288 THE ARABIAN NIGHTS
Noureddin, in the habit of giving to others whatever they admired, said, ' Fisherman, as she pleases you so much, take her; she is yours.'
The fair Persian, astounded that he should wish to part from her, took her lute, and with tears in her eyes sang her reproaches to its music.
The Caliph (still in the character of fisherman) said to him, ' Sir, I perceive that this fair lady is your slave. Oblige me, I beg you, by relating your history.'
Noureddin willingly granted this request, and recounted everything from the purchase of the slave down to the present moment.
'And where do you go now?' asked the Caliph.
' Wherever the hand of Allah leads me,' said Noureddin.
' Then, if you will listen to me,' said the Caliph, ' you will immediately return to Balsora. I will give you a letter to the king, which will ensure you a good reception from him.'
' It is an unheard-of thing,' said Noureddin, ' that a fisherman should be in correspondence with a king.'
' Let not that astonish you,' answered the Caliph; ' we studied together, and have always remained the best of friends, though fortune, while making him a king, left me a humble fisherman.'
The Caliph then took a sheet of paper, and wrote the following letter, at the top of which he put in very small characters this formula to show that he must be implicitly obeyed:—
iIn the Name of the Most Merciful God.
' Letter of the Caliph Haroun-al-Raschid to the King of Balsora.
' Haroun-al-Raschid, son of Mahdi, sends this letter to Mohammed Zinebi, his cousin. As soon as Noureddin, son of the Vizir Khacan, bearer of this letter, has given it to thee, and thou hast read it, take off thy royal mantle,