The Book Of The Thousand Nights And A Night, Vol 1 Page-295

The Book Of The Thousand Nights And A Night, Vol 1

A plain and literal translation of the arabian nights entertainments

of Al-Mustazi bi’llah the then Caliph, a prince who loved the poor and needy and companied with the learned and pious. One day it happened to him that he was wroth with ten persons, highwaymen who robbed on the Caliph’s highway, and he ordered the Prefect of Baghdad to bring them into the presence on the anniversary of the Great Festival.[FN#633] So the Prefect sallied out and, making them His prisoners, embarked with them in a boat. I caught sight of them as they were embarking and said to myself, “These are surely assembled for a marriage feast; methinks they are spending their day in that boat eating and drinking, and none shall be companion of their cups but I myself.” So I rose, O fair assembly; and, of the excess of my courtesy and the gravity of my understanding, I embarked with them and entered into conversation with them. They rowed across to the opposite bank, where they landed and there came up the watch and guardians of the peace with chains, which they put round the robbers’ necks. They chained me among the rest of them; and, O people, is it not a proof of my courtesy and spareness of speech, that I held my peace and did not please to speak? Then they took us away in bilbos and next morning carried us all before Al-Mustansir bi’llah, Commander of the Faithful, who bade smite the necks of the ten robbers. So the Sworder came forward after they were seated on the leather of blood;[FN#634] then drawing his blade, struck off one head after another until he had smitten the neck of the tenth; and I alone remained. The Caliph looked at me and asked the Heads man, saying, “What ails thee that thou hast struck off only nine heads?”; and he answered, “Allah forbid that I should behead only nine, when thou biddest me behead ten!” Quoth the Caliph, “Meseems thou hast smitten the necks of only nine, and this man before thee is the tenth.” “By thy beneficence!” replied the Headsman, “I have beheaded ten.” “Count them!” cried the Caliph and whenas they counted heads, lo! there were ten. The Caliph looked at me and said, “What made thee keep silence at a time like this and how camest thou to company with these men of blood? Tell me the cause of all this, for albeit thou art a very old man, assuredly thy wits are weak.” Now when I heard these words from the Caliph I sprang to my feet and replied, “Know, O Prince of the Faithful, that I am the Silent Shaykh and am thus called to distinguish me from my six brothers. I am a man of immense learning whilst, as for the gravity of my understanding, the wiliness of my wits and the spareness of my speech, there is no end of them; and my calling is that of a barber. I went out early on yesterday morning and saw these men making for a skiff; and, fancying they were bound for a marriage