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  • BOOK SIXTH. CHAPTER I.

  • AN IMPARTIAL GLANCE AT THE ANCIENT MAGISTRACY.

  • A very happy personage in the year of grace 1482, was the noble gentleman Robert

  • d'Estouteville, chevalier, Sieur de Beyne, Baron d'Ivry and Saint Andry en la Marche,

  • counsellor and chamberlain to the king, and guard of the provostship of Paris.

  • It was already nearly seventeen years since he had received from the king, on November

  • 7, 1465, the comet year, that fine charge of the provostship of Paris, which was

  • reputed rather a seigneury than an office.

  • Dignitas, says Joannes Loemnoeus, quoe cum non exigua potestate politiam concernente,

  • atque proerogativis multis et juribus conjuncta est.

  • A marvellous thing in '82 was a gentleman bearing the king's commission, and whose

  • letters of institution ran back to the epoch of the marriage of the natural

  • daughter of Louis XI. with Monsieur the Bastard of Bourbon.

  • The same day on which Robert d'Estouteville took the place of Jacques de Villiers in

  • the provostship of Paris, Master Jehan Dauvet replaced Messire Helye de Thorrettes

  • in the first presidency of the Court of

  • Parliament, Jehan Jouvenel des Ursins supplanted Pierre de Morvilliers in the

  • office of chancellor of France, Regnault des Dormans ousted Pierre Puy from the

  • charge of master of requests in ordinary of the king's household.

  • Now, upon how many heads had the presidency, the chancellorship, the

  • mastership passed since Robert d'Estouteville had held the provostship of

  • Paris.

  • It had been "granted to him for safekeeping," as the letters patent said;

  • and certainly he kept it well.

  • He had clung to it, he had incorporated himself with it, he had so identified

  • himself with it that he had escaped that fury for change which possessed Louis XI.,

  • a tormenting and industrious king, whose

  • policy it was to maintain the elasticity of his power by frequent appointments and

  • revocations.

  • More than this; the brave chevalier had obtained the reversion of the office for

  • his son, and for two years already, the name of the noble man Jacques

  • d'Estouteville, equerry, had figured beside

  • his at the head of the register of the salary list of the provostship of Paris.

  • A rare and notable favor indeed!

  • It is true that Robert d'Estouteville was a good soldier, that he had loyally raised

  • his pennon against "the league of public good," and that he had presented to the

  • queen a very marvellous stag in

  • confectionery on the day of her entrance to Paris in 14...

  • Moreover, he possessed the good friendship of Messire Tristan l'Hermite, provost of

  • the marshals of the king's household.

  • Hence a very sweet and pleasant existence was that of Messire Robert.

  • In the first place, very good wages, to which were attached, and from which hung,

  • like extra bunches of grapes on his vine, the revenues of the civil and criminal

  • registries of the provostship, plus the

  • civil and criminal revenues of the tribunals of Embas of the Chatelet, without

  • reckoning some little toll from the bridges of Mantes and of Corbeil, and the profits

  • on the craft of Shagreen-makers of Paris,

  • on the corders of firewood and the measurers of salt.

  • Add to this the pleasure of displaying himself in rides about the city, and of

  • making his fine military costume, which you may still admire sculptured on his tomb in

  • the abbey of Valmont in Normandy, and his

  • morion, all embossed at Montlhery, stand out a contrast against the parti-colored

  • red and tawny robes of the aldermen and police.

  • And then, was it nothing to wield absolute supremacy over the sergeants of the police,

  • the porter and watch of the Chatelet, the two auditors of the Chatelet, auditores

  • castelleti, the sixteen commissioners of

  • the sixteen quarters, the jailer of the Chatelet, the four enfeoffed sergeants, the

  • hundred and twenty mounted sergeants, with maces, the chevalier of the watch with his

  • watch, his sub-watch, his counter-watch and his rear-watch?

  • Was it nothing to exercise high and low justice, the right to interrogate, to hang

  • and to draw, without reckoning petty jurisdiction in the first resort (in prima

  • instantia, as the charters say), on that

  • viscomty of Paris, so nobly appanaged with seven noble bailiwicks?

  • Can anything sweeter be imagined than rendering judgments and decisions, as

  • Messire Robert d'Estouteville daily did in the Grand Chatelet, under the large and

  • flattened arches of Philip Augustus? and

  • going, as he was wont to do every evening, to that charming house situated in the Rue

  • Galilee, in the enclosure of the royal palace, which he held in right of his wife,

  • Madame Ambroise de Lore, to repose after

  • the fatigue of having sent some poor wretch to pass the night in "that little cell of

  • the Rue de Escorcherie, which the provosts and aldermen of Paris used to make their

  • prison; the same being eleven feet long,

  • seven feet and four inches wide, and eleven feet high?"

  • And not only had Messire Robert d'Estouteville his special court as provost

  • and vicomte of Paris; but in addition he had a share, both for eye and tooth, in the

  • grand court of the king.

  • There was no head in the least elevated which had not passed through his hands

  • before it came to the headsman.

  • It was he who went to seek M. de Nemours at the Bastille Saint Antoine, in order to

  • conduct him to the Halles; and to conduct to the Greve M. de Saint-Pol, who clamored

  • and resisted, to the great joy of the

  • provost, who did not love monsieur the constable.

  • Here, assuredly, is more than sufficient to render a life happy and illustrious, and to

  • deserve some day a notable page in that interesting history of the provosts of

  • Paris, where one learns that Oudard de

  • Villeneuve had a house in the Rue des Boucheries, that Guillaume de Hangest

  • purchased the great and the little Savoy, that Guillaume Thiboust gave the nuns of

  • Sainte-Genevieve his houses in the Rue

  • Clopin, that Hugues Aubriot lived in the Hotel du Pore-Epic, and other domestic

  • facts.

  • Nevertheless, with so many reasons for taking life patiently and joyously, Messire

  • Robert d'Estouteville woke up on the morning of the seventh of January, 1482, in

  • a very surly and peevish mood.

  • Whence came this ill temper? He could not have told himself.

  • Was it because the sky was gray? or was the buckle of his old belt of Montlhery badly

  • fastened, so that it confined his provostal portliness too closely? had he beheld

  • ribald fellows, marching in bands of four,

  • beneath his window, and setting him at defiance, in doublets but no shirts, hats

  • without crowns, with wallet and bottle at their side?

  • Was it a vague presentiment of the three hundred and seventy livres, sixteen sous,

  • eight farthings, which the future King Charles VII. was to cut off from the

  • provostship in the following year?

  • The reader can take his choice; we, for our part, are much inclined to believe that he

  • was in a bad humor, simply because he was in a bad humor.

  • Moreover, it was the day after a festival, a tiresome day for every one, and above all

  • for the magistrate who is charged with sweeping away all the filth, properly and

  • figuratively speaking, which a festival day produces in Paris.

  • And then he had to hold a sitting at the Grand Chatelet.

  • Now, we have noticed that judges in general so arrange matters that their day of

  • audience shall also be their day of bad humor, so that they may always have some

  • one upon whom to vent it conveniently, in the name of the king, law, and justice.

  • However, the audience had begun without him.

  • His lieutenants, civil, criminal, and private, were doing his work, according to

  • usage; and from eight o'clock in the morning, some scores of bourgeois and

  • bourgeoises, heaped and crowded into an

  • obscure corner of the audience chamber of Embas du Chatelet, between a stout oaken

  • barrier and the wall, had been gazing blissfully at the varied and cheerful

  • spectacle of civil and criminal justice

  • dispensed by Master Florian Barbedienne, auditor of the Chatelet, lieutenant of

  • monsieur the provost, in a somewhat confused and utterly haphazard manner.

  • The hall was small, low, vaulted.

  • A table studded with fleurs-de-lis stood at one end, with a large arm-chair of carved

  • oak, which belonged to the provost and was empty, and a stool on the left for the

  • auditor, Master Florian.

  • Below sat the clerk of the court, scribbling; opposite was the populace; and

  • in front of the door, and in front of the table were many sergeants of the

  • provostship in sleeveless jackets of violet camlet, with white crosses.

  • Two sergeants of the Parloir-aux-Bourgeois, clothed in their jackets of Toussaint, half

  • red, half blue, were posted as sentinels before a low, closed door, which was

  • visible at the extremity of the hall, behind the table.

  • A single pointed window, narrowly encased in the thick wall, illuminated with a pale

  • ray of January sun two grotesque figures,-- the capricious demon of stone carved as a

  • tail-piece in the keystone of the vaulted

  • ceiling, and the judge seated at the end of the hall on the fleurs-de-lis.

  • Imagine, in fact, at the provost's table, leaning upon his elbows between two bundles

  • of documents of cases, with his foot on the train of his robe of plain brown cloth, his

  • face buried in his hood of white lamb's

  • skin, of which his brows seemed to be of a piece, red, crabbed, winking, bearing

  • majestically the load of fat on his cheeks which met under his chin, Master Florian

  • Barbedienne, auditor of the Chatelet.

  • Now, the auditor was deaf. A slight defect in an auditor.

  • Master Florian delivered judgment, none the less, without appeal and very suitably.

  • It is certainly quite sufficient for a judge to have the air of listening; and the

  • venerable auditor fulfilled this condition, the sole one in justice, all the better

  • because his attention could not be distracted by any noise.

  • Moreover, he had in the audience, a pitiless censor of his deeds and gestures,

  • in the person of our friend Jehan Frollo du Moulin, that little student of yesterday,

  • that "stroller," whom one was sure of

  • encountering all over Paris, anywhere except before the rostrums of the

  • professors.

  • "Stay," he said in a low tone to his companion, Robin Poussepain, who was

  • grinning at his side, while he was making his comments on the scenes which were being

  • unfolded before his eyes, "yonder is Jehanneton du Buisson.

  • The beautiful daughter of the lazy dog at the Marche-Neuf!--Upon my soul, he is

  • condemning her, the old rascal! he has no more eyes than ears.

  • Fifteen sous, four farthings, parisian, for having worn two rosaries!

  • 'Tis somewhat dear. Lex duri carminis.

  • Who's that?

  • Robin Chief-de-Ville, hauberkmaker. For having been passed and received master

  • of the said trade! That's his entrance money.

  • He! two gentlemen among these knaves!

  • Aiglet de Soins, Hutin de Mailly Two equerries, Corpus Christi!

  • Ah! they have been playing at dice. When shall I see our rector here?

  • A hundred livres parisian, fine to the king!