Chap. xx : IS PRETTY LONG, AND TREATS OF PLAYING WITH DICE AND WHAT HANGS THEREBY
Now because my governor was rather old than young, therefore could he not sleep all the night through: and that was the cause that he even in the first few weeks discovered my secret; namely, that I was no such fool as I gave out, of which he had before observed somewhat, and had conceived such a judgement from my face, for he was skilled in physiognomia1. Once I awoke at midnight, and having divers thoughts upon my life and its strange adventures, rose up, and by way of gratitude recounted all the benefits that God had done unto me, and all the dangers from which He had rescued me: then I lay down again with deep sighing and slept soundly till day.
All this my governor heard, yet made as if he were sound asleep; and this happened several nights running, until he had fully convinced himself I had more understanding than many an older man who fancied himself to be somewhat. Yet he spake thereof nought to me in our hut, because it had walls too thin, and because he for certain reasons would not have it that as yet (and before he was assured of my innocence) any one else should know this secret. Once on a time I went to take the air outside the camp, and this he gladly allowed, because he had then the opportunity to come to look for me, and so the occasion to speak with me alone. So as he wished, he found me in a lonely place, where indeed I was giving audience to my thoughts, and says he: "Good and dear friend, ‘tis because I seek for thy welfare that I rejoice to be able to speak with thee alone. I know thou art no fool as thou pretendest, and that thou hast no desire to continue in this miserable and despised state. If now thou holdest thy welfare dear and wilt trust to me as to a man of honour, and so canst tell me plainly the condition of thy fortunes, so will I for my part, whenever I can, be ready with word and deed to help thee out of this fool’s coat."
So thereupon I fell upon his neck, and so carried myself as he had been a prophet to release me from my fool’s cap: and sitting both down upon the ground, I told him my whole story. Then he examined my hands, and wondered both at the strange events which had befallen me and those which were to come: yet would in no wise counsel me to lay aside my fool’s coat in haste, for he said that by means of palmistry he could see that my fate threatened me with imprisonment which should bring me danger of life and limb. So I thanked him for his good will and his counsel, and asked of God that He would reward him for his good faith, and of himself that he would be and ever remain my true friend and father.
So we rose up and came to the gaming-place, where men tilt with the dice, and loudly they cursed with all the blood and thunder, wounds and damnation that they could lay their tongues to. The place was wellnigh as big as the Old Market at Cologne, spread with cloaks and furnished with tables, and those full of gamesters: and every company had its four-cornered thieves’ bones, on which they hazarded their luck; for share their money they must, and give it to one and take it from another. So likewise every cloak or table had its coupier (croupier I should have said, and might well have said *"crooperer"), whose office ‘twas to be judges and to see that none was cheated; they too lent the cloaks and tables and dice, and contrived so well to get their hire out of the winnings that they generally got the chief share: yet it bred them no advantage, for commonly they gamed it away again, or when it was best laid out, ‘twas the sutler2 or the barber-surgeon that had it - for there were many broken heads to mend.
At these fools one might well wonder, how they all thought to win, which was impossible, even if they had played at another’s** risk: and though all hoped for this, yet the cry was, the more players the more skill; for each thought on his own luck; and so it happened that some hit and some missed, some won and some lost. Thereupon some cursed, some roared; some cheated and others were jockeyed - wherat the winners laughed and the losers gnashed their teeth: some sold their clothes and all they valued most, and others again won even that money from them: some wanted honest dice, and others, on the contrary part, would have false ones, and brought in such secretly, which again others threw away, broke in two, bit with their teeth, and tore the croupiers’ cloaks. Among the false dice were Dutch ones, that one must cast with a good spin; for these had the sides, whereon the fives and sixes were, as sharp as the back of the wooden horse on which soldiers be punished: others were High German, to which a man must in casting give the Bavarian swing. Some were of stag’s horn, light above and heavy below. Others were loaded with quicksilver or lead, and others, again, with split hairs, sponge, chaff, and charcoal: some had sharp corners, others had them pared quite away: some were long like logs and some broad like tortoises. All which kings were made but for cheating: and what they were made for, that they did, whether they were thrown with a swing or trickled on to the board, and no coupling of them was to any avail; to say nothing of those that had two fives or two sixes, or on the other hand, two aces or two deuces. With these thieves’ bones they stole, filched, and plundered each other’s goods, which they themselves perchance had stolen, or at least with danger to life and limb, or other grievous trouble and labour, had won.
So as I stood there and looked upon the gaming-place
and the gamesters in their folly, my governor asked me how the thing pleased
me. Then answered I: "That men can so grievously curse God pleases
me not: but for the rest, I leave it for what ‘tis worth as a matter unknown
to me, and of which I as yet understand nought." "Know then," said my governor,
"that this is the worst and vilest place in the whole camp, for here men
seek one another’s money and lose their own in doing so. And whoso
doth but set a foot here, with intent to play, hath already broken the
tenth commandment, which saith, ‘Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s goods.’"
And says he, "An thou play and win, specially by deceit and false dice,
then thou transgressest the seventh and eighth commandments. Yea,
it may well happen that thou committest murder on him from whom thou hast
won his money, as, for example, if his loss is so great that by reason
of it he come into poverty and into utter need and recklessness, or else
fall into other foul vices: nor will this plea help thee, that thou sayest,
‘I did risk mine own and won honestly.’ Thou rogue, thou camest to
the gaming-place with this intent, to grow rich through another’s loss.
And if thou lose, thou art not excused with the punishment of losing thine
own, but, like the rich man in the parable, thou must answer it sorely
to God that thou so uselessly hast squandered that which He lent thee for
the support of thee and thine. Whosoever goeth to the gaming-place
to play, the same committeth himself to the danger of losing therin, not
only his money, but his body and his life also yea, what is most terrible
of all, there can he lose his own soul. I tell thee this as news,
my friend Simplicissimus (because thou sayest gaming is unknown to thee),
that thou mayest be on thy guard against it all thy life long." So
I answered him: "Dear sir," said I, "if gaming be so terrible and dangerous
a thing, wherefore do our superiors allow it?" My governor answered:
"I will not say ‘twas because our officers themselves take part therein,
but for this reason, that the soldiers will not - yea, cannot - do without
it; for whosoever hath once given himself over to gaming, or whomsoever
the habit or, rather, the devil of play hath seized upon, the same is by
little and little (whether he win or lose) so set upon it that he can easier
do without his natural sleep than that: as we see that some will rattle
the dice the whole night through and will neglect the best of food and
drink if they can but play - yea, even if they must go home shirtless.
Yet this gaming hath already been forbidden at divers times on pain of
loss of life and limb, and at the command of headquarters hath been punished
with an iron hand, through the means of provost-marshals, hangmen, and
their satellites - openly and violently. Yet ‘twas all in vain; for
the gamesters betook themselves to secret corners and behind hedges, won
each other’s money, quarreled, and brake each others’ necks thereupon:
so that to prevent such murders and homicides, and specially because many
would game away their arms and horse, yea, even their poor rations of food,
therefore now ‘tis not only publicly allowed, but this particular place
is appointed therefore, that the mainguard may be at hand to prevent any
harm that might happen: yet they cannot always hinder that one or the other
fall not dead on the spot. And inasmuch as this gaming is the tormenting
devil’s own device, and bringeth him no small gain, therefore hath he ordained
especial gaming-devils, that prowl around the world and have naught else
to do but to tempt men to play. To these divers wanton companions
bind themselves by certain pacts and agreements, that the devil may suffer
them to win: yet can a man among ten thousand gamesters scarce find a rich
one: nay, on the contrary part, they are poor and needy because their winnings
are lightly esteemed, and therefore either gambled away again or wasted
in vile pleasure. Hence is derived that true yet sad saying, ‘The
devil never leaveth the gamester, yet leaveth him ever poor,’ for he taketh
from them goods, courage, and honour, and then quitteth them no more (except
God’s infinite mercy save them) till he have made an end of their souls.
Yea, and should there be a gamester of so merry a heart by nature and so
sprightly that by no ill-luck or loss he can be brought to despair, to
recklessness, and all the accursed sins that spring therefrom, then doth
the sly and cunning fiend suffer him to win mightily, that in the end he
may, by waste and pride and gluttony and drunkenness and loose life, bring
him into his net." Thereat I crossed myself and blessed myself to
think that in a Christian army such things should be allowed which the
devil himself invented, and specially because visibly and palpably such
damage and harm for this world and the next followed therefrom. Yet
my governor said all that he had told me was as yet nought; for he who
would undertake to describe all the harm that came from gaming would begin
an impossible task. For as men say, so soon as the hazard is thrown
‘tis now in the devil’s hands, so should I fancy that with every die, as
it rolled from the player’s hand upon cloak or table, there ran a little
devil, to guide it and make it shew as many points as his master’s interest
demanded. And further, I should reflect that ‘twas not for nought
that the devil entered into the game so heartily, but doubtless because
he contrived to make fine gains out of it himself. "And with that
note thou further," says he, "That just as there are wont to stand by the
gaming-place certain chafferers3
and Jews, which buy from the players at cheap rate what they have won,
as rings, apparel or jewels, or are ready to change such for money for
them to game away, so also there be devils walking to and fro, that they
may arouse and foster thoughts that may destroy the souls in the gamesters
that have cease to play, be they winners or losers. For the winners
the devil will build terrible castles in the air; but into them that have
lost, whose spirit is already quite distraught and therefore the more apt
to receive his harmful counsels, he instilleth, doubtless, such thoughts
and designs as can but tend to their eternal ruin. Yea, I assure
thee, Simplicissimus, I am of the mind to write a book hereupon so soon
as I can come in peace to my own again. And in that I will describe
firs the loss of precious time, which is squandered to no purpose in gaming,
and no less the fearful curses with which men blaspheme God over their
gaming-tables. Then will I likewise recount the taunts with which
men provoke one another, and will adduce many fearful examples and stories
which have happened in, during, and after play: and there will I not forget
the duels and homicides that have happened by reason of gaming. Yea,
I will portray in their true colours set before men’s eyes the greed, the
rage, the envy, the jealousy, the falsehood, the deceit, the covetousness,
the thievery, and, in a word all the senseless follies both of dicers and
of card-players; that they who read this book but once, may conceive such
a horror of gaming as if they had drunk sows’ milk (which folk are wont
to give to gamesters without their knowledge, to cure their madness).
So will I shew to all Christendom that the dear God is more blasphemed
by a single regiment of gamesters than by a whole army with their curses."
And this project I praised, and wish him the opportunity to carry it out.
Chap. xxi. : IS SOMEWHAT SHORTER AND MORE ENTERTAINING THAN THE LAST
Now my governor grew more and more kindly disposed to me, and I to him, yet kept we our friendship very secret: ‘tis true I acted still as a fool, yet I played no bawdy tricks or buffooneries, so that my carriage and conduct were indeed simple enough yet rather witty than witless. My colonel, who had a mighty liking for the chase, took me with him once when he went out to catch partridges with the draw-net, which invention pleased my hugely. But because the dog we had was so hot that he would spring for the birds before we could pull the strings, and so we could catch but little, wherefore I counseled the colonel to couple the bitch with a falcon or an osprey (as men do with horses and asses when they would have mules), that the young puppies might have wings, and so could with them catch the birds in the air. I proposed also, since it went right sleepily with the conquest of Magdeburg,4 which we then besieged, to make ready a long rope as thick as a wine-cask, and encompassing the whole town therewith, to harness thereto all the men and all the cattle in the two camps, and so in one day pull the whole city head over heels. Of such foolish quips and fantasies I devised every day an abundance, for ‘twas my trade, and none ever found my workshop empty. And for this my master’s secretary, which was an evil customer and a hardened rogue, gave me matter enough, whereby I was kept on the road which fools be wont to walk: for whatsoever this mocker told me, that I not only believed myself but told it to others, whenas I conversed with them, and the discourse turned on that subject.
So when I asked him once what our regimental chaplain was, since he was distinguished from other folk by his apparel, "that," says he, "is master Dicis et non facis, which is, being interpreted into German, a fellow that gives wives to others and takes none himself. He is the bitter enemy of thieves because they say not what they do, but he doth not what he says: likewise the thieves love him not because they be commonly hanged even then when their acquaintance with him is at its best." So when I afterwards addressed the good priest by that name, he was laughed at and I was held to be a rogue as well as a fool, and at his request well basted. Further, the secretary persuaded me they had pulled down and set fire all the houses behind the walls of Prague, that the sparks and ashes might sow all over the world the seeds of evil weeds: so, too, he said that among soldiers no brave heroes and hearty fighters ever went to heaven, but only simple creatures, malingerers, and the like, that were content with their pay: likewise no elegant a la mode cavaliers, and sprightly ladies, but only patient Jobs, henpecked husbands, tedious monks, melancholy parsons, devout women, and all manner of outcasts which in this world are good neither to bake nor to boil, and young children. He told me too a lying story of how hosts were called innkeepers only because in their business they endeavoured to keep in with both God and the devil. And of war he told me that at times garden bullets were used, and the more precious such were, the more damage they did. "Yea," said he, "and a whole army with artillery, ammunition and baggage-train can be so led by a golden chain." Further, he persuaded me that of women more than half wore breeches, though one could not see them, and that many, though they were no enchantresses and no goddesses as was Diana, yet could conjure bigger horns on to their husbands’ heads than ever Actaeon5 wore. In all which I believed him: so great a fool was I.
On the other hand, my governor, when he was
alone with me, entertained me with far different discourse. Moreover,
he brought me to known his son, who, as before mentioned, was a muster-clerk
in the Saxon army, and was a man of far different quality to my colonel’s
secretary: for which reason my colonel not only liked him well, but thought
to get him from his captain and make him his regimental secretary, on which
post his own secretary before mentioned had set his mind also. With
this muster-clerk, whose name, like his father’s, was Ulrich Herzbruder,
I struck up such a friendship that we swore eternal brotherhood, in virtue
of which we would never desert each other in weal or woe, in joy or sorrow;
and because this was without his father’s knowledge, therefore we held
more stoutly and stiffly to our vow. By this was it made our chiefest
care how I might be honourably freed from my cool’s coat, and how we might
honestly serve one another; all which however the old Herzbruder, whom
I honored and looked to as my father, approved not, but said in so many
words that if I was in haste to change my estate, such change would bring
me grievous imprisonment and great danger to life and limb. And because
he foretold for himself also and his son a great disgrace close at hand,
he deemed, therefore, that he had reason to act more prudently and warily
than to interfere in the affairs of a person whose great approaching danger
he could foresee: for he was fearful he might be a sharer in my future
ill luck if I declared myself, because he had long ago found out my secret
and knew me inside and out, yet he never revealed my true condition to
the colonel. And soon after I perceived yet better that my colonel’s
secretary envied my new brother desperately, as thinking he might be raised
over his head to the post of regimental secretary; for I saw how at times
he fretted, how ill will preyed upon him, and how he was always sighing
and in deep thought whenever he looked upon the old or the young Herzbruder.
Therefrom I judged he was making of calculations how he might trip and
throw him. So I told to my brother, both from my faithful love to
him and also as my certain duty, what I suspected, that he might a little
be on his guard against this Judas. But he did but take it with a
shrug, as being more than enough superior the secretary both with sword
and pen, and besides enjoying the colonel’s great favour and grace.
Chap. xxii. : A RASCALLY TRICK TO STEP INTO ANOTHER MAN’S SHOES
Tis commonly the custom in war to make provosts of old tried soldiers, and so it came about that we had in our regiment such a one, and to boot such a perfected rogue and villain that it might well be said of him he had seen enough and more than enough. For he was a fully qualified sorcerer, necromancer and wizard, and in his own person not only as wound-proof as steel, but could make others wound-proof also, yea, and conjure whole squadrons of cavalry into the field: his countenance was exactly like what our painters and poets would have Saturn to be, save that he had neither stilts nor scythe. And though the poor soldier prisoners that came into his merciless hands, held themselves the more unlucky because of this his character, and his ever-abiding presence, yet were there folk that gladly consorted with this spoil-sport, specially Oliver, our secretary. And the more his envy of young Herzbruder increased - who was ever of a lively humour - the thicker grew the intimacy between him and the provost: whence I could easily calculate that the conjunction of Saturn and Mercury boded no good to the honest Herzbruder. Just then my colonel’s lady was rejoiced at the coming of a young son, and the christening feast spread in well-night princely fashion: at which young Herzbruder was brought to wait at table. Which, when he of his courtesy willingly did, he gave the longed-for opportunity to Oliver to bring into the world the piece of roguery of which he had long been in labour. For when all was over my colonel’s great silver-gilt cup was missing; and this loss he made the more ado about because ‘twas still there after all stranger guests had departed: ‘tis true a page said he had last seen it in Oliver’s hands, but would not swear to it. Upon that the Provost was fetched to give his counsel in the matter and ‘twas said aside to him that if he by his arts could discover the thief, they would so carry the matter that that thief should be known to none save the colonel: for officers of his own regiment had been present whom, even if one of them had forgotten himself in such a matter, he would not willingly bring to shame.
So as we all knew ourselves to be innocent, we came merrily enough into the colonel’s great tent, and there the sorcerer took charge of the matter. At that each looked on his neighbor, and desired to know how ‘twould end and whence the lost cup would reappear. And no sooner had the rogue mumbled some words than there sprang out of each man’s breeches, sleeves, boots and pockets, and all other openings in their clothes, one, two, three, or more young puppies. And these sniffed round and round in the tent, and pretty beasts they were, of all manner of colours, and each with some special ornament, so that ‘twas a right merry sight. As to me, my tight Croat breeches were so full of puppies that I must pull them off, and because my shirt had long before rotted away in the forest, there I must stand naked. Last of all one sprang out of the young Herzbruder’s pocket, the nimblest of all, and had on golden a collar. This one swallowed all the other puppies, though there were so many a-sprawling in the tent that one could not put his foot down by reason of them. And when it had destroyed all, it became smaller and smaller and the golden collar larger, till at last it turned into my colonel’s cup.
Thereupon not only the colonel but all that were present must perforce believe that none other but young Herzbruder could have stolen the cup: so said the colonel to him: "Look ye, unthankful guest, have I deserved this, with my kindnesses to thee, this theft, which I had never believed of thee? For see: I had intended to-morrow to make thee my secretary; but thou hast this very day deserved rather that I should have thee hanged; and that I would forthwith have done had I not had a care of thy honourable and ancient father. Now quick;" said he, "out of my camp, and so long as thou livest let me not see thee more."
So poor Ulrich would defend himself: yet would
none listen to him, for his offence was plain: and when he departed, good
old Herzbruder must needs fall in a swoon; and there must all come to succour
him, and the colonel himself to comfort him, which said, "a pious father
was not to answer for this sinful son." Thus, by the help of the
devil did Oliver attain to that whereto he had long hoped to come, but
could not in any honourable fashion do so.
Edited by : Jessica Otis
1 The art of discovering
temperament, and other characteristic qualities of the mind, by the outward
appearance, especially by the features of the face. Neufeldt, Victoria,
ed. Third college Edition Webster's New World Dictionary of American
English (Cleveland: Webster's New World, 1988), p. 1019. See
also the prologue of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales for other examples of physiognomy.
* It is difficult to translate the German expression. Probably this word, meaning a maritime trader in illicit wars, represents it best. [Goodrick's note.]
2 A person following an army to sell food, liquor, etc. to its soldiers. Neufeldt, Victoria, ed. Third college Edition Webster's New World Dictionary of American English (Cleveland: Webster's New World, 1988), p. 1349.
** Obscure lines: many of the expressions in this chapter are now inexplicable. [Goodrick's note.]
3 Noun form of chaffere: to deal, exchange or barter. Wright, Thomas, ed. Dictionary of Obsolete and Provincial English (New York Street, Covent Garden: Harry G. Bohn, 1857), vol. 1, p. 296.
4 The capital of Saxony-Anhalt, in central Germany, on the Elbe River. During the Thirty Years War the imperial forces laid siege to Magdeburg in 1629 and again in 1631. Under the command of Johann von Tilly, imperial forces captured and sacked Madgeburg, killing over 2/3 of the population. "Madgeburg," The New Encyclopedia Brittanica (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc,1997), vol. 7, p. 668.
5 A Greek figure in mythology, Actaeon was a hunter who saw Artemis bathing in the woods. As punishment for looking upon her, she turned him into a stag, whereupon his own dogs attacked and killed him. Hamilton, Edith. Mythology (New York: Penguin Books USA, Inc, 1940) p. 255-6.