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The Simpleton and the Sharper

A certain simpleton was once walking along, haling his ass after him by the halter, when a pair of sharpers saw him and one said to his fellow, “I will take that ass from yonder wight.” Asked the other, “How wilt thou do that?” “Follow me and I will show thee how,” answered the first. So the cony-catcher went up to the ass and, losing it from the halter, gave the beast to his fellow; then he haltered his own head and followed Tom Fool till he knew the other had got clean off with the ass, when he stood still. The oaf haled at the halter, but the rascal stirred not; so he turned and seeing the halter on a man’s neck, said to him, “What art thou?” Quoth the sharper, “I am thine ass and my story is a wondrous one and ‘tis this. Know that I have a pious old mother and come in to her one day, drunk; and she said to me: ‘O my son, repent to the Almighty of these thy transgressions.’ But I took my staff and beat her, whereupon she cursed me and Allah changed me into an ass and caused me fall into thy hands, where I have remained till this moment. However, to-day, my mother called me to mind and her heart yearned towards me; so she prayed for me and the Lord restored me to my former shape amongst the sons of Adam.” Cried the silly one, “There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great! Allah upon thee, O my brother, acquit me of what I have done with thee in the way of riding and so forth.” Then he let the cony-catcher go and returned home, drunken with chagrin and concern as with wine. His wife asked him, “What aileth thee and where is the donkey?”; and he answered, “Thou knowest not what was this ass; but I will tell thee.” So he told her the story, and she exclaimed, “Alack and alas for the punishment we shall receive from Almighty Allah! How could we have used a man as a beast of burden, all this while? And she gave alms by way of atonement and prayed pardon of Heaven. Then the man abode awhile at home, idle and feckless, till she said to him, “How long wilt thou sit at home doing naught? Go to the market and buy us an ass and ply thy work with it.” Accordingly, he went to the market and stopped by the ass-stand, where behold, he saw his own ass for sale. So he went up to it and clapping his mouth to its ear, said to it, “Woe to thee, thou ne’er-do-well! 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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