The Original Fables of La Fontaine/The Priest and the Corpse

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XI

THE PRIEST AND THE CORPSE

(Book VII.—No. 11)

There was a funeral. The dead body was progressing sadly towards its last resting place; and following, rather gladly, was the priest who meant to bury it as soon as possible.

The dead man, in a leaden coffin, was borne in a coach, and was properly shrouded in that robe the dead always wear be it summer or winter. As for the priest, he sat near it, intoning as hard as he could all sorts of orisons, psalms, lessons, verses, and responses, in the hope that the more he gave the more would be paid for. "Leave it to me, Mr. Deadman," his actions seemed to say. "I'll give you a nice selection; a little of everything. It's only a matter of fees, you know." And the Rev. John Crow kept his eye on his silent charge as if he expected some one would make off with it. "Mr. Deadman," his looks proclaimed, "by you I shall receive so and so much in money, so and so much in wax candles, and, possibly, a little more in incidental profits.

On the strength of these calculations he promised himself a quarter-cask of the best wine the neighbourhood could offer. Beyond that he settled that a certain very attractive niece of his, as well as his housekeeper Paquette, should both have new dresses.

Whilst these pleasant and generous thoughts were running in his mind there came a terrific shock. The car overturned. The Rev, John Crow's head was broken by the coffin which fell upon him, Alas for the poor priest! he went to heaven with the parishioner he thought only to bury.

In reality, life over and over again is nothing but the fate of the Rev, John Crow who counted on his dead, and of Perrette who counted on her chickens.