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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMy Novel - Book 1 - Chapter 6
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My Novel - Book 1 - Chapter 6 Post by :jasonroland Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :1814

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My Novel - Book 1 - Chapter 6

BOOK FIRST CHAPTER VI

The tinker was a stout, swarthy fellow, jovial and musical withal, for he was singing a stave as he flourished his staff, and at the end of each refrain down came the staff on the quarters of the donkey. The tinker went behind and sang, the donkey went before and was thwacked.

"Yours is a droll country," quoth Dr. Riccabocca; "in mine, it is not the ass that walks first in the procession that gets the blows."

The parson jumped from the stile, and looking over the hedge that divided the field from the road--"Gently, gently," said he; "the sound of the stick spoils the singing! Oh, Mr. Sprott, Mr. Sprott! a good man is merciful to his beast."

The donkey seemed to recognize the voice of its friend, for it stopped short, pricked one ear wistfully, and looked up. The tinker touched his hat, and looked up too. "Lord bless your reverence! he does not mind it,--he likes it. I vould not hurt thee; would I, Neddy?"

The donkey shook his head and shivered; perhaps a fly had settled on the sore, which the chestnut leaves no longer protected.

"I am sure you did not mean to hurt him, Sprott," said the parson, more politely I fear than honestly,--for he had seen enough of that cross-grained thing called the human heart, even in the little world of a country parish, to know that it requires management and coaxing and flattering, to interfere successfully between a man and his own donkey,--"I am sure you did not mean to hurt him; but he has already got a sore on his shoulder as big as my hand, poor thing!"

"Lord love 'un! yes; that was done a playing with the manger the day I gave 'un oats!" said the tinker.

Dr. Riccabocca adjusted his spectacles, and surveyed the ass. The ass pricked up his other ear, and surveyed Dr. Riccabocca. In that mutual survey of physical qualifications, each being regarded according to the average symmetry of its species, it may be doubted whether the advantage was on the side of the philosopher.

The parson had a great notion of the wisdom of his friend in all matters not purely ecclesiastical.

"Say a good word for the donkey!" whispered he.

"Sir," said the doctor, addressing Mr. Sprott, with a respectful salutation, "there's a great kettle at my house--the Casino--which wants soldering: can you recommend me a tinker?"

"Why, that's all in my line," said Sprott; "and there ben't a tinker in the county that I vould recommend like myself, tho'f I say it."

"You jest, good sir," said the doctor, smiling pleasantly. "A man who can't mend a hole in his own donkey can never demean himself by patching up my great kettle."

"Lord, sir!" said the tinker, archly, "if I had known that poor Neddy had had two sitch friends in court, I'd have seen he vas a gintleman, and treated him as sitch."

"Corpo di Bacco!" quoth the doctor, "though that jest's not new, I think the tinker comes very well out of it."

"True; but the donkey!" said the parson; "I've a great mind to buy it."

"Permit me to tell you an anecdote in point," said Dr. Riccabocca.

"Well?" said the parson, interrogatively.

"Once on a time," pursued Riccabocca, "the Emperor Adrian, going to the public baths, saw an old soldier, who had served under him, rubbing his back against the marble wall. The emperor, who was a wise, and therefore a curious, inquisitive man, sent for the soldier, and asked him why he resorted to that sort of friction. 'Because,' answered the veteran, 'I am too poor to have slaves to rub me down.' The emperor was touched, and gave him slaves and money. The next day, when Adrian went to the baths, all the old men in the city were to be seen rubbing themselves against the marble as hard as they could. The emperor sent for them, and asked them the same question which he had put to the soldier; the cunning old rogues, of course, made the same answer. 'Friends,' said Adrian, 'since there are so many of you, you will just rub one another!' Mr. Dale, if you don't want to have all the donkeys in the county with holes in their shoulders, you had better not buy the tinker's!"

"It is the hardest thing in the world to do the least bit of good," groaned the parson, as he broke a twig off the hedge nervously, snapped it in two, and flung away the fragments: one of them hit the donkey on the nose. If the ass could have spoken Latin he would have said, "Et tu, Brute!" As it was, he hung down his ears, and walked on.

"Gee hup," said the tinker, and he followed the ass. Then stopping, he looked over his shoulder, and seeing that the parson's eyes were gazing mournfully on his protege, "Never fear, your reverence," cried the tinker, kindly, "I'll not spite 'un."

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