ADVENTURES OF HAROUN-AL-RASCHID 317
towards the Euphrates, and crossing the river in a small boat, walked through that part of the town which lay along the further bank, without seeing anything to call for their interference. Much pleased with the peace and good order of the city, the Caliph and his vizir made their way to a bridge, which led straight back to the palace, and had already crossed it, when they were stopped by an old and blind man, who begged for alms.
The Calipb gave him a piece of money, and was passing on, but the blind man seized his hand, and held him fast.
' Charitable person,' he said, ' whoever you may be grant me yet another prayer. Strike me, I beg of you, one blow. I have deserved it richly, and even a more severe penalty.'
The Caliph, much surprised at this request, replied gently: ' My good man, that which you ask is impossible. Of what use would my alms be if I treated you so ill ?' And as he spoke he tried to loosen the grasp of the blind beggar.
' My lord,' answered the man, i pardon my boldness and my persistence. Take back your money, or give me the blow which I crave. I have sworn a solemn oath that I will receive nothing without receiving chastisement, and if you knew all, you would feel that the punishment is not a tenth part of what I deserve.'
Moved by these words, and perhaps still more by the fact that he had other business to attend to, the Caliph yielded, and struck him lightly on the shoulder. Then he continued his road, followed by the blessing of the blind man. When they were out of earshot, he said to the vizir, ' There must be something very odd to make that man act so — I should like to find out what is the reason. Go back to him; tell him who I am, and order him to come without fail to the palace to-morrow, after the hour of evening prayer.'