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The Church Auctioneer and Clown of Villar

“I love the fields with flowerets bright,

The birds with carol merry;

I love the——”

“No, I cannot sing just now; I am too happy,” exclaimed the hunchback. “I feel like the rich miser of Santillana, when he recollected that he would be buried at the expense of the parish. So as my helpmate Joanna come not here, I care not how long the troops delay in arriving. Ah, Joanna is too good for me, as the runaway criminal said of the gallows; and the older she gets the more I recognize it! Yes, Joanna is too good for me and for this world; but we don’t make ourselves—no, we don’t do that.”

Here José Carcunda shook his head very wisely, and looked at his slippered feet with some pardonable pride.

“Look you here,” said one of his fair companions, “you are very stupid to-day; you will not sing, nor will you dance. Will you, then, tell us the tale about the sorrowful mule, and what befell her, or about the merry friar who turned highwayman to enrich the Church, or about the palaces of the enchanted Moors?”

“I will tell you something that happened to me when I was a young man,” answered the hunchback.

“Know, then,” continued José Carcunda, “that in my younger days I was an almocreve (muleteer), and owned six of the finest mules in the province of the Beira. I used to attend the weekly fair held at the university city, Coimbra, where I found a good market for my earthenware with which I loaded the mules.

“Fortune had favoured me, and I had saved some gold crowns; and on Sundays, when I had shaved and put on clean linen, I was the pride of the village.

“One summer’s day, as I was leading my six mules, fully laden with pots and pans, to Coimbra, a student, who was on the roadside, saluted me and said—

“‘Good José, I have a great favour to ask of you, and one that I know you will not deny me.’

“‘Your excellency,’ said I, ‘has but to order, and I will obey, so long as you place not my eternal happiness in jeopardy.’

“‘The saints forbid,’ answered the student, ‘that I should ask you to do anything but what a Christian man should do!

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