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The Donkey
by [?]

The two men went along, laughing. It was over too quickly; they had not had their money’s worth. Maillochon asked: “Well, what are we going to do now?”

Labouise answered: “Don’t worry, sister. Get the thing on the boat; we’re going to have some fun when night comes.”

They went and got the boat. The animal’s body was placed on the bottom, covered with fresh grass, and the two men stretched out on it and went to sleep.

Toward noon Labouise drew a bottle of wine, some bread and butter and raw onions from a hiding place in their muddy, worm-eaten boat, and they began to eat.

When the meal was over they once more stretched out on the dead donkey and slept. At nightfall Labouise awoke and shook his comrade, who was snoring like a buzzsaw. “Come on, sister,” he ordered.

Maillochon began to row. As they had plenty of time they went up the Seine slowly. They coasted along the reaches covered with water-lilies, and the heavy, mud-covered boat slipped over the lily pads and bent the flowers, which stood up again as soon as they had passed.

When they reached the wall of the Eperon, which separates the Saint- Germain forest from the Maisons-Laffitte Park, Labouise stopped his companion and explained his idea to him. Maillochon was moved by a prolonged, silent laugh.

They threw into the water the grass which had covered the body, took the animal by the feet and hid it behind some bushes. Then they got into their boat again and went to Maisons-Laffitte.

The night was perfectly black when they reached the wine shop of old man Jules. As soon as the dealer saw them he came up, shook hands with them and sat down at their table. They began to talk of one thing and another. By eleven o’clock the last customer had left and old man Jules winked at Labouise and asked: “Well, have you got any?”

Labouise made a motion with his head and answered: “Perhaps so, perhaps not!”

The dealer insisted: “Perhaps you’ve not nothing but gray ones?”

Chicot dug his hands into his flannel shirt, drew out the ears of a rabbit and declared: “Three francs a pair!”

Then began a long discussion about the price. Two francs sixty-five and the two rabbits were delivered. As the two men were getting up to go, old man Jules, who had been watching them, exclaimed:

“You have something else, but you won’t say what.”

Labouise answered: “Possibly, but it is not for you; you’re too stingy.”

The man, growing eager, kept asking: “What is it? Something big? Perhaps we might make a deal.”

Labouise, who seemed perplexed, pretended to consult Maillochon with a glance. Then he answered in a slow voice: “This is how it is. We were in the bushes at Eperon when something passed right near us, to the left, at the end of the wall. Mailloche takes a shot and it drops. We skipped on account of the game people. I can’t tell you what it is, because I don’t know. But it’s big enough. But what is it? If I told you I’d be lying, and you know, sister, between us everything’s above-board.”

Anxiously the man asked: “Think it’s venison?”

Labouise answered: “Might be and then again it might not! Venison?–uh! uh!–might be a little big for that! Mind you, I don’t say it’s a doe, because I don’t know, but it might be.”

Still the dealer insisted: “Perhaps it’s a buck?”

Labouise stretched out his hand, exclaiming: “No, it’s not that! It’s not a buck. I should have seen the horns. No, it’s not a buck!”

“Why didn’t you bring it with you?” asked the man.

“Because, sister, from now on I sell from where I stand. Plenty of people will buy. All you have to do is to take a walk over there, find the thing and take it. No risk for me.”

The innkeeper, growing suspicious, exclaimed “Supposing he wasn’t there!”

Labouise once more raised his hand and said:

“He’s there, I swear!–first bush to the left. What it is, I don’t know. But it’s not a buck, I’m positive. It’s for you to find out what it is. Twenty-five francs, cash down!”

Still the man hesitated: “Couldn’t you bring it?”

Maillochon exclaimed: “No, indeed! You know our price! Take it or leave it!”

The dealer decided: “It’s a bargain for twenty francs!”

And they shook hands over the deal.

Then he took out four big five-franc pieces from the cash drawer, and the two friends pocketed the money. Labouise arose, emptied his glass and left. As he was disappearing in the shadows he turned round to exclaim: “It isn’t a buck. I don’t know what it is!–but it’s there. I’ll give you back your money if you find nothing!”

And he disappeared in the darkness. Maillochon, who was following him, kept punching him in the back to express his joy.