The Serpent and The Gascon's Dinner Bill
Two Short Fables by the Marquis de Sade, Adapted by Tom Baker
Note: The following tales are adapted from "Short Stories, Histories and Fables," by the great master of erotic fiction, the Donatien Alphonse Francois Comte de Sade, better known to history as the Marquis de Sade.
At the beginning of this century, everyone knew the President, Mrs. C..., one of the kindest and prettiest women in Dijon, and everyone saw her caressing and holding publicly on her bed the white snake which will be the subject of this anecdote.
"This animal is the best friend I have in the world," she once said to a foreign lady who came to see her, and who seemed curious to learn the reasons for the care that this pretty president had for her snake.
"I loved passionately once," she continued, "a charming young man, who had to leave me to go and pick laurels; He had demanded that, regardless of what we were currently doing, we should, at certain appointed times, retire to solitary places, each to his own, to attend only to our own passionate desires. One day, at five o'clock in the evening, going to lock myself up in a flowerbed at the end of my garden, to keep my word to him--of course none of the animals of this species could have entered my garden-- I suddenly saw at my feet this charming beast of which you see me so worshipful.
I wanted to flee, the serpent stretched out in front of me, it seemed to ask me for mercy, it seemed to swear to me that it was far from wanting to hurt me. So here's what I did: I stopped, I considered the animal.
Seeing me quiet, he starts to come closer, making a hundred turns at my feet, one foot more than the other; I cannot help but put my hand on him; he delicately passes his head over it.
I take him, I dare to put him on my lap, he huddles there and seems to sleep there. A restless disorder seizes me... Tears flow unwillingly from my eyes and flood this charming beast...
Awakened by my pain, he looks at me...then, he moans... he dares to raise his head to my breast... he caresses it... and falls back to sleep... Oh, good heavens, it's done! I cried. And I knew that my lover was dead!
I left that fateful place, taking with me this snake to which a hidden feeling seemed to bind me as if in spite of myself...
Fatal warnings of an unknown voice; you will interpret this as you please, madam, but eight days later I learn that my lover was killed! And he was felled at the very hour when the serpent appeared to me! I never wanted to separate myself from this beast after that; it will leave me only at death!
I married since then, but under the express terms that it would never be taken away from me.
And at the end of these words, the kindly President took her serpent, laid it on her breast, and made it do as a spaniel a hundred pretty turns in front of the lady who was questioning him.
O' Providence, how inexplicable your decrees are, if this adventure is as true as the whole province of Burgundy assures!
The Gascon's Dinner Bill
A Gascon officer had obtained from Louis XIV a gratuity of one hundred and fifty pistolas, and with his order in hand, he entered, without being announced, the home of Mr. Colbert who was at table with some lords.
"Which of you gentlemen," he said with the accent that proved his homeland, "which one of you, I pray, is Mr. Colbert?
"Me, sir," replied the minister, "what is there for your service?"
"A trifle, sir, it's only a gratuity of one hundred and fifty pistolas that I'm expecting at the moment."
Mr. Colbert, who could see that the character lent himself to amusement, asked his permission to finish his dinner, and in order to make him less impatient, he asked him to sit down to the table with him.
"Gladly," replied the Gascon, "as I have not yet dined."
The meal having been made, the minister, who had time to have the first clerk notified, told the officer that he could go up to the office and that his money was waiting for him; the Gascon arrived, but he was only counted a hundred pistolas.
Are you joking, sir," he said to the clerk, "or do you not see that my order is for a hundred and fifty?"
"Sir," replied the plumitif, "I can see your order very well, but I am holding back fifty pistols for your dinner."]
"Cadédis, fifty pistols! It only costs me twenty sols at my inn."
"I agree, but you don't have the advantage of having dinner with the minister."
"Well then," said the Gascon, "in that case, sir, keep everything! I'll bring a friend of mine tomorrow and we'll be even." (And by this, he meant King Louis, who had given him the gratuity to begin with.)
The answer and the joke which had occasioned it amused the court for a moment; fifty pistolas were added to the gratuity of the Gascon, who returned triumphant to his country, praised the dinners of Mr. Colbert, Versailles, and the way in which official business is rewarded by men who don't want to end up floating dead in the Garonne.