Home  »  The World’s Wit and Humor  »  The Trial for Sheep-Stealing

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

David Augustin de Brueys (1640–1723) and Jean Palaprat (1650–1721)

The Trial for Sheep-Stealing

From “The Advocate Patelin”


Bart.Let the parties appear.

Pat.(aside to AGNELET).When you are questioned, answer exactly as I told you.

Bart.(to PATELIN).Who is that man?

Pat.A shepherd who was beaten by his master, and who must, in consequence, be trepanned after the hearing of his case.

Bart.We must wait for our opponents, for his attorney, or advocate. But what does M. Guillaume want with us?

Guil.(to BARTOLIN).I am going to plead my cause myself.

Pat.(aside to AGNELET).Oh! traitor! it’s against M. Guillaume.

Agn.Yes; he’s my excellent master!

Pat.Let us try to get out of this.

Guil.Ah! who is that man?

Pat.Sir, I never plead except against an advocate.

Guil.I have no need of an advocate.(Aside.)He looks something like him.

Pat.In that case I must retire.

Bart.Stay and plead.

Pat.But, sir——

Bart.Stay, I say. I wish at any rate to have an advocate in my audience. If you go, I’ll strike you off the register.

Pat.(aside, concealing his face with his handkerchief).We must conceal our identity as best we can.

Bart.M. Guillaume, you are the plaintiff; speak.

Guil.You must know, sir, that this rascal——

Bart.No bad names.

Guil.Very well. This thief——

Bart.Call him by his name, or by that of his profession.

Guil.Well, anyhow, sir, I tell you that this rascal of a shepherd stole twenty-six of my sheep.

Pat.That is not proved.

Bart.What’s the matter with you, advocate?

Pat.A terrible toothache.

Bart.So much the worse. Proceed.

Guil.By Jove, that advocate rather resembles the hero of my six ells of cloth.

Bart.What proof have you of the theft?

Guil.What proof! Why, I sold him yesterday—I trusted him with six ells, six hundred sheep, and I find only eighty in the flock.

Pat.I beg to deny that fact.

Guil.(aside).If I hadn’t first seen the other man delirious, I should be sure this was my man.

Bart.Never mind your man, but prove the fact.

Guil.I prove it by my cloth—I mean by my ledger. What has become of the six ells, of the twenty-six sheep missing from my flock?

Pat.There’s no doubt that it is himself. Non est quæstio de persona. You were informed that the sheep had died of disease. What have you to say to that?

Guil.With all due respect, it’s false. He carried off under—he killed them to sell, and yesterday I myself—(Aside.)Yes, it’s he.(To BARTOLIN.)I sold him six—six—I took him in the act, at night, of killing a sheep.

Pat.(To BARTOLIN).A pure invention, sir, to excuse himself for the blows he gave the poor shepherd, who, as I told you before, must be trepanned after the trial.

Guil.(To BARTOLIN).By all the gods! your lordship, it’s perfectly true, it is himself, yes. He carried off six ells of cloth from my house yesterday, and this morning, instead of paying me the thirty crowns——

Bart.What the devil have six ells of cloth and thirty crowns to do with the matter? The case before us is, I believe, one of stolen sheep.

Guil.Quite true, sir. That is another affair, and we shall come to it later on. But I am not mistaken. Know, then, that I hid myself in the sheepfold.(Aside.)Yes, it’s certainly he.(To BARTOLIN.)I hid myself in the sheepfold, and saw that fellow enter. He took a fat sheep, and his fine words were so successful that he carried off six ells——

Bart.Six ells of sheep?

Guil.No, of cloth, curse the fellow!

Bart.Never mind the cloth and the man, but come back to your sheep.

Guil.Very well, I come back. The fellow, having drawn his knife out of his pocket—I mean my cloth—no, I’m right, his knife—he—he—he—he—put it like this under his gown, and carried it off home; and this morning, instead of paying me my thirty crowns, he refused me both cloth and money. Now, is that right?

Pat.(laughing).Ha! ha! ha!

Bart.To your sheep, I say, to your sheep.

Pat.(laughing).Ha! ha! ha!

Bart.But you’re out of your mind, M. Guillaume; you’re dreaming!

Pat.You see, sir, he doesn’t know what he’s saying.

Guil.Indeed, I know perfectly, sir. He stole twenty-six sheep; and this morning, instead of giving me thirty crowns for six ells of chestnut-color cloth, he paid me with blue devils, the nymph Calypso, ta ral la, my gossip when I dance. How the deuce am I to know what he’ll offer me next?

Pat.Ha! ha! ha! He’s mad, he’s mad!

Bart.Undoubtedly. Stop, M. Guillaume! Not all the courts of justice in the kingdom together could make anything of your case. You accuse this shepherd of stealing twenty-six sheep, and you mix up with it six ells of cloth, thirty crowns, blue devils, and countless fooleries besides. Once again, come back to your sheep, or I shall set the shepherd free. But it would be better for me to question him.(To AGNELET.)Come here; what is your name?


Guil.He lies; his name is Agnelet.

Bart.Agnelet or Baa, it’s all the same.(To AGNELET.)Tell me, is it true that M. Guillaume trusted you with twenty-six sheep?


Bart.Perhaps the fear of the law upsets you. Listen, and don’t be afraid. Did M. Guillaume find you one night killing a sheep?


Bart.What’s the meaning of this?

Pat.The blows on his head have unsettled his brain.

Bart.You are greatly to blame, M. Guillaume.

Guil.I to blame! One man steals my cloth, another my sheep, one pays me in songs, another in baas, and then, curse it, I’m to blame!

Bart.Why, certainly. You should never strike a man, and especially on the head.

Guil.Oh! that’s all very well. It was dark, and when I strike, I’m not particular where.

Pat.He confesses. Sir, habemus confitentem rerum.

Guil.Oh, be off with your confitareum! You shall pay me for the six ells of cloth, or the devil take you.

Bart.The cloth again! You are flouting justice. Out of the court and the suit, without costs.

Guil.I appeal; and as for you, you rogue, we shall see.(Exit.)

Pat.(to AGNELET).Thank his lordship.

Agn.Baa, baa.

Bart.Poor wretch—there, that will do. Go and get yourself trepanned at once.(Exit.)

Pat.Now that by my skill I’ve got you out of an affair which might have ended in the gallows, it’s your turn to pay me as handsomely as you promised.


Pat.Yes, you played your part very well. But now, do you understand, I want my money.


Pat.Oh! leave off baaing, do; there’s no more need of it. There’s no one here but you and me. Are you going to keep your promise, and pay me well?


Pat.You rascal! Am I to be the dupe of a dressed-up sheep? By all the devils you shall pay me, or——(AGNELET rushes out.)