A Prelude to a Life of Crime

It was June 5th, 1455, and a fine warm night in Paris. On a stone bench outside of the Church of Saint Benoit, Francois sat with Isabeau and Father Gilles laughing and enjoying a late dinner of bread and wine. Three empty bottles lay at their feet.

Father Gilles had spent the past quarter of an hour fumbling through an alcohol-tinged argument in favor of Francois becoming a canon lawyer and Isabeau giggled delightedly as Francois made gargoyle faces behind the priest’s back.

“… and besides,” Father Gilles concluded, “you are ever-so-smarter than me …”

His voice trailed off in a melancholic note. Francois cut his gargoyle act but Isabeau couldn’t stop laughing. Even with her hand over her mouth she continued, a few snorts escaping through her nose.

“Shh!” Francois hissed at her.

“I’m sorry!” she said loudly, “I can’t help it!”

“No! Shush! Someone’s coming …”

Two shadows appeared stumbling down the dark street, cursing. Francois recognized the drunken voices.

“Quo vadis, Father Sermaise?” he asked in a friendly voice, “Come sit here and rest with us.” He made a move to slide over on the bench.

Francois had his feuds with the priest but always let them rest. Father Sermaise was not in the forgiving mood though. He drew a sword from beneath his cloak.

“You’d better run, you rat!” he shrieked, “I’m going to run you through!”

Francois sat stunned as the priest charged and took a wild swing that sliced his lip.

A minute later, Father Sermaise lay unconscious, bleeding from the groin and head.

Francois Villon was on the run.

Although eventually pardoned, this was only the beginning of his troubles. Between escapades amongst vagabonds and criminals, he found the time to write a few memorable poems before walking off into history in 1463.

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