The grand vizier, who had all along been the spokesman, answered Zobeide: “Madam, in order to obey you, we need only repeat what we have already said to the fair lady who opened for us the door. We are merchants come to Bagdad to sell our merchandise, which lies in the khan where we lodge. We dined to-day with several other persons of our condition, at a merchant’s house of this city; who, after he had treated us with choice dainties and excellent wines, sent for men and women dancers and musicians. The great noise we made brought in the watch, who arrested some of the company, but we had the good fortune to escape. But it being already late, and the door of our khan shut up, we knew not whither to retire. We chanced, as we passed along this street, to hear music at your house, which made us determine to knock at your gate. This is all the account that we can give you, in obedience to your commands.”
“Well, then,” said Zobeide, “you shall all be equally obliged to me; I pardon you all, provided you immediately depart!”
Zobeide having given this command, the caliph, the vizier, Mesrour, the three calenders, and the porter, departed; for the presence of the seven slaves with their weapons awed them into silence. As soon as they had quitted the house, and the gate was closed after them, the caliph said to the calenders, without making himself known, “You, gentlemen, who are newly come to town, which way do you design to go, since it is not yet day?”
“It is this,” they replied, “that perplexes us.”
“Follow us,” resumed the caliph, “and we will convey you out of danger.”
He then whispered to the vizier: “Take them along with you, and to-morrow morning bring them to me.”
The vizier Giafar took the three calenders along with him; the porter went to his quarters, and the caliph and Mesrour returned to the palace.
On the following morning, as the day dawned, the sultan Haroun al Raschid arose and went to his council chamber, and sat upon his throne. The grand vizier entered soon after, and made his obeisance.
“Vizier,” said the caliph, “go, bring those ladies and the calenders at the same time; make haste, and remember that I impatiently expect your return.”
The vizier, who knew his master’s quick and fiery temper, hastened to obey, and conducted them to the palace with so much expedition that the caliph was much pleased.
When the ladies had arrived the caliph turned toward them and said, “I was last night in your house, disguised in a merchant’s habit; but I am at present Haroun al Raschid, the fifth caliph of the glorious house of Abbas, and hold the place of our great prophet. I have sent for you only to know who you are, and to ask for what reason one of you, after severely whipping the two black dogs, wept with them. And I am no less curious to know why another of you has her bosom so full of scars.”
Upon hearing these words, Zobeide thus related her story: Read the rest of this entry