JAAFER THE BARMECIDE AND THE OLD BEDOUIN

The Khalif Haroun er Reshid went out one day, with Abou Yousuf the minion and Jaafer the Barmecide and Abou Nuwas, into the desert, where they fell in with an old man, leant upon his ass. The Khalif bade Jaafer ask him whence he came; so he said to him, 'Whence comest thou?' 'From Bassora,' answered the Bedouin. 'And whither goest thou?' asked Jaafer. 'To Baghdad,' said the other. 'And what wilt thou do there?' asked Jaafer. 'I go to seek medicine for my eye,' replied the old man. Quoth the Khalif, 'O Jaafer, make us sport with him.' 'If I jest with him,' answered Jaafer, 'I shall hear what I shall not like.' But Er Reshid rejoined, 'I charge thee, on my authority, jest with him.'

So Jaafer said to the Bedouin, 'If I prescribe thee a remedy that shall profit thee, what wilt thou give me in return?' Quoth the other, 'God the Most High will requite thee for me with better than I can give thee.' 'Harkye, then,' said Jaafer, 'and I will give thee a prescription, which I have given to none but thee.' 'What is that?' asked the Bedouin; and Jaafer answered, 'Take three ounces of wind-wafts and the like of sunbeams and moonshine and lamp-light; mix them together and let them lie in the wind three months. Then bray them three months in a mortar without a bottom and laying them in a cleft platter, set it in the wind other three months; after which use three drachms every night in thy sleep, and (God willing) thou shalt be cured.'

When the Bedouin heard this, he stretched himself out on the ass's back and letting fly a terrible great crack of wind, said to Jaafer, 'Take this, in payment of thy prescription. When I have followed it, if God grant me recovery, I will give thee a slave-girl, who shall serve thee in thy lifetime a service, wherewith God shall cut short thy term; and when thou diest and God hurries thy soul to the fire, she shall blacken thy face with her ordure, of her mourning for thee, and lament and buffet her face, saying, "O frosty-beard, what a ninny thou wast!"' (125) The Khalif laughed till he fell backward, and ordered the Bedouin three thousand dirhems.




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