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.’
When the affair was prolonged upon the three sharpers, they went away and sat down a little apart; then they came up to the money-changer privily and said to him, ’If thou canst buy him for us, do so, and we will give thee a score of dirhems.’ Quoth he, ‘Go away and sit down afar from him.’ So they did his bidding and the money-changer went up to the owner of the ass and gave not over tempting him with money and cajoling him and saying, ’Leave yonder fellows and sell me the ass, and I will reckon him a gift from thee,’ till he consented to sell him the ass for five thousand and five hundred dirhems. Accordingly the money-changer counted down to him five thousand and five hundred dirhems of his own money, and the owner of the ass took the price and delivered the ass to him, saying, ’Whatsoever betideth, though he abide a deposit about thy neck,[FN#46] sell him not to yonder rogues for less than ten thousand dirhems, for that they would fain buy him because of a hidden treasure whereof they know, and nought can guide them thereto but this ass. So close thy hand on him and gainsay me not, or thou wilt repent.’