This section is from the book "Stories From The Thousand And One Nights", by Edward William Lane and Stanley Lanepoole. Also available from Amazon: Stories From Thousand And One Nights: The Arabian Nights' Entertainments.
And he and Ja'far walked towards the Tigris, reflecting upon this matter; and lo, a fisherman stood beneath the windows of the palace, and he threw his net, hoping to catch something by means of which to obtain his subsistence.-Now the Khalifeh had, on a former occasion, called to the sheykh Ibrahim, and said to him, What was that noise that I heard beneath the windows of the palace?-and he answered, The voices of the fishermen, who are fishing:-so he said, Go down and forbid them from coming to this place* They were therefore forbidden to come thither; but this night there came a fisherman named Kerim, and, seeing the garden-gate open, he said within himself, This is a time of inadvertence, and perhaps I may catch some fish on this occasion:-so he took his net, and threw it into the river, and then recited some verses, contrasting the condition of the poor fisherman, toiling throughout the night, with that of the lord of the palace, who, awaking from a pleasant slumber, findeth the fawn in his possession; and as soon as he had finished his recitation, lo, the Khalifeh, unattended, stood at his head. The Khalifeh knew him, and exclaimed, O Kerim I-and the fisherman, hearing him call him by his name, turned towards him; and when he beheld the Khalifeh, the muscles of his side quivered, and he said, By Allah, O Prince of the Faithful, I did not this in mockery of the mandate; but poverty and the wants of my family impelled me to the act of which thou art witness. The Khalifeh replied, Throw thy net for my luck. And the fisherman advanced, rejoicing exceedingly, and cast the net, and, having waited until it had attained its limit and become steady at the bottom, drew it in again, and there came up in it a variety of fish that could not be numbered.
The Khalifeh was delighted at this, and said, O Kerim, strip off thy clothes:-and he did so. He was clad in a jubbeh6 in which were a hundred patches of coarse woollen stuff, containing vermin of the most abominable kind, and among them fleas in such numbers that he might almost have been transported by their means over the face of the earth; and he took from his head a turban which for three years he had never unwound; but when he happened to find a piece of rag he twisted it around it; and when he had taken off the jubbeh and the turban, the Khalifeh pulled off from his own person two vests of silk of Alexandria and Ba'lbekk, and a melwatah* and a farajiyeh, and said to the fisherman, Take these, and put them on. The Khalifeh then put on himself the fisherman's jubbeh and turban, and, having drawn a litham7 over his face, said to the fisherman, Go about thy made by the end of the head-kerchitf.3 business;-and he kissed the foet of the Khalifeh, and thanked him, reciting these two verses:-•
*A Ion* outer coat with sleeves nearly reaching to the wrist.
6A jubbeh or dress of costly material.
7 LTht Bcdawi muffler.
Thou hast granted me favours beyond my power to acknowledge, and completely satisfied all my wants. I will thank thee, therefore, as long as I live, and when I die my bones will thank thee in their grave.
But scarcely had he finished his verses, when the vermin overran the person of the Khalifeh, and he began to seize them with his right hand and his left from his neck, and to throw them down; and he exclaimed, O fisherman, wo to thee! What are these abundant vermin in this jubbeh?-O my lord, he answered, at present they torment thee; but when a week shall have passed over thee, thou wilt not feel them, nor think of them. The Khalifeh laughed, and said to him, How can I suffer this jubbeh to remain upon me? The fisherman replied, I wish to tell thee something; but I am ashamed, through my awe of the Khalifeh.-Impart, said the Khalifeh, what thou hast to tell me. So he said to him, It hath occurred to my mind, O Prince of the Faithful, that thou de-sirest to 4earn the art of fishing, in order that thou mayest be master of a trade that may profit thee; and if such be thy desire, this jubbeh is suitable to thee. And the Khalifeh laughed at his words.
The fisherman then went his way, and the Khalifeh took the basket of fish, and, having put upon it a little grass, went with it to Ja'far, and stood before him; and Ja'far, thinking that he was Kerim the fisherman, feared for him, and said, O Kerim, what brought thee hither? Save thyself by flight; for the Khalifeh is here this night.-And when the Khalifeh heard the words of Ja'far, he laughed until he fell down upon his back. So Ja'far said, Perhaps thou art our lord the Prince of the Faithful?-Yes, O Ja'far, answered the Khalifeh, and thou art my Wezir, and I came with thee hither, and thou knowest me not How then should the sheykh Ibrahim know me when he is drunk ? Remain where thou art until I return to thee.-Ja'far replied,I hear and obey:-and the Khalifeh advanced to the door of the palace, and knocked. The sheykh Ibrahim arose, therefore, and said, Who is at the door ? He answered, I, O sheykh Ibrahim. The sheykh said, Who art thou?-and the Khalifeh answered, I am Kerim the fisherman: I heard that there were guests with thee, and Have therefore brought thee some fish; for it is excellent.-Now Nur-ed-Din and the damsel were both fond of fish, and when they heard the mention of it they rejoiced exceedingly, and said, O my master, open to him, and let him come in to us with the fish which he hath brought. So the sheykh Ibrahim opened the door, and the Khalifeh, in his fisherman's disguise, entered, and began by salutation; and the sheykh Ibrahim said to him, Welcome to the robber, the thief, the gambler! Come hither, and shew us the fish which thou hast brought. -He therefore shewed it to them; and lo, it was alive, and moving; and the damsel exclaimed, By Allah, O my master, this fish is excellent! I wish it were fried!-By Allah, said the sheykh Ibrahim, thou hast spoken truth. Then, addressing the Khalifeh, he said, O fisherman, I wish thou hadst brought this fish fried. Arise, and fry it for us, and bring it-On the head be thy commands, replied the Khalifeh: I will fry it, and bring it-Be quick, said they, in doing it The Khalifeh therefore arose and ran back to. Ja'far, and said, O Ja'far, they want the fish fried.-O Prince of the Faithful, replied he, give it me, and I will fry it But the Khalifeh said, By the tombs of my ancestors, none shall fry it but myself: with my own hand will I do it! He then repaired to the hut of the superintendent, and, searching there, found in it everything that he required, the frying-pan, and even the salt, and wild marjoram, and other things. So he approached the fire-place, and put on the frying-pan, and fried it nicely; and when it was done, he put it upon a banana-leaf, and, having taken from the garden some limes, he went up with the fish, and placed it before them. The young man, therefore, and the damsel and the sheykh Ibrahim advanced and kte; and when they had finished, they washed their hands, and Nur-ed-Din said, By Allah, O fisherman, thou hast done us a kindness this night Then putting his hand into his pocket, he took forth for him three pieces of gold, of those which Senjer had presented to him when he was setting forth on his journey, and said, O fisherman, excuse me; for, by Allah, if I had known thee before the events that have lately happened to me, I would have extracted the bitterness of poverty from thy heart; but take this as accordant with my present circumstances. So saying, he threw the pieces of gold to the Khalifeh, who took them, and kissed them, and put them in his pocket The object of the Khalifeh in doing this was only that he might hear the damsel sing: so he said to him, Thou hast treated me with beneficence, and abundantly recompensed me; but I beg of thy unbounded indulgence that this damsel may sing an air, that I may hear her. Nur-ed-Din therefore said, O Enis-el-Jelis! She replied, Yes.-By my life, said he, sing to us something for the gratification of this fisherman; for he desireth to hear thee. And when she had heard what her master said, she took the lute, and tried it with her fingers, after she had twisted its pegs, and sang to it these two verses: