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The Drunkard In Paradise








By Monseigneur de Lannoy

_The sixth story is of a drunkard, who would confess to the Prior of the
Augustines at the Hague, and after his confession said that he was then
in a holy state and would die; and believed that his head was cut off
and that he was dead, and was carried away by his companions who said
they were going to bury him._

In the city of The Hague in Holland, as the prior of the Augustine
Monastery was one day saying his prayers on the lawn near the chapel of
St. Antony, he was accosted by a great, big Dutchman who was exceedingly
drunk, and who lived in a village called Schevingen, about two leagues
from there.

The prior, who saw him coming from afar, guessed his condition by his
heavy and uncertain step, and when they met, the drunkard saluted the
prior, who returned the salute, and passed on reading his prayers,
proposing neither to stop nor question him.

The drunkard, being half beside himself, turned and pursued the prior,
and demanded to be confessed.

"Confession!" said the prior. "Go away! Go away! You have confessed
already."

"Alas, sir," replied the drunkard, "for God's sake confess me. At
present, I remember all my sins, and am most contrite."

The prior, displeased to be interrupted by a drunkard, replied.

"Go your ways; you have no need of confession, for you are in a very
comfortable case as it is."

"Oh, no," said the drunkard, "as sure as death you shall confess me,
master Cure, for I am most devout," and he seized him by the sleeve, and
would have stopped him.

The priest would not listen to him, and made wonderful efforts to
escape, but it was no good, for the other was obstinate in his desire to
confess, which the priest would not hear.

The devotion of the drunkard increased more and more, and when he saw
that the priest still refused to hear his sins, he put his hand on his
big knife and drew it from its sheath, and told the priest he would kill
him, if he did not listen to his confession.

The priest, being afraid of a knife in such dangerous hands, did not
know what to do, so he asked the other,

"What is is you want?"

"I wish to confess," said he.

"Very well; I will hear you," said the priest. "Come here."

Our drunkard,--being more tipsy than a thrush in a vineyard,--began, so
please you, his devout confession,--over which I pass, for the priest
never revealed it, but you may guess it was both novel and curious.

The priest cut short the wearisome utterances of the drunkard, and gave
him absolution, and, to get rid of him, said;

"Go away now; you have made a good confession."

"Say you so, sir?" he replied.

"Yes, truly," said the priest, "it was a very good confession. Go, and
sin no more!"

"Then, since I have well confessed and received absolution, if I were to
die now, should I go to paradise?" asked the drunkard.

"Straight! Straight!" replied the priest. "There can be no doubt about
it."

"Since that is so," said the drunkard, "and I am now in a holy state, I
would like to die at once, in order that I may go to heaven."

With that he took and gave his knife to the priest, begging of him to
cut off his head, in order that he might go to paradise.

"Oh, no!" said the priest, much astonished. "It is not my business to do
that--you must go to heaven by some other means."

"No," replied the drunkard, "I wish to go there now, and to die here by
your hands. Come, and kill me."

"I will not do that," said the prior. "A priest must not kill any one."

"You shall I swear; and if you do not at once despatch me and send me
to heaven I will kill you with my own hands," and at these words
he brandished his big knife before the eyes of the priest, who was
terrified and alarmed.

At last, having thought the matter over,--that he might get rid of this
drunkard, who was becoming more and more aggressive, and perchance might
have taken his life, he seized the knife, and said;

"Well! since you wish to die by my hands in order that you may go to
paradise,--kneel down before me."

The words were hardly uttered before the drunkard fell flat, and with
some trouble raised himself to his knees, and with his hands joined
together, awaited the blow of the sword which was to kill him.

The priest gave the drunkard a heavy blew with the back of the knife,
which felled him to the ground, where he lay, and would not get up,
believing himself to be in paradise.

Then the priest left, not forgetting for his own safety to take the
knife with him, and ere he had gone far he met a waggon full of people
some of whom had been along with the drunkard that day, to whom he
recounted all the story--begging that they would raise him and convey
him home; he also gave them the knife.

They promised to take charge of him, and the priest went away. They had
hardly started on their way, when they perceived the good toper, lying
as though dead, with his face to the ground; and when they were nigh
to him, they all with one voice shouted his name,--but, shout as they
would, he made no reply. Then they cried out again, but it was no use.

Then some of them descended from the waggon, and they took him by the
head, and the feet, and the legs, and raised him from the ground, and so
shook him that he opened his eyes and said,

"Leave me alone! Leave me alone! I am dead!"

"No, you are not," said his companions. "You must come along with us."

"I will not," said the drunkard. "Where should I go? I am dead, and
already in heaven."

"You must come," said the others. "We will get some drink."

"Drink?" said the other. "I shall never drink again; I am dead;" and for
all that his comrades could say or do, they could not get it out of his
head but that he was dead.

The dispute lasted long, and they could not persuade the drunkard to
accompany them; for to all that they said he always replied, "I am
dead".

At last one of them bethought himself, and said,

"Then since you are dead, you must not lie here and be buried like a
beast of the field. Come! come along with us, and we will carry you
in our waggon to the grave-yard of our town as befits a Christian.
Otherwise you will not go to heaven."

When the drunkard heard that he must be buried in order that he might
go to heaven, he was satisfied to obey, so he was soon tucked up in
the waggon, where he was quickly asleep. The waggon was drawn by good
cattle, and they were speedily at Schevingen, where the good drunkard was
put down in front of his house. His wife and servants were called, and
the body given to them, for he slept so soundly that he was carried
from the waggon to the house and put in his bed without ever waking, and
being laid between the sheets, at last woke up two days later.


*****





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