284 THE ARABIAN NIGHTS
keep them company. At first the old man declined, but was persuaded to enter the room, to sit down on the edge of the sofa nearest the door, and at last to draw closer and to seat himself by the beautiful Persian, who urged him so persistently to drink her health that at length he yielded, and took the cup she offered.
Now the old man only made a pretence of renouncing wine; he frequented wine-shops like other people, and had taken none of the precautions Noureddin had proposed. Having once yielded, he was easily persuaded to take a second cup, and a third, and so on till he no longer knew what he was doing. Till near midnight they continued drinking, laughing, and singing together.
About that time the Persian, perceiving that the room was lit by only one miserable tallow candle, asked Scheih Ibrahim to light some of the beautiful candles in the silver arms.
' Light them yourself,' answered the old man; ' you are younger than I, but let five or six be enough.'
She did not stop, however, till she had lit all the eighty, but Scheih Ibrahim was not conscious of this, and when, soon after that, Noureddin proposed to have some of the lustres lit, he answered:
' You are more capable of lighting them than I, but not more than three.'
Noureddin, far from contenting himself with three, lit all, and opened all the eighty windows.
The Caliph Haroun-al-Raschid, chancing at that moment to open a window in the saloon of his palace looking on the garden, was surprised to see the pavilion brilliantly illuminated. Calling the grand-vizir, Giafar, he said to him:
' Negligent vizir, look at the pavilion, and tell me why it is lit up when I am not there.'
When the vizir saw that it was as the Caliph said, he trembled with fear, and immediately invented an excuse.