The Abbot of Saint-Martin's

The fame of Dom Claude Frollo had spread abroad. To it, just about the time of his refusal to encounter the Lady of Beaujeu, he owed a visit which remained long in his memory.

It happened one evening. Claude had just retired after the evening office to his canonical cell in the cloister of Notre-Dame. Beyond a few glass phials pushed away into a corner and containing some powder which looked suspiciously like an explosive, the cell had nothing noteworthy or mysterious about it. Here and there were some inscriptions on the walls, but they consisted purely of learned axioms or pious extracts from worthy authors. The Archdeacon had just seated himself at a huge oak chest covered with manuscripts, and lighted by a three-armed brass lamp. He leaned his elbow on an open tome: Honorius of Autun’s De prœdestinatione et libero arbitrio,1 while he musingly turned over the leaves of a printed folio he had just brought over, the sole production of the printing-press which stood in his cell. His reverie was broken by a knock at the door.

“Who’s there?” called the scholar in the friendly tone of a famished dog disturbed over a bone.

“A friend—Jacques Coictier,” answered a voice outside.

He rose and opened the door.

It was, in fact, the King’s physician, a man of some fifty years, the hardness of whose expression was somewhat mitigated by a look of great cunning. He was accompanied by another man. Both wore long, slate-gray, squirrel-lined robes, fastened from top to bottom and belted round the middle, and caps of the same stuff and colour. Their hands disappeared in their sleeves, their feet under their robes, and their eyes under their caps.

“God save me, messire!” said the Archdeacon, as he admitted them; “I was far from expecting so flattering a visit at this late hour.” And while he spoke thus courteously, he glanced suspiciously and shrewdly from the physician to his companion.

“It is never too late to pay a visit to so eminent a scholar as Dom Claude Frollo of Tirechappe,” replied Doctor Coictier, whose Burgundian accent let his sentences trail along with all the majestic effect of a long-trained robe.

The physician and the Archdeacon then embarked upon one of those congratulatory prologues with which, at that period, it was customary to usher in every conversation between scholars, which did not prevent them most cordially detesting one another. For the rest, it is just the same to-day; the mouth of every scholar who compliments another is a vessel full of honeyed gall.

The felicitations addressed by Claude to Jacques Coictier alluded chiefly to the numerous material advantages the worthy physician had succeeded in extracting, in the course of his much-envied career, from each illness of the King—a surer and more profitable kind of alchemy than the pursuit of the philosopher’s stone.

“Truly, Doctor Coictier, I was greatly rejoiced to learn of the promotion of your nephew, my reverend Superior, Pierre Versé, to a bishopric. He is made Bishop of Amiens, is he not?”

“Yes, Monsieur the Archdeacon, it is a gracious and merciful gift of the Lord.”

“Let me tell you you made a brave show on Christmas-day at the head of your company of the Chamber of Accountants, Monsieur the President.”

“Vice-President, Dom Claude. Alas! nothing more.”

“How fares it with your superb mansion in the Rue Saint-Andry des Arcs? It is in very truth a Louvre! And I am much taken by the apricot-tree sculptured on the door, with the pleasant play of words inscribed beneath it, ’A L’Abri-Cotier.”’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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