XXV

All sins whatever, quoth the abbess, turning casuist in the distress they were under, are held by the confessor of our convent to be either mortal or venial: there is no further division. Now a venial sin being the slightest and least of all sins⁠—being halved⁠—by taking either only the half of it, and leaving the rest⁠—or, by taking it all, and amicably halving it betwixt yourself and another person⁠—in course becomes diluted into no sin at all.

Now I see no sin in saying, bou, bou, bou, bou, bou, a hundred times together; nor is there any turpitude in pronouncing the syllable ger, ger, ger, ger, ger, were it from our matins to our vespers: Therefore, my dear daughter, continued the abbess of Andoüillets⁠—I will say bou, and thou shalt say ger; and then alternately, as there is no more sin in fou than in bou⁠—Thou shalt say fou⁠—and I will come in (like fa, sol, la, re, mi, ut, at our complines) with ter. And accordingly the abbess, giving the pitch note, set off thus:

Abbess, } Bou - - bou - - bou - -
Margarita, ⸺⁠ger, - - ger, - - ger.
Margarita, } Fou - - fou - - fou - -
Abbess, ⸺⁠ter, - - ter, - - ter.

The two mules acknowledged the notes by a mutual lash of their tails; but it went no further⁠⸺’Twill answer by an’ by, said the novice.

Abbess, } Bou- bou- bou- bou- bou- bou-
Margarita, —ger, ger, ger, ger, ger, ger.

Quicker still, cried Margarita.

Fou, fou, fou, fou, fou, fou, fou, fou, fou.

Quicker still, cried Margarita.

Bou, bou, bou, bou, bou, bou, bou, bou, bou,

Quicker still⁠—God preserve me; said the abbess⁠—They do not understand us, cried Margarita⁠—But the Devil does, said the abbess of Andoüillets.