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The History of Don Quixote de la Mancha

One praising the other's skill in braying

and we will set about it.'

'Truly, brother,' said the other, 'I am mightily beholden to you, and will do as much for you another time.' In short, the two aldermen, hand in hand, trudged up the hills, and hunted up and down; but after many a weary step, no ass was to be found. Upon which, quoth the alderman that had seen him to the other: 'Hark ye, brother; I have a device to find out this same ass of yours, though he were underground, as you shall hear. You must know, I can bray to admiration; and if you can but bray never so little, the job is done.' 'Never so little!' cried the other; 'I will undertake to bray with any ass or alderman in the land.' 'Well, then,' quoth the other, 'my contrivance is, that you go on one side of the hill, and I on the other; sometimes you shall bray, and sometimes I; so that, if your ass be but thereabouts, my life for yours, he will be sure to answer, and bray again.' 'Gramercy, brother,' quoth the other, 'a rare device! let you alone for plotting.' They parted according to agreement; and when they were far enough off, they both fell a-braying so perfectly well that they cheated one another; and meeting, each in hopes to find the ass, 'Is it possible, brother,' said the owner of the ass, 'that it was not my ass that brayed?' 'No, marry, that it was not; it was I,' answered the other alderman. 'Well, brother,' cried the owner, 'then there is no manner of difference between you and an ass, as to the matter of braying; I never heard any thing so natural in my life.' 'Oh, sir,'
quoth the other, 'I am nothing to you; you shall lay two to one against the best brayer in the kingdom, and I will go your halves. Your voice is lofty, and of a great compass; you keep excellent time, and hold out a note rarely, and your cadence is full and ravishing. In short, sir, I knock under the table, and yield you the bays.' 'Well, then, brother,' answered the owner, 'I shall always have the better opinion of myself for this one good quality; for though I knew I brayed pretty well, I never thought myself so great a master before.' After these compliments, they parted again, and went braying, this on one side of the hill, and that on the other. But all to no purpose; for they still deceived one another with their braying, and, running to the noise, met one another as before.

"At last they agreed to bray twice one after another, that by that token they might be sure it was not the ass, but they that brayed. But all in vain--they almost brayed their hearts out, but no answer from the ass. And indeed, how could it, poor creature, when they found him at last in the wood half-eaten by the wolves? 'Alack-a-day! poor Grizzle,' cried the owner; 'I do not wonder now he took so little notice of his loving master. Had he been alive, as sure as he was an ass, he would have brayed again. But let him go; this comfort I have at least, brother; though I have lost him, I have found out that rare talent of yours that has hugely solaced me under this affliction.' 'The glass is in a good hand, Mr. Alderman,' quoth the other, 'and if the abbot sings well, the young monk is not much behind him.'

"With this, these same aldermen, very much disappointed as well as very hoarse, went home and told all their neighbours the whole story word for word; one praising the other's skill in braying, and the other returning the compliment. In short, one got it by the end, and the other got it by the end; the boys got it, and all the idle fellows got it, and there was such a brawling and such a braying in our town, that nothing else was to be heard. But the thing did not stop here; our neighbouring towns had it too; and when they saw any of our townsfolk, they fell a-braying, hitting us in the teeth with the braying of our aldermen. This made ill blood between us; for we took it in mighty dudgeon, as well we might, and came to words upon it, and from words to blows; for the people of our town are well known by this, as the beggar knows his dish, and are apt to be jeered wheresoever they go. And they have carried the jest so far, that I believe to-morrow or next day, the men of our town, to wit, the brayers, will be in the field against those of another town about two leagues off, that are always plaguing us. Now, that we should be well provided, I have brought these lances and halberts that ye saw me carry. So this is my story, gentlefolks; and if it be not a strange one, I am mistaken."

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