A Remarkable Tale

This is derived from a story by the obscure French humorist Alphonse Allais, translated by Miles Kington of Punch magazine. Everything on this blog is true, and that first sentence is true also, and I will re-tell the story faithfully.

Years ago in a French coastal town, poor little Pierre was sent by his mother to the market, to buy an eel. It was eel season and she knew there were some fresh ones available. Pierre’s mother gave him a 5-franc coin and said “Get a good one, but mind you don’t get swindled – don’t pay more than 1 franc for it. And mind that you bring home the change.”

Pierre set off along the towpath for the market and, not having seen a 5-franc coin very often, he flipped the coin in the air and caught it. He flipped it again, higher and higher and sure enough, eventually he missed the catch and the coin rolled away – and to his horror it rolled straight into the river! And to make things worse, a sudden gust of wind blew his beret off, and that fell into the river too. “Merde!” said Pierre.

Luckily there happened to be a rowing boat moored nearby, with the oars still in it, so Pierre leapt into the boat, untied it and rowed out (after having tried to row it out without first untying it; this story is accurately detailed) to where his beret was slowly floating down the river. The beret was waterlogged but still floating, so when he reached it he promptly fished it out of the water and dumped it into the boat. And, guess what, inside the beret was – a magnificent eel! As Pierre had lost the 5-franc coin and was thus unable to buy a similar one, he thought this situation to be very appropriate.

Triumphantly he took the eel home, although his mother told him off for losing the 5-franc coin and getting his hat wet. Then, looking forward to a dinner of eel&chips, or however they serve eel in France – eel medallions? – she began to prepare the eel for cooking.

But when she sliced the eel open, guess what she found in its stomach?

The 5-franc coin … no, I am joking. It’s a huge, magnificent coin, that an eel could never swallow and an eel’s stomach is much too small to hold it. No no no. No way. What were you thinking?

What she found in the eel’s stomach, was eight 50-centime coins. This was exactly the change that she was expecting to get from the 5-franc coin.

Sometimes the things in life just fit neatly into place, eh?


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