The Vicar of the Lord of the Worlds[FN#162] Haroun er Reshid had a boon-companion of the number of his boon-companions, by name Ishac ben Ibrahim en Nedim el Mausili,[FN#163] who was the most accomplished of the folk of his time in the art of smiting upon the lute; and of the Commander of the Faithful’s love for him, he assigned him a palace of the choicest of his palaces, wherein he was wont to instruct slave-girls in the arts of lute-playing and singing. If any slave-girl became, by his instruction, accomplished in the craft, he carried her before the Khalif, who bade her play upon the lute; and if she pleased him, he would order her to the harem; else would he restore her to Ishac’s palace.
One day, the Commander of the Faithful’s breast was straitened; so he sent after his Vizier Jaafer the Barmecide and Ishac the boon-companion and Mesrour the eunuch, the swordsman of his vengeance; and when they came, he changed his raiment and disguised himself, whilst Jaafer [and Ishac] and Mesrour and El Fezll[FN#164] and Younus[FN#165] (who were also present) did the like. Then he went out, he and they, by the privy gate, to the Tigris and taking boat, fared on till they came to near Et Taf,[FN#166] when they landed and walked till they came to the gate of the thoroughfare street.[FN#167] Here there met them an old man, comely of hoariness and of a venerable and dignified bearing, pleasing[FN#168] of aspect and apparel. He kissed the earth before Ishac el Mausili (for that be knew but him of the company, the Khalif being disguised, and deemed the others certain of his friends) and said to him, ’O my lord, there is presently with me a slave-girl, a lutanist, never saw eyes the like of her nor the like of her grace, and indeed I was on my way to pay my respects to thee and give thee to know of her; but Allah, of His favour, hath spared me the trouble. So now I desire to show her to thee, and if she be to thy liking, well and good: else I will sell her.’ Quoth Ishac, ’Go before me to thy barrack, till I come to thee and see her.’
The old man kissed his hand and went away; whereupon quoth Er Reshid to him, ’O Ishac, who is yonder man and what is his occasion?’ ‘O my lord,’ answered the other, ’this is a man called Said the Slave-dealer, and he it is who buyeth us slave-girls and mamelukes.[FN#169] He avoucheth that with him is a fair [slave-girl, a] lutanist, whom he hath withheld from sale, for that he could not fairly sell her till he had shown her to me.’ ‘Let us go to him,’ said the Khalif,’so we may look on her, by way of diversion, and see what is in the slave-dealer’s barrack of slave-girls.’ And Ishac answered, ’Commandment belongeth to God and to the Commander of the Faithful.’ Then he went on before them and they followed in his track till they came to the slave-dealer’s barrack and found it high of building and spacious of continence, with sleeping-cells and chambers therein, after the number of the slave-girls, and folk sitting upon the benches.