MAAN BEN ZAÏDEH AND THE BEDOUIN.

It is told also of Maan ben Zaïdeh that he went forth one day to the chase with his company, and they came upon a herd of gazelles. So they separated in pursuit of them and Maan was left alone in chase of one of the gazelles. When he had made prize of it, he alighted and slaughtered it; and as he was thus engaged, he espied a man coming towards him on an ass. So he remounted and riding up to the new-comer, saluted him and asked him whence he came. Quoth he, 'I come from the land of Cuzaäh, where we have had a two years' dearth; but this year it was a season of plenty and I sowed cucumbers. They came up before their time, so I gathered the best of them and set out to carry them to the Amir Maan ben Zaïdeh, because of his well-known generosity and notorious munificence.' ' How much cost thou hope to get of him?' asked Maan, and the Bedouin answered, 'A thousand diners.' 'What if he say, "This is too much"?' quoth Maan. 'Then I will ask five hundred diners,' said the Bedouin. 'And if he say, "Too much"?' said Maan. 'Then three hundred,' replied the other. 'And if he say yet, "Too much"?' 'Then two hundred.' 'And yet, "Too much"?' 'Then one hundred.' 'And yet, "Too much"?' 'Then fifty.' 'And yet, "Too much"?' ' Then thirty.' 'And if he still say, "Too much"?' said Maan ben Zaïdeh. 'Then,' answered the Bedouin, ' I will make my ass set his feet in his sanctuary (122) and return to my people, disappointed and empty-handed.' Maan laughed at him and spurring his horse, rode on till he came up with his suite and returned home, when he said to his chamberlain, 'If there come a man with cucumbers, riding on an ass, admit him.' Presently up came the Bedouin and was admitted to Maan's presence, but knew him not for the man he had met in the desert, by reason of the gravity and majesty of his aspect and the multitude of his servants and attendants, for he was seated on his chair of estate, with his officers about him. So he saluted him and Maan said to him, 'O brother of the Arabs, what brings thee?' 'I hoped in the Amir,' answered the Bedouin, 'and have brought him cucumbers out of season.' ' And how much cost thou expect of us?' asked Maan. 'A thousand diners,' answered the Bedouin. 'Too much,' said Maan. Quoth the Bedouin, 'Five hundred;' but Maan repeated, ' Too much.' ' Then three hundred,' said the Bedouin. 'Too much,' said Maan. 'Two hundred.' 'Too much' 'One hundred.' ' Too much' 'Fifty.' 'Too much.' At last the Bedouin came down to thirty diners; but Maan still replied, 'Too much.' 'By Allah,' cried the Bedouin, 'the man I met in the desert brought me ill luck! But I will not go lower than thirty diners.' The Amir laughed and said nothing; whereupon the Bedouin knew that it was he whom he had met and said, 'O my lord, except thou bring the thirty diners, there is the ass tied ready at the door and here sits Maan.' At this, Maan laughed, till he fell backward, and calling his steward, said to him, 'Give him a thousand diners and five hundred and three hundred and two hundred and one hundred and fifty and thirty and leave the ass where he is.' So the Bedouin, to his amazement, received two thousand and nine score diners, and may God have mercy on them both!




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