THE CUNNING SHOEMAKER 155
' Well,' thought the shoemaker, ' I have done finely. But I will not go back to my wife just yet, as, if I only go on at this rate, I shall soon have enough money to buy a donkey.'
Having made up his mind what was best to do, he stayed in the town a few days longer — till he had four gold pieces safe in his purse. Then he went to the market, and for two of them he bought a good strong donkey, and, mounting on its back, he rode home to Catania. But as he entered a thick wood he saw in the distance a band of robbers who were coming quickly towards him.
' I am lost,' thought he; ' they are sure to take from me all the money that I have earned, and I shall be as poor as ever I was. What can I do?' However, being a clever little man and full of spirit, he did not lose heart, but, taking five florins, he fastened them out of sight under the donkey'? thick mane. Then he rode on.
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.'