GENEROUS DEALING OF YAHYA BIN KHALID THE BARMECIDE WITH MANSUR.



It is told that Harun al-Rashid, in the days before he became jealous of the Barmecides, sent once for one of his guards, Salih by name, and said to him, "O Sálih, go to Mansúr [FN#246] and say to him: 'Thou owest us a thousand thousand dirhams and we require of thee immediate payment of this amount.' And I command thee, O Salih, unless he pay it between this hour and sundown, sever his head from his body and bring it to me." "To hear is to obey," answered Salih and, going to Mansur, acquainted him with what the Caliph had said, whereupon quoth he, "I am a lost man, by Allah; for all my estate and all my hand owneth, if sold for their utmost value, would not fetch a price of more than an hundred thousand dirhams. Whence then, O Salih, shall I get the other nine hundred thousand?" Salih replied, "Contrive how thou mayst speedily acquit thyself, else thou art a dead man; for I cannot grant thee an eye-twinkling of delay after the time appointed me by the Caliph; nor can I fail of aught which the Prince of True Believers hath enjoined on me. Hasten, therefore, to devise some means of saving thyself ere the time expire." Quoth Mansur, "O Salih, I beg thee of thy favour to bring me to my house, that I may take leave of my children and family and give my kinsfolk my last injunctions." Now Salih relateth: "So I went with him to his house where he fell to bidding his family farewell, and the house was filled with a clamour of weeping and lamentations and calling for help on Almighty Allah. Thereupon I said to him, 'I have bethought me that Allah may haply vouchsafe thee relief at the hands of the Barmecides. Come, let us go to the house of Yáhyá bin Khálid.' So we went to Yahya's house, and Mansur told him his case, whereat he was sore concerned and bowed him groundwards for a while, then raising his head, he called his treasurer and said to him, 'How much have we in our treasury?' 'A matter of five thousand dirhams,' answered the treasurer, and Yahya bade him bring them and sent a messenger to his son, Al-Fazl, saying, 'I am offered for sale a splendid estate which may never be laid waste; so send me somewhat of money.' Al-Fazl sent him a thousand thousand dirhams, and he despatched a mes senger with a like message to his son Ja'afar, saying, 'We have a matter of much moment and for it we want money;' whereupon Ja'afar at once sent him a thousand thousand dirhams; nor did Yahya leave sending to his kinsmen of the Barmecides, till he had collected from them a great sum of money for Mansur. But Salih and the debtor knew not of this; and Mansur said to Yahya, 'O my lord, I have laid hold upon thy skirt, for I know not whither to look for the money but to thee, in accordance with thy wonted generosity; so discharge thou the rest of my debt for me and make me thy freed slave.' Thereupon Yahya hung down his head and wept; then he said to a page, 'Harkye, boy, the Commander of the Faithful gave our slave-girl Danánír a jewel of great price: go thou to her and bid her send it to us.' The page went out and presently returned with the jewel, whereupon quoth Yahya, 'O Mansur, I bought this jewel of the merchant for the Commander of the Faithful, at a price of two hundred thousand dinars, [FN#247] and he gave it to our slave-girl Dananir, the lute-player; and when he sees it with thee, he will know it and spare thy blood and do thee honour for our sake; and now, O Mansur, verily thy money is complete.' (Salih continued) So I took the money and the jewel and carried them to al-Rashid together with Mansur, but on the way I heard him repeat this couplet, applying it to his own case,

‘'Twas not of love that fared my feet to them; * 'Twas that I feared me lest they shoot their shafts!'

Now when I heard this, I marvelled at his evil nature and his depravity and mischief-making and his ignoble birth and provenance and, turning upon him, I said, 'There is none on the face of the earth better or more righteous than the Barmecides, nor any baser nor more wrongous than thou; for they bought thee off from death and delivered thee from destruction, giving thee what should save thee; yet thou thankest them not nor praises" them, neither acquittest thee after the manner of the noble; nay, thou meetest their benevolence with this speech.' Then I went to Al-Rashid and acquainted him with all that had passed" And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Three Hundred and Sixth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Salih con tinued: "So I acquainted the Commander of the Faithful with all that passed and Al-Rashid marvelled at the generosity and benevolence of Yahya and the vileness and ingratitude of Mansur, and bade restore the jewel to Yahya, saying, 'Whatso we have given it befitteth us not to take again.' After that Salih returned to Yahya and acquainted him with the tale of Mansur and his ill-conduct; whereupon replied he, 'O Salih, when a man is in want, sick at heart and sad of thought, he is not to be blamed for aught that falleth from him; for it cometh not from the heart;' and on this wise he took to seeking excuse for Mansur. But Salih wept and exclaimed, 'Never shall the revolving heavens bring forth into being the like of thee, O Yahya! Alas, and well-away, that one of such noble nature and generosity should be laid in the dust!' And he repeated these two couplets,

'Haste to do kindness thou cost intend; * Thou canst not always on boons expend:
How many from bounty themselves withheld, * Till means of bounty had come to end!'"

And men tell another tale of the