EL HEJJAJ AND THE THREE YOUNG MEN. (69)

They tell that El Hejjaj (70) once commanded the Master of Police [of Bassora] to go round about [the city] by night, and whomsoever he found [abroad] after nightfall, that he should strike off his head. So he went round one night of the nights and came upon three youths staggering from side to side, and on them signs of [intoxication with] wine. So the officers laid hold of them and the captain of the watch said to them, "Who are ye that ye transgress the commandment of the [lieutenant of the] Commander of the Faithful and come abroad at this hour?" Quoth one of the youths, "I am the son of him to whom [all] necks (71) abase themselves, alike the nose-pierced (72) of them and the [bone-]breaker; (73) they come to him in their own despite, abject and submissive, and he taketh of their wealth (74) and of their blood."

The master of police held his hand from him, saying, "Belike he is of the kinsmen of the Commander of the Faithful," and said to the second, "Who art thou?" Quoth he, "I am the son of him whose rank (75) time abaseth not, and if it descend (76) one day, it will assuredly return [to its former height]; thou seest the folk [crowd] in troops to the light of his fire, some standing around it and some sitting." So the master of the police refrained from slaying him and said to the third, "Who art thou?" Quoth he, "I am the son of him who plungeth through the ranks (77) with his might and correcteth (78) them with the sword, (79) so that they stand straight; (80) his feet are not loosed from the stirrup, (81) whenas the horsemen on the day of battle are weary." So the master of police held his hand from him also, saying, "Belike, he is the son of a champion of the Arabs."

Then he kept them under guard, and when the morning morrowed, he referred their case to El Hejjaj, who caused bring them before him and enquiring into their affair, found that the first was the son of a barber-surgeon, the second of a [hot] bean-seller and the third of a weaver. So he marvelled at their readiness of speech (82) and said to his session-mates, "Teach your sons deportment; (83) for, by Allah, but for their ready wit, I had smitten off their heads!"




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