MASRUR THE EUNUCH AND IBN AL-KARIBI



The Commander of the Faithful, Harun al-Rashid, was exceedingly restless one night; so he said to his Wazir Ja’afar, “I am sleepless to-night and my breast is straitened and I know not what to do.”  Now his castrato Masrúr was standing before him, and he laughed: whereupon the Caliph said “At whom laughest thou? Is it to make mock of me or hath madness seized thee?”  Answered Masrur, “Nay, by Allah, O Commander of the Faithful,” -- And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Four Hundredth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Harun al-Rashid said to Masrur the Sworder, “Dost thou laugh to make mock of me or hath madness seized thee?”  Answered Masrur, “Nay, by Allah, O Commander of the Faithful, I swear by thy kinship to the Prince of Apostles, I did it not of my free will; but I went out yesterday to walk within sight of the palace and, coming to the bank of the Tigris, saw there the folk collected; so I stopped and found a man, Ibn al-Káribí hight, who was making them laugh; but just now I recalled what he said, and laughter got the better of me; and I crave pardon of thee, O Commander of the Faithful!”  Quoth the Caliph, “Bring him to me forthright;” so Masrur repaired in all haste to Ibn al-Karibi and said to him, “Answer the summons of the Commander of the Faithful,” whereto he replied, “I hear and obey.”  “But on condition,” added Masrur, “that, if he give thee aught, thou shalt have a quarter and the rest shall be mine.”  Replied the droll, “Nay, thou shalt have half and I half.”  Rejoined Masrur, “Not so, I will have three-quarters.”  Lastly said Ibn al-Karibi, “Thou shalt have two-thirds and I the other third;” to which Masrur agreed, after much higgling and haggling, and they returned to the palace together.  Now when Ibn al-Karibi came into the Caliph’s presence he saluted him as men greet the Caliphate, and stood before him; whereupon said Al-Rashid to him, “If thou do not make me laugh, I will give thee three blows with this bag.”  Quoth Ibn al-Karibi in his mind, “And a small matter were blows with that bag, seeing that beating with whips hurteth me not;” for he thought the bag was empty.  Then he began to deal out his drolleries, such as would make the dismallest jemmy guffaw, and gave vent to all manner of buffooneries; but the Caliph laughed not neither smiled, whereat Ibn al-Karibi marvelled and was chagrined and affrighted.  Then said the Commander of the Faithful, “Now hast thou earned the beating,” and gave him a blow with the bag, wherein were four pebbles each two rotols in weight.  The blow fell on his neck and he gave a great cry, then calling to mind his compact with Masrur, said, “Pardon, O Commander of the Faithful!  Hear two words from me.”  Quoth the Caliph, “Say on,” and quoth Ibn al-Karibi, “Masrur made it a condition with me and I a covenant with him, that whatsoever largesse 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 higgling and haggling.  I have had my share and here standeth he, ready to receive his portion; so pay him the two other blows.”  Now when the Caliph heard this, he laughed until he fell on his back; then calling Masrur, he gave him a blow, whereat he cried out and said, “O Commander of the Faithful, the one-third sufficeth me: give him the two-thirds.” --  And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Four Hundred and First Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Masrur cried out, “O Commander of the Faithful! The one-third sufficeth me; give him the two-thirds.”  So the Caliph laughed at them and ordered them a thousand dinars each, and they went away, rejoicing at the largesse.  And of the tales they tell is one of




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