THE SONS OF THE CALIPH
There was a caliph of Persia whose name was Al Mamoun. [Footnote: Al
Mam'oun] He had two sons whom he wished to become honest and noble
men. So he employed a wise man whose name was Al Farra to be their
teacher. One day, after lesson hours, Al Farra rose to go out of the
house. The two boys saw him and ran to fetch his shoes. For in that
country, people never wear shoes in the house, but take them off at
the door. The two boys ran for the teacher's shoes, and each claimed
the honor of carrying them to him. But they dared not quarrel and at
last agreed that each should carry one shoe. Thus the honor would be
divided. When the caliph heard of this he sent for Al Farra and asked
him, "Who is the most honored of men?"
The teacher answered, "I know of no man who is more honored than
"No, no," said the caliph. "It is the man who rose to go out, and two
young princes contended for the honor of giving him his shoes but at
last agreed that each should offer him one."
Al Farra answered, "Sir, I should have forbidden them to do this, but
I feared to discourage them. I hope that I shall never do anything to
make them careless of their duties."
"Well," said the caliph, "if you had forbidden them thus to honor you,
I should have declared you in the wrong. They did nothing that was
beneath the dignity of princes. Indeed, they honored themselves by
honoring you." Al Farra bowed low, but said nothing; and the caliph
went on. "No young man nor boy," said he, "can be so high in rank as
to neglect three great duties: he must respect his ruler, he must love
and obey his father, and he must honor his teacher."
Then he called the two young princes to him, and as a reward for their
noble conduct, filled their pockets with gold.