TALES OF THE CALIPH
H. N. CRELLIN
'ROMANCES OF THE OLD SERAGLIO,' 'THE NAZARENES,' ETC.
A NEW EDITION
CHATTO & WINDUS, PICCADILLY
THE CALIPH AND THE PIRATES
The Arab Merchant's Story
THE CALIPH AND THE BLIND FISHERMAN
The History of the Blind Fisherman and his Brother
THE CALIPH AND ABDURRAHMAN
THE CALIPH AND THE FIRST JAR OF OINTMENT
First Adventure: The Caliph and the Emir
THE CALIPH AND THE FIRST JAR OF OINTMENT
Second Adventure: The Caliph and Abou Hassan
The Story of Murad Essed, the Unfortunate Merchant
The Story of Abou Hassan, the Fortunate Merchant
THE CALIPH AND THE SECOND JAR OF OINTMENT
The Story of Hunoman
THE CALIPH AND THE SLAVE MERCHANTS
The Narrative of Sidi ibn Thalabi
The Barber's Story
THE CALIPH AND SIDI IBN THALABI—THE BANQUET
The Story of Mubarek, as told by Abu 'Atahiyeh
THE CALIPH AND THE MAGIC TUBE
TALES OF THE CALIPH.
That stories such as those in the "Arabian Nights," and fairy tales of
every kind, should delight us all, men and women no less than boys and
girls, is very natural. We find it charming to escape for a period,
however brief, from all the familiar surroundings of modern life, and
on opening a volume to pass at once into another region, where all is
strange, and where the sceptical glances of science never intrude to
banish magic and the supernatural.
Emboldened by these reflections, we may forthwith commence the
narration of certain noteworthy occurrences concerning the celebrated
Caliph Haroun Alraschid. He was in the habit, as every one knows, of
wandering very frequently through the town after nightfall in various
disguises to see for himself that justice was done, and also, it may be
confessed, by no means loth to encounter such adventures as he might
meet with. Many of these have been already related, but others, no
whit less interesting and extraordinary, remain still untold.
Some of these adventures were very diverting and naturally pleasing,
but others involved so many dangers and such hardships that it is
indeed surprising that the Caliph should ever again have ventured on
these nocturnal ramblings.
An adventure of the latter and more serious description happened as
follows, and may be entitled:
The Caliph and the Pirates.
The Caliph, being on a tour of inspection through the various provinces
of his empire, chanced on a certain occasion to be stopping at Bussora.
And one evening, disguised, as was his wont, as a merchant, and, as
usual, accompanied only by his faithful Grand Vizier, Giafer, he
strolled through the bazaars silent and observant. Meeting with
nothing worthy of arresting his particular attention, he wandered on
until he came at length to some very narrow and mean lanes near the
waterside. In one of these, and when passing the door of a low
caravanserai, or public-house, frequented chiefly by sailors, they
noticed some men approaching, who were carrying great sacks quite full,
and so heavy that each sack was carried by two men, who, on reaching
the door of the caravanserai, entered. The Caliph, tired with his
ramble, and curious to learn what might be in the sacks, beckoned to
Giafer and followed the men into the caravanserai. The interior was so
dark, being lit only by a few small oil lamps, that it was at first
difficult to distinguish objects clearly. However, their eyes having
become accustomed to the gloom after a few minutes, the Caliph and his
Vizier, who had entered quietly and unobserved, and had seated
themselves on a low sofa or divan which ran round the sides of the
apartment, perceived that the company were all rough, seafaring men of
a very fierce and truculent aspect. Among them one was seated, who
appeared by his dress and demeanour to be the chief or captain of the
band. This man, addressing those who had brought in the sacks, asked
them what they had there. To which they replied, "Things from Abbas
Bey." At this answer the Caliph's interest increased, inasmuch as
Abbas Bey was a palace official; and because many things had lately
been stolen from the palace, but although many suspected persons had
been punished and dismissed, yet the thefts had not been certainly
traced to any one. These great sacks contained, therefore, without
doubt, all kinds of valuable property from the palace, and Abbas Bey
was the traitor who had delivered it to the thieves. The anger of the
Caliph, who was a man prone to the fiercest bursts of passion, could
scarcely be restrained. Nevertheless, he managed to preserve silence
and a calm demeanour, the more especially since he desired to learn
what would next be done. He had not long to wait, for, some wine
having been given to the men who brought the sacks, the captain ordered
them to go at once on board, as he should set sail that very night.
The Caliph hearing this, whispered to Giafer that he should go out with
the men as they left with the sacks, and that he should instantly
proceed to the nearest guard-house and fetch a company of soldiers,
with whom he should surround the house and take all within prisoners.
Giafer, doing as he was bid, left the house with the men as they came
out again with the sacks, and hastened to fetch the guard as the Caliph
Unluckily, it happened that the captain of the pirates—for such they
were—being more alert and observant than his men, had noticed the
presence of the two strangers, and had remarked the Caliph whisper to
his companion, and the departure of the latter. Instantly divining
that their proceedings had been discovered, and that the man who went
out had gone to betray them to the authorities, the captain whispered
an order to the two or three who sat nearest to him, and immediately
they rose, fell upon the Caliph, gagged and bound him; and all so
suddenly and swiftly that he had no time to offer any kind of
resistance. Then the captain, commanding his men to bring their
prisoner in the midst of them, proceeded at once to their vessel, which
lay at no great distance. The night was dark, and that band of
well-armed, resolute men could not easily have been overpowered, even
had there been any to attempt such a thing. But, in fact, they met no
one on their short journey from the caravanserai to the waterside. In
a few minutes, therefore, after the departure of the trusty Giafer, the
Caliph found himself lying bound and helpless on board a ship, which at
once set sail and carried him he knew not whither.
The next day one of the crew came and removed the cloth they had tied
over his mouth to gag him, and brought him some food. Then the unhappy
Caliph declared to the man who he was, and demanded that the captain
should be brought before him. But the fellow only laughed, and going
afterwards to the captain, said: "The merchant you have taken has lost
his wits, and he proclaims himself to be the Commander of the Faithful,
and says that we are but his slaves." The captain laughed heartily and
said, "Nevertheless, he is stout and strong, and may be sold for a fair
price when we come to the port we are bound for."
Leaving the Caliph to proceed on the voyage he had begun so
unwillingly, we must return to the Grand Vizier, who, as soon as he
found himself outside the caravanserai, had hastened to the nearest
guard-house, and, calling the captain of the guard, had ordered him to
assemble his men and accompany him immediately.
When he got back to the caravanserai he posted his men so that none of
the inmates should escape, and then, entering with the captain and ten
soldiers, was aghast to find the place empty. At once he hastened with
his whole force to the waterside; but too late! Nothing could be seen
of the pirate ship, which was already lost in the darkness.
Fortunately the Vizier, always a reticent and prudent man, had not
mentioned the Caliph, and he now ordered the company to return to their
guard-house, merely remarking that the robbers had for this time
Returning to the palace, he was for some time lost in doubt as to the
best course for him to pursue under the circumstances. That the Caliph
should escape from the clutches of the desperate gang who had carried
him off seemed little likely. And yet so many and such strange
adventures had been experienced by them both, and they had found their
way out of so many dangerous scrapes into which the Caliph's curiosity
and daring had involved them, that no good fortune seemed impossible.
Moreover, he reflected that Haroun had at this time no son old enough
to succeed him, while Ibrahim, his half-brother, and next heir
according to Moslim usage, was the Vizier's declared enemy. His
accession to the throne would therefore mean infallibly the destruction
of the Vizier and his whole family.
He resolved, after much consideration, to take the boldest course as
being really the safest, as indeed it frequently is.
Taking with him a small escort, he left Bussora at daybreak, and
proceeded as fast as the horses would carry them to Bagdad. On his
arrival he wrote immediately a note to Zobeideh, Haroun's favourite
wife; told her that the Caliph, while engaged in one of his usual
nocturnal rambles, had temporarily disappeared, and suggested, in the
interest of herself and her son, that she should give out that, being
indisposed, the Caliph had retired for a short time to one of his
palaces in the provinces, and had confided the government meanwhile
into the hands of his old and trusty Vizier. In this way, and with the
connivance of Zobeideh, the astute Giafer managed to retain without
question the government of the country during the absence of the Caliph.
To return to the Caliph. For three days the pirate ship pursued her
course in fair weather, and without incident. On the fourth day she
sighted a merchantman, to whom she gave chase. But the captain of the
merchantman, seeing his danger, crowded on every stitch of canvas he
possessed, and having a fair wind, and an uncommonly fast ship, he kept
so far ahead that, the sun going down, the pirate lost sight of him,
and he escaped.
This chase had carried the pirates far out of their course, and on the
next day a great storm arose, and they were obliged to shorten sail and
run before the wind. At length one huge wave which broke over the
ship, having swept no less than eight of the crew overboard, the
captain, who found himself short-handed, gave orders that the prisoner
should be released, that he might do his part in the endeavour to save
the ship and all their lives. The ship having sprung a leak—or,
indeed, more probably several, for the water poured in upon them
apace—the crew, including the Caliph himself, became exhausted with
continuous pumping, and the captain, therefore, descrying a coast-line,
determined to run the ship boldly ashore, in the hope that some of them
at least might be saved. And in fact, although the ship when she
touched the beach was stove in and broken up by the force of the waves,
yet the Caliph, the captain, and three of his men were washed ashore,
and lay on the beach in a very faint and exhausted condition.
Here they were found by certain natives of that region, who gave them
food and drink to revive them. Then, without either binding or in any
way ill-treating them, they conducted them along a broad and level road
which ran inland towards the capital of the country.
In about an hour's time, being all wearied and thirsty, the sun being
now very fierce, they descried with great pleasure a village at no
great distance, which was very pleasantly situated at the foot of a
steep hill, in the shadow of which it lay, embowered in a profusion of
palms and date-trees. Here the villagers were scattered in groups,
feasting and merry-making, it being a festival held in honour of some
local magnate, whose daughter had that day been married. The villagers
received their fellow-countrymen, as also the Caliph and the pirates,
with every demonstration of good-will, bringing them fresh milk to
drink, and bread, made of a mixture of rye and oats, with plenty of
dates, to eat.
Here the whole party rested for some hours, but when their conductors
wished again to resume their journey, the three pirates flatly refused
to depart, saying that they were well off where they were, and would go
no further—at least for that day. It was intimated to them that the
king of that country would suffer no stranger to dwell there unless he
had first seen him and granted his permission. However, all was in
vain; they no longer regarded the authority of their captain, and,
being three men to one, he could not compel them to obey. Leaving
them, therefore, the Caliph and the captain set out again, hoping
before nightfall to reach the town where the king, who had already been
informed of their arrival, was expecting them.
For some distance their road lay through a pleasant and well-cultivated
country, dotted at intervals by hamlets and scattered cottages, which
were surrounded by groves of orange-trees or clumps of dates and palms.
At length, as they advanced, the ground became broken and hilly, the
road was steep, and far in the distance they saw, on a great plateau or
table-land, the sparkling domes and minarets of a majestic city.
The sun was already low as they drew near to the city, and they were
congratulating themselves on being able to enter the town before the
darkness should be upon them, when suddenly they came to the edge of a
vast and precipitous abyss, which completely severed the country they
had been traversing from the heights on which the city had been built.
The road they could see continued its course on the other side, but,
spanning the dizzy chasm, the only bridge was the trunk of a gigantic
tree, which lay stretched across it. Without hesitation or difficulty
the natives of the country passed over, trusting themselves without
apparent concern to walk at that tremendous height along the rough
surface of the primitive bridge, which afforded so uncertain and
precarious a foothold. The captain, having the nerves and nimbleness
of a sailor, followed them fearlessly and safely. But for the Caliph
the adventure was extremely perilous. However, seeing the others
cross, with his wonted intrepidity and hardihood he ventured to follow
them. But on reaching the middle of the narrow and uneven footway, and
looking down into the tremendous depths below, becoming giddy he
threatened to fall headlong, and only by a strong effort of the
resolute will that distinguished him, and steadying himself by looking
earnestly at a fixed spot in front of him, he succeeded in reaching the
other side in safety.
Shortly after passing over this dangerous bridge they began to find
themselves in the suburbs of the city. On either side the road there
were fine houses situated in beautiful gardens, and they had not
proceeded far before a guard met them, sent by Selim Sadek, the king.
Selim was very desirous to see and speak with the two brave men who
unaided had crossed the tree-bridge in safety—a feat no stranger
previously had succeeded in accomplishing.
When they reached the palace—which was a noble and imposing pile of
buildings, situated on a steep hill, and overlooking not only the city,
but extensive plains and lakes stretching away as far as the eye could
see—they were shown into apartments where baths and food were prepared
for them. After bathing and enjoying an excellent repast, they retired
to rest, being greatly fatigued with their journey.
The Grand Chamberlain, after he had seen that the king's orders had
been duly carried out, and that the strangers had been properly
received and lodged, hastened to report to his master what had been
done. Selim, on receiving his report, inquired what his guests were
like. The Chamberlain replied, "Both of them, your Majesty, are fine,
well-built men; and both are exceptionally brave, as their bearing,
when they came to the bridge, amply proved; but in all other respects
they are very unlike. The one is but a rough fellow, probably a sea
captain, who stared about him in astonishment when he came into the
halls of your palace, although they are by no means the best. We
noticed, also, that he eyed the plate, although it was but silver, not
only with admiration, but somewhat greedily, as though he would, if
opportunity had offered, have gladly seized and gone off with it. The
other stranger, on the contrary, seemed to view the magnificence of the
palace with the greatest indifference, and took everything, even to the
attendance of the attendants and great officers, so much as a matter of
course, that I feel persuaded," said the Chamberlain, "that he must be
a very great personage, perhaps even a king, in his own country."
This account of the strangers given by his Grand Chamberlain inflamed
the curiosity of Selim to the highest degree, and the next morning
early he seated himself on his throne in the great audience-chamber of
his palace, and commanded that the two strangers should be brought
When they were come he inquired who they were, and where they were
going when they encountered the storm that had wrecked their vessel.
To this the Caliph, who in the new robes that had been supplied them
looked a man of great dignity and good breeding, replied by announcing
that he was the Caliph Haroun Alraschid, and relating all that had
occurred from the time he entered the caravanserai at Bussora until the
time when the pirate ship was wrecked.
When King Selim heard that the man before him was the renowned Caliph
Haroun Alraschid, whose fame had spread throughout all the world, he,
being a good Moslim, came down off his high throne, and, making
obeisance to the Commander of the Faithful—"Sire," said he, "a happy
day is this for your servant that he should be privileged to see your
face or to do aught for your illustrious Majesty. And first, say by
what death does it please you that this vile pirate and traitor shall
The captain, who from conversations he had held with the Caliph during
their journey since the wreck had become convinced of the true position
and rank of his captive, stood silent with bowed head awaiting his
King Selim having led Haroun Alraschid up the steps of the throne and
seated him upon it, would himself have stood upon the steps, but the
Caliph bade him come up and be seated by his side.
Then, looking towards the captain of the pirates, who had already been
seized by the king's officers, he said, "Although this man has
committed that which is very worthy of death, yet because God, the most
Merciful, has spared him in the tempest and the wreck, I also will
spare him this once; therefore give him a hundred pieces of gold that
he may not be tempted by poverty further to do wrong, and let him go."
When this magnanimous sentence had been pronounced, the pirate captain
laid his hand upon his beard and, bowing his head, said to the Caliph,
"O Commander of the Faithful, and you, King Selim, if from this time
forth I rob any more, I shall deserve mercy from neither God nor man."
Then said King Selim: "Since the Commander of the Faithful has pardoned
thee, and that thou mayest not further be tempted, I enrol thee, as
thou art a brave man, among the officers of my guard."
Therefore they invested him with the robes of his office and gave him a
hundred pieces of gold as the Caliph had commanded, and thenceforth he
became one of the bravest and most trustworthy officers of King Selim.
On the next day the Caliph inquired of the king respecting the three
men who had remained behind at the village festival. But Selim
informed him that they had a law in that country prohibiting any
stranger from dwelling with the people of the land until the king had
granted his permission. Therefore, when the men had been found by the
officials of government living at that village without having first
obtained leave and authority so to do, they would be led immediately to
"Then," said the Caliph, "by this wholesome law your people are
protected from the evil influence of villains, and in this case we are
rid of three men who were not only thieves and pirates, but lazy,
worthless, and mutinous fellows, who refused to obey and follow even
their own captain. The action of your law has but forestalled what
would have been my own sentence upon them."
The Caliph remained a whole month with King Selim, accompanying him on
grand hunting expeditions, and being entertained with all the
magnificent and varied pleasures the royal court could devise.
At the end of that period he had intended to have set out on his return
to Bagdad. But just at that moment a messenger arrived from a
neighbouring king with a very insolent message for Selim and a
declaration of war. This king, whose name was Gorkol, had asked the
daughter of Selim in marriage for his son. But King Selim, being a
good Moslim, had refused to give his daughter in marriage to the son of
a heathen, and one, moreover, who was reported to be proficient in the
vilest arts of magic. Hence the declaration of war. The Caliph, being
naturally of a very fierce and hasty temper, resented hotly this insult
to his host. He therefore announced his intention to accompany the
latter, who gathered together an army to chastise the insolent heathen.
The military display as the Caliph and the king left the capital was
most imposing. The army consisted of twenty thousand men, half of whom
were infantry and half cavalry. There were also elephants and camels
with stores, and a great multitude of camp-followers.
For five days they marched through Selim's dominions, and on the sixth
day entered the territory of King Gorkol. The frontier was marked by a
range of hills, and the passage of so large a force over these was a
toilsome and tedious operation. The Caliph and king had each a large
tent for his own use, and a small army of officers and attendants to
wait on him.
On the night of the seventh day, after a very exhausting march over
difficult ground, the army encamped in a spacious valley into which
they had descended just as night was approaching.
Whether the enemy managed to get at them unobserved, being stealthy and
knowing every feature of the country, or whether the sentinels, being
weary, slept at their post, is uncertain, but suddenly before daybreak
the great army was awakened by shouts and blows to find the foe was
upon them. In the darkness and the excitement of the moment all was
confusion. Different parties of the royal troops starting hurriedly to
arms, wildly attacked each other. The strife being furious and
hand-to-hand was terrific and deadly; and when daylight appeared the
enemy, pressing boldly forward to the centre of the camp, overcame all
the resistance of which the thinned and disorganized army was capable,
and captured both the king and the Caliph.
The two princes were carried with every mark of indignity into the
presence of the heathen monarch, who, insulting them with references to
their defeat, demanded of them that they should abandon the Moslem
faith and worship the idols of the gods of his people, who had, he
said, given his troops the victory.
But the Caliph answered that although Allah, whose name be praised, had
permitted them to be worsted in the confusion of a night attack, yet
they still trusted in him, and they would never vary in the least
degree from the glorious words of the Prophet: "Allah is God, and there
is no God but Allah."
Hearing this, King Gorkol ordered them to be confined separately in two
dungeons of his castle, there to remain until a great festival of the
gods which was approaching should arrive, when he would sacrifice them
both to the gods whom they had dared to despise. Locked in the gloomy
vaults, and seeing no one but the jailer who once a day brought them
the scanty and hard fare necessary to keep them alive till the day of
vengeance should come, their position seemed altogether desperate and
their fate assured.
But in the case of King Selim he had, unknown to his captors and
concealed in the folds of his turban, a ruby of great size and of
immense value. With this he hoped to be able to bribe his jailer and
effect his escape. And in fact so well did he manage that before a
week was passed he was travelling homewards in the disguise of a
merchant, accompanied by the jailer, who dared not remain in his own
country in possession of the ruby because, according to the custom
prevailing in that kingdom, all precious stones must be surrendered to
the king under penalty of death by torture. He therefore fled with
Selim, disguised as his slave.
The king had made great efforts to induce the jailer to effect the
release of the Caliph at the same time as himself, but as Haroun
Alraschid was in charge of another jailer, it could not be managed.
Selim was obliged therefore, to his great grief, to leave the Caliph to
his fate; but he hurried back to his own dominions with the utmost
speed, determined to at once return with another army to avenge the
death of the Caliph, whose life he could not hope to arrive in time to
The Caliph, having about him neither jewels nor money, had no means of
propitiating his jailer or abating the rigour and severity of the
treatment to which he was subjected. Once a day only, early in the
morning, the jailer appeared, and, without opening the great heavy door
of the dungeon, he opened one panel only, and through that opening
handed to his prisoner the two small loaves, or rather, flat cakes, and
the flask of water which must supply his wants till the following
Five days had thus passed, and there seemed no possibility of the
Caliph escaping the painful and humiliating death to which he was
destined by the heathen king. The festival to be held in honour of the
gods of the country was approaching, and two days hence the people, who
were already becoming greatly excited, both by religious fury and also
by drinking great quantities of a strong and fiery spirit which they
distilled, were to be gratified by the sight of the sacrifice by
horrible tortures of their unfortunate prisoners.
Just before daybreak on the sixth day, the same morning on which Selim
and his jailer were effecting their escape, the Caliph awoke, and
thoughts of the frightful situation in which he found himself prevented
him from again falling asleep. In great distress of mind he prayed
earnestly to God that strength might be given him to enable him to
sustain with firmness and fortitude the pains he might be called upon
to endure. After which prayer he felt calmer and more composed.
Presently, being very hungry, he tried in the dim light to find a small
piece of bread which he had not yet eaten. He had placed it on a
narrow ledge near to the place where he slept, but in the darkness he
pushed it with his hand before he had grasped it, and it fell upon the
floor. Groping about to find it, his hand came suddenly upon something
which felt soft and cool—an object apparently about the size and shape
of a hen's egg, yet not hard like an egg-shell, but elastic and
yielding readily to the pressure of the fingers. What it was the sense
of touch did not enable him to guess, and as yet the light was
insufficient to permit him to distinguish anything clearly. And,
marvellous to relate, as the light increased, although all the objects
around him became visible, yet this something which he had felt, and
which he still felt to be grasped in his hand, was nevertheless not to
be seen. This circumstance surprised the Caliph very much, and he sat
cross-legged on the straw which had been placed in the corner of the
dungeon for him to sleep on, just as he had been used to do on the
splendid divan in his palace, still grasping the unknown object in his
hand, and yet still unable to see what it was. After he had sat thus
for some time cogitating what this might mean, the hour came round when
the jailer should come and bring him his food for the day.
Now it so happened that the Caliph's jailer when bringing his food had
to pass the dungeon in which Selim had been confined. This morning as
he passed he was amazed to observe that the door was unfastened, and,
looking in, he perceived that the vault was empty. Fearful that his
prisoner might likewise have effected his escape, he hurriedly set down
the food and ran on to the dungeon containing the Caliph.
The latter was surprised to hear his jailer running rapidly along the
passage, and still more surprised when the man, after looking through
the panel, withdrew the huge bolts and, opening the door, came into the
great gloomy vault, looking excitedly about him. Then after a few
moments, apparently bewildered and terror-struck, he turned about, went
out, closed the door behind him, and, without waiting to replace the
bolts, walked quickly along the passage and disappeared.
The Caliph, although unable to guess to what he owed his good fortune,
did not neglect to avail himself of it. Pushing open the door, and
stopping to close it and bolt it behind him, he walked down the
corridor without knowing where and to what it might lead him. This
passage or corridor seemed at first sight to terminate with a dead wall
at the end of it. But, proceeding further along it, he presently
perceived a side-passage turning out of it at right angles, and this
smaller passage, which was short, terminated in a flight of steps
leading evidently into the castle-yard. The door at the top of the
steps was partly open, and when he reached it the Caliph could hear and
catch glimpses of a group of soldiers standing and chatting together
not far from the doorway. He stood for some moments uncertain what he
should do. If he opened the door and went out, doubtless he would
immediately be seized; on the other hand, to stay where he was meant no
less certain destruction, as at any moment some one might enter and
find him there. He had just determined to step out boldly and risk
detection, in the hope that in the bustle of the castle-yard his exit
might pass unnoticed, when a gust of wind blew the door wide open, and
he stood face to face, not ten paces distant, with that group of
soldiers he had heard conversing.
For a moment he stood horror-struck, expecting to see them rush forward
and secure him. To his extreme surprise, none of them, not even those
facing him, took the slightest notice of his presence. They appeared
not even to see him, but perhaps they took him for one of the
innumerable retainers of the Court; at any rate, the Caliph, plucking
up courage, stepped out and walked quietly away.
As he was crossing the courtyard, a great mounted warrior on a powerful
black steed came pounding along, and would apparently have ridden right
over the Caliph just as though he was unaware of his existence, but
Haroun drew quickly aside, and the horse shied, thereby drawing upon
itself many hard blows from the fierce and haughty rider.
Passing out of the castle-gates, and turning eastward, as he judged, by
the position of the sun, the Caliph proceeded in the direction which
would enable him, he hoped, in due time, to reach his own country. He
had not gone far when he met a rough country fellow who carried a long
piece of wood on his shoulder, and Haroun would have been struck full
in the face with it had he not stepped quickly on one side to avoid it.
But the man, although he passed close by him, neither looked at nor
spoke to him, and seemed altogether unconscious of his presence.
It now first dawned upon the Caliph that the strange and invisible
substance which he had picked up in the dungeon, and which he still
carried in his hand, possessed indeed the marvellous property of
rendering him entirely invisible to other men. This accounted for the
remarkable panic of his jailer, who, when he looked into, and even
entered his dungeon, failed to see him; it explained why the soldiers
had permitted him to leave the building unmolested, why the horseman
had nearly ridden over him, and why the clown who had just passed had,
without knowing it, nearly brained him with his load.
Much comforted and strengthened by the discovery of this wonderful
exemption from observation which he now enjoyed, he walked on briskly,
till the sun, being now high in the heavens, and the heat very great,
he came to a village, and entering boldly an inn there, and passing
through into an empty apartment, he lay down upon a not very soft divan
he found in it, and straightway fell asleep.
The Caliph being tired with the walk and the excitement of the morning,
slept so long and soundly that it was night and quite dark when he
awoke. And being even then but half awake he did not realize that he
was no longer in the castle-dungeon; therefore, perceiving that it was
not yet light, he turned over and went to sleep again. In a few hours'
time, in the midst of a dream that he was in his own palace at Bagdad
and presiding at some great feast, he awoke once more, saw that it was
beginning to be light, remembered where he was, and found himself
exceedingly hungry. Going, therefore, very quietly into the next
apartment, he found the innkeeper lying there soundly asleep, and on
the table the remains of a substantial supper. At once seating
himself, the Caliph was not long in finishing the repast and assuaging
the pangs of hunger.
Having all his life been used to eat and drink whatever he required,
without any thought of payment, it is very likely that he might have
eaten his meal and departed without the least concern or thought of the
fact that he possessed at that moment nothing to pay for it. However,
it so fell out that he was enabled to recompense his involuntary host
very handsomely. For after he had finished eating, and before he rose
from his seat, he heard a slight rustling sound outside the room, as
though some one were stealthily approaching.
Now the Caliph, before lying down to rest on the previous afternoon,
had taken the precaution to bestow the mysterious and wonderful charm
he had picked up, in a place of safety. He had put it inside his
turban, in such a way that he could feel it pressing like a soft
elastic pad upon his forehead. And therefore, in virtue of his contact
with that charm, he was still invisible to every other human being.
Such being the case, the thief peering into the room saw no one but the
keeper of the inn, who was sleeping very soundly. Entering, therefore,
with noiseless tread, his feet being bare, he approached the sleeper,
and extracted very dexterously a small packet of coin which he carried
secreted in his girdle. With this packet the thief glided from the
room, and stopping outside but a single instant to place it inside the
folds of his own turban, he walked briskly away.
The Caliph followed him closely. About a hundred yards from the door
of the inn there flowed a small stream or brook, across which the only
bridge was a couple of planks. Just as they arrived at this point the
Caliph took off the fellow's turban, and, with a push from behind,
threw him into the water. The stream was neither deep nor swift, and
the thief soon picked himself up, scrambled to the other side, and
then, without once looking back, took to his heels, being fully
persuaded that it was the man he had just robbed who had pursued and
overtaken him. The Caliph, after taking the parcel of coin out of the
turban, which he then threw away, walked quietly back towards the inn,
without deigning to bestow another thought on the thief whom he had
thrown into the water.
Before he reached the door of the inn, he saw the innkeeper, who had
awoke and discovered his loss, rush out of the house wild and
bareheaded, his turban having tumbled or been knocked off in his
excitement. Running past the invisible Caliph, and loudly cursing all
villains and robbers, and especially that one who had just taken his
money, he caught sight of the thief himself, scrambling up, dripping
wet, on to the opposite bank of the stream, and, with much
vociferation, he continued in hot pursuit. The noise he made brought
out, of course, all those who had been passing the night at the inn,
and very naturally they all commenced at once to follow the pursuer and
The Caliph then quietly entered the deserted house, and placing the
packet of money carefully in the innkeeper's turban, where he would be
sure to find it on his return from the chase, he left, and taking
another road, and one leading, as far as he could judge, in the
direction of his own dominions, he continued his journey.
He walked along for some hours without meeting any one except a few
peasants, or encountering any noteworthy incident whatsoever.
At length he became tired with his long march, and the heat of the
noontide sun became so oppressive, that, espying a thick clump of trees
at a short distance from the road, he gladly made his way to that
pleasant shelter, lay down on a grassy bank, with a log for his pillow,
and composed himself to rest and sleep.
On waking, after two or three hours of very sound and refreshing sleep,
he found that owing to some change in his position his turban had
fallen off. This, in itself not very serious or remarkable accident,
gave him on the present occasion much apprehension and concern. For in
his turban he had placed, as has been mentioned, the invisible object,
whatever it might be, which had in some inexplicable manner conferred
upon him also, while he was in contact with it, the condition of
He took up the turban most carefully, he felt in it, he put it on, but
nowhere could he encounter the soft, cool sensation with which he had
become familiar. He groped laboriously all round the spot where he had
been lying, but in vain. Whether the object had rolled away, or
whether it had been carried to a distance by the breeze, or possibly
had even been dissipated altogether, he could not determine. One thing
only was clear and beyond conjecture—the charm was lost for ever.
Coming at last most unwillingly to that conclusion, he sat down
cross-legged upon the grass as on a divan, resting his elbow upon the
log which had served him for a pillow, and began to consider how he
should manage to make his way back to his own dominions through that
land of idolaters. He had no idea of the distance to be traversed, but
he reflected that, having no longer the aid and protection of being
invisible, and being possessed of no money, his difficulties must
necessarily be great. Moreover, he was not without considerable
anxiety as to what might have occurred at Bagdad while he had been
absent. Giafer, indeed, to whom all the details of the government of
the country had practically been confided for many years, he could
thoroughly trust. But Ibrahim, who would probably have succeeded to
the Caliphate, was known to hate the Grand Vizier, and would not only
put him to death, but might also, not improbably, have taken measures
to rid himself of Zobeideh and her son. Oppressed by these gloomy
thoughts the Caliph sat for a long time without moving.
At length, hearing the tramp of horses in the distance, he looked up,
and was overjoyed to behold two men coming along the road, whom he at
once knew by their dress to be Arab merchants. Each was on horseback,
and they had with them, besides several other horses, some mules and
asses laden with packages. And there was also a kind of closed
carriage or palanquin, borne by some slaves, in which no doubt was
conveyed a lady or female slave of great value.
Now, when the Caliph saw these men approaching, he rose up quickly and
went to meet them. When he drew near, he saluted them and inquired
whither they went.
To which they replied: "To Bagdad." And they inquired of him how it
came to pass that he should be on foot and alone in that pagan kingdom,
seeing it was evident by his dress that he was a Moslim.
Now, the Caliph had already learnt by experience that to proclaim his
true rank would be only to court a suspicion of madness, therefore he
replied briefly, that he too was from Bagdad and was returning thither,
but that unhappily he had been taken prisoner by the idolaters, and
robbed of all that he had, except only the clothes upon his back. He
begged them, therefore, to lend him a horse and to take him with them
to Bagdad, in which city he had plenty both of friends and funds, and
where he would reward them handsomely for their kindness.
To this they answered that since he was in distress he was very welcome
to come with them, and that without any claim on their part for fee or
reward, the more especially as they would be glad, while travelling
through that wild and lawless country, to have another strong man of
their party. With that they lent him a horse, and he, nothing loth,
but glad enough to get his feet off the ground and his face turned
towards home, rode cheerfully along with them.
The Caliph soon discovered that the two merchants were very intelligent
men and agreeable fellow-travellers. The name of the one was Abdallah,
and of the other Ahmed.
After the Caliph had been some time in their company, and their
conversation had become more intimate and familiar, he ventured to
inquire how they had fared on their present expedition, and in what
sort of merchandize they had embarked their fortune.
"You must know," said Abdallah, who was always the chief speaker, "that
both Ahmed and myself are well acquainted with several of the officers
in the Palace of the Commander of the Faithful, whom Allah exalt, and
also of some in the Palace of Zobeideh, his favourite wife. We always
endeavour therefore, when trading in foreign countries, to buy such
things as will sell well at court. The prices we get for our goods are
in that way very satisfactory, although the profit we actually make is
less than you might suppose, because all those officials who gain us an
introduction to the palaces must have rich presents and high fees to
recompense them for their trouble."
"And the Caliph, what sort of a man is he?" asked Haroun.
"He is," answered Abdallah, "a just man, and very brave, but fierce,
hot-tempered, and hasty. And as he is very apt to lose his temper,
those who have to do with him are very liable to lose their heads."
"But sometimes he is no doubt very much provoked," said Haroun.
"Nay," said Abdallah, "when he is in an ill-humour, he would order your
head to be struck off as readily as he would order his dinner."
"I can scarcely believe that," answered Haroun. "Did you not say that
he loves justice?"
"Undoubtedly," answered Abdallah, "he is anxious to have a just
administration of the laws, and I have been told that in order to see
for himself what goes on, he frequently walks through the city
disguised as a merchant."
"And that," said Ahmed, "I consider to be by no means commendable."
"On what account?" demanded Haroun.
"Because," said Ahmed, "if on one of those excursions any accident
should happen to the Commander of the Faithful, the State would lose
more than ever it gained from all his rambles and inquiries."
Haroun could not but admit to himself the justice of this observation,
and yet he was by no means pleased with it, as one never is with any
reflection on our own conduct. Therefore, when Abdallah said, that for
his part he thought the Caliph did quite right in determining to see
things with his own eyes, and that a man ought not to weigh too
scrupulously the dangers which might lie in the way of doing his duty,
Haroun could have embraced him in the fulness of his satisfaction.
"But," said Haroun, to turn the conversation, "you have not yet told me
what good or ill-fortune you have met with on this expedition, nor what
ventures you are bringing back with you to Bagdad."
As Haroun said this, his eye rested upon the palanquin which was being
carried by the slaves, and Abdallah, noticing his glance, and guessing
that he was curious to learn something of the occupant, began as
THE ARAB MERCHANT'S STORY.
"Before setting out on the expedition from which we are now returning,
Ahmed and I consulted long as to the countries we should visit, and
what sort of goods it would be most profitable to bring back with us.
We at length agreed to journey through Egypt into the central parts of
Africa, and bring from thence some of those large and rare specimens of
precious stones of which we had often heard. And we did not doubt if
we could secure some of these that we should be able to dispose of them
to such advantage at the Court of the Caliph as at one stroke to make
"Having agreed upon this plan we purchased and took with us such
articles of merchandize as we judged would sell to the best advantage
in Egypt. In fact, on arriving at Cairo, we remained some time doing a
very profitable trade.
"At length, when the proper time of year came round for commencing our
journey into the interior, we provided ourselves with the articles most
likely to find favour with the natives, and after two months, during
which we travelled very slowly, and suffered many hardships, we reached
the country of a great nation or tribe of Ethiopians, at whose chief
town, Daarkol, we halted awhile, and did some trade by barter, but not
much, the people possessing few things of any value to us except small
quantities of gold dust.
"What we sought of them most eagerly was information concerning that
tribe of whom we had heard, in whose country were found the diamonds,
rubies, sapphires, and other precious stones, to obtain which was the
object of our journey.
"That tribe lived, it appeared, still several hundreds of miles further
up the country, but what annoyed us much more was the information that
they would exchange their precious stones for nothing else than ivory,
of the exact value of which they were very well acquainted.
"This altogether extinguished the hope with which we had started of
making our fortunes by importing to Bagdad splendid specimens of
various precious stones. For when we considered the vast expense of
procuring large quantities of tusks, the difficulty of getting slaves
to carry them up the country, and of feeding those slaves on so long a
journey, together with the danger of being robbed of such cumbersome
and valuable property by some of the many wild tribes through whose
territories we must pass, we were fain to conclude that we must needs
abandon that part of our enterprise.
"As we were one day sitting in a very gloomy mood discussing this
matter, an African merchant with whom we had become acquainted, and who
happened to be passing, saluted us; and we, having invited him to be
seated with us, 'What,' he asked, 'is that which you cannot do? for as
I came up I heard you pronounce these words: "No, it is not possible to
"With that I explained to him, without mentioning particularly the
country of the precious stones, that Ahmed and myself had intended to
proceed still further into the interior to trade with the people, but
many of them, as we were now informed, exchanged only against ivory.
And it appeared to us impossible to do any profitable trade if we must
convey such a heavy and valuable commodity as ivory over long distances.
"The African merchant, when he heard this, smiled, and asked, 'What
would you give now to anyone who should get you out of this difficulty?'
"I answered that, as it was a difficulty which we had often discussed,
but could see no way out of, and as it threatened to make our journey
into Africa comparatively unprofitable, we should be very willing to
give any man who could render us effectual assistance a hundred pieces
of gold for his trouble.
"'No,' said he, 'you offer too little. I can myself most effectually
aid you, but I must have five hundred pieces of gold.'
"We protested that we could not give so much, that we had it not, that
it would ruin us; in short, all the pleas that merchants, as you knew,
advance when they are chaffering with each other. But after several
days, seeing that the African merchant stood quite firm and would abate
nothing from his price, we agreed to give him the five hundred pieces
of gold for the secret he was to discover to us, namely, of how we
should provide ourselves with ivory for trading with the tribes, no
matter how far up the country they might be situated.
"We having on our part produced five bags containing one hundred gold
pieces in each, which we counted out to him, he produced and gave to us
in return five small jars, each containing about two quarts of a seed
about twice as large as a bean.
"'Take these,' said he, 'with you; they are small and not heavy to
carry. And when you are come near to the country of that people with
whom you wish to trade, select a piece of land about two or three acres
in extent, and plant these seeds singly and about ten feet apart. In
about a month great tubers will be observed swelling out of the ground
which by the end of the second month will have increased to hemispheres
four or five feet in diameter. From each of these bulbs or tubers as a
base great projections will be thrown out, which in five or six weeks
will attain the size and appearance exactly of huge tusks of the finest
ivory. Cutting these, and stacking them for a short time to dry, you
will then be provided with what appears to be a splendid lot of tusks
not far from the place where you require them. And should you
experience any difficulty in transporting them, you may apply for
labourers from the tribe you are about to visit, on the plea that your
carriers who have brought them so far have deserted and gone back.'
"Perceiving now that our African merchant was a proficient in all the
magical arts of his country, we wished to decline his aid, and have
nothing further to do with him; but he flatly refused to restore our
money, and left us not without uttering some threats of vengeance upon
"As we had bought the seeds at so high a price, we carried them with
us, without, however, intending to make use of them; for we thought
that as true believers we ought to shun every product of the accursed
magic of Africa.
"But after some time had elapsed, and when at the end of a long and
difficult journey we approached at last the borders of that country
where the people dwelt who possessed the precious stones, we halted,
and determined at least to plant those seeds, and ascertain whether
they would indeed grow in the wonderful way the African merchant had
"Selecting, therefore, a suitable piece of ground, we planted the
seeds, setting each singly about ten feet apart every way. And the
ground being damp and marshy, we soon perceived the bulbs showing above
ground, and they grew apace, so that in three or four weeks after their
first appearance they became great semi-spherical projections, like
huge round balls half embedded in the earth. Or they might be compared
to very gigantic onions; and about the end of six or seven weeks after
the seed was sown we had our ground covered with regular rows of them;
and then from the centre of each bulb a slight projection like the tip
of a small horn might be observed to rise. These grew and increased
very rapidly, so that within a few weeks they had attained the imposing
proportions of immense tusks.
"Cutting them and stacking them to dry, by placing ten or a dozen of
them together like sheaves of corn, we found that upon the most careful
inspection they did not in any respect differ in appearance from tusks
of the finest ivory; while their great size and symmetry of form could
seldom be equalled by what may be termed elephant ivory.
"It now became a question whether we should use them for the purpose of
barter to obtain the precious stones. Our first sentiment, as I have
said, was that we, as good Moslems, would have nothing to do with the
productions of the infernal magic of the African. But our interest and
the desire to accomplish the object of our journey by getting the
precious stones finally prevailed. We argued that as we had fairly
bought the seed, and had planted and prepared the vegetable tusks by
our own exertions, therefore we were fairly entitled to make use of
them, and we decided to continue our journey to Behar, the country
inhabited by the tribe which possessed the precious stones.
"When we arrived there we were conducted before Amavaroo, the king of
Behar, to whom we presented ourselves as ivory merchants who had
visited his country desiring to exchange ivory for precious stones.
The king readily gave us permission to barter with his people, the more
especially because we had brought with us as a present for himself two
or three of the tusks, than which he had never beheld any finer. He
was lost in admiration and delighted to obtain such splendid specimens;
and he inquired eagerly where we had left our stock.
"Acting on the suggestion made to us by the African merchant, we said
that it lay about three days' journey behind us. That we had left it
there because our carriers who had brought it so far had deserted; and
we prayed him, therefore, to supply us with carriers to bring it into
"The trouble always experienced by merchants trading in those regions
in obtaining, and especially in retaining carriers, was so well known
that the king was by no means surprised at our predicament, but ordered
a sufficient number of his people to accompany us and transport our
"The most common mode of carriage with these people is to place the
load upon the head and, balancing it there, to walk away merrily under
their burthen. And it is surprising how heavy a load they will thus
carry. But they could not manage to take our tusks in that fashion.
They carried them on their shoulders, four men to a tusk, three near to
the thick or butt end, and one near the point. In this way we brought
all our ivory to Behar, and the tusks were so perfect and exceptional
in size that we could obtain almost any equivalent we pleased for them.
And in fact of such marvellous size and beauty were most of the gems
that we got in exchange that our fortune on our return to Bagdad
threatened to be fabulous, and it seemed evident that it would be
necessary for us to wander over the whole world to the capital of every
great king in order to find purchasers of such superb and unique
"As we had presented many of the tusks to the king and his principal
chiefs we had become exceedingly popular—the happy possessors of our
ivory being, no less satisfied with their bargains than we felt with
ours. So that when at the end of two months we wished to depart,
having bartered or given away all our stock, they would not let us go,
but insisted that we should prolong our stay for another month, during
which they feasted and entertained us to the best of their ability.
"Now there was one circumstance concerning our vegetable ivory of which
we were ignorant, viz., that just as it was produced quickly, so it
decayed quickly. Three months had sufficed to raise it from the seed,
and within three months from the time that they came to maturity, the
apparent tusks begin to perish. Black spots and patches appear all
over the surface, and in the course of a few weeks the entire tusk rots
away and is destroyed.
"It thus happened that one morning, towards the end of our three
months' sojourn at Behar, the chiefs who came as usual to our house or
hut to greet us, wore no longer the pleasant and friendly aspect they
were wont to do, but looked surly and fierce. And immediately seizing
and binding us, they carried us before King Amavaroo, who, seated on
the leopard's skin which served him for a throne, was looking as gloomy
and morose as his followers.
"Then men came with the tusks they had received from us, one man
following another with his purchases, and in every tusk the black spots
and patches of decay were beginning to appear. To complete our ruin,
when those tusks which we had presented to Amavaroo were brought into
his presence, they each and all were found to be in a similar
condition. Both the king and his people were very naturally furious.
They took from us and out of our house all the jewels we had obtained,
and gave them back to those who had exchanged them for the worthless
ivory, and then, after holding a very stormy council, they conducted us
with every kind of insult out of their town into the plains beyond.
There, having stripped us naked, they beat us with branches of nettles
and branches of prickly holly, and finally, tying our hands and feet
together, they left us to be scorched by the sun during the day, and to
be devoured by the wild beasts that prowled about at night. Here we
lay all day in a most pitiable plight, and there undoubtedly we should
have perished, had it not been for the gratitude and kindness of a
slave whom, during our stay at Behar, we had many times befriended and
protected, as far as lay in our power, against the tyranny of a very
cruel bully, who was his master. This poor fellow stole away at
sundown, came to us, freed us from our bonds, brought us some of our
own clothes which he had managed to get hold of, and, going with us,
became our guide on the slow and painful course of our journey
northward. He brought us also a small packet of very handsome stones,
which had been dropped by some one during the exciting events of the
morning, and which he had seen and picked up on his way to us.
"This seemed at the time a perfect godsend. There were not many
stones—about a dozen—and they not nearly so large as many of those we
had received in exchange for our ivory. At the same time they were of
the utmost value to us now, as we should be able to dispose of them at
the first place where we might meet with Arab merchants, and we should
thus provide ourselves at least with such things as were absolutely
necessary for our return journey to Bagdad.
"Meanwhile, our progress was slow and our subsistence precarious,
consisting chiefly of such roots, fruits, and insects, as we were able
to discover. In this matter of catering the slave was much more
proficient than we, and proved an invaluable aid to us.
"After many weeks of hardship and danger, we arrived at last in the
neighbourhood of Daarkol, the town in which we had met the African
merchant, from whom we had bought those accursed seeds. As the sun was
intensely hot, and a couple of hours' walking would now bring us into
the town, where we could sell some of the precious stones and relieve
our most urgent necessities, we threw ourselves down under the shelter
of a clump of trees and were soon fast asleep.
"It appears, although we had then no suspicion of such a thing, that
the African merchant, who was a complete villain, had been diligently
watching for our return. He had designed to surprise and overpower us,
and take from us the precious stones we should have obtained for his
fraudulent ivory, he getting thus at a stroke the fruits of the
expedition without undergoing the fatigues, difficulties, and dangers
it necessarily involved.
"Being informed, therefore, by one of his spies of our arrival, he
stole upon us very quietly while we slept, and bringing with him a
party of his slaves, he quickly overpowered us, and binding us hand and
foot, he robbed us of the jewels we had, and that not without horrid
imprecations because there were so few. After which he immediately
departed, leaving us lying under the trees bound and helpless.
"Here we remained for more than two hours. At length, as the day wore
on, and it became cooler, we perceived a party of merchants, with whom
we had been very well acquainted when we were at Daarkol before,
passing along the road which was distant about two or three hundred
yards from the clump of trees where we lay. We shouted as loud as we
could, and they, hearing the shouting, came presently towards us. They
were truly surprised and concerned to find Ahmed and myself, whom they
had known formerly as respectable and well-to-do merchants, lying
bound, dirty, and ragged upon the ground. They freed us, and we told
them of the villainy of the African merchant, and related to them all
that had befallen us, from the time he sold us the seeds, until the
assault he had made upon us and the robbery he had committed that
afternoon. They advised us to lay our case before Lootzee, the king of
that country, who lived in the town of Daarkol; although, as regards
the African merchant, who was well known as a bad character, he would
no doubt by this time have taken refuge in flight.
"This advice was good; but for men so completely destitute, as we now
were, to obtain an audience of the king was no easy matter. Like most
monarchs, he was surrounded by courtiers and state officials, who must
be bribed with considerable presents before they would exert themselves
on behalf of any suitor or complainant, no matter how real his
grievance, or how urgent his case might be. It is quite possible,
therefore, that we might have failed to obtain an audience, had it not
happened, fortunately for us, that King Lootzee was attacked just at
this time by a severe form of fever to which the natives of that part
of Ethiopia are peculiarly liable. Hearing of the king's illness, and
knowing of a certain herb which was a sovereign remedy in that disease,
we procured some of the herb and prepared an infusion of it. We then
borrowed of some merchants of our acquaintance such sums as they would
lend us, and sending this as a present to the Vizier or chief officer
of Lootzee, we asked audience of the king that we might present to him
a medicine of great efficiency in his complaint. The Vizier submitting
our petition to Lootzee, he gave orders to admit the merchant from
Bagdad, and in short, after taking sundry doses of the medicine, the
fever left him, and he was restored to his usual health.
"This cure so much delighted him, that he made us a present of the
horses, mules, and all those things which you see we have with us, and
in addition he gave us a sum of money that we might be enabled to
purchase something to take back to Bagdad, so that we might not, after
all our toil and risk, return altogether empty-handed.
"For a long time we doubted and debated what we should buy. But
hearing one day that there was in the town a Circassian woman slave of
surpassing beauty, who had been captured by some marauders from a
caravan while on her way to Bagdad, we determined to purchase that
slave in the hope of selling her for a great price to Haroun Alraschid,
the Caliph, to whom may Allah be merciful, and for whom she was
destined by those merchants who had been robbed of her."
Now when Haroun Alraschid had heard the story of Abdallah, the Arab
merchant, and had learned that the occupant of the carriage or litter
borne by the slaves was so lovely a creature, and, moreover, was a
slave intended for himself, he would fain have seen her. In his
character as a merchant he offered to buy her, and bid the great price
of five thousand pieces of gold, to be paid immediately they should
arrive in Bagdad. But Abdallah was resolute, and inflexible in his
refusal to part with her, or let her be seen, saying that no man either
had nor yet should see the face of the slave, until she should be
presented in good time to the Caliph himself.
Haroun was sorely tempted to declare himself to be the Caliph, and to
insist on seeing the beautiful captive, but reflecting both that it
would be difficult to convince Abdallah of his rank at that time, and
also being unwilling to lose the pleasure he anticipated in observing
the merchant's astonishment, when he should discover his
fellow-traveller to have been the Caliph, Haroun controlled his natural
impatience, and that all the more readily because they were near their
Leaving Abdallah and Ahmed with the Caliph in their company to continue
their journey, we must return to Bagdad, and to the course of affairs
in that city since the Caliph's disappearance.
Giafer, who had so long, as Grand Vizier, had the administration of the
Empire in his hands, managed for the first month or six weeks to
conduct the affairs of State as usual and with unquestioned authority.
But as week after week passed without tidings from the absent Caliph,
not only did both Giafer and Zobeideh lose hope of his return, but
ominous rumours began to circulate secretly among the Court and the
people, regarding the cause of the Caliph's absence. As a matter of
course, Ibrahim, the next heir according to Moslem usage, was
especially active both in prosecuting inquiries as to the probable fate
of Haroun, and also in concerting measures to effect his own accession
to the throne.
Three months had elapsed since the disappearance of the Caliph, when
one morning at the Grand Vizier's usual state reception of the Ulema
and Emirs of the Empire, Ibrahim, addressing Giafer, said, "Grand
Vizier, three months have now passed since we have had among us the
glorious and august presence of the Commander of the Faithful; tell us,
therefore, where he is, and why he no longer appears to give audience
and render justice to his people?"
At this speech Giafer felt that his hour was come, for he knew that the
prince would not have uttered those words until he had taken measures
to seize upon the throne.
Therefore he answered, "I cannot tell where the Commander of the
Faithful may be at this moment, but may all his subjects remain loyal
to him, and Allah be his shield and preserver, wherever he be!"
Then said Ibrahim, "O Giafer, the blood of your master is upon your
hands, where have you hidden him?" Turning to the guards, who entered
as he clapped his hands, he ordered them to secure the Grand Vizier,
and continued: "If you do not before this time to-morrow bring back
Haroun Alraschid into this hall, I shall know what to think, and as
surely as I am Caliph you shall die."
So saying the prince seated himself upon the royal divan, and forthwith
appointed Hafiz, a favourite of his own, to be Grand Vizier. He next
ordered the new Grand Vizier to put Zobeideh, Haroun's favourite wife,
and Prince Emin, her son, in prison, and declared that on the morrow,
when he judged Giafer, he would also pronounce sentence on the others.
That night the new Caliph spent in feasting and revelry, but Giafer,
and Zobeideh and her son, Prince Emin, likewise spent the hours in
depression and grief, looking forward to death in the morning.
When the day dawned, and the new Caliph, after morning prayers, had
assumed his seat on the Imperial divan, he commanded Giafer to be
brought before him. Then, with a sinister smile, he demanded of the
prisoner, "Where is the most illustrious Caliph Haroun Alraschid? Say,
Giafer, what hast thou done with him?"
To this Giafer replied, "Haroun Alraschid, my master, is in the hand of
God. But where he may be at this moment, I have told you that I do not
"No one can know so well as thou where he is," said Ibrahim, "for did
he not go to Bussora with thee and has never returned? Doubtless thou
hast killed him, and hast hidden his body, otherwise he would be here,
therefore thy life is forfeited," and with that he made a sign to the
mutes, who immediately took Giafer and passed the fatal cord about his
As they waited with trained docility for the usual sign from the Caliph
to draw tight the silken cord and despatch their victim, a great shout
was heard, and outside the palace acclamations filled the air, and
cries of—"Haroun Alraschid returns! Welcome, Prince of the Faithful!"
Ibrahim hearing these words, after a few moments' hesitation, made the
sign to the mutes, and Giafer's life would have ended, but on the
instant an officer standing by, who owed his position to the Grand
Vizier, cut through the cord with his sword. As he did so, Haroun,
pale with anger and his eyes flashing, entered the door of the
audience-chamber. Ibrahim, pale as ashes, sat on the throne petrified
with terror. As Haroun's eyes fell upon the shrinking prince sitting
on his throne, and on the form of Giafer kneeling with part of the
severed cord still about his neck, the veins stood out upon his
forehead, and rage rendered him speechless. He beckoned to Mesrúr, the
ever faithful, who instantly pulled Ibrahim from his seat, and, taking
him aside into an antechamber, forthwith struck off his head.
That Haroun reinstated Giafer as Grand Vizier, and took Zobeideh and
Prince Emin out of prison, needs hardly be said. That he received
Abdallah and Ahmed very graciously, and that he bought the fair captive
of them at a truly royal price, is not surprising. But it is perhaps
somewhat surprising that all the dangers and hardships he underwent, in
consequence of his capture by the pirates, did not suffice to wean him
altogether from such perilous adventures in the future.
He was of so daring and fearless a temper, however, that it made no
further difference than this, that ever afterwards when he wandered
about in disguise Mesrúr accompanied him as well as the Grand Vizier.
The Caliph and the Blind Fisherman.
One evening Haroun Alraschid sat in a splendid apartment of his palace
in Bagdad. The evening meal was finished, and the slaves had carried
away the magnificent service of gold plate on which it had been served.
The Caliph was gloomy and ill-humoured, and the officers and attendants
in waiting silent, vigilant, and not unapprehensive; for when the brow
of the monarch was clouded none could tell when the storm might burst
forth, nor whom the lightning of his wrath might strike. Before long,
however, and much to their relief, Giafer was sent for, and the Caliph,
rising and signing his officers to leave him, wandered out alone into
the garden of his palace.
Here Giafer on his arrival found him. He was sitting moodily listening
to a concert of vocal music performed by some of the ladies of his
harem, who were posted out of sight and at some little distance in a
small grove. Just as Giafer entered the garden the Caliph clapped his
hands and said to a slave who ran to him, "Go, tell the singers to keep
silence, for I am in no humour to listen to them." Then, perceiving
the Grand Vizier, he said to him, "Giafer, I have sent for thee because
I am restless and pleased with nothing this evening; suggest,
therefore, what I shall do."
Then Giafer replied: "Prince of the Faithful, if you are tired of your
palace and of the gardens and the singing of your women, and if you
care not to view the dancers"—the Caliph shook his head—"nor to
listen to the tales or the poems of Abu 'Atahiyeh——"
"Not this evening, though they are good," said Haroun.
"Then what say you to our sallying forth disguised into Bagdad,"
continued Giafer, "that we may observe what goes forward, and perchance
meet with some adventure that may amuse you?"
"That is what I will do," said Haroun, brightening up at the
suggestion; "come, Giafer, let us put on the garb of merchants and go
In a short time Haroun and Giafer sallied forth, with the faithful
Mesrúr following, also in disguise, not far behind them. They wandered
through the bazaars until they had seen a great part of Bagdad; but
they met with no adventure and saw nothing particularly strange or
noteworthy throughout all their ramble. The Caliph, who had at first
been much more cheerful, began at length to be tired with the walk, and
again in a somewhat ill-humour.
Giafer, noticing this, proposed that they should take a short cut
through the lower and meaner parts of the town, and so return to the
As with this intent they passed the end of a narrow and steep street
leading up from the river, they observed a man whose figure and
condition at once arrested the Caliph's attention. He was a tall and
handsome man with the upright, dignified bearing of a soldier; he had
regular features, a large hooked nose, and a long black moustache now
turning somewhat grey. His clothes were very old and ragged; over his
left shoulder he carried a net, and in his right hand a bag evidently
containing a few fish. He was obviously a fisherman just returning
home from his work on the river's bank; but what particularly attracted
the Caliph's attention was the fact that the man was blind. In his
left hand he carried a stick with which he touched sometimes the path
and sometimes the walls of the houses as he passed along, as though to
assure himself of his position. And though he was thus evidently
blind, yet he walked forward, not timidly or slowly, but boldly and
steadily, as if he were very well acquainted with his route.
The Caliph at once approached him and entered into conversation. He
asked him whether he, being blind, caught the fish himself, or whether
he was aided by some one else; whether he had good fortune and caught
much, and how many fish he now had in his bag.
To these inquiries the man replied that, although blind, yet he managed
to fish very well, and usually had good fortune in the number of fish
that he caught, but that on this day he had been unlucky, and had only
five fish in his bag. Of these he said he should sell three, and two
he should cook for the supper of himself and his brother.
"And what is the occupation of your brother?" asked the Caliph.
"He, alas!" said the man, "is of no occupation; his back is injured so
that he cannot move from his bed."
"And you fish for the support of both?" said Haroun.
"Of course," replied the man, with grave simplicity.
"Fisherman," said the Caliph, "I will buy your three fish, and, since I
am tired, we will come, I and my friend who is with me, and you shall
cook all the five fish, and we will sup together."
"Sir," said the fisherman, "my poor hovel is not fitted to receive
guests; yet, if you are content to take things in the rough as you will
find them, come and be welcome."
"Fisherman," said Haroun, "soldiers should be able to accommodate
themselves to circumstances, and I am a soldier, as I judge that you
also have been."
"Commander," said the fisherman, "I have, as you suppose, served the
Caliph, whom may Allah preserve and exalt, and in his service I lost my
"Comrade," said Haroun, "when we have eaten your fish, and you have
rested, you shall relate to us the story of your life, which I doubt
not contains many stirring and noteworthy incidents."
As he was saying this they came to a very mean cottage in the narrow
street, or rather lane, through which they were passing, and the old
fisherman, entering, beckoned them with a sort of dignified politeness
to follow him.
In the cottage, which was lit by the smoky flame of a single small
lamp, they found, lying in a corner of the room on some rags, another
tall, athletic-looking man, who appeared in every respect a very twin
brother of their acquaintance the fisherman, except as regards the
eyes, which were black, bright, and piercing.
"Mohammed," said the fisherman, addressing his brother, "I bring with
me two gentlemen I have met with; they have bought three of the five
fish I have caught, and they will join us in our supper. I smell the
loaves that they are baked upon the hearth, and very quickly I will
prepare and cook the fish."
"Gentlemen," said he, folding an old and tattered cloak and laying it
on the floor, "there is no other divan I can offer you, therefore pray
be seated upon this cloak, and I will hasten to make ready your fish."
The Caliph and Giafer, having seated themselves, conversed with
Mohammed, who appeared to them, from the expression of his features, to
be suffering much pain.
He was unable, he told them, to rise, owing to an injury to his back,
and his brother Suleiman, although blind, not only supported them both
by fishing, but cooked their food and attended to all necessary
The Caliph was much touched and interested by these two fine old
fellows, their pitiable plight, their uncomplaining cheerfulness under
such misfortunes, and their brotherly affection.
"Suleiman," he said, "has promised after supper to relate to me your
history; and I desire to hear it," he added, "not simply from motives
of curiosity, but because I hope to be able to help you both and
possibly to set right any wrongs or injustice from which you may have
The fish and hot cakes Haroun enjoyed more than all the sumptuous
repasts which were prepared for him at his palace, novelty and fatigue
giving a whet to his appetite. And these being consumed and the frugal
meal finished, he reminded Suleiman of his desire to learn the
particulars of his history.
Suleiman, saying that there was little to tell, but that he was quite
willing to tell that little, began as follows:
THE HISTORY OF THE BLIND FISHERMAN AND HIS BROTHER.
"As poor as we now are," said Suleiman, "our father was an officer much
trusted by El Hadi, the late Caliph."
At this name Haroun looked very black, for El Hadi had desired to set
Haroun aside in favour of his own son Jaafer. However, the blind
fisherman perceived nothing of this, but continued—
"Our father had three sons—myself, the eldest, and Mohammed, my
brother here present, and by another wife, Moussa, his youngest boy,
and, as often happens, his favourite. My father was but seldom in
Bagdad, being almost constantly engaged abroad in one foreign war or
another. Very early in life Mohammed and I accompanied him, and were
entrusted with important posts under him in the armies he commanded.
"Not to weary you with a long catalogue of our battles, I tell you at
once that about five years ago our father was killed in a very hotly
contested fight, in which, just when our men were giving way before a
furious charge of the enemy's cavalry, our father rallied them and led
them in person against the foe, thereby securing victory for us, but
falling himself in the very charge which secured it."
"Gallant man!" exclaimed the Caliph. "And what did El Hadi do for the
sons?" Seeing that Suleiman did not answer—"Nothing!" he muttered,
"and Haroun has never known of the matter."
"This battle," continued Suleiman, "having broken the power of the
enemy, and the war being at an end, Mohammed and I returned to Bagdad,
intending to share the property left by our father between ourselves
and Moussa, our younger brother, in three parts or equal shares, as we
had understood our father to desire.
"But on our return we found that Moussa, who holds the position of a
Cadi, or judge, had already taken possession of the whole of the
property, and he altogether refused to share it in any way with us,
alleging that our father had promised to leave him all that he had.
"This assertion we knew to be false. And El Hadi having died just at
that time, and the new Caliph being supposed to mislike both him and
his adherents, we applied to Ali ibn Moulk, the Governor of Bagdad,
asking him to consider our case and enforce a just division of our
inheritance. But Ali, though he took whatever presents we could afford
to give him, did nothing, having no doubt received from Moussa still
handsomer presents than it was in our power to afford.
"Seeing that our cause in no way advanced, we, who had always been used
to an active life, soon got tired of waiting in idleness the good
pleasure of the Governor, and therefore applied for and obtained
commands in an army sent by the new Caliph against a province that had
"For three years we were employed in distant expeditions, and at
length, at the end of that time, when storming a fortress held by a
body of insurgents, a splinter entering one of my eyes destroyed the
sight of it, and the inflammation extending from it not long after
destroyed the sight of the other, rendering me totally blind; while
Mohammed, poor fellow, still more unfortunate, was hurled backwards
from the walls of the same fortress and injured his back so severely,
that he has been unable to get about, and has suffered constant pain
"When we got back to Bagdad from this most unlucky campaign, our money
being almost exhausted, I called again upon Moussa, and, relating to
him what had befallen us, I asked him once more to make a fair and
equitable division of the inheritance with us. But he once more
refused to do so, repeated his assertion that all the property had been
left to him, offered me a hundred dinars, which I angrily refused, and
sent a slave to guide me, as he said, into the quarter of the town
where I was then living. He evidently made a sign to the slave whom he
sent with me, for I quickly perceived that he was conducting me, not
towards that part of the town in which my caravanserai was situated,
but along the steep streets leading down to the river. When we got on
to the bank of the stream, and almost at the water's edge, he said he
must return to his master, telling me to continue straight forward, and
that I should find the road all clear. Greatly incensed at the perfidy
of this villainous slave, I suddenly seized him and flung him into the
river before me.
"I was about to retrace my steps, when a voice near to me exclaimed:
'Halloo! some one has cast himself into the river, and my nets will be
"'Cannot you see,' I said, 'that I threw that scoundrel into the river?'
"'Nay,' said the voice, 'I cannot see, for I am blind.'
"'Allah be merciful to us!' I cried. 'Art thou also blind?' And I
told him my history as you have heard it, and why I had flung the slave
into the water. By the way, what became of the fellow I know not—he
was probably carried away by the stream, for I heard no more of him.
"Then I asked the blind man what it was that he had said of his nets
"He answered, 'I am a fisherman, and I doubt not but the rascal will
have destroyed some of my nets, but never mind that, so long as he got
"'What! can a man that is blind be a fisherman?' I exclaimed.
"'Certainly,' he replied; 'I have caught fish for my living this ten
years, and I will teach you to fish, if you like.'
"I thanked him, and gratefully accepted his offer."
"And thus it came to pass," said Suleiman to Haroun and Giafer, "that I
became a fisherman, and by this means have been enabled to maintain
both Mohammed and myself for the last two years."
The emotions experienced by the Caliph and the Grand Vizier as they
listened to Suleiman's narrative were not altogether the same.
Haroun was so infuriated when he heard of the hard-hearted iniquity of
the Cadi, and the taking of bribes and refusal of justice by Ali ibn
Moulk, the Governor of Bagdad, that he could scarcely restrain himself
from summoning Mesrúr and sending at once for their heads.
On the other hand, Giafer listened to the accusations against the
Governor of Bagdad, who was a personal friend of his own, with the
greatest consternation. Therefore, being anxious at any rate to gain
time, Giafer, at the end of Suleiman's discourse, whispered to the
Caliph, earnestly entreating him to preserve his incognito, and to
suspend his decision at least for the present.
When they came out of the fisherman's cottage, having paid him for the
fish, and promised to communicate with him again shortly, Giafer urged
upon the Caliph the injustice of condemning the Governor of Bagdad,
without giving him the opportunity to reply to the charge brought
against him by Suleiman.
"Giafer," said the Caliph, "I hear what you say, and I grant your
request. Ali ibn Moulk shall have the opportunity provided for him, to
clear himself from this charge in the best possible way, viz., by
actually refusing to take a bribe, and by actually executing justice on
Moussa the Cadi. I will myself provide him with that opportunity. But
look you, the Governor of Bagdad is your friend, I know; you gave him
his office, did you not? and now you are pleading his cause. Very good
so far, but see that no rumour of this night's story reaches his ears,
neither by a message, nor by a little bird, nor even by a dream; for if
he hear of it I will take off your head also, by Allah I will, by Allah
I will, by Allah I will; therefore look to yourself, my Giafer."
When the Grand Vizier heard this burst of rage, his heart sank within
him. He had undoubtedly intended to convey a friendly warning to Ali,
but he felt now that it would be dangerous and useless, and he was
completely convinced that Ali's fate was sealed.
Early next morning the Caliph sent for the Grand Vizier, and said to
"Giafer, go dress yourself as you were dressed last night, take a
hundred pieces of gold with you and give them to Suleiman, and tell him
to repair immediately to the Governor of Bagdad, and demand from him
justice in the matter of his inheritance. And mind, not one word more
Giafer touched his head in token of implicit obedience to the commands
of the Caliph, and going at once, carried to Suleiman the hundred
pieces of gold, and the message that he should immediately make another
application to the Governor of Bagdad.
Suleiman was very unwilling to go to the Governor, saying, that to seek
for justice in that quarter was but like fishing in a gutter where a
man could catch nothing, but must lose his time and his bait.
"However," he concluded, "since your friend sends me this money, as you
say for no other purpose, I will carry it to the Governor and bestow it
as he desires."
Directly after the Caliph had despatched the Grand Vizier to Suleiman,
he called an officer and sent him with a message to the Governor of
Bagdad, instructing the officer to observe carefully any applications
which might be made to the Governor for justice, and report the
particulars on his return.
That evening Haroun again disguised himself, and went, with Giafer and
Mesrúr in attendance as before, to visit Suleiman and Mohammed.
On reaching the cottage he demanded of Suleiman how he had fared in his
application to the Governor.
"At first," said Suleiman, "he received me very roughly, but when I
produced the gold he became more civil, and promised to see what he
could do for me. As he has told me the same on each previous occasion,
I do not build many hopes on that promise," said Suleiman, smiling.
"But he was very urgent to find out where I had obtained the money I
gave him, and when I told him that a gentleman whom I had met had lent
me the money, he said—
"'It is well, get from him another hundred, and your case may be
"But, sir," said Suleiman to the Caliph, "I will take no further coin
from you, for the rapacity of the Governor is like a bottomless pit
that would swallow all that you have."
What Suleiman told him agreed perfectly with the report of the officer
whom Haroun had sent to Ali that morning.
"Suleiman," said the Caliph, "I believe you are right; moreover, I
think I can forward your suit better than by sending any more gold
pieces to Ali. To-morrow morning one of my slaves will bring you a
bundle of clothes: dress yourself in them, and in the evening come
boldly to the house of the Governor, and bring with you the ring I now
place upon your finger. When you arrive give the ring to one of the
Governor's officers with this message: The bearer of this ring demands
an audience of the owner of it. Meanwhile here are ten pieces of gold
to relieve you of the necessity of going out fishing till I see you
Suleiman thanked Haroun warmly for his generosity and kindness, and the
Caliph and Giafer returned to the palace.
The following morning the Caliph sent an officer to the Governor of
Bagdad with a message informing him that Haroun would sup with him that
evening. Delighted with such a mark of royal favour and condescension,
Ali ibn Moulk prepared a most sumptuous entertainment; he had a great
tent erected in the garden of his palace, and singing women and dancing
girls in readiness to amuse his august guest.
In the evening Haroun Alraschid arrived in state at the palace of the
Governor, and found the gardens illuminated with thousands of small
lights, and every conceivable preparation made to receive him.
Seated on a splendid divan in the great tent in the garden, the Caliph
listened sometimes to the songs of a number of the best singers of
Bagdad, who were stationed a short distance away and out of sight, and
conversing sometimes with the Grand Vizier, the Governor of Bagdad, and
other great officials who were with him in the tent. After he had been
seated thus for some time, an officer of the Governor's household came
into the tent and said a few words to him in an undertone.
"What is that?" demanded the Caliph. "Officer," said he, "do you not
know that where I am present no message can be brought except to me?"
The officer bowed, and said at once, "A man in the uniform of an
officer of the guard gave me this ring and bade me bring it in and say,
'The bearer of the ring is here, and demands an audience of the owner
The Caliph asked for the ring; then putting it on his finger, he said,
"The ring is mine, admit the man who brought it."
Amidst the silence of all, the officer returned immediately with
Suleiman leaning on his arm, the tall, dignified form of the old
soldier showing to great advantage in the splendid uniform in which he
was now attired.
"Suleiman," said the Caliph, as he entered, "you are welcome."
"Ah," said Suleiman, "my friend, you are here; and you will speak to my
lord the Governor on my behalf."
All present were so much astonished to hear this old blind officer
addressing the Caliph in that frank, bold way as "my friend," that they
knew not what to say.
The Caliph looked at the Governor of Bagdad, who was speechless with
terror, and said fiercely, "You hear this man!"
The officer on whose arm Suleiman was leaning whispered to him
hurriedly, "It is the Caliph; it is Haroun himself."
"Ah," said Suleiman, aloud, "then my cause is safe; I need say no more."
"Ali ibn Moulk," continued the Caliph, in a voice thick with passion,
"Governor of Bagdad, into your hands has been committed the task of
doing justice in this city. What then shall be done to him who denies
justice and who takes bribes; who takes the last coin from the poor and
the oppressed, and yet gives no heed to their petitions for redress?
Allah pay me for it if I permit such iniquity." Then turning to
Mesrúr, who stood behind him, he said, "Take him out."
Mesrúr with his assistants immediately seized Ali, and, taking him out
into the garden, severed his head from his shoulders with one blow of
When the Governor of Bagdad had been taken out of the tent, the Caliph
said, "Bring in now Moussa the Cadi."
Moussa, who had during the evening been arrested by order of the
Caliph, and had been brought to the palace of the Governor of Bagdad,
was now brought in under guard.
Haroun ordered the Cadi at once to make over formally the whole of his
property to his two brothers, Suleiman and Mohammed, the Caliph adding
with his usual grim humour, "As you are a man of the law, it is fit
that you do justice in a legal way." And then added, addressing
Mesrúr, who had just entered, "And now impale him."
Mesrúr immediately advanced towards the Cadi to take him out and
execute the doom pronounced by the Caliph.
But Suleiman said, "He is my brother, the son of my father; let me pray
you at least to spare his life."
Then the Caliph said, "For thy sake, Suleiman, I spare him; let him be
sent to the army in the field and enrolled as a common soldier. Thus,
at any rate," he added, "he may earn an honest living."
"Emir," said the Caliph to Suleiman, in conclusion, "for such is your
rank henceforth, your brother Mohammed has been conveyed by my order in
a litter to your house, and there you will find him duly provided for.
And I desire that you yourself attend me at the palace three times a
week at least, that I may have the benefit of your conversation and
The blind fisherman, now a rich Emir and a prime favourite with the
Caliph, saluted his sovereign and was silent.
The Caliph and Abdurrahman.
When seated in his palace at Bagdad, Haroun Alraschid could look across
the river Tigris, down to which his garden sloped, and could watch the
bustle, the arrival and departure of soldiers, courtiers, and citizens,
which was incessantly taking place in the courtyard of the Grand Vizier's
palace, which was situated opposite to him on the other side of the river.
Sometimes, when he was tired of the occupations and amusements offered by
his own palace and gardens, he would, instead of sending for Giafer to
come to him, mount his horse and proceed to pay an informal visit to the
On one of these occasions, when Haroun was seated in the audience-chamber
of the Grand Vizier's palace, he said, "I have more than once, when on my
way to visit you here, remarked a certain small house and garden situated
near the river, and the walls being low I have while riding past observed
an old man sitting in the garden, whose appearance has attracted my
attention. He is a fine tall man, with a long white beard and a handsome
benevolent cast of countenance, but what has chiefly struck me is the
look of calm and serene cheerfulness and contentment which he always
wears, although he is old, and, judging by the place he lives in, by no
means rich. He interests me, I feel curious to hear the story of his
life, which I do not doubt would contain many strange and noteworthy
incidents, therefore bring him this afternoon with you to my palace that
I may question him and satisfy my curiosity concerning him."
Giafer of course promised to obey the royal command, and accordingly on
the same afternoon when proceeding to the Caliph's palace he called at
the little house which had been indicated to him and asked to see the
owner. The slave who opened the door was greatly surprised and not a
little frightened when he recognized the officer on horseback with his
numerous attendants, who inquired for his master, as no less a personage
than the Grand Vizier himself.
Giafer dismounted, and being shown at once into the little garden,
discovered sitting there placidly enough the venerable form of the old
man of whom the Caliph had spoken.
"Sir," said Giafer, "our master, the Caliph, has ordered me to bring you
with me to-day to the palace, as he wishes to speak with you. I have
therefore brought with me a led horse, so that if it should not be too
fatiguing for you to mount you may ride with me to the palace."
"My lord," said the old man, who was quite unembarrassed, and who was
strong, and stooped but little in spite of his years, "I accept, with
many thanks, your kind offer of a horse, and will accompany you at once
to wait upon the Prince of the Faithful, since he so wills it."
The mounting was somewhat difficult, but when once seated on horseback,
the old man rode so well and with such an aspect of ease and natural
dignity, that he pleased his escort and astonished his neighbours, who
watched his departure, much marvelling for what purpose he had been sent
for to the palace.
On his arrival he was received very graciously by the Caliph, who told
him that he had frequently observed him sitting in his little garden, and
desired that he would relate the particulars of his life and fortune.
"Sire," said the old man, "I have but little to tell your Majesty, and
scarcely anything that deserves your notice; but at your command I will
with pleasure narrate the few noteworthy incidents of my life, and that
as briefly and faithfully as possible."
"My name," said the old man, "is Abdurrahman, and fourscore and three
years ago I was born in this city, not very far from the spot where I now
dwell. My father, who was a merchant, and fairly prosperous, furnished
me, when I was twenty years of age, with a stock of goods with which to
commence to trade, and, as young merchants are wont to do, I departed to
try my fortune in foreign countries.
"The first country I visited was Persia, and arriving at Shiraz, the
capital, I remained for many months engaged in selling, at the best
profit I could obtain for them, the goods I had brought with me from
"At length, having disposed of almost all my stock, I began to consider
what kind of merchandize it would be most advisable that I should buy to
take back with me, and trade with on my return.
"But as I sat one day in the shop of a jeweller of my acquaintance in the
bazaar, a circumstance occurred which at once put to flight all ideas of
an early return to my native land.
"A young lady entered, whose fine apparel and elegant bearing immediately
attracted my attention. Two slaves waited on her, and stopped outside
the shop while she entered.
"Why I should have been especially attracted by this young lady I should
probably have found it difficult at that moment to explain. But my eyes
were no longer under my control, and I thought surely no one ever moved
more gracefully. I was young then, and a young man's imagination, like a
high-mettled steed, soon runs away with him. Yet, being young, and
probably in those days not altogether ill-looking, it is not unlikely
that the lady was, on her side, not at all displeased to observe my very
evident admiration; and taking pity upon me, or rather, I should say,
determined instantly to complete her conquest, she contrived, as though
by accident, to remove her veil for one moment, exposing thus to my
astonished gaze a countenance of the most surpassing beauty.
"After purchasing sundry articles from my friend the jeweller, and giving
them to her slaves to carry home for her, she left the shop, not without
bestowing upon me a parting glance, which penetrated my heart and filled
me with the most delicious and indescribable excitement.
"As soon as she was gone I inquired eagerly of my friend who this
dazzling young beauty was, and whereabouts she lived.
"'She is,' he said, 'the daughter of Mazoudi Khan, a very rich man, who
lives in a fine house not far from the palace of the Shah himself. I
should advise you,' he added, 'to forget as soon as possible that you
have ever seen her, for you know the proverb, "He who lifts his eyes too
high, is apt to fall and break his neck."'
"The advice was no doubt good, but as well might a man in a fever be
advised to keep cool. As well might a man parched with thirst be advised
to shun water and to think no more of it. I had seen her face, the face
of the first beautiful woman it had ever been my lot to behold. I was
twenty-one years of age, and my prudent acquaintance advised me to forget
"My lord, you may guess how I lay awake all that night, and how I
returned as early next day as I decently could to the shop of my friend,
in the ardent, if rash, hope of again meeting the object that now
constantly engrossed me.
"The young lady, who was nowise disposed to avoid me or break my heart,
came to the shop still earlier than on the previous day, and, while
examining some jewels, she listened, without any sign of disapproval, to
the few but passionate words of admiration and love which I ventured to
address to her.
"'Sir,' she answered, 'if I should say that I feel displeased at what you
tell me, it would not be true; but, alas! it is useless for you thus to
address me. My father is about to marry me to a friend of his, who is
very rich and nearly as old as himself.'
"With that the lovely creature shed tears, and presently choosing some
jewels, she went away, leaving me full of grief and distracted with anger
"After this I met her again several times in the same place, and, to my
utmost consternation, learned at length that her marriage with Mirza Aga,
her father's old friend, would take place in a fortnight.
"At first I implored her in my desperation to fly with me from Persia,
and accompany me to my home at Bagdad. But with much good sense she
pointed out that this was impossible; that we should both infallibly be
caught before we could get three parasangs away from Shiraz, and be
brought back to certain death.
"I was altogether at a loss what to do, but finally I bought a large,
old-fashioned house, situated in a very retired and lonely position in
the suburbs of the city, and determined, if possible, to persuade my
charmer to retire with me to that retreat, where I doubted not we might
remain undiscovered until the fury of her father should abate.
"The house I bought was surrounded by a very high wall, and had a large
quadrangle within laid out as a garden, with fruit-trees and fountains of
clear water. I furnished the place handsomely, and bought several slaves
to attend upon us. But, alas! I could find no opportunity to take the
lady thither, she being always accompanied by at least two of her
father's slaves, who jealously guarded her.
"The day fixed for her marriage with the ancient bridegroom having
arrived, I loitered about ready to follow and observe the bridal
procession, being in a state of mingled rage and despair not easy to
"Now among the Persians it is the custom when the wedding-day arrives
that the friends of the bride shall escort her from her home towards the
house of her husband, while he, on his part, comes with his friends to
meet her. As soon as he sees his bride he throws an orange or other
fruit at her, and rides off again towards his house, and whosoever
catches him before he arrives there, is entitled to his horse and clothes
or a ransom in lieu of them.
"The distance which the bridegroom thus advances to meet his bride,
varies in each case according to circumstances.
"The lady Perizadeh, being the daughter of so influential a man as
Mazoudi Khan, it was arranged that Mirza Aga, who was her inferior in
rank, should advance two-thirds of the distance that had to be traversed.
"It thus happened that when the two cavalcades encountered each other,
and the bridegroom, according to custom, threw the orange and rode off,
he had some considerable distance to ride. As your Majesty is aware, the
Persians are to be reckoned among the best horsemen in the world; but
Mirza Aga was no longer young; and whether it were owing to that, or
whether his horse was in fault, I know not, but before he had ridden far,
with all the members of the two parties pursuing him at the top of their
speed, his horse suddenly stumbled, and he was thrown upon his head and
killed on the spot.
"During the scene of confusion which followed, while all were crowding
round the fallen man, to render help or to endeavour to ascertain the
nature and extent of his injuries, the bride was left for the moment
alone and unguarded. Seizing the opportunity, I sprang up behind her on
her horse, and turning at once down a side street, was in a few seconds
out of sight, and reached in safety the house I had bought, and which I
had, as I have said, prepared for our reception.
"As soon as the bride was missed—which, owing to the excitement and
confusion, did not occur immediately—it was of course assumed that she
had, when frightened by the accident, turned round and ridden back again
to her father's house. Mazoudi Khan therefore went home at once to see
and console her; but when he found that she had not returned, he
despatched his whole retinue in different directions, to scour the
country in search of the robbers who had, as he supposed, carried off his
"Even when his followers came back unsuccessful, he still expected
shortly to recover his child, as he entertained no doubt that the bandits
would find means before long to communicate with him respecting her
"Meanwhile, we lived with the utmost privacy in the house I had
purchased, never going outside the walls, or doing anything whatever to
attract attention to us.
"In this way a whole year passed by. A son was born to us, and I named
him Diraz. And the lovely Perizadeh and myself continued as enamoured of
each other, and as happy in each other's society, as we had been at first.
"About a twelvemonth after the day—ever memorable to me—on which I had
effected the capture of the destined bride of the unfortunate Mirza Aga,
I happened to hear that Mazoudi Khan was seriously ill, the loss of his
daughter, whom he tenderly loved, having depressed his spirits to an
"After much debate we determined that Perizadeh, taking her baby with
her, should go to her father and implore his forgiveness for both of us.
I sent her, clad as handsomely as I could afford, with a slave to carry
the baby, and two other slaves to attend upon her; and I waited the
result of the interview between her and her father with no little anxiety.
"I knew that a proud and wealthy man like Mazoudi Khan would have
rejected, with much disdain, a young and unknown merchant like myself,
had I demanded his daughter in marriage; but I hoped now, that the sight
of his child whom he mourned as lost, and of his grandchild—towards whom
a grandfather's heart is always especially open—would soften him, and
cause him to relent. In this I was not disappointed.
"He sent for me, forgave me, welcomed me as his son-in-law, and appointed
us a house near to his own.
"And not long afterwards he obtained for me an official post at the
Persian Court, where I remained happy and contented for the space of
"By that time, both my father-in-law and my lovely Perizadeh had died,
and my son Diraz, now grown a fine young man, was entered as a gholam,
that is, one of the royal body-guard.
"Ten years more passed by uneventfully, and I looked forward confidently
hoping to see my son appointed to the government of a province, or some
other position of dignity and emolument. But, alas! just when this
seemed most certain, an indiscretion, an act of madness on the part of my
unhappy son, brought ruin on us both.
"Among the women at that time in the harem of his Majesty the Shah, was a
very beautiful slave, who had been captured during a war which had been
waged against an infidel nation, whose territory extends beyond the
northern frontier of the Shah's dominions.
"This slave, beautiful as the full moon, Diraz, rash and presumptuous
youth that he was, managed to catch sight of, and immediately he became
desperately, recklessly enamoured of her.
"Forgetting the duty we owed to our master the Shah, and taking advantage
of his official position as gholam shahee, which enabled and authorized
him to travel by post at speed, pressing horses as he went, he managed to
steal the beautiful slave, and got such a start before her loss and his
absence were discovered, that he was not overtaken, but escaped with her
out of the kingdom.
"When the Shah heard of the matter, he very naturally was furious——"
"Very naturally, indeed," said the Caliph, with a grim smile.
"Well, very naturally also," continued Abdurrahman, "his Majesty sent for
me, upbraided me for having such a son, and ordering all that I had to be
confiscated, commanded me to leave his kingdom forthwith, and find and
bring back my son and his slave.
"In great grief I retraced my steps mechanically to my house, but a
gholam, bearing the royal edict, had arrived there before me, and my own
slave repulsed me from my own door.
"I set out, therefore, at once on my journey northwards, travelling not
like my son had done, by relays of the swiftest horses that could be
forced into the service, but slowly and wearily on foot. It took me many
weeks to accomplish the distance he had traversed in a few days; but not
to inflict upon you the tedious incidents of my journey, I will only say
that I arrived at length in that region to which I believed my son had
carried the beautiful slave. Not without considerable risk, on account
of the hatred felt by all the people of that infidel nation, against true
believers, I succeeded in reaching the capital, where I soon learnt on
inquiry, that a gholam of the Shah of Persia had arrived recently,
bringing with him a lady of extreme beauty, who was, it appeared, the
daughter of the king of that country.
"The king had received his daughter, and my son also for her sake, with
every demonstration of joy and satisfaction. And the young people,
married, and very happy, were now living in the royal palace.
"I managed soon to let my son know of my arrival, and he came at once to
the khan where I was staying, and welcomed me with much affectionate
delight; all the more because since his departure from Shiraz he had
begun too late to consider the vengeance with which the incensed Shah
might only too probably visit me in consequence of his misdoing.
"He conducted me forthwith to the palace, and introduced me to my
daughter-in-law, the beautiful slave with whom he had eloped; and also to
his father-in-law, the king of that country, who received me very
graciously, and bestowed upon me, in recompense for the loss I had
sustained, a fine house and a thousand purses of gold.
"The country in which we now were was a mountainous one, and very bleak
and cold in the winter; and my son Diraz had not been there six months
before he took so violent a chill that he died after a few days' illness.
"About a month later the princess, my daughter-in-law, gave birth to a
female child. Nothing now was so dear to me as my little granddaughter,
and when, five years afterwards, both my daughter-in-law and the king her
father were carried off by a fever which was very prevalent and fatal in
that country, I determined to return with my grandchild to my native
city, there to spend my remaining years in peace.
"We journeyed very slowly, stopping for months together in many of the
cities on our way. At length we arrived safely in Bagdad, and settled
down in the little house and garden by the river, where I live in peace
and contentment with my granddaughter as my only companion; she is my
treasure and the brightness of my house."
"The young lady," said the Caliph, "must by this time be old enough to be
married: if I find her a husband will you provide her a dower?"
"Sire," said Abdurrahman, "when I die, and I am now old, what little I
have will be hers, but till then her only dower consists of two small
jars of ointment."
"What jars are those?" asked the Caliph; "and where did you get them?"
"The jars," answered Abdurrahman, "were entrusted to me by my
daughter-in-law just before her death.
"'Preserve them carefully,' she said, 'and unopened, for the ointment
they contain is most precious, and of a rare and even magical efficacy.
When my little girl is old enough for marriage offer them for sale, but
take not less than a thousand pieces of gold for the one jar, and not
less than ten thousand pieces for the other. If no one can be found
willing to pay that price for them do not part with them, keep them
rather, and direct that they be buried with you.'
"I have never yet," continued the old man, "offered the jars of ointment
for sale, and truly it seems so improbable that any one will ever be
inclined to pay so preposterous a price for them, that doubtless they
will be interred with me as the princess, my daughter-in-law, requested."
"By Allah, not so!" said the Caliph; "I will buy them myself. And your
granddaughter, who I take it on your word is a very charming young lady,
I give with her dower of eleven thousand pieces of gold to the son of
The Grand Vizier and Abdurrahman bowed and touched their foreheads in
token of entire submission to the will of the Prince of the Faithful.
The Caliph then dismissed them with the injunction to make preparations
for solemnizing the marriage as soon as possible.
The Caliph and the First Jar of Ointment.
THE CALIPH AND THE EMIR.
A few days after the marriage of Abdurrahman's daughter with the son of
the Grand Vizier, the Caliph ordered his treasurer to bring him the two
jars of ointment which he had bought of Abdurrahman.
When he saw them they were so very small that he could not avoid an
exclamation of surprise.
"By Allah," said Haroun, "but the old man has had a good price!"
Although the jars were both very small, yet they were not of the same
size, one being half as large again as the other.
"And," said Giafer, "I must inform your Majesty that the larger jar is
that which cost a thousand pieces of gold, and the smaller ten thousand
"Hand them to me," said the Caliph, "that I may see them more closely."
Then holding the jars in his hands, he read the inscription on the
larger jar: "The Ointment Marvellous. This jar to be opened by no one
but the purchaser thereof, who will be informed by a writing contained
in the jar of the uses and wonderful properties of the ointment." On
the smaller jar were the words, "Most Marvellous Ointment," and
following those words an inscription precisely similar to that on the
larger jar: "This jar to be opened by no one but the purchaser thereof,
who will be informed by a writing contained in the jar of the uses and
wonderful properties of the ointment."
When he had read the inscriptions on the jars, the Caliph handed back
the smaller jar to the Grand Vizier, and ordered him to return it to
the treasurer to be carefully preserved until he should require it.
Then opening the larger jar, he took out a writing he found immediately
inside. This was folded, and upon the outside was written, "To be read
by the purchaser of the ointment only."
The Caliph therefore opened it and read these words: "Whosoever thou
art who hast bought this small jar of ointment for the price of one
thousand pieces of gold, being as yet ignorant of the power and virtues
of the ointment, rejoice, for thy faith and liberality are not wasted.
Whensoever thou shalt anoint thine eyes with the ointment in this jar,
for the space of three hours afterwards thou shalt see through all
solid substances that lie fifty feet in front of thee as though,
instead of being opaque and dense as stone or brick, they were clear
and translucent as a diamond of the first water. But of this power
tell no man anything, lest thou lose it."
When the Caliph had read these words, he sat some time silent. The
Grand Vizier standing beside him was curious to learn the secret of the
ointment, and wondered at the long silence of his master.
At length the Caliph rose, and placed the jar of ointment with his own
hands in a cabinet which he locked, and of which he himself kept the
Giafer, whose curiosity was fully aroused by the taciturnity of Haroun
on this occasion, could not help asking, "Is your Majesty satisfied or
disappointed with your purchase of the ointment?"
"It remains to be proved," said the Caliph, smiling, "whether the
ointment is as valuable as is asserted. When the proper opportunity
presents itself, I will test it. Meanwhile, Grand Vizier, the proverb
is never to be forgotten, 'The inquisitive are ever in danger.'"
After this Giafer perceived that it would be wiser to say no more.
They then conversed some time on various public questions and State
affairs, and at length, when dismissing Giafer, the Caliph said, "Do
not fail to come at the usual hour this evening that we may wander
disguised through Bagdad, as I have already arranged to do."
Giafer arrived at the palace punctually at the hour appointed by the
Caliph, and, disguised in the habits of merchants, Haroun and his
Vizier sallied forth according to their wont, accompanied only by
Mesrúr, who followed them at a short distance.
Before leaving the palace, Haroun Alraschid, retiring for a few moments
from his attendants, had applied to his eyes some of the ointment out
of the jar he had placed in his cabinet.
On reaching the streets and looking about him, he discovered to his
great joy and contentment that the efficacy of the ointment had been
nowise exaggerated by what was stated in the writing which he had found
within the jar.
Wherever they went he could see, instead of the mere blank outer walls,
the interior of the dwellings, and the inhabitants of every house
employed in any avocation that they might happen at that moment to be
engaged in. In one room he would see three or four men seated
together, the evening meal being finished, and discussing quietly the
occupations of the day or the prospects of the future. In another room
the women of the family would be visible to him, with their faces
uncovered; thought of horror and insult for the men could they but have
guessed it! Here, some were eating sweetmeats, sipping sherbet and
gossiping. There, others were engaged adding to their charms by
staining their eyelids, dyeing their hair, or other adornments of the
toilet which it is not lawful for men to imagine, much less to behold.
The Caliph walked along this evening looking first on this side, then
on that, and appeared so much interested with all he saw that he seemed
altogether oblivious of Giafer's existence, and spoke to him never a
Giafer found the walk rather dull. And the more dull he found it the
more surprised he was at the unusual patience exhibited by the
Commander of the Faithful, who uttered no impatient exclamations, but
whose countenance bore an expression of satisfaction and interest far
enough removed from any kind of irritability or ill-humour.
They had wandered in this way for a long time through many of the
least-frequented and least-interesting thoroughfares of the city, the
Grand Vizier scarcely knowing whether he were more bored by the walk or
astonished at the evident satisfaction of his master, when suddenly the
Caliph stood still, leaning against the wall of a house and staring
intently at the blank wall of the house immediately opposite.
After they had stood thus for some minutes, the Caliph looking fixedly
and with evidently increasing interest and excitement at the dead wall
opposite, Giafer became seriously alarmed, fearing that his master had
either lost his wits or was going to have a fit. He was, in fact, so
much frightened by the extraordinary behaviour of the Caliph, which had
continued all the evening, that he continued to stand beside him and
watch him, himself motionless and speechless.
All at once the Caliph, still gazing intently before him, grasped
Giafer by the arm and whispered to him as though others were present—
"Go, take Mesrúr with you; go round that house, down the turning
yonder, and arrest them as they come out of the gate."
For a moment Giafer, who seriously believed that the Caliph had become
demented, hesitated. But the habit of obedience prevailed, and putting
his hand to his head, the usual sign of implicit devotion to the royal
will, he beckoned Mesrúr, whose figure at a little distance from them
was the only living object visible in the street, and they disappeared
together down the narrow turning which the Caliph had indicated.
We must now explain what it was that caused the Caliph to remain so
long gazing at the house before the outer wall of which he was standing.
As he came along the street he saw in the garden of the house, which
lay immediately behind the high wall in front of him, a sight very
different from any of those which had hitherto been disclosed to him.
Lying on the grass beneath a wide spreading tree in the middle of the
garden was the apparently lifeless form of a very beautiful young lady.
Her clothes were of the finest materials, and her neck, arms, and
ankles were adorned with magnificent jewellery, composed of gold,
diamonds, pearls, and other precious stones. Standing beside her, and
looking down upon her with a disturbed and angry countenance, was an
old man, richly dressed, and evidently the master of the house, whose
face, now distorted with passion, must at all times have worn a fierce
and malevolent expression. After thus standing and watching her for a
few minutes the old man, stooping down, took hold of her hand, as
though to ascertain that she were really dead; and when, as he released
it, the arm fell heavily again to the earth, he again stood
contemplating for some minutes the youthful and lovely figure at his
feet. Presently he clapped his hands, and some slaves appearing, he
gave them some brief directions, on receiving which they went again
into the house, returning shortly with a great empty sack or bag. In
this they placed gently and carefully enough the body of the young
lady, and lifting the sack, carried it between them towards a side gate
opening into a narrow lane that ran down by one side of the walled
enclosure which formed the garden of the mansion.
The Caliph saw the old man point with his finger to this side gate,
evidently bidding them carry forth their burden at that entrance.
It was at this moment that he had grasped the arm of the Grand Vizier,
and had whispered to him the order to proceed at once with Mesrúr and
arrest the men he should find coming along the lane.
Giafer, as we have seen, after a brief hesitation went back to where
Mesrúr was standing, and acquainting him rapidly with the Caliph's
order, they crossed the street and entered the lane as they had been
They had not proceeded many steps down the lane before they met the
slaves bearing the great sack.
Giafer and Mesrúr drawing their swords, demanded sternly what they had
there, and whither they were going.
The slaves, when they saw two men with drawn swords barring the way,
put down their burden quickly and would have fled, but Mesrúr
"Stop, for I will cut down the first man among you that dares stir hand
Then one of the slaves answered and said, "Sirs, we are carrying this
package by order of our master, therefore please to let us pass."
But Giafer said, "Slaves, who is your master? And what have you in
this sack, and whither do you carry it? I command you, in the name of
the Prince of the Faithful, to answer these questions truly."
"Sir," said the slave who had spoken already, "our master is the Emir
Bargash ibn Beynin, who lives in this house at the side of which we are
standing, and he will, if he chooses, tell you what is in the sack and
whither it is going, but we dare not say anything."
The Grand Vizier might probably have returned a very rough answer to
this speech, or even have cut down the slave who uttered it, but at
that moment the Caliph himself entered the lane, accompanied by a guard
of soldiers, who happened to be patrolling the city in that direction,
and whom the Caliph had summoned to his assistance.
Directing some of the soldiers to escort the slaves and their burthen
to the palace, he ordered the officer of the guard with the rest of his
men to enter the house of the Emir, and to conduct him also at once to
the palace. He furthermore strictly charged the officer to permit the
master of the house to hold no communication whatever with any of its
inmates before leaving, and as soon as possible to send a guard to
seize and hold possession of the place until the Caliph's pleasure
should be known concerning it. After giving these orders Haroun
Alraschid returned with Giafer to the palace.
When he had changed his clothes and assumed his seat on the imperial
divan, he commanded the Emir to be brought in before him. Then,
addressing him, he said with a stern expression—
"This evening my officers have stopped and arrested a party of slaves
belonging to your household, who were carrying in a sack the body of a
young lady. They say that they carried it from your house by your
command. Explain to me, therefore, who the lady is, and what your
slaves were ordered to do with her."
The Emir Bargash ibn Beynin, having prostrated himself before the
throne of the Caliph, replied—
"Prince of the Faithful, I hasten according to your command to declare
to you the whole truth concerning the young lady whose body my slaves
were carrying in the sack. That young lady was my niece. She was
Persian by birth, my nephew having married her while staying in that
country, and brought her back with him about a year ago, when he
returned to his native land. For the last three or four months they
have been staying with me in my house in this city. I must here inform
your Majesty, though I say it with sorrow and regret, that my nephew,
who is a man of violent passions, ever treated his young wife with
scandalous severity and harshness. Often, but in vain, I have
remonstrated with him as to his conduct. At length, this evening, when
going into my garden, I found my niece lying there lifeless.
Everywhere I sought my nephew, but could not find him. I was convinced
that he had in some way been the cause of his wife's death, and that he
had fled to escape the consequences of his barbarous act. But, being
myself not a little apprehensive of the danger which might threaten
myself if the dead body were discovered in my house, I confess that I
ordered my slaves to remove it and place it in the river."
The Caliph listened with much attention to the account given him by the
Emir. After the latter had finished his narration, Haroun Alraschid
dismissed him with the injunction immediately to make diligent search
for his nephew, and to arrest him and bring him at once to the palace
as soon as he could find him.
The Caliph being now very tired retired to rest.
Meanwhile the body of the young lady, which had been carried to the
palace, was taken to the women's apartments, the ladies of the harem
being all of them devoured with curiosity to see the fair unknown.
When the body had been taken out of the sack in which it had been
placed, all were astonished at the extreme beauty of the stranger, and
the richness and value of her dress and ornaments. At length one of
the ladies who were gathered together around her declared, after
looking at her attentively and placing her hand over her heart, that
she was convinced that life was not yet extinct. Resorting to all the
remedies of use in cases of prolonged fainting fits, consciousness was
at last restored, and, after partaking of some slight nourishment, the
lovely patient fell into a natural sleep, during which she was watched
with sympathizing eyes by several eager volunteers.
Early next morning, as soon as the Caliph had risen and was dressed,
one of the Chamberlains of the palace acquainted him with the recovery
of the young lady, and that she was now so much better that she was
sitting and conversing with the other ladies in the harem.
The Caliph immediately sent the Chamberlain to announce that his
Majesty was about to pay them a visit. When the Caliph entered the
apartment where she was, the young lady, with all the ladies of the
harem who were sitting with her, rose to receive the Commander of the
Faithful, and prostrated themselves before him.
Bidding them rise, and placing the young lady on the divan near to him,
he inquired after her health; and when she answered that she was much
better, and nearly recovered from her illness of the previous evening,
he told her to relate to him the occasion of the serious and almost
fatal fainting fit into which she had fallen.
"Sire," said the young lady, with tears in her eyes, "all my trouble,
and the fact that I am now here, arises from the vile conduct of a
relative, from whom I had every reason to expect very different
"My father was a wealthy merchant, living at Teheran, and I his only
daughter. He gave me the name of Abadeh, and spared no expense to
render his house and garden—where I lived until I was sixteen years of
age—as bright and charming as it is possible for any young girl to
"Nothing I wished for was denied me; and when one day, while on my way
to the bath, I saw Suliman, the nephew of the Emir Bargash ibn Beynin
of Bagdad, who was visiting Teheran, and could neither rest nor he
happy because I was continually thinking of him, my dear father no
sooner had learned the cause of my disquiet than he arranged a marriage
between us, giving Suliman such a handsome dower with me as made him
think himself a very fortunate young man."
Haroun Alraschid, who was a very polite man among ladies, here
interposed the remark that Suliman had much cause to consider himself
fortunate, irrespective of the dower.
Abadeh, blushing at the Caliph's compliment, continued—
"For a whole year we lived very happily together, when, on the death of
my dear father, my husband, no longer having any inducement to remain
in Persia, determined to return to his native country.
"After a journey marked by no noteworthy incident, we arrived at length
in Bagdad. Hiring a house next to that occupied by my husband's uncle,
the Emir Bargash ibn Beynin, we have resided there now nearly a year,
in the greatest contentment and happiness, and constantly visited by
the Emir, who has always professed to be extremely pleased with our
"Yesterday evening, however, he sent one of his female slaves to bid me
come at once to his house, as Suliman was suddenly taken ill.
"I was just dressed to receive my dear husband, whose return I every
moment expected. I hurried down therefore from my chamber just as I
was, forgetting even in my excitement to throw my yashmak over me, and
crossing the narrow yard between our houses, I entered the Emir's
"He met me in the midst of the garden, and in answer to my eager
inquiry for my husband, he said: 'You cannot see him, it is too late;
he is dead.'
"'Impossible!' I cried; 'it cannot be, take me to him at once. Let me
at least try what can be done for him.'
"Then this Emir—this wicked, this infamous man—took me in his arms,
in spite of my struggles, and kissed me and said: 'Think no more of
Suliman, who is gone, and whom you will not see again. Now you belong
to me—I love you, I have loved you for months, and never more shall we
"As he said these things, and I perceived his villainy, which I had
never even suspected until that moment, and thought how he had possibly
murdered his nephew, of whom he had pretended to be so fond, I fainted
off in the arms of the perfidious wretch, who, finding that I continued
so long insensible, no doubt concluded that I was dead. Indeed, I
remember nothing more until I found myself here in the palace, and most
kindly tended and watched. What has become of my dear husband I know
not; but oh, sir!" said she, falling down before the Caliph, "find him,
find him for me again if it be possible, and punish the Emir as he
"Rise," said the Caliph, "rise, beautiful lady, and be comforted. If
Suliman be alive he shall be restored to you. And whether he be alive
or dead the doom of the Emir is certain."
So saying, he at once went out of the harem, and summoning Giafer, he
said: "Send at once and fetch the Emir Bargash ibn Beynin. And let
some officers go also and bring hither, if they can find him, Suliman,
the nephew of the Emir, who lived in the next house to him."
An hour afterwards the officers returned, and reported that they could
find neither the Emir nor, his nephew. The former, taking some of his
slaves with him, had left his home about an hour before the arrival of
the officers sent to arrest him, and no one knew whither he had gone.
While as for his nephew, Suliman, he had left home on the previous day,
and had not since been heard of.
When this account was brought to the Caliph, he was furious.
"Go," said he, to the Grand Vizier, "destroy the house of that vile
scoundrel, the Emir Bargash ibn Beynin; leave of it not one stick or
stone upon another. And bring me both the Emir and his nephew—dead or
alive I will have them. Two days I give you to seek them, and if you
fail to find them, by Allah, your head shall not remain above your
Giafer trembled at the rage of his master, and went forth out of the
palace knowing no more where to look for the Emir and his nephew than
did the Caliph himself.
At first he said to himself, "I may as well go home to my own house and
set my affairs in order, for in two days I must die, for how can I find
in this great kingdom the two men I am in search of? I might as well
seek in a sand-heap two particular grains of sand."
However, as he rode along very slowly and moodily, it suddenly occurred
to him—"It is at least my duty to do at once that part of the Caliph's
order which is feasible." Therefore, sending for the proper workmen,
he proceeded immediately to the Emir's house, and superintended its
After some hours' work the house was pulled down, and there remained
only some small portion of a very thick wall, which separated the house
from some out-buildings. While proceeding with the destruction of
this, the workmen came upon a doorway or opening, which had but
recently been bricked up, the cement being still damp; and when they
had removed this, they discovered a small cell or chamber situated in
the thickness of the wall, in which was seated a living man.
He, being brought to the Grand Vizier, declared that he was Suliman,
the nephew of the Emir, and said that his uncle—for what cause he knew
not—had barbarously caused him to be seized and buried alive where
they had found him. He begged that he might be allowed at once to
return to his own house, where his wife would be anxiously expecting
The Grand Vizier, overjoyed to have thus secured one at least of those
whom he had been commanded to apprehend, would not lose sight of him
for one moment, but carried him forthwith to the palace.
The Caliph was considerably mollified by the production of Suliman, in
whose fate the narrative of Abadeh had so much interested him. He
listened with rising indignation to the account Suliman gave of the
behaviour of his uncle towards him, and once more ordering the Grand
Vizier to find and arrest the Emir, he commanded the Grand Chamberlain
to conduct Suliman to the apartment occupied by Abadeh.
That faithful wife was sitting disconsolate, scarcely daring to hope
again to behold her husband, when the Grand Chamberlain, coming softly
to the door, ushered in Suliman himself.
We will not attempt to intrude upon the transports of this happy pair
in again rejoining each other. At length Suliman learnt from the lips
of his wife the motive and object of his inhuman and treacherous uncle,
in causing him to be immured in that fatal cell, from which he had been
so marvellously released.
But while Suliman and Abadeh were thus discussing the conduct and
perfidy of the Emir, the unhappy Grand Vizier had to resume the
difficult and hazardous task of discovering his hiding-place. Two
circumstances served to encourage him, and to make the execution of the
Caliph's order seem somewhat less difficult than it had at first sight
appeared. The first circumstance was the wonderful way in which
Suliman had been delivered, as it were, into his hands, in the most
strange and altogether unexpected manner; and the second circumstance
was the fact of the Emir having taken certain slaves away with him. He
had no doubt taken away those slaves who had been employed to immure
his unfortunate nephew, and with the object of leaving no one who could
throw any light on the fate of his victim. Why he had fled was not so
clear, but probably some whisper of the resuscitation of his niece at
the palace had come to his ears.
Cogitating these things the Grand Vizier returned to his palace, and
immediately gave orders that the public criers should make proclamation
in every part of the city, that a reward would be given to any one
giving information leading to the capture of the Emir Bargash ibn
Beynin, namely, two thousand pieces of gold if he were taken alive, and
one thousand pieces on the recovery of his body if he were dead.
The next morning, soon after the Grand Vizier had risen, one of his
officers came to him and said, "There is a man whom we found very early
this morning at the Gate, who desires to speak with your Highness."
The Grand Vizier, divining at once that it might be one of the slaves
of the Emir, said, "Bring him in."
When the man was brought in, he prostrated himself before the Grand
Vizier, and said—
"I can tell your Highness where the Emir Bargash ibn Beynin has gone,
but promise me first that no harm shall be done me."
"Cursed slave!" cried the Grand Vizier, in the utmost excitement,
"inform me instantly where that villain your master is to be found, or
by the life of the Caliph I will have you impaled upon the spot."
"My lord," answered the slave, terrified by the impetuosity and threats
of the Grand Vizier, "have patience and hear me. Yesterday morning my
master took me and three other slaves of his, and going to a khan in a
remote part of the city he ordered us to lie down and sleep, or at any
rate keep quiet till he called us. During the day he assumed the garb
of a merchant, and we heard him arrange with some other merchants, whom
he met at the khan, to leave with them very early this morning in a
caravan, which sets out with the intention of proceeding towards
Persia. Yesterday evening I heard the crier proclaim the reward that
you offer for the capture of my master, and therefore during the night
I made my escape, and came here. But again I implore you——"
"No more," said the Grand Vizier, interrupting him; "if the Emir
escapes your life shall answer it, but if he is captured you shall have
the reward, and free pardon for your crimes, be they what they may."
Then calling an officer he ordered him to take a score of horsemen,
mounted on the swiftest steeds to be found in his stables, and bring
back the master of this slave, and the other slaves that were with him.
The officer bowed and immediately departed, taking with him the slave,
in order to be able more certainly to identify the man wanted by the
It was not long before the small and well-mounted body of cavalry
overtook the caravan, which necessarily travelled very slowly. As soon
as the Emir observed them approaching he guessed that they had been
sent to apprehend him, and putting spurs to his horse, he attempted to
seek safety in flight. The cavalry came on like the wind, the few
foremost horsemen passed the caravan safely, but the others getting
mixed up with the camels and asses, composing the train of the caravan,
who straggled in all directions, being frightened by the noise of the
pursuers, a scene of inextricable confusion for some time ensued.
Meanwhile the Emir, who was mounted on a powerful horse, which was
fresh, while those of the soldiers were already considerably blown,
kept the lead easily, and appeared to have every chance of distancing
his pursuers altogether, and effecting his escape, when the Vizier's
officer, reining in his horse, discharged an arrow, aimed so accurately
that the Emir's horse was wounded. This changed the relative
conditions, and before long the Emir, finding that his horse was
disabled and could do no more, dismounted, and putting his back against
a tree, drew his sword, and prepared to offer stubborn resistance. All
his efforts were however in vain; being overpowered by numbers, he was
seized and disarmed, but not before he had managed to inflict severe
wounds upon two of his assailants.
Having bound him, they returned slowly to the spot where they had left
the caravan. This was being gradually restored to order, and the
officer collecting his men and securing the slaves and goods belonging
to the Emir, left the caravan to proceed again on its way, and hastened
back with his prisoner to Bagdad.
Directly the Grand Vizier was informed by a soldier, who was sent on in
advance of the party, of the capture of the Emir, he went out at once
to meet him, and conducted him straightway to the palace of the Caliph.
At the moment of the Grand Vizier's arrival, Haroun Alraschid was
seated on his throne in the splendid chamber of audience, holding a
public reception of the Imaums, Viziers, Emirs, Governors of Provinces,
and other great functionaries of his kingdom.
When the Grand Vizier announced to the Caliph that the Emir Bargash ibn
Beynin was a prisoner, and awaited under guard the commands of his
Majesty, Haroun Alraschid, looking round the audience-chamber with a
stern expression of countenance, said, "Let the Emir be conducted into
And when the Emir, preceded by the Marshal of the Palace and guarded by
ten soldiers, entered the magnificent apartment, and stood before his
sovereign in the midst of that illustrious assemblage, the Caliph thus
"Emir! three times over you have forfeited the life whose opportunities
you have abused and the station whose fair name and dignity you have
disgraced. You have coveted and attempted to take the wife of your
neighbour, and that neighbour a near relative of your own, whom you
were bound in honour to cherish and protect. You have attempted to
take the life of your nephew, and that in the most atrocious and
cold-blooded way. And, finally, you have lied to me, and attempted to
deceive your sovereign and the Head of your Faith. Now, therefore, in
the face of this assembly I pronounce upon you my sentence. Your
honours and your goods are forfeited, and I bestow them upon Suliman,
your nephew, against whom you have acted so basely. For yourself,
three times shall you ride through Bagdad with your face to the tail of
the camel, while the criers make this announcement, 'Behold the reward
of an assassin,' and after the third journey they shall smite off your
The Caliph then gave Mesrúr the usual sign to remove the prisoner.
After being paraded three times through the streets of Bagdad in the
manner the Caliph had ordained, the executioner struck off his head,
and thus perished that vile and infamous miscreant, the Emir Bargash
The Caliph and the First Jar of Ointment
THE CALIPH AND ABOU HASSAN.
One evening not long after the execution of the Emir, Haroun Alraschid,
when about to indulge in one of his nocturnal rambles, determined again
to make trial of the marvellous properties of his magical ointment.
Before sallying forth, therefore, with Giafer, always his faithful
companion in these adventures, he retired privately to his cabinet and
anointed his eyes with a small portion of the contents of the little
Once more on passing through the streets of his capital the interior of
the houses and the occupations and amusements of his subjects were
revealed to him. In some houses he saw feasting and merriment, in some
mourning and death. In the dwellings of the rich there was to be seen
fine clothes and jewellery, in the hovels of the poor squalor and rags.
And so constantly varied and animated were the scenes which by virtue
of the ointment he was enabled to observe, that he walked on for more
than an hour without experiencing either fatigue or weariness.
At length, as he was passing a certain mean-looking house in one of the
less important thoroughfares, his attention was attracted to a scene
which caused him to stop before the house; and, resting in the
obscurity of a great recessed doorway on the opposite side of the way,
to observe with much interest what took place in the room before him.
It was a large room, and but dimly lighted by a single oil lamp placed
upon the table. A great number of packages were lying in a confused
heap on one side of the room; and on a raised divan near to the table
and facing the door of the apartment sat an old man of no very inviting
appearance. About his head he wore an old turban, not very clean and
put on in a careless and slovenly manner. His eyes were shielded and
concealed by a large green shade, as though the light even of the one
oil lamp were too strong for him. His clothes were plain, but much
better than his head-gear; his form seemed slight and wiry, and Haroun
noticed that his hands, which were small and plump, were adorned with
several very handsome and valuable rings.
Between this large room occupied by the figure just described and the
door in the wall of the house was a small ante-room or lobby, in which
was seated on the bare floor a little ill-looking hump-backed slave,
whom the Caliph, whose memory for faces was remarkable, immediately
recognized as a mute who had been under the orders of Mesrúr, and who,
in consequence, it was supposed, of some punishment inflicted upon him,
had fled from the palace some months previously. The sight of this
slave caused Haroun to be additionally curious to learn what might be
the business of his present master. The occupation of the mute was
obvious. He sat in the lobby at the door of the house ready to open it
for any one who might wish to enter.
The Caliph had but few moments to wait before the figure of a man
carrying a small bundle crept stealthily up the street and stood at the
door. Pressing what looked like the head of a large bolt on the
surface of the door, a piece of wood on the inside was slightly raised.
On this sign the mute rose, and opening the door just sufficiently wide
to allow the man to enter, he closed it quickly, and immediately led
the way into the large room where the old man sat by the lamp. The
new-comer placed his bundle on the table, and having opened and
displayed its contents, which consisted of some jewellery and some
pieces of fine cloth, he packed it up again and deposited it with the
other packages upon the floor.
The old man, who had sat quite motionless, and whose lips did not once
move, proceeded to count out certain coins on to the table; these the
other took, also apparently in silence, and forthwith departed, leaving
the house and passing down the street in the same stealthy and furtive
manner in which he had arrived.
The Caliph and Giafer remained some time concealed thus in the black
shadow of the doorway where they were standing; Giafer being half
asleep, and supposing his master to be resting where they were simply
because he was tired. The Caliph, however, was watching the
proceedings of the old man and his slave. One after another half a
dozen visitors arrived, were admitted on giving the same signal, showed
the contents of their several bundles, deposited them on the same heap,
were paid in silence by the old man, and thereupon went their way.
There was no departure from the uniformity of this procedure, excepting
that when any one arrived and gave the signal while another was still
occupied with the old man, the mute took no notice whatever of the
signal, and in every case the man wishing to enter seemed at once to
understand why his signal remained unanswered, and waited patiently
until the door was opened for the other to depart.
The Caliph, who had at first been somewhat puzzled by the strangely
conducted traffic which he here observed, had guessed before long that
the actual business of this disreputable old merchant was that of
purchasing from the thieves, which always infest a large town, whatever
plunder they might have to dispose of.
There was no haggling as to price. The terms on which the transaction
was based were evidently very simple. The thief displayed his wares;
the old man paid him what he chose, and clearly the thief, whose market
for his ill-gotten goods was likely to be very limited, was satisfied
to accept what the buyer chose to award.
The Caliph was not ill-pleased to have discovered the nefarious trade
which was being here carried on, and determined to have the house
closely watched in future, in the hope of thus noting and securing a
great number of the most expert and artful thieves in Bagdad.
As he moved out of the obscurity of the doorway revolving these things
in his mind, a ragged and decrepit beggar, who had just dragged himself
with slow and weary steps to this spot, begged an alms in the
professional whine common to his class. The Caliph gave him a small
piece of silver, and then watched him as he crossed the road and
entered a dilapidated and wretched hovel, which stood close by the
outer wall of the house of the dealer in stolen goods.
The inside of the hovel consisted of one small room, containing no
furniture of any kind but a litter of rags in one corner, which
evidently served the old beggar as a bed.
The old man, when he had entered and lighted his lamp, pushed some of
these rags aside with trembling hands, and raising a piece of the dirty
and half-rotten flooring, he produced a stout and rather heavy hag.
Out of this he took in succession several smaller hags, each evidently
full of money; and having pleased himself with handling and gloating
over his treasure, he added the coin which the Caliph had just given
him, together with several others, the produce of that day's exertion,
to the contents of one of the bags, and then carefully replaced the
whole in its hiding-place, and covering the board again with the rags,
lay down to sleep.
Three hours had now elapsed since the Caliph had anointed his eyes with
the magical ointment, and the increased power of vision it conferred
upon him began rapidly to vanish. Therefore he turned to go back to
the palace, laughing within himself as he thought, "Thieves, beggars,
and misers, a goodly company have I become acquainted with to-night!"
The streets were now silent and deserted, and all honest people were
already in bed and asleep. But he had not proceeded far before he came
to a door which was partly open, and through which he could see across
a courtyard a great house brightly lighted, and could hear the voices
of the guests within very merrily laughing and conversing. Moreover, a
very delicious aroma of cooking assailed his nostrils, and reminded him
that he was both hungry and tired. Bidding Giafer knock at the door,
he told the slave who appeared to go to his master and say that two
merchants, strangers in the town, and who had lost their way, craved to
be partakers of his hospitality.
Returning shortly, the slave conducted them across the courtyard, and
ushered them into a room handsomely furnished and brilliantly lighted,
in which ten young men were seated, all very merry and evidently
enjoying a plentiful supper, which they washed down with good wine.
One of the ten, evidently the host, a young man with finely formed
features and black eyes, bright and piercing, addressed the Caliph and
Giafer as they entered.
"Merchants and strangers," said he, "you are welcome to our party. Be
seated, I pray you, and by your diligence in eating and drinking,
endeavour to make up for the time you have lost."
Then the company having saluted them, and they having saluted the
company, by placing their hands across the breast and bowing the head
in the customary manner, the Caliph and Grand Vizier sat down, and the
slaves who waited continued from time to time to bring them plenty both
to eat and to drink.
When the slave who attended on the Caliph had set a handsome goblet of
silver before him and had filled it with wine, the Caliph raised the
goblet, and said—
"We thank you, gentlemen, and you, sir, especially, who are master of
this house, for the welcome you have given us, and your kindness in
admitting us to be partakers of your feast. And we beg that you will
continue that merry conversation in which we heard you engaged when we
ventured to interrupt you and to intrude on your agreeable society."
"Gentlemen," said the host, whose name was Abou Hassan, "you must know
that during several evenings on which the present pleasant company have
previously assembled, we have entertained each other by a relation of
such parts of the history of each of us as the narrators have judged
might prove interesting. Just before you entered the eighth of our
party had finished an account of his experiences, which gave rise to
the merry discussion which you heard. There now remain but two of us,
Murad Essed and myself, who owe our stories to the company, and I will,
therefore, by your leave, at once invite Murad to begin."
THE STORY OF MURAD ESSED, THE UNFORTUNATE MERCHANT.
The young man addressed as Murad, and who wore a frank and jovial
expression of countenance, began as follows:
"It gives me much pleasure to relate to this good company those
vicissitudes and misfortunes which have earned for me the designation
of 'The Unfortunate Merchant,' because we shall then be favoured with
an account of the history of our host, who has lately been known as
'The Fortunate Merchant.' His good fortune and his great wealth are
indeed surprising, and are no more due to the inheritance bequeathed to
him by his ancestors than my poverty is owing to what was bequeathed to
me by mine. So far is that from being the case, that on the death of
my father, who was one of the leading merchants of Bagdad, I found
myself the possessor of an immense fortune. It was so large and I was
so young and inexperienced that I imagined that it could never be
exhausted. I bought a grand house, with fine rooms and wide gardens.
Ah! my dear Abou Hassan, this very house where we now are was the
house. I fitted it with all kinds of handsome and luxurious furniture.
I bought slaves to wait on me, and in my harem; ah! gentlemen, in our
dreams we picture nothing better. The Caliph himself might have envied
"Well, gentlemen, for two years I lived like a Sultan. I denied myself
nothing, and never gave one thought to the expense. At length, one day
after completing the sale of a large quantity of merchandize, which had
been stored in his warehouses by my father, I was induced to consider
the state of my affairs, and I found that in these two years I had
expended the half of my fortune.
"This caused me to reflect seriously on my situation and mode of life.
At this rate, what with women, wine, and gambling, I should soon have
"I determined to reform. I sold a number of my slaves; I reduced my
establishment; I became very economical; I gave my little wine parties,
as some of you may remember, only once a week instead of every evening.
"But, besides effecting these little alterations, what I principally
did was this: I divided my remaining fortune into two equal parts.
With the one half I proposed to embark in trade, while I retained the
other half to live upon and to provide against accidents.
"Well, the money I devoted to trade I invested in such sorts of
merchandize as I judged to be most suitable, and shipping them in a
vessel bound for Egypt, I sent with them a letter to an old friend of
my father, a merchant living there, asking him to dispose of the goods
to the best advantage, and forward to me in return, by the same vessel,
such kinds of produce as he thought would prove most saleable in Bagdad.
"Six months passed and I had no tidings of my venture. A year elapsed,
and still I heard nothing of it. But, in fine, and not to weary you,
having written by another vessel to inquire of my friend, I learnt at
length that my goods had arrived safely and had been sold to realize a
considerable profit, and that other goods had been shipped to me in
return, but the vessel bringing them has never more been heard of, and
whether she foundered or was captured by pirates I know not.
"Thus I had spent and lost three-quarters of the fortune left to me by
my father, and the remaining fourth was rapidly diminishing under the
pressure of current expenses.
"It was at this time, when walking along one day very moodily and in
ill-humour, lamenting my extravagance and losses, and cogitating how I
might with the small remainder of my capital retrieve my position, that
I was accosted by a Seyed Hajji.
"'Sir,' said he, 'I have for many months past often observed you as you
walked this way, and during all that time your countenance has been
unclouded and merry, but the past few days a great change has come over
you, and you walk with downcast eyes, melancholy and preoccupied. If
you will tell me what is the trouble that has befallen you, perhaps it
may be in my power to render you some assistance.'
"'Holy pilgrim,' said I, laughing, for I was amused by the man's
impertinent curiosity respecting my affairs, 'the trouble that has
befallen me is very serious, being no other than the loss of the
greater part of my fortune. If you can show me the way of so employing
the remainder as to regain what is lost, you are indeed the prince of
Hajjis, and such an one as a man can expect to meet with but seldom.'
"'My son,' said he, 'I pardon your incredulity, which is very natural.
But you should reflect that youth knows less than age; and moreover,
that a man like myself who has three times made the pilgrimage to the
Holy Cities and to the Tomb of the Prophet, may have learnt some
secrets which are hidden from those who have remained at home, and who
have spent their time in dissipation and drinking.'
"'Holy pilgrim,' I answered, somewhat abashed, 'what you say is very
true. Therefore, if you know of any magic or charm by which a man who
is nearly ruined may retrieve his fortune, I pray you to disclose it.'
"'Gently, my son,' said the Hajji, 'the impulsiveness of youth hurries
you too fast. I can tell you no more here in the open bazaar; but come
to my house and you shall hear of a way of getting gold which will
fairly astonish you.'
"I went, therefore, with the old man, and after passing through the
worst part of the town, and along many narrow and dirty lanes, we came
at length to a mean and ruinous hovel, into which the Hajji entered.
"When I looked round and saw the extreme poverty of the place, I could
not help observing to my companion, that for one possessed of a
marvellous method of getting gold, this lodging appeared somewhat
"'Do not,' said he, 'jump hastily to conclusions. Listen patiently to
what I have to tell you, and this and much else will be explained.'
"Then taking a small flask from a shelf, he held it up before me, and
exclaimed, 'Behold the magic water of wealth, by means of which palaces
and slaves, and fair ladies, and all that man longs for may be
"Then, in a more sober tone, he continued, 'Look, my son, the virtue of
the water contained in this flask is such that any metal steeped in it
is quickly converted into gold. Of this,' he said, 'I will give you
speedy proof.' And so saying, he took a small piece of lead about two
ounces in weight, and holding the flask which contained only a small
quantity of liquid, at an angle, he slipped the lead in carefully, and
setting the flask in a corner and covering it with a cloth to, exclude
the light, he left it thus for about ten minutes, to allow the liquid
to permeate the mass, and effect the marvellous transformation.
"Then uncovering the flask, he showed that the liquid had entirely
disappeared, and in place of the lump of lead was a lump of pure gold
of equal magnitude.
"I was, of course, greatly delighted with this easy process of
converting lead into gold, and I demanded eagerly of the Hajji how much
of this liquid he possessed, and what he demanded for it.
"'My son,' said he, smiling, 'you are truly very simple. If I had
plenty of this magic water, why should I live in the poor place in
which you find me? Or why, if I had it, should I part with it for less
than its weight in gold—which, indeed, is less than the worth of it?
No; I have never had more than what was contained in this one small
flask, and the last drop of that I have, as you see, now made use of.
But although I have no more of the water, I have a secret of almost
equal value. I know where the water came from, and whence it may be
obtained. It springs from the bowels of the earth, in a sterile and
uninhabited country more than a hundred days' journey from Bagdad. To
get there will be both difficult and costly, as one must pass through
the territory of a race of Infidels whom one must bribe freely in order
to ensure one's safety. The question is, Dare you attempt it, and will
you furnish the money for the enterprise?'
"I reflected some time on this proposition, and, finally, seeing no
better way of recruiting my shattered fortune, I determined to
accompany the Hajji to the country of the fountain of the water of gold.
"In order to raise the funds necessary for this expedition, I sold all
that I had; the remainder of my merchandize, my slaves, my furniture,
and my house. By this means I obtained a sum amounting to four
thousand pieces of gold; and, taking with us only a few camels laden
with water-skins to hold the magic water, and two slaves bought by the
Hajji, we set out on our journey.
"For three days we pursued our way without incident, and on the evening
of the third day after partaking of a good meal and some wine we had
brought with us, which the Hajji, owing to his sacred character, would
not touch, I laid down under some trees near which our horses and
camels were picketed, and slept very soundly. So long did I sleep that
when I awoke the sun was high in the heaven. The day was very hot, and
the place was very quiet; for looking round I could see nothing of my
Seyed Hajji, of the slaves, the horses, or the camels. All had
disappeared, and with them had gone my money also.
"Thus, by the will of Allah, was I reduced to the utmost poverty.
"I made my way back to Bagdad slowly and suffering much hardship. But,
thanks to the goodness of Allah, and to my friend Abou Hassan and some
others, I lack neither good fellowship nor good living, and although I
am styled the unfortunate merchant, I contrive to laugh and be merry in
spite of fate, and shall listen with pleasure and without envy to the
very different career of Abou Hassan, the fortunate merchant, and our
THE STORY OF ABOU HASSAN, THE FORTUNATE MERCHANT.
When Murad Essed had finished speaking all eyes were fixed upon Abou
Hassan, who said: "We have all listened with interest to the story of
our friend Murad Essed, showing how a rich man may become poor; I have
now in my turn to show you, by a relation of my own experience, how a
poor man may become rich.
"But in telling you my history, I should weary you if I were to recall
all the particulars of my early struggles. It will be sufficient to
say that of all that I now possess I inherited nothing, and that only
seven years ago I was as badly off as Murad Essed is at present. About
that time I became acquainted with an old merchant who imparted to me
the secret of the success I have since then obtained. This secret, you
will be perhaps somewhat disappointed to learn, consists neither in a
charm nor in any kind of magical art or sorcery. It is comprised
simply in a particular mode of dealing, and one, in fact, completely
opposed to that which is in general use.
"You know that it is the common habit of merchants when they buy
anything to offer much less for it, and when they sell anything to ask
more for it than the price which they think it is worth. And only
after a long time spent in haggling and bargaining, they conclude their
"But by the advice of my old friend, the merchant, I adopted, and have
constantly adhered to, a totally different plan. When I buy anything I
name what I consider to be a fair price for it; the seller either
accepts my offer at once and without discussion, or refuses. No man
ever refuses the price I offer more than once, because it is my rule
never to deal again with a man who has once refused to deal at my
price. In like manner, when I sell anything, I fix the price I will
accept and rather destroy the goods than part with them for any other
price than that I have put upon them.
"This is the whole secret of my success. My story is, you see, a very
brief one; the origin of my fortune appears very simple when I discover
it to you; but that the plan, simple as it may seem, has its merits,
you may convince yourselves by looking round you."
Abou Hassan, as he said this, waved his hand, indicating the handsome
room in which they were sitting, and beyond it, seen through the gilded
arches at the end of the apartment, the garden outside, where the moon,
which had now risen, was illuminating with its enchanting light the
trees, whose branches were heavy with various fruits, the fountains
splashing into their marble basins, and, finally, in the distance, a
group of girls of marvellous beauty who had just entered the garden
dancing and singing.
"Behold," said he, rising, "the nymphs of paradise beckon us from the
banquet and the wine bowl to other pleasures."
But the Caliph, when Abou Hassan and his other guests had risen from
the banqueting-hall to go into the garden, sat lost in reverie.
As Abou Hassan had waved his hand to direct the attention of his guests
to the splendid results of his new system of trading and his
magnificent surroundings it flashed upon the mind of the Caliph that he
had seen that hand before. The shapely fingers, and the rings
containing many precious stones of unusual size and beauty, recalled to
him irresistibly the hands of the old man with his face shielded by the
huge green shade over his eyes, whom he had been watching earlier in
So Abou Hassan, the Fortunate Merchant, the young and sparkling host of
this gay party, was identical with the villainous purchaser of stolen
goods, whose base pursuits the ointment had revealed to him. The new
plan of naming one price and taking no other had been practised only
with those who feared justice and practised robbery.
The Caliph, absorbed in these thoughts, observed nothing that was going
on about him until Abou Hassan approached him, and, addressing him,
personally requested him to rise and accompany himself and his friends
into the garden.
Then the Caliph, rising and thanking Abou Hassan for his hospitality,
declared that now the moon was up he must pursue his journey, and,
taking leave together with Giafer, he left the house of the Fortunate
Merchant and returned immediately to the palace.
The next evening, being desirous to continue his observation of the
prosperous though illicit trade of the Fortunate Merchant, the Caliph
stationed himself as before with Giafer in the dark recess of the
arched gateway opposite the room to which the thieves resorted.
At first the room was empty. A number of parcels still lay strewn upon
the floor; the table was there, and the lamp stood upon it, burning
with a small and dim flame that lighted the place badly, but the
mysterious and silent figure with his slovenly turban, great green
shade over the eyes, and with the small hands and bejewelled fingers,
was absent. The Caliph could see the misshapen mute lying in the
ante-room perfectly motionless and taking not the slightest notice of
the usual signal given two or three times by men who came furtively to
the door desiring to enter.
At length, just as the Caliph was beginning to speculate whether the
man could possibly have become suspicious and have effected his escape,
Abou Hassan came quickly along the street, hastening evidently to the
house where he was to assume his disguise and enter on his business.
As he arrived almost exactly opposite to the spot where Haroun and
Giafer were standing in the obscurity of the great gateway, there
approached from the right or opposite direction that same old beggar
and miser who had accosted the Caliph on the previous evening. On
perceiving some one before him he began immediately to solicit alms in
the whining tone common to his class.
"An old man," he said, "a very old man, my lord, ragged, hungry,
Abou Hassan, as he heard the voice, exclaimed—
"What! is it thou, my father? How often have I entreated thee to
accept a provision for thine age which I can so well spare?"
"Speak no more of it, my son," said the old man with vehemence and in
quite another tone of voice to that he had employed before. "I knew
thee not, or would have asked nothing of thee, and will accept nothing
from thee. From the hands of him whose lips are stained with wine, who
has spurned the precepts of the Prophet and forgotten the lessons of
his youth, I will accept no favour, and will give to him no blessing."
"Go, then, old precisian!" exclaimed Abou Hassan, fiercely; "cling to
disgrace, and practise beggary; and yet, remember, one word can change
your state, banish poverty, and summon plenty."
The old man proceeded on his way, muttering inaudibly, and Abou Hassan
stood watching his retreating figure.
After a few moments of apparent indecision he followed the old man.
When the latter entered the miserable hovel in which the Caliph had
observed him on the previous evening, Abou Hassan, after a short pause,
pushed open the door and entered also.
Haroun, who was curious to learn what passed between the beggar and his
son, followed Abou Hassan along the street, and with Giafer and Mesrúr
entered the house immediately after him.
The old man, who was rather deaf, had not heard his son enter. And
when the Caliph and his two companions followed noiselessly and stood
in the deep shadow of the entry, they saw the old man kneeling on the
floor, and holding in his trembling hands the bag containing his little
hoard, to which he was adding some small coins received that day. Abou
Hassan stood looking down upon him with an expression of contemptuous
After gazing silently for a few moments at the kneeling figure he
exclaimed, "So, so, the beggar therefore plays the miser also! You
spurn my offers, and, refusing gold and ease and leisure, hug that poor
bag of worthless copper in this filthy den."
So saying, he kicked contemptuously the bag which the old man,
terrified at the apparition of his son, still held in his hand, and its
contents were thrown upon the floor.
At this the old man gave a loud yell, and calling out "Thieves,
thieves, they are robbing me! they are robbing me!" began to scramble
about after the scattered coins.
Abou Hassan, springing upon him and whispering fiercely, "Villain!
wretch! who is robbing thee? Wouldst thou bring the neighbours upon
me?" pulled out a dagger, and would in his fury have stabbed his father
had not the Caliph at that instant made a sign to Mesrúr, who seized
his arm and held him fast. But Abou Hassan, who was a young and very
vigorous man, struggled violently, and, managing for one moment to free
his right arm, he stabbed himself to the heart.
Thus perished the Fortunate Merchant, closing, as so many do, a life of
crime by a death of violence.
The next day the Caliph ordered Abou Hassan's house and all that he had
possessed to be confiscated. The house and gardens, which were
exceedingly magnificent, he retained for his own occasional use, while
the immense quantities of valuable goods stored in the warehouses
belonging to Abou Hassan he ordered to be sold, and the proceeds to be
distributed, one half to the mosques of the city, and the other half to
Upon the old beggar and miser, who steadfastly refused to take any part
of his son's great wealth, the Caliph conferred a small pension,
sufficient to provide for the few wants of one so long accustomed to a
life of hardship. Indeed, so strong is the force of habit, that at his
death, a few years later, he was found to have saved a considerable
portion even of this small annuity.
The Caliph and the Second Jar of Ointment
Finding that but little of the ointment was left in the first and
larger of the two jars which he had purchased of Abdurrahman, Haroun
Alraschid put it away in his cabinet, determining to use no more of it
until some occasion of pressing need should arise. And sending for his
treasurer he commanded him to produce the second and smaller of the two
jars, that he might open it and ascertain the virtue possessed by the
ointment in that jar.
As in the case of the former jar, he found immediately within the
second jar when he opened it a narrow strip of parchment, on which was
"Hail to thee, purchaser of this ointment most marvellous and magical!
Rub but a little of it behind each of thine ears and thou shalt
forthwith understand the language of all birds and beasts, even as
Solomon, the great king and the wisest of men, understood them.
Nevertheless, at the first word of human speech that thou utterest
after thou hast applied the ointment the power of understanding the
speech of birds and of beasts shall depart from thee. For so it is
decreed by the maker of the ointment according to the nature of the
magical art in conformity with which it is compounded."
When the Caliph had read these words and reflected how small a quantity
of ointment the little jar contained, and how precarious was the power
it conferred, liable as it was to be extinguished at any moment by a
hasty word, he determined to refrain from testing it until a suitable
occasion should present itself. Placing it therefore in a small chest
or coffer, he entrusted it to a certain slave, whom he ordered to carry
it carefully and be in attendance with it at all times, so that
whenever the opportunity of making trial of its virtue should arrive
the ointment might be at hand and in readiness.
About this time it happened that Zobeideh, Haroun's favourite wife, had
prepared a magnificent entertainment at the splendid palace which the
Caliph had erected for her. And, as it happened, the next evening
after Haroun had opened the second jar of ointment, he attended
Zobeideh's entertainment. As he entered the gardens of the palace he
perceived Zobeideh seated on a raised seat or throne in the middle of
the garden, with groups of her women in their most gorgeous apparel
surrounding her. They all rose and went forward to meet the Caliph as
he entered, while others, scattered in parties about the grounds, made
a concert of vocal and instrumental music for his diversion. As he
seated himself on the throne with Zobeideh by his side the scene was
very charming. The arcades enclosing the gardens with their marble and
gilded columns were festooned with many coloured lights, lanterns hung
in the trees, illuminating the gardens and the lofty fountains, which
broke into ten thousand sparkling jewels and fell splashing into the
wide marble basins at their base.
After sitting for some time watching this brilliant scene the Caliph
rose and wandered slowly through the grounds, until at length he came
to a grove of trees, so artfully enclosed by gilded lattice work
concealed by climbing plants that it formed an aviary vast in size and
filled with birds of every kind and hue. In this delightful retreat a
natural concert greeted him of feathered songsters darting to and fro
and singing lustily.
Two little silktails perched upon a neighbouring branch particularly
attracted his attention. He had seated himself on a mossy bank in a
retired nook, close by the spot chosen by the chatterers for their
lively and very animated conversation. Being curious to know what they
were talking of, and convinced that the present offered as favourable
an opportunity for listening to bird-talk as any he was likely to meet
with, the Caliph ordered the slave who carried it to bring him at once
the little jar of ointment, and applying some behind each ear as the
writing contained in the jar had directed, he prepared to maintain a
strict silence and listen attentively. As soon as he had applied the
ointment he found that he understood the conversation of his little
neighbours as clearly as though they had been expressing themselves in
the purest Arabic.
"What!" said the one bird to the other, "is it possible that you can be
so deluded and mistaken? Desire to be a man! I am truly surprised and
shocked at so absurd and degrading a notion. If now you had expressed
a wish to be one of the nobler animals, a lion or a tiger, for
instance, I might have excused you. But a man! Only consider how low
in the scale of creation the creature is! Not only is he confined to
the earth like other animals, and unable to range as we do through the
air, but consider how miserable a slave he is, how he has to toil from
morning to night to supply his mere necessities. No wonder his throat
gives forth only harsh and unmeaning sounds, instead of the nobler roar
of the lion or the bright and cheering song notes of us birds!
Moreover, the unfortunate creature is evidently cursed by Allah, being
alone among all creatures left naked and defenceless. The beasts have
warm and beautiful coats of fur provided for them, and they find their
food without work or toil. While as for ourselves, we find insects and
grubs and worms all delicious eating, and that without stint or
trouble; and as regards the covering of our bodies, I think without
vanity these lovely feathers are not only as warm as the fur of
animals, but much prettier and more becoming."
Saying this, the silktail looked back over her glossy and radiant
plumage with such a self-satisfied glance as made the Caliph smile.
"Whereas," she continued, "that unfortunate creature, man, being left
by bountiful Nature naked and cold, has to cover himself as best he may
with a sorry patchwork of shreds and tatters such as he can contrive to
procure either from vegetable fibres, the tissue of silkworms, or the
furs or feathers he is driven to secure by force or stratagem either
from beasts or from ourselves. In almost every particular the wretched
creature is a mere drudge, slaving continually for others and getting
nothing by his toil for himself. Who planted this charming grove, who
waters and tends it? Man. And who enjoys the use and benefit of it?
Surely ourselves. Who made the pretty lattice-work that encloses it?"
"And shuts us in," said the other.
"And shuts the falcon and the vulture out," continued the first
speaker; "why, our poor friend and servant, man. And do you desire to
share that servitude?"
"My dear mother," replied the other bird, "I admit that what you say of
man is for the most part very true; in many things he appears to act
with great stupidity. For instance, he has planted this pleasant grove
and supplies it with water, and has fenced it in very carefully, and
for no purpose apparently or any use that it is to him. He comes now
and then and looks at his work without uttering a sound, as mute as a
fish and not half so active and joyous. And yet, though he is a
melancholy drudge enough, he effects great things. By his very
weakness and his naturally defenceless condition he has been rendered
so cunning and so full of contrivances that he manages to subdue even
those free and noble animals, the lion, the tiger, and the leopard, and
to capture and destroy even such mighty birds of prey as the vulture
and the eagle. See, too, what huge and surprising nests he is able to
fashion, such as that hard by this very grove."
"My child," said the mother bird, "you confuse the ruler of these
animals with those over whom he rules. The one has indeed a fine nest
and an easy life, but the others are lodged very differently, and
labour from morning till night."
"I confess," said the younger bird, "that it was rather of the prince
than of his subjects that I was thinking when I wished to be a man.
Only consider how enviable a position he enjoys, with so many beings
under his command, and with so many fine gardens to live and take his
"And with so charming and faithful a wife to prepare entertainments for
him," said the older bird, sarcastically. "I wonder how the prince you
foolishly envy would have looked if he had seen her only yesterday
evening as we did with another man at her feet?"
"Allah! is it true?" thundered out Haroun Alraschid, in a terrible rage.
The sudden movement and exclamation frightened the little birds, who
flew swiftly away. A matter of the less consequence, as the Caliph had
by speaking destroyed the spell, and could have understood no more of
the dialogue even had it continued. But he was in fact far too angry
and excited at the moment to notice this or anything else.
Clapping his hands to summon his slaves and attendants, he commanded
the palace of Zobeideh to be instantly surrounded, and all who might be
found therein at once to be made prisoners. This hasty measure
produced, as might have been expected, no results. No one was arrested
but those belonging to Zobeideh's household, and all, as a matter of
course, professed entire ignorance of the entrance at any time whatever
of any man within the sacred precincts of Zobeideh's palace.
Haroun, in the first transports of his rage, contemplated ordering
every man in Bagdad between fifteen and fifty years of age to be
executed. But the Grand Vizier having hinted that some difficulty
might be experienced in executing so wholesale an order, and, moreover,
that the actual culprit might very probably even in that case manage to
effect his escape, the Caliph decided to cause Zobeideh to be brought
before him that he might interrogate her himself.
When that unhappy princess entered, and, throwing herself at his feet,
asked him in what way she had offended or aggrieved his Majesty, Haroun
reproached her bitterly.
"Woman," said he, "have I not loaded you with favours, and bestowed
upon you with unstinting hand all that your imagination could fancy or
your heart desire? Ungrateful, like all your race; faithless, like all
your sex; you have fawned upon me to my face, and betrayed me behind my
back. Say, is it not so?"
"My lord," she answered, "whoever has told you aught to my discredit
has foully lied. I have ever been faithful to your Majesty, and happy
is the man, be he prince or slave, who has a wife no less faithful than
I have been."
"Accursed woman!" retorted Haroun, fiercely, "notwithstanding this
confident tone on your part, I know you to be guilty; therefore tell me
at once who was that man whom you dared to receive in your garden
yesterday, or, by Allah! into the Tigris in a sack you shall go as
though you were but the meanest of my slaves."
Zobeideh, perceiving from these words that concealment was impossible,
and well knowing from the fiery temper of the Caliph that he was quite
capable of executing his threat to the letter, replied as follows:
"Since the Commander of the Faithful has discovered, I know not how,
that I gave audience to a man yesterday in the garden of my palace, I
will confess to the Commander of the Faithful, to whom all things are
revealed, the name of the man whom I saw. It was Hunoman, my
foster-brother. He is the son of my nurse, and we were brought up
together as young children, and loved each other as children love, the
sister the brother, and the brother the sister. At seven years of age,
his father having died, an uncle took him to India. Only two days
since he returned, and, learning this from the old nurse, his mother, I
became desirous to see once more the little playfellow of my childhood,
to behold the man I had always thought of as a brother, and hear from
his own lips an account of the countries and peoples he had visited,
the dangers he had encountered, and the manner in which he had
contrived to escape from them. I heard that he had brought some rare
and valuable presents for me. I determined that he should present them
in person. In this I did wrong, but, in the name of the most merciful
God, I appeal to the Caliph for mercy, both for my foster-brother, who
consented to see me only after much persuasion and with the utmost
unwillingness, and also for myself, who am guilty of no other sin than
the indulgence of curiosity, which is a sin that so magnanimous a king
as your Majesty will be able to pardon in a woman."
Haroun, who thought that Zobeideh was now telling the truth, and who
was in truth by no means displeased to find his suspicions concerning
her conduct to be unfounded, asked with great calmness—
"What said you is the name of this man?"
"His name," said Zobeideh, "is Hunoman."
"And where is he to be found? for I must see him."
"He is staying at present with his mother, Siveree, my nurse, to whom I
have given a small house near the river side."
The Caliph clapped his hands, and to the officer who entered he said—
"Go at once and bring Siveree, a woman belonging to the household of
the Lady Zobeideh, and her son, who is called Hunoman, and who is at
present staying with her."
The officer saluted and went out, saying to himself as he went, "The
Lady Zobeideh he terms her. Her affairs go well. She is a clever
woman and knows how to humour the Caliph. Soon she will be again the
prime favourite, and more powerful than ever."
When the officer returned with Hunoman and his mother, the latter was
conducted to an apartment in that part of the palace which was set
apart for the women, while Hunoman himself was at once brought into the
presence of the Caliph.
Haroun, looking sternly at Hunoman, who was a stout man of middle
height, and not unprepossessing appearance, said—
"I have been informed of your temerity in entering a certain garden,
into which you must have known very well that it was fatal to you to
enter. But, before passing such a sentence upon you as you must feel
that you deserve, I desire to hear the particulars of your career, and
what you may have to urge in your defence."
Hunoman prostrated himself before the Commander of the Faithful and
replied as follows:
THE STORY OF HUNOMAN.
"Oh, Prince of the Faithful, whose life may Allah prolong, the story of
the life of your slave, who is incapable of even thinking of aught that
should touch the honour of your Majesty, is very full of dangers and
"At the age of seven years I was taken by my uncle, Amanoolla, to the
country of the Emperor of the Indies, from which I have but just
"My uncle was a worker in gold and silver, and so expert at his craft
that he never lacked work, and was enabled, not only to support his
family with ease, but to save money. He had a son named Omeda, and as
we grew up, Amanoolla taught us both the art of fashioning all kinds of
ornaments in the precious metals. But beside his son Omeda, my uncle
had also a daughter, Bebee, who was one of the most beautiful girls man
can possibly imagine. From the time we were all children together I
had entertained the hope or dream of one day making her my wife.
Therefore, when I was already seventeen years of age and a good
workman, I ventured to ask my uncle to give me Bebee, my cousin, for my
wife. But my uncle was very wroth, and said—
"'My daughter, who is fourteen, and more beautiful than any young girl
for fifty miles round, may expect to be the wife of a rajah or even of
a sovereign prince, and not of a young workman without ten pieces of
"With that, Amanoolla, fearing to have me any longer so near his
daughter, bade me begone and earn my living by my craft in some other
part of the country.
"I departed, therefore, and leaving with sorrow my uncle and Omeda, and
especially the neighbourhood of the charming Bebee, I travelled until I
came to a town twenty days' journey from them, and there I remained
working at my trade, very taciturn, very lonely, and unable to forget
"In the town in which I had settled there lived a wealthy Rajah, Gholab
Khan, for whom I often made various ornaments both of gold and of
"Thus it came to pass that Sojah, his principal wife, saw me through a
lattice window on several occasions when I carried the ornaments I had
made to the palace of the Rajah. And, unhappily, she took a most
violent fancy to me.
"One day, as I sat at my work, a female slave entered, and said—
"'Hunoman, happy man that you are, listen to me. My mistress, who is
no other than Sojah, the wife of Gholab Khan himself, has seen you and
likes you. She has sent me, therefore, to say, to-morrow morning about
the time of morning prayer two slaves will come to you bringing with
them a large basket with hangings for one of the rooms in the palace.
Get into the basket and fear nothing, for the slaves will bring you to
"When the messenger from Sojah had gone I could do no more work that
day for thinking of the adventure which awaited me on the morrow. I
went out and wandered about the town until late, but even when at last
I lay down for a long time I could get no sleep. However, when it
became light I at last fell asleep, and so heavily that it was late
when I woke.
"I was scarcely dressed, and it was nearly time to expect the slaves of
Sojah with the big basket, when two slaves sent by the Rajah himself
appeared, and saying their master wanted me, hurried me off to the
palace. I was greatly frightened from apprehension that the Rajah had
by some means discovered his wife's intention and was taking summary
measures to defeat it. To my great relief, instead of being taken
before the Rajah or ordered forthwith to execution, I was shown into a
small room in which I sometimes worked, and told immediately to
complete some repairs for some of the ladies of the household.
"At the time I congratulated myself that matters were no worse, but
they were bad enough for me as the sequel proved. For when Sojah's two
slaves got to the palace and informed their mistress that they had
called for me as arranged, but that they could not find me, she became
as furious as a tigress baulked of her prey. She did not doubt that I
had slighted her and kept out of the way on purpose to avoid her
messengers. She determined to be revenged.
"A few days afterwards, therefore, her two slaves with the large basket
suddenly appeared at my shop, and seizing me, they instantly gagged me,
bound me, threw me into the basket, and carried me off to their
"The two slaves knocked at a little door leading to a small garden
attached to the harem of the Rajah's palace; and taking the basket into
a secluded part of the garden they set it down, and lifting me out they
laid me gagged and bound as I was upon the grass. They then retired;
and Sojah, who had been watching all they did through a lattice, now
came to me, and began to upbraid me as I lay gagged and helpless on the
"'Wretch,' she said, 'who hast dared to slight a woman who deigned to
condescend to take notice of so mean a thing as thou art, unworthy of
the form of a man; I will instantly deprive thee of it! So saying, she
took a handful of dust and, pronouncing over it the words: 'Kahoothie
Kaventho,' she threw it upon me, exclaiming, 'Quit the shape of man and
take that of a horse!'
"Immediately I was changed into the animal she mentioned, and calling
her slaves, she commanded them to take me at once to the stable and
there to secure me. And this cruel and vindictive woman, not content
with having deprived me of human form and converted me into a
four-footed dumb creature, would frequently come into the stable where
I was, and after ordering her slaves to secure me firmly would beat me
savagely, uttering all the time torrents of vituperation and abuse.
"For some months I had to endure all the miseries which the malignant
humour of Sojah could inflict upon me. At length, seizing the first
opportunity which offered for making my escape, I managed to throw the
slave who was riding me, and fled with the speed of the wind. After
galloping for many coss, I became completely exhausted, and lay down in
an open field near the roadside to rest.
"I had not lain there many minutes, and was still panting and blown,
when I saw a party of rough-looking men advancing. Two of them were
mounted, and these rushing upon me before I could rise and make off,
they easily secured me and took me along with them. The two mounted
men having sold me to one of those on foot, soon afterwards left us,
and I proceeded in company with the others, carrying my new master on
"I soon discovered that the men who had seized me, and who took me home
with them to their village, formed part of a gang belonging to a
religious sect known in some parts of the country by the name of Thugs
or deceivers, and in other parts of the country by the name of
Phansigars or stranglers. I had thus an opportunity, such as no man in
human form could have, of observing their idolatrous religion and
revolting practices. These wretches worship a patron goddess, the
deity of destruction, called Kalee. Their trade from father to son for
generations is murder and robbery, and they believe that their goddess,
to whom they offer part of their plunder, surrenders into their hands
every one of their unhappy victims.
"I had not long been with them before a day was appointed for the
celebration of one of their religious, or rather superstitious, rites.
This was the consecration of the holy pickaxe, the implement always
used by these men for burying those whom they have slain. A fakir,
versed in all the learning of the Thugs, was seated, when the
auspicious day arrived, with his face turned to the west, and placed
the pickaxe in a brass dish which was set before him. In this he
proceeded to wash the axe, with four solemn and several washings.
First, in water; secondly, in a mixture of sugar and water; thirdly, in
sour milk; and fourthly, in spirit. These four ablutions being
finished, the fakir replaced in the brass dish the pickaxe together
with a cocoa-nut, some cloves, white sandal-wood, and sugar. Then
kindling a fire of dried cow-dung and mango-wood, the fakir taking the
pickaxe, and holding it in both hands, passed it seven times through
"The pickaxe, being now duly consecrated, was taken by Jowahir, my
master, who, holding it by the point, said, 'Thugs, shall I strike?'
then as they said, 'Strike, Jemadar!' he struck the cocoa-nut with the
butt end of the pickaxe and broke the nut in pieces. This was hailed
by all as a propitious omen from the great Bhowanee or goddess, and a
part of the nut having been burnt in the fire, portions of the rest of
it were given to all the men present, and the rite was at an end.
"The pickaxe having thus been prepared, it only remained to make use of
it; and accordingly, on the following day in the morning, Jowahir as
their leader, holding the pickaxe to his breast by the left hand, and a
brass jug filled with water in his right hand, moved slowly in the
direction indicated by the fakir, to a field outside the village, and
there standing with his gang assembled about him, he lifted his eyes
toward heaven, and said: 'Great Goddess, universal mother! if this our
meditated expedition be fitting in thy sight, vouchsafe us help, and
the signs of thy approbation.' All present repeated this prayer after
Jowahir, and then waited for the omens or auspices.
"Within a quarter of an hour the omen on the left hand, which must be
first heard, and which they term Pilhaoo, was vouchsafed to them. An
ass brayed, which they took to be a very good omen. And when very soon
afterwards another ass brayed upon the right hand, furnishing them with
Thibaoo, or the omen on the right hand, their satisfaction was very
great, for they said openly that after omens so favourable success was
"Jowahir now put down the jug containing water upon the ground, and
sitting down beside it remained in that posture, and with his face
turned in the direction in which they were to proceed, for the space of
seven hours, during which time the others made all things ready for the
"When at length they started Jowahir mounted on my back, and I being
the only horse they had, the rest of the party walked.
"For two days they proceeded on their journey without meeting any
travellers; and on the second day, therefore, they detached two of the
gang, Bular and Khosala, to act as their Bykureea or spies, to
endeavour to discover any parties of travellers who might be staying at
the serais or inns, or traversing the roads in that neighbourhood.
"In the afternoon the spies returned, and reported that in a serai not
far off they had found a party of three travellers who were resting,
and proposed to start the next morning at daybreak to proceed on their
journey along the highroad to the north.
"Upon receiving this intelligence, Jowahir himself and Oozerah, another
of the band, went forward to the serai to act the part of Sothas or
inveiglers, and try and persuade the travellers to leave the high-road
and take some other road leading through the jungle, and more suited to
the Thugs' atrocious designs.
"When we arrived at the serai Jowahir saluted the travellers, one of
whom was an old man, while the other two were men in the prime of life.
"Jowahir, after conversing some time upon indifferent subjects, said,
that he was journeying northwards, and that he had intended to have
proceeded along the direct road to Oulinpore, the next large town; but
that he had been told by some merchants who had just come southwards by
that road, that provisions were so dear and water so scarce, that he
had determined to make a slight detour to avoid that part of the road.
The three merchants, who had themselves intended to proceed by the
direct road to Oulinpore, were naturally interested in Jowahir's
decision, and began to discuss warmly the merits of the two routes.
"As they were talking the rest of the gang made their appearance, and
acted as though entire strangers to Jowahir and Oozerah as well as the
others. The two younger travellers agreed with Jowahir that it would
be wiser to avoid the direct road to Oulinpore; but the old man was for
keeping to that road as they had intended to do. When the rest of the
gang arrived, they were informed of the question in dispute, and they
at first supported the old man's view energetically, and declared that
they were resolved like him to keep to the direct road.
"At length, however, after much talking they affected to give in and to
become convinced by Jowahir's representations and arguments. Seeing
them all now united against him, the old man could hold out no longer,
and submitted his judgment to that of the others. It was late before
this agreement was arrived at, and all lay down to rest, promising to
start together at daybreak next morning.
"Very early indeed, and long before daybreak, Jowahir roused the whole
party, and persuading them that being tired they had overslept
themselves, and that the day was just about to break, he got them at
once on the way.
"He confessed after a while that he must have been in error, and that
it was really earlier than he had supposed. 'No matter,' said he, 'we
shall have made all the better progress by the time the sun has risen.'
"In fact, before the sun was hot upon them, they had got far into the
jungle, and were at a great distance from any other human beings.
"At length, when they approached the half-dried-up bed of a stream
through which they must ford, Jowahir proposed that they should first
sit down by the margin and rest and eat before proceeding further.
This proposal was readily agreed to by all. But by the side of each of
the three hapless and unsuspicious travellers, there sat down in
apparent amity and good fellowship two members of the gang, one of whom
was really the Ghumgeea or holder of hands, while the other was the
Phansigar or strangler.
"Suddenly, and without affording the poor wretches a moment's warning,
on a sign from Jowahir, the holder of hands seized on the man with whom
he was amicably conversing, and the strangler, passing the roomal round
his neck with the speed of lightning, strangled him in an instant."
"What," asked the Caliph, "is a roomal?"
"It is," replied Hunoman, "simply a strip of cloth. Although the
stranglers are termed Phansigars, from phansee, a noose of cord, yet in
practice they scarcely ever use a cord, which if it were found upon
them would at once betray and convict them; they employ instead, to
effect their murderous purpose, the roomal, a strip of cloth which
appears innocent and harmless enough—it might be a turban or a waist
cloth—but which in their expert and practised hands is equally
"After killing the travellers, stripping them, and burying the bodies,
the murderers and thieves divided the few coins and other property
found upon them. But when making this division in certain proportions
according to their usage, these strange monsters did not neglect to set
apart a small sum as an offering to Kalee their goddess; and when,
after this and several other murders, all characterized by similar
features of treachery and baseness, they returned to their village,
they proceeded at once to celebrate Tapoonee, or a solemn rite of their
most vile idolatry.
"A cloth was spread upon a clean spot of ground. Upon this cloth was
placed the consecrated pickaxe and a piece of silver as an offering to
the goddess. On the cloth Jowahir took his place, and seated with him
also on the cloth were seven Phansigars or stranglers, no Ghumgeea, or
any member of the gang of a grade inferior to an actual and experienced
strangler, being admitted to sit on the cloth.
"Jowahir then took some goor or sugar, which had been purchased with
that part of the plunder set apart for the goddess, and placed it
reverently in a hole in the ground. Having so done, he clasped his
hands devoutly and prayed as follows: 'Great Goddess, we pray thee to
grant us plunder, as thou hast to our fathers before us, and fulfil our
"All repeated this prayer, and a portion of the goor or sacred sugar
having been given to each of those who sat on the cloth, Jowahir gave
the signal for strangling, as though a murder were about to be
committed, upon which they eat in solemn silence the portions of goor
they had received, washing it down with a draught of water. Thus ended
the Tapoonee or sacred feast.
"I will not weary and disgust your Majesty by relating all the series
of monotonous crimes or superstitious observances which I saw during
the two years I remained with these people.
"When that period had elapsed, and while engaged in prosecuting the
third expedition which they had undertaken since I had been with them,
a circumstance occurred which resulted in freeing me from my miserable
and degraded condition, and restoring me to the form and dignity of a
"One day, a day ever memorable to me, the spies returned and announced
to Jowahir the Jemadar and our gang of bandits, that they had met
advancing along the road towards our present encampment a party of
travellers whose appearance promised a rich booty. These travellers
consisted of a Rajah, whose name they had ascertained to be Gholab
Khan, who was on a journey accompanied by his wife and about a dozen
"This news, which powerfully affected me, was the occasion of a vast
deal of discussion and recrimination among the band of Thugs. Some
were for awaiting the arrival of the Rajah, and requesting to be
allowed to travel in his company for the sake of protection, after
which the first favourable opportunity might be taken to murder the
whole party and seize all the money and rich clothes and stores they
would be sure to have with them. As far as numbers were concerned,
this enterprise was quite feasible, for the gang of Jowahir Jemadar, or
our gang, as I may term it, had met with and joined the gang of Ramphul
Jemadar, and together they counted nearly thirty men.
"But the two Jemadars differed entirely as to the course to be pursued.
While Ramphul advocated joining and murdering the Rajah and his party,
Jowahir, on the other hand, contended that as it was absolutely
forbidden by the principles of their religion to kill a woman,
therefore, the wife of the Rajah being with him, the party ought to be
permitted to escape.
"'If once,' he said, 'Phansigars, abandoning their immemorial
traditions, took to killing women, or disregarding omens, what good
luck could they expect, or how could they escape capture and
"The dispute waxed hot, and continued until the spies announced the
near approach of the Rajah and his party, on which they hurriedly
agreed as a compromise that they should join if possible the Rajah's
party, and afterwards either slay or spare them as might be by further
"Having despatched about half their men in advance, that their numbers
might not appear too formidable and perhaps alarm the travellers, the
two Jemadars waited, in their assumed character of peaceful and timid
merchants, the arrival of Gholab Khan.
"On seeing him they saluted him respectfully, and, professing great
uneasiness concerning the lonely and little-frequented character of
that part of the country which lay immediately before them, they begged
as a great favour to be allowed to join his party.
"To this request Gholab Khan very readily acceded, and the united party
proceeded amicably together, the Rajah and the two Jemadars riding and
conversing with each other, while the rest of the Thugs accompanied and
made themselves very agreeable to the Rajah's followers. The latter
were armed, whereas the peaceful and inoffensive-looking Thugs carried
no weapon, but had with them only the innocent roomal, which they knew
how to wield when the moment should arrive with such swift and fatal
"Now when Sojah, the Rajah's wife, peeping from her palanquin, saw me,
she instantly recognized me, and telling her husband that she had taken
a great fancy to the merchant's horse, because it so much resembled one
she had lost two years previously, she begged him to buy it for her.
"The Rajah, always anxious to oblige his wife, who had great influence
over him, began at once to negotiate with Jowahir. And the latter, who
wished to keep on good terms with his destined victim, was persuaded
very easily to exchange me for another horse offered him by the Rajah
and ten pieces of silver. I thus passed once more into the possession
of the cruel and vindictive Sojah.
"This filled me with despair, and I looked forward with dread to a
repetition of the barbarous treatment I had before endured at her
hands. But time had apparently softened her resentment, and changed
her feelings towards me. Perhaps she thought that the misery I had
undergone during more than two years would render me more complaisant
and ready to yield to her desires; at any rate, she received me with
joy and treated me with kindness, and, taking an opportunity that same
evening to come alone to the place where I was picketed with the other
horses, she stooped down, and taking a handful of dust she threw it
over me, pronouncing the same magical formula as before, and then bade
me leave that form of a horse and resume my own proper shape as a man.
"Immediately the transformation took place. But, well knowing that the
Rajah and his whole party were doomed to almost inevitable destruction
by the large gang of Thugs in whose company they then were, I perceived
that my only chance of escape lay in turning the magical art of this
vile woman against herself. Therefore, no sooner had I resumed my
natural shape, and stood before her once more in the form of a man,
than I bowed low as though to salute her with the greatest deference,
and suddenly seizing a handful of dust I threw it over her, pronounced
the magical words: 'Kahoothie Kaventho,' and said, before she could
recover from her surprise, 'Quit the shape of woman of which you are
unworthy and take that of a mare.' What the nature of the charm might
be, or by the aid of what demon the change took place, I know not; at
any rate the incantation was effectual, and as I pronounced the words,
Sojah disappeared and a beautiful mare stood before me.
"Without the loss of a moment I saddled and bridled her, and rode off,
at first slowly and quietly, but afterwards as fast as possible along
the road we had just come, and in the opposite direction to that which
was to be taken early next morning by the Rajah and my late master,
"I had been riding for more than an hour, and was still proceeding very
rapidly, when my mare suddenly stumbled and threw me over her head on
to the ground. I fell heavily and must have remained a long time
unconscious, for when I came to myself I found myself lying on a soft
rug in a small apartment in which two other men were sitting. These
men, as I afterwards discovered, were priests of one of the heathen
religions of that country, and the house in which I now lay was close
to the temple containing the idol or image of the god whom they
worshipped. The name of the older of these priests was Soobulda, and
that of the younger, Esuree; and although idolaters, they saved my
life, and showed me as long as I was with them no little kindness.
"They had found me lying senseless on the road, and had carried me to
their house which was close by, and on my recovering consciousness they
invited me to stay for some days until I should desire to resume my
journey. I accepted their invitation all the more gladly because I had
no money and knew not where to go.
"But what chiefly troubled me, as it would have done your Majesty or
any true believer, was to see these men prostrate themselves before the
wooden image which was their idol.
"One night, therefore, while Soobulda and Esuree slept, I went into the
temple and threw down the idol.
"Next morning early, Soobulda came to me and said, 'A great calamity
has befallen us, for the god is wroth, and his image is cast down and
lies upon the floor of the temple.'
"Then I answered, comforting Soobulda, and said, 'It is no matter, only
take the image and put it in its place again, and all will be well.'
"Three times I threw down the image, and three times Soobulda came in
the morning, and told me what had been done. The third time Soobulda
and Esuree came both of them together, and accused me of having thrown
"Then I said: 'Why, what sort of a feeble creature must this god of
yours be, if these three times I can cast down his image, and he remain
unable to prevent me or to punish me?'
"After that I told them of Allah, the true God, and of Mohammed, the
Prophet of God. And the two priests believed, and left the idol lying
on the ground where I had thrown it down.
"Fearing to remain any longer in that part of the country, Soobulda and
Esuree left their house a few days afterwards, and agreed to go with me
to visit my Uncle Amanoolla, whom I had not seen for a long time, and
whose daughter Bebee I had not forgotten.
"We travelled slowly, stopping from time to time at various towns on
our way, in some of which I got work at my craft, and thus earned money
to help us to continue our journey.
"All this time I told Soobulda and Esuree much concerning the Moslem
faith, and they assumed the garb and practised the ablutions, and
recited the prayers of true believers."
"In that, by Allah, you did right," exclaimed the Caliph, "and I grant
you your life for so doing."
Hunoman bowed and continued:
"At one town where we stayed, it happened that when the morning came on
which we had arranged to depart, I had still some work by me which I
had not finished, and I agreed therefore with Soobulda and Esuree, that
they should start first and proceed leisurely, and that I would hasten
after them and overtake them at their first halting-place.
"This was done, and when soon after midday I came up with them, I
found, that having enjoyed a meal and two hours' rest, they were just
preparing to resume their journey. At the little serai or inn where
they were, they had met with ten other travellers, and the whole party
were now about to set out together.
"Hastily eating some food I had brought with me, I started with the
others, and falling into conversation with our fellow-travellers, we
formed a very sociable gathering.
"But during the afternoon, and when we had been some time in company, I
happened to overhear one of our fellow-travellers say a few words in a
low tone to another, which I instantly recognized as being of the
peculiar dialect used by the Phansigars. We were in the hands of a
party of Thugs, and escape seemed impossible.
"I looked round at my friends, desiring to warn them of our desperate
situation; but even that was not feasible, for each was surrounded by
two or three of the strangers, so that I could say nothing to them
which would not be overheard.
"However, it mattered little, for even had they known of our danger
what could be done? Three men against ten desperate ruffians would
have no chance, and on the least indication of suspicion on our part
they would, I knew, attack and kill us at once, at all hazards. The
only hope remaining for us seemed to me to be that we should meet some
other party of travellers, whose protection we might claim. Of this,
however, there would appear to be but very faint hope indeed.
"Our road passed through a jungle, wild and desolate, where we might
perhaps disturb a tiger, but could hardly expect to come upon a man.
The air was hot and sultry, it seemed to me more oppressive than I had
ever before experienced. Everything around us was still, and as we
trod along the sandy road even our footsteps made scarcely a sound that
could be heard.
"Soobulda and Esuree chatted pleasantly with their companions,
suspecting nothing. As for me, I had become silent and thoughtful, and
prayed inwardly to Allah to deliver us from this danger.
"At length one of those who walked with me, and whom I took to be the
leader of the band, proposed that as I had had no rest and seemed to be
tired, we should halt and rest by the side of a small stream we were
then passing. I perceived at once that we had arrived at the bele, or
place of execution. The Phansigars always send a man on to choose the
bele carefully beforehand. No place could be more suited to their
purpose. It was lonely as a desert; so remote from every human track
or habitation that no shriek of a victim could be heard by any one, and
the loose sand by the margin of the stream would yield readily to the
sacred pickaxe when the roomal had done its fatal work.
"We sat down, and beside each of us three sat three others, two of whom
were the holders of hands, while the third was the Bhurtote or
strangler, as I knew only too well.
"The leader strolled carelessly to and fro, preparing to give the
signal. Already I seemed to feel the pressure of the strip of cloth
about my neck, to anticipate the short and ineffectual struggles of the
unfortunate victims, to feel the kicks of those wretches on my back,
and then in a few moments all would be over.
"At this critical moment, just as the leader paused in his walk and
opened his lips to pronounce the words which would have been the signal
to his followers, and would have sealed our doom—he sneezed. I saw a
look of mingled rage and disgust pass round the party. One of the most
stringent and disabling of all omens had occurred. No Thug would
despatch his victim after such a manifestation of the wrath of the
great Bhowanee. Our lives would be spared, held sacred indeed for this
time, by these ruthless murderers.
"Very shortly afterwards, the gang, on some pretext of having to take
another road, separated from us, and we pursued our way without further
incident to the dwelling of my Uncle Amanoolla.
"Arrived there, I found that my Cousin Bebee had been married some time
since to a rich merchant in the neighbourhood. My uncle received me
gladly, and made my two friends, Soobulda and Esuree, welcome for my
sake, and for the sake of the true faith of Islam which they had
adopted. He had prospered greatly since I left him, and had acquired
much wealth, so that at his death, which happened about six months
after my return, he left me a considerable sum with which to commence
"I had, however, a great desire to revisit the land of my birth; I
bought, therefore, many things which would be esteemed rare and
valuable in Bagdad, where about a week ago I arrived safely.
"Of the command I received through my mother from Zobeideh, to appear
before her and relate my adventures, I have already informed your
Majesty, and have now only to await the sentence which the Commander of
the Faithful may see fit to pronounce upon me."
"I have already," said Haroun, "granted you your life because you have
led two men to embrace the true faith of Islam. But moreover, since I
am not used to send away those I pardon with empty hands, I appoint you
Governor of my province of Egypt. Giafer shall immediately prepare the
patent of investiture, and you are to start at once."
Hunoman thanked the Commander of the Faithful for his munificence, and
promised instant obedience to this and every order he should receive.
Thus the Caliph pardoned and rewarded Hunoman, the foster-brother of
his favourite wife, Zobeideh; but perhaps he was not unwilling to
separate them as far as Bagdad is from Cairo.
The Caliph and the Slave Merchants
The consequences which had resulted from the first and only trial which
he had made of the magical and marvellous properties of the ointment
contained in the second jar had been so little pleasing to the Caliph,
and had so nearly caused the death of his favourite wife Zobeideh, that
he had no inclination to test it further at present. He placed it,
therefore, in his cabinet, together with the other jar, until some
occasion should arise on which he might desire to make use of them.
Yet, although he was prejudiced against making further trial of the
ointments, he continued to undertake from time to time his occasional
nocturnal rambles in company with Giafer.
One evening, after they had wandered for a long time in their usual
disguise as merchants through the streets and bazaars of the city, they
turned into a large caravanserai, and sat down to rest themselves.
There was a great number of merchants collected within the hospitable
walls of the caravanserai, and close by the Caliph and Giafer sat two
men, with whom they were destined to become better acquainted.
Not long after the Caliph and his companion had entered and seated
themselves, one of these two men by a glance drew the attention of his
friend to the new-comers, and they began very shortly a dispute, which
appeared to wax very warm indeed, respecting the merits of two female
slaves which they possessed, and as to the pre-eminence of whose rival
attractions they were quite unable to agree. They vociferated and
gesticulated and appeared to get so angry with each other, that in
their mutual fury they seemed ready to tear each other to pieces.
At length the Caliph interposed with a good-humoured smile, and said—
"Gentlemen, if you will pardon a stranger for interfering in your
dispute, I would suggest that the best and most effectual mode of
deciding as to the relative merits and value of your two slaves would
be to call in some disinterested man as umpire between you. Now I and
my friend are merchants, not only very well qualified to judge of the
beauty and accomplishments of your slaves, but also quite ready to
offer you a good price for them, because, as we have the entrance to
the palace of the Caliph, the Grand Vizier, and other great personages,
we are in a position to bring them to the very best market, and obtain
a higher price for them than any one else."
The two merchants who had acted their parts in the pretended quarrel
with no other object than to elicit some such proposal, now willingly
"Come with us then," they exclaimed, "and your verdict shall decide our
dispute. The slave for whom you are willing to bid the highest price,
she shall be judged to be incontestably the better."
On this the two merchants rose, and conducting the Caliph and Giafer
through many narrow streets and lanes in a part of the town they did
not remember to have been in before, they stopped at length before a
great gateway, on the door of which they gave three peculiar knocks.
The door was opened by a huge black African slave, who grinned horribly
as he saw his masters and the two strangers, and who, having admitted
them, carefully closed and fastened the door behind them.
They were ushered at first into a large room, having a wide and
handsome divan, on which the merchants begged them to be seated.
Another African slave, as large, black, and, if possible, even more
hideous than the first, brought them refreshments and sweetmeats,
together with silver goblets, into which he poured very good wine.
After they had sat some time in this room, the Caliph proposed that
they should proceed to inspect and pass judgment on the two beautiful
female slaves. The slave merchants therefore conducted the Caliph and
Giafer to a smaller apartment elegantly fitted up, where, on a divan of
the richest materials and most exquisite workmanship, was seated an
Indian slave of the rarest beauty.
The Caliph, who was ever an enthusiastic admirer of lovely women, stood
for some moments lost in astonishment and delight.
"Surely," said he, at length, "you have nothing more beautiful that you
can show us. I must have this slave, and will give you ten thousand
pieces of gold for her."
"If you are pleased with this slave," said one of the merchants,
without noticing the Caliph's offer, "what will you say of the other?"
Then leading the way from the room of the beautiful Indian, which was
splendidly upholstered with hangings and furniture in crimson and gold,
he led the way through a short passage to another room, where all the
fittings were of silver and dark blue. In this room, instead of the
black-haired and dark-eyed Indian, sat a Persian beauty, whose hair was
light and fine as new spun silk, and whose lustrous blue eyes and
absolutely perfect form defy description.
The Caliph stood entranced at the sight. At length he exclaimed—
"From what country does that lovely creature come? Is she really a
woman, or is she not rather a fairy whom some enchantment has brought
"If," said the slave merchant, "you bid me ten thousand pieces of gold
for the slave in the other room, how much will you offer for this?"
"I will give you," said the Caliph, "forty thousand dinars, and not
think her dear at that price."
"Asmut," said the merchant to his companion, "did I not tell you that
my slave girl was better than yours? And behold this honest merchant
offers four times as much for her as for your Indian."
"It is easy enough," retorted the other, "for some fellow you pick up
in the bazaar, and who has not probably a thousand dinars in the world,
to talk of ten thousand for this slave, and forty thousand for that.
It will be time to defer to his opinion, I think, when we see the
thousands he talks of so glibly."
"Without doubt," said the first speaker, "this honourable merchant
would not offer a price, however large, for the slaves, unless he were
able to find the money. If he has not so much he can probably borrow a
part of it. Therefore, let both of these merchants lodge here with us
to-night, and to-morrow they may either fetch or send for the gold, and
the bargain may be concluded."
But the Caliph exclaimed with his usual impetuosity—
"By Allah, there shall be no to-morrow in the matter. I will send for
the money at once, and the slaves shall be mine."
To this Asmut replied, "By your leave, not so fast. We desired,
indeed, that you should set a price on each of the slaves that we might
decide our dispute as to which of them is the better. But I by no
means intended or bound myself to accept any sum you might mention for
the slaves, whom I am in no hurry to dispose of."
"Very well," said the Caliph, who was quite unused to the chaffering of
merchants, although he had assumed the garb of one, "if the price I
have named does not content you, name your own price, for, in short,
the slaves I will have."
Asmut, after a few moments' consideration as to the highest sum he
could ask without going beyond what it seemed possible to obtain from
this very frank and eager buyer, said—
"The prices you have named, although no doubt large, are, in my
opinion, so much below the real value of two beauties of such
surpassing excellence, that I must insist on twice as much as you have
offered, namely, twenty thousand dinars for the one and eighty thousand
for the other."
The Caliph laughed and said, "Verily you are not a merchant for naught,
and you do not underestimate the worth of your own wares.
Nevertheless, I will give you your price."
The slave merchants could make no objection to this prompt agreement to
their terms; on the contrary, it suited their plans very well. Yet, in
order to appear indifferent and little anxious to conclude the business
with any undue haste and precipitancy, Asmut said—
"To-morrow, however, will be early enough to produce the money. It is
now dark and grows late, and besides, whom can you send?"
"I have a man whom I can send," said the Caliph, "for my servant will
have followed us here, and I will despatch him at once for the money."
And in fact Giafer, going to the gate, beckoned to Mesrúr, who had
followed them as usual, and who was waiting for them outside, and not
far from the house he had seen them enter.
The Caliph, taking out his tablets, wrote a few words to his treasurer,
bidding him send at once by Mesrúr, and in the hands of two slaves, the
sum of one hundred thousand dinars. This note he delivered to Mesrúr,
who saluted his master and immediately departed on his errand.
The Caliph and Giafer then seated themselves on the divan in the large
apartment into which they had been shown on first entering the house,
and, together with the slave merchants, passed the time in conversing
and discussing again the unique beauty of the two ladies whom the
Caliph was to purchase.
When Mesrúr returned, bringing with him two slaves carrying the hundred
thousand dinars in fifty bags, there being two thousand dinars in a
bag, they were shown at once into the large room where the merchants
and the Caliph were sitting.
As the slaves deposited the bags on the floor the slave merchants, as
also the Caliph and Giafer, rose and stood by them, Asmut so placing
the lamp as that they could all see him count the money as they stood
He proposed to count the money in one of the bags, and that he should
then proceed to weigh the other bags against that which had been
counted. While all were watching him as he poured out and counted the
money with much noise and many loud exclamations from both merchants as
to the lightness of some of the coins, neither the Caliph, Giafer,
Mesrúr, nor either of the slaves, perceived that behind them, barefoot
and noiseless as camels, a number of huge and powerful black slaves had
entered the room.
Suddenly Asmut, seizing the empty bag and dashing it on the floor,
exclaimed, "I will count no more!"
This being the signal, no sooner had he uttered the words than the
slaves seized the Caliph and his companions, threw them down, and
before they could either struggle or cry out had securely bound and
"A good haul for one night's fishing," said Asmut, coolly; "a hundred
thousand dinars and five men, who will doubtless sell very well after
taking a voyage, that is not so bad."
Then ordering some of the slaves to be ready to take the prisoners down
to the river as soon as the dawn should appear, Asmut and his partner
personally superintended the removal from the room of the bags of gold.
Very early in the morning, as soon as it began to be light, a party of
the black slaves who had bound the Caliph and his followers came to
them, and unbinding their legs escorted them down to the river, where a
ship belonging to the slave merchants lay ready to receive them.
Their prospects of escape out of the clutches of the slave merchants
who had robbed and kidnapped them seemed slight indeed. Giafer and the
faithful Mesrúr being included in the capture, seriously diminished the
chance of any effectual measures for their relief being promptly
undertaken, and a fatal period of delay was rendered all the more
probable in consequence of the Caliph's well-known fondness for seeking
adventures in disguise. When the morning should come, and it was
perceived that they had not returned to the palace, it was only too
likely to be assumed that they were still engaged in the prosecution of
some adventure in which the Caliph would not desire to be interrupted.
Filled with these painful reflections, the Caliph, together with
Giafer, Mesrúr, and the two slaves, accompanied the black slaves who
formed their guard, and proceeded towards the river.
They had nearly reached the bank of the stream, and their case seemed
altogether hopeless, when suddenly they met advancing towards them from
the river a man habited as a merchant, and in personal appearance
curiously resembling the Caliph himself. He was accompanied by two
companions, and seeing several men bound and gagged being marched along
under charge of the black slaves, he stopped and demanded in a firm and
authoritative tone who they were and whence they were going.
At the sight of this man the blacks appeared to be seized with a sudden
panic; the Caliph heard them say to each other hurriedly and with
terrified looks, "It is the son of a Slave himself." And
immediately they turned about and fled at their utmost speed.
The stranger and his two companions at once released the prisoners, and
inquired how it came to pass that they found them thus bound and gagged.
The Caliph answered him: "Sir, we have suffered this indignity and
violence at the hands of two rascally and deceitful slave merchants. I
will presently relate to you all the details of our adventure, but
permit me first to despatch my servant on a piece of very urgent
Then turning to Mesrúr he took him aside, and said, "Go instantly,
seize the two slave merchants and execute them at once; send the slaves
and plunder you find in their house to the palace, and raze their house
to the ground."
Mesrúr departed at once to the nearest guardhouse to procure help to
carry out the orders of the Commander of the Faithful. And it need
scarcely be said that he had never received a command from his Majesty
which he executed with so much alacrity and good-will.
After having despatched Mesrúr on this errand, the Caliph turned to the
merchant and his companions, and said—
"It is now time, gentlemen, that I should thank you for your
intervention on our behalf, and that I should explain to you how it
came to pass that we found ourselves in the plight from which you
Beginning, then, by saying that he and his friend had entered a certain
caravanserai to rest themselves, and had there met the slave merchants,
he related all that had befallen them, but said nothing to indicate his
true rank as Caliph and Commander of the Faithful.
After Haroun had thus explained to the merchant, who both in dress and
features so much resembled himself, the history of his own position, he
asked him whether he could in any way account for the sudden panic
which had seized upon the slaves directly he had appeared and addressed
The merchant, who resembled Haroun Alraschid, not only in personal
appearance, but in a certain frank and bold bearing, laughed and said—
"My name is Sidi ibn Thalabi, and I am, as my dress bespeaks me, a
merchant. But having the good fortune to be both in stature and
features not only like yourself, which strange to say I certainly am,
but also, which is more to the point, like our Caliph, God be his
shield, I have been tempted in one thing to imitate his illustrious
example. The Prince of the Faithful is in the habit, as I dare say you
may have heard, of seeking adventures and seeing life in the disguise
of a merchant. People, who would feel constrained in the presence of
their sovereign, speak and act naturally in the presence of a simple
merchant, the equal of themselves. This pleases the Caliph, and
affords him the gratification and amusement of observing men as they
are. As Prince of the Faithful he sees them only as they pretend to
be. Well, I have the same fancy, only in the contrary direction. I
know how men act when they accept me as their equal, I play at being
their Prince and then watch their behaviour. Taking advantage of the
Caliph's well-known fondness for masquerading as a merchant and of my
personal likeness to him, it is very easy to allow the impression to
get about that I am he. This accounts for the precipitate flight of
the slaves. Having seen me no doubt on sundry occasions in my barge
upon the Tigris, and having been told by some of those busy-bodies who
affect to know every one and everything that I was the Caliph in
disguise, they no sooner saw me just now and heard me demand who you
were than they ran away, dreading the punishment they so richly
"It appears to me," said Haroun, "that the amusement in which you
indulge is a somewhat dangerous one. The Caliph is, I am told, of a
fierce and rather hasty temper; should he learn by chance of your
pranks, it might cost you your head. However, that is your affair.
For myself, I am indebted to your temerity for my liberty and probably
for my life, therefore I have certainly no cause to quarrel with it. I
shall be delighted to form one of your company in any further
adventures you may undertake, and meanwhile should hear with pleasure
an account of any that may have already befallen you."
To this Sidi ibn Thalabi replied, "I shall gladly conduct you to my
boat on the Tigris, whither I was going when I had the good fortune to
meet with you. And when we are seated there at our ease and have
partaken of some food, of which you must stand greatly in need after
your night's lodging with the slave merchants, I will tell you how it
happened that I obtained the reputation of being the Prince of the
Faithful, and some incidents that have occurred in consequence. But
first," he continued, "let me introduce my friend and companion, who is
indeed no other than my brother-in-law Abraha, but whom the people who
take me to be the Caliph insist upon regarding as the Grand Vizier."
"Yussuf," said Haroun, addressing Giafer by that name in order to
further their disguise and continue what gave promise of proving a very
entertaining misunderstanding, "I am sure you will salute with due
respect the person of this Grand Vizier, who is, I doubt not, as good a
man or even a better than Giafer himself."
"Friend Hamad," replied Giafer, speaking to Haroun in the style and by
the name they had previously agreed upon, "I salute with pleasure both
our new acquaintances, and am ready to believe that Abraha is no less
worthy to be really Grand Vizier than Sidi ibn Thalabi is to be really
Haroun perceived both from the manner and the answer of Giafer that the
sham Grand Vizier was a joke not quite to his liking. This amused
Haroun not a little, and he employed the time as they walked towards
the river in further light and playful discourse upon the topic.
Addressing Abraha, he said, "You must be pleased, sir, to excuse any
roughness or want of good manners and politeness on the part of my
friend Yussuf; he is perhaps a little bit jealous of the good fortune
of one who has been regarded as the Grand Vizier."
Abraha, who was a rather dull and stolid personage, accepted these mock
apologies with such imperturbable gravity and sincerity that Haroun was
delighted with him.
Saluting Haroun very solemnly, the sham Grand Vizier said, "Sir, I beg
that you will give yourself no concern respecting the language or
demeanour of your friend Yussuf. I dare say he is a good plain man,
however unused to the company of high personages, and in any case I am
able to make allowances for any whiff of passing ill-humour or
During this conversation between Haroun and Abraha, Giafer and Sidi ibn
Thalabi had fallen a little way behind and were walking and talking
together. A little way behind these came the two slaves whom Mesrúr
had brought to the slave merchants with him to carry the gold pieces.
When the party arrived at the bank of the Tigris, Haroun, stepping
aside, beckoned the slaves to him and despatched them to the palace
with a note addressed to the Grand Chamberlain.
In this note he informed that functionary that he should not return to
the palace for some hours, and commanded him to send the two slaves at
once, under guard and without allowing them to speak to any one, to a
town fifty days' journey from Bagdad, he having no mind to entrust the
secret of his last night's adventure to the indiscreet tongues of the
slaves who had participated in it. Having thus got rid of the slaves,
Haroun and Giafer accompanied their new acquaintances, Abraha and Sidi
ibn Thalabi, on board the ship or pleasure barge belonging to the
After they had been seated for some time, and had appeased their hunger
by partaking of a very substantial breakfast, Haroun said to Sidi ibn
"I must now remind you of your promise to tell me something of your
Upon which Sidi ibn Thalabi spoke as follows:
THE NARRATIVE OF SIDI IBN THALABI.
"I must first tell you, friend Hamad," he began, for Haroun and Giafer
were known to him only by their assumed names of Hamad and Yussuf—"I
must first tell you how it came about that I was induced to personate
our sovereign lord, Haroun Alraschid, whom may Allah preserve, and from
whose ears may the story of my presumption be hidden for ever."
"I should say," said Haroun, "that he is never likely to hear of it,
unless you communicate it to him yourself."
"In that case I should be safe enough," said Sidi ibn Thalabi.
"However, to resume, what put the idea into my head in the first
instance was this. I was one day coming down to the river to spend the
day on board my boat, when I called at the shop or stall of a fruit
merchant in the bazaar to buy some fruit. I sat down in his shop while
I selected what I required and bargained as to the price. I was
surprised, in the first place, to find that instead of asking five or
six times the value of the fruit and abating his demand by degrees, as
is commonly the custom, the merchant, who treated me with extreme
deference, begged me to choose whatever fruit I pleased and pay him for
it as much as I might consider it to be worth."
"'What,' said I, 'do you leave the price to be fixed by me? Suppose I
give you but half the value of it?'
"'Sir,' answered the man, 'Allah forbid that your slave should venture
to put aside the veil in which you choose at this moment to envelop
yourself. Nevertheless, I am very sensible of the honour you have done
me in entering my shop and conversing familiarly with me, and truly the
shop and all it contains are altogether at your service.'
"'For whom do you take me, or mistake me,' said I, 'that you treat me
to so many compliments and good offers?'
"'Sir,' he replied, 'I have seen his Majesty the Caliph, whom may Allah
protect, ride by so often, both when he is going to and returning from
the Mosque, that it would be very strange if I could fail to recognize
his features, no matter what disguise he may choose to assume.
However, I will say no more, a merchant and no more than a merchant you
are if you will it so. To what place does it please you that I should
send you the fruit?'
"I denied again that I was the Commander of the Faithful, no matter how
much my features might resemble his; but perceiving that the man
retained his own opinion of my identity and received my disclaimers
only out of politeness, I thought it not worth while to argue the
question with him further, but desired him to send the fruit to me,
Sidi ibn Thalabi, on board this boat. At the same time, I must confess
that I so far yielded to the weakness of being flattered by being taken
for the Caliph in disguise that I gave the fruit merchant two dinars
for fruit which was not worth one quarter of that sum.
"On receiving the money, which he did with much humbleness and many
profound salutations, the merchant said—
"'Sidi ibn Thalabi, as so you desire to be called, I give you many
thanks for your liberality, and I pray you not to be offended with me
if I seize the present opportunity to beg a favour of you.'
"'If,' said I, 'it is in my power to do what you wish, I assure you
that, far from taking offence, I shall oblige you gladly.'
"'Your kind words,' said the merchant, 'fill me with joy, because my
request is entirely within your power to grant. I have an only son,
let him come to you and employ him in any office for which you may
judge him to be fit.'
"'On condition,' I answered, 'that you bear in mind that I am simply
Sidi ibn Thalabi and no one else, I am ready to see and employ your son
if you so desire.'
"The fruit merchant vowed that no word of either himself or his son
should betray the belief that I was any other than what I represented
myself, namely, Sidi ibn Thalabi, a retired merchant taking his ease in
his boat upon the Tigris. On this understanding the young man came to
me, and finding him to be a very agreeable and well-educated young
fellow, I have employed him in the office of my secretary.
"Being possessed of property at Bussora and other towns, I am often
absent from Bagdad, and only occasionally take my pleasure here on my
boat just as the humour seizes me. Whether misled by these absences,
or whether accepting his father's opinion without question, I know not,
but I soon discovered that, not only did my new secretary believe me to
be the Caliph, but that he had spread this rumour of me among a great
number of the river-side population. Perhaps he discovered that he
himself was in consequence held in greater esteem, Allah alone
knows—at any rate he hesitated not to spread the false report
"It thus came to pass that, not only was I often received in any
company in which I chanced to find myself with an amount of respect and
deference to which I was really by no means entitled, but people who
were strangers to me asked me to social gatherings and feasts under the
mistaken notion that they were thereby securing themselves personal
intercourse with the dreaded and illustrious Haroun Alraschid himself.
"As often as possible I refused these invitations, but could not avoid
now and then coming into a mixed society, where I soon perceived that
my fame had preceded me. On those occasions, should any dispute arise,
it was not uncommon for my authority to be confidently appealed to, and
my verdict to be implicitly accepted. This very naturally brought me
more than once into a position of considerable difficulty. For, on the
one hand, no disclaimer on my part would avail to convince those who
appealed to me that I was not really the Caliph; and, on the other
hand, I well knew myself to be quite powerless either to enforce my
decision or to punish those who were clearly guilty, and both deserving
and expecting to be sentenced.
"An incident that occurred only two days since will illustrate what I
have been saying. I was on my way to the river accompanied by Abraha
only, when passing through a street in the lower part of the town we
came upon a crowd of people shouting and gesticulating and making a
great hubbub. In the centre of the crowd there was one man who was
dragging another along violently and crying out constantly, 'Come
before the Cadi, you villain! come before the Cadi, you villain!' All
the others, as is usual in such cases, were crying out some one thing,
"When the crowd perceived us the hubbub was redoubled, and all we could
gather from the confused noise was that they were appealing to me to
arbitrate between them. I made a sign, therefore, that they should be
silent, and there being at a short distance from the spot where we met
the crowd a small open space with a fountain in the middle of it, I led
the way thither, and seating myself on the steps of the fountain, the
two men stood before me, and the crowd gathered round to hear what was
said and witness what would take place, the people never doubting but
that when I should have examined the case I should pronounce judgment
on the offender.
"When I asked the man who had hold of the other, and who was evidently
the complainant, to state what was the matter, he exclaimed very
"'This man, this rascally barber, whom your Greatness sees here before
you, has murdered my brother. He a barber! He is a plunderer! he is
an assassin! Do justice upon him, therefore, and condemn the ignorant
wretch to the punishment he so richly deserves.'
"'Not so fast, not so fast,' said I; 'tell me more calmly, and with
particulars, in what way has this barber murdered your brother?'
"'Your Greatness,' said the man, 'it was in this wise. My brother had
been working in the heat of the sun, and the sun had doubtless inflamed
his blood so that he became stupefied and unconscious. I went,
therefore, for a barber that he should come and bleed my brother, and
restore his senses to him. Now as ill-luck would have it the first
barber I lighted upon was this pestilent fellow. When I found him he
was engaged in shaving a customer, and because that customer was a good
one he would not leave him to attend to my brother, but first finished
his shaving and then came with me. Having first delayed so long, when
at last he was come he bled my brother not once but three times, and
two hours afterwards my brother died. I say, therefore, truly that he
has killed my brother, and deserves to be termed butcher rather than
"Having listened to this complaint, I said, addressing the barber, 'You
hear what this man alleges; let me hear, therefore, what reply you can
make and how you will defend yourself from the charge which has been
brought against you.'
"The barber, who like most of his class did not lack assurance and had
words at command, was not slow to answer.
"'Sir,' said he, 'the accusation which this man brings against me, and
his assertion that I am ignorant and do not understand the duties of my
office, are both of them groundless and absurd. I have not been a
barber for fifteen years without knowing very well how to let blood as
well as how to shave; and if this man's brother is dead, it is in spite
of what I did for him, and not in consequence of it. As to what is
alleged of my delay, I deny it altogether. I did but give three or
four strokes of my razor, which was all that was needed to finish the
operation of shaving in which I was engaged when this man called for
me, and it is only his furious impatience that has magnified a few
seconds into a serious delay. As to the bleeding, I did indeed take
from him six ounces of blood; in one cup I received two ounces, in a
second cup two ounces, and in a third cup two ounces. But that
quantity was by no means too much. Moreover, that which was received
into the first cup coagulated in twelve minutes, that which was
received into the second cup in twenty-two minutes, while that which
was in the third cup was not completely coagulated in thirty-five
minutes; now what does that prove?'
"'It proves,' said the other, 'that you are, as I have told you
already, a bungler and murderer, for is not my brother dead of your
bleeding, and you deserve to lose your head?'
"'Sir,' said the barber to me, 'this man simply raves, as you will have
observed. Every baker and tailor knows more in his own conceit of
bleeding than a barber of fifteen years' experience like myself. They
are able to pass judgment as to the question of too much or too little
without hesitation and with the utmost exactness. It is a story as old
as King Ad—the more ignorant they are the more sure they be.
Presently they will discover that men should never be let blood at all,
forgetting that we bleed our horses also, and find it does them
good. And, for myself, I know after fifteen years' experience how much
to take both from the healthy and from the sick.'
"'Accursed barber,' interrupted the other, fiercely, 'I believe verily
that thou canst neither bleed without killing nor shave without
'"As for my bleeding,' retorted the barber, in a rage, 'I have bled
many score without accident or ill-result, excepting only your brother,
who was a drunkard and as good as dead before ever I saw him; while as
for my being able to shave without cutting, I will have you to know
that there lives no creature on this earth, from an ape to the
illustrious Caliph himself, whom may Allah preserve and exalt, that I
will not shave without giving him so much as a scratch.'
"'That,' said I, willing to end the dispute between the two men, 'is a
very bold challenge on the part of the barber. The Caliph indeed can
be scarcely got to submit himself to the test, but we will get an ape,
and if this honest man shaves him, as he says he can, without
inflicting a scratch, I will adjudge him to be a very proficient barber
and an adept in each branch of his trade, both bleeding and shaving.'
"The people, who are easily led and amused, received my decision with
delight. They cried out, 'An ape! an ape!' All were desirous to see
how the creature would submit himself to the operation of being shaved.
Even the man who had lost his brother could not altogether refrain from
a grin of satisfaction at the thought of the troublesome task the
barber had before him."
Haroun Alraschid smiled and stroked his beard, saying, "Sidi ibn
Thalabi, that was a happy inspiration, and extricated you cleverly from
what threatened to become for you a rather embarrassing position."
Sidi ibn Thalabi acknowledged this compliment to his sagacity by a low
bow, and continued—
"For the people to find an ape on which the barber could exhibit his
skill was no easy matter, none knew where such an animal could be
procured. However, I was able myself to get them out of this
difficulty very speedily. A merchant of my acquaintance had I knew
many strange birds and beasts which had been brought to him at sundry
times by the various ships and caravans which conveyed his merchandize.
To him I applied, stating what I required, and was able to purchase a
little ape who appeared very suitable for our purpose.
"This little animal was really very young, as its constant and restless
activity sufficiently proved, but it had the appearance of a small aged
African, with deeply wrinkled forehead and cheeks and a sparse beard of
short white hairs. When this creature was placed in the hands of the
barber, its behaviour gave promise of affording us all the
entertainment we could desire.
"It was the duty of the barber to perform the various functions of his
office in the customary manner. He had first to wash the head and
face, and then to proceed to shave just as in the case of any one else.
For this purpose the barber produced a metal basin, which he filled
with water from the fountain; and the ape having been accommodated with
a seat on a low bench in the middle of the open space round which the
people were assembled, the barber set down the basin beside him. For a
few moments the little creature sat regarding the basin with an
expression of great gravity and wisdom, but just as the barber, having
dipped a piece of cloth in the water, was wringing it out preparatory
to commencing the operation of washing, the ape suddenly seized upon
the basin with both hands and turned it upside down, apparently with
childish curiosity to examine the other side.
"The effect of this movement was to pour all the contents of the basin
over the ape's own legs, which disconcerted him very much, and the
barber stooping down to pick up the basin which the ape had dropped,
the little creature nimbly sprang upon his shoulders, and with its wet
legs round the barber's neck he employed himself in taking off the
man's turban, which he first placed on his own head and then
immediately afterwards snatching it off again he threw it on the ground.
"At these antics the crowd of course laughed loudly, but the barber,
who was a man of much good temper and self-control, simply took the ape
off his shoulders, and having seated him again as at first, he
proceeded to pick up and replace his turban, and refill the basin.
"Putting the water this time out of reach of the ape, the barber dipped
his cloth into the basin and proceeded to wash the head and face of his
unwilling and in every sense ugly customer. But directly the ape felt
the wet cloth touch his skin he snatched it instantly from the hands of
the barber and commenced tearing it in pieces. And before the barber
could attempt to rescue even the fragments of his washing cloth the
mischievous little creature slipped quickly off the bench on which he
had been seated, and running rapidly on all fours among the crowd,
suddenly jumped upon the back of a small boy who had been hitherto
enjoying the fun and laughing very heartily at the antics of the
monkey. This last prank, however, frightened the small boy very much,
and he ran about wildly, with the ape seated on his shoulders,
screaming loudly. As the monkey held on bravely, with each hand
grasping firmly a handful of the boy's hair, the little fellow had some
excuse for making an outcry. The barber, however, very soon recaptured
his troublesome charge, and reseated him on the bench to undergo the
usual barbarous routine of washing and shaving.
"Meanwhile the crowd beside laughing had, of course, encouraged the
barber to pursue his task by many questions and exclamations, such as,
'Why don't you make haste to shave the gentleman?' 'Take care you
don't cut his precious chin!' 'Barber, is your hand steady?' and so
"In answer to all these jeers the barber only smiled and said,
'Patience, the little gentleman is somewhat scared by your noise and
ugly faces, but he will sit quietly enough presently.'
"And marvellous to behold, when the barber had replaced him again the
third time on the bench, the ape sat still, as solemn as the Cadi
himself, and allowed himself to be both washed and shaved, moving no
more than though he were dead and stuffed.
"This astonished the crowd very much and they applauded loudly, till
the man who had at first accused the barber of murdering his brother
cried out that it was sorcery, and that this accursed barber must be in
fact a foul magician, since he could not only kill good Moslims, but
shave misshapen apes. On this the fickle crowd were moved against the
barber, and would have fallen upon him and done him an injury had I not
interfered on his behalf.
"'Stop,' said I, 'I will inquire of the barber, and he shall confess to
me by what means he has caused the ape to sit still and permit himself
to be shaved. If he has employed magic he shall be dealt with
accordingly, but if not, why should he be punished on the accusation of
one who hates him and may be envious of his skill?'
"Speaking thus to the crowd I calmed them, then bringing the barber
along with us we hastened at once to the river and came on board my
"When we had safely arrived here, after giving the barber something to
eat and drink, I pressed him to tell me how he had contrived to render
the monkey suddenly so quiet and docile, a feat which had appeared as
surprising and as inexplicable to me as to the others.
"'Sir,' said the barber, 'I have during my life travelled through many
distant countries and taken part in many strange adventures, but I
confess that among all the singular and marvellous things I have seen
or have collected, nothing is more strange nor more valuable than that
by means of which I have been enabled to exhibit to you the spectacle
which you have witnessed this morning.'
"I pressed him once more to tell me what this rare and precious thing
might be and how he became possessed of it. Upon which the barber,
saluting me as his protector and deliverer, who had saved him from the
fury of the crowd, consented readily to impart his secret to me, and
spoke as follows:—
THE BARBER'S STORY.
"'It is now about three months since I was called early one morning to
bleed a man who was reported to be insensible. Now, notwithstanding
all that that fellow asserted in his rage this morning, I am a barber
and the son of a barber, and understand my craft very thoroughly.
Therefore, taking with me whatever I might be likely to require to let
the man blood and restore him to consciousness, I started at once.
"'On arriving at the house, which was a very poor one, to which I had
been summoned, I found the patient an old white-bearded man, and also a
physician whom I knew very well, and who practised in that part of the
"'He had sent for me to bleed the man, but he was evidently puzzled
extremely by many features of the case the like of which he had never
before encountered. The patient was indeed unconscious, yet he
exhibited few or none of the symptoms generally characteristic of that
state. He was not lying down, but sitting up. His face wore the
expression not of one dead or dying, but of a man transfixed with rage
and horror. His eyes wide open were staring upon us with an expression
of impotent rage, as though he were witnessing some outrage which he
was powerless to prevent. His mouth was opened as though uttering a
cry, but no cry came out of his mouth. He did not breathe heavily, he
did not appear to breathe at all. He had the appearance of a man who
in the midst of some violent emotion had suddenly been turned into
stone, or rather into some plastic material possessing very peculiar
properties. For we found that, while every limb yielded readily to
pressure and could be placed easily in any posture we pleased, it did
not on being released fall to the ground, but maintained the attitude
in which it had been placed as though it were modelled in wax or carved
"'All this was so surprising that I suppose I ought not to have been
surprised, as certainly I was, when I found that no blood flowed when I
attempted to bleed him. The man seemed to be decidedly not dead—and
yet decidedly not alive. We could make nothing of him. And after a
while the physician being called away to attend to some one else, left
me to watch this strange case, and act as I should see fit.
"'For a long time I sat and vigilantly observed the striking figure
before me, in appearance so full of life and passion, in reality so
"'As you may suppose, I was not alone. The small room was crowded with
the neighbours of the old man, who had long known him, and among whom
he was reported to be a miser, who though living in apparent poverty
was really very rich. I could see that many did not confine their
inquisitive glances to the old man himself, but looked eagerly about
them to discover if possible in some corner of the mean apartment that
store of hidden wealth which they had persuaded themselves that it
contained. After a time these visitors departed one after the other,
perceiving neither any alteration in the condition of the old man nor
any signs of his reputed riches.
"'When they had all left, I still sat looking attentively at him, lost
in astonishment and marvelling what would be the end of so singular and
unheard-of a trance. Without the least warning, so suddenly that I was
not a little startled, the full stream of life seemed to return upon
him in an instant. It had been arrested as suddenly and for many
hours—and now in a moment, before one could swallow one's spittle, it
resumed its course as though the interruption had never taken place.
To the mouth half opened all this time utterance was at length
restored, and suddenly as I sat watching him he cried with a loud
"'"Seize them! They have it! Ah, wretches! the curse of Allah be upon
ye! To rob an old man! a poor man! Yes, they are gone, the robbers,
the villains! My savings, my savings! The small savings of a long
life. Ah! the cursed villains, the cursed villains! seize them, seize
"'Thus the old fellow raved on, beating his breast, tearing his hair
and his beard, and speedily recalling by his cries and lamentations all
his neighbours who remained within hearing. Getting some of these to
assist me, again I attempted to bleed him, and this time successfully.
This quieted him, and presently we laid him down much calmer, though
apparently extremely exhausted.
"'We could learn nothing more from him than that three men had entered
his room on the previous evening and had robbed him of all that he
possessed; but what became of them, or how he had fallen into the state
of trance in which he had been discovered, he could not explain.
"'I had now given up much more time than I could afford, and seeing no
chance of getting paid under the circumstances, and there being nothing
further I could do for the unfortunate old creature, I left him in the
hands of his neighbours and took my departure.
"'I had not gone far when I observed lying on the ground a small
camel's-hair brush of very peculiar appearance. It was flat, in
breadth about the width of two fingers, and the hairs of the brush as
long as a man's little finger. I picked it up, wondering for what
purpose it could be used, and thinking it might possibly prove of
service on some future occasion, I carried it home with me.
"'Several days passed, and I had forgotten not only the little brush
that I had picked up, but even the episode of the old man and his
strange trance, when one afternoon a man presented himself to be
shaved, who, after some desultory discourse on passing topics,
mentioned that he had heard of my attendance on the old miser, and
inquired as to the condition in which I had found him, and all the
particulars of the affair.
"'When I had related to him the whole of the circumstances—excepting
only the finding of the little brush as I came away, an incident so
trifling that I no longer remembered it—he inquired, with some
eagerness, I thought, whether I had found anything in the old man's
room. I had picked up the brush not in the room, but outside the
house, and the very fact that I had done so having for the moment
escaped my recollection, I answered at once—"No, I found nothing; and,
in truth, it seemed to me that some people had probably forestalled me,
and left nothing for me or any one else to find." The man laughed at
this, as though it were a very good joke. At that instant, the finding
the little brush occurred to my mind, and I determined now in my turn
to ascertain, if possible, whether it were that he was in search of.
"'I asked him, therefore, whether he had heard of any valuable being
missed from the old man's room, as he had questioned me about it.
"'"Not exactly that," he said. "A good deal of valuable property might
have been taken, he supposed," and again he laughed, "from the old
man's room, but he was not concerned about that."
"'"No," thought I, "for you probably know where to find it."
"'"What I wish to recover," continued the man, "is not an article of
value at all, only a little brush that a friend of mine dropped in the
confusion, and which he is very anxious to get again, because it
belonged to his father and his grandfather before him."
"'"I fear," answered I, "that you will not find it in the old man's
room, because I looked about the place, and I noticed a good many other
keen eyes doing the same, and nothing of any kind was to be seen."
"'"No, there is no brush there now," said he; "you may be sure I have
ascertained that for myself before applying to you. If you did not see
it, I fear it is lost beyond recovery, and I would pay handsomely for
it too, if I could find it."
"'"Why," said I, "as to that, you need make but little fuss over the
loss of a little brush; a single dinar will buy you five score of them."
"'"True," said he, "but the little brush I am in search of was of a
special make, such as men in these days know not how to fashion."
"'"After all," said I, "it is but a matter of shape and fancy, for
there can be no great difference in value between two brushes of the
"'"However that may be," said the man, "if by talking with your
customers you can discover this little brush, and procure it for me, I
will give you a good price for it."
"'"What do you call a good price?" I inquired.
"'"I will give you," he said, "ten dinars for it."
"'He looked at me very hard, to observe what effect this offer would
produce, for no doubt, in spite of my denial, he suspected that I had
picked up the brush. But I reflected that the brush must have some
very special value, or he would not so readily have offered ten dinars
for it. If I held back, by and by he would offer twenty.
"'I therefore answered quietly—"It is a large sum for a small brush,
if I should hear of it I will let you know."
"'"In a week or ten days I will come again," he said, "perhaps by that
time you may be able to find it."
"'He probably named a week or ten days in order not to appear too
eager, and also to give me time to pretend to have succeeded in my
"'A week passed and a fortnight, and still he did not return. Indeed
he never came back, and whether he was captured by the police—for I
have no doubt he was one of the thieves who had robbed the old
miser—or whether he and his gang had been obliged on account of some
other crime to fly from Bagdad, I do not know; one thing only is
certain, I have never seen him again.
"'Nearly three months had elapsed, and I had almost ceased to expect
the reappearance of the man, and even to regret that I did not accept
his offer of ten dinars for the brush at the time he made it, when one
afternoon, a few days ago, a man came to me suffering from a growth or
wen on the back of his neck, close to the spinal cord. He desired that
I should paint this with a certain remedy or lotion I have for such
tumours. Finding the lotion, which I had not used for some time, but
not the brush with which I was accustomed to apply it, I took hold of
the little brush which I had picked up, and made use of that. The
hairs of this brush were so much longer than those in my old brush,
that I had not proceeded far before I happened accidentally to pass the
wet brush across the spine. Immediately the man became fixed in the
attitude in which he happened to be as I was operating upon him. His
features retained the expression precisely which they wore at the
moment the wet brush had touched the spine, and, in short, the man was
in a trance exactly similar to that in which I had found the old miser
three months before.
"'I had discovered the virtues of the brush. At first I was a good
deal frightened, not knowing how long the trance might continue.
However, after the lapse of twelve hours, the man recovered
consciousness again, and the complete use of all his faculties just as
suddenly as the old miser had done three months previously.
"'I persuaded the man that he had fallen asleep during the operation of
anointing his tumour, and that I had housed him for the night out of
kindness. For this he thanked me sincerely, allowed me to bleed him
for the good of his health, and to wash and shave him, and paying me
handsomely for all I had done for him, departed with much satisfaction.
"'This morning, therefore, when I happened to give utterance to that
rash boast of being able to shave successfully any living thing—a
boast you so cleverly turned against me—I determined to make good my
words by virtue of the camel's-hair brush.'"
"And what," asked Haroun of Sidi ibn Thalabi, "what has become of the
brush? did you not buy it of the barber?"
"I endeavoured to do so," answered he, "but the barber declared that
unless the Caliph himself seated upon his throne should demand it, he
would never part with it on any terms to any man."
"I think, friend Sidi ibn Thalabi," said Haroun, "that the barber is
right. But now that I have heard the story of the barber, which is a
very strange story, and has interested me greatly, I must for the
present leave you, and return to my house where my people will be
anxiously awaiting me. I hope, however, to have the pleasure very
shortly of receiving you in my own house, and till then I bid you
 The Caliph was commonly so designated by the vulgar.
 A common Arab practice.
The Caliph and Sidi ibn Thalabi
On the next morning after Haroun Alraschid had given the customary
audiences to his Viziers and the great officers of his kingdom, he
ordered Mesrúr to send and fetch Kaseem, the barber whose story Sidi
ibn Thalabi had related to him.
Kaseem, on being introduced into the audience-chamber, and seeing the
Caliph in his royal robes seated upon the throne, made no doubt but
that he was in truth the same man as that Sidi ibn Thalabi who had
rescued him from the mob, and to whom he had spoken on board the boat.
When, therefore, Haroun said to him, "Kaseem, I have been told that you
have a certain small brush of potent virtue. Give it to me."
Kaseem answered, smiling, "Your Majesty is, I know, very well informed
indeed as to all the circumstances concerning that brush, and I am very
happy, not only from loyalty, but also from gratitude to one Sidi ibn
Thalabi, whom may Allah bless and reward, to be able to present to your
Majesty a thing which you desire to possess."
Saying this, he offered the little brush, which Haroun took with his
Then the Caliph, turning to the Grand Vizier, said:
"I appoint Kaseem to be the Court Barber; see that he has robes and
utensils given him suited to his office, and pay him every month a fee
of one hundred dinars."
The Caliph, having ordered further an immediate present of a thousand
dinars to be given to Kaseem, sent him away very well satisfied.
Haroun next commanded Giafer to prepare in the splendid house and
garden which had belonged to Abou Hassan, the Fortunate Merchant, a
great banquet and entertainment to be given that evening, and to which
Sidi ibn Thalabi and his brother-in-law, Abraha, were to be invited by
Hamad and Yussuf, the names assumed by himself and Giafer. All those
who were invited to meet Sidi ibn Thalabi were informed that it was
Haroun's pleasure to give this entertainment in the assumed character
of a merchant, and that he would be known and was to be addressed as
Hamad, and Giafer as Yussuf.
Among the guests were Murad Essed, the Unfortunate Merchant whom Haroun
had met, and whose story he had heard in this very house.
Murad Essed, like Sidi ibn Thalabi and Abraha, knew Haroun only in his
assumed character as a merchant. There were, however, other guests who
were very well acquainted with both the Caliph and the Grand Vizier.
There was, for instance, the singer and composer, Ishak ibn Ibrahim el
Mosili, a great favourite of Haroun's; and the blind poet, Abu
'Atahiyeh, with several others.
The splendid saloon, with its open arcade on one side, looking out over
the charming central garden, held on this evening a very merry party.
Never since the time of its late owner, Abou Hassan, the Fortunate
Merchant, had it beheld a scene so gay.
The banquet was varied and well served, the wines of the rarest
vintages, and the hours passed speedily and pleasantly enough,
enlivened by a constant succession of tales and songs.
Murad Essed was the first that was called upon by Haroun as the host to
relate a story to the company.
"Murad Essed," said Haroun, "there are, I think, none here present
beside you, myself, and my friend Yussuf, who are acquainted with the
story of Abou Hassan, the Fortunate Merchant, the former owner of this
house. Will you, therefore, oblige us by relating it to us?"
When Murad Essed had, in response to this invitation, related the story
of the Fortunate Merchant and his tragical fate, Haroun addressed
himself to Abu 'Atahiyeh, and said: "Abu 'Atahiyeh, do you now compose
a few verses, and Ishak ibn Ibrahim el Mosili shall sing them."
Abu 'Atahiyeh, who was sitting next to Ishak, having dictated some
lines, and Ishak having written them down, the latter sang them to a
favourite air of Haroun's, being accompanied on the lute by Isaac, the
most famous of all the players on that instrument.
The lines were these:
"O, LOVELY STARS!"
"O lovely stars! O lovely stars! O lovely stars in the sky!
Your eyes are bright, your eyes are bright, and yet you are
You none are men, you none are men, but every one a she;
And but at night, and but at night, your beauty we men may see!
The staring gaze, the staring gaze, of insolent Day you shun;
In veils of light, in veils of light, hid from the face of the Sun.
The swarthy Night, the swarthy Night, he alone may be your spouse;
His harem wide, his harem wide, no other lover allows.
The Caliph's self, the Caliph's self, has no bevy one half so fair;
Nor lodged so well, nor lodged so well, as ye in your palace of air!"
"Bravo, bravo! well worded and well sung, by Allah!" cried Haroun, as
Ishak ibn Ibrahim el Mosili concluded the verses. Then taking two
splendid golden goblets which stood before him, he commanded them to be
filled with wine, and presented one to Abu 'Atahiyeh, and the other to
Ishak ibn Ibrahim el Mosili.
"Take each of you," said the generous Caliph, "the goblet that I send
you; it is yours. And, by Allah and the beard of the Prophet! if I
could but find twenty such poets and singers, most willingly would I
find twenty such goblets for them."
The other guests were no less pleased than the host himself with the
verses of Abu 'Atahiyeh, and the singing of Ishak ibn Ibrahim el Mosili.
Presently the Caliph, addressing Abu 'Atahiyeh, said: "You have made us
some verses, now tell us a tale, for I know that your store of tales is
THE STORY OF MUBAREK,
AS TOLD BY ABU 'ATAHIYEH.
"There once lived a young man whose name was Mubarek. He was the only
son of a rich merchant at Bagdad, commonly known as Bereydah abou
"To the great grief of his father, Mubarek, when he was twenty-three
years of age, developed such a longing to travel and visit those
foreign countries of which he had so often heard from other
merchants—his father's friends—that nothing could persuade him to
remain quietly in Bagdad. Bereydah abou Mubarek, having therefore
furnished his son with such sorts of merchandize as would be most
suitable to trade with in the countries he was about to visit, took
leave of him with much emotion and many injunctions both as to his
personal conduct, and the management of his affairs.
"After passing through several countries most frequently traversed by
caravans belonging to the merchants of this city, and where he saw
nothing but what is familiarly known to all here present, and met with
no adventure I need pause to describe, he set sail in a merchantman,
bound for the coast of India.
"He had not been at sea more than three days when a violent storm
arose, and the force of the hurricane, driving the ship altogether out
of her course, she found herself at length off a coast altogether
unknown to the captain, and in spite of his exertions she was blown in
shore, and became very shortly a total wreck.
"Mubarek, who fortunately succeeded in reaching the land, although with
the loss of all that he possessed, wandered about for some time in a
most forlorn and starving condition. At length, meeting some natives
of the country, he was conducted by them to a large town on the coast,
which was the capital of the kingdom. Here, in a very magnificent
palace situated in the midst of extensive and fragrant gardens, lived
Ahesha the Queen. An idolater, like all her subjects, she was,
although an exceedingly beautiful woman, cruel, vindictive, and a
proficient in all the arts of magic.
"Mubarek, as a stranger, being brought before her, as the laws of that
kingdom required, she immediately fell violently in love with him,
which was the less to be wondered at, inasmuch as he was a young man of
pleasant features, a striking figure, and considerable personal
"Ahesha, having commanded the stranger to be led to the bath, and
arrayed in rich robes appropriate to one occupying the position of a
Vizier or Prince, she invited him to join her in partaking of a
sumptuous repast, and afterwards to accompany her in strolling through
the charming gardens which surrounded her palace.
"Mubarek, consoled for the hardship and dangers of the shipwreck and
the loss of his merchandize by so flattering and distinguished a
reception, and by the society of a woman and Queen of so much beauty,
wandered with her alone through the most retired walks of the garden.
"Coming at length to a grassy seat in the cool shade of a spreading
tree, they sat down.
"'Tell me,' said she, 'whether you are capable of loving a woman like
me, as a woman and a Queen should be loved?'
"'I love you,' he replied, 'with all the passion of youth, with all my
"'But,' said she, 'a Queen must be loved alone. She cannot consent to
divide the love of a man with any other woman.'
"'My charming and incomparable Queen,' he exclaimed, 'by Allah and the
Prophet of God! there is no woman that can stand beside you. The man
who is so happy as to possess you can want no other woman.'
"Ahesha laughed scornfully, and said, 'What an oath is that which you
use! I laugh at your Allah and his Prophet.'
"Mubarek was a young man of very hot blood and fierce passions, and
being brought up a strict Moslim, he was so much enraged at the Queen's
scoff, that no sooner were the words out of her mouth, than drawing
instantly a jewelled dagger which she wore at her girdle, he plunged it
into her heart.
"Then seeing the Queen lying at his feet with the blood gushing out of
her breast, he repented of his hasty act, but it was too late. He
perceived moreover that should he be discovered in that situation by
the enraged attendants of the beautiful Queen, he would be put to
death, probably with torture. At the same time, he knew neither where
he could find a place of safety nor how he should manage to obtain food
for the support of life in the midst of that city of idolaters.
"Wandering about the extensive gardens and groves surrounding the
palace, and expecting every moment to fall in with some party of the
royal guards who would seize him and take him prisoner, he came at
length, in a very retired part of the woods, to a small cavern or
grotto, and being very tired, he there laid himself down and very soon
"When he awoke the air was cool and fresh. The stars, still
discernible, were fading in the light of the approaching dawn; and as
he left the grotto he hastened, drawn by an indefinable and insensible
impulse, to seek the place where he had left the body of the heathen
"With some difficulty he again found the spot which had been the scene
of the love-making and the sudden tragedy on the previous day. The
body of the Queen was no longer there. It had evidently been
discovered and removed by her people. But precisely where her blood
had streamed out upon the ground a small shrub was growing, which
already bore a great number of bunches or clusters of a small fruit
resembling currants. Feeling very hungry he gathered a quantity of
this fruit and eat it as he walked. To his great surprise,
notwithstanding that he had but just risen from a long rest and sound
sleep, he began to feel excessively drowsy, and selecting a secluded
and shady nook, he lay down and at once again fell asleep.
"He must have slept several hours, as when he recovered consciousness
the sun was high in the heavens. But although it was apparently about
midday he presently noticed that he did not experience any sensation of
heat. It gradually dawned upon him, moreover, that, although perfectly
conscious and able to reason and reflect and to distinguish clearly
everything around him, this state of consciousness was wholly separate
from and disconnected with the body. In fact, looking down he
perceived his body lying stretched upon the grass, and still wrapped
apparently in the total oblivion of the profoundest sleep.
"While he was yet lost in astonishment at the marvel of this strange
condition, a fairy or spirit of the air stood beside him, and
addressing him said—
"'Mubarek, why do you stand thus gazing upon the ground? Say, to what
place shall we go? With so many lovely and charming scenes to which we
can resort, we need not remain fettered to this earth.'
"'Fairy,' answered Mubarek, 'the choice rests with you. Take me with
you wheresoever you will.'
"'Mubarek,' said the fairy, 'look up and tell me which star we shall
"Mubarek, looking up, found that the brightness of the noonday sun no
longer obscured his vision, but that the stars also appeared clearly to
him sparkling in all their myriad hosts throughout the heaven.
Selecting modestly one of the smaller stars, a mere point of light
glistening in the distance, he said—
"'We will go there.'
"In a moment, not with the speed of lightning, for the lightning lags
and travels slowly, but in a moment and with the speed of thought, the
swiftest of all travellers known to man, they passed at once through
all the vast immeasurable space which lay between that little world and
"On their arrival, after they had time to look about them and realize
the peculiarities of their novel surroundings, Mubarek perceived that
in this strange world the light was not derived from any one fixed
point, such as our sun, but came in a steady and evenly diffused
brightness from every part of the clear and luminous vault of heaven.
But, notwithstanding that the heat under that cloudless sky and glowing
firmament must have been very great, yet to the inhabitants of that
world, whose bodies are composed of quite other elements than ours and
have a much higher temperature, the atmosphere, hot as it would appear
to us, seems always cool and refreshing.
"At the place where Mubarek and his fairy companion had alighted there
was situated a great and populous city. Its arrangements and
magnificence were such that no city that has ever existed on our earth
could be compared with it. In its wide thoroughfares and ample
squares, planted with fine trees, gay with an infinite variety of
many-tinted flowers, and adorned with lofty and ever-springing
fountains of cool and sparkling liquid, which, as Mubarek afterwards
discovered, was not water but the purest liquid glass, every dwelling
was a palace. In that happy country there were no mean and squalid
houses and no poor people.
"Mubarek and the fairy alighted in one of the noble squares of this
great city, and after they had been standing only a few minutes looking
about them in unfeigned wonder and admiration at all they saw, several
of the inhabitants approached them, and bidding them welcome, offered
to conduct them to the mansion which had been prepared for their
"'How,' asked Mubarek, 'is it possible that any house can have been
prepared for me, seeing that until this moment I have had no idea or
intention of coming hither?'
"'Let not that surprise you,' said one of those who had addressed them:
'Allah, whose power and beneficence extends to every place, has
ordained that we who are privileged to live in this delightful world,
where it is always light, and where we are never weary and want for
nothing that is necessary for our subsistence, should ever occupy
ourselves with the happy task of preparing, not only all the luxuries
and conveniences which we ourselves may desire, but also fair abodes
for those whom he may from time to time allow to come among us.'
"Saying this, they conducted Mubarek and the fairy to a spacious and
beautiful palace which stood not far from the spot where they were
"The house, like all those in this city, appeared to be composed of
immense blocks of crystal or translucent marble of many hues. The
great pillars that supported the arches, the massive walls, the
glistening roof with its domes and minarets, all were composed of the
same unique and costly material.
"Entering the hall of the palace through the wide portal, on each side
of which, standing open, were two curiously carved doors of some
substance resembling mother-of-pearl, they passed through the various
apartments of the palace—all large, stately, and furnished handsomely.
"One peculiarity of this building which immediately attracted their
attention was that there were no windows, sufficient of the perpetual
and never-clouded brightness of the heavens passing through the
semi-translucent substance of the walls to afford a subdued and
pleasant light to those within them.
"Mubarek, seating himself, at the invitation of his friendly
conductors, on a couch covered with a fine soft fabric of a kind such
as he had never seen before, expected that the slaves who attended in
this superb palace would shortly appear to do his bidding, and prepare
some kind of refreshment for himself and those who had brought him
thither, and who declared him to be the owner of the place and
themselves to be his guests.
"As, however, after sitting and conversing for some time, no servant
made his appearance, he imagined that perhaps in that country no slave
would dare to present himself even to tender his services without
awaiting the signal from his lord. Mubarek therefore clapped his hands
to summon the attendants. No one appeared, however, and those who sat
with him looked surprised, and said—
"'What is the meaning of that action? Why do you clap your hands?'
"'I wish,' said he, 'to call the slaves, who, no doubt, are in
attendance in some ante-chamber.'
"'What,' asked the others, 'are slaves?'
"'The servants, the attendants,' explained Mubarek, 'those who do the
work of the house, who wait upon us, who cook our food and bring it to
"'There are,' said the others, smiling, 'no such creatures in this
world. All the inhabitants of these houses, no matter how large or
fine they may be—and all our dwellings are spacious and
magnificent—do whatever work may be necessary, and are ever ready to
exert themselves in the interest both of themselves and of others.
Besides,' the speaker continued, 'we have so many forces and
contrivances, unknown perhaps in the region whence you come, that,
although we have plenty of work, without which we might be dull, we
have no drudgery.'
"'That is all very easy to say,' replied Mubarek, 'but who then kills
the animals you eat, cooks them, and serves your table?'
"'What!' exclaimed the other, in surprise, 'do you kill and devour each
"'No,' answered Mubarek; 'not each other, but other animals, such as
the camel, the sheep, and the goat.'
"They heard this avowal with almost the same disgust as we should an
avowal of man-eating, and explained that in their world they neither
killed nor ate any living thing.
"'We have,' they said, 'fruits pleasing to the palate and nourishing to
the body. These we gather, each one for himself, and should regard a
man who required some one to gather his food for him very much as you
would regard a man so lazy as to want some one to put it into his mouth
"Saying this, they rose, and Mubarek and the fairy with them, and
taking each a plate or dish, every one of which was fashioned out of a
single piece of the same beautiful and many-tinted crystal as composed
the walls of their dwellings, they proceeded to gather in the garden
which surrounded the palace all kinds of fruit.
"This fruit seemed to Mubarek to consist of all sorts of precious
stones—the topaz, the jasper, the onyx, the carbuncle, the emerald,
the ruby, and many others, and having brought their plates filled with
this fruit into the house, these strange people sat down and ate them
with much relish, praising highly their delicious flavour and
"They then replaced the plates, unsoiled by the repast they had
contained, and prepared to show Mubarek and the fairy the beauties of
their marvellous city.
"Instead of mounting on horseback like men, or being carried in litters
like women, these singular beings had but to press a knob or spring on
a pillar standing before the house, and straightway a gentle breeze
arose and carried them smoothly, and swiftly or slowly as they pleased,
whithersoever they desired to go.
"In this easy and pleasant manner they journeyed through the city and
were received by all they met with the most friendly and affectionate
greetings. In every house they entered they were welcomed with frank
cordiality, and at once, without ceremony or embarrassment, fell to
assisting the host in any work at which he might chance to be engaged,
or discussing any topic of interest that might occur to them.
"After paying many of these visits and admiring the extraordinary
richness and variety of architecture, furniture and utensils to be
observed in every one of the dwellings of this happy and intelligent
race, Mubarek said with some astonishment—
"'In all this vast and incomparable city through which you have so long
conducted me, one thing I observe to be lacking. Among all this
multitude of houses, every one of which is well worthy of being styled
a palace, I have not seen, and you have not shown me, a single mosque,
a single building that is,' he explained, 'dedicated to the service of
"'Truly,' said they, looking upon him with amazement, 'some of your
remarks and questions are more surprising to us than anything we can
say or show can appear to you. Is it possible that any people can
build any house that is not to be dedicated to the service of Allah,
and if not, what can be the meaning or necessity of such a building as
you allude to?'
"'Have you, then,' asked Mubarek, 'no religion?'
"'What is that?' said they; 'the word is new to us.'
"'Do you not,' asked Mubarek, 'serve God?'
"'Allah forbid that it should be otherwise,' said they. 'He has
created us and placed us in this world, and what He wills we do. We do
not comprehend your meaning.'
"Perceiving this to be indeed the case, Mubarek did not continue to
speak of religion. With these people to do what they conceived to be
right was part of their life, and to do either less or more was to them
incomprehensible. Their life was their religion, their work was their
prayer, and their enjoyment was their praise.
"Mubarek and the fairy spent a very long period in visiting and viewing
all the beauties and wonders of this strange world. How long a period
they had no means of estimating, since there light is perpetual as on
one bright morning that never knows an end.
"At length, not because they were tired, for weariness is there
unknown, Mubarek determined again to return to the house that had been
given him. He desired to enter upon the regular performance and
enjoyment of the duties of the new existence in this other world. But
they were told that first each might select a wife or partner of his
labours and his pleasures.
"For this purpose a great number of the women were assembled, each more
lovely than the fairest woman man has ever seen, and all clad in such
gauzelike glistening robes as would make the finest fabrics of this
world look coarse and homely.
"In this regard alone, however, are the men in that world stinted.
Each has but one wife. Mubarek found the difficulty great of choosing
only one. Yet, having made his choice, he soon became contented with
his lot. For in that bright world, where illness is unknown and labour
never wearies, woman continues always gay and fresh and pleasant. She
talks as much perhaps as her sisters in less-favoured worlds, but never
learns to scold or grumble or complain.
"The fairy, however, or spirit of the air, who had brought Mubarek
thither, would not accept a house or choose a wife or settle anywhere.
A restless and inconstant being, it preferred to wander forth and view
with never-sated curiosity the ever-varying marvels displayed by other
"A long time passed, a time unmarked by any of the changes and small
vicissitudes that we encounter here. No night succeeding day, and
bringing with it unconsciousness and rest. No procession of the
seasons—autumn, winter, spring; but one long summer, whose heat,
instead of seeming oppressive or exhausting, appeared ever cool,
refreshing, and exhilarating, filled with a stream of life, not
fluctuating and intermitting, but constant and untiring.
"Such then was the existence of Mubarek, till one day, happening to
drop and dash in fragments a superb crystal vase which he himself had
fashioned with much delightful labour as a present for his wife, the
old fierce impatience of his native land and race caused him to break
out into fearful imprecations.
"At once, as though on the involuntary rupture of some mysterious spell
or charm, he found himself, with a rapidity equal to that by which he
had mounted to that distant world, transported back to this. He was in
his own body which he had left sleeping on the ground, and in the very
spot at which he had left it sleeping.
"At first he was so dazed and confused by the recollection of all that
he had experienced that he scarce remembered where he was. By and by
becoming more composed, he recognized the danger of remaining in the
grounds of the palace whose Queen he had stabbed, and making his way by
paths as little frequented as he could find to the sea-coast, he beheld
with joy a ship sailing at no great distance from the shore. Making
signals of distress, they put out a small boat and brought him on board.
"The vessel chanced to be one bound for Bussora, whither in due time
Mubarek arrived, and hastening to Bagdad, found his father, now an old
man, and who had long mourned his death, still alive and overjoyed to
again behold his son.
"Bereydah abou Mubarek dying not long after his son's return, Mubarek
succeeded to his father's fortune and his father's house, and lived
quietly and happily in Bagdad during the remainder of his days."
The story of Mubarek being ended, and the company having thanked Abu
'Atahiyeh for having related it to them, the Caliph, in his character
as host, addressed himself to Sidi ibn Thalabi.
"Friend Sidi ibn Thalabi," he said, "none of the good company here
present, excepting only ourselves, has heard the story of the barber
and the camel's-hair brush; will you therefore do us the favour to tell
"Friend Hamad," replied Sidi ibn Thalabi, "there is, I am persuaded, no
one so churlish as to refuse to do aught that he may be requested to
do, with the object of amusing your guests at this hospitable and
When Sidi ibn Thalabi had concluded the story of the barber and the
camel's-hair brush, many of those present were as anxious as Haroun had
been when he first heard it, to know what had become of the little
brush, and whether Sidi ibn Thalabi had bought it of the barber.
"No, gentlemen," said Sidi ibn Thalabi; "the barber altogether refused
to sell the brush on any terms, or at any price, and declared that he
would never part with it unless the Caliph himself, seated upon his
throne and arrayed in his royal robes, demanded it of him."
While Sidi ibn Thalabi was concluding his tale, the Caliph had observed
that one of the black slaves in attendance was showing all the teeth he
possessed—and a very sound white set they were—in a capacious grin of
enjoyment of the circumstances that were being narrated. Therefore,
taking the little brush, and moistening it in a vase of water that
stood near, he handed it to Giafer, and bid him in a whisper apply it
to the top of the fellow's spine.
Giafer, rising as though to leave the room, stole behind the black
without being noticed by him, so absorbed was he in what was being
said. Quickly passing the brush down the back of the neck, the
African, in his attitude of rapt attention, and with his wide grin of
unfeigned delight, became at once fixed and unchanging, as though he
were an image in black marble.
Then Haroun, turning to Sidi ibn Thalabi, said: "There is one man at
least whom you have delighted; behold the power of the brush!"
"What!" exclaimed Sidi ibn Thalabi, "is the barber present?"
"The barber is not present," said Haroun, "but only the brush."
As he said these words, Giafer, with a low bow, placed the brush again
in his hands.
"Allah, be merciful to us!" exclaimed the astonished Sidi ibn Thalabi.
"Why, it can be no other than the Caliph himself!"
"It is no other," said Haroun, "yet fear nothing; I have forgiven you
any pranks in which you may have indulged in my name, but would have
you discontinue them henceforth; therefore I appoint you Governor of
Syria; the dawn will soon appear, start for your province in the
Sidi ibn Thalabi having thanked his Majesty for his gracious and
generous gifts, Haroun, turning to Murad Essed, the Unfortunate
"This house, once your own, and all it contains, I give to you, and my
treasurer shall to-morrow bring you ten thousand dinars, with which you
may recommence to trade; may you be in the future more cautious and
The guests then departed, and the entertainment of Hamad the Merchant
was at an end.
The Caliph and the Magic Tube.
One day, as Haroun Alraschid sat in one of the apartments of his
palace, which overlooked a great public square of the city, he observed
a large crowd of people surrounding a man, who, sometimes looking
through a small tube he held in his hand, and sometimes addressing the
throngs around him, seemed to attract in a high degree their interest
After watching this scene for some little time, the Caliph became
curious to learn what the properties or merits of the tube might be,
and sent therefore to fetch the man into the palace. When he entered,
Haroun saw that he was a fine young man, whose countenance bore a
pleasing expression, while his dress, by its foreign and unusual
character, plainly proclaimed him to be a traveller.
The Caliph demanding of him what might be the peculiarity of that tube
which he had seen him exhibiting to the people, the man replied:
"This tube which I hold in my hand, although it is in appearance a very
common, ordinary tube, possesses, in fact, powers so wonderful, that I
doubt not but that your Majesty will be greatly astonished as I exhibit
them to you.
"Having rendered an important service to a powerful Magician with whom
I became acquainted while I was in India, he presented me with this
tube, and initiated me into the proper manner of using it. By
adjusting it in a particular way, the details of which I am not
permitted to divulge to any one, I am enabled, on looking through the
tube, to observe what is taking place either in distant parts of the
world or even future events which shall take place in remote kingdoms
after the lapse of many ages."
"Almirvan," said the Caliph—"for such is, I am told, your name—if
your magical tube can disclose the distant scenes you speak of, it will
interest me much, and you may expect with full confidence an adequate
reward. But if your tube be in truth but a mystification for the
vulgar, under cover of which you palm off the monstrous and incredible
fictions of your imagination, why, you had better confess to me the
truth at once, and depart, because, should I discover later that it is
so, I will cause your tube to be broken and your head to be removed
from your shoulders."
"Sire," replied Almirvan, "of the truth of that which my magic tube
discloses to me I am fully persuaded, and am very willing to relate to
your Majesty plainly, and without addition or concealment, whatever I
may observe when I look through the tube. And first I must ask your
Majesty to say whether the scene I am to witness is to be distant in
space only, or also in time."
"Almirvan," said the Caliph, "I have already heard so much from the
lips of so many travellers concerning the manners and customs of other,
and even distant, countries, that your magic tube will probably have
little that is new to inform me about them. Therefore, look far into
the future, and tell me what you see; but once more I warn you to be
careful that you add nothing for the purpose of astonishing. I am
tired of hearing of men who walk with their heads under their arms—of
men as tall as trees, or short as pigmies, or other such like
travellers' monstrous stories."
The traveller, after muttering certain words of prayer or incantation,
gazed for some time steadfastly through the tube, and then, as though
describing slowly and with difficulty a scene upon which he was
looking, he said—
"I see distant, far distant, by reason of the countless leagues and
many centuries that intervene, a strange and populous country. The
land is bright and pleasant, and verdant everywhere, for water is
abundant; the white cliffs upon the frontier glisten in the water, the
land is an island of the sea. The inhabitants are unbelievers
evidently, and rude and barbarous, for their women go about with naked
faces, and every man that passes may gaze upon the best of them. The
dress of all, both men and women, is strange and hideous, and one looks
in vain for the well-folded turban, or the decent modest yashmak.
"This odd people have horses, and very good ones, but seldom ride them;
because for the most part they have machines like chariots, made with
wheels and of many various shapes; and in these they sit, and cause the
horses to draw them.
"But stranger than all this, they have a creature of amazing strength
and huge size, which, though larger than an elephant, is swifter than a
bird. On the back of this terrible creature, which is thirty or forty
feet long, and whose stomach is like a fiery furnace, two or three men
will stand without fear, even when it is running at its utmost speed.
Most remarkable of all, they feed the creature from behind."
"What!" exclaimed the Caliph, "is this your travellers' tale?"
"Sire," said Almirvan, "it is truly wonderful, but I describe to you
that only which I behold. At the back of the creature there plainly
appears to be an opening, leading into its fiery stomach, and therein
the men upon its back do place the food of the creature, which appears
to consist of great blocks of black marble."
"Oh, Almirvan, unhappy traveller! what hast thou done that thou
shouldest be tired of thy life?" said the Caliph. "What wouldest thou
have me believe—that in the farthest islands of the sea, or in
remotest ages yet to come, this monster of thine, huger than an
elephant, fleeter than a bird, and swallowing great pieces of stone
from behind, can by any possibility exist?"
"Your Majesty," answered Almirvan, "the people must without doubt be
very skilful magicians. But most assuredly I affirm that I see them
through this tube, doing not only all that I have related to you, but
harnessing the creature to long strings of immense chariots, and
causing it to convey in this way both themselves and their merchandize
from place to place."
"At what speed didst thou say that the creature goes?" asked the Caliph.
"It goes with the speed of the wind," answered Almirvan.
"And therefore the people and their heavy merchandize go also with the
speed of the wind? Is this your truthful tale? Why, every lie
outstrips its predecessor."
"Your Majesty," said Almirvan, "I say but what I see."
"Almirvan," said the Caliph, "what further dost thou see?"
"I see," replied Almirvan, looking again through the magic tube, "many
great and marvellous works erected in all parts of their country by
this indefatigable and patient people. Many bridges spanning every
stream, and others crossing even arms of the sea, and that at such a
height that the largest ships can pass full sail beneath them. Great
cities stud the land like jewels on the scabbard of the Caliph's
scimitar. Fine palaces and noble mosques, or buildings of that
character, abound, but most singular and beautiful of all is a palace
formed entirely of crystal, which stands amid gardens adorned with
fountains, and every facet of whose transparent walls glistens in the
sun. But another circumstance that much attracts my notice is that all
the country is covered with a marvellous network, like a gigantic
spider's web, composed of fine metallic thread. By this means and by
the aid of some incomprehensible magic the people communicate with each
other with lightning-like rapidity, and no matter how great the
distance that may separate them. But, indeed, this is less surprising
than another contrivance that they have, by means of which two men as
far apart as Bussora from Bagdad converse at their ease and by word of
mouth, each evidently hearing the very voice and words of the other."
When the Caliph heard this statement, so astounding, so audacious, he
was filled with rage.
"What!" he exclaimed, "can your magic tube, when it pretends to show us
future times and other nations, invent no more probable and coherent
wonders? What breath shall these men have, and what chests and throats
must they be, if one man standing in Bagdad shall make another at
Bussora hear him?"
"Take from him," said the Caliph to an officer in attendance, "his
magic tube and break it in pieces. As for the fellow himself, let him
be carried three times through the streets of the city mounted upon a
camel and seated with his face to the tail, and let this proclamation
be made by the criers: 'Thus shall it fare with the man who invents
lying tales and wonders, deceiving the people and pretending to magical
power which he does not possess.' After he has been carried three
times round the city in this manner, let him be scourged and beheaded
as a warning to others."
Thus perished miserably Almirvan, the owner of the magic tube. But
whether he lied more than other men, and whether his punishment has
effectually deterred others from following his pernicious example, we
will not attempt to determine.