The most difficult point was to get him back; for in vain the youngsters complimented and coaxed him to come. I dare not, said the ass; I am bashful. And the more they strove by fair means to bring him with them, the more the stubborn thing was untoward, and flew out at the heels; insomuch that they might have been there to this hour, had not his mistress advised them to toss oats in a sieve or in a blanket, and call him; which was done, and made him wheel about and say, Oats, with a witness! oats shall go to pot. Adveniat; oats will do, there’s evidence in the case; but none of the rubbing down, none of the firking. Thus melodiously singing (for, as you know, that Arcadian bird’s note is very harmonious) he came to the young gentleman of the horse, alias black garb, who brought him to the stable.
When he was there, they placed him next to the great horse his friend, rubbed him down, currycombed him, laid clean straw under him up to the chin, and there he lay at rack and manger, the first stuffed with sweet hay, the latter with oats; which when the horse’s valet-dear-chambre sifted, he clapped down his lugs, to tell them by signs that he could eat it but too well without sifting, and that he did not deserve so great an honour.
When they had well fed, quoth the horse to the ass; Well, poor ass, how is it with thee now? How dost thou like this fare? Thou wert so nice at first, a body had much ado to get thee hither. By the fig, answered the ass, which, one of our ancestors eating, Philemon died laughing, this is all sheer ambrosia, good Sir Grandpaw; but what would you have an ass say? Methinks all this is yet but half cheer. Don’t your worships here now and then use to take a leap? What leaping dost thou mean? asked the horse; the devil leap thee! dost thou take me for an ass? In troth, Sir Grandpaw, quoth the ass, I am somewhat of a blockhead, you know, and cannot, for the heart’s blood of me, learn so fast the court way of speaking of you gentlemen horses; I mean, don’t you stallionize it sometimes here among your mettled fillies? Tush, whispered the horse, speak lower; for, by Bucephalus, if the grooms but hear thee they will maul and belam thee thrice and threefold, so that thou wilt have but little stomach to a leaping bout. Cod so, man, we dare not so much as grow stiff at the tip of the lowermost snout, though it were but to leak or so, for fear of being jerked and paid out of our lechery. As for anything else, we are as happy as our master, and perhaps more. By this packsaddle, my old acquaintance, quoth the ass, I have done with you; a fart for thy litter and hay, and a fart for thy oats; give me the thistles of our fields, since there we leap when we list. Eat less, and leap more, I say; it is meat, drink, and cloth to us. Ah! friend Grandpaw, it would do thy heart good to see us at a fair, when we hold our provincial chapter! Oh! how we leap it, while our mistresses are selling their goslings and other poultry! With this they parted. Dixi; I have done.