It’s a long story and frankly the caliph is getting bored.
The blind man drones on. “Then, not content with ten of his camels and forty of my own, I returned to the dervish and said, I said, good sir, even thirty camels is a huge number of camels to handle, if you’re not used to it, why don’t I—”
“So did you end up taking all of his camels?” Reliable Ja’afar is so good at picking up on these things; the caliph beams at him happily.
“Ah, yes, my lord. But then I—”
“Talked him out of the ointment, too? And then it did something wondrous, like letting you see all the spirits of the air, I presume?”
“All the treasures of the earth, actually, but only—”
“—when applied once or to one eye or with the right words, yeah? And then you put it on again or on the wrong eye or said the wrong words, and then it made you blind and the dervish took all of the camels? Something like that?”
The man is positively deflated. “Exactly like that, my lord. Your majesty. Precisely so.” The caliph doesn’t blame him—wonder brushes against most men but once in their lives, if that—but Baghdad is the wonder of the world and the crossroads of civilization and such stories have been heard without end in this court. The hour grows late and he still has to hear from the man who beat his horse in the market, the three eyeless dervishes, and a half-dozen old porters cursed to speak in tongues.