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humiliating to Master Francis. In presence and counting as acquaintances the most disof his lady-love, perhaps under her window reputable people he could lay his hands on: and certainly with her connivance, he was un- fellows who stole ducks in Paris Moat; sermercifully thrashed by one Noë le Joly - geants of the criminal court, and archers of beaten, as he says himself, like dirty linen on the watch; blackguards who slept at night the washing-board. It is characteristic that · under the butchers' stalls, and for whom the his malice had notably increased between the aforesaid archers peered about carefully with time when he wrote the Small Testament im- lanterns; Regnier de Montigny, Colin de mediately on the back of the occurrence, and Cayeux, and their crew, all bound on a favourthe time when he wrote the Large Testament ing breeze toward the gallows; the disorderly five years after. On the latter occasion noth- abbess of Port Royal, who went about at fair ing is too bad for his “damsel with the twisted time with soldiers and thieves, and conducted nose," as he calls her. She is spared neither her abbey on the queerest principles; and hint nor accusation, and he tells his messenger most likely Perette Mauger, the great Paris to accost her with the vilest insults. Villon, receiver of stolen goods, not yet dreaming, it is thought, was out of Paris when these poor woman! of the last scene of her career amenities escaped his pen; or perhaps the when Henry Cousin, executor of the high strong arm of Noë le Joly would ave
justice, shall bury her, alive and most relucagain in requisition. So ends the love story, tant, in front of the new Montigny gibbet. if love story it may properly be called. Poets Nay, our friend soon began to take a foremost are not necessarily fortunate in love; but they rank in this society. He could string off usually fall among more romantic circum- verses, which is always an agreeable talent; stances and bear their disappointment with a and he could make himself useful in many better grace.
other ways. The whole ragged army of. BoThe neighbourhood of Regnier de Montigny hemia, and whosoever loved good cheer withand Colin de Cayeux was probably more in- out at all loving to work and pay for it, are fluential on his after life than the contempt of addressed in contemporary verses as the “SubCatherine. For a man who is greedy of all jects of François Villon.” He was a good pleasures, and provided with little money and genius to all hungry and unscrupulous persons; less dignity of character, we may prophesy a and became the hero of a whole legendary safe and speedy voyage downward. Humble cycle of tavern tricks and cheateries. At or even truckling virtue may walk unspotted best, these were doubtful levities, rather too in this life. But only those who despise the thievish for a schoolboy, rather too gamesome pleasures can afford to despise the opinion of for a thief. But he would not linger long in the world. A man of a strong, heady tem- this equivocal border land. He must soon perament, like Villon, is very differently have complied with his surroundings. He tempted. His eyes lay hold on all provoca- was one who would go where the cannikin tions greedily, and his heart flames up at a clinked, not caring who should pay; and from look into imperious desire; he is snared and supping in the wolves' den, there is but a step broached to by anything and everything, from to hunting with the pack. And he
am a pretty face to a piece of pastry in a cook- on the chapter of his degradation, I shall say shop window; he will drink the rinsing of the all I mcan to say about its darkest expression, wine cup, stay the latest at the tavern party; and be done with it for good. Some charittap at the lit windows, follow the sound of able critics sce no more than a jeu d'esprit, a singing, and beat the whole neighbourhood for graceful and trilling exercise of the imaginaanother reveller, as he goes reluctantly home- tion, in the grimy ballad of Fat Peg (Grosse ward: and grudge himself every hour of sleep Margot). I am not able to follow these gentleas a black empty period in which he cannot men to this polite extreme. Out of all Villon's follow after pleasure. Such a person is lost works that ballad stands forth in flaring if he have not dignity, or, failing that, at least reality, gross and ghastly, as a thing written pride, which is its shadow and in many ways in contraction of disgust. M. Longnon its substitute. Master Francis, I fancy, would shows us more and more clearly at every page follow his own eager instincts without much that we are to read our poet literally, that his spiritual struggle. And we soon find him names are the names of real persons, and the fallen among thieves in sober, literal earnest, events he chronicles were actual events. But
even if the tendency of criticism had run the Master Jehan le Mardi. Sermaise, according other way, this ballad would have gone far to Villon's account, which is all we have to to prove itself. I can well understand the
go upon, came up blustering and denying reluctance of worthy persons in this matter; God; as Villon rose to make room for him for of course it is unpleasant to think of a man upon the bench, thrust him rudely back into of genius as one who held, in the words of · his place; and finally drew his sword and Marina to Boult
cut open his lower lip, by what I should
imagine was a very clumsy stroke. Up to “A place, for which the pained'st fiend Of hell would not in reputation change.'
this point, Villon professes to have been a
model of courtesy, even of feebleness; and But beyond this natural unwillingness, the the brawl, in his version, reads like the fable whole difficulty of the case springs from a of the wolf and the lamb. But now the highly virtuous ignorance of life. Paris now lamb was roused; he drew his sword, stabbed is not so different from the Paris of then; Sermaise in the groin, knocked him on the and the whole of the doings of Bohemia are head with a big stone, and then, leaving him not written in the sugar-candy pastorals of to his fate, went away to have his own lip Murger. It is really not at all surprising that doctored by a barber' of the name of Fouquet. a young man of the fifteenth century, with a In one version, he says that Gilles, Isabeau, knack of making verses, should accept his and Le Mardi ran away at the first high bread upon disgraceful terms. The race of words, and that he and Sermaise had it out those who do is not extinct; and some of them alone; in another, Le Mardi is represented to this day write the prettiest verses imagi- as returning and wresting Villon's sword from nable. . .: After this, it were impossible for him: the reader may please himself. SerMaster Francis to fall lower: to go and steal maise was picked up, lay all that night in the for himself would be an admirable advance prison of Saint Benoît, where he was examined from every point of view, divine or human. by an official of the Châtelet ? and expressly
And yet it is not as a thief, but as a homi- pardoned Villon, and died on the following cide, that he makes his first appearance before Saturday in the Hôtel Dieu.3 angry justice. On June 5, 1455, when he was This, as I have said, was in June. Not about twenty-four, and had been Master of before January of the next year could Villon Arts for a matter of three years, we behold extract a pardon from the king; but while his him for the first time quite definitely. Angry hand was in, he got two. One is for “Franjustice had, as it were, photographed him in çois des Loges, alias (auterment dit) de Villon"; the act of his homicide; and M. Longnon, and the other runs in the name of François rummaging among old deeds, has turned up de Montcorbier. Nay, it appears there was a the negative and printed it off for our instruc- further complication; for in the narrative of tion. Villon had been supping — copiously the first of these documents, it is mentioned we may believe -- and sat on a stone bench that he passed himself off upon Fouquet, the in front of the Church of Saint Benoît, in barber-surgeon, as one Michel Mouton. M. company with a priest called Gilles and a
Longnon has a theory that this unhappy acciwoman of the name of Isabeau. It was nine dent with Sermaise was the cause of Villon's o'clock, a mighty late hour for the period, and subsequent irregularities; and that up to that evidently a fine summer's night. Master moment he had been the pink of good beFrancis carried a mantle, like a prudent man,
haviour. But the matter has to my eyes a to keep him from the dews (serain), and had a more dubious air. A pardon necessary for sword below it dangling from his girdle. So Des Loges and another for Montcorbier? and these three dallied in front of St. Benoît, tak- these two the same person? and one or both ing their pleasure (pour soy esbatre). Sud- of them known by the alias of Villon, howdenly there arrived upon the scene a priest, ever honestly come by? and lastly, in the heat Philippe Chermoye or Sermaise, also with of the moment, a fourth name thrown out sword and cloak, and accompanied by one with an assured countenance? A ship is not
to be trusted that sails under so many colours. 1 Pericles, IV, vi, 173-4
2 Henri Murger (1822– 1851), who celebrated the Bohemian life of Paris 1 In those days barbers were surgeons for minor in Scènes de la vie de Bohème
operations. ? the city prison : a hospital
This is not the simple bearing of innocence. To a knot of such learned pilferers our poet No - the young master was already treading certainly belonged; and by turning over a crooked paths; already, he would start and few more of M. Longnon's negatives, we shall blench at a hand upon his shoulder, with the get a clear idea of their character and doings. look we know so well in the face of Hogarth's Montigny and De Cayeux are names already Idle Apprentice;' already, in the blue devils, known; Guy Tabary, Petit-Jehan, Dom Nicohe would see Henry Cousin, the executor of las, little Thibault, who was both clerk and high justice, going in dolorous procession goldsmith, and who made picklocks and toward Montfaucon, and hear the wind and melted plate for himself and his companions the birds crying around Paris gibbet.
— with these the reader has still to become
acquainted. Petit-Jehan and De Cayeux A GANG OF THIEVES
were handy fellows and enjoyed a useful pre
eminence in honour of their doings with the In spite of the prodigious number of people picklock. "Dictus des Cahyeus est fortis who managed to get hanged, the fifteenth operator crochetorum,” says Tabary's intercentury was by no means a bad time for crim- rogation, "sed dictus Petit-Jehan, ejus socius, inals. A great confusion of parties and great est forcius operator."'2 But the flower of the dust of fighting favoured the escape of private flock was little Thibault; it was reported housebreakers and quiet fellows who stole that no lock could stand before him; he had ducks in Paris Moat. Prisons were leaky; a persuasive hand; let us salute capacity and as we shall see, a man with a few crowns wherever we may find it. Perhaps the term in his pocket and perhaps some acquaintance gang is not quite properly applied to the peramong the officials, could easily slip out and sons whose fortunes we are now about to become once more a free marauder. There follow; rather they were independent malewas no want of a sanctuary where he might factors, socially intimate, and occasionally harbour until troubles blew by; and accom- joining together for some serious operation, plices helped each other with more or less just as modern stock jobbers form a syndicate good faith. Clerks, above all, had remark- for an important loan. Nor were they at all able facilities for a criminal way of life; for particular to any branch of misdoing. They they were privileged, except in cases of noto- did not scrupulously confine themselves to a rious incorrigibility, to be plucked from the single sort of theft, as I hear is common hands of rude secular justice and tried by a among modern thieves. They were ready tribunal of their own. In 1402, a couple of for anything, from pitch-and-toss 3 to manthieves, both clerks of the University, were slaughter. Montingy, for instance, had negcondemned to death by the Provost of Paris. lected neither of these extremes, and we find As they were taken to Montfaucon, they kept him accused of cheating at games of hazard* crying “high and clearly” for their benefit of on the one hand, and on the other of the clergy," but were none the less pitilessly hanged murder of one Thevenin Pensete in a house by and gibbeted. Indignant Alma Mater inter- the Cemetery of St. John. If time had only fered before the king; and the Provost was spared us some particulars, might not this deprived of all royal offices, and condemned last have furnished us with the matter of a to return the bodies and erect a great stone grisly winter's tale? cross, on the road from Paris to the gibbet, At Christmas-time in 1456, readers of Villon graven with the effigies of these two holy will remember that he was engaged on the martyrs. We shall hear more of the benefit Small Testament. About the same period, of clergy; for after this the reader will not circa festum nativitatis Domini, he took part be surprised to meet with thieves in the shape in a memorable supper at the Mule Tavern, of tonsured clerks, or even priests and monks. in front of the Church of St. Mathurin.
Tabury, who seems to have been very much crowns, and promised a share of a two-crown Villon's creature, had ordered the supper in dinner on the morrow; whereat we may supthe course of the afternoon. He was a man pose his mouth watered. In course of time, who had had troubles in his time and lan- he got wind of the real amount of their booty guished in the Bishop of Paris's piisons on a and understood how scurvily he had been suspicion of picking locks; confiding, con- used; but he seems to have borne no malice. vivial, not very astute — who had copied out How could he, against such superb operators a whole improper romance with his own right as Petit-Jehan and De Cayeux; or a person hand. This supper-party was to be his first like Villon, who could have made a new imintroduction to De Cayeux and Petit-Jehan, proper romance out of his own head, instead which was probably a matter of some concern of merely copying an old one with mechanical to the poor man's muddy wits; in the sequel, right hand ? at least, he speaks of both with an undisguised The rest of the winter was not uneventful respect, based on professional inferiority in the for the gang. First they made a demonstramatter of picklocks. Dom Nicolas, a Picardy tion against the Church of St. Mathurin monk, was the fifth and last at table. When after chalices, and were ignominiously chased supper had been despatched and fairly washed away by barking dogs. Then Tabary fell out down, we may suppose, with white Baigneux with Casin Chollet, one of the fellows who or red Beaune, which were favourite wines stole ducks in Paris Moat, who subsequently among the fellowship, Tabary was solemnly became a sergeant of the Châtelet and dissworn over to secrecy on the night's perform- tinguished himself by misconduct, followed by ances; and the party left the Mule and pro- imprisonment and public castigation, during ceeded to an unoccupied house belonging to the wars of Louis Eleventh. The quarrel was Robert de Saint-Simon. This, over a low not conducted with a proper regard to the wall, they entered without difficulty. All but king's peace, and the pair publicly belaboured Tabary took off their upper garments; a each oiher until the police stepped in, and ladder was found and applied to the high Master Tabary was cast once more into the wall which separated Saint-Simon's house prisons of the Bishop. While he still lay in from the court of the College of Navarre; durance, another job was cleverly executed the four fellows in their shirt sleeves (as we by the band in broad daylight, at the Augusmight say) clambered over in a twinkling; tine Monastery. Brother Guillaume Coimmer and Master Guy Tabary remained alone be- was beguiled by an accomplice to St. Mathurin side the overcoats. From the court the bur- to say mass; and during his absence, his glars made their way into the vestry of the chamber was entered and five or six hundred chapel, where they found a large chest, crowns in money and some silver plate sucstrengthened with iron bands and closed with cessfully abstracted. A melancholy man was four locks. One of these locks they picked, Coiffier on his return! Eight crowns from and then, by levering up the corner, forced this adventure were forwarded by little Thithe other three. Inside was a small coffer, of bault to the incarcerated Tabary; and with walnut wood, also barred with iron, but these he bribed the jailer and reappeared in fastened with only three locks, which were all Paris taverns. Some time before or shortly comfortably picked by way of the keyhole. after this, Villon set out for Angers, as he had In the walnut cofler a joyous sight by our promised in the Small Testament. The object thieves' lantern were five hundred crowns of this excursion was not merely to avoid the of gold. There was some talk of opening the presence of his cruel mistress or the strong aumries, where, if they had only known, a arm of Noë le Joly, but to plan a deliberate booty eight or nine times greater lay ready robbery on his uncle the monk. As soon as to their hand; but one of the party (I have a he had properly studied the ground; the others humorous suspicion it was Dom Nicolas, the were to go over in force from Paris - pickPicardy monk) hurried them away. It was locks and all — and away with my uncle's ten o'clock when they mounted the ladder; strongbox! This throws a comical sidelight it was about midnight before Tabary beheld on his own accusation against his relatives, them coming back. To him they gave ten that they had “forgotten natural duty” and
1 cups used for sacramental wine
disowned him because he was poor. A poor ties and gave him no information as to their relation is a distasteful circumstance at the exploits, past, present, or to come. I supbest, but a poor relation who plans deliberate pose Tabary groaned under this reserve; for robberies against those of his blood, and no sooner were he and the Prior out of the trudges hundreds of weary leagues to put church than he fairly emptied his heart to him, them into execution, is surely a little on the gave him full details of many hanging matters wrong side of toleration. The uncle at Angers in the past, and explained the future intentions may have been monstrously undutiful; but of the band. The scheme of the hour was to the nephew from Paris was upsides with him. rob another Augustine monk, Robert de la
On the 23d April, that venerable and dis- Porte, and in this the Prior agreed to take a creet person, Master Pierre Marchand, Curate hand, with simulated greed. Thus, in the and Prior of Paray-le-Monial, in the diocese course of two days, he had turned this wineof Chartres, arrived in Paris and put up at the skin of a Tabary inside out. For a while sign of the Three Chandeliers, in the Rue de la longer the farce was carried on; the Prior Huchette. Next day, or the day after, as he was introduced to Petit-Jehan, whom he was breakfasting at the sign of the Arm-chair, describes as a little, very smart man of thirty, he fell into talk with two customers, one of with a black beard and a short jacket; an whom was a priest and the other our friend appointment was made and broken in the de Tabary. The idiotic Tabary became mighty la Porte affair; Tabary had some breakfast confidential as to his past life. Pierre Mar- at the Prior's charge and leaked out more chand, who was an acquaintance of Guillaume secrets under the influence of wine and friendCoiffier's and had sympathised with him over ship; and then all of a sudden, on the 17th of his loss, pricked up his ears at the mention of May, an alarm sprang up, the Prior picked picklocks, and led on the transcriber of im- up his skirts and walked quietly over to the proper romances from one thing to another, Châtelet to make a deposition, and the whole until they were fast friends. For picklocks band took to their heels and vanished out of the Prior of Paray professed a keen curiosity; Paris and the sight of the police. but Tabary, upon some late alarm, had thrown Vanish as they like, they all go with a clog all his into the Seine. Let that be no diffi- about their feet. Sooner or later, here or culty, however, for was there not little Thi- there, they will be caught in the fact, and ignobault, who could make them of all shapes and miniously sent home. From our vantage of sizes, and to whom Tabary, smelling an accom- four centuries afterward, it is odd and pitiful plice, would be only too glad to introduce his to watch the order in which the fugitives are new acquaintance? On the morrow, accord- captured and dragged in. ingly, they met; and Tabary, after having Montigny was the first. In August of that first wet his whistle at the Prior's expense, same year, he was laid by the heels on many led him to Notre Damel and presented him to grievous counts; sacrilegious robberies, frauds, four or five “young companions," who were incorrigibility, and that bad business about keeping sanctuary? in the church. They were Thevenin Pensete in the house by the Cemeall clerks, recently escaped, like Tabary him- tery of St. John. He was reclaimed by the self, from the, episcopal prisons. Among ecclesiastical authorities as a clerk; but the these we may notice Thibault, the operator, claim was rebutted on the score of incorrigia little fellow of twenty-six, wearing long hair bility, and ultimately fell to the ground; and behind. The Prior expressed, through Ta- he was condemned to death by the Provost of bary, his anxiety to become their accomplice Paris. It was a very rude hour for Montigny, and altogether such as they were (de leur sorte but hope was not yet over. He was a fellow et de leurs complices). Mighty polite they of some birth; his father had been king's pantshowed themselves, and made him many fine ler;? his sister, probably married to some one speeches in return. But for all that, perhaps about the Court, was in the family way, and because they had longer heads than Tabary, her health would be endangered if the execution perhaps because it is less easy to wheedle men was proceeded with. So down comes Charles in a body, they kept obstinately to generali- the Seventh with letters of mercy, commuting
the penalty to a year in a dungeon on bread 1 the cathedral 2 staying in the church, where they could not be arrested
1 in charge of the pantry