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WHEREIN IS SET DOWN THE BRAYING ADVENTURE, AND THE DROLL ONE OF THE PUPPET-SHOWMAN, TOGETHER WITH THE MEMORABLE DIVINATIONS OF THE DIVINING APE
Don Quixote's bread would not bake, as the common saying is, until he had heard and learned the curious things promised by the man who carried the arms. He went to seek him where the innkeeper said he was and having found him, bade him say now at any rate what he had to say in answer to the question he had asked him on the road. "The tale of my wonders must be taken more leisurely and not standing," said the man; "let me finish foddering my beast, good sir; and then I'll tell you things that will astonish you."
"Don't wait for that," said Don Quixote; "I'll help you in everything," and so he did, sifting the barley for him and cleaning out the manger; a degree of humility which made the other feel bound to tell him with a good grace what he had asked; so seating himself on a bench, with Don Quixote beside him, and the cousin, the page, Sancho Panza, and the landlord, for a senate and an audience, he began his story in this way:
"You must know that in a village four leagues and a half from this inn, it so happened that one of the regidors, by the tricks and roguery of a servant girl of his (it's too long a tale to tell), lost an ass; and though he did all he possibly could to find it, it was all to no purpose. A fortnight might have gone by, so the story goes, since the ass had been missing, when, as the regidor who had lost it was standing in the plaza, another regidor of the same town said to him, 'Pay me for good news, gossip; your ass has turned up.' 'That I will, and well, gossip,' said the other; 'but tell us, where has he turned up?' 'In the forest,' said the finder; 'I saw him this morning without pack-saddle or harness of any sort, and so lean that it went to one's heart to see him. I tried to drive him before me and bring him to you, but he is already so wild and shy that when I went near him he made off into the thickest part of the forest.
If you have a mind that we two should go back and look for him, let me put up this she-ass at my house and I'll be back at once.' 'You will be doing me a great kindness,' said the owner of the ass, 'and I'll try to pay it back in the same coin.' It is with all these circumstances, and in the very same way I am telling it now, that those who know all about the matter tell the story. Well then, the two regidors set off on foot, arm in arm, for the forest, and coming to the place where they hoped to find the ass they could not find him, nor was he to be seen anywhere about, search as they might. Seeing, then, that there was no sign of him, the regidor who had seen him said to the other, 'Look here, gossip; a plan has occurred to me, by which, beyond a doubt, we shall manage to discover the animal, even if he is stowed away in the bowels of the earth, not to say the forest. Here it is. I can bray to perfection, and if you can ever so little, the thing's as good as done.
' 'Ever so little did you say, gossip?' said the other; 'by God, I'll not give in to anybody, not even to the asses themselves.' 'We'll soon see,' said the second regidor, 'for my plan is that you should go one side of the forest, and I the other, so as to go all round about it; and every now and then you will bray and I will bray; and it cannot be but that the ass will hear us, and answer us if he is in the forest.' To which the owner of the ass replied, 'It's an excellent plan, I declare, gossip, and worthy of your great genius;' and the two separating as agreed, it so fell out that they brayed almost at the same moment, and each, deceived by the braying of the other, ran to look, fancying the ass had turned up at last. When they came in sight of one another, said the loser, 'Is it possible, gossip, that it was not my ass that brayed?' 'No, it was I,' said the other.
'Well then, I can tell you, gossip,' said the ass's owner, 'that between you and an ass there is not an atom of difference as far as braying goes, for I never in all my life saw or heard anything more natural.' 'Those praises and compliments belong to you more justly than to me, gossip,' said the inventor of the plan; 'for, by the God that made me, you might give a couple of brays odds to the best and most finished brayer in the world; the tone you have got is deep, your voice is well kept up as to time and pitch, and your finishing notes come thick and fast; in fact, I own myself beaten, and yield the palm to you, and give in to you in this rare accomplishment.' 'Well then,' said the owner, 'I'll set a higher value on myself for the future, and consider that I know something, as I have an excellence of some sort; for though I always thought I brayed well, I never supposed I came up to the pitch of perfection you say.
' 'And I say too,' said the second, 'that there are rare gifts going to loss in the world, and that they are ill bestowed upon those who don't know how to make use of them.' 'Ours,' said the owner of the ass, 'unless it is in cases like this we have now in hand, cannot be of any service to us, and even in this God grant they may be of some use.' So saying they separated, and took to their braying once more, but every instant they were deceiving one another, and coming to meet one another again, until they arranged by way of countersign, so as to know that it was they and not the ass, to give two brays, one after the other. In this way, doubling the brays at every step, they made the complete circuit of the forest, but the lost ass never gave them an answer or even the sign of one.
How could the poor ill-starred brute have answered, when, in the thickest part of the forest, they found him devoured by wolves? As soon as he saw him his owner said, 'I was wondering he did not answer, for if he wasn't dead he'd have brayed when he heard us, or he'd have been no ass; but for the sake of having heard you bray to such perfection, gossip, I count the trouble I have taken to look for him well bestowed, even though I have found him dead.' 'It's in a good hand, gossip,' said the other; 'if the abbot sings well, the acolyte is not much behind him.' So they returned disconsolate and hoarse to their village, where they told their friends, neighbours, and acquaintances what had befallen them in their search for the ass, each crying up the other's perfection in braying.
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