The Adventures of Said (Приключения Саида)
IN the time of Haroun Al Rashid, governor of Bagdad, there was a man named Benezar.
He had private means, and led a quiet, peaceful life.
God had given him an only son, and while he was growing up, his father entrusted his education to wise and prudent men.
For Benezar knew that his boy’s mind needed as careful training as his body, and that self-control and philosophy were as valuable as a quick eye and a safe seat in the saddle.
Said also received daily instruction in the use of weapons, and none of his young companions could surpass him in swimming and riding, or in the art of self-defence.
When Said was eighteen years old, and in accordance with the usual custom, his father decided he should go to Mecca to visit the grave of the Prophet.
Just before he started, his father sent for him to give him advice and to say farewell;
and spoke to him as follows:
"Listen to me, my dear son Said !
I am a man of more education than most.
I have often heard tales of fairies and magicians, and though they amused me, I never really believed, as so many do, that these genii, or whatever they call themselves, can really influence our lives.
Your mother, who died twelve years ago, believed in them as firmly as in the Koran;
and told me, on condition I would keep it secret, that ever since her birth she had been guarded by a fairy.
I laughed at this, but I must admit, Said, that at your birth things happened which more than astonished me, as I will tell you now.
"During the whole of the day it had thundered and rained, and the sky was so black that no one could see to read without a light.
At four o’clock in the afternoon I was told that Allah had sent me a little son.
At this moment the skies suddenly cleared, and Bagdad was bathed in sunlight.
I hastened to my wife’s room.
As I entered, a fragrant breath of air refreshed me.
Your mother brought you to me, and smilingly showed me a silver whistle which hung on a fine gold chain round your neck.
"The good fairy of whom I spoke,’ said she, ‘has given our child this present.’
‘And I suppose she has brought fine weather and this balmy air,’ I laughed.
‘But she might have given the boy something better than this plaything;
a purse full of gold, for instance;
or a fine horse.’
Your mother begged me not to jest, because the good fairy might easily be offended, and become an enemy instead of a friend.
So I said no more.
"Look, this is the ‘talisman,’" continued Benezar, and gave the wonderful whistle to his deeply interested son.
"You ought not to have had it before your twentieth birth-day;
but as you are going away, and I may be gathered to my fathers before you come back, I see no reason why you should not receive it now, though two years sooner than your mother wished.
You are a clever, well-principled boy, and, young as you are, as apt with your weapons as many are at twenty-four, therefore I let you go out into the world to-day.
Peace be with you !"
So spoke Benezar of Bassora, and parted from his beloved son, who, mounting his horse, joined a caravan just starting for Mecca.
There were eighty camels and a hundred horsemen, and thus he passed through the gates of his native city.
At first he was greatly interested in the strangeness of his surroundings and the places through which he passed, but after they reached the desert, and the daily journeying became rather monotonous, his thoughts turned to his kind old father, and to the story of his birth.
Said drew out the whistle from beneath his vest, and examined it carefully, but though he blew with the whole strength of his lungs, it was impossible to produce any sound.
Annoyed with such a stupid present, he put it in his girdle, and pondered long and earnestly over his mother’s words.
He had heard so much about good fairies, but had never learnt that any friends of his in Bassora had had dealings with them.
And as in a dream he rode along, neither hearing nor joining in the songs of his companions.
Said was a handsome youth, and looked out on the world with honest eyes.
His mouth showed determination, and in spite of his youth, his whole bearing was manly and straightforward, and his splendid attire attracted much attention.
An oldish man who rode by his side took a great fancy to him, and asked him many questions as to his destination;
which Said, with all the respect due from him to an older man, answered discreetly, but so cleverly and pleasantly that the old man was very pleased with him.
But all this time Said’s mind was dwelling on the mysteries of fairyland;
and he asked the old man at last if he thought or believed that there really were fairies or good and bad spirits, who could interfere in the events of daily life.
The old man stroked his beard, shook his head, and said:
"Such things may be, although I have not known them;
but I have heard many tales from those who do believe."
And then the old man said he felt sure that the whistle had magic powers, and told Said to take the greatest care of it.
Said dreamt the whole night through of castles, robbers, fairies, and such things, and was still dreaming when his companions aroused him, telling him the caravan was starting.
And, strangely enough, on this very day Said was to prove how useless all his dreams, whether sleeping or waking, were.
The caravan was already well on its way, Said still riding by the old man’s side.
All at once, in the distance, some dark forms could be seen, which might have been sand-hills, or clouds, or even another caravan.
But the old man, who had often made such journeys, loudly declared that the danger was greater;
and that no doubt it was a robber band, and they must prepare themselves against a sudden attack.
There was not much doubt about this.
Like a whirlwind a mighty band of men swooped down upon the travellers, charging them with their lances, and with fierce cries calling upon them to surrender.
The members of the caravan defended themselves bravely, but the robbers were too many in number, and surrounded them on all sides, killing many with their arrows and spearing them with the lance.
During this desperate fight, Said suddenly remembered his whistle.
He drew it out, blew it — and sadly let it drop.
It made not the slightest sound.
Furious with disappointment, he suddenly turned on an Arab, whose splendid garments showed his high rank, and ran him through the breast with his sword.
The Arab reeled in his saddle and fell from his horse dead.
"Great Allah !
what have you done, young man ?"
exclaimed the old man, who was still by his side.
"Now indeed all is lost !"
And so it seemed;
for when they saw their leader had fallen, the robbers, with wild howls of vengeance, attacked the caravan with such fury that the few unwounded men were completely scattered.
Said suddenly found himself attacked by five or six men.
He used his lance so well that they did not dare to close in.
At last one of them took careful aim at Said with his crossbow.
But before he drew the bolt another of them made a sign.
Said felt his danger, but before he could make a fresh effort to defend himself a lasso was thrown over his head, and with a jerk he was dragged from his horse and lay on the sand a captive.
The travellers were all either killed or captured.
The Arabs, who belonged to one tribe, divided the prisoners and the booty and continued on their way, half going to the north, the rest to the east.
Near Said four armed men rode, who treated him to bitter looks and fierce curses;
and he felt sure that the young Arab he had killed must have been a prince, or the chief of his tribe.
Slavery would, he thought, be worse than death, and he hoped, as he had evidently aroused the hatred of the entire band, that death would soon end all his troubles.
He hardly dared to look back, for his guards rode close at his side.
But it comforted him to see that his good horse was safe, and also the old man, for he thought he lay among the dead.
At last trees and tents were seen in the distance;
and as the cavalcade drew nearer, a crowd of women and children came out to meet them;
but hardly had the Arabs greeted them than they burst out weeping and wailing, and cast threatening looks at Said and tried to strike him.
"This," they cried, "is the wretch who has killed Almansor, bravest of men !
Surely he shall die !"
Then they threw sticks and stones at Said, so that the Arabs had to close round to protect him.
"Be off, you youngsters!
keep back, you women !"
they shouted, and drove back the crowd with their lances.
"He killed Almansor and he must die, but not by the hands of women, but by the swords of the brave."
As they neared some tents which stood somewhat apart, they halted;
the prisoners were tied two and two together;
the booty was taken to the tents;
and Said was shackled and led to the largest tent of all.
There sat an old man in splendid garments, whose grave, dignified mien showed that he was chief of this tribe.
The men who led Said in stepped forward with sad and downcast looks.
"The wailing of the women has told me what has happened," said this majestic old Chief, as he looked at the men;
"your bearing confirms it.
Almansor is dead !"
"Almansor is dead," answered the men, "but here, great Selim, Protector of the Desert, is his murderer;
and we bring him to you for judgment.
What manner of death shall he die ?
Shall we kill him with the arrow, shall he run the gauntlet of the lance, shall he be hanged by the neck, or torn apart by wild horses ?"
"Who are you ?"
asked Selim, looking thoughtfully at the youth, who in the face of death stood calm and fearless before him.
Said answered the question briefly and without hesitation.
"Did you kill my son treacherously ?
Did you shoot him in the back with an arrow, or so stab him with a lance ?"
"No, my lord," answered SaId.
"I killed him in fair fight, and in sight of my fellow-travellers, after he had slain at least eight of our party."
"Is this true ?"
asked Selim of the men who had brought Said in.
"Yes, my lord, he killed Almansor in fair fight."
"Then he has done no more than we ourselves would do," said Selim.
"He fought honourably with one who would have robbed him of life and liberty, and killed him.
Unloose his bonds !"
The men seemed astounded and muttered angrily as they released Said.
"If Almansor’s murderer is not to die," said one, looking furiously at Said, "it is a pity we brought him with us."
"He shall not die," said the Chief, "and I claim him as my share of the spoil.
He shall remain in my tent and be my servant."
Said could not speak.
His feelings overpowered him;
and he could not even express his gratitude to the Chief.
The men went muttering out of the tent, and when they told the women and children old Selim’s decision, a horrible cry arose, and they swore that if Selim would not avenge his son’s death, they themselves would.
The other prisoners were divided between the tribe.
Some were sent to get money to ransom the richer amongst them, others were obliged to mind the flocks, and some who had kept in their own homes at least ten slaves to wait upon them, had to perform the very lowest services in the camp.
Not so Said.
Either because of his noble appearance or owing to the secret influence of the good fairy, the old Chief showed him much favour.
Indeed, Said’s position in the tent was more that of a son than a slave.
But the indulgence of their master roused the anger of the other servants.
Said had to bear indignant and jealous looks, and often as he went through the camp an arrow struck him, which undoubtedly was meant to kill him, but that he still lived, Said felt sure must be owing to the magic whistle which he always wore beneath his shirt.
He often told Selim of these attempts on his life, but it would have been useless to try to find the culprits, for the whole tribe was against him.
So one day Selim said:
"I had hoped you might have become as my son, in the place of him you slew.
It is not your fault nor mine that this cannot be, but all the tribe are bitter against you, and I cannot answer any longer for your safety;
and it would not do me any good to kill those who are sure to kill you.
So when the men return from their wanderings, I shall tell them that your father has paid your ransom, and I will send three trustworthy men to guide you through the desert."
"But I cannot trust any one of your tribe," said Said.
"They will probably kill me on the way !"
The oath they must swear to me shall be your protection," said the Chief;
"they dare not break that !"
Some days later the Arabs returned and Selim gave them his commands.
He presented Said with clothes, arms, and a horse, chose for his guides five of his most valiant men, bound them by a fearful oath not to kill the youth, and parted from him with tears of regret.
The five men rode silently and sullenly along with Said in their midst.
Said saw how unwillingly they undertook the errand, and noticed that two of them took part in the fight in which he had slain Almansor.
When they had ridden about eight hours, Said heard them whispering, and observed that they seemed more threatening in their manners.
He listened, and found that they were talking to each other in a dialect peculiar to the tribe, and which Selim had learnt during his stay in the Sheikh’s tent.
What he overheard was not encouraging.
"This is the place," said one of them;
"‘twas here we held up the caravan, and here this boy killed the bravest of the brave."
"The wind has blown away all traces in the sand," said another, "but I have not forgotten the spot."
"And to our shame he is living and a free man.
Who could believe that a father would not avenge the death of his son ?
Selim is getting childish."
"And if his father is forgetful of his duty, then it is ours to avenge our fallen friend.
Let us kill Said on this spot.
By the rules of our warfare we may take his life."
"But we have sworn an oath to our Chief" said the fifth;
"we dare not kill him !"
"That is true," replied one of the band;
"we have given our word, and so the murderer goes free."
"Stop," cried one.
"The old Chief is a clever man, but not so clever as he thinks;
we have only sworn not to kill.
But we did not promise to take him anywhere in particular.
So the scorching sun and the sharp teeth of the jackal may serve our purpose.
Here on this spot we will bind him and leave him to his fate."
So the robbers made their plans, but Said, who had already heard enough, put his spurs to his horse and rode for his life.
But though the men were startled for a moment, they were well used to such tactics, and two of them quickly overtook the youth, and as he turned to escape from them, he found himself surrounded by the other three.
The oath they had sworn protected his life as far as that was concerned;
but they threw a lasso over his head, jerked him out of his saddle, beat him unmercifully, bound him hand and foot, and left him lying on the burning sand of the desert.
Said begged and prayed them to have pity.
He promised them a handsome sum of money in ransom;
but it was no good;
and laughing, they mounted their horses and rode off.
For a few minutes he listened to the sound of the horses’ feet, and then gave himself up for lost.
He thought of his father, of his grief should his son no more return;
he thought of his wretched fate, for death seemed so sure.
How could he prevent it ?
If the sun did not kill him, the jackals would.
The sun rose higher and higher in the heavens, and its fierce rays scorched his forehead.
He tried to turn over, but even the change of position gave him little advantage.
In doing so, however, the whistle fell out of his shirt, and after many attempts he managed to get it between his lips, and tried to blow it;
but even in his dreadful need, no sound could he produce.
Utterly disheartened he sank down again, and at last lost consciousness.
After many hours Said was awakened by a noise near at hand;
and found too that something was holding him by the shoulder, and he uttered a cry of alarm, for he thought it was surely a jackal attacking him.
Then he felt his legs held fast, but not by the ropes used by the Arabs, but by the hands of a man who seemed to be tending him, and who was speaking to another standing by.
"He lives," they were saying, "but he thinks we are enemies !"
At last Said opened his eyes, and saw bending over him a little fat man with small eyes and a long beard;
who spoke kindly and helped him to rise, brought food and drink, and said that his name was Kalum Bey, and he was a merchant of Bagdad.
He was returning from a trading expedition, and had noticed an apparently lifeless body on the sand.
The youth thanked him heartily for his goodness, saying undoubtedly he must have died;
and then told Kalum Bey his history.
As he had now no money, and could not go on foot all through the desert, he gratefully accepted a seat on the back of one of the already heavily laden camels.
He thought he would go first to Bagdad and then to Bassora.
On the way the merchant told him much about the notable Protector of the Faithful, the great Haroun al Raschid.
He spoke of his keen sense of honour and justice, and of his eccentricities
"Our great lord, Haroun," said Kalum Bey, "is a wonderful man.
If you think that he even sleeps like other people, you are mistaken.
I know this, because Messour, his Chamberlain, is my cousin, and although he would never betray his master’s secrets, he sometimes lets fall a word here and there.
Instead, then, of sleeping like ordinary men, the Caliph walks at night through the streets of the city, seeking adventures.
Generally he is alone, sometimes he takes two followers.
He dresses himself either as a merchant or a soldier, and he carefully observes how the laws of the city are kept.
So it happens that we in Bagdad are rather particular in our ways at night, for the dirty-looking Arab who may hustle us in passing is as likely to be Haroun as any one else."
Said was glad he was going to Bagdad, where he might see this powerful Sultan.
In ten days’ time they reached the end of their journey, and the youth was greatly surprised at the exceeding beauty of the city.
The merchant invited him to come to his home, and Said agreed, for without money and among strangers such a hospitable offer was very acceptable.
The day after his arrival, when he was dressed, he told his host he would go for a walk through the town, but the merchant laughed and stroked his beard, and then said:
"All very fine, young man !
But what will become of you and your fine clothes, if you have nothing to bite or sup ?"
"Dear Kalum Bey," said the young man, blushing, "I have no money, certainly, but if you will lend me a little, I will go home to my father.
He will honestly pay you again !"
"Your father, boy ?"
cried the merchant, laughing.
"I believe the sun has affected your mind.
Do you think I believed a word of the story you told me in the desert ?
Who is your father ?
A rich man in Bassora ?
Then I ought to know him;
but I have never heard of Benezar.
Your story is a pack of lies.
You are either a robber or a rogue.
Your father is no doubt a poor rascal, and to his runaway son I would not lend a penny.
And as to the affair in the desert — no one would dare while Haroun is Caliph to attack a caravan.
The whole story is a pack of lies !"
Pale with anger, SaId would have knocked the little man down, but the merchant screamed and kicked, and shouted:
"And you say you killed Selim’s son !
Do you think we believed that ?
Selim’s name is well known.
He, the fiercest of chiefs, would have had you torn in pieces.
He, who has often had robbers hanged in his presence so that he could enjoy their agonies.
you shameless liar !"
"I can only swear," answered the youth, "by my immortal soul, and by the beard of the Prophet, that all I told you is true !"
You will swear on your soul ?"
cried the merchant;
"by your black, lying soul ?
Who can believe you ?
And ‘by the beard of the Prophet’ ?
You who have no beard !
The truth indeed !"
"I have no witnesses," said Said;
"but you found me bound and senseless."
"That does not matter," said the merchant.
"You were dressed like an ordinary robber, and possibly you met with a stronger robber who bound you and left you there."
"I would like to see," said Said, with flashing eyes, "the man who could throw me and bind me;
but what can you do when four or five attack you, and lasso you from behind ?
However, you saved my life and I am not ungrateful.
What do you want ?
If you will not help me, I must beg;
and rather than accept charity I will go to the Caliph."
said the merchant, laughing.
"You will only take alms from our noble governor ?
I call that begging!
Bethink you, young man.
The road to the Caliph is barred by my cousin, Messour, and I can easily tell him the story is untrue.
But I pity you, Said, because you are young.
There is time before you.
I will take you into my employ;
you shall bind yourself to me for a year, and then I will give you your wages and you can go wherever you please, to Aleppo or Medina;
to Stamboul or Bassora — or ——— !
I will give you till noon to decide.
If you do not accept my offer, I will calculate what you have cost me up to now, and will insist on having your clothes in payment;
and then I will turn you out in the streets, and you can go to the Caliph or to the Mufti in the Mosque, or you can beg in the market-place."
And with this the merchant went out the room.
Said was furious.
He was so angry with the little wretch that he could have done almost anything to him;
but after all he was in his power.
He thought he would leave the house, but found that the door of his room was fastened.
At last, when he was in a more reasonable mood, he decided it might be best after all to accept Kalum Bey’s offer.
He knew that without money he could never reach Bassora.
And he resolved as soon as possible to seek the aid of Haroun al Raschid.
The following day Kalum Bey took his new apprentice to the Bazaar.
He showed Said the shawls and stuffs and other wares in which he dealt, and explained his methods of dealing.
He insisted that Said should wear the costume of a merchant’s assistant, and should stand in the doorway of his shop, calling to the passers-by to come and buy;
and now Said understood why Kalum Bey had wished for his services.
For the ugly little man drove customers away, whereas the women admired the young salesman and bought from him very willingly.
When Kalum Bey found how much his business had improved since Said stood at the door of his shop, he treated him better, fed him well, and dressed him in smarter clothes.
But Said, although he attended just as well as before to his duties, thought day and night of only one thing, namely, how he could manage to go back to his own dear city.
One day, when there had been so many customers that all the porters were away from the shop carrying the goods bought to the houses of their owners, a woman entered the bazaar and wanted to make some purchases at Kalum Bey’s.
She was a long time making her choice, and having done so, asked for some one to carry her parcels home, saying she would give the porter a fee for himself.
"I can send some one in half an hour’s time," said Kalum Bey.
"At present all my porters are out."
"I cannot wait, and I do not want a strange porter," said the woman.
"But look, there is one of your assistants.
Let him carry my purchases."
"No, no !"
cried the merchant.
"He is my decoy;
my signpost !
He must not leave the door."
"Nonsense," exclaimed the woman, and gave her parcel to Said.
"It’s a pretty thing if you cannot hold your own in business, but have to rely on a handsome assistant !
Come, lad, you shall have an opportunity of earning an extra fee to-day.
For, good or bad, Kalum Bey is bound to stay and mind his shop himself."
Said followed the woman.
They went through the market and many streets.
At last they reached a fine house at the door of which she knocked.
It was opened immediately, the woman entered, and Said followed her.
They came to a large and splendidly furnished room.
The woman seated herself on a divan, while Said laid his bundle down, and was about to depart, having already received a silver piece for himself.
"Said," cried a gentle voice.
He looked wonderingly round, and saw, instead of the old woman, a beautiful lady sitting on the cushions surrounded by many attendants.
Said was too much astonished for words.
"Said," said the lady, "much as I regret the misfortunes which were the cause of your coming to Bagdad, they are the result of your leaving your native city before you were twenty years of age, they were part of your fate in life.
Have you your whistle still ?"
"Indeed I have," joyfully exclaimed the youth, as he drew it and the gold chain out.
"And surely you are the good fairy who gave it to me !"
"I was your mother’s friend," answered the fairy, "and am also yours, Said.
If your father had followed my advice, you would have been spared all these unhappy experiences."
"It cannot be helped," replied Said.
"But now, dear fairy, help me to get away from Bagdad.
Send me back on a magic cloud to Bagdad, to my father.
There will I remain the six months that remain before my twentieth birthday."
"You have a coaxing way," said the fairy, "but what you ask is impossible.
As long as you are in a strange place I cannot help you.
I cannot even release you from Kalum Bey.
He is under the protection of your mightiest enemy."
Said sadly bent his head in thought.
"But can I not go to the Caliph?"
he asked at last.
"Will he not incline his gracious ear to me, and advise me what to do ?"
"Haroun is a wise man," said the fairy, "but, unfortunately, only a man.
He trusts his Lord Chamberlain thoroughly, for he has tried and proved his fidelity.
Messour, however, is greatly influenced by his friend Kalum Bey;
and this is not right, for he believes all the evil gossip he repeats.
The Caliph knows, no doubt, that you are a doubtful character.
He would not be just to you.
If you wish to deserve his sympathy and help, you must wait a little longer."
"This is indeed bad news," said Said sadly.
"But grant me a favour, good fairy.
I was well trained in the use of arms, and my greatest delight is in the tournament.
Every week there is one held here in which the noblest youths take part.
Could you not help me to present myself as an unknown competitor ?"
"Your request shall be granted," said the fairy.
"Every week you shall find here a fine horse, and knightly armour, and two pages.
A magic water, with which you must bathe your face each time, will alter your appearance.
And now good-bye, Said;
be patient and do not worry.
In six months your whistle will sound, and Zulima’s ear will hear it at once."
The youth parted from his powerful friend with gratitude and respect;
he noted carefully the house and street and returned to the Bazaar, and got back to the shop just in time to be of the greatest service to his master, for a crowd of boys were dancing round him, and jeering and hooting at him, while older people stood by laughing.
Kalum Bey himself was standing at the door of his shop trembling with fright, in one hand he held a shawl, in the other a veil.
This extraordinary scene came about through Said’s absence from his post;
for Kalum had taken his place meantime, but the customers would not buy of him.
Two men passed through the Bazaar in search of presents for their wives.
They walked up and down several times, and at last walked away with a puzzled air.
Kalum Bey, who noticed this, thought he might get their custom, and cried out:
"Here, my lords, here !
Here are beautiful things !
What is it you want ?"
"My good man," said one of them, "your wares are good enough, but our wives are particular, and it is now a custom among the women to buy their veils only from the handsome young shop-assistant, Said.
We have been walking up and down for an hour, and cannot find him;
perhaps you can tell us where he is, so that we may go and buy what we want;
and we will visit your shop another day."
"Heaven be praised !"
cried Kalum Bey.
"The great Prophet has guided your steps to the right door.
You wish to buy veils from the handsome young salesman !
Well, this is his opportunity !"
One of the two men laughed heartily at Kalum’s ugly face and figure and his assurance that he was the handsome youth;
the other, however, thought that Kalum was joking with them and would not buy.
Thereupon Kalum Bey was annoyed, and called his neighbours to witness to the fact that his shop was known as "the handsome salesman’s";
but the neighbours, jealous of his recent successful trade, pretended not to know;
and the two men, furious with "the old liar," as they called him, began treating him roughly.
Kalum defended himself more by shrieks and howlings than with his fists;
and by degrees a crowd surrounded his shop.
Half the town knew him as a greedy, grasping man, and all the bystanders grudged him the luck he had had.
But just as one of the two men had seized hold of Kalum’s beard, he in turn was seized by a stalwart arm and roughly thrown to the ground, losing in his fall his turban.
The crowd, who had enjoyed Kalum’s dilemma, began to murmur;
and the companion of the man who was thrown down looked round, and wondered who had attacked his friend;
but when he saw a tall, strong youth with flashing eyes and bold bearing come to Kalum’s assistance, he did not feel inclined to parry blows with him.
Kalum, however, was overjoyed;
his rescue seemed a miracle, and he cried:
"Now, my lords, what more do you want ?
This is Said, the handsome salesman !"
The people laughed, for they knew Kalum had not always treated the youth well.
The two men looked rather ashamed, and went off together without buying shawls or veil.
"Oh, you jewel of all assistants !
you treasure of a youth !"
cried Kalum, as he led his servant into the shop.
"You did indeed arrive at the right moment.
The man lay on the ground as if he would never rise again, and I — I should have had no need of a barber any more to comb and trim my beard if you had been two minutes later.
How can I reward you ?"
Said had simply followed the impulse of the moment;
his heart was always easily moved to pity, but he realised that be had rendered a valuable service to the ugly little man.
A few dozen hairs the less in his beard would, Said reflected, have kept Kalum quiet and humble for a day or two;
but he was anxious to gain a good word of the merchant, and said the reward he would like best would be permission for an afternoon and evening holiday once a week, so that he could do as he liked.
This Kalum agreed to, for he knew Said, having neither money nor clothes, was not likely to run away.
So Said got what he wished.
On the next Wednesday, the day of the weekly tournament, he went to the street where the fairy lived, knocked at the door of her house, and it was immediately opened.
The servant seemed prepared for his arrival, for, without asking his business, he led Said up some steps into a beautiful room, and gave him the magic water.
He bathed his face with it, and on looking in a mirror which hung on the wall could hardly recognise himself, for he was quite sunburnt, had a well-trimmed black beard, and looked at least ten years older than he really was.
Then he was taken to another room, where he found such beautiful clothes as Haroun himself might wear when he rode in full state at the head of his army.
Besides a turban of finest muslin with a diamond aigrette and feathers, a coat of cloth of gold worked with silver flowers, Said found a shirt of silver chainwork which was so fine and close and strong that no blow of lance or sword could penetrate it.
A Damascene blade in a rich sheath, with a hilt set with priceless jewels, completed his costume.
As he was leaving the room, a servant brought him a silk handkerchief, and said that the mistress of the house had sent this, and if he wiped his face with it the beard and the brown staining would disappear.
In the courtyard stood three beautiful horses:
the best Said mounted, the others were for his pages, and then he rode happily enough to the grounds where the tournament was held.
The magnificence of his clothes and the splendour of his weapons drew all eyes to him;
and a cheer hailed him as he rode into the ring.
There was a brilliant gathering of the bravest and noblest young men;
even the Caliph’s brothers competed and took their chances of falls and blows.
When Said rode in, and as no one seemed to know him, the son of the Grand Vizier, with some of his friends, rode up, asked his name and to what place he belonged, and invited him to take part in the day’s proceedings.
Said said his name was Almansor, and he came from Cairo;
that he was travelling about, and having heard much of the bravery and skill in arms of the young nobles of Bagdad, thought he would like to see it for himself.
The young men were charmed with Said-Almansor’s speech and manners, and gave him a lance, telling him to choose his side;
for the whole gathering was divided into two parties thus to fight the one against the other.
But if Said’s dress had already attracted attention, still more did his courage and skill.
His horse was quicker than a bird, and his sword flashed hither and thither.
He threw his lance as easily, as surely as if it were a dart.
He defeated even the doughtiest of his opponents, and at the end of the engagement was so heartily declared the victor, that one of the Caliph’s brothers, as well as the Grand Vizier’s son, who had fought on Said’s side, begged him to fight with them.
Ali, the Caliph’s brother, was defeated, but the combat with the Grand Vizier’s son was so long and so equal, that it was decided to finish it another day.
The day after the tournament every one was talking about the handsome stranger;
all who had seen him were fascinated by his noble bearing, and Said heard people in Kalum Bey’s shop talking about him, and regretting that no one knew where he came from or where he lived.
On his next holiday he found in the fairy’s house a still more handsome suit, and still more splendid weapons.
All Bagdad had assembled, even the Caliph sat in his balcony and watched the encounter;
he too, noticed the prowess of Said-Almansor, and sent him a large gold medal and a chain to put round his neck as a sign of his appreciation.
It was a matter of course that this second triumph for Said should attract the attention of all the young men in Bagdad.
"Shall a stranger come here," said they, "and rob us of our military renown ?
Let him go somewhere else.
We cannot put up with this sort of thing."
So they agreed that at the next tournament five or six of them would attack him.
Said’s sharp eyes soon observed these mutterings;
he saw that the young men glanced bitterly at him;
he felt that besides the Caliph’s brother and the Grand Vizier’s son there was no one very friendly towards him, and even these were rather inclined to ask inquisitive questions as to where they could call on him, what he did, and why he was staying in Bagdad.
It was a strange thing that one of the young men who gave Said the blackest looks was no other than the man whom he had thrown down the day of the Kalum Bey affair;
the one who had seized the merchant by the beard.
Said had defeated him twice in fair fight, but that was no reason why ill-feeling should be displayed, and our hero feared lest by some accident of voice or feature his identity with the salesman at Kalum Bey’s shop had been discovered, and might tell against him here.
The unfair attack to which Said was exposed was not only from jealousy at his bravery and skill, but also on account of the favour shown to him by the Caliph’s brother and the Grand Vizier’s son.
When these two young nobles saw that the fight was as six to one, and that the struggle was a desperate one, they sprang into the melee, scattered the gang, and forbade the young men who had acted so dishonourably ever to present themselves at the tournament again.
For more than four weeks Said had surprised Bagdad by his deeds of prowess, and as he was going home one evening after the contests, he heard some voices which seemed familiar.
In front of him were slowly walking four men, who were speaking in the dialect of the desert tribe over which the Chief Selim ruled.
As Said, treading lightly, came up with them, he caught some words which told him plainly that they were planning some mischief.
His first idea was to leave them to their own devices, but then he remembered that he might be able to defeat their evil plot, so he listened carefully to all they were saying.
"The doorkeeper distinctly said the street to the right of the Bazaar," said one.
"He will be passing through it to-night with his Grand Vizier."
"Good," said another.
"I don’t care a fig for the Grand Vizier;
he is old and weak, and no hero;
but the Caliph is a grand swordsman, and I am afraid of him !"
"You stupid !"
said the third.
"It is well known that he is only accompanied by one person.
So to-night we will seize him, but no harm must happen to him."
"The best way," said the first speaker, "were to throw a noose over his head;
we must not kill him, for a large ransom will be paid for him, and this is all we are sure to get."
"Then until eleven o’clock," said they all, and separated, one going here, another there.
Said was decidedly alarmed at this plot.
He thought at first of going to the Palace and warning the Caliph, and asking for help to take the conspirators.
But as he walked along he remembered the fairy’s words, "that the Sultan was unfavourably disposed towards him," and thought that the Chamberlain might treat his warning as a joke, or else accuse him of trying to gain the Sultan’s favour;
so he paused, and decided that it would be best to rely on his good sword, and himself rescue the Sultan from the men of the robber tribe.
So instead of going back to Kalum Bey’s he sat on the steps of the Mosque and waited till night fell;
then he went to the Bazaar through the street the robbers had named, and hid himself behind the corner of a house.
He had waited there for about a quarter of an hour when he heard some steps;
and he thought at first it might be the Caliph and his Grand Vizier;
but one of the men clapped his hands, and immediately two others hurried out, though very quietly, from their hiding-places.
They whispered together for a little while and then separated.
Two stood not far from him, the other walked up and down.
The night was very dark, and Said had to listen very carefully.
After a while footsteps were heard again in the Bazaar.
One of the robbers, near to where Said hid, had also heard them, and gave a signal.
In a moment the three other men attacked the wayfarers, who fought valiantly, and the sound of the sword-blows was rapid and distinct.
Said now drew his blade, and threw himself into the thick of the fray, crying:
"Down with the enemies of Haroun al Raschid !"
He cut one robber down, then sprang on two more who had just bound a man and were feeling for his weapon.
The brave youth hit one of these robbers a blow on the arm and cut off his hand.
With a dreadful cry he fell.
Now the fourth, who had been fighting too, turned on Said, who was still engaged with the third.
But the man who had been bound had now freed himself, and with his dagger would have stabbed the robber, only that the latter ran away.
Said was not long in ignorance as to whom he had saved.
The taller of the two men came up to him and said:
"The sudden attack on my life and liberty is as difficult to understand as your share in my deliverance;
did you know of these men’s intentions ?"
"Defender of the Faithful," answered Said ;— " for I feel sure you are he — I was walking the street called El Malek to-night, behind these men, and overheard their evil plot against you and your companion.
It was too late to warn you, so I decided to remain on the spot and to help you if necessary."
"I thank you," said Haroun;
"but let us leave this horrible place.
Take this ring, and come to me at the Palace to-morrow morning."
He signed to the Grand Vizier to follow him, after having set the ring on Said’s finger.
The old man, however, hastily pressed a purse of gold into Said’s hand, and whispered:
"Take it, noble youth;
I cannot reward you better."
Then he hurried after the Caliph.
Said felt half drunk with joy as he hastened home.
But Kalum Bey was very angry at his being out so late, and had begun to think he had lost his valuable apprentice, and he began to scold and curse and swear like a madman.
But Said, who had satisfied himself on looking inside his purse that it was full of gold pieces, felt the moment had come when he could return to his father’s house, did not defend himself, only told Kalum Bey that he would not remain another hour in his service.
At first the little merchant was too surprised to speak, then he laughed spitefully, and said:
"You stupid idiot !
You beggarly rascal !
How can you go away ?
Where will you get food or a night’s lodging ?"
"That does not concern you, Kalum Bey," answered Said.
"Be certain of this, you shall not see me again !"
He went out of the house, and Kalum Bey was speechless with astonishment.
The next morning, however, when he had thought the matter well over, he sent his porters out to see what they could hear about Said.
After some time one of them came back, saying he had seen Said come out of the Mosque and join a caravan.
He seemed altered;
was wearing a splendid coat and turban, and was armed with a dagger and crossbow.
When Kalum Bey heard this he raged and stormed and cried:
"He has stolen both money and clothes from me.
Oh, I am indeed an unlucky man !"
Then he sent a messenger to the police, and as they knew he was a relation of Messour, the Court Chamberlain, he easily enough got a warrant for Said’s arrest.
Said was sitting waiting for the caravan to start, and was chatting with a merchant who was going to Bassora, when suddenly, notwithstanding his protests, some men seized him, and bound his hands behind his back.
He asked them by what right they arrested him;
and they replied, they held a warrant from the police and Kalum Bey.
Then the little merchant appeared on the scenes, and accused and abused Said, searched in his pockets, and, to the bystanders’ surprise, triumphantly drew out a purse full of gold.
He stole this from me, the young villain," cried he.
"So young, so handsome, and yet so base !
Justice, justice is all I ask — except the bastinade !"
So they dragged him along, and a whole crowd of men of all sorts followed, crying:
"Look at the handsome young salesman of the Bazaar;
he has robbed his master and would have run away.
He has stolen two hundred gold pieces !"
The superintendent of the police received Said with severe looks.
Said would have spoken, but the officials bade him be silent, and only attended to the little merchant.
He asked Kalum Bey if the purse belonged to him, and Kalum Bey swore it did;
but that a far greater loss to him were the services of his assistant, which were worth a thousand gold pieces.
Then the judge said:
"According to a law, made long ago by our great Caliph, every thief who stole more than one hundred gold pieces must be punished by perpetual banishment to a desert island.
This thief is taken at the right moment, for he makes the twentieth, and completes a gang which will be shipped to-morrow morning."
Said was bewildered.
He implored the judge to allow him to speak to the Caliph;
but he found no mercy.
Kalum Bey, who began to regret his folly, interceded for him, but the judge said:
"You have your money, so be contented;
go home and be quiet, or I will fine you ten gold pieces for each accusation."
Kalum silently disappeared;
and the judge signed to the guards to take the unlucky Said away.
He was thrown into a dark damp cell, where nineteen other miserable wretches lay about on the straw and related with some rough wit their experiences.
The prospect of his fate seemed so awful, and the possibility of being compelled to spend his days on a desert island so terrible, that he fervently hoped something might happen to release him from this terrible position.
But he hoped in vain;
nor was his fate on the convict ship a pleasant one.
In the hold, where no one could stand upright, the twenty prisoners were confined, and had to make themselves as comfortable as they could.
The anchor was weighed, and Said wept bitter tears when the vessel set sail.
Only once a day did they get a frugal meal of bread and fruit, washed down with a drink of water;
and it was so dark in the hold that when the gaolers brought food they had to bring a lamp while the convicts ate it.
Almost every day one of the prisoners died through the foul air of the place;
and it was only Said’s youth and good constitution which kept him alive.
For fourteen days they voyaged, and then one day there was a strange tumult on board the ship.
Said thought it might be a storm, and he hoped he might die.
The ship tossed up and down, and at last a grating sound was heard.
Cries and groans on deck mingled with the raging of the storm.
At last all was quiet;
but at that moment water began to rise in the hold.
The convicts knocked on the partition door, but no one heeded them.
And as the water rose higher and higher, they put forth all their strength and burst its panels.
Then they ran up the stairs, but could not see any one.
The crew had saved themselves in the ship’s boats.
This was a terrible time for these poor wretches, for the storm still raged, and the ship seemed likely to go to pieces any moment.
For some hours they sat on the deck, and made a meal from the odds and ends of food left by the crew;
then the storm rose with greater force, and the ship was shattered to pieces against the rocks.
Said had bound himself to the mast.
The waves washed him backwards and forwards;
but he steered a course with his foot, and kept himself safe.
But for more than half an hour he was in greatest danger;
then all at once his whistle fell from his shirt, and he thought he would see if it would sound.
With one hand he clung to the mast, with the other he held it to his mouth, blew, and lo !
a clear, sweet sound came forth, and instantly the storm ceased, and the waves were as still as if oil had been poured on the water.
Hardly had he had time to look around for any signs of land, when the mast beneath him began to move and change in a most wonderful manner;
and he was rather dismayed to find himself sitting astride a dolphin.
After a few minutes he recovered his nerve, and when he felt that the dolphin was swimming slowly and steadily he knew he owed his good fortune to the fairy and the whistle, and offered his heartfelt thanks aloud.
His wonderful steed carried him swiftly through the waves, and when evening came he saw the land and a wide river, into which the dolphin swam, and slowly followed the course of the stream, and Said, remembering his instructions, drew out his whistle and blew it, and wished for a hearty meal.
The dolphin stopped, and on the water suddenly appeared a table as dry as if it had been standing a week or more in the sun, and it was spread with delicious food.
Said eat sparingly, for after his long imprisonment his appetite was not very good;
and when he had finished his meal, he returned thanks, and once more swam along the water of the river on the back of his strange steed.
The sun was setting when Said saw in the far distance a large town, which from its appearance might have been Bagdad.
Any other place would have pleased him better;
however, he thought of the good fairy, and wondered where he would land.
The dolphin swam towards the shore, and round a small promontory.
The youth then noticed a fine country house, to which his wonderful steed steered his course.
On the flat roof some handsomely dressed men were standing and beckoning to him.
The dolphin stopped by a landing stage which stretched out into the water.
Two servants carrying wands in their hands awaited Said, and begged him, in the name of their master, to enter.
Hardly had Said stepped on dry land than the dolphin disappeared like magic.
The servants took Said to a chamber where he changed his clothes.
Then he was conducted to the lord of the Palace.
There were two men in splendid apparel with him.
"Who are you, you strange young man ?"
the lord of the Palace asked him kindly.
"You bestrode that large fish and guided him right and left as well as the best rider would manage his horse."
"My lord," answered Said, "I have had much misfortune during the last few weeks;
with your permission I will tell you all that happened to me."
After Said had had some refreshment, he told the three men his adventures from the time he left his father’s house until his wonderful rescue from the shipwreck.
"Where are the chain and the ring which the Caliph gave you ?"
asked the lord of the house.
"Here in my bosom," said Said, as he drew them forth.
"By the beard of the Prophet, it is my ring !"
cried the one of highest rank.
"Grand Vizier, we must embrace him, he is our deliverer."
Said felt as if in a dream.
"Pardon me, Protector of the Poor, for my blunt speech.
Are you truly Haroun al Raschid ?"
"Haroun al Raschid, and your friend.
But from this moment your fortunes will mend.
Follow me to Bagdad;
you shall stay in my house, for you have proved the truth of your story."
So Said went with the Caliph to Bagdad, and was given a splendid room in the Palace.
And both the Caliph’s brother and the Grand Vizier’s son recognised him as their brave brother-in-arms.
On the next day Messour, the Chamberlain, came to Haroun and said:
"Defender of the Faithful, may I ask a favour of you ?"
"I must first hear what it is," said the Caliph.
The Chamberlain said:
"My worthy cousin Kalum Bey is standing without.
He is a respectable merchant in the Bazaar.
He has had a fuss with a man from Bassora whose son was my cousin’s assistant, and robbed him, and ran away, no one knows whither.
The father wants his son, and Kalum has not got him.
Kalum begs and prays that you will graciously interfere between him and the man from Bassora."
"I will judge the case," answered the Caliph.
"In half an hour your cousin and his accuser may appear in the Hall of Justice."
Messour withdrew with grateful thanks.
Haroun, however, called Said and said:
"Your father is actually in this city, Said, and now I fortunately know all, I can be as wise as Solomon.
You shall hide behind this curtain until I call you;
and you, Grand Vizier, send some one directly to fetch that careless and incompetent magistrate."
Each did as he was bid.
Said’s heart beat fast as with feeble steps his dear old father, pale and agitated, entered the Hall.
Kalum Bey’s nasty sly smile, however, made him so furious that he would willingly have knocked him down.
There were a good many people in the Hall, for the Caliph wished them to hear justice done.
After silence was proclaimed the Grand Vizier asked who it was who wished for the Caliph’s interference.
Kalum Bey stepped forward, and with an easy air stated his grievance.
He described Said as a thieving, untrustworthy rascal, and said he did not know what had become of him.
Then it was Benezar’s turn.
He declared his son to be a noble-minded, trustworthy youth, and said it was impossible he should have fallen so low as to steal.
"I hope, Kalum Bey," said Haroun, "you have, as was your duty, notified the theft to the police."
"Certainly," laughed Kalum.
"I took Said myself to the police magistrate."
"Bring the magistrate here," said the Caliph.
The magistrate came forward and acknowledged hearing the case.
"Did you allow the young man to speak for himself, and did he confess the theft ?"
"No, he said he would explain to no one but yourself," answered the magistrate.
"But I do not remember seeing him," said Haroun.
"Surely, my lord, I am not to send a pack of rascals every day to trouble your ear with their stories !"
"You know that my ears are always ready to listen," answered Haroun, "but perhaps the testimony as to the theft was so clear that it was not necessary to grant his request.
Did you have witnesses to prove that this gold which Said stole really belonged to you, Kalum ?"
"No, I had no witnesses one piece of gold is as much like another as egg to egg."
"Then how did you know the money belonged to you ?"
"By the purse it was in," answered Kalum readily.
"Have you got the purse with you now ?"
asked the Caliph.
The merchant drew it forth.
Then the Grand Vizier cried with a loud voice:
"By the beard of the Prophet, that purse is not yours, false liar !
It belongs to me;
and I gave it, filled with gold pieces, to the brave young man who saved my life !"
"Can you swear that ?"
asked the Caliph.
"As solemnly as I hope to enter Paradise," answered the Grand Vizier.
"Well, well," said Haroun.
"Then you judged falsely, magistrate.
Why did you believe this purse belonged to the merchant ?"
"He swore it did," answered the magistrate, trembling.
"So you swore falsely," thundered the Caliph to the merchant, who was shivering with fear.
"Allah, Allah !"
"I will not say anything against the Grand Vizier, he is a worthy man;
but oh !
the purse was my property, and the dishonest Said stole it.
I would give a thousand gold pieces if he were here."
"What have you done with Said ?"
asked the Caliph.
"I sent him to a desert island," said the magistrate.
"Then he did commit the crime ?"
The magistrate turned white.
Then he said at last:
"So far as I know — yes."
"You know nothing about it," said the Caliph in a dreadful voice, "so we will ask him ourselves.
Come here, Said;
and you, Kalum Bey, pay down those thousand gold pieces, for he is here as you wished."
Kalum and the magistrate thought to have seen a ghost.
They bowed their heads and cried:
"Mercy, mercy !"
Benezar, however, overcome with joy, threw himself into the arms of his long-lost son.
With stern dignity the Caliph said:
"Magistrate, this is Said.
Did he confess his guilt ?"
"No, no," groaned the magistrate.
"I had only Kalum’s word for it.
He is a respectable man."
"Did I not make you a judge so that you should deal justice ?"
cried Haroun al Raschid in a rage.
"For ten years I banish you to a desert island in the middle of the sea;
there you can think over all your injustice.
And as for you, you wretched little man, who saved a dying man simply to make him your slave, you shall pay, as already stated, a thousand gold pieces, because you said you would if Said were here as a witness to your kind heartedness."
Kalum rejoiced to get out of this unpleasant business so well, and made an attempt to thank the good Caliph.
But Haroun continued:
"As for your false oath about the hundred gold pieces, you shall have one hundred strokes on the soles of your feet.
And further, Said shall decide if he will confiscate your house and business, or if he will be contented to receive instead ten gold pieces for every day he served in your shop."
"Let the wretch go, great lord !"
"I wish for nothing that ever belonged to him."
"No," answered Haroun.
"I intend you to have recompense, so I shall choose the ten gold pieces a day for you, and you must reckon how many days you were in his service.
Now take the wretches away !"
The guards removed them, and the Caliph led Benezar and Said into another large room.
Here he told Benezar how Said had saved his life.
The Caliph invited Benezar to stay with him for a while, Said to remain too, and the invitation was joyfully accepted.
And Said ever afterwards lived like a prince in a beautiful palace the Caliph had built for him, and to which Benezar brought all his belongings.