THE KHALIF EL HAKIM AND THE MERCHANT

The Khalif El Hakim bi Amrillah was riding out in state one day, when he came to a garden, in which he saw a man, surrounded by slaves and servants. He asked him for a draught of water, and the man gave him to drink, saying, 'Peradventure, the Commander of the Faithful will honour me by alighting in this my garden.' So the Khalif dismounted and entered the garden with his suite; whereupon the man brought out to them a hundred carpets and a hundred leather mats and a hundred cushions and set before them a hundred dishes of fruits, a hundred saucers of sweetmeats and a hundred bowls full of sherbets of sugar; whereat the Khalif marvelled and said to his host, 'O man, this thy case is a strange one. Didst thou know of our coming and make this preparation for us?' 'No, by Allah, O Commander of the Faithful,' answered the other, 'I knew not of thy coming and am but a merchant of the rest of thy subjects. But I have a hundred concubines; so, when the Commander of the Faithful honoured me by alighting with me, I sent to each of them, bidding her send me the morning-meal here. So they sent me each of her furniture and of the excess of her meat and drink: and every day each sends me a dish of meat and another of marinades, also a plate of fruits and a saucer of sweetmeats and a bowl of sherbet. This is my every-day noon-meal, nor have I added aught thereto for thee.'

The Khalif prostrated himself in thanksgiving to God the Most High and said, 'Praised be God, who hath been so bountiful to one of our subjects, that he entertaineth the Khalif and his suite, without making ready for them, but of the surplus of his day's victual!' Then he sent for all the dirhems in the treasury, that had been struck that year,--and they were in number three thousand and seven hundred thousand;--nor did he mount, till the money came, when he gave it to the merchant, saying, 'Use this for the maintenance of thy state; and thy desert is more than this.' Then he mounted and rode away.




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