After a very busy week, itʼs time to relax a little — even though I am working a few hours, three, today, to ensure the payroll goes through on time (maybe Iʼm living in some deranged time-traveling old-fashioned Western…). So I will relax by posting something already written and then sit down and read for a while or something equally unproductive.
I have given you some of the early bits of my Villon novel — now tentatively entitled Morte Saison from a phrase early in Le Petit Testament — which I have conveniently collected for you here, under the Longer Items.
We left François Villon on the edge of doing something terrible, or at least criminal as chapter one ended. Chapter II takes a quick reversal to explore the manʼs roots (ah, that dramatic suspense: keeping you waiting). Itʼs pretty short …
Morte Saison, chapter two —
The English haunted François’s childhood. English looting, English killing, English pillaging had driven his family from their native village to another and then to Paris, where baby François had been conceived and born. Four hundred kilometers afoot, his scrawny father sought work, found death.
François barely knew his progenitor. The little toddler was not yet three years old when the older man succumbed on a hot summer’s night to a long fever that lay him, trembling and bathed in sweat, abed for weeks — unable to work, not that work had been frequent for the journeyman thatcher turned day laborer. François did not remember the torment of that interminable terminal night, though he knew the story, told and retold in his mother’s hushed and breathy voice, growing ever more ragged, ever more sorrowful, slowed and soulful with the great weight of each passing year.
“It was English fever, François, brought by the big Goddams and spread to our own folk to weaken the fibre of France. It has been killing good Frenchman for these past hundred years, a scourge as heavy as the Black Death itself in the big cities, this Paris. In the old days in Loges, we knew so little of such terror, when I was a little girl and your Papa, boy, was a young man. I liked the way he walked, François, even then, a tot, I noticed him.
“I was clever enough to stay in my hay once they had all herded into the trees, and after a long time, well dark, he came, calling for the petite child — he hadn’t learned my name, though knew me by sight — pulling me out and taking me back to our house where my father lay dead in a great lake of his own blood, and Maman was dying across the dark room. Even so little as I in those days, I knew they were dead. He tried to get Maman to know I was there, but she was losing her own fight for breath, lapsing into darkness as we crouched there. So he took me home, François, to his family, and they raised me, and once I was past girlhood, we married. A good man, your Papa.”
She nearly always told it the same way, the words like communion wine in her mouth wafted her thoughts away to other times. Horrible, true. But the English were horrible. The devastation that brought her into his father’s family was followed in her teens by the complete holocaust of Loges. The English stormed in one morning and burnt the town, slaying as many residents as they could. Fortunately, many had some warning and had fled. His father’s family with both his parents, recently wed, marched out in the late-night, hours before dawn, expelled and in exile from disaster and nothingness. And drifted away, trying to find home in another village, or another until the family fragmented, François’s grandmother and maiden aunts dying along the road in different incidents. Eventually, on their own now, Papa and Mama had found work and a place to live for almost sixteen months in Montcorbier. Thus Papa had been Pierre de Montcorbier when they arrived, after another dawdling and demanding journey, unwillingly, in Paris.
The next year François received life, drawing his first breath on a winter morning after a long and weary labor for his heroic mother.
There should be more, but thatʼs all I have finished from chapter two so far. I want the chapter to set up the chaos created (can one create chaos, actually?) by the Hundred Yearsʼ War, which did drive many small villages to extinction along with Jeanne dʼArc.
Rabelais tells a legend in Gargantua and Pantagruel that Villon survived long after his final exile from Paris, traveling to England to educate the kingʼs children. He also says the old Villon lived near Poitiers (the only valid place to live for Rabelais) writing and creating medieval mysteries (plays). Undoubtedly both stories are lies (okay, fiction).