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The Story of Saint Joseph’s Ass
by [?]

Translated by D. H. Lawrence

They had bought him at the fair at Buccheri when he was quite a foal, when as soon as he saw a she-ass he went up to her to find her teats; for which he got a good many bangs on the head and showers of blows upon the buttocks, and caused a great shouting of “Gee back!” Neighbor Neli, seeing him lively and stubborn as he was, a young creature that licked his nose after it had been hit, giving his ears a shake, said, “This is the chap for me!” And he went straight to the owner, holding in his pocket his hand that clasped the eight dollars.

“It’s a fine foal,” said the owner, “and it’s worth more than eight dollars. Never mind if he’s got that black-and-white skin, like a magpie. I’ll just show you his mother, whom we keep there in the bough shelter because the foal has always got his nose at the teats. You’ll see a fine black beast there; she works for me better than a mule, and has brought me more young ones than she has hairs on her back. Upon my soul, I don’t know where that magpie jacket has come from, on the foal. But he’s sound in the bone, I tell you! And you don’t value men according to their faces. Look what a chest, and legs like pillars! Look how he holds his ears! An ass that keeps his ears straight up like that, you can put him in a cart or in the plow as you like, and make him carry ten quarters of buckwheat better than a mule, as true as this is holy day today! Feel his tail, if you and all your family couldn’t hang on to it!

Neighbor Neli knew it better than he; but he wasn’t such a fool as to agree, and stood on his own, with his hand in his pocket, shrugging his shoulders and curling his nose, while the owner led the colt around in front of him.

“Hm!” muttered Neighbor Neli, “with that hide on him, he’s like Saint Joseph’s ass. Those colored animals are all Jonahs, and when you ride through the village on their backs everybody laughs at you. What do you want me to make you a present of, for Saint Joseph’s ass?”

Then the owner turned his back on him in a rage, shouting that if he didn’t know anything about animals, or if he hadn’t got the money to pay with, he’d better not come to the fair and make Christians waste their time, on the blessed day that it was.

Neighbor Neli let him swear, and went off with his brother, who was pulling him by his jacket sleeve, and saying that if he was going to throw away his money on that ugly beast, he deserved to be kicked.

However, on the sly they kept their eye on the Saint Joseph’s ass, and on its owner who was pretending to shell some broad beans, with the halter rope between his legs, while Neighbor Neli went wandering around among the groups of mules and horses, and stopping to look, and bargaining for first one and then the other of the best beasts, without ever opening the fist that he kept in his pocket with the eight dollars, as if he’d got the money to buy half the fair. But his brother said in his ear, motioning toward the ass of Saint Joseph: “That’s the chap for us!”

The wife of the owner of the ass from time to time ran to look what had happened, and finding her husband with the halter rope in his hand, she said to him: “Isn’t the Madonna going to send us anybody today to buy the foal?”

And her husband answered every time: “Not so far! There came one man to try for him, and he liked him. But he drew back when he had to pay for him, and has gone off with his money. See him, that one there, in the white stocking cap, behind the flock of sheep. But he’s not bought anything up to now, which means he’ll come back.”

The woman would have liked to sit down on a couple of stones, just close to her ass, to see if he would be sold. But her husband said to her: “You clear out! If they see we’re waiting, they’ll never come to bargain.”