The Adventures Of Haroun-al-raschid Caliph Of Bagdad

: The Arabian Nights Entertainments

The Caliph Haroun-al-Raschid sat in his palace, wondering if there was

anything left in the world that could possibly give him a few hours'

amusement, when Giafar the grand-vizir, his old and tried friend,

suddenly appeared before him. Bowing low, he waited, as was his duty,

till his master spoke, but Haroun-al-Raschid merely turned his head and

looked at him, and sank back into his former weary posture.

Now Giafar had something of importance to say to the Caliph, and had no

intention of being put off by mere silence, so with another low bow in

front of the throne, he began to speak.

"Commander of the Faithful," said he, "I have taken on myself to remind

your Highness that you have undertaken secretly to observe for yourself

the manner in which justice is done and order is kept throughout the

city. This is the day you have set apart to devote to this object, and

perhaps in fulfilling this duty you may find some distraction from the

melancholy to which, as I see to my sorrow, you are a prey."

"You are right," returned the Caliph, "I had forgotten all about it.

Go and change your coat, and I will change mine."

A few moments later they both re-entered the hall, disguised as foreign

merchants, and passed through a secret door, out into the open country.

Here they turned towards the Euphrates, and crossing the river in a

small boat, walked through that part of the town which lay along the

further bank, without seeing anything to call for their interference.

Much pleased with the peace and good order of the city, the Caliph and

his vizir made their way to a bridge, which led straight back to the

palace, and had already crossed it, when they were stopped by an old

and blind man, who begged for alms.

The Caliph gave him a piece of money, and was passing on, but the blind

man seized his hand, and held him fast.

"Charitable person," he said, "whoever you may be grant me yet another

prayer. Strike me, I beg of you, one blow. I have deserved it richly,

and even a more severe penalty."

The Caliph, much surprised at this request, replied gently: "My good

man, that which you ask is impossible. Of what use would my alms be if

I treated you so ill?" And as he spoke he tried to loosen the grasp of

the blind beggar.

"My lord," answered the man, "pardon my boldness and my persistence.

Take back your money, or give me the blow which I crave. I have sworn

a solemn oath that I will receive nothing without receiving

chastisement, and if you knew all, you would feel that the punishment

is not a tenth part of what I deserve."

Moved by these words, and perhaps still more by the fact that he had

other business to attend to, the Caliph yielded, and struck him lightly

on the shoulder. Then he continued his road, followed by the blessing

of the blind man. When they were out of earshot, he said to the vizir,

"There must be something very odd to make that man act so--I should

like to find out what is the reason. Go back to him; tell him who I

am, and order him to come without fail to the palace to-morrow, after

the hour of evening prayer."

So the grand-vizir went back to the bridge; gave the blind beggar first

a piece of money and then a blow, delivered the Caliph's message, and

rejoined his master.

They passed on towards the palace, but walking through a square, they

came upon a crowd watching a young and well-dressed man who was urging

a horse at full speed round the open space, using at the same time his

spurs and whip so unmercifully that the animal was all covered with

foam and blood. The Caliph, astonished at this proceeding, inquired of

a passer-by what it all meant, but no one could tell him anything,

except that every day at the same hour the same thing took place.

Still wondering, he passed on, and for the moment had to content

himself with telling the vizir to command the horseman also to appear

before him at the same time as the blind man.

The next day, after evening prayer, the Caliph entered the hall, and

was followed by the vizir bringing with him the two men of whom we have

spoken, and a third, with whom we have nothing to do. They all bowed

themselves low before the throne and then the Caliph bade them rise,

and ask the blind man his name.

"Baba-Abdalla, your Highness," said he.

"Baba-Abdalla," returned the Caliph, "your way of asking alms yesterday

seemed to me so strange, that I almost commanded you then and there to

cease from causing such a public scandal. But I have sent for you to

inquire what was your motive in making such a curious vow. When I know

the reason I shall be able to judge whether you can be permitted to

continue to practise it, for I cannot help thinking that it sets a very

bad example to others. Tell me therefore the whole truth, and conceal


These words troubled the heart of Baba-Abdalla, who prostrated himself

at the feet of the Caliph. Then rising, he answered: "Commander of the

Faithful, I crave your pardon humbly, for my persistence in beseeching

your Highness to do an action which appears on the face of it to be

without any meaning. No doubt, in the eyes of men, it has none; but I

look on it as a slight expiation for a fearful sin of which I have been

guilty, and if your Highness will deign to listen to my tale, you will

see that no punishment could atone for the crime."