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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Vincent Voiture (1597–1648)

On Being Tossed in a Blanket

From “Letters”

MADEMOISELLE, I was tossed in a blanket on Friday, after having dined, because I did not succeed in making you laugh during the time assigned me for that purpose. So Mme. de Rambouillet put me under arrest, at the desire of her daughter and of Mlle. Paulet. They were going to put off the execution of the punishment until the return of the princess and of yourself, but they bethought themselves afterward that they would not defer it long, seeing that it is cruel to have the execution of punishments fall on a time that ought to be entirely devoted to pleasure. It was in vain that I cried out in defense of myself; the blanket was brought, and four of the strongest men imaginable were chosen for the performance. I can assure you, mademoiselle, that never anybody rose as high as I, and I should never have believed that fortune would so exalt me. At every toss I was lost to human sight. They sent me higher than the eagles fly. I saw the mountains lying low beneath me; I saw the winds and clouds pursue their way beneath my feet; I discovered countries that I had never seen, seas that I had never imagined. Nothing could be more diverting than to review so many things at once, and to cover, with a single glance, the half of the world. But I assure you, mademoiselle, that one beholds all this with uneasiness, when one is high in air, and quite sure of falling down again. One of the things that frightened me so much was, that when I had risen very high and looked below me, the blanket appeared so small that it seemed impossible for me ever to fall back into it, and I confess that this circumstance caused me some emotion. But amid so many different objects which at the same time struck my sight, there was one which for some moments relieved me of fear and touched me with true pleasure, and that was, that, desiring to look toward Piedmont to see what was going on there, I saw you at Lyons as you were passing the Saône. At least, I saw upon the water a great light and many rays about the most beautiful countenance in the world. I could not well discern who was with you, for at that moment my head was below, and I believe that you did not see me, for you were looking in a different direction. I made a sign to you as best I could, but when you began to raise your eyes I fell back, and the peak of one of the mountains of Tartary prevented your seeing me. When I came down, I wished to tell the company that I had news of you, and to assure them that I had seen you, but they began to laugh as if I had made an incredible statement, and made me fly higher than before. Then happened a strange accident, and one that would seem impossible to whoever had not seen it. Once, when they had pitched me very high, I found myself in coming down again in a cloud, which, being very dense and I being extremely light, kept me afloat for a good while without falling, so that they waited long below, holding the blanket open, gazing upward, and unable to imagine what had become of me. Fortunately, there was no wind at all. Had there been any, the driving cloud would have carried me to one side or the other, and I would have fallen to the earth, hardly without considerable injury to myself. But a more dangerous accident succeeded this. The last time that they threw me into the air, I found myself in the midst of a flock of cranes, who were at first very much astonished at seeing me so high; but when they had approached me more closely, they took me for one of that race of pygmies with whom, as you well know, mademoiselle, they have long waged war, and thought that I had come to spy on them even in the middle regions of the air. They immediately fell upon me with their beaks, and that so violently that I believed myself pierced by a hundred daggers; and one of them, who had me by the leg, pursued me so doggedly that she did not leave me until I had arrived in the blanket. This circumstance made my tormenters fear to put me again at the mercy of my foes, who had assembled in great numbers and floated above, waiting me to be tossed to them again. And so I was carried to my lodging in the same blanket, as bruised as it is well possible to be. You may judge for yourself, mademoiselle, how tyrannical an action that was, and by how many reasons you are obliged to disapprove it; and, to tell the truth, it behooves you especially, who were born with so many qualities of command, to accustom yourself early to hate injustice, and to take those who suffer it under your protection. I therefore beseech you, mademoiselle, to take the first opportunity of declaring that procedure as an attack which you disavow all part in, and that, for reparation to my honor, you order a grand gauze pavilion to be erected in the blue chamber of the Hôtel Rambouillet, where I may be served and magnificently entertained for a week by the two young ladies who caused me this misfortune; that confections be hourly brought to this room; that one of the ladies blow the fire, and that the other do nothing but pour sirup on plates to be frozen, and serve me with it from time to time. Thus, mademoiselle, you will perform a just action, and one worthy of so great and lovely a princess as you are; and I shall feel myself bound to be with more respect and sincerity than any one in the world, mademoiselle, yours, etc.