Twenty Years After
The Abbe Scarron
There was once in the Rue des Tournelles a house known by all the sedan chairmen and
footmen of Paris, and yet, nevertheless, this house was neither that of a great lord nor of a
rich man. There was neither dining, nor playing at cards, nor dancing in that house.
Nevertheless, it was the rendezvous of the great world and all Paris went there. It was the
abode of the little Abbe Scarron.
In the home of the witty abbe dwelt incessant laughter; there all the items of the day had
their source and were so quickly transformed, misrepresented, metamorphosed, some into
epigrams, some into falsehoods, that every one was anxious to pass an hour with little
Scarron, listening to what he said, reporting it to others.
The diminutive Abbe Scarron, who, however, was an abbe only because he owned an
abbey, and not because he was in orders, had formerly been one of the gayest
prebendaries in the town of Mans, which he inhabited. On a day of the carnival he had
taken a notion to provide an unusual entertainment for that good town, of which he was
the life and soul. He had made his valet cover him with honey; then, opening a feather
bed, he had rolled in it and had thus become the most grotesque fowl it is possible to
imagine. He then began to visit his friends of both sexes, in that strange costume. At first
he had been followed through astonishment, then with derisive shouts, then the porters
had insulted him, then children had thrown stones at him, and finally he was obliged to
run, to escape the missiles. As soon as he took to flight every one pursued him, until,
pressed on all sides, Scarron found no way of escaping his escort, except by throwing
himself into the river; but the water was icy cold. Scarron was heated, the cold seized on
him, and when he reached the farther bank he found himself crippled.
Every means had been employed in vain to restore the use of his limbs. He had been
subjected to a severe disciplinary course of medicine, at length he sent away all his
doctors, declaring that he preferred the disease to the treatment, and came to Paris, where
the fame of his wit had preceded him. There he had a chair made on his own plan, and
one day, visiting Anne of Austria in this chair, she asked him, charmed as she was with
his wit, if he did not wish for a title.
"Yes, your majesty, there is a title which I covet much," replied Scarron.
"And what is that?"
"That of being your invalid," answered Scarron.
So he was called the queen's invalid, with a pension of fifteen hundred francs.
From that lucky moment Scarron led a happy life, spending both income and principal.
One day, however, an emissary of the cardinal's gave him to understand that he was
wrong in receiving the coadjutor so often.