The Church Auctioneer and Clown of Villar
No, friend José, my errand is indeed a strange and sad one; but I feel that I must be as true to (with your leave) a mule as my profession requires me to be to a human being.’
“‘What!’ exclaimed I, ‘are you under some spell, some wicked enchantment, that you make promises to (with your excellency’s leave) a mule, which is the accursed animal since the days of Bethlehem?’
“‘No, good friend,’ continued the sorrowful student; ‘I am under no spell, but under a vow; for I have promised to convey some sad news to (with your leave) that mouse-coloured mule of yours, and I feel that I must break it gently to her.’
“‘Sir,’ said I, ‘you see before you a man who knows not the difference between the Credo and the Paternoster when they are written; and though I have heard say that if you want to see thieves you must get inside a prison and look at the passers-by, still am I not inclined to think that if you desire to see knaves you must look in at the windows of the university. My mule (with your excellency’s permission) is but a mule, and has no knowledge of sorrow or of language; therefore, of what avail to speak to her?’
“‘You are much mistaken,’ answered the student, who now had tears in his eyes, ‘for it is well known that even the irrational animals have feelings, and they have been heard to speak. Good friend, grant me my request, for, as I said before, I am under a vow.’
“‘Have your way, dear sir,’ said I; ‘but if the animal bites you, blame not me. She is but a stubborn thing at the best of times.’
“The six mules were tied one to the other, and each had a big load of pots and pans. They were standing in the middle of the road with their gay trappings and bells about them; and as I looked at the mouse-coloured one, I wondered what the student could have to say to her and how he would say it; but, as you know, these men who frequent the university are so learned that they can repeat the Credo backwards way, which is the great secret in the black art.
“The student, having obtained my permission to speak to the mouse-coloured mule, approached her gradually, exclaiming at intervals, ‘Poor creature, how she will take it to heart!