Accordingly, he returned to the burial-ground and gave not over going till he stood at the door of the sepulchre, when he heard El Merouzi say to his fellow, ’I will not give thee a single dirhem of the money!’ The other said the like and they were occupied with contention and mutual revilement and talk. So the thief returned in haste to his fellows, who said, ’What is behind thee?’ Quoth he, ’Get you gone and flee for your lives and save yourselves, O fools; for that much people of the dead are come to life and between them are words and contention.’ So the thieves fled, whilst the two sharpers retained to Er Razi’s house and made peace with one another and laid the thieves’ purchase to the money they had gotten aforetime and lived a while of time. Nor, O king of the age,” added the vizier, “is this rarer or more marvellous than the story of the four sharpers with the money-changer and the ass.”
When the king heard this story, he smiled and it pleased him and he bade the vizier go away to his own house.
The Twenty-Second Night of the Month.
When the evening evened, the king summoned the vizier and required of him the hearing of the [promised] story. So he said, “Hearkening and obedience. Know, O king, that
Four sharpers once plotted against a money-changer, a man of abounding wealth, and agreed upon a device for the taking of somewhat of his money. So one of them took an ass and laying on it a bag, wherein was money, lighted down at the money-changer’s shop and sought of him change for the money. The money- changer brought out to him the change and bartered it with him, whilst the sharper was easy with him in the matter of the exchange, so he might give him confidence in himself. [As they were thus engaged,] up came the [other three] sharpers and surrounded the ass; and one of them said, ‘[It is] he,’ and another said, ’Wait till I look at him.’ Then he fell to looking on the ass and stroking him from his mane to his crupper; whilst the third went up to him and handled him and felt him from head to tail, saying, ’ Yes, [it is] in him.’ Quoth another, [’Nay,] it is not in him.’ And they gave not over doing the like of this.
Then they accosted the owner of the ass and chaffered with him and he said, ‘I will not sell him but for ten thousand dirhems.’ They offered him a thousand dirhems; but he refused and swore that he would not sell the ass but for that which he had said. They ceased not to add to their bidding, till the price reached five thousand dirhems, whilst their fellow still said, ’I will not sell him but for ten thousand dirhems.’ The money-changer counselled him to sell, but he would not do this and said to him, ’Harkye, gaffer! Thou hast no knowledge of this ass’s case. Concern thyself with silver and gold and what pertaineth thereto of change and exchange; for indeed the virtue of this ass passeth thy comprehension. To every craft its craftsman and to every means of livelihood its folk.’