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  • BOOK FIFTH. CHAPTER I.

  • ABBAS BEATI MARTINI.

  • Dom Claude's fame had spread far and wide. It procured for him, at about the epoch

  • when he refused to see Madame de Beaujeu, a visit which he long remembered.

  • It was in the evening.

  • He had just retired, after the office, to his canon's cell in the cloister of Notre-

  • Dame.

  • This cell, with the exception, possibly, of some glass phials, relegated to a corner,

  • and filled with a decidedly equivocal powder, which strongly resembled the

  • alchemist's "powder of projection," presented nothing strange or mysterious.

  • There were, indeed, here and there, some inscriptions on the walls, but they were

  • pure sentences of learning and piety, extracted from good authors.

  • The archdeacon had just seated himself, by the light of a three-jetted copper lamp,

  • before a vast coffer crammed with manuscripts.

  • He had rested his elbow upon the open volume of Honorius d'Autun, De

  • predestinatione et libero arbitrio, and he was turning over, in deep meditation, the

  • leaves of a printed folio which he had just

  • brought, the sole product of the press which his cell contained.

  • In the midst of his revery there came a knock at his door.

  • "Who's there?" cried the learned man, in the gracious tone of a famished dog,

  • disturbed over his bone. A voice without replied, "Your friend,

  • Jacques Coictier."

  • He went to open the door. It was, in fact, the king's physician; a

  • person about fifty years of age, whose harsh physiognomy was modified only by a

  • crafty eye.

  • Another man accompanied him. Both wore long slate-colored robes, furred

  • with minever, girded and closed, with caps of the same stuff and hue.

  • Their hands were concealed by their sleeves, their feet by their robes, their

  • eyes by their caps.

  • "God help me, messieurs!" said the archdeacon, showing them in; "I was not

  • expecting distinguished visitors at such an hour."

  • And while speaking in this courteous fashion he cast an uneasy and scrutinizing

  • glance from the physician to his companion.

  • "'Tis never too late to come and pay a visit to so considerable a learned man as

  • Dom Claude Frollo de Tirechappe," replied Doctor Coictier, whose Franche-Comte accent

  • made all his phrases drag along with the majesty of a train-robe.

  • There then ensued between the physician and the archdeacon one of those congratulatory

  • prologues which, in accordance with custom, at that epoch preceded all conversations

  • between learned men, and which did not

  • prevent them from detesting each other in the most cordial manner in the world.

  • However, it is the same nowadays; every wise man's mouth complimenting another wise

  • man is a vase of honeyed gall.

  • Claude Frollo's felicitations to Jacques Coictier bore reference principally to the

  • temporal advantages which the worthy physician had found means to extract, in

  • the course of his much envied career, from

  • each malady of the king, an operation of alchemy much better and more certain than

  • the pursuit of the philosopher's stone.

  • "In truth, Monsieur le Docteur Coictier, I felt great joy on learning of the bishopric

  • given your nephew, my reverend seigneur Pierre Verse.

  • Is he not Bishop of Amiens?"

  • "Yes, monsieur Archdeacon; it is a grace and mercy of God."

  • "Do you know that you made a great figure on Christmas Day at the bead of your

  • company of the chamber of accounts, Monsieur President?"

  • "Vice-President, Dom Claude.

  • Alas! nothing more." "How is your superb house in the Rue Saint-

  • Andre des Arcs coming on? 'Tis a Louvre.

  • I love greatly the apricot tree which is carved on the door, with this play of

  • words: 'A L'ABRI-COTIER--Sheltered from reefs.'"

  • "Alas!

  • Master Claude, all that masonry costeth me dear.

  • In proportion as the house is erected, I am ruined."

  • "Ho! have you not your revenues from the jail, and the bailiwick of the Palais, and

  • the rents of all the houses, sheds, stalls, and booths of the enclosure?

  • 'Tis a fine breast to suck."

  • "My castellany of Poissy has brought me in nothing this year."

  • "But your tolls of Triel, of Saint-James, of Saint-Germainen-Laye are always good."

  • "Six score livres, and not even Parisian livres at that."

  • "You have your office of counsellor to the king.

  • That is fixed."

  • "Yes, brother Claude; but that accursed seigneury of Poligny, which people make so

  • much noise about, is worth not sixty gold crowns, year out and year in."

  • In the compliments which Dom Claude addressed to Jacques Coictier, there was

  • that sardonical, biting, and covertly mocking accent, and the sad cruel smile of

  • a superior and unhappy man who toys for a

  • moment, by way of distraction, with the dense prosperity of a vulgar man.

  • The other did not perceive it.

  • "Upon my soul," said Claude at length, pressing his hand, "I am glad to see you

  • and in such good health." "Thanks, Master Claude."

  • "By the way," exclaimed Dom Claude, "how is your royal patient?"

  • "He payeth not sufficiently his physician," replied the doctor, casting a side glance

  • at his companion.

  • "Think you so, Gossip Coictier," said the latter.

  • These words, uttered in a tone of surprise and reproach, drew upon this unknown

  • personage the attention of the archdeacon which, to tell the truth, had not been

  • diverted from him a single moment since the

  • stranger had set foot across the threshold of his cell.

  • It had even required all the thousand reasons which he had for handling tenderly

  • Doctor Jacques Coictier, the all-powerful physician of King Louis XI., to induce him

  • to receive the latter thus accompanied.

  • Hence, there was nothing very cordial in his manner when Jacques Coictier said to

  • him,--

  • "By the way, Dom Claude, I bring you a colleague who has desired to see you on

  • account of your reputation."

  • "Monsieur belongs to science?" asked the archdeacon, fixing his piercing eye upon

  • Coictier's companion.

  • He found beneath the brows of the stranger a glance no less piercing or less

  • distrustful than his own.

  • He was, so far as the feeble light of the lamp permitted one to judge, an old man

  • about sixty years of age and of medium stature, who appeared somewhat sickly and

  • broken in health.

  • His profile, although of a very ordinary outline, had something powerful and severe

  • about it; his eyes sparkled beneath a very deep superciliary arch, like a light in the

  • depths of a cave; and beneath his cap which

  • was well drawn down and fell upon his nose, one recognized the broad expanse of a brow

  • of genius. He took it upon himself to reply to the

  • archdeacon's question,--

  • "Reverend master," he said in a grave tone, "your renown has reached my ears, and I

  • wish to consult you.

  • I am but a poor provincial gentleman, who removeth his shoes before entering the

  • dwellings of the learned. You must know my name.

  • I am called Gossip Tourangeau."

  • "Strange name for a gentleman," said the archdeacon to himself.

  • Nevertheless, he had a feeling that he was in the presence of a strong and earnest

  • character.

  • The instinct of his own lofty intellect made him recognize an intellect no less

  • lofty under Gossip Tourangeau's furred cap, and as he gazed at the solemn face, the

  • ironical smile which Jacques Coictier's

  • presence called forth on his gloomy face, gradually disappeared as twilight fades on

  • the horizon of night.

  • Stern and silent, he had resumed his seat in his great armchair; his elbow rested as

  • usual, on the table, and his brow on his hand.

  • After a few moments of reflection, he motioned his visitors to be seated, and,

  • turning to Gossip Tourangeau he said,-- "You come to consult me, master, and upon

  • what science?"

  • "Your reverence," replied Tourangeau, "I am ill, very ill.

  • You are said to be great AEsculapius, and I am come to ask your advice in medicine."

  • "Medicine!" said the archdeacon, tossing his head.

  • He seemed to meditate for a moment, and then resumed: "Gossip Tourangeau, since

  • that is your name, turn your head, you will find my reply already written on the wall."

  • Gossip Tourangeau obeyed, and read this inscription engraved above his head:

  • "Medicine is the daughter of dreams.-- JAMBLIQUE."

  • Meanwhile, Doctor Jacques Coictier had heard his companion's question with a

  • displeasure which Dom Claude's response had but redoubled.

  • He bent down to the ear of Gossip Tourangeau, and said to him, softly enough

  • not to be heard by the archdeacon: "I warned you that he was mad.

  • You insisted on seeing him."

  • "'Tis very possible that he is right, madman as he is, Doctor Jacques," replied

  • his comrade in the same low tone, and with a bitter smile.

  • "As you please," replied Coictier dryly.

  • Then, addressing the archdeacon: "You are clever at your trade, Dom Claude, and you

  • are no more at a loss over Hippocrates than a monkey is over a nut.

  • Medicine a dream!

  • I suspect that the pharmacopolists and the master physicians would insist upon stoning

  • you if they were here. So you deny the influence of philtres upon

  • the blood, and unguents on the skin!

  • You deny that eternal pharmacy of flowers and metals, which is called the world, made

  • expressly for that eternal invalid called man!"

  • "I deny," said Dom Claude coldly, "neither pharmacy nor the invalid.

  • I reject the physician."

  • "Then it is not true," resumed Coictier hotly, "that gout is an internal eruption;

  • that a wound caused by artillery is to be cured by the application of a young mouse

  • roasted; that young blood, properly

  • injected, restores youth to aged veins; it is not true that two and two make four, and

  • that emprostathonos follows opistathonos."

  • The archdeacon replied without perturbation: "There are certain things of

  • which I think in a certain fashion." Coictier became crimson with anger.

  • "There, there, my good Coictier, let us not get angry," said Gossip Tourangeau.

  • "Monsieur the archdeacon is our friend." Coictier calmed down, muttering in a low

  • tone,--

  • "After all, he's mad." "Pasque-dieu, Master Claude," resumed

  • Gossip Tourangeau, after a silence, "You embarrass me greatly.

  • I had two things to consult you upon, one touching my health and the other touching

  • my star."

  • "Monsieur," returned the archdeacon, "if that be your motive, you would have done as

  • well not to put yourself out of breath climbing my staircase.

  • I do not believe in Medicine.