excerpt 2

(pages 387-381)

Julius and Velisarius who were observing all of the above behind corn stalks, turned their attention to the court’s gate, where a strange entourage had just appeared.  In front Brother Bernard was walking, dragging the Marquis by the hair, like a pig headed for slaughter.  To the rear, the monks who just a short while ago were found together inside of the secret pass, were throwing punches and kicking and whipping and spitting on the jacket that the tailor Petifleur had sewn in his Paris studio so masterfully.  The Marquis, again, had completely recovered his senses after the beating and was protesting this mistreatment.

“Damn you, you disgusting worms!” he yelled.  “How dare you behave that way to a DiVenere?”

Bernard wasn’t intimidated by his words.  He stood firm and said in a loud voice:

“This man’s actions abetted the prisoners in their escape.  I accuse him of being a sorcerer and a heretic and a miserable schemer, and I ask that the Sacred Court try him and convict him.”

Torquemada threw a final lash at a monk, and then his fury subsided.

“No, my brother,” he said  “This blustering subject isn’t worthy of such an honor.  The time of our sacred court is valuable and doesn’t permit us to spend it thoughtlessly.  God wanted to try our faith and our patience once again.  We must therefore hurry. Let us leave!  We’ll take to the streets again.  We’ll fight the devils, we’ll interrogate heretics, we’ll punish non-believers.  And with God’s help, sooner or later, we’ll find the work of this Devil  that a short while ago slipped from our grasp.”

“Go to hell and be quick about it!” shouted the Marquis.  “You scabs, it’s because of you, I lost money.”

“However…” continued Torquemada, directing his razor-sharp glance to the Marquis, “it would be a sin to be indifferent completely to this unfortunate brother of ours.  His words reveal a man who has strayed from the Lord’s path.   And his smeared face is proof of this.  This gluttony, which is as we all well know the precursor of debauchment, has taken over his soul.  Truly, who knows what kind of cream this is?”

A toothless monk took a little cream from the Marquis’ jaw with his finger and smelled it.

“It’s cream broulé, milord!”

Everyone was shocked.

“Heaven forefend!” they said.  “Cream broulé on the eve of St. Pancras…”

“Yes.  It’s sad…”agreed Torquemada.  “My heart bleeds when I think of him by himself, prey to Satan and of the demons of corruption.  No, we cannot leave him here, my brothers.  We have an obligation to take him with us to the paths of virtue on which we walk.  He will become one of us.  From this point on, prayer and fasting will be his parents.  Prayer beads and the whip will be his relatives, and you, my brothers, his teachers and guides.  You will teach him the joy of hardship, the recreation of self-punishment, the joy of starvation.  You will rehabilitate him, you will make him pious and humble.  His old name will sink into oblivion and a new one will accompany him from today on and for all time to the piety of life which is just starting.  We will call him…” and the inquisitor thought a moment, “Brother Malachy!” he finished off.

The rest of them broke out into cheers.

“Worthy is he, worthy is he!” they shouted.  “Worthy is brother Malachy!”

“Go to it, my brothers.  Shave him, cut his hair.  Take off his fancy clothes.  Dress him in sackcloth.  Welcome, brother Malachy, to your new life!”

The remaining monks gathered round their new companion, openly showing their love.  Five or six of them threw him on the ground and held his hands and feet in order prevent him from kicking.  Someone took out a rusty pair of scissors and began cutting his hair.  Another one with a razor started tearing his suit to shreds.  And yet another took the disgusting robe of his dismembered companion from the ground and, after shaking it a couple of times to get rid of a lot of the dust, approached to put it on him.

“Outa here, you bastards!” protested the Marquis.  “Get off me! Yes, you, you vomitive cockroach!  Leave my pants alone immediately.  I’m ordering you!  It’s a Petifleur, you bible-thumper of disaster, how dare you lay a hand on them?”

“I think Brother Malachy has let his tongue get carried away with him, Holy Father,” remarked Bernard.

“I dare say you’re right, Brother Bernard,” answered Torquemada.  “This tongue will be an impediment to his redemption.  So let us be merciful.”

“So, Holy Father, what should we do?” asked the monk with the scissors.

“Cut it out!” said Torquemada.

He didn’t have to say it twice.  The scissors went from the curls in his hair down between his nose and jaw, there where a monkish nail, not unlike a butcher’s meat hook, grabbed Brother Malachy’s tongue and pulled it out as far as it would go.

“Time to scram,” Velisarius whispered certain that the gurgling and the inarticulate protests of the former Marquis were smothering Velisarius’ words.  Julius nodded silently, and the two together crept away, far from that cursed spot.  They had arrived at a little bridge, when a long drawn-out scream caused their blood to curdle.  Bats in turmoil flew over their heads, the wild beasts of the night hid themselves quickly in their hovels, and crickets immediately stopped their chirping song.   A little while later, while the Piccolos dragged their boat inside the muddy lake with some effort and jumped in, the sky flickered.  The DiVenere estate had been put to flames.

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