Gargantua/Chapter XII

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Of Gargantua's wooden horses.

Afterwards, that he might be all his lifetime a good rider, they made to him a fair great horse of wood, which he did make leap, curvet, jerk out behind, and skip forward, all at a time: to pace, trot, rack, gallop, amble, to play the hobby, the hackney-gelding: go the gait of the camel, and of the wild ass. He made him also change his colour of hair, as the monks of Coultibo (according to the variety of their holidays) use to do their clothes, from bay brown, to sorrel, dapple-grey, mouse-dun, deer-colour, roan, cow-colour, gingioline, skewed colour, piebald, and the colour of the savage elk.

Himself of a huge big post made a hunting nag, and another for daily service of the beam of a vinepress: and of a great oak made up a mule, with a footcloth, for his chamber. Besides this, he had ten or twelve spare horses, and seven horses for post; and all these were lodged in his own chamber, close by his bedside. One day the Lord of Breadinbag (Painensac.) came to visit his father in great bravery, and with a gallant train: and, at the same time, to see him came likewise the Duke of Freemeal (Francrepas.) and the Earl of Wetgullet (Mouillevent.). The house truly for so many guests at once was somewhat narrow, but especially the stables; whereupon the steward and harbinger of the said Lord Breadinbag, to know if there were any other empty stable in the house, came to Gargantua, a little young lad, and secretly asked him where the stables of the great horses were, thinking that children would be ready to tell all. Then he led them up along the stairs of the castle, passing by the second hall unto a broad great gallery, by which they entered into a large tower, and as they were going up at another pair of stairs, said the harbinger to the steward, This child deceives us, for the stables are never on the top of the house. You may be mistaken, said the steward, for I know some places at Lyons, at the Basmette, at Chaisnon, and elsewhere, which have their stables at the very tops of the houses: so it may be that behind the house there is a way to come to this ascent. But I will question with him further. Then said he to Gargantua, My pretty little boy, whither do you lead us? To the stable, said he, of my great horses. We are almost come to it; we have but these stairs to go up at. Then leading them alongst another great hall, he brought them into his chamber, and, opening the door, said unto them, This is the stable you ask for; this is my jennet; this is my gelding; this is my courser, and this is my hackney, and laid on them with a great lever. I will bestow upon you, said he, this Friesland horse; I had him from Frankfort, yet will I give him you; for he is a pretty little nag, and will go very well, with a tessel of goshawks, half a dozen of spaniels, and a brace of greyhounds: thus are you king of the hares and partridges for all this winter. By St. John, said they, now we are paid, he hath gleeked us to some purpose, bobbed we are now for ever. I deny it, said he,--he was not here above three days. Judge you now, whether they had most cause, either to hide their heads for shame, or to laugh at the jest. As they were going down again thus amazed, he asked them, Will you have a whimwham (Aubeliere.)? What is that, said they? It is, said he, five turds to make you a muzzle. To-day, said the steward, though we happen to be roasted, we shall not be burnt, for we are pretty well quipped and larded, in my opinion. O my jolly dapper boy, thou hast given us a gudgeon; I hope to see thee Pope before I die. I think so, said he, myself; and then shall you be a puppy, and this gentle popinjay a perfect papelard, that is, dissembler. Well, well, said the harbinger. But, said Gargantua, guess how many stitches there are in my mother's smock. Sixteen, quoth the harbinger. You do not speak gospel, said Gargantua, for there is cent before, and cent behind, and you did not reckon them ill, considering the two under holes. When? said the harbinger. Even then, said Gargantua, when they made a shovel of your nose to take up a quarter of dirt, and of your throat a funnel, wherewith to put it into another vessel, because the bottom of the old one was out. Cocksbod, said the steward, we have met with a prater. Farewell, master tattler, God keep you, so goodly are the words which you come out with, and so fresh in your mouth, that it had need to be salted.

Thus going down in great haste, under the arch of the stairs they let fall the great lever, which he had put upon their backs; whereupon Gargantua said, What a devil! you are, it seems, but bad horsemen, that suffer your bilder to fail you when you need him most. If you were to go from hence to Cahusac, whether had you rather, ride on a gosling or lead a sow in a leash? I had rather drink, said the harbinger. With this they entered into the lower hall, where the company was, and relating to them this new story, they made them laugh like a swarm of flies.