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Khalifah The Fisherman of Baghdad

THERE was once in tides of yore and in ages and times long gone before in the city of Baghdad a fisherman, Khalifah hight, a pauper wight, who had never once been married in all his days. It chanced one morning that he took his net and went with it to the river as was his wont, with the view of fishing before the others came. When he reached the bank, he girt himself and tucked up his skirts. Then stepping into the water, he spread his net and cast it a first cast and a second, but it brought up naught. He ceased not to throw it till he had made ten casts, and still naught came up therein, wherefore his breast was straitened and his mind perplexed concerning his case and he said: "I crave pardon of God the Great, there is no god but He, the Living, the Eternal, and unto Him I repent. There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great! Whatso He willeth is and whatso He nilleth is not! Upon Allah (to Whom belong Honor and Glory!) dependeth daily bread! When as He giveth to His servant, none denieth him; and when as He denieth a servant, none giveth to him." And of the excess of his distress, he recited these two couplets:

"An Fate afflict thee, with grief manifest,
Prepare thy patience and make broad thy breast;
For of His grace the Lord of all the worlds
Shall send to wait upon unrest sweet Rest."

Then he said in his mind, "I will make this one more cast, trusting in Allah, so haply He may not disappoint my hope." And he rose, and casting into the river the net as far as his arm availed, gathered the cords in his hands and waited a full hour, after which he pulled at it and, finding it heavy, handled it gently and drew it in, little by little, till he got it ashore, when lo and behold! he saw in it a one-eyed, lame-legged ape. Seeing this, quoth Khalifah: "There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah Verily, we are Allah’s and to Him we are returning! What meaneth this heartbreaking, miserable ill luck and hapless fortune? What is come to me this blessed day? But all this is of the destinies of Almighty Allah!" Then he took the ape and tied him with a cord to a tree which grew on the riverbank, and grasping a whip he had with him, raised his arm in the air, thinking to bring down the scourge upon the quarry, when Allah made the ape speak with a fluent tongue, saying: "O Khalifah, hold thy hand and beat me not, but leave me bounden to this tree and go down to the river and cast thy net, confiding in Allah; for He will give thee thy daily bread."
Hearing this, Khalifah went down to the river, and casting his net, let the cords run out. Then he pulled it in and found it heavier than before, so he ceased not to tug at it till he brought it to land, when, behold, there was another ape in it, with front teeth wide apart, kohl-darkened eyes, and hands stained with henna dyes; and he was laughing, and wore a tattered waistcloth about his middle. Quoth Khalifah, "Praised be Allah Who hath changed the fish of the river into apes!" Then, going up to the first ape, who was still tied to the tree, he said to him: "See, O unlucky, how fulsome was the counsel thou gavest me! None but thou made me light on this second ape; and for that thou gavest me good morrow with thy one eye and thy lameness, I am become distressed and weary, without dirham or dinar."
So saying, he hent in hand a stick and flourishing it thrice in the air, was about to come down with it upon the lame ape, when the creature cried out for mercy and said to him: "I conjure thee, by Allah, spare me for the sake of this my fellow, and seek of him thy need; for he will guide thee to thy desire!" So he held his hand from him, and throwing down the stick, went up to and stood by the second ape, who said to him: "O Khalifah, this my speech will profit thee naught except thou hearken to what I say to thee; but an thou do my bidding and cross me not, I will be the cause of thine enrichment." Asked Khalifah, "And what hast thou to say to me that I may obey thee therein?" The ape answered, "Leave me bound on the bank and hie thee down to the river, then cast thy net a third time, and after I will tell thee what to do."
So he took his net, and going down to the river, cast it once more and waited awhile. Then he drew it in, and finding it heavy, labored at it and ceased not his travail till he got it ashore, when he found in it yet another ape. But this one was red, with a blue waistcloth about his middle; his hands and feet were stained with henna and his eyes blackened with kohl When Khalifah saw this, he exclaimed: "Glory to God the Great! Extolled be the perfection of the Lord of Dominion! Verily, this is a blessed day from first to last Its ascendant was fortunate in the countenance of the first ape, and the scroll is known by its superscription! Verily, today is a day of apes. There is not a single fish left in the river, and we are come out today but to catch monkeys!"
Then he turned to the third ape and said, "And what thing thou also, O unlucky?" Quoth the ape, "Dost thou not know me, O Khalifah!" and quoth he, "Not I!" The ape cried, "I am the ape of Abu al-Sa’adat the Jew, the shroff." Asked Khalifah, "And what dost thou for him?" and the ape answered, "I give him good morrow at the first of the day, and he gaineth five ducats; and again at the end of the day, I give him good even, and he gaineth other five ducats." Whereupon Khalifah turned to the first ape and said to him: "See, O unlucky, what fine apes other folk have! As for thee, thou givest me good morrow with thy one eye and thy lameness and thy ill-omened phiz, and I become poor and bankrupt and hungry!" So saying, he took the cattle stick, and flourishing it thrice in the air, was about to come down with it on the first ape, when Abu al-Sa’adat’s ape said to him: "Let him be, O Khalifah. Hold thy hand and come hither to me, that I may tell thee what to do."
So Khalifah threw down the stick, and walking up to him,’cried, ’And what hast thou to say to me, O monarch of all monkeys?" Replied the ape: "Leave me and the other two apes here, and take thy not and cast it into the river; and whatever cometh up, bring it to me, and I will tell thee what shall gladden thee." He replied, "I hear and obey," and took the net and gathered it on his shoulder, reciting these couplets:

"When straitened is my breast I will of my Creator pray,
Who may and can the heaviest weight lighten in easiest way,
For ere man’s glance can turn or close his eye by God His grace
Waxeth the broken whole and yieldeth jail its prison prey.
Therefore with Allah one and all of thy concerns commit,
Whose grace and favor men of wit shall nevermore gainsay."

Now when Khalifah had made an end of his verse, he went down to the river, and casting his net, waited awhile. After which he drew it up and found therein a fine young fish, with a big head, a tail like a ladle, and eyes like two gold pieces. When Khalifah saw this fish, he rejoiced, for he had never in his life caught its like, so he took it, marveling, and carried it to the ape of Abu al-Sa’adat the Jew, as ’twere he had gotten possession of the universal world. Quoth the ape, "O Khalifah, what wilt thou do with this, and with thine ape?" and quoth the fisherman: "I will tell thee, O monarch of monkeys, all I am about to do. Know then that first, I will cast about to make away with yonder accursed, my ape, and take thee in his stead, and give thee every day to eat of whatso thou wilt." Rejoined the ape: "Since thou hast made choice of me, I will tell thee how thou shalt do wherein, if it please Allah Almighty, shall be the mending of thy fortune. Lend thy mind, then, to what I say to thee and ’tis this! Take another cord and tie me also to a tree, where leave me and go to the midst of the dike and cast thy net into the Tigris. Then after waiting awhile, draw it up and thou shalt find therein a fish than which thou never sawest a finer in thy whole life. Bring it to me and I will tell thee how thou shalt do after this."
So Khalifah rose forthright, and casting his net into the Tigris, drew up a great catfish the bigness of a lamb. Never had he set eyes on its like, for it was larger than the first fish. He carried it to the ape, who said to him: "Gather thee some green grass and set half of it in a basket; lay the fish therein and cover it with the other moiety. Then, leaving us here tied, shoulder the basket and betake thee to Baghdad. If any bespeak thee or question thee by the way, answer him not, but fare on till thou comest to the market street of the money-changers, at the upper end whereof thou wilt find the shop of Master Abu al-Sa’adat the Jew, Sheikh of the shroffs, and wilt see him sitting on a mattress, with a cushion behind him and two collers, one for gold and one for silver, before him, while around him stand his Mamelukes and Negro slaves and servant lads. Go up to him and set the basket before him, saying: ’O Abu al-Sa’adat, verily I went out today to fish and cast my net in thy name, and Allah Almighty sent me this fish.’ He will ask, ’Hast thou shown it to any but me?’ and do thou answer, ’No, by Allah!’ Then will he take it of thee and give thee a dinar. Give it him back and he will give thee two dinars; but do thou return them also, and so do with everything he may offer thee; and take naught from him, though he give thee the fish’s weight in gold.

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