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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 1

Then there appeared before Picrochole the Duke of Mennail


He was informed by an old hag that his kingdom would be restored to him at the coming of the Cocqsigrues: since then it is not certainly known what has become of him. However, I have been told that he now works for his poor living at Lyons, and is as choleric as ever. And always he bemoans himself to strangers about the Cocqsigrues--yet with a certain hope, according to the old woman's prophecy, that at their coming he will be reinstated in his kingdom.

Edward FitzGerald would have called this "terrible"; and perhaps it is.

But there is much more humour than terror in the rest, and sometimes there are qualities different from either. The rescue of the sacred precincts of the Abbey of Seuille from the invaders by that glorious monk (a personage at no great remove from our own Friar Tuck, to the later portraits of whom he has lent some of his own traits) pleases the soul well, as do the feats of Gymnast against Tripet, and the fate of the unlucky Touquedillon, and the escalade of La Roche Clermande, and (a little less perhaps) the pure burlesque of the eating of the pilgrims, and the combing out of the cannon balls, and the contrasted sweet reasonableness of the amiable though not at all cowardly Grandgousier. But the advice of the Evil Counsellors to Picrochole is still perhaps the pearl:

[Sidenote: The Counsel to Picrochole.]

Then there appeared before Picrochole the Duke of Mennail, Count Spadassin, and Captain Merdaille, and said to him, "Sire, this day we make you the most happy and chivalrous prince that ever has been since the death of Alexander of Macedon." "Be covered, be covered," said Picrochole. "Gramercy, sire", said they, "but we know our duty. The means are as follows. You will leave here in garrison some captain with a small band of men to hold the place, which seems to us pretty strong, both by nature and by the fortifications you have contrived. You will, as you know well, divide your army in half. One half will fall upon this fellow Grandgousier and his people, and easily discomfit him at the first assault. There we shall gain money in heaps, for the rascal has plenty. (Rascal we call him, because a really noble prince never has a penny. To hoard is the mark of a rascal.)

"The other part will meanwhile draw towards Aunis, Saintonge, Angoumois, and Gascony, as well as Perigord, Medoc, and Elanes. Without any resistance they will take towns, castles, and fortresses. At Bayonne, at St. Jean de Luz, and at Fontarabia you will seize all the ships, and coasting towards Galicia and Portugal, will plunder all the seaside places as far as Lisbon, where you will be reinforced with all the supplies necessary to a conqueror: _Corbleu!_ Spain will surrender, for they are all poltroons. You will pass the Straits of Seville,[94] and will there erect two columns more magnificent than those of Hercules for the perpetual memory of your name. And that Strait shall thenceforward be named the Sea of Picrochole.

"When that sea has been passed, lo! comes Barbarossa[95] to surrender as your slave." "I," said Picrochole, "will extend mercy to him." "Very well," said they, "on condition that he is baptized. And then you will assault the kingdoms of Tunis, of Hippo,[96] of Argier, of Bona, of Corona--to cut it short, all Barbary. Going further,[97] you will keep in your hands Majorca, Minorca, Sardinia, Corsica, and the other islands of the Ligurian and Balearic sea. Coasting to the left[98] you will dominate all Narbonese Gaul, Provence, the Allobroges, Genoa, Florence, Lucca, and, begad! Rome. Poor master Pope is already dying for fear of you." "I will never kiss his slipper," said Picrochole.


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