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The Cunning Shoemaker1
Directly the robbers came up to him they seized him exactly as he had foretold and took away all his money.
'Oh, dear friends!' he cried, wringing his hands, 'I am only a poor shoemaker, and have nothing but this donkey left in the world.'
As he spoke the donkey gave himself a shake, and down fell the five florins.
'Where did that come from?' asked the robbers.
'Ah,' replied the shoemaker, 'you have guessed my secret. The donkey is a golden donkey, and supplies me with all my money.'
'Sell him to us,' said the robbers. 'We will give you any price you like.'
The shoemaker at first declared that nothing would induce him to sell him, but at last he agreed to hand him over to the robbers for fifty gold pieces. 'But listen to what I tell you,' said he. 'You must each take it in turn to own him for a night and a day, or else you will all be fighting over the money.'
With these words they parted, the robbers driving the donkey to their cave in the forest and the shoemaker returning home, very pleased with the success of his trick. He just stopped on the way to pick up a good dinner, and the next day spent most of his gains in buying a small vineyard.
Meanwhile the robbers had arrived at the cave where they lived, and the captain, calling them all round him, announced that it was his right to have the donkey for the first night. His companions agreed, and then he told his wife to put a mattress in the stable. She asked if he had gone out of his mind, but he answered crossly, 'What is that to you? Do as you are bid, and to-morrow I will bring you some treasures.'
Very early the captain awoke and searched the stable, but could find nothing, and guessed that Master Joseph had been making fun of them. 'Well,' he said to himself, if I have been taken in, the others shall not come off any better.'
So, when one of his men arrived and asked him eagerly how much money he had got, he answered gaily, 'Oh, comrade, if you only knew! But I shall say nothing about it till everyone has had his turn!'
1 Sicilianische Mährchen.
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