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Fiction by Eric Darton
Recital by Author

Art by  DK McDonaldThe Miser of Autun and His Two Servants

        We found him, our master, at his usual post, shitting and counting his livres. "We are off," we said, "to Besançon."

        "Go," he said, "and bargain well, and bring me back more livres than you take, for I would jam them up my ass and feel thier fullness withal. And make haste, for it pains me more than I can say to part with even these few. And mind you," he said, "that you do not get swindled." And with that he delivered us three livres each and bid us adieu.

        Now privately we scoffed at him, because he was our master, and a notorious miser into the bargain, though in truth he had cause to fear. For was not Besançon known far and wide as the town where the chief trade was in swindling and being swindled? And was Besançon not infamous for the ready villain who had fleeced half the population of France, and gullable travelers too, with his scheme to freeze the sperm of Father Time himself and sell it, gratinée, flavored, by the glass, and garnished with a sprig of mint?

        Yet was it not also the magical city where, when a certain cuckoo poked its head from inside a clock, you could feed it a livre, wait until the next chiming and it would regurgitates three livres in its place?

        We took turns mounted and on foot, for we had only one ass between us, and oftimes walked beside her, for she was a swaybacked old sally, with long lashes and a bony rump who still took pleasure in a carrot or apple core as was her ration from the miser. And it only took us three days in this manner to reach Besançon, not stopping at an inn, but rather making our bed in the fields that lay to either side of the road, save for the last night of our journey where we did spend one livre for a bed at a hostel – so stubbly the fields, and so wracked with bruises were we from the uneven grounds we'd slept on – and in the morning spent another livre for food, having exhausted our crusts and finding the ass too famished also to continue.

        Returning to the road then in high spirits, we has not gone far before we were set upon by a band of brigands who desired to relieve us of our remaining livres and our clothes besides, yet my companion was swift enough to swallow one livre before we had to give over the rest, and thus we were left – cudgeled by the robbers, dissatisfied as they were with a booty of only three livres – and also penniless and naked, yet with sufficient wit to weave ourselves skirts from some wheat blades – where seeing one another we nearly pissed ourselves laughing and the mule brayed until we thoght she would deliver herself of her meagre guts – and found betimes the perseverance sufficient to venture on.

        And now, God preserve us, we shuffled into Besançon, where we lost no time recovering what we had lost, Fortuna favoring us most wondrously, as if to compensate us for all our miseries on the road. We had only to wait until our remaining livre made its reappearance, before offering it to the cuckoo who, with a wink, retreated into her lair and at the next chiming returned with three livres clasped in her beak. And so it continued until we had obtained sufficient coins to outfit ourselves handsomly and buy a bushel of apples and a saddle for the ass, whom we now named Pegasus, for she pranced about so blithely we though at any moment she might take flight unto the aetherial realms.

        We entertained ourselves handsomly in Besançon, I'll tell you that. But no matter what sum we risked, our fortune always trebled, and when we had amassed as many bags of coins as we and the ass could carry, we bid adieu and returned along the same road as we had come, but singing this time, and lustily, all the songs we had learned in Besançon. Nor did we meet with such storms as are common that time of year, or were otherwise molested in any way.

        Now returning to our master's chateau, we noticed all about a deathly stillness – not even a crow flew in the gardens. And when we found him, we straightaway thought: He is dead! for he sat rigidly, his head thrown back, eyes abulge, and with a frozen gullet and staring at the vaulted ceiling. In vain did we place a mirror next to his mouth which, stretched wide with rigor, would not offer up the dew of a single breath. In vain we shouted and clamored, and fell to bewailing and beating our breasts that we had tarried so long and had killed him with the waiting. And having tried all other methods, it was only by dint of shoving livres down his throat that at last we revived him, and saw to our relief that he rolled his eyes and showed at length that he recognized us.

        Yet he had indeed suffered a calamity, for he would not speak again, nor concern himself with the eating and shitting of livres, but sought his pleasure, like a child, with riding about his gardens upon the now-fattened ass, and then, in turn, saddling himself and carrying the ass upon his back, which was a merry sight to see.

        And I swear, as surely as my name is Georges Ferrand, my fellow servant being called Guilaumme LeGoff, and the ass Pegasus, that this is the true history of what happened before, during and after we journeyed to the fabled town of Besançon.

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