Of the Result of Launching a String of Seven Oaths in a Public Square

Te Deum laudamus!” exclaimed Master Jehan, crawling out of his hole; “the two old owls have gone at last. Och! och! Hax! pax! max!— fleas!— mad dogs!— the devil! I’ve had enough of their conversation. My head hums like a belfry. And mouldy cheese into the bargain! Well, cheer up! let’s be off with the big brother’s purse and convert all these coins into bottles.”

He cast a look of fond admiration into the interior of the precious pouch, adjusted his dress, rubbed his shoes, dusted his shabby sleeves, which were white with ashes, whistled a tune, cut a lively step or two, looked about the cell to see if there was anything else worth taking, rummaged about the furnace and managed to collect a glass amulet or so by way of trinket to give to Isabeau la Thierrye, and finally opened the door, which his brother had left unfastened as a last indulgence, and which he in turn left open as a last piece of mischief, and descended the spiral staircase, hopping like a bird. In the thick darkness of the winding stairs he stumbled against something which moved out of the way with a growl. He surmised that it was Quasimodo, which circumstance so tickled his fancy that he descended the rest of the stairs holding his sides with laughter. He was still laughing when he issued out into the square.

He stamped his foot when he found himself on level ground.

“Oh, most excellent and honourable pavement of Paris!” he exclaimed. “Oh, cursed staircase, that would wind the very angels of Jacob’s ladder! What was I thinking of to go and thrust myself up that stone gimlet that pierces the sky, just to eat bearded cheese and look at the steeples of Paris through a hole in the wall!”

He went on a few steps, and caught sight of the “two owls” lost in contemplation of the sculpture in the doorway. Approaching them softly on tip-toe, he heard the Archdeacon say in low tones to Charmolue: “It was Guillaume of Paris who had the Job engraven on the lapis-lazuli coloured stone. Job represents the philosopher’s stone, which also must be tried and tormented in order to become perfect, as Raymond Lulle says: ’Sub conservatione formæ specificæ salva anima.’ ”3

“It’s all one to me,” said Jehan; “I’ve got the purse.”

At that moment he heard a powerful and ringing voice behind him give vent to a string of terrible oaths:

Sang-Dieu! Ventre-Dieu! Bé-Dieu! Corps de Dieu! Nombril de Belzébuth! Nom d’un pape! Corne et tonnerre!

“My soul on it!” exclaimed Jehan, “that can be no other than my friend Captain Phœbus!”

The name Phœbus reached the ear of the Archdeacon just as he was explaining to the King’s attorney the meaning of the dragon hiding its tail in a caldron from which issued smoke and a king’s head. Dom Claude started and broke off short to the great astonishment of Charmolue, then turned and saw his brother Jehan accosting a tall officer at the door of the Gondelaurier mansion.

It was, in fact, Captain Phœbus Châteaupers. He was leaning his back against a corner of the house of his betrothed and swearing like a Turk.

“My faith, Captain Phœbus,” said Jehan, taking his hand, “but you are a wonderfully spirited swearer!”

“Thunder and devils!” answered the captain.

“Thunder and devils to you!” retorted the scholar.

“How now, my gentle captain, whence this overflow of elegant language?”

“Your pardon, friend Jehan!” cried Phœbus, shaking his hand, “a runaway horse can’t be pulled up short. Now I was swearing at full gallop. I’ve just been with those mincing prudes, and by the time I come away my throat’s so full of oaths that I must spit them out, or by thunder I should choke!”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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