While the pensioner of Ghent and his eminence were exchanging very low bows and a few words in voices still lower, a man of lofty stature, with a large face and broad shoulders, presented himself, in order to enter abreast with Guillaume Rym; one would have pronounced him a bull-dog by the side of a fox. His felt doublet and leather jerkin made a spot on the velvet and silk which surrounded him. Presuming that he was some groom who had stolen in, the usher stopped him.
“Hold, my friend, you cannot pass!”
The man in the leather jerkin shouldered him aside.
“What does this knave want with me?” said he, in stentorian tones, which rendered the entire hall attentive to this strange colloquy. “Don’t you see that I am one of them?”
“Your name?” demanded the usher.
“Hosier at the sign of the ‘Three Little Chains,’ of Ghent.”
The usher recoiled. One might bring one’s self to announce aldermen and burgomasters, but a hosier was too much. The cardinal was on thorns. All the people were staring and listening. For two days his eminence had been exerting his utmost efforts to lick these Flemish bears into shape, and to render them a little more presentable to the public, and this freak was startling. But Guillaume Rym, with his polished smile, approached the usher.
“Announce Master Jacques Coppenole, clerk of the aldermen of the city of Ghent,” he whispered, very low.
“Usher,” interposed the cardinal, aloud, “announce Master Jacques Coppenole, clerk of the aldermen of the illustrious city of Ghent.”
This was a mistake. Guillaume Rym alone might have conjured away the difficulty, but Coppenole had heard the cardinal.
“No, cross of God?” he exclaimed, in his voice of thunder, “Jacques Coppenole, hosier. Do you hear, usher? Nothing more, nothing less. Cross of God! hosier; that’s fine enough. Monsieur the Archduke has more than once sought his gant* in my hose.”
* Got the first idea of a timing.
Laughter and applause burst forth. A jest is always understood in Paris, and, consequently, always applauded.
Let us add that Coppenole was of the people, and that the auditors which surrounded him were also of the people. Thus the communication between him and them had been prompt, electric, and, so to speak, on a level. The haughty air of the Flemish hosier, by humiliating the courtiers, had touched in all these plebeian souls that latent sentiment of dignity still vague and indistinct in the fifteenth century.
This hosier was an equal, who had just held his own before monsieur the cardinal. A very sweet reflection to poor fellows habituated to respect and obedience towards the underlings of the sergeants of the bailiff of Sainte-Geneviève, the cardinal’s train-bearer.
Coppenole proudly saluted his eminence, who returned the salute of the all-powerful bourgeois feared by Louis XI. Then, while Guillaume Rym, a “sage and malicious man,” as Philippe de Comines puts it, watched them both with a smile of raillery and superiority, each sought his place, the cardinal quite abashed and troubled, Coppenole tranquil and haughty, and thinking, no doubt, that his title of hosier was as good as any other, after all, and that Marie of Burgundy, mother to that Marguerite whom Coppenole was to-day bestowing in marriage, would have been less afraid of the cardinal than of the hosier; for it is not a cardinal who would have stirred up a revolt among the men of Ghent against the favorites of the daughter of Charles the Bold; it is not a cardinal who could have fortified the populace with a word against her tears and prayers, when the Maid of Flanders came to supplicate her people in their behalf, even at the very foot of the scaffold; while the hosier had only to raise his leather elbow, in order to cause to fall your two heads, most illustrious seigneurs, Guy d’Hymbercourt and Chancellor Guillaume Hugonet.