[Go back to Alla Ad Deen; Or, the Wonderful Lamp]
The caliph Haroon al Rusheed was one day suffering from depression of spirits, when his faithful and favourite grand vizier Jaaffier came to him. This minister finding him alone, which was seldom the case, and perceiving as he approached that he was in a very melancholy humour, and never lifted up his eyes, stopped till he should vouchsafe to look at him.
At last the caliph turned his eyes towards him, but presently withdrew them again, and remained in the same posture motionless as before.
The grand vizier, observing nothing in the caliph's eyes which regarded him personally, took the liberty to speak to him, and said, "Commander of the faithful, will your majesty give me leave to ask whence proceeds this melancholy, of which you always seemed to me so little susceptible?"
"Indeed, vizier," answered the caliph, brightening up his countenance, "I am very little subject to it, and had not perceived it but for you, but I will remain no longer in this hippish mood. If no new affair brought you hither, you will gratify me by inventing something to dispel it."
"Commander of the faithful," replied the grand vizier, "my duty obliged me to wait on you, and I take the liberty to remind your majesty, that this is the day which you have appointed to inform yourself of the good government of your capital and its environs; and this occasion very opportunely presents itself to dispel those clouds which obscure your natural gaiety."
"You do well to remind me," replied the caliph, "for I had entirely forgotten it; go and change your dress, while I do the same."
They each put on the habit of a foreign merchant, and under that disguise went out by a private door of the palace-garden, which led into the country. After they had gone round part of the city to the banks of the Euphrates, at some distance from the walls, without having observed anything disorderly, they crossed the river in the first boat they met, and making a tour on the other side, crossed the bridge, which formed the communication betwixt the two parts of the town.
At the foot of this bridge they met an old blind man, who asked alms of them; the caliph turned about, and put a piece of gold into his hand. The blind man instantly caught hold of his hand, and stopped him; "Charitable person," said he, "whoever you are, whom God hath inspired to bestow alms on me, do not refuse the favour I ask of you, to give me a box on the ear, for I deserve that, and a greater punishment." Having thus spoken, he let the caliph's hand go, that he might strike, but for fear he should pass on without doing it, held him fast by his clothes.
The caliph, surprised both at the words and action of the blind man, said, "I cannot comply with your request. I will not lessen the merit of my charity, by treating you as you would have me." After these words, he endeavoured to get away from the blind man.
The blind man, who expected this reluctance of his benefactor, exerted himself to detain him. "Sir," said he, "forgive my boldness and importunity; I desire you would either give me a box on the ear, or take your alms back again, for I cannot receive it but on that condition, without breaking a solemn oath, which I have sworn to God; and if you knew the reason, you would agree with me that the punishment is very slight."
The caliph, unwilling to be detained any longer, yielded to the importunity of the blind man, and gave him a very slight blow: whereupon he immediately let him go, thanked and blessed him. When the caliph and vizier had got so me small distance from the blind man, the caliph said to Jaaffier, "This blind man must certainly have some very uncommon reasons, which make him behave himself in this manner to all who give him alms. I should be glad to know them; therefore return, tell him who I am, and bid him not fail to come to my palace about prayer-time in the afternoon of to-morrow, that I may have some conversation with him."
The grand vizier returned, bestowed his alms on the blind man, and after he had given him a box on the ear, told him the caliph's order, and then returned to the caliph.
When they came into the town, they found in a square a great crowd of spectators, looking at a handsome well-shaped young man, who was mounted on a mare, which he drove and urged full speed round the place, spurring and whipping the poor creature so barbarously, that she was all over sweat and blood.
The caliph, amazed at the inhumanity of the rider, stopped to ask the people if they knew why he used the mare so ill; but could learn nothing, except that for some time past he had every day, at the same hour, treated her in the same manner.
At they went along, the caliph bade the grand vizier take particular notice of the place, and not fail to order the young man to attend the next day at the hour appointed to the blind man. But before the caliph got to his palace, he observed in a street, which he had not passed through a long time before, an edifice newly built, which seemed to him to be the palace of some one of the great lords of the court. He asked the grand vizier if he knew to whom it belonged; who answered he did not, but would inquire; and thereupon asked a neighbour, who told him that the house was that of one Khaujeh Hassan, surnamed Al Hubbaul, on account of his original trade of rope-making, which he had seen him work at himself, when poor; that without knowing how fortune had favoured him, he supposed he must have acquired great wealth, as he defrayed honourably and splendidly the expenses he had been at in building.
The grand vizier rejoined the caliph, and gave him a full account of what he had heard. "I must see this fortunate rope-maker," said the caliph, "therefore go and tell him to come to my palace at the same hour you have ordered the other two." Accordingly the vizier obeyed.
The next day, after afternoon prayers, the caliph retired to his own apartment, when the grand vizier introduced the three persons we have been speaking of, and presented them to the caliph.
They all three prostrated themselves before the throne, and when they rose up, the caliph asked the blind man his name, who answered, it was Baba Abdoollah.
"Baba Abdoollah," replied the caliph, "your manner of asking alms seemed so strange to me yesterday, that if it had not been for some private considerations I should not have complied with your request, but should have prevented you from giving any more offence to the public. I ordered you to come hither, to know from yourself what could have induced you to make the indiscreet oath you told me of, that I may judge whether you have done well, and if I ought to suffer you to continue a practice that appears to me to set so ill an example. Tell me freely how so extravagant a thought came into your head, and do not disguise any thing from me, for I will absolutely know the truth."
Baba Abdoollah, intimidated by this reprimand, cast himself a second time at the foot of the caliph's throne, with his face to the ground, and when he rose up, said, "Commander of the faithful, I most humbly ask your majesty's pardon for my presumption, in daring to have required, and almost forced you to do a thing which indeed appears so contrary to reason. I acknowledge my offence, but as I did not then know your majesty, I implore your clemency, and hope you will consider my ignorance.
"As to the extravagance of my action, I own it, and own also that it must seem strange to mankind; but in the eye of God it is a slight penance I have enjoined myself for an enormous crime of which I have been guilty, and for which, if all the people in the world were each to give me a box on the ear, it would not be a sufficient atonement. Your majesty will judge of this yourself, when, in telling my story, in obedience to your commands I shall inform you what that heinous crime was."
[Go to The Story of Baba Abdoollah]
Scott, Jonathan (1754-1829). The Arabian Nights Entertainments. London: Pickering and Chatto, 1890. 4 Volumes. Project Gutenberg.
1001 Nights Hypertext. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License. The texts presented here are in the public domain. Thanks to Gene Perry for his excellent help in preparing the texts for the web. Page last updated: January 1, 2005 10:46 PM