It happened once upon a time, on a certain sunny day, that Mullah Nasruddin’s gaze was drawn to the apricot tree in his neighbour’s garden, which he saw was covered with ripe fruit. “It would be a great misfortune if such abundance went to waste,” the Mullah thought. “Indeed, it would be an offence to the Creator if it were not gathered and eaten!” Feeling justified by this theological argument and encouraged by thoughts of sun-warmed apricots, he went to get a ladder.
Placing the ladder against the neighbour’s garden wall, he climbed to the top, pulled up the ladder, placed in on the neighbour’s side, and climbed down into the garden. There, to his surprise, he found the neighbour at the foot of the ladder, glaring at him suspiciously.
“Mullah,” said the man, “what is the meaning of this? What are you doing here?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” asked Nasruddin. “I am offering my ladder for sale.”
“Offering your ladder for sale?” said the neighbour in surprise. “But this is no place to sell things.”
“My friend, this shows how little you now about salesmanship,” Nasruddin replied. “Take a ladder like this to the market and it looks like so much firewood! But bring it here to a garden and you can see how useful it is. Don’t you see, with a ladder, how easy it is to climb over your wall?”
The neighbour looked doubtfully at the Mullah, and then at the ladder. Finally, he said, “Well…how much?”
“A basket of apricots,” said Nasruddin promptly.
As the man had many apricots at the moment, that seemed like no great price, and so he agreed to buy the ladder.
When Nasruddin had his basket of apricots, he bid his neighbour a cordial farewell. Then, he climbed up the ladder to the top of the wall, and hauled the ladder up after himself. As he did so, he called down, “Don’t worry, I’m only borrowing it. I’ll bring it back when your quinces are ripe!”