I was hesitating about the purchase of a dwelling-house. A Jew said: “I am an old housekeeper in this street: ask the character of this house from me and buy it, for it has no fault.” I replied: “True! only that you are its neighbor:—Any such house as has thee for its neighbor could scarce be worth ten dirams of silver; yet it should behoove us to hope that after thy death it may fetch a thousand.”
A certain poet presented himself before the chief of a gang of robbers, and recited a casidah, or elegy, in his praise. He ordered that they should strip off his clothes, and thrust him from the village. The naked wretch was going away shivering in the cold, and the village dogs were barking at his heels. He stooped to pick up a stone, in order to shy at the dogs, but found the earth frost-bound, and was disappointed. He exclaimed: “What rogues these villagers are, for they let loose their dogs, and tie up their stones!” The chief robber saw and overheard him from a window. He smiled at his wit, and, calling him near said: “O learned sir! ask me for a boon.” He replied, “I ask for my own garments, if you will vouchsafe to give them:—I shall have enough of boons in your suffering me to depart.—Mankind expects charity from others; I expect no charity from thee, only do me no injury.” The chief robber felt compassion for him. He ordered his clothes to be restored, and added to them a robe of fur and sum of money.
* * * * *
A preacher of a harsh tone of voice fancied himself a fine-spoken man, and would hold forth at the mosque to a very idle purpose. You might say that the croaking of the raven of the desert was the burden of his chant, and this text of the Koran expressive of his manner:—The most abominable of noises is the braying of an ass:—“Whenever this ass of a preacher sets up a braying, his voice will make the city of Istakhar, or Persepolis, shake to its base.”
In reverence of his rank his townsmen indulged this defect, and would not distress him by remarking on it, till another preacher of those parts, actuated by a private pique, came on one occasion to tantalize him, and said, “I have seen you in a dream; may it prove fortunate!” He asked: “What have you seen?” He replied: “So it seemed in my vision that your voice had become harmonious, and mankind were charmed with your melodious cadences.” For a while the preacher bowed his head in thought, then raised it, and said: “What a fortunate vision is it that you had, that has made me sensible of my weakness! I am now aware that I have an unpleasant voice, and that the people are distressed at my delivery. I have vowed that I will henceforth preach only in a soft tone of voice.” I am distressed with the society of friends who extol my vices into virtues, my blemishes they view as excellences and perfections, my thorns they regard as roses and jasmines. Where is that rude and bold rival who will expose all my deformities?