“Hoity-toity!” cried the hemp-beater, after he had cautiously put out an arm to feel the bird; “that’s not a quail or a partridge, a hare or a rabbit; it looks like a goose or a turkey. Upon my word, you are noble hunters! and that game did not make you ride very fast. Go elsewhere, my knaves! all your falsehoods are detected, and you may as well go home and cook your supper. You won’t eat ours.”
Alas! mon Dieu! where shall we go to have our game cooked? it’s very little among so many of us; and, besides, we have no fire nor place to go to. At this time of night, every door is closed, everybody has gone to bed; you are the only ones who are having a wedding-feast in your house, and you must be very hardhearted to leave us to freeze outside. Once more, good people, let us in; we won’t cause you any expense. You see we bring our own food; only a little space at your fireside, a little fire to cook it, and we will go hence satisfied.
Do you think that we have any too much room, and that wood costs nothing?
We have a little bundle of straw to make a fire with, we will be satisfied with it; only give us leave to place the spit across your fire-place.
We will not do it; you arouse disgust, not pity, in us. It’s my opinion that you are drank, that you need nothing, and that you simply want to get into our house to steal our fire and our daughters.
As you refuse to listen to any good reason, we propose to force our way into your house.
Try it, if you choose. We are so well protected that we need not fear you. You are insolent knaves, too, and we won’t answer you any more.
Thereupon, the hemp-beater closed the window-shutter with a great noise, and went down to the lower room by a ladder. Then he took the bride by the hand, the young people of both sexes joined them, and they all began to dance and utter joyous exclamations, while the matrons sang in piercing tones and indulged in loud peals of laughter in token of their scorn and defiance of those who were attempting an assault without.
The besiegers, on their side, raged furiously together: they discharged their pistols against the doors, made the dogs growl, pounded on the walls, rattled the shutters, and uttered terror-inspiring yells; in short, there was such an uproar that you could not hear yourself talk, such a dust and smoke that you could not see yourself.
The attack was a mere pretence, however: the moment had not come to violate the laws of etiquette. If they could succeed, by prowling about the house, in finding an unguarded passage, any opening whatsoever, they could try to gain an entrance by surprise, and then, if the bearer of the spit succeeded in placing his bird in front of the fire, that constituted a taking possession of the hearth-stone, the comedy was at an end, and the bridegroom was victor.