On the steps of Arles’ Cathédrale St. Trophime stood a monk, his sandaled feet just visible under the folds of his long habit, the rope knotted at his broad middle encircled a thick belly that jiggled as he moved. He had pulled his pointed gray hood far onto his head, and its rim cast an eerie shadow on his face.
“What of the edict!” he cried, throwing off his hood. His eyes goggled wide and terrifying. With an audible moan, the crowd that had gathered fell back. “This King of Navarre and his mother—they are the true Jezebel and Ahab! They are the ones who have inflicted this seditious edict on France! France has one king, one law, one religion! There is no other religion! Thus it is not possible for any edict to sanction another religion; an edict that does so is not true, nor is it binding on your consciences. Hear my words!”
He held aloft a parchment, the sleeve of his gray habit falling past his elbow. The fleshy skin of his arm looked like the white belly of an albacore, and it quavered as he shook the parchment over the crowd.
"Well now, my people,” he continued, his tone sarcastic, “what must I and the other true preachers of France do? Must we obey this order, this edict, this sacrilege? What shall we tell you? What shall we preach?” He leapt to his left onto the lowest step of the cathedral, then turned back to where he had just stood and whimpered, 'The Gospel,' Sir Huguenot will say.” He stretched out the syllables of the word l’Evangile as he spoke. He liked the taunting sound of his own voice and said the word several more times, his voice growing louder.
Taking the steps three at a time—when he moved his whole body reminded Philippe of a mound of new sheep cheese, soft, wobbly, and pasty white—now back on his former step, he turned and continued. “I must tell you, this edict notwithstanding. What they mean by ‘Gospel’ is anathema. Follow their easy gospel, alas, and you are damned. Damned by the pernicious errors of Luther, of Calvin, of Beza, of Pierre Viret, and all other such preachers, with their erroneous doctrine, condemned by the Church a thousand years ago, and since then by the holy œcumenical councils—they’re all worthless and damnable. Now then, is not my telling you this the true preaching of the gospel? Is it not the gospel to bid you beware of their teaching, to bid you refuse to listen to them, or to read their books? Though this edict forbids me to speak evil of Reformers and Huguenots, who it is well known seek only to stir up sedition, murder, and robbery, as they have begun to do in Paris and numberless places in the realm—is not this the true preaching of 'the Gospel?'”
As if he had rehearsed, the friar paused and dropped down a step and turned back to where he had been standing, now addressing himself, as it were, and in a girlish tone, placing a limp fleshy hand over his heart and another on his forehead as he spoke. “But someone here may say: 'Oh, friar, what are you saying? You are not obeying the king's edict; it forbids you to speak evil of Calvin and his companions; the edict forbids you to call them heretics and Huguenots; oh, friar, you will be denounced to the courts of justice, you will be thrown into prison—yes, you will be hung as a seditious person.'” At his own words, he made as if to swoon, his wide body teetering as if about to plunge down the steps. Several scurried to steady him.
Then, his gray habit swishing, the friar returned to his original place on the steps and looked aghast at where he had just stood. “I answer, I do the will of God and of the pope by denouncing these seditious heretics before you. This foul edict guards and protects these damnable prophets of Baal who lead you to ruin by their so-called ‘Gospel.’” He slapped the parchment viciously with the back of his hand at his words.
He spun around again, assuming the tone and posture of his critic. “'Stop, friar, you are saying too much; you violate the edict; you will be hung.'”
Leaping onto a still higher step, with a flourish, he untied his rope belt and coiled it around his neck, pulling up on it with his hand. “Very well,” he continued, his head lolling to one side, his voice raspy, “then there will be a gray friar hung! Moreover, by this seditious edict many others like me will have to be hung.” After one last jerk upward, he uncoiled the rope from his neck and returned it to his plentiful waist. “We, the true pillars of Mother Church, will uphold the edifice of Rome, which will never be overthrown until the end of the world, whatever blows Calvin and his crew may pretend to strike against it!”