STORY OF THE SHARPER AND THE MERCHANTS.
There was once aforetime a certain sharper, who [was so eloquent that he] would turn the ear inside out, and he was a man of understanding and quick wit and skill and perfection. It was his wont to enter a town and [give himself out as a merchant and] make a show of trafficking and insinuate himself into the intimacy of people of worth and consort with the merchants, for he was [apparently] distinguished for virtue and piety. Then he would put a cheat on them and take [of them] what he might spend and go away to another city; and he ceased not to do thus a great while.
It befell one day that he entered a certain city and sold somewhat that was with him of merchandise and got him friends of the merchants of the place and fell to sitting with them and entertaining them and inviting them to his lodging and his assembly, whilst they also invited him to their houses. On this wise he abode a long while, till he was minded to leave the city; and this was bruited abroad among his friends, who were concerned for parting from him. Then he betook himself to him of them, who was the richest of them in substance and the most apparent of them in generosity, and sat with him and borrowed his goods; and when he was about to take leave, he desired him to give him the deposit that he had left with him. ‘And what is the deposit?’ asked the merchant. Quoth the sharper, ’It is such a purse, with the thousand dinars therein.’ And the merchant said, ’When didst thou give it me?’ ‘Extolled be the perfection of God!’ replied the sharper. ’Was it not on such a day, by such a token, and thus and thus?’ ‘I know not of this,’ rejoined the merchant, and words were bandied about between them, whilst the folk [who were present also] disputed together concerning their affair and their speech, till their voices rose high and the neighbours had knowledge of that which passed between them.
Then said the sharper, ’O folk, this is my friend and I deposited with him a deposit, but he denieth it; so in whom shall the folk put trust after this?’ And they said, ’This [FN#49] is a man of worth and we have found in him nought but trustiness and loyality and good breeding, and he is endowed with understanding and generosity. Indeed, he avoucheth no falsehood, for that we have consorted with him and mixed with him and he with us and we know the sincerity of his religion.’ Then quoth one of them to the merchant, ’Harkye, such an one! Bethink thee and consult thy memory. It may not be but that thou hast forgotten.’ But he said, ’O folk, I know nothing of that which he saith, for indeed he deposited nought with me.’ And the affair was prolonged between them. Then said the sharper to the merchant, ’I am about to make a journey and have, praised be God the Most High, wealth galore, and this money shall not escape me; but do thou swear to me.’ And the folk said, ’Indeed, this man doth justice upon himself.’[FN#50] Whereupon the merchant fell into that which he misliked[FN#51] and came near upon [suffering] loss and ill repute.