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Khalifah The Fisherman of Baghdad

Then will he say to thee, ’Tell me what thou wouldst have, and do thou reply, ’By Allah, I will not sell the fish save for two words!’ He will ask, ’What are they?’ And do thou answer, ’Stand up and say, "Bear witness, O ye who are present in the market, that I give Khalifah the fisherman my ape in exchange for his ape, and that I barter for his lot my lot and luck for his luck." This is the price of the fish, and I have no need of gold.’ If he do this, I will every day give thee good morrow and good even, and every day thou shalt gain ten dinars of good gold; whilst this one-eyed, lame-legged ape shall daily give the Jew good morrow, and Allah shall afflict him every day with an avanie which he must needs pay, nor will he cease to be thus afflicted till he is reduced to beggary and hath naught. Hearken then to my words, so shalt thou prosper and be guided aright."
Quoth Khalifah: "I accept thy counsel, O monarch of all the monkeys! But as for this unlucky, may Allah never bless him! I know not what to do with him." Quoth the ape, "Let him go into the water, and let me go also." "I hear and obey," answered Khalifah, and unbound the three apes, and they went down into the river. Then he took up the catfish, which he washed, then laid it in the basket upon some green grass, and covered it with other, and lastly, shouldering his load, set out with the basket upon his shoulder and ceased not faring till he entered the city of Baghdad. And as he threaded the streets the folk knew him and cried out to him, saying, "What hast thou there, O Khalifah?" But he paid no heed to them and passed on till he came to the market street of the money-changers and fared between the shops, as the ape had charged him, till he found the Jew seated at the upper end, with his servants in attendance upon him, as he were a King of the Kings of Khorasan. He knew him at first sight; so he went up to him and stood before him, whereupon Abu al-Sa’adat raised his eyes and recognizing him, said: "Welcome, O Khalifah! What wantest thou, and what is thy need? If any have missaid thee or spited thee, tell me and I will go with thee to the Chief of Police, who shall do thee justice on him." Replied Khalifah: "Nay, as thy head liveth, O chief of the Jews, none hath missaid me. But I went forth this morning to the river and, casting my net into the Tigris on thy luck, brought up this fish."
Therewith he opened the basket and threw the fish before the Jew, who admired it and said, the Pentateuch and the Ten Commandments, I dreamt last night that the Virgin came to me and said, ’Know, O Abu al-Sa’adat, that I have sent thee a pretty present!’ And doubtless ’tis this fish." Then he turned to Khalifah and said to him, "By thy faith, hath any seen it but I?" Khalifah replied, "No, by Allah, and by Abu Bakr the Veridical, none hath seen it save thou, O chief of the Jews!" Whereupon the Jew turned to one of his lads and said to him: "Come, carry this fish to my house and bid Sa’adah dress it and fry and broil it, against I make an end of my business and hie me home." And Khalifah said, "Go, O my lad, let the master’s wife fry some of it and broil the rest." Answered the boy, "I hear and I obey, O my lord," and, taking the fish, went away with it to the house.
Then the Jew put out his hand and gave Khalifah the fisherman a dinar, saying, "Take this for thyself, O Khalifah, and spend it on thy family." When Khalifah saw the dinar on his palm, he took it, saying, "Laud to the Lord of Dominion!" as if he had never seen aught of gold in his life, and went somewhat away. But before he had gone far, he was minded of the ape’s charge and turning back, threw down the ducat, saying: "Take thy gold and give folk back their fish! Dost thou make a laughingstock of folk?" The Jew, hearing this, thought he was jesting, and offered him two dinars upon the other, but Khalifah said: "Give me the fish, and no nonsense. How knewest thou I would sell it at this price?" Whereupon the Jew gave him two more dinars and said, "Take these five ducats for thy fish and leave greed." So Khalifah hent the five dinars in hand and went away, rejoicing, and gazing and marveling at the gold and saying: "Glory be to God! There is not with the Caliph of Baghdad what is with me this day!"
Then he ceased not faring on till he came to the end of the market street, when he remembered the words of the ape and his charge, and returning to the Jew, threw him back the gold. Quoth he: "What aileth thee, O Khalifah? Dost thou want silver in exchange for gold?" Khalifah replied: "I want nor dirhams nor dinars. I only want thee to give me back folk’s fish." With this the Jew waxed wroth and shouted out at him, saying: "O Fisherman, thou bringest me a fish not worth a sequin and I give thee five for it, yet art thou not content! Art thou Jinn-mad? Tell me for how much thou wilt sell it." Answered Khalifah, "I will not sell it for silver nor for gold, only for two sayings thou shalt say me."
When the Jew heard speak of the "two sayings," his eyes sank into his head, he breathed hard and ground his teeth for rage, and said to him, "O nail paring of the Moslems, wilt thou have me throw off my faith for the sake of thy fish, and wilt thou debauch me from my religion and stultify my belief and my conviction which I inherited of old from my forebears?" Then he cried out to the servants who were in waiting and said: "Out on you! Bash me this unlucky rogue’s neck and bastinado him soundly!" So they came down upon him with blows and ceased not beating him till he fell beneath the shop, and the Jew said to them, "Leave him and let him rise." Whereupon Khalifah jumped up as if naught ailed him, and the Jew said to him: "Tell me what price thou asketh for this fish and I will give it thee; for thou hast gotten but scant good of us this day." Answered the fisherman, "Have no fear for me, O master, because of the beating, for I can eat ten donkeys’ rations of stick."
The Jew laughed at his words and said, "Allah upon thee, tell me what thou wilt have and by the right of my faith, I will give it thee!" The fisherman replied, "Naught from thee will remunerate me for this fish save the two words whereof I spake." And the Jew said, "Meseemeth thou wouldst have me become a Moslem." Khalifah rejoined: "By Allah, O Jew, an thou Islamize, ’twill nor advantage the Moslems nor damage the Jews. And in like manner, an thou hold to thy misbelief ’twill nor damage the Moslems nor advantage the Jews. But what I desire of thee is that thou rise to thy feet and say: ’Bear witness against me, O people of the market, that I barter my ape for the ape of Khalifah the fisherman and my lot in the world for his lot and my luck for his luck’." Quoth the Jew, "If this be all thou desirest, ’twill sit lightly upon me." So he rose without stay or delay and standing on his feet, repeated the required words. After which he turned to the fisherman and asked him, "Hast thou aught else to ask of me?" "No," answered he, and the Jew said, "Go in peace!"
Hearing this Khalifah sprung to his feet forthright, took up his basket and net, and returned straight to the Tigris, where he threw his net and pulled it in. He found it heavy and brought it not ashore but with travail, when he found it full of fish of all kinds. Presently up came a woman with a dish, who gave him a dinar, and he gave her fish for it, and after her a eunuch, who also bought a dinar’s worth of fish, and so forth till he had sold ten dinars’ worth. And he continued to sell ten dinars’ worth of fish daily for ten days, till he had gotten a hundred dinars.
Now Khalifah the fisherman had quarters in the Passage of the Merchants, and as he lay one night in his lodging much bemused with hashish, he said to himself: "O Khalifah, the folk all know thee for a poor fisherman, and now thou hast gotten a hundred golden dinars. Needs must the Commander of the Faithful, Harun al-Rashid, hear of this from someone, and haply he will be wanting money and will send for thee and say to thee: ’I need a sum of money and it hath reached me that thou hast an hundred dinars, so do thou lend them to me those same.’ I shall answer, ’O Commander of the Faithful, I am a poor man, and whoso told thee that I had a hundred dinars lied against me, for I have naught of this.’ Thereupon be will commit me to the Chief of Police, saying, ’Strip him of his clothes and torment him with the bastinado till he confess and give up the hundred dinars in his possession.’ Wherefore, meseemeth to provide against this predicament, the best thing I can do is to rise forthright and bash myself with the whip, so to use myself to beating." And his hashish said to him, "Rise, doff thy dress."
So he stood up, and putting off his clothes, took a whip he had by him and set handy a leather pillow. Then he fell to lashing himself, laying every other blow upon the pillow and roaring out the while-: "Alas! Alas! By Allah, ’tis a false saying, O my lord, and they have lied against me, for I am a poor fisherman and have naught of the goods of the world!" The noise of the whip falling on the pillow and on his person resounded in the still of night and the folk heard it, and amongst others the merchants, and they said: "Whatever can ail the poor fellow, that he crieth and we hear the noise of blows falling on him? ’Twould seem robbers have broken in upon him and are tormenting him." Presently they all came forth of their lodgings at. the noise of the blows and the crying, and repaired to Khalifah’s room, but they found the door locked and said one to other: "Belike the robbers have come in upon him from the back of the adjoining saloon. It behooveth us to climb over by the roofs."
So they clomb over the roofs, and coming down through the skylight, saw him naked and flogging himself, and asked him, "What aileth thee, O Khalifah?" He answered: "Know, O folk, that I have gained some dinars and fear lest my case be carried up to the Prince of True Believers, Harun al-Rashid, and he send for me and demand of me those same gold pieces; whereupon I should deny, and I fear that if I deny, he will torture me, so I am torturing myself, by way of accustoming me to what may come." The merchants laughed at him and said: "Leave this fooling. May Allah not bless thee and the dinars thou hast gotten! Verily thou hast disturbed us this night and hast troubled our hearts."
So Khalifah left flogging himself and slept till the morning, when he rose and would have gone about his business, but bethought him of his hundred dinars and said in his mind: "An I leave them at home, thieves will steal them, and if I put them in a belt about my waist, peradventure someone will see me and lay in wait for me till he come upon me in some lonely place and slay me and take the money. But I have a device that should serve me well, right well." So he jumped up forthright and made him a pocket in the collar of his gabardine, and tying the hundred dinars up in a purse, laid them in the collar pocket. Then he took his net and basket and staff and went down to the Tigris, where he made a cast, but brought up naught. So he removed from that place to another and threw again, but once more the net came up empty. And he went on removing from place to place till he had gone half a day’s journey from the city, ever casting the net, which kept bringing up naught. So he said to himself, "By Allah, I will throw my net a-stream but this once more, whether ill come of it or weal!"

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