When we made our personal appearance before him, a sort of I don’t know what men, all clothed with I don’t know what bags and pouches, with long scrolls in their clutches, made us sit down upon a cricket (such as criminals sit on when tried in France). Quoth Panurge to ’em, Good my lords, I’m very well as I am; I’d as lief stand, an’t please you. Besides, this same stool is somewhat of the lowest for a man that has new breeches and a short doublet. Sit you down, said Gripe-men-all again, and look that you don’t make the court bid you twice. Now, continued he, the earth shall immediately open its jaws and swallow you up to quick damnation if you don’t answer as you should.
How Gripe-men-all propounded a riddle to us.
When we were sat, Gripe-men-all, in the middle of his furred cats, called to us in a hoarse dreadful voice, Well, come on, give me presently—an answer. Well, come on, muttered Panurge between his teeth, give, give me presently—a comforting dram. Hearken to the court, continued Gripe-men-all.
A young tight thing, as fair as may be,
Without a dad conceived a baby,
And brought him forth without the pother
In labour made by teeming mother.
Yet the cursed brat feared not to gripe her,
But gnawed, for haste, her sides like viper.
Then the black upstart boldly sallies,
And walks and flies o’er hills and valleys.
Many fantastic sons of wisdom,
Amazed, foresaw their own in his doom;
And thought like an old Grecian noddy,
A human spirit moved his body.
Give, give me out of hand—an answer to this riddle, quoth Gripe-men-all. Give, give me—leave to tell you, good, good my lord, answered Panurge, that if I had but a sphinx at home, as Verres one of your precursors had, I might then solve your enigma presently. But verily, good my lord, I was not there; and, as I hope to be saved, am as innocent in the matter as the child unborn. Foh, give me—a better answer, cried Gripe-men-all; or, by gold, this shall not serve your turn. I’ll not be paid in such coin; if you have nothing better to offer, I’ll let your rascalship know that it had been better for you to have fallen into Lucifer’s own clutches than into ours. Dost thou see ’em here, sirrah? hah? and dost thou prate here of thy being innocent, as if thou couldst be delivered from our racks and tortures for