THE SIMPLETON AND THE SHARPER

A certain simple fellow was once going along, haling his ass after him by the halter, when a couple of sharpers saw him and one said to his fellow, 'I will take that ass from yonder man.' 'How wilt thou do that?' asked the other. 'Follow me and I will show thee,' replied the first. So he went up to the ass and loosing it from the halter, gave the beast to his fellow; then clapped the halter on his own head and followed the simpleton, till he knew that the other had got clean off with the ass, when he stood still. The man pulled at the halter, but the thief stirred not; so he turned and seeing the halter on a man's neck, said to him, 'Who art thou?' Quoth the sharper, 'I am thine ass and my story is a strange one. Know that I have a pious old mother and came in to her one day, drunk; and she said to me, "O my son, repent to God the Most High of these thy transgressions." But I took the cudgel and beat her, whereupon she cursed me and God the Most High changed me into an ass and caused me fall into thy hands, where I have remained till now. However, to-day, my mother called me to mind and her heart relented towards me; so she prayed for me, and God restored me to my former shape of a man.' 'There is no power and no virtue but in God the Most High, the Supreme!' cried the simpleton. 'O my brother, I conjure thee by Allah, acquit me of what I have done with thee, in the way of riding and so forth.'

Then he let the sharper go and returned home, drunken with chagrin and concern. His wife asked him, 'What ails thee and where is the ass?' And he answered, 'Thou knowest not what was this ass; but I will tell thee.' So he told her the story, and she exclaimed, ' Woe worth us for God the Most High! How could we have used a man as a beast of burden, all this while?' And she gave alms and asked pardon of God. Then the man abode awhile at home, idle, till she said to him, 'How long wilt thou sit at home, idle? Go to the market and buy us an ass and do thy business with it.' Accordingly, he went to the market and stopping by the ass-stand, saw his own ass for sale. So he went up to it and clapping his mouth to its ear, said to it, 'Out on thee, thou good-for-nought! Doubtless thou hast been getting drunk again and beating thy mother! But, by Allah, I will never buy thee more!' And he left it and went away.




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