ALI THE PERSIAN'S STORY OF THE KURD SHARPER

The Khalif Haroun er Reshid, being more than commonly restless one night, sent for his Vizier and said to him, 'O Jaafer, I am sore wakeful and heavy at heart to-night, and I desire of thee what may cheer my spirit and ease me of my oppression.' 'O Commander of the Faithful,' answered Jaafer, 'I have a friend, by name Ali the Persian, who hath store of tales and pleasant stories, such as lighten the heart and do away care.' 'Fetch him to me,' said the Khalif. 'I hear and obey,' replied Jaafer and going out from before him, sent for Ali the Persian and said to him, 'The Commander of the Faithful calls for thee.' 'I hear and obey,' answered Ali and followed the Vizier into the presence of the Khalif, who bade him be seated and said to him, 'O Ali, my heart is heavy within me this night and I hear that thou hast great store of tales and anecdotes; so I desire of thee that thou let me hear what will relieve my oppression and gladden my melancholy.' 'O Commander of the Faithful,' said he, 'shall I tell thee what I have seen with my eyes or what I have heard with my ears?' 'An thou have seen aught [worth telling],' replied the Khalif, 'let me hear that.' 'Know then, O Commander of the Faithful,' said Ali, 'that some years ago I left this my native city of Baghdad on a journey, having with me a boy who carried a light wallet. Presently, we came to a certain city, where, as I was buying and selling, a rascally thief of a Kurd fell on me and seized my wallet, saying, "This is my bag, and all that is in it is my property." Thereupon, "Ho, Muslims all," cried I, "deliver me from the hand of the vilest of oppressors!" But they all said, "Come, both of you, to the Cadi and submit yourselves to his judgement." I agreed to this and we both presented ourselves before the Cadi, who said, "What brings you hither and what is your case?" Quoth I, "We are men at difference, who appeal to thee and submit ourselves to thy judgement." "Which of you is the complainant?" asked the Cadi. So the Kurd came forward and said, "God preserve our lord the Cadi! Verily, this bag is my bag and all that is in it is my property. It was lost from me and I found it with this man." "When didst thou lose it?" asked the Cadi. "But yesterday," replied the Kurd; "and I passed a sleepless night by reason of its loss." "If it be thy bag," said the Cadi, "tell me what is in it." Quoth the Kurd, "There were in my bag two silver styles and eye-powders and a handkerchief, and I had laid therein two gilt cups and two candlesticks. Moreover it contained two tents and two platters and two hooks and a cushion and two leather rugs and two ewers and a brass tray and two basins and a cooking-pot and two water-jars and a ladle and a sacking-needle and a she-cat and two bitches (151) and a wooden trencher and two sacks and two saddles and a gown and two fur pelisses and a cow and two calves and a she-goat and two sheep and an ewe and two lambs and two green pavilions and a camel and two she-camels and a she-buffalo and two bulls and a lioness and two lions and a she-bear and two foxes and a mattress and two couches and an upper chamber and two saloons and a portico and two ante-rooms and a kitchen with two doors and a company of Kurds who will testify that the bag is mine." Then said the Cadi to me, "And thou, what sayst thou?" So I came forward, O Commander of the Faithful (and indeed the Kurd's speech had bewildered me) and said, "God advance our lord the Cadi! There was nothing in this my wallet, save a little ruined house and another without a door and a dog-kennel and a boys' school and youths playing dice and tents and tent-poles and the cities of Bassora and Baghdad and the palace of Sheddad ben Aad (152) and a smith's forge and a fishing net and cudgels and pickets and girls and boys and a thousand pimps, who will testify that the bag is my bag." When the Kurd heard my words, he wept and wailed and said, "O my lord the Cadi, my bag is known and what is in it is renowned; therein are castles and citadels and cranes and beasts of prey and men playing chess and draughts. Moreover, in this my bag is a brood-mare and two colts and a stallion and two blood- horses and two long lances and a lion and two hares and a city and two villages and a courtezan and two sharking pimps and a catamite and two gallows-birds and a blind man and two dogs and a cripple and two lameters and a priest and two deacons and a patriarch and two monks and a Cadi and two assessors, who will testify that the bag is my bag." Quoth the Cadi to me, "And what sayst thou, O Ali?" So, O Commander of the Faithful, being filled with rage, I came forward and said, "God keep our lord the Cadi! I had in this my wallet a coat of mail and a broadsword and armouries and a thousand fighting rams and a sheep-fold and a thousand barking dogs and gardens and vines and flowers and sweet herbs and figs and apples and pictures and statues and flagons and goblets and fair- faced slave-girls and singing-women and marriage-feasts and tumult and clamour and great tracts of land and brothers of success (153) and a company of daybreak-riders, with swords and spears and bows and arrows, and true friends and dear ones and intimates and comrades and men imprisoned for punishment and cup-companions and a drum and flutes and flags and banners and boys and girls and brides, in all their wedding bravery, and singing-girls and five Abyssinian women and three Hindi and four women of Medina and a score of Greek girls and half a hundred Turkish and threescore and ten Persian girls and fourscore Kurd and fourscore and ten Georgian women and Tigris and Euphrates and a fowling net and a flint and steel and Many-Columned Irem (154) and a thousand rogues and pimps and horse-courses and stables and mosques and baths and a builder and a carpenter and a plank and a nail and a black slave, with a pair of recorders, and a captain and a caravan-leader and towns and cities and a hundred thousand dinars and Cufa and Ambar (155) and twenty chests full of stuffs and twenty store-houses for victual and Gaza and Askalon and from Damietta to Essouan and the palace of Kisra Anoushirwan (156) and the kingdom of Solomon and from Wadi Numan (157) to the land of Khorassan and Balkh and Ispahan and from India to the Soudan. Therein also (may God prolong the life of our lord the Cadi!) are doublets and cloths and a thousand sharp razors to shave the Cadi's chin, except he fear my resentment and adjudge the bag to be mine."

When the Cadi heard what I and the Kurd avouched, he was confounded and said, "I see ye are none other than two pestilent atheistical fellows, who make sport of Cadis and magistrates and stand not in fear of reproach. Never did any tell or hear tell of aught more extraordinary than that which ye pretend. By Allah, from China to Shejreh umm Ghailan (158) nor from Fars to the Soudan, nor from Wadi Numan to Khorassan, ever was heard or credited the like of what ye avouch! Is this bag a bottomless sea or the Day of Resurrection, that shall gather together the just and unjust?" Then he bade open the bag; so I opened it and behold, there was in it bread and a lemon and cheese and olives. So I threw it down before the Kurd and went away.'

When the Khalif heard Ali's story, he laughed till he fell backward and made him a handsome present.




End of Vol. III.




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