Summary (Masterplots: Revised Category Edition, European Fiction Series)
Jacques Menetrier’s mother was a long-suffering, plain woman and his father, a merry cook. The father spent several hours each night at a nearby tavern in the company of Jeannette, the hurdy-gurdy woman, and Catherine, the lace maker. Both ladies helped him relive his lusty youth.
When Jacques was six years old, he was stationed all day long in the chimney corner to turn the spitted roasts. His time was not altogether wasted, however, for he learned his letters at the same time from a beggar Capuchin, Brother Ange. The good Brother Ange ate well at the common table in return for his services, and in secret he sighed for Catherine.
After a drunken brawl, Brother Ange was imprisoned, and Maitre Jerome Coignard, a Greek and Latin scholar, became Jacques’s tutor. As he grew to young manhood, he progressed rapidly under the scholar’s teachings.
Jeannette, complaisant with all, initiated Jacques into the mysteries of love, but, perversely, Jacques was attracted to Catherine, who made fun of Jacques’s beardless chin and refused to take him seriously. Jacques and his father were greatly discomfited when she ran away with Brother Ange.
One evening, a tall, gaunt philosopher entered abruptly, crying that he saw a salamander in the fireplace. Vigorously stirring the ashes, he asked the company if they saw anything. Only Jacques thought he saw the outlines of a beautiful woman in the smoke. The philosopher was much pleased...
(The entire section is 1234 words.)
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