The Canterbury Pilgrims eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 138 pages of information about The Canterbury Pilgrims.
me tell you he is a wonderful man.”  “What!” said the Host, “is he a scholar?” “Far greater than a scholar,” replied the servant; “he has a wondrous power.  Why, he could turn the whole ground from here to Canterbury to solid gold!” “Good heavens!” returned the Host, “you don’t say that?  Then why on earth does he hide his light under a bushel like this and go about practically in rags?  I should have expected such a man to have at least a decent coat on his back.”  “Ah,” said the yeoman, “if you ask that question I will tell you a secret.  My master is wise:  of that there is no doubt; but anything carried to excess, as philosophers say, is a vice, and in him wisdom has led to folly.”  “Where do you live?” asked the Host.  “In the suburbs of a town—­among the haunts of thieves and malefactors generally.”  “What gives your face that strange sallow colour?” asked the Host.  “It is bending over the fire and blowing it.  All day long we are at our work, puffing and blowing, stoking and raking, and as reward of it all—­nothing!  We cozen men of their gold in pretence that we can make one pound into two, and we always fail.”  All this while the canon had been edging up to his servant to hear what he was saying, for like all men with guilty consciences he was always afraid of being talked about.  He now told him to be silent.  The Host was too interested to have the talk cut short.  “Go on,” said he, “take no notice of him.”  “No more I will,” said the yeoman.  When the canon saw that his servant was going to disclose his secrets, in very shame he turned and rode away.

“Now,” said the yeoman, “I can speak plainly.  The fiend take him, and him who first introduced me to him!  Such a life have I led with him.  For seven years I have dwelt with this canon and I am no whit the nearer to approving his science.  For when I first came I was a bit of a dandy about my clothes, and now look at me, I might wear a stocking on my head instead of a cap—­and all my complexion is spoilt with puffing away at his fire.  The heat has spoilt my eyesight, and what reward have I?—­A heap of debts I shall never get quit of this side the grave.  I will tell you what we do—­and it is a craft in which the Devil has some share, and the elves more.  This is the sort of recipe we use:  ’Take five or six ounces of silver, with piment, [*] bone ash, and iron filings and grind these into fine powder.  Put all together in an earthen pot, add salt and pepper, cover with a lid and cement with clay to make all air-tight.’  Then, this is what happens.  I blow the fire, and suddenly, bang! the whole thing explodes.  ’Now how did that happen?’ everyone asks.  The first says it was too long on the fire, and the next that the pot was badly made (then I tremble, because that is my job), and another that the real fault lay with the fire because it was oak wood and not beech, and so the talk goes on till my master quiets them.  ’We must take greater precautions next time.  These misfortunes will occur in the present state of our knowledge.  Well, it’s no good crying over spilt milk.  Let us sweep the floor and see if we can recover any of the ingredients, and then we will make another attempt.’

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The Canterbury Pilgrims from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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