Turn Vagabond

The Archdeacon, on returning to the cloister, found his brother, Jehan of the Mill, watching for him at the door of his cell, having whiled away the tediousness of waiting by drawing on the wall with a piece of charcoal a profile portrait of his elder brother enriched by a nose of preposterous dimensions.

Dom Claude scarcely glanced at his brother. He had other things to think of. That laughing, scampish face, whose beams had so often lifted the gloom from the sombre countenance of the priest, had now no power to dissipate the mists that gathered ever more thickly over that festering, mephitic, stagnant soul.

“Brother,”Jehan began timidly, “I have come to see you.”

The Archdeacon did not even glance at him. “Well?”

“Brother,”continued the little hypocrite, “you are so good to me, and you bestow upon me such excellent advice, that I always come back to you.”

“What further?”

“Alas, brother, you were very right when you said to me: ‘Jehan! Jehan! cessat doctorum doctrina, discipulorum disciplina. Jehan, be staid; Jehan, be studious; Jehan, spend not thy nights outside the college without lawful occasion and leave of the masters. Come not to blows with the Picards—noli, Joannes, verbe rare Picardos. Lie not rotting like an unlettered ass—quasi asinus illiteratus—among the straw of the schools. Jehan, let thyself be chastised at the discretion of the master. Jehan, go every evening to chapel and sing an anthem with verse and prayer in praise of Our Lady the Virgin Mary.’ Alas! how excellent was that advice!”

“And then?”

“Brother, you see before you a guilty wretch, a miscreant, a profligate, a monster! My dear brother, Jehan has used your counsel as mere straw and dung to be trodden under foot. Well am I chastised for it, and the heavenly Father is extraordinarily just. So long as I had money I spent it in feasting, folly, and profligacy. Ah, how hideous and vile is the back view of debauchery compared with the smiling countenance she faces us with! Now I have not a single sou left; I’ve sold my coverlet, my shirt, and my towel—no merry life for me any longer! The fair taper is extinguished, and nothing remains to me but its villainous snuff that stinks in my nostrils. The girls make mock of me. I drink water. I am harassed by remorse and creditors.”

“The end?”said the Archdeacon.

“Ah, best of brothers, I would fain lead a better life. I come to you full of contrition. I am penitent. I acknowledge my sins. I beat my breast with heavy blows. You are very right to desire that I should one day become a licentiate and sub-monitor of the Collège de Torchi. I now feel a remarkable vocation for that office. But I have no more ink left—I shall be obliged to buy some; I have no pens left— I must buy some; no more paper, no books—I must buy them. For that purpose I am sorely in need of the financial wherewithal. And I come to you, my brother, with a heart full of contrition.”

“Is that all?”

“Yes,”said the scholar. “A little money.”

“I have none.”

The scholar assumed an air of gravity and resolution: “Very good, brother, then I am sorry to have to inform you that I have received from other quarters very advantageous offers and proposals. You will not give me any money? No? In that case I shall turn Vagabond.”And with this portentous word he adopted the mien of an Ajax awaiting the lightning.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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