MESROUR THE EUNUCH AND IBN EL CARIBI

The Khalif Haroun er Reshid was very restless one night; so he said to his Vizier Jaafer, 'I am sleepless tonight and my heart is oppressed and I know not what to do.' Now his henchman Mesrour was standing before him, and he laughed. Quoth the Khalif, 'Dost thou laugh in derision of me or art thou mad?' 'Neither, by Allah, O Commander of the Faithful,' answered Mesrour, 'by thy kinship to the Prince of Apostles, I did it not of my free-will; but I went out yesterday to walk and coming to the bank of the Tigris, saw there the folk collected about a man named Ibn el Caribi, who was making them laugh; and but now I recalled what he said, and laughter got the better of me; and I crave pardon of thee, O Commander of the Faithful!' 'Bring him to me forthright,' said the Khalif. So Mesrour repaired in all haste to Ibn el Caribi and said to him, 'The Commander of the Faithful calls for thee.' 'I hear and obey,' answered the droll. 'But on condition,' added Mesrour, 'that, if he give thee aught, thou shalt have a fourth and the rest shall be mine.' 'Nay,' replied the other, 'thou shalt have half and I half.' 'Not so,' insisted Mesrour; 'I will have three-quarters.' 'Thou shalt have two-thirds, then,' rejoined Ibn el Caribi; 'and I the other third.' To this Mesrour agreed, after much haggling, and they returned to the palace together.

When Ibn el Caribi came into the Khalif's presence, he saluted him, as became his rank, and stood before him; whereupon said Er Reshid to him, 'If thou do not make me laugh, I will give thee three blows with this bag.' Quoth Ibn el Caribi in himself, 'Three strokes with that bag were a small matter, seeing that beating with whips irketh me not;' for he thought the bag was empty. Then he clapped into a discourse, such as would make a stone laugh, and gave vent to all manner of drolleries; but the Khalif laughed not neither smiled, whereat Ibn el Caribi marvelled and was chagrined and affrighted. Then said the Khalif, 'Now hast thou earned the beating,' and gave him a blow with the bag, in which were four pebbles, each two pounds in weight. The blow fell on his neck and he gave a great cry, then calling to mind his compact with Mesrour, said, 'Pardon, O Commander of the Faithful! Hear two words from me.' 'Say on,' replied the Khalif. Quoth Ibn el Caribi, 'Mesrour made it a condition with me that, whatsoever might come to me of the bounties of the Commander of the Faithful, one-third thereof should be mine and the rest his; nor did he agree to leave me so much as one-third save after much haggling. Now thou hast bestowed on me nothing but beating; I have had my share and here stands he, ready to receive his; so give him the two other blows.'

When the Khalif heard this, he laughed till he fell backward; then calling Mesrour, he gave him a blow, whereat he cried out and said, 'O Commander of the Faithful, one-third sufficeth me: give him the two-thirds.' The Khalif laughed at them and ordered them a thousand diners each, and they went away, rejoicing.




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