Sunday, 10 June 2012
A long time ago there was a giant called Robur. It seems that he had been living in a cave at the foot of a mountain. Every so often he would venture out and snatch a cow or a few pigs or even catch pheasants and steal vegetables to make a stew.
When the thief was discovered by the inhabitants of the nearby village they had a brief meeting. Deciding that they could not lock him up for the crime, they armed themselves with flaming torches and pitchforks. That very evening they marched up towards the mountain cave intending to do away with poor Robur. Fortunately for him, Robur saw them coming (the flaming torches were a give-away) and gathering his few things he fled over the mountain and towards the village of Cachepot. As he fled, his exertions meant a large button was torn from his shirt and rolled down the mountainside towards the villagers.
As one they parted to let the huge wooden button roll onwards toward the village square. Suddenly it occurred to them that their homes might be at risk and they returned down the mountainside to the
village. The button slowed as it reached the village and the villagers returned to find Madame Sagesse, the village herbalist standing upon the button with a smile on her face.
Now some of the villagers who had suspected Madame Sagesse of witchcraft felt they now had their proof. Still, the old woman was a remarkable herbalist so they kept their peace. The head of the village Mere DeTout strode between the villagers and approached Madame Sagesse.
"Mistress, Robur the giant is gone and this mill wheel was thrown after him," she said.
"Oh Bonne Mere this is no mill wheel, though it is big enough. This is a button and a most useful button too. Let it be raised up and placed in our square with a sign saying - 'This is all that is left of the last giant who stole from us'. That should keep us safe," Madame Sagesse replied with a grin.
A ripple of laughter ran through the villagers for they liked her wit. The button was rolled under cover so that it should remain dry. Then everyone went to their beds and slept very well, glad that Robur was gone.
The following morning the villagers fetched good strong ropes and waxed the button with beeswax until the wood of it shone beautifully. A thick canvas was set up in a large frame and the button stitched to the canvas. Beside the button the sign was set up in very large letters.
Now it happened that a giant called Gulliver happened in his travels to come across Robur's previous home and swept it clean and made a much smarter home than it had ever been. He planted a vegetable garden and trees of almond and walnut. In the meantime while these plants grew he must eat and during the night he went down to the village with some diamonds. He intended to take vegetables and leave two diamonds as payment, but instead he saw the button and the sign and became thoughtful. He left the village and returned to his mountain home. Then he sighed and went over the mountain to Cachepot. There had been a good harvest but not enough for the village and for Gulliver. So he continued on quietly until he came to a city. There was a great deal of stored vegetables and he took all he needed, left a diamond and went home.
Quietly he lived, cultivating his garden carefully and staying away from the village below the mountain. Now it happened that one morning Madame Sagesse took her basket and went up the mountainside to the forest. You may imagine her surprise when she saw almond trees blossoming where there had been no almond trees. Curious she made her way towards them and discovered a fine vegetable garden and a whole terrace of herbs with rosemary, sage, parsley, thyme, basil, tarragon and the rest. All that would have graced a fine lord's kitchen garden. I wonder whose garden this is, she said to herself.
Then she found herself lifted up and up and placed on a large hand. At first she thought Robur had returned and that she was about to be eaten, but when she turned to find a large face looking at her she realised that this was not Robur.
"What do you want with me, giant?" she asked.
Gulliver asked her very quietly what she was doing in his garden. She told him of her curiosity at the almond blossom and asked if he had been to her village.
"I have mistress and the wit of that button amused me greatly. So as your village does not like giants I do not go there. I have diamonds to pay for what I want, but if your village will not trade, so be it." Gulliver answered.
Madame Sagesse sighed and told him about Robur.
"So you may see sir that the village has a reason to dislike giants as much as they love their livestock," she said.
"Mistress, I am not Robur, nor do I eat meat. I need my vegetable garden to eat well and my almond and walnut trees also. Not all giants are the same as all people are not the same. You have a basket mistress, what are you looking for?" Gulliver asked her.
Madame Sagesse laughed then and curtseyed.
"I am looking for herbs sir, but I gather mine from the forest so that if I find mushrooms also I may gather them. I came only to see the almond blossom and so came upon your wonderful garden," she said.
Gulliver nodded and asked her if she would come up to his home afterwards so that they might talk. He was a sociable character and felt a little lonely. He liked Madame Sagesse too. She promised and he set her down nearer the forest and went home to make breakfast and bake bread.
Later when Madame Sagesse came to call on him she told him where he might find lots of fine mushrooms. She also advised him on being careful for some were not edible and very poisonous. Gulliver made her nettle tea and offered her poppy seed cake. She sat upon the edge of a saucer and they talked of many things before Madame Sagesse had to return home. But she promised to come and visit him regularly.
Now among all the wonderful days we have there is always rain to remove the sunshine. So it was that villagers taking their sheep to high pasture also discovered the garden and discussing it they decided that Robur must have quietly returned. They returned to the village and reported their discovery to Mere DeTout.
Mere DeTout consulted Madame Sagesse who sighed and told her about Gulliver.
"Diamonds? He wanted to trade with us and he has diamonds?!" Mere DeTout exclaimed.
"He is not the same as Robur. Indeed he has left the village alone after he saw that button and the sign. Still he is often lonely and I have been visiting him regularly for tea and conversation - and cake of course," Madame Sagesse answered.
Mere DeTout called a village meeting and Madame Sagesse told them all about Gulliver.
"But what if our livestock go missing. How do we know he only eats vegetables? What if he wants a little meat to flavour his pot?" one of the villagers asked.
"He cultivates his garden including his trees so that he can do without meat. Not one of your livestock has gone missing since he has arrived. If they do go missing the gates have not been properly closed or the wolves have got in and carried off a cow or a sheep or a pig. Do not assume Gulliver had been at them," she answered.
For some time this was accepted but one morning a villager woke up to find not only his sheep missing but his young shepherd boy also. Instantly he ran to Mere DeTout and demanded that something be done. Gulliver was the first suspect even when Mere pointed out that the shepherd boy was most likely out with the sheep early.
"Never without his breakfast or taking his lunch with him Mere," the man answered.
Mere managed to insist that the man leave it to her and she would find the sheep and the boy. She sent him home and went directly to Madame Sagesse. Madame sighed and frowned.
"The fool wants to believe it must be the giant's fault without any proof," she said.
She told Mere she would go up to see Gulliver and ask if he might help find both the sheep and the boy. Mere thanked her and added that she did not believe that Gulliver was at fault at all.
"The foolish boy most likely forgot to close the pen properly. Then when the sheep got out he went out early to get them all back. But as you say the instant some boy makes a mistake everyone is willing to believe it must be the giant's fault," she added.
Madame Sagesse put a shawl about her shoulders and took her basket. Then she went up the mountainside to see Gulliver. Along the way she fretted about the boy and the sheep and indeed about Gulliver. When she got up there she knocked at Gulliver's door and went in. On a saucer were all the sheep and the boy was sitting on the handle of a teaspoon while Gulliver told him a story. Madame burst into laughter at that and told the boy that because his and the sheeps' absence the village would soon be ready to chase Gulliver from his home. The boy blushed and begged Gulliver's pardon. As Mere DeTout had suspected, he had not closed the pen properly and the sheep had got out. He dared not tell the farmer for fear of getting a beating, so he had gone out early to find the sheep. In this way he had come across Gulliver looking for mushrooms and Gulliver had kindly helped to collect the sheep up and bring them home to feed them and the boy.
When both sheep and boy were returned a little later to the village it did much to shame the villagers out of their prejudices. So from that day forward the villagers learned to live with Gulliver in great happiness and often visited him.
As for Robur's button it was kept and used to celebrate the villager's friendship with the giant Gulliver.