I am mortified, said Blurtso. What? said Alex. Poor Jane, said Blurtso, and poor Mister Bingley. Who? said Alex. I never saw a more promising inclination, said Blurtso, he had grown quite inattentive toward other people, and is not general incivility the very essence of love? What? said Alex. I am mortified, said Blurtso, I am humbled, I am grieved, and hope against hope that Wickam and Lydia will be married. I have been so ungenerous to Mister Darcy, and now we owe the restoration of everything to him. What on earth are you talking about? said Alex. And what’s that book you’re reading? It’s Pride and Prejudice, said Blurtso, by Jane Austen. Oh, said Alex. You are too generous to trifle with me, said Blurtso, if you will take another cup of tea, please, tell me at once. Another cup? said Alex. Why yes, I shall accept your offer, with gratitude and pleasure.
Oh, bray again, bright angel!
wherefore art thou Pablómeo?
Pablómeo sayest thee?
By such a name am I not that what I am…
but wouldst Pablo become Pablómeo…
if such be thine demand…
pale past be gone, faint future damned…
for thee this present present,
that be that I am!
My rose, my sun, my Pablómeo…
my faithful heart that beats,
a burro that’s called a burro,
by another name smells as sweet…
At this point in the story, said Blurtso, Blurtseau Lundif and his faithful First Mate, Pableau la Chanson, are hiding from French spies in Sagres, Portugal. Pableau, having recently fallen in love, has gone to Evora in search of a beautiful donkey he saw only one time in Sagres…
The day dawned damp and chilly, long after Pableau had risen from his water-logged straw to fire the bakery ovens. He had been toiling for hours when the first customers arrived, and by then the air in the shop was warm and dry, and even the cracks in the walls were thick with the scent of bread. Although it had been more than three months since his arrival, and though his excursion to the villa had been in vain, Pableau’s resolve remained firm, for despite his repeated failures he knew that the story of the boulanger in search of the hoof was making its way around town, and that notice of his existence would eventually fall upon the ears of the one he sought.
He was consoling himself with this hopeful, patient logic as he placed a fresh tray of chantillies in the pastry window, when a carriage suddenly appeared on the street, and before he could comprehend what was happening, he saw the most beautiful donkey in the world descend from the coach…
“Are you Pableau the baker?” she asked, when she had stepped inside.
“Yes,” said Pableau, “I am.”
“And you have been seeking me for over three months?”
“Yes,” said Pableau, “I have.”
“Having seen only my hoof? And having seen it on only three occasions?”
“Yes,” said Pableau.
“And you have been discovered in the garden of my quinta,” she said, “by my eyes and others’, skulking about the shrubberies?”
“That,” said Pableau, “I cannot say, for your eyes may well have seen me, but mine, sadly, did not see you. But yes, he continued, I was indeed on the grounds, for I bribed the gatekeeper to let me pass.”
“I see,” said Zurrabela, “and now, may I know what you expect of me?”
“I expect nothing,” said Pableau, “I only hope.”
“Hope?” said Zurrabela. “And what do you hope?”
“I hope,” said Pableau, “that yours is the heart I am seeking, and that mine is the heart you seek.”
“But,” said Zurrabela, “that hope is without reason, for you have sought only a hoof.”
“Yes,” said Pableau, “that is true, but I know my heart, and my heart knows reasons that reason knows not.”
“But how can you be sure,” said Zurrabela, “that I seek any heart at all?”
“I cannot be sure,” said Pableau, “I can only hope.”
“Yes,” said Zurrabela, “as you have said… may I know how long you will lodge in Évora?”
“Until my dreams are answered,” said Pableau, “or until they expire.”
To this last statement Zurrabela did not respond, but only gazed at the flour-covered donkey who had searched for her, tirelessly, having seen only a hoof. Pableau, too, remained silent, meeting her glance with one of his own, a glance that was open, unguarded, and fortified with conviction. Then Zurrabela made a motion to speak, but stopped, collected herself, and left the shop. Pableau remained inside, watching to see if she would make herself seen at the window of her coach, but she did not; instead he saw only what he already knew, an incomparable hoof, waving to the driver, in a gesture to depart.