JA’AFAR THE BARMECIDE AND THE OLD BADAWL



The Commander of the Faithful, Harun al-Rashid, went out one day, with Abu Ya’Kúb the cup-companion [FN#140] and Ja’afar the Barmecide and Abu Nowas, into the desert, where they fell in with an old man, propt against his ass.  The Caliph bade Ja’afar learn of him whence he came; so he asked him, “Whence comest thou?” and he answered, “From Bassorah.” -- And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Three Hundred and Ninety-fifth Night,

She said, it hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when Ja’afar asked the man, “Whence comest thou?”; he answered “From Bassorah.”  Quoth Ja’afar, “And whither goest thou?”  Quoth the other, “To Baghdad.”  Then Ja’afar enquired “And what wilt thou do there?” and the old man replied, “I go to seek medicine for my eye.”  Said the Caliph, “O Ja’afar, make thou sport with him,” and answered Ja’afar, “I shall hear what I shall exceedingly mislike.” [FN#141]  But Al-Rashid rejoined, “I charge thee on my authority, jest with him.”  Thereupon Ja’afar said to the Badawi, “If I prescribe thee a medicine that shall profit thee, what wilt thou give me in return?”  Quoth the other, “Allah Almighty will requite the kindness with what is better for thee than any requital of mine.”  Continued Ja’afar, “Now lend me an ear and I will give thee a prescription, which I have given to none but thee.”  “What is that?” asked the Badawi; and Ja’afar answered, “Take three ounces of wind-breaths and the like of sunbeams and the same of moonshine and as much of lamp-light; mix them well together and let them lie in the wind three months.  Then place them three months in a mortar without a bottom and pound them to a fine powder and after trituration set them in a cleft platter, and let it stand in the wind other three months; after which use of this medicine three drachms every night in thy sleep, and, Inshallah! thou shalt be healed and whole.”  Now when the Badawi heard this, he stretched himself out to full length on the donkey’s back and let fly a terrible loud fart [FN#142] and said to Ja’afar, “Take this fart in payment of thy prescription.  When I have followed it, if Allah grant me recovery, I will give thee a slave-girl, who shall serve thee in they lifetime a service, wherewith Allah shall cut short thy term; and when thou diest and the Lord hurrieth thy soul to hell-fire, she shall blacken thy face with her skite, of her mourning for thee, and shall keen and beat her face, saying ‘O frosty-beard, what a fool thou wast?’” [FN#143]  thereupon Harun al-Rashid laughed till he fell backward, and ordered the Badawi three thousand silver pieces.  And a tale is told of




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