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The Story of Sidi-Nouman
The Caliph, Haroun-al-Raschid, was much pleased with the tale of the blind man
and the dervish, and when it was finished he turned to the young man who had
ill-treated his horse, and inquired his name also. The young man replied that he
was called Sidi-Nouman.
"Sidi-Nouman," observed the Caliph, "I have seen horses broken all my life long,
and have even broken them myself, but I have never seen any horse broken in
such a barbarous manner as by you yesterday. Every one who looked on was
indignant, and blamed you loudly. As for myself, I was so angry that I was very
nearly disclosing who I was, and putting a stop to it at once. Still, you have not
the air of a cruel man, and I would gladly believe that you did not act in this way
without some reason. As I am told that it was not the first time, and indeed that
every day you are to be seen flogging and spurring your horse, I wish to come to
the bottom of the matter. But tell me the whole truth, and conceal nothing."
Sidi-Nouman changed colour as he heard these words, and his manner grew
confused; but he saw plainly that there was no help for it. So he prostrated
himself before the throne of the Caliph and tried to obey, but the words stuck in
his throat, and he remained silent.
The Caliph, accustomed though he was to instant obedience, guessed
something of what was passing in the young man's mind, and sought to put him
at his ease. "Sidi-Nouman," he said, "do not think of me as the Caliph, but merely
as a friend who would like to hear your story. If there is anything in it that you are
afraid may offend me, take courage, for I pardon you beforehand. Speak then
openly and without fear, as to one who knows and loves you."
Reassured by the kindness of the Caliph, Sidi-Nouman at length began his tale.
"Commander of the Faithful," said he, "dazzled though I am by the lustre of your
Highness' presence, I will do my best to satisfy your wishes. I am by no means
perfect, but I am not naturally cruel, neither do I take pleasure in breaking the