DONKEY—BOY OF CAIRO.
range of the mountains" for its pasture? Does not Xenophon, in his
Anabasis, describe the wild ass as swifter of foot than the horse, and
its flesh as like that of the red deer, but more tender? Go to ! is not
this domesticated onagra worthy of having his portrait painted by
Gérôme ? And painted here he is, to the life.
Our Memnon-headed philosopher is deep enough, seemingly, to
devise some such cunning scheme of plunder as that with which two
of his compatriots are credited. They saw one day a countryman walk-
ing along, dragging after him, at the end of a rope, his ass, and one of
them said to the other, "I will take this ass from this man." " How
wilt thou take it?" "I will show thee." And he quietly loosed the
donkey from its halter and gave it to his companion, who rode quickly
away with it, while the first knave, inserting his own head in the noose,
followed the countryman till his friend was out of sight. Then he
stopped, and when the donkey-owner looked around and saw his halter
upon the head of a man, he said, "What art thou?" " I am thy ass,
and my story is wonderful, and it is this: I had a mother, a virtuous
old woman, and I went to her one day in a state of intoxication;
whereupon she said to me: ` O my son ! turn with repentance unto God
(whose name be feared !) from these sins.' But I took a staff and beat
her with it ; and she uttered an imprecation against me, upon which God
(whose name be exalted!) transformed me into an ass, and caused me
to fall into thy possession. To-day, however, my mother remembered
me, and God inclined her heart toward me ; so she prayed for me, and
God restored me to the human shape as I was." And the countryman
said : " There is no strength nor power but in God, the High, the Great!
By Allah ! 0 my brother, absolve me of responsibility for that which I
have done unto thee in riding thee and in other things." Then he left
the sharper to go his way, and returned to his house, distracted with
anxiety and grief. His wife therefore said to him : "What hath
afflicted thee, and where is the ass ?" And he related to her the story.
But after some days, when he went to the market to buy himself another beast, lo! he beheld his own ass for sale. And when he recognized it, he advanced to it, and putting his mouth to its ear, said : "Woe to thee, 0 unlucky! Doubtless, thou hast returned to intoxication and beaten thy mother again. By Allah ! I will never again buy thee!"
And he left it and departed.