to a rix-dollar and two batzen. I threw him up his money in three throws, and when he had got it all he said, softly, ‘Bon Bec.’ ‘Master,’ said I. Then the poor rogue was greatly moved. ‘I thought ye had been mocking me,’ said he: ‘O Bon Bec, Bon Bec, if I had found the world like thee at starting, I had put my wit to better use, and I had not lain here.’ Then he whimpered out, ‘I gave not quite a rix-dollar for the jingler,’ and threw me back that he had gone to cheat me of; honest for once, and over late: and so with many sighs bade me Godspeed.  36
  “Thus did my master, after often baffling men’s justice, fall by their injustice; for his lost ears proved not his guilt only, but of that guilt the bitter punishment: so the account was even; yet they for his chastisement did chastise him. Natheless he was a parlous rogue. Yet he holp to make a man of me. Thanks to his good wit, I went forward richer far with my psaltery and brush than with yon as good as stolen purse; for that must have run dry in time, like a big trough, but these a little fountain.”  37
 
 
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