The great Sultan Haroun couldn't sleep. One night he suddenly said to his vizir,' The night is long. I want it to be shorter. What can I do ?'
The sultan had a servant, Masrour. Masrour helped the sultan night and day. Now he began to laugh. The sultan was angry.'Why are you laughing?' he asked.'Are you laughing because I can't sleep ?'
'No, sir,' answered Masrour. 'I'm not laughing at you. I'm thinking about something
funny. You see, yesterday I walked down to the River Tigris. There were a lot of people there. They stood round a big fat man. The fat man told funny stories and did funny things. Everybody laughed at him.'
' Well, go and find this fat man,' said the sultan,' Bring him to me. I can't sleep. Perhaps I can laugh at him too.'
Masrour went to the fat man's house. The man's name was Abdurrazak. He was asleep and he didn't want to get up. But when he heard about Sultan Haroun, he dressed quickly and came outside.
' Let's go,' he said.' Let's not be late for a great man.'
' Wait,' said Masrour.' The sultan will laugh at you and give you a lot of money. But think. Who told him about you? It was me,Masrour. So you have to give me something too. When the sultan gives you your fee, one half is yours. Give the other half to me.'
Abdurrazak wasn't very happy about this, but in the end he said yes. Then Masrour
took him to the sultan.
When Sultan Haroun saw Abdurrazak, he said,' So people in the street laugh at you.
But I'm a sultan. Will I laugh at you too ?'
Abdurrazak began to say and do funny things. Masrour laughed and laughed. Then the vizir laughed. But the sultan didn't laugh. Abdurrazak was very surprised. Then he began to feel afraid.
'Stop!' said Haroun. 'You're a very stupid man and you aren't funny. So here's your fee.
Masrour, hit this man hard ten times.'
So Masrour began to hit the unhappy Abdurrazak. One .. . two ... three ... four ... five. Then Abdurrazak cried,' Stop, Masrour! That's one half of my fee. Now take your half.'
' What's this ?' said the sultan.' What do you mean — " one half of my fee"?'
So Masrour told the sultan about Abdurrazak's fee — one half for Abdurrazak and the other half for Masrour.
When he finished, the sultan asked Masrour, 'Well, do you want your half of the fee ?'
' No, sir,' answered Masrour. 'Abdurrazak can take the fee — my half and his half
'All right, then,' said the sultan. 'Abdurrazak will take Masrour s half. Masrour, hit him five more times.'
Masrour hit Abdurrazak five more times. After he finished, Abdurrazak wanted to run away. But the sultan said,' Don't go, Abdurrazak. That was only the first half of your fee. Now you have to take the second half Abdurrazak's face turned white. He was very afraid. What second half? What did the sultan mean ?
The sultan turned to his vizir.' This is the second half he said. 'My vizir will give you a hundred pieces of gold. Now, Abdurrazak, take your fee and go home.'
The sultan turned to look at Masrour. Masrour's face was very unhappy but it was also very funny. Now, and for the first time that night — the sultan laughed.
' I liked that story,' said Sultan Shahriar. 'But it was very short. There's time for one