“We will put him again to the question. Then here is something else,” added Maître Jacques, fumbling once more in his bag, “which we found at Marc Cenaine’s.”

It was a vessel of the same family as those which encumbered the furnace of Dom Claude. “Ah,” said the Archdeacon, “an alchemist’s crucible.”

“I don’t mind confessing to you,” Maître Jacques went on, with his timid and constrained smile, “that I have tried it over the furnace, but succeeded no better than with my own.”

The Archdeacon examined the vessel. “What has he inscribed on his crucible? ’Och! och!’— the word for driving away fleas? Your Marc Cenaine is an ignoramus! I can well believe that you could not make gold with this! It will be useful to put in your sleeping alcove in the summer, but for nothing more.”

“Since we are on the subject of errors,” said the King’s attorney, “before coming up I was studying the doorway down below; is your Reverence quite sure that the beginnings of Nature’s workings are represented there on the side towards the Hôtel-Dieu, and that among the seven naked figures at the feet of Our Lady, that with wings to his heels is Mercurius?”

“Yes,” answered the priest; “so Augustin Nypho writes — that Italian doctor who had a bearded familiar which taught him everything. But we will go down, and I will explain it to you from the text.”

“Thank you, master,” said Charmolue, bending to the ground. “By-the-bye, I had forgotten! When do you wish me to arrest the little witch?”

“What witch?”

“That gipsy girl, you know, who comes and dances every day in the Parvis, in defiance of the prohibition. She has a familiar spirit in the shape of a goat with devil’s horns— it can read and write and do arithmetic— enough to hang all Bohemia. The charge is quite ready and would soon be drawn up. A pretty creature, on my soul, that dancing girl! — the finest black eyes in the world— two Egyptian carbuncles. When shall we begin?”

The Archdeacon had grown deadly pale.

“I will let you know,” he stammered in almost inaudible tones, then added with an effort: “Attend you to Marc Cenaine.”

“Never fear,” answered Charmolue smiling. “As soon as I get back he shall be strapped down again to the leather bed. But it is a very devil of a man. He tires out Pierrat Torterue himself, who has larger hands than I. As says our good Plautus—

Nudus vinctus, centum pondo, es quando pendes per pedes.’1

The screw— that is our most effectual instrument— we shall try that.”

Dom Claude seemed sunk in gloomy abstraction. He now turned to Charmolue. “Maître Pierrat— Maître Jacques, I should say— look to Marc Cenaine.”

“Yes, yes, Dom Claude. Poor man! he will have suffered like Mummol. But what a thing to do— to visit the witches’ Sabbath!— and he butler to the Court of Accounts, who must know Charlemagne’s regulation: ’Stryga vel masca.’2 As to the little girl— Smelarda, as they call her— I shall await your orders. Ah! as we pass through the door you will explain to me also the signification of that gardener painted on the wall just as you enter the church. Is that not the Sower? Hé! master, what are you thinking about?”

Dom Claude, fathoms deep in his own thoughts, was not listening to him. Charmolue, following the direction of his eyes, saw that they were fixed blankly on the spider’s web which curtained the little window.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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