STORY OF THE HUNCHBACK
There lived once in the city of Bassora a tailor, who was openhanded and loved pleasure and merrymaking: and he was wont, he and his wife, to go out by times, a-pleasuring, to the public places of recreation. One day they went out as usual and were returning home in the evening, when they fell in with a hunchback, the sight of whom would make the disappointed laugh and dispel chagrin from the sorrowful. So they went up to look at him and invited him to go home and make merry with them that night. He consented and accompanied them to their house; whereupon, the night being now come, the tailor went out to the market and buying fried fish and bread and lemon and conserve of roses by way of dessert, set them before the hunchback, and they ate. Presently, the tailor's wife took a great piece of fish and cramming it into the hunchback's mouth, clapped her hand over it, saying, 'By Allah, thou must swallow it at one gulp; and I will give thee no time to chew it.' So he bolted it; but there was a great bone in it, which stuck in his gullet, and his hour being come, it choked him, and he died at once. When the tailor saw this, he exclaimed, 'There is no power and no virtue but in God! Alas, poor wretch, that he should have come by his death at our hands!' 'Why dost thou waste time in idle lamentation?' rejoined his wife. 'Hast thou not heard it said......?' And she repeated the following verses:What ails me that I waste the time in idle grief, Until I find no friend mishap for me to bear?
'What is to be done?' asked he; and she replied, 'Rise and take the hunchback in thine arms and cover him with a silk handkerchief: then go out with him, and I will go before thee: and if thou meet any one, say, "This is my son: his mother and I are taking him to the doctor, that he may look at him.' So he rose and taking the hunchback in his arms, carried him along the streets, preceded by his wife, who kept saying, 'O my son, God keep thee! Where has this smallpox attacked thee and in what part dost thou feel pain?' So that all who saw them said, 'It is a child ill of smallpox.' They went along, enquiring for a doctor, till the people directed them to the house of one, who was a Jew. They knocked at the gate, and a black servant-maid came down and opened the door and seeing a man carrying a child and a woman with him, said to them, 'What is your business?' 'We have a sick child here,' answered the tailor's wife, 'whom we want the doctor to look at: so take this quarter-dinar and give it to thy master, and let him come down and see my son.' The girl went up to tell her master, leaving the tailor and his wife in the vestibule, whereupon the latter said to her husband, 'Let us leave the hunchback here and be off.' So the tailor carried the dead man to the top of the stairs and propping him up against the wall, went away, he and his wife. Meanwhile the serving-maid went in to the Jew and said to him, 'There are a man and a woman at the gate, with a sick child; and they have given me a quarter-dinar for thee, that thou mayst go down and see the child and prescribe for him.' When the Jew saw the quarter-dinar, he was glad and rose hastily and went down in the dark. Hardly had he made a step, when he stumbled on the dead body and threw it down, and it rolled to the bottom of the stairs. So he cried out to the girl to make haste with the light, and she brought it, whereupon he went down and examining the hunchback, found that he was dead. 'O Esdras and Moses and the ten Commandments!' exclaimed he; 'O Aaron and Joshua, son of Nun! I have stumbled against the sick person and he has fallen downstairs and is dead! How shall I get the body out of my house?' Then he took it up and carrying it into the house, told his wife what had happened. Quoth she, 'Why dost thou sit still? If he be found here when the day rises, we shall both of us lose our lives. Let us carry him up to the roof and throw him over into the house of our neighbour the Muslim; for if he abide there a night, the dogs will come down on him from the terraces and eat him all up.' Now the neighbour in question was controller of the Sultan's kitchen and was wont to bring home great store of fat and broken meats; but the cats and mice used to eat it, or, if the dogs scented a fat sheep's tail, they would come down from the roofs and tear at it; and in this way he lost much of what he brought home. So the Jew and his wife carried the hunchback up to the roof, and letting him down, through the windshaft, into the controller's house, stood him up against the wall and went away. Hardly had they done so, when the controller, who had been spending the evening with some of his friends, hearing a recitation of the Koran, came home and going up with a lighted candle, found a man standing in the corner, under the ventilator. When he saw this, he said, 'By Allah, this is a fine thing! He who steals my goods is none other than a man.' Then he turned to the hunchback and said to him, 'So it is thou that stealest the meat and fat. I thought it was the cats and dogs, and I kill the cats and dogs of the quarter and sin against them. And all the while it is thou comest down through the windshaft! But I will take my wreak of thee with my own hand.' So he took-a great cudgel and smote him on the breast, and he fell down. Then he examined him and finding that he was dead, cried out in horror, thinking that he had killed him, and said, 'There is no power and no virtue but in God the Supreme, the Omnipotent!' And he feared for himself and said, 'May God curse the fat and the sheep's tails, that have caused this man's death to be at my hand!' Then he looked at the dead man and seeing him to be humpbacked, said, 'Did it not suffice thee to be a hunchback, but thou must turn thief and steal meat and fat? O Protector, extend to me Thy gracious protection!' Then he took him up on his shoulders and going forth with him, carried him to the beginning of the market, where he set him on his feet against the wall of a shop, at the corner of a dark lane, and went away. After awhile, there came up a Christian, the Sultan's broker, who had sallied forth, in a state of intoxication, intending for the bath, for in his drunkenness he thought that matins were near. He came staggering along, till he drew near the hunchback and squatted down over against him to make water, when, happening to look round, he saw a man standing against the wall. Now some one had snatched off the broker's turban early in the night, and seeing the hunchback standing there) he concluded that he meant to play him the same trick. So he clenched his fist and smote him on the neck. Down fell the hunchback, whilst the broker called to the watchman of the market and fell on the dead man, pummelling and throttling him in the excess of his drunken rage. Presently, the watchman came up and finding a Christian kneeling on a Muslim and beating him, said to the former, 'What is the matter?' 'This fellow tried to snatch off my turban,' answered the broker; and the watchman said, 'Get up from him.' So he rose, and the watchman went up to the hunchback and finding him dead, exclaimed, 'By Allah, it is a fine thing that a Christian should kill a Muslim!' Then he seized the broker and tying his hands behind him, carried him to the house of the prefect of police, where they passed the night; and all the while the broker kept saying, 'O Messiah! O Virgin! how came I to kill this man? Indeed, he must have been in a great hurry to die of one blow with the fist!' And his drunkenness left him and reflection came in its stead. As soon as it was day, the prefect came out and commanded to hang the supposed murderer and bade the executioner make proclamation of the sentence. So they set up a gallows, under which they made the broker stand, and the hangman put the rope round his neck and was about to hoist him up, when behold, the controller of the Sultan's kitchen, passing by, saw the broker about to be hanged, and pressing through the crowd, cried out to the executioner, saying, 'Stop! Stop! I am he who killed the hunchback.' Quoth the prefect, 'What made thee kill him?' And he replied, 'I came home last night and found this man who had come down the windshaft to steal my goods; so I struck him with a cudgel on the breast and he died. Then I took him up and carried him to the market and set him up against the wall in such a place. Is it not enough for me to have killed a Muslim, without burdening my conscience with the death of a Christian also? Hang therefore none but me.' When the prefect heard this, he released the broker and said to the executioner, 'Hang up this man on his own confession.' So he loosed the rope from the broker's neck and threw it round that of the controller, and placing him under the gallows, was about to hang him, when behold, the Jewish physician pushed through the press and cried out, 'Stop! It was I and none else who killed him! I was sitting at home last night, when a man and a woman knocked at the door, carrying this hunchback, who was sick, and gave my servant a quarter-dinar, bidding her give it to me and tell me to come down to see him. Whilst she was gone, they brought the hunchback into the house and setting him on the stairs, went away. Presently, I came down and not seeing him, stumbled on him in the dark, and he fell to the foot of the stair and died forthright. Then we took him up, I and my wife, and carried him on to the roof, whence we let him down, through the windshaft, into the house of this controller, which adjoins my own. When he came home and found the hunchback, he took him for a robber and beat him, so that he fell to the ground, and he concluded that he had killed him. So is it not enough for me to have killed one Muslim unwittingly, without burdening myself with the death of another wittingly?' When the prefect heard the Jew's story, he said to the hangman, 'Let the controller go, and hang the Jew.' So the hangman took the Jew and put the rope round his neck, when behold, the tailor pressed through the folk and cried out to him, 'Hold thy hand! None killed him save I, and it fell out thus. I had been out a-pleasuring yesterday and coming back in the evening, met this hunchback, who was drunk and singing lustily to a tambourine. So I carried him to my house and bought fish, and we sat down to eat. Presently, my wife took a piece of fish and crammed it down the hunchback's throat; but it went the wrong way and stuck in his gullet and choked him, so that he died at once. So we lifted him up, I and my wife, and carried him to the Jew's house, where the girl came down and opened the door to us, and I said to her, "Give thy master this quarter-dinar and tell him that there are a man and a woman at the door, who have brought a sick person for him to see." So she went in to tell her master, and whilst she was gone, I carried the hunchback to the top of the stair, where I propped him up, and went away with my wife. When the Jew came out, he stumbled over him and thought that he had killed him.' Then he said to the Jew, 'Is not this the truth?' 'It is,' replied the Jew. And the tailor turned to the prefect and said, 'Let the Jew go, and hang me.' When the prefect heard the tailor's story, he wondered at the adventure of the hunchback and exclaimed, 'Verily, this is a matter that should be recorded in books!' Then he said to the hangman, 'Let the Jew go, and hang the tailor on his own confession.' So the hangman took the tailor and put the rope round his neck, saying, 'I am tired of taking this man and loosing that, and no one hanged after all.'
Now the hunchback in question was the favourite buffoon of the Sultan, who could not bear him out of his sight: so when he got drunk and did not make his appearance that night or next day, the Sultan asked the courtiers about him and they replied, 'O our lord, the chief of the police has come upon him dead and ordered his murderer to be hanged: but, as the hangman was about to hoist him up, there came a second and a third and a fourth, each declaring himself to be the sole murderer and giving the prefect an account of the manner in which the crime had been committed.' When the King heard this, he cried out to one of his chamberlains, saying, 'Go down to the chief of the police and bring me all four of them.' So the chamberlain went down at once to the place of execution, where he found the hangman on the point of hanging the tailor and cried out to him to stop. Then he gave the King's order to the prefect, who took the tailor, the physician, the controller and the broker, and brought them all, together with the dead hunchback, before the King. When he came into the presence, he kissed the earth and told the King all that had passed; whereat he was moved to wonder and mirth and commended the story to be written in letters of gold, saying to the courtiers, 'Did you ever hear a more wonderful story than that of this hunchback?' With this came forward the Christian broker and said, 'O King of the age, with thy leave, I will tell thee a thing that happened to myself and which is still stranger and more wonderful and pleasant than the story of the hunchback.' Quoth the King, 'Let us hear it.' Then said the broker, 'O King of the age, I came to this city with merchandise, and Fate made me settle here with you, but
The Christian Broker's Story.
I am by birth a Copt, and a native of Cairo, where I was brought up. My father was a broker, and when I came to man's estate, he died and I became a broker in his stead. One day, as I was sitting in my shop, there came up to me a young man as handsome as could be, richly clad and riding on an ass. When he saw me, he saluted me, and I rose to do him honour. Then he pulled out a handkerchief, containing a sample of sesame, and said to me, "What is the worth of an ardebb (74) of this?" "A hundred dirhems," replied I; and he said, "Take porters and measures and come to-morrow to the Khan of El Jaweli, by the Gate of Victory, where thou wilt find me." Then he went away, leaving with me the handkerchief containing the sample of sesame; and I went round to the buyers and agreed for a hundred and twenty dirhems an ardebb. Next day, I took four gaugers and carried them to the Khan, where I found him awaiting me. As soon as he saw me, he rose and opened his magazines, and we measured the contents and found them fifty ardebbs of sesame, making five thousand dirhems. Then said he to me, "Thou shalt have ten dirhems an ardebb to thy brokerage; so take the price and lay by four thousand five hundred dirhems for me; and when I have made an end of selling my other goods, I will come to thee and take the amount." "It is well," replied I, and kissed his hand and went away, having made that day a profit of a thousand dirhems, besides the brokerage. I saw no more of him for a month, at the end of which time he came to me and said, "Where is the money?" I rose and saluted him and said to him, "Wilt thou not eat somewhat with me?" But he refused, saying, "Get the money ready, and I will come back for it." So I brought out the money and sat down to await his return, but saw no more of him for another month, at the end of which time he came to me and said, "Where is the money?" I rose and saluted him and said, "Wilt thou not eat a morsel with me?" But he refused, saying, "Have the money ready against my return," and rode away. So I fetched the dirhems and sat awaiting him; but he did not come near me for another month, and I said, "Verily, this young man is the incarnation of liberality." At the end of the month, he came up, riding on a mule and clad in sumptuous raiment. His face shone like the moon at its full and he seemed as if he had just come from the bath, with his rosy cheeks and flower-white forehead and mole like a grain of ambergris, even as says the poet:Within one mansion of the sky the sun and moon combine; With all fair fortune and delight of goodliness they shine.
When I saw him, I rose and saluted him and kissed his hand, saying, "O my lord, wilt thou not take thy money?" "What hurry is there?" replied he; "wait till I have made an end of my business, when I will come and take it." Then he went away, and I said to myself, "By Allah, when he comes next time, I must press him to eat with me," for I had traded with his money and profited largely by it. At the end of the year he came again, dressed even more richly than before, and I conjured him to dismount and eat of my victual; and he said to me, "I consent, on condition that what thou expendest on me shall be of my money in thy hands." "So be it," replied I, and made him sit down, whilst I made ready what was needful of meat and drink and so forth and set the tray before him, saying, "In the name of God." So he came to the table and put out his left hand and ate with me; and I wondered at his using his left hand. (75) When we had done eating, I poured water on his hand and gave him wherewith to wipe it. Then we sat talking, after I had set sweetmeats before him, and I said to him, "O my lord, I prithee relieve my mind by telling me why thou eatest with thy left hand. Belike something ails thy right hand?" When he heard my words, he recited the following verses:Ask not, I prithee, my friend, of the anguish that burns in my heart 'Twould but the infirmities show that now in my bosom lie hid.
Then he drew his right arm out from his sleeve, and behold, it was a stump without a hand, the latter having been cut off at the wrist. I was astonished at this, and he said to me, "Thou seest that my eating with the left hand arose, not from conceit, but from necessity; and there hangs a strange story by the cutting off of my right hand." "And how came it to be cut off?" asked I. "Know," answered he, "that I am a native of Baghdad and the son of one of the principal men of that city. When I came to man's estate, I heard the pilgrims and travellers and merchants talk of the land of Egypt, and this abode in my thought till my father died, when I laid out a large sum of money in the purchase of stuffs of Baghdad and Mosul, with which I set out on my travels and God decreed me safety, till I reached this your city." And he wept and recited the following verses:It chances oft that the blind man escapes a pit, Whilst he that is clear of sight falls into it:
"So I entered Cairo," continued he, "and put up at the Khan of Mesrour, where I unpacked my goods and stored them in the magazines. Then I gave the servant money to buy me something to eat and lay down to sleep awhile. When I awoke, I went to the street called Bein el Kesrein (76) and presently returned and passed the night at the Khan. Next morning, I said to myself, 'I will walk through the bazaars and see the state of the market.' So I opened a bale and took out certain stuffs, which I gave to one of my servants to carry, then repaired to the Bazaar of Jergis, where I was accosted by the brokers, who had heard of my arrival. They took my stuffs and cried them for sale, but could not get the prime cost of them. I was vexed at this; but the chief of the brokers said to me, 'O my lord, I will tell thee how thou mayst make a profit of thy goods. Thou shouldst do as the other merchants do and sell thy goods on credit, for a fixed period, on a contract drawn up by a scrivener, and duly witnessed, and employ a money-changer and take thy money every Monday and Thursday. So shalt thou profit two dirhems for every one; and besides this, thou canst amuse thyself meanwhile at leisure in viewing Cairo and the Nile.' Quoth I, 'This advice is good,' and carried the brokers to the Khan. They took my stuffs and transported them to the bazaar, where I sold them to various merchants, taking their bonds for the value. These bonds I deposited with a money-changer, who gave me an acknowledgment in writing, with which I returned to my Khan. Here I abode a month, breaking my fast with a cup of wine every morning and sending out for mutton and sweetmeats, till the time came when my receipts began to fall due. So, every Monday and Thursday, I used to repair to the bazaar and sit in the shop of one or other of the merchants, whilst the scrivener and money-changer went round to collect the money from the different merchants, till after the time of afternoon-prayer, when they brought me the amount, and I counted it and gave receipts for it, then took it and returned to my Khan. One day I went to the bath and retured to the Khan, where I broke my fast on a cup of wine, after which I slept a little. When I awoke, I ate a fowl, and scenting myself, repaired to the shop of a merchant called Bedreddin el Bustani, who welcomed me; and I sat talking with him till the market should open. Presently, there came up a lady of stately figure, wearing a magnificent head-dress and exhaling perfumes, as she walked along with a swimming gait. She stopped before Bedreddin and saluted him, raising her kerchief and showing a pair of large black eyes. He returned her salute and stood talking with her; and when I heard her speech, the love of her got hold upon my heart. Then she said to Bedreddin, 'Hast thou any stuffs of figured cloth of gold?' So he brought out to her a piece that he had had of me and she bought it of him for twelve hundred dirhems, saying, 'I will take it with me and send thee the price.' 'It may not be, O my lady,' answered he. 'This is the owner of the stuff and I owe him the price of it.' 'Out on thee!' said she. 'Do I not use to take great store of costly stuffs of thee, at a greater profit than thou askest, and send thee the money?' 'Yes,' rejoined he; 'but I am in pressing need of the price to-day.' With this she took the piece of stuff and threw it back into his lap, saying, 'You merchants have no respect for any one!' Then she turned to go, and I felt as if my soul went with her; so I rose and stopped her, saying, 'O my lady, favour me by retracing thy gracious steps!' She smiled and saying, 'For thy sake, I will return,' came back and sat down in the shop opposite me. Then I said to Bedreddin, 'What is the price set upon this piece?' And he replied, 'Eleven hundred dirhems.' 'The other hundred shall be thy profit,' rejoined I. 'Give me a piece of paper and I will write thee a discharge for it! So I wrote him a docket to that effect and gave the piece of stuff to the lady, saying, 'Take it and, if thou wilt, bring me the price next market-day; or, better still, accept it as a gift from me to thee.' 'May God requite thee with good,' answered she, 'and make thee my husband and master of my property!' (77) (And God heard her prayer.) 'O my lady,' replied I, 'this piece of stuff is thine and another like it, if thou wilt but let me see thy face.' So she lifted her veil, and I took one look at her face, that caused me a thousand regrets, and fell so violently in love with her, that I was no longer master of my reason. Then she let down her veil and taking the piece of stuff, said, 'O my lord, leave me not desolate!' (78) and went away, whilst I remained sitting in the shop till the time of afternoon-prayer was past, lost to the world and fairly distraught for love; and the violence of my passion prompted me to make enquiries about her of the merchant, who replied, 'She is a lady of wealth, the daughter of an Amir, who died and left her a large fortune.' Then I took leave of him and returned to the Khan, where they set the evening meal before me; but I could not eat, for thinking of her, and laid down to rest. But sleep came not to me and I lay awake till daylight, when I rose and changed my dress. I broke my fast on a cup of wine and a morsel of bread and going to the market, saluted Bedreddin and sat down by him in his shop. Presently up came the lady, followed by a slave-girl, and more richly dressed than before, and saluting me, instead of Bedreddin, said to me, in a voice than which I never heard a sweeter or softer, 'Send with me some one to take the twelve hundred dirhems, the price of the stuff.' 'What hurry is there?' asked I. And she said, 'May we never lose thee!' And gave me the money. Then I sat talking with her, and presently I made signs to her, by which she understood that I desired to enjoy her and rose hastily, as if vexed with me, and went away. My heart clung to her and I rose and followed in her track; but as I went along, a slave-girl accosted me, saying. 'O my lord, my mistress would speak with thee.' At this I was astonished, and said, 'There is no one who knows me here.' 'O my lord,' answered the slave, 'how quickly thou hast forgotten her! My mistress is she who was to-day at the shop of the merchant Bedreddin.' So I followed her to the money-changer's, where I found the lady, who drew me to her side and said to me, 'O my beloved, thou hast made prize of my heart, and love of thee has conquered my soul. Since the day I saw thee first, I have taken no delight in sleep nor in meat nor drink.' 'My sufferings have been still greater than thine,' answered I; 'and my state dispenses me from complaint.' Then said she, 'O my lord, shall I come to thee or wilt thou come to me?' Quoth I, 'I am a stranger here and have no lodging but the Khan; so by thy favour, it shall be at thy house.' 'It is well,' replied she; 'to-night is Friday eve, and nothing can be done; but to-morrow, after the morning-prayer, mount thine ass and enquire for the house of Berekat the Syndic, known as Abou Shameh, in the Hebbaniyeh quarter; for I live there; and do not delay, for I shall be expecting thee.' At this, I rejoiced greatly and took leave of her and returned to the Khan, where I passed a sleepless night. As soon as it was day, I rose and changed my clothes and perfumed myself with essences and sweet-scented smoke. Then I took fifty dinars in a handkerchief and went out to the Zuweyleh Gate, where I hired an ass, bidding the driver carry me to the Hebbaniyeh. So he set off with me and brought me in the twinkling of an eye to a by-street called El Munkeri, where I bade him go in and enquire for the Syndic's house. After a little he returned and said, 'Alight.' But I made him guide me to the house, where I dismounted and giving him a quarter-dinar, said, 'Come back to-morrow at daybreak and fetch me away.' 'In the name of God,' answered he, and went away. Then I knocked at the gate and there came out two young girls, high-bosomed maids, as they were moons, and said to me, 'Enter, for our mistress awaits thee, and she slept not last night for joyance in thee.' So I entered and they brought me, through a vestibule, into an upper chamber with seven doors, paved with vari-coloured marbles and furnished with hangings and carpets of coloured silk. The walls were plastered with stucco-royal, in which one might see his own face, and the roof was ribbed with gold and bordered with inscriptions emblazoned in ultramarine. All around were latticed windows overlooking a garden, full of fruits of all colours, with streams running and birds singing on the branches, and midmost the hall was a fountain, at whose angles stood birds fashioned in red gold, spouting forth water as it were pearls and jewels; and indeed the place comprised all kinds of beauty and dazzled the beholder with its radiance. I entered and sat down; but hardly had I done so, when the lady came up to me, crowned with a diadem of pearls and jewels and having her eyebrows pencilled and her hands stained with henna. When she saw me, she smiled on me and embraced me and pressed me to her bosom; and she set her mouth to mine and sucked my tongue, and I did the like with her. Then she said, 'Can it be true that thou art indeed come to me?' 'I am thy slave,' answered I; and she said, 'Welcome, a thousand times! By Allah, since I first saw thee, sleep has not been sweet to me nor food pleasant!' Quoth I, 'So has it been with me also.' Then we sat down to converse, and I bowed my head for bashfulness. Presently, she set before me a tray of the most exquisite meats, such as ragouts and fritters soaked in honey and fricassees and fowls stuffed with sugar and pistachio-nuts, and we ate till we were satisfied. Then they brought ewer and basin and I washed my hands, after which we scented ourselves with rose-water mingled with musk and sat down again to converse. We complained to each other of the sufferings we had undergone, and my love for her took such hold on me, that all my wealth was of little account to me, in comparison with her. We passed the time in toying and kissing and dalliance, till nightfall, when the damsels set before us a banquet of food and wine and we sat carousing half the night. Then we went to bed and I lay with her till the morning, never in my life saw I the like of that night. As soon as it was day, I arose and took leave of her, after having slipped under the mattress the handkerchief containing the dinars; and she wept and said 'O my lord, when shall I see that fair face again?' 'I will be with thee at eventide,' answered I, and going out, found the ass-man waiting for me at the door. So I mounted and rode to the Khan of Mesrour, where I alighted and gave the driver half a dinar, saying, 'Come back at sun down.' And he said, 'Good.' Then I broke my fast and went out to seek the price of my stuffs, after which I returned and taking a roast lamb and some sweetmeats, called a porter and despatched them by him to the lady, paying him his hire in advance. I occupied myself with my affairs till sunset, when the ass-driver came for me and I took fifty dinars in a handkerchief and rode to the house, where I found the marble floor swept, the brass burnished, the lamps filled and the candles lighted, the meats ready dished and the wines strained. When my mistress saw me, she threw her arms round my neck and exclaimed, 'Thou hast desolated me by thine absence!' Then they set the tables and we ate till we were satisfied, when the serving-maids took away the tray of food and set on wine. We gave not over drinking till midnight, when we went to the sleeping-chamber and lay together till morning. Then I rose and went away, leaving the fifty dinars with her as before. I found the ass-driver at the door and mounting, rode to the Khan, where I slept awhile, then went out to prepare the evening-meal. I took a brace of geese with broth on two platters of dressed rice, together with colocasia-roots (79), fried and soaked in honey, and wax candles and fruits and conserves and flowers and nuts and almonds, and sent them all to her. As soon as it was night, I mounted the ass as usual, taking with me fifty dinars in a handkerchief, and rode to the house, where we ate and drank and lay together till morning, when I left the handkerchief and dinars with her and rode back to the Khan. I ceased not to lead this life, till one fine morning I found myself without a single dirhem and said, 'This is Satan's doing!' And I repeated the following verses:When a rich man grows poor, his lustre dies away, Like to the setting sun that pales with ended day.
Then I left the Khan and walked along Bein el Kesrein till I came to the Zuweyleh Gate, where I found the folk crowded together and the gate blocked up for the much people. As Fate would have it, I saw there a trooper, against whom I pressed, without meaning it, so that my hand came on his pocket and I felt a purse inside. I looked and seeing a string of green silk hanging from the pocket, knew that it belonged to the purse. The crowd increased every moment and just then, a camel bearing a load of wood jostled the trooper on the other side and he turned to ward it off from him, lest it should tear his clothes. When I saw this, Satan tempted me; so I pulled the string and drew out a little purse of blue silk, full of something that chinked like money. Hardly had I done so, when the soldier turned and feeling his pocket lightened, put his hand to it and found it empty; whereupon he turned to me and raising his mace, smote me on the head I fell to the ground, whilst the people came round us and seizing the soldier's horse by the bridle, said to him, 'Is it because he pushed against thee in the throng, that thou smitest this young man such a blow?' But he cried out at them and said, 'This fellow is an accursed thief!' With this I came to myself and stood up, and the folk looked at me and said, 'This is a comely youth and would not steal aught.' Some took part for me and others against me and there was a great clamour, and the people pulled at me and would have rescued me from the trooper; but as Fate would have it, the chief of the police and the captain and officers of the watch entered by the gate at this moment; and the prefect, seeing the crowd about the soldier and myself, enquired what was the matter. 'O my lord,' replied the soldier, 'this fellow is a thief. I had a blue purse in my pocket, containing twenty dinars, and he took it, whilst I was in the crush.' 'Was any one else by thee?' asked the magistrate, and the trooper answered, 'No.' Then the prefect cried out to the officers of the watch, who seized me and stripping me by his order, found the purse in my clothes. He took it and found in it twenty dinars, as the soldier had said, whereat he was wroth and calling to the officers to bring me before him, said to me, 'O young man tell me the truth. Didst thou steal this purse?' At this I hung down my head and said to myself, 'It is useless for me to say I did not steal the purse, for they found it in my clothes: and if I confess to the theft, I fall into trouble.' So I raised my head and said, 'Yes: I took it.' When the prefect heard what I said, he wondered and called for witnesses, who came forward and attested by confession. Then he bade the hangman cut off my right hand, and he did so; after which he would have cut off my left foot also; but the trooper took pity on me and interceded for me with the prefect, who left me and went away; whilst the folk remained round me and gave me a cup of wine to drink. As for the trooper, he gave me the purse, saying, 'Thou art a comely youth, and it befits not that thou be a thief.' And I repeated the following verses:By Allah, trusty brother mine, I am indeed no thief, Nor, O most bountiful of men, a highwayman am I.
Then he left me, and I went away, after having wrapt my hand in a piece of rag and thrust it into my bosom. I betook me to my mistress's house, faint and ill at ease and pale by reason of what had befallen me, and threw myself on the couch. She saw that my colour was changed and said to me, 'What ails thee and why do I see thee thus changed?' 'My head irks me,' answered I; 'I am not well.' When she heard this, she was vexed and concerned for me and said to me, 'Fret not my heart, O my lord! Sit up and raise thy head and let me know what has happened to thee to-day, for thy face tells me a tale.' 'Spare me this talk,' replied I. But she wept and said, 'Meseems thou art tired of me, for I see that thou art contrary to thy wont.' But I was silent, and she continued to talk to me, though I made her no answer, till nightfall, when she brought me food: but I refused it, fearing to let her see me eat with my left hand, and said to her, 'I do not care to eat at present.' Quoth she 'Tell me what has befallen thee to-day and what ails thee, that thou art troubled and broken in heart and spirit.' 'Presently,' replied I; 'I will tell thee at my leisure.' Then she brought me wine, saying, 'Take it for it will dispel thy care: thou must indeed drink and tell me what is thy matter with thee.' 'Must I tell thee?' said I; and she answered, 'Yes.' Then said I, 'If it must be so, give me to drink with thine own hand.' So she filled and drank then filled again and gave me the cup. I took it from her with my left hand and repeated the following verses with tears running from my eyes:When God would execute His will in anything On one endowed with sight, hearing and reasoning,
At this she gave a loud cry and said to me, 'What makes thee weep? Thou settest my heart on fire. And what ails thee to take the cup with thy left hand?' 'I have a boil on my right hand,' answered I; and she said, 'Put it out and I will lance it for thee.' 'It is not ripe for lancing,' answered I; 'so do not torment me, for I will not show it thee at present.' Then I drank off the cup, and she plied me with wine till I became drowsy and fell asleep in my place; whereupon she looked at my right arm and saw that it was but a stump without a hand. So she searched me and found the purse of gold and my severed hand wrapt in a piece of rag. With this, there overcame her such grief as none ever knew, and she ceased not to lament for my sake till the morning. When I awoke, I found she had made me a dish of broth of four boiled fowls, which she brought to me, together with a cup of wine. I ate and drank and laying down the purse, would have gone out; but she said to me, 'Whither goest thou?' 'Where my business calls me,' replied I; and she said, 'Thou shalt not go: sit down.' So I sat down, and she said, 'Has thy love for me brought thee to such a pass, that thou hast wasted thy substance and lost thy hand on my account? Since this is so, I call God to witness against me that I will never part with thee: and thou shalt see the truth of my words.' Then she sent for the Cadi and the witnesses and said to them, 'Draw up a contract of marriage between me and this young man and bear witness that I have received the dowry.' So they drew up our marriage contract, and she said to them, 'Be witness that all my money that is in this chest and all that belongs to me and all my slaves, male and female, are the property of this young man.' So they took act of this and withdrew, after having received their fees. Then she took me by the hand and leading me to a closet, opened a large chest and said to me, 'See what is herein.' I looked and behold, it was full of handkerchiefs. Quoth she, 'This is the money I had of thee; for every time thou gavest me a handkerchief, with fifty dinars in it, I wrapped it together and threw it into this chest; so now take thy money, for indeed it returns to thee, and thou to-day art become of high estate. Fate afflicted thee, so that thou didst lose thy right hand for my sake, and I can never requite thee: nay, though I gave my life, it were little and I should still remain thy debtor.' Then she said to me, 'Take possession of thy property!' and transferred the contents of the other chest to that which contained the money I had given her. At this, my heart was gladdened and my grief forsook me, and I rose and kissed and thanked her. Quoth she, 'Thou hast lost thy hand for love of me, and how can I requite thee? By Allah, if I gave my life for thy love, it were far short of thy due!' Then she made over to me by deed all her clothes and jewels and other property and lay not down to sleep that night, being in sore concern on my account, till I told her all that had befallen me. I passed the night with her; but before we had lived together a month's time, she fell grievously ill and sickness was upon her, by reason of her grief for the loss of my hand; and she endured but fifty days before she was numbered of the folk of the other world. So I laid her in the ground and had recitations of the Koran made over her tomb and gave much money in alms for her; after which I returned to the house and found that she had left much substance in money and houses and lands. Among her storehouses was one full of sesame, whereof I sold part to thee; and it was the fact of my being busied in selling the rest of my goods and all that was in the storehouses, that diverted my attention from thee; nor have I till now made an end of receiving the price. This, then, is the reason of the cutting off of my right hand and of my eating with the left. Now thou shalt not baulk me in what I am about to say, for that I have eaten of thy victual; and it is that I make thee a gift of the money that is in thy hands." "Indeed," replied I, "thou hast shown me the utmost kindness and liberality." Then said he, "Wilt thou journey with me to my native country, whither I am about to return with a lading of Cairo and Alexandria stuffs?" "I will well," answered I, and appointed with him for the end of the month. So I sold all I had and bought merchandise; then we set out, he and I, and journeyed till we came to this town, where he sold his goods, and buying others in their stead, set out again for Egypt. But it was my lot to abide here, so that there befell me in my strangerhood what befell last night. This, then, is my story, O King of the age. Is it not more marvellous than that of the hunchback?' 'Not so,' answered the King; 'and needs must you all be hanged.' Then came forward the controller of the Sultan's kitchen and said, 'With thy leave, I will tell thee what happened to me but lately and if it be more marvellous than the story of the hunchback, do thou grant us our lives.' 'So be it,' answered the King. Then said the controller, 'Know, O King, that
The Controller's Story.
I was the night before last in company with a number of persons who were assembled for the purpose of hearing a recitation of the Koran. The doctors of the law attended, and when the readers had made an end of reading, the table was spread, and amongst other things they set before us a ragout flavoured with cumin-seed. So we sat down to eat it; but one of our number held back and abstained from eating. We conjured him to eat of the ragout; but he swore that he would not, and we pressed him till he said, "Press me not; what has already befallen me through eating of this dish suffices me." And he repeated the following verses:Shoulder thy tray, 'fore God, and get thee gone with it, And to thine eyes apply such salve as thou deem'st fit. (80)
"For God's sake," said we, "tell us the reason of thy refusal to eat of the ragout!" "If I must eat of it," replied he, "I will not do so, except I may wash my hands forty times with soap, forty times with potash and forty times with galingale, in all a hundred and twenty times." So the master of the house ordered his servants to bring water and all that he required; and the young man washed his hands as he had said. Then he sat down, as if afraid, and dipping his hand into the ragout, began to eat, though with evident repugnance and as if doing himself violence, whilst we regarded him with the utmost wonder; for his hand trembled and we saw that his thumb had been cut off and he ate with his four fingers only. So we said to him, "God on thee, what has become of thy thumb? Is thy hand thus by the creation of God or has it been mutilated by accident?" "O my brothers, answered he, "it is not this thumb alone that has been cut off, but also that of the other hand and the great toe of each of my feet, as ye shall see." Then he bared his left hand and his feet, and we saw that the left hand was even as the right and that each of his feet lacked the great toe. At this sight, our amazement increased and we said to him, "We are impatient to know thy history and the manner of the cutting off of thy thumbs and great toes and the reason of thy washing thy hands a hundred and twenty times." "Know then," answered he, "that my father was chief of the merchants of Baghdad in the time of the Khalif Haroun er Reshid; but he was given to drinking wine and listening to the lute and other instruments, so that when he died, he left nothing. I buried him and had recitations of the Koran made over him and mourned for him days and nights. Then I opened his shop and found he had left little but debts. However, I compounded with his creditors for time to pay and betook myself to buying and selling, paying them something week by week on account, till at last I succeeded in clearing off the debts and began to add to my capital. One day, as I sat in my shop, there came up to the entrance of the bazaar a lady, than whom my eyes never saw a fairer, richly clad and decked and riding on a mule, with one slave walking before and another behind her. She halted the mule at the entrance of the bazaar and entered, followed by an eunuch, who said to her, 'O my lady, come out, without telling any one, or thou wilt bring us into trouble.' And he stood before her, (81) whilst she looked at the shops. She found no shop open but mine, so came up, with the eunuch behind her, and sitting down in my shop, saluted me; never did I hear aught sweeter than her voice or more pleasant than her speech. Then she unveiled her face and I saw she was like the moon and stole at her a glance that cost me a thousand sighs. My heart was captivated with her love and I could not take my eyes off her face; and I repeated the following verses:Say to the fairest fair, her in the dove-coloured veil, "Death would be welcome to me, to save me from thy bale:
When she heard this, she answered me by repeating the following verses:Power to forget thee, for desire, fails even unto me: My heart and all my soul will love none other after thee.
Then she said to me, 'O youth, hast thou any handsome stuffs?' 'O my lady,' answered I, 'thy slave is poor: but wait till the merchants open their shops, and I will get thee what thou wilt.' Then we sat talking, she and I, whilst I was drowned in the sea of her love and dazed with passion for her, till the merchants opened their shops, when I rose and fetched her all she sought, to the value of five thousand dirhems. She gave the stuffs to the slave and leaving the bazaar, mounted the mule and rode away, without telling me whence she came, and I was ashamed to ask her. So I became answerable to the merchants for the price of the goods and thus took on myself a debt of five thousand dirhems. Then I went home, drunken with love of her, and they set the evening-meal before me. I ate a mouthful and lay down to rest, musing upon her beauty and grace: but sleep came not to me. A week passed thus, and the merchants sought their money of me, but I persuaded them to wait another week, at the end of which time she came up, riding on the mule and attended by an eunuch and two slaves. She saluted me and said, 'O my lord, we have been long in bringing thee the price of the stuffs; but now fetch a money-changer and take the amount.' So I sent for the money-changer, and the eunuch counted me out the money, and we sat talking, the lady and I, till the market opened, when she said to me, 'Get me this and this.' So I got her from the merchants what she wanted, and she took it and went away, without saying a word to me about the price. As soon as she was out of sight, I repented me of what I had done, for the price of what I had bought for her was a thousand dinars, and I said to myself, 'What doting is this? She has brought me five thousand dirhems (82), and taken a thousand dinars' (83) worth of goods.' And I feared lest I should be beggared, through having to pay the merchants their money, and said, 'They know none but me and this woman is none other than a cheat, who hath cozened me with her beauty and grace, for she saw that I was young and laughed at me; and I did not ask her address.' She did not come again for more than a month, and I abode in constant distress and perplexity, till at last the merchants dunned me for their money and pressed me so that I put up my property for sale and looked for nothing but ruin. However, as I was sitting in my shop, one day, absorbed in melancholy thought, she rode up and dismounting at the gate of the bazaar, came in and made towards me. When I saw her, my anxiety ceased and I forgot my troubles. She came up to me and greeting me with her pleasant speech, said to me, 'Fetch the money-changer and take thy money.' So she gave me the price of the goods I had gotten for her and more, and fell to conversing freely with me, till I was like to die of joy and delight. Presently, she said to me, 'Hast thou a wife?' 'No,' answered I; 'I have never known woman.' And fell a-weeping. Quoth she, 'Why dost thou weep?' 'It is nothing,' replied I; and giving the eunuch some of the dinars, begged him to use his influence with her for me; but he laughed and said, 'She is more in love with thee than thou with her. She had no occasion for the stuffs she bought of thee and did all this but out of love for thee. So ask of her what thou wilt; she will not deny thee.' When she saw me give the eunuch money, she returned and sat down again; and I said to her, 'Be charitable to thy slave and pardon him what he is about to say.' Then I told her what was in my mind, and she assented and said to the eunuch, 'Thou shalt carry my message to him.' Then to me, 'Do as the eunuch bids thee.' Then she rose and went away, and I paid the merchants what I owed them, and they all profited; but as for me, I gained nought but regret for the breaking off of our intercourse. I slept not all that night; but before many days were past, the eunuch came to me, and I made much of him and asked after his mistress. 'She is sick for love of thee,' replied he; and I said, 'Tell me who she is.' Quoth he, 'She is one of the waiting-women of the Lady Zubeideh, the wife of the Khalif Haroun er Reshid, who brought her up and advanced her to be stewardess of the harem and granted her the right of going in and out at will. She told her mistress of thee and begged her to marry her to thee; but she said, "I will not do this, till I see the young man; and if he be worthy of thee, I will marry thee to him." So now we wish to bring thee into the palace at once and if thou succeed in entering without being seen, thou wilt win to marry her; but if the affair get wind, thou wilt lose thy head. What sayst thou?' And I answered, 'I will go with thee and abide the risk of which thou speakest.' Then said he, 'As soon as it is night, go to the mosque built by the Lady Zubeideh on the Tigris and pray and pass the night there.' 'With all my heart,' answered I. So at nightfall I repaired to the mosque, where I prayed and passed the night. Just before daybreak, there came up some eunuchs in a boat, with a number of empty chests, which they deposited in the mosque and went away all, except one who remained behind and whom, on examination, I found to be he who served as our go-between. Presently, in came my mistress herself and I rose to her and embraced her. She kissed me, weeping, and we talked awhile; after which she made me get into one of the chests and locked it upon me. Then the eunuchs came back with a number of packages; and she fell to stowing them in the chests and locking the latter one by one, till she had filled them all. Then they embarked the chests in the boat and made for the Lady Zubeideh's palace. With this, reflection came to me and I said to myself, 'My lust will surely bring me to destruction, nor do I know whether I shall gain my end or no!' And I began to weep, shut up as I was in the chest, and to pray to God to deliver me from the peril I was in, whilst the boat ceased not going till it reached the palace gate, where they lifted out the chests and amongst them that in which I was. Then they carried them into the palace, passing through a troop of eunuchs, guardians of the harem and door-keepers, till they came to the post of the chief of the eunuchs, who started up from sleep and called out to the lady, saying, 'What is in those chests?' Quoth she, 'They are full of wares for the Lady Zubeideh.' 'Open them,' said he, 'one by one, that I may see what is in them.'--'Why wilt thou open them?' asked she: but he cried out at her, saying, 'Give me no words! They must and shall be opened.' Now the first that they brought to him to open was that in which I was: and when I felt this, my senses failed me and I bepissed myself for terror, and the water ran out of the chest. Then said she to the eunuch, 'O chief, thou hast undone me and thyself also, for thou hast spoiled that which is worth ten thousand dinars. This box contains coloured dresses and four flasks of Zemzem water; and now one of the bottles has broken loose and the water is running out over the clothes and their colours will be ruined.' Then said the eunuch, 'Take up thy chests and begone with God's malison!' So the slaves took up the chests and hurried on with them, till suddenly I heard a voice saying, 'Alas! Alas! the Khalif! the Khalif!' When I heard this, my heart died within me and I spoke the words which whoso says shall not be confounded, that is to say, 'There is no power and no virtue but in God the Most High, the Supreme! I have brought this affliction on myself.' Presently I heard the Khalif say to my mistress, 'Harkye, what is in those chests of thine ?' 'Clothes for the Lady Zubeideh,' answered she; and he said, 'Open them to me.' When I heard this, I gave myself up for lost and said, 'By Allah, this is the last of my worldly days!' and began to repeat the profession of the Faith. Then I heard the lady say to the Khalif, 'These chests have been committed to my charge by the Lady Zubeideh, and she does not wish their contents to be seen of any one.'--'No matter,' said he; 'I must open them and see what is in them.' And he cried out to the eunuchs saying, 'Bring them to me.' At this, I made sure of death and swooned away. Then the slaves brought the chests up to him and opened them, one after another, and he saw in them perfumes and stuffs and rich clothes, till none remained unopened but that in which I was. They put their hands to it to open it, but the lady made haste and said to the Khalif, 'This one thou shalt see in the Lady Zubeideh's presence, for that which is in it is her secret.' When he heard this, he ordered them to carry in the chests; so they took up that in which I was and carried it, with the rest, into the harem and set it down in the middle of the saloon; and indeed my spittle was dried up for fear. Then my mistress opened the chest and took me out, saying, 'Fear not: no harm shall befall thee, but be of good courage and sit down, till the Lady Zubeideh comes, and thou shalt surely win thy wish of me.' So I sat down, and after awhile, in came ten maidens like moons and ranged themselves in two rows, one facing the other, and after them other twenty, high-bosomed maids with the Lady Zubeideh, who could hardly walk for the weight of her dresses and ornaments. As she drew near, the damsels dispersed from around her, and I advanced and kissed the earth before her. She signed to me to be seated and questioned me of my condition and family, to which I made such answers as pleased her, and she said to my mistress, 'O damsel, our nurturing of thee has not been in vain.' Then she said to me, 'Know that this damsel is to us even as our own child, and she is a trust committed to thee by God.' I kissed the earth again before her, well pleased that I should marry my mistress, and she bade me sojourn ten days in the palace. So I abode there ten days, during which time I saw not my mistress nor any one save a serving-maid, who brought me the morning and evening meals. After this the Lady Zubeideh took counsel with the Khalif on the marriage of her favourite, and he gave leave and assigned her a wedding portion of ten thousand dinars. So the Lady Zubeideh sent for the Cadi and the witnesses, and they drew up our marriage contract, after which the women made sweetmeats and rich viands and distributed them among the inmates of the harem. Thus they did other ten days, at the end of which time my mistress entered the bath. Meanwhile, they set before me a tray of food, on which was a basin containing a ragout of fricasseed fowls' breasts dressed with cumin-seed and flavoured with sugar and rose-water, mixed with musk, and many another dish, such as amazed the wit; and by Allah, I did not hesitate, but fell upon the ragout and ate my fill of it. Then I wiped my hands, but forgot to wash them and sat till it grew dark, when they lit the candles and the singing-women came with tambourines and proceeded to display the bride and carry her in procession from room to room, receiving largesse of gold and pieces of silk, till they had made the round of the palace. Then they brought her to me and disrobed her. When I found myself alone in bed with her, I embraced her, hardly believing in my good fortune; but she smelt the odour of the ragout on my hands and gave a loud cry, at which the maids came running to her from all sides. I was alarmed and trembled, not knowing what was the matter, and the girls said to her, 'What ails thee, O sister?' Quoth she, 'Take this madman away from me: methought he was a man of sense.' 'What makes thee think me mad?' asked I. 'O madman,' answered she, 'what made thee eat of ragout of cumin-seed, without washing thy hands? By Allah, I will punish thee for thy misconduct! Shall the like of thee come to bed to the like of me, with unwashed hands?' Then she took from her side a whip of plaited thongs and laid on to my back and buttocks till I swooned away for the much beating; when she said to the maids, 'Take him and carry him to the chief of the police, that he may cut off the hand wherewith he ate of the ragout and washed it not.' When I heard this, I said, 'There is no power and no virtue but in God! Wilt thou cut off my hand, because I ate of a ragout and did not wash?' And the girls interceded with her, saying, 'O our sister, forgive him this once!' But she said, 'By Allah, I must and will dock him of somewhat!' Then she went away and I saw no more of her for ten days, at the end of which time, she came in to me and said, 'O black-a-vice, I will not make peace with thee, till I have punished thee for eating ragout of cumin-seed, without washing thy hands!' Then she cried out to the maids, who bound me; and she took a sharp razor and cut off my thumbs and toes, as ye have seen. Thereupon I swooned away and she sprinkled the severed parts with a powder which staunched the blood; and I said, 'Never again will I eat of ragout of cumin-seed without washing my hands forty times with potash, forty times with galingale and forty times with soap!' And she took of me an oath to that effect. So when the ragout was set before me, my colour changed and I said to myself, 'It was this that was the cause of the cutting off of my thumbs and toes.' And when ye forced me, I said, 'I must needs fulfil the oath I have taken.'" "And what befell thee after this?" asked the others. "After this," replied he, "her heart was appeased and I lay with her that night. We abode thus awhile, till she said to me, one day, 'It befits not that we continue in the Khalif's palace: for none ever came hither but thou, and thou wonst not in but by the grace of the Lady Zubeideh. Now she has given me fifty thousand dinars; so take this money and go out and buy us a commodious house.' So I went forth and bought a handsome and spacious house, whither she transported all her goods and valuables." Then (continued the controller) we ate and went away: and after, there happened to me with the hunchback that thou wottest of. This then is my story and peace be on thee.' Quoth the King, 'This story is not more agreeable than that of the hunchback: on the contrary, it is less so, and you must all be hanged.' Then came forward the Jewish physician and kissing the earth, said, 'O King of the age, I will tell thee a story more wonderful than that of the hunchback.' 'Tell on,' answered the King; and the Jew said, 'The strangest adventure that ever befell me was as follows:
The Jewish Physician's Story.
In my younger days I lived at Damascus, where I studied my art; and one day, as I sat in my house, there came to me a servant with a summons from the governor of the city. So I followed him to the house and entering the saloon, saw, lying on a couch of juniper-wood, set with plates of gold, that stood at the upper end, a sick youth, never was seen a handsomer. I sat down at his head and offered up a prayer for his recovery. He made a sign to me with his eyes and I said to him, "O my lord, give me thy hand." So he put forth his left hand, at which I wondered and said to myself, "By Allah, it is strange that so handsome a young man of high family should lack good breeding! This can be nothing but conceit." However, I felt his pulse and wrote him a prescription and continued to visit him for ten days, at the end of which time he recovered and went to the bath, whereupon the governor gave me a handsome dress of honour and appointed me superintendent of the hospital at Damascus. I accompanied him to the bath, the whole of which they had cleared for his accommodation, and the servants came in with him and took off his clothes within the bath, when I saw that his right hand had been newly cut off, and this was the cause of his illness. At this I was amazed and grieved for him: then looking at his body I saw on it the marks of beating with rods, for which he had used ointments. I was perplexed at this and my perplexity appeared in my face. The young man looked at me and reading my thought, said to me, "O physician of the age, marvel not at my case. I will tell thee my story, when we leave the bath." Then we washed and returning to his house, partook of food and rested awhile; after which he said to me, "What sayest thou to taking the air in the garden?" "I will well," answered I; so he bade the slaves carry out carpets and cushions and roast a lamb and bring us some fruit. They did as he bade them, and we ate of the fruits, he using his left hand for the purpose. After awhile, I said to him, "Tell me thy story." "O physician of the age," answered he, "hear what befell me. Know that I am a native of Mosul and my father was the eldest of ten brothers, who were all married, but none of them was blessed with children except my father, to whom God had vouchsafed me. So I grew up among my uncles, who rejoiced in me with exceeding joy, till I came to man's estate. One Friday, I went to the chief mosque of Mosul with my father and my uncles, and we prayed the congregational prayers, after which all the people went out, except my father and uncles, who sat conversing of the wonders of foreign lands and the strange things to be seen in various cities. At last they mentioned Egypt and one of my uncles said, 'Travellers say that there is not on the face of the earth aught fairer than Cairo and its Nile.' Quoth my father, 'Who has not seen Cairo has not seen the world. Its dust is gold and its Nile a wonder; its women are houris and its houses palaces: its air is temperate and the fragrance of its breezes outvies the scent of aloes-wood: and how should it be otherwise, being the mother of the world? Bravo for him who says,' And he repeated the following verses:Shall I from Cairo wend and leave the sweets of its delight? What sojourn after it indeed were worth a longing thought?
'And if,' added my father, 'you saw its gardens in the evenings, with the tree-shadows sloping over them, you would behold a marvel and incline to them with delight.' And they fell to describing Cairo and the Nile. When I heard their accounts of Cairo, my mind dwelt on it and I longed to visit it; and when they had done talking, each went to his own dwelling. As for me, I slept not that night, for stress of yearning after Egypt, nor was meat nor drink pleasant to me. After awhile, my uncles prepared to set out for Cairo, and I wept before my father, till he made ready for me merchandise and consented to my going wish them, saying to them, 'Let him not enter Egypt, but leave him to sell his goods at Damascus.' Then I took leave of my father and we left Mosul and journeyed till we reached Aleppo, where we abode some days. Then we fared on, till we came to Damascus and found it a city as it were a paradise, abounding in trees and rivers and birds and fruits of all kinds. We alighted at one of the Khans, where my uncles tarried awhile, selling and buying: and they sold my goods also at a profit of five dirhems on every one, to my great satisfaction; after which they left me and went on to Egypt, whilst I abode at Damascus in a handsome house, such as the tongue fails to describe, which I had hired for two dinars a month. Here I remained, eating and drinking and spending the money in my hands, till, one day, as I sat at the door of my lodging, there came up a young lady, clad in costly apparel, never saw my eyes richer. I winked at her; and she entered without hesitation. I entered with her and shut the door, and she raised her kerchief and did off her veil, when I found her of surpassing beauty, and love of her took hold upon my heart. So I rose and fetched a tray of the most delicate viands and fruits and all that was needed for a carouse, and we ate and sported and drank till we were warm with wine. Then I lay with her the most delightful of nights, till the morning, when I offered to give her ten dinars; but she frowned and knit her brows and said, 'For shame! Thinkest thou I covet thy money?' And she took out from the bosom of her shift ten dinars and laid them before me, saying, 'By Allah, except thou take them, I will never come back!' So I accepted them, and she said to me, 'O my beloved, expect me again in three days' time, when I will be with thee between sundown and nightfall; and do thou provide us with these dinars the like of yesterday's entertainment.' So saying, she bade me adieu and went away, taking my reason with her. At the end of the three days, she came again, dressed in gold brocade and wearing richer ornaments than before. I had made ready a repast; so we ate and drank and lay together, as before, till the morning, when she gave me other ten dinars and appointed me again for three days thence. Accordingly, I made ready as before, and at the appointed time she came again, more richly dressed than ever, and said to me, 'O my lord, am I not fair?' 'Yea, by Allah!' answered I. Then she said, 'Wilt thou give me leave to bring with me a young lady handsomer than I and younger, that she may frolic with us and that thou and she may laugh and make merry and rejoice her heart, for she has been sad at heart this long time past and has asked me to let her go out and spend the night abroad with me?' 'Ay, by Allah!' answered I; and we drank till we were warm with wine and slept together till the morning, when she gave me twenty dinars and said to me, 'Add to thy usual provision, on account of the young lady who will come with me.' Then she went away, and on the fourth day, I made ready as usual, and soon after sundown she came, accompanied by another damsel, wrapped in a veil. They entered and sat down; and when I saw them, I repeated the following verses:How lovely and how pleasant is our day! The railer's absent, reckless of our play,
Then I lighted the candles and received them with joy and gladness. They put off their outer clothing, and the new damsel unveiled her face, when I saw that she was like the moon at its full, never beheld I one more beautiful. Then I rose and set meat and drink before them, and we ate and drank: and I began to feed the new damsel and to fill her cup and drink with her. At this the first lady was secretly jealous and said to me, 'Is not this girl more charming than I?' 'Ay, by Allah!' replied I. Quoth she, 'It is my intent that thou lie with her this night.' And I answered, 'On my head and eyes!' Then she rose and spread the bed for us, and I took the young lady and lay with her that night till the morning, when I awoke and found myself wet, as I thought, with sweat. I sat up and tried to rouse the damsel, but when I shook her by the shoulders, her head rolled off the pillow. Thereupon my reason fled and I cried out, saying, 'O gracious Protector, extend to me Thy protection!' Then I saw that she had been murdered, and the world became black in my sight and I sought the lady my first mistress, but could not find her. So I knew that it was she who had murdered the girl, out of jealousy, and said, 'There is no power and no virtue but in God the Most High, the Supreme! What is to be done?' I considered awhile, then rose and taking off my clothes, dug a hole midmost the courtyard, in which I laid the dead girl, with her jewellery and ornaments, and throwing back the earth over her, replaced the marble of the pavement. After this I washed and put on clean clothes and taking what money I had left, locked up the house and took courage and went to the owner of the house, to whom I paid a year's rent, telling him that I was about to join my uncles at Cairo. Then I set out and journeying to Egypt, foregathered with my uncles, who rejoiced in me and I found that they had made an end of selling their goods. They enquired the reason of my coming, and I said, 'I yearned after you;' but did not let them know that I had any money with me. I abode with them a year, enjoying the pleasures of the city and the Nile and squandering the rest of my money in feasting and drinking, till the time drew near for my uncles' departure when I hid myself from them and they sought for me, but could hear no news of me and said, 'He must have gone back to Damascus.' So they departed, and I came out from my hiding and sojourned in Cairo three years, sending year by year the rent of the house at Damascus to its owner, until at last I had nothing left but one year's rent. At this my breast was straitened and I set out and journeyed till I reached Damascus, where my landlord received me with joy. I alighted at the house and found everything locked up as I had left it: so I opened the closets and took out what was in them and found under the bed, where I had lain with the murdered girl, a necklet of gold set with jewels. I took it up and cleansing it of her blood, examined it and wept awhile. Then I abode in the house two days and on the third day, I went to the bath and changed my clothes. I had now no money left and the devil prompted me to sell the necklet, that destiny might be accomplished; so I took it to the market and handed it to a broker, who made me sit down in the shop of my landlord and waited till the market was full, when he took the necklet and offered it for sale privily without my knowledge. The price bidden for it was two thousand dinars; but the broker returned and said to me, 'This necklet is a brass counterfeit of Frank manufacture, and a thousand dirhems have been bidden for it.' 'Yes,' answered I; 'I knew it to be brass, for we had it made for such an one, that we might mock her: and now my wife has inherited it and we wish to sell it; so go and take the thousand dirhems.' When the broker heard this, his suspicions were roused; so he carried the necklet to the chief of the market, who took it to the prefect of police and said to him, 'This necklet was stolen from me, and we have found the thief in the habit of a merchant.' So the officers fell on me unawares and brought me to the prefect, who questioned me and I told him what I had told the broker: but he laughed and said, 'This is not the truth.' Then, before I knew what was toward, his people stripped me and beat me with rods on my sides, till for the smart of the blows I said, 'I did steal it,' bethinking me that it was better to confess that I stole it than let them know that she who owned it had been murdered in my house, lest they should put me to death for her. So they wrote down that I had stolen it and cut off my hand. The stump they seared with boiling oil and I swooned away: but they gave me wine to drink, and I revived and taking up my hand, was returning to my lodging, when the landlord said to me, 'After what has passed, thou must leave my house and look for another lodging, since thou art convicted of theft.' 'O my lord,' said I, 'have patience with me two or three days, till I look me out a new lodging.' 'So be it,' he answered and I returned to the house, where I sat weeping and saying, 'How shall I return to my people with my hand cut off and they know not that I am innocent?' Then I abode in sore trouble and perplexity for two days, and on the third day the landlord came in to me, and with him some officers of police and the chief of the market, who had accused me of stealing the necklace. I went out to them and enquired what was the matter, but they seized on me, without further parley, and tied my hands behind me and put a chain about my neck, saying , 'The necklet that was with thee has been shown to the Governor of Damascus, and he recognizes it as one that belonged to his daughter, who has been missing these three years.' When I heard this, my heart sank within me, and I said to myself, 'I am lost without resource; but I must needs tell the governor my story; and if he will, let him kill me, and if he will, let him pardon me.' So they carried me to the governor's house and made me stand before him. When he saw me, he looked at me out of the corner of his eye and said to those present, 'Why did ye cut off his hand? This man is unfortunate and hath committed no offense; and indeed ye wronged him in cutting off his hand.' When I heard this, I took heart and said to him, 'By Allah, O my lord, I am no thief! But they accused me of this grave offence and beat me with rods in the midst of the market, bidding me confess, till for the pain of the beating, I lied against myself and confessed to the theft, although I am innocent.' 'Fear not,' said the governor; 'no harm shall come to thee.' Then he laid the chief of the market under arrest, saying to him, 'Give this man the price of his hand, or I will hang thee and seize on all thy goods.' And he cried out to the officers, who took him and dragged him away, leaving me with the governor, who made his people unbind me and take the chain off my neck. Then he looked at me and said, 'O my son, speak the truth and tell me how thou camest by the necklet.' And he repeated the following verse:To tell the whole truth is thy duty, although It bring thee to burn on the brasier of woe!
'By Allah, O my lord,' answered I, 'such is my intent!' And I told him all that had passed between me and the first lady and how she had brought the second one to me and had slain her out of jealousy. When he heard my story, he shook his head and beat hand upon hand; then putting his handkerchief to his eyes, wept awhile and repeated the following verses:I see that Fortune's maladies are many upon me, For, every dweller in the world, sick unto death is he.
Then he turned to me and said, 'Know, O my son, that she who first came to thee was my eldest daughter. I brought her up in strict seclusion and when she came to womanhood, I sent her to Cairo and married her to my brother's son. After awhile, he died and she came back to me: but she had learnt profligate habits from the natives of Cairo: so she visited thee four times and at last brought her younger sister. Now they were sisters by the same mother and much attached to each other; and when this happened to the elder, she let her sister into her secret, and she desired to go out with her. So she asked thy leave and carried her to thee; after which she returned alone, and I questioned her of her sister, finding her weeping for her; but she said, "I know nothing of her." However, after this, she told her mother privily what had happened and how she had killed her sister; and her mother told me. Then she ceased not to weep and say, "By Allah, I will never leave weeping for her. till I die!" And so it fell out. This, O my son, is what happened, and now I desire that thou baulk me not in what I am about to say to thee; it is that I purpose to marry thee to my youngest daughter, for she is a virgin and born of another mother, and I will take no dower from thee, but on the contrary will appoint thee an allowance, and thou shalt be to me as my very son.' 'I will well,' replied I; 'how could I hope for such good fortune?' Then he sent at once for the Cadi and the witnesses and married me to his daughter, and I went in to her. Moreover, he got me a large sum of money from the chief of the market and I became in high favour with him. Soon after, news came to me that my father was dead so the governor despatched a courier to fetch me the property he had left behind him, and now I am living in all prosperity. This is how I came to lose my right hand." His story amazed me (continued the Jew) and I abode with him three days, after which he gave me much money and I set out and travelled, till I reached this thy city. The sojourn liked me well, so I took up my abode here and there befell me what thou knowest with the hunchback.' Quoth the King, 'This thy story is not more wonderful than that of the hunchback, and I will certainly hang you all. However, there still remains the tailor, who was the head of the offending.' Then he said to the tailor, 'O tailor, if thou canst tell me aught more wonderful than the story of the hunchback, I will pardon you all your offenses.' So the tailor came forward and said, 'Know, O King of the age, that a most rare thing happened to me yesterday before I fell in with the hunchback.
The Tailor's Story.
Yesterday morning early I was at an entertainment given by a friend of mine, at which there were assembled near twenty men of the people of the city, amongst them tailors and silk-weavers and carpenters and other craftsmen. As soon as the sun had risen, they set food before us that we might eat, when behold, the master of the house entered, and with him a comely young man, a stranger from Baghdad, dressed in the finest of clothes and perfectly handsome, except that he was lame. He saluted us, while we rose to receive him; and he was about to sit down, when he espied amongst us a certain barber; whereupon he refused to sit and would have gone away. But we stopped him and the host seized him and adjured him, saying, "What is the reason of thy coming in and going out again at once?" "By Allah, O my lord," answered he, "do not hinder me, for the cause of my turning back is yonder barber of ill-omen sitting there." When the host heard this, he wondered and said, "How comes this young man, who is from Baghdad. to be troubled in his mind about this barber?" Then we looked at the young man and said to him, "Tell us the reason of thine anger against the barber." "O company," replied he, "there befell me a strange adventure with this barber in my native city of Baghdad; he was the cause of the breaking of my leg and of my lameness, and I have sworn that I will never sit in the same place with him nor tarry in any city of which he is an inhabitant. I left Baghdad, to be rid of him, and took up my abode in this city and lo, I find him with you! But now not another night shall pass, before I depart hence." So we begged him to sit down and tell us what had passed between him and the barber in Baghdad, whereat the latter changed colour and hung down his head. Then said the young man, "Know, O company, that my father was one of the chief merchants of Baghdad, and God had vouchsafed him no child but myself. When I grew up to man's estate, my father was translated to the mercy of God, leaving me great wealth in money and slaves and servants, and I began to dress handsomely and feed daintily. Now God had made me a hater of women, and one day, as I was going along one of the streets of Baghdad, a company of women stopped the way before me; so I fled from them, and entering a by-street without an outlet, sat down upon a stone bench at the other end. I had not sat long, before the lattice of one of the houses in the street opened and a young lady, as she were the moon at its full, never in my life saw I her like, put forth her head and began to water some flowers she had on the balcony. Then she turned right and left and seeing me watching her, smiled and shut the window and went away. Therewithal, fire flamed up in my heart and my mind was taken up with her, and my hatred (of women) was changed to love. I continued sitting there, lost to the world, till sundown, when the Cadi of the city came riding up the street, with slaves before him and servants behind him, and alighting, entered the very house at which the young lady had appeared. By this I guessed that he was her father; so I went home, sorrowful, and fell on my bed, oppressed with melancholy thoughts. My women came in to me and sat round me, puzzled to know what ailed me; but I would not speak to them nor answer their questions, and they wept and lamented over me. Presently, in came an old woman, who looked at me and saw at once what was the matter with me. So she sat down at my head and spoke me fair and said, 'O my son, tell me what ails thee, and I will bring thee to thy desire.' So I told her what had happened to me, and she said, O my son, this girl is the Cadi's daughter of Baghdad; she is kept in strict seclusion, and the window at which thou sawest her is that of her apartment, where she dwells alone, her father occupying a great suite of rooms underneath. I often visit her, and thou shalt not come at her but through me; so gird thy middle and be of good cheer.' So saying, she went away, whilst I took comfort at what she said and arose in the morning well, to the great satisfaction of my people. By-and-by the old woman came in, chopfallen, and said to me, 'O my son, do not ask how I have fared with her! When I opened the subject to her, she said to me, "An thou leave not this talk, pestilent hag that thou art, I will assuredly use thee as thou deserves!" But needs must I have at her again.' When I heard this, it added sickness to my sickness: but after some days, the old woman came again and said to me, 'O my son, I must have of thee a present for good news.' With this, life returned to me, and I said, 'Whatever thou wilt is thine.' Then said she, 'O my son, I went yesterday to the young lady, who seeing me broken-spirited and tearful-eyed, said to me, "O my aunt, what ails thee that I see thy heart thus straitened?" Whereupon I wept and replied, "O my lady, I am just come from a youth who loves thee and is like to die for thy sake." Quoth she (and indeed her heart was moved to pity), "And who is this youth of whom thou speakest?" "He is my son," answered I, "and the darling of my heart. He saw thee, some days since, at the window, tending thy flowers, and fell madly in love with thee. I told him what passed between thee and me the other day, whereupon his disorder increased and he took to his bed and will surely die." At this her colour changed and she said, "Is all this on my account?" "Yea, by Allah!" answered I. "What wouldst thou have me do?" Then said she, "Go back to him and salute him for me and tell him that my sufferings are twice as great as his. And on Friday, before the time of prayer, let him come hither and I will come down and open the door to him. Then I will carry him to my chamber, where we can converse awhile and he can go away, before my father comes back from the mosque."' When I heard this, my anguish ceased and my heart was comforted. So I took off the clothes I was wearing and gave them to the old woman; and she said, 'Be of good cheer.' 'There is no pain left in me,' answered I; and she went away. My household and friends rejoiced in my restoration to health, and I abode thus till Friday, when the old woman entered and asked me how I did, to which I replied that I was well and in good case. Then I dressed and perfumed myself and sat down to await the going in of the folk to the mosque, that I might betake myself to the young lady. But the old woman said to me, 'Thou hast time and to spare; so thou wouldst do well to go to the bath and have thy head shaved, to do away the traces of thy disorder.' 'It is well thought,' answered I; 'I will first have my head shaved and then go to the bath.' Then I said to my servant, 'Go to the market and bring me a barber, and look that he be no meddler, but a man of sense, who will not split my head with his much talk.' So he went out and returned with this wretched old man. When he came in, he saluted me, and I returned his salutation. Then said he, 'Surely, I see thee thin of body.' And I replied, 'I have been ill.' Quoth he, 'God cause affliction and trouble and anxiety to depart from thee!' 'May God hear thy prayer!' answered I: and he said, 'Be of good cheer, O my lord, for indeed recovery is come to thee. Dost thou wish to be polled or let blood? Indeed, it is reported, on the authority of Ibn Abbas (87) (whom God accept!), that the Prophet said, "Whoso is polled on a Friday, God shall avert from him threescore and ten diseases;" and again, "He who is cupped on a Friday is safe from loss of sight and a host of other ailments."' 'Leave this talk,' said I; 'come, shave my head at once, for I am yet weak.' With this he pulled out a handkerchief, from which he took an astrolabe with seven plates, mounted in silver, and going into the courtyard, held the instrument up to the sun's rays and looked for some time. Then he came back and said to me, 'Know that eight degrees and six minutes have elapsed of this our day, which is Friday, the tenth of Sefer, in the six hundred and fifty-third year of the Flight of the Prophet (upon whom be the most excellent of blessing and peace!) and the seven thousand three hundred and twentieth year of the Alexandrian era, and the planet now in the ascendant, according to the rules of mathematics, is Mars, which being in conjunction with Mercury, denotes a favourable time for cutting hair; and this also indicates to me that thou purposest to foregather with some one and that your interview will be propitious; but after this there occurs a sign, respecting a thing which I will not name to thee.' 'By Allah,' exclaimed I, 'thou weariest me and pesterest me with thy foolish auguries, when I only sent for thee to shave my head! So come, shave me at once and give me no more talk.' 'By Allah,' rejoined he, 'if thou knewest what is about to befall thee, thou wouldst do nothing this day; and I counsel thee to do as I shall tell thee, by observation of the stars.' 'By Allah,' said I, 'I never saw a barber skilled in astrology except thee: but I think and know that thou art prodigal of idle talk. I sent for thee to shave my head, and thou plaguest me with this sorry prate!' 'What more wouldst thou have!' replied he. 'God hath vouchsafed thee a barber, who is an astrologer, versed in the arts of alchemy and white magic, syntax, grammar and lexicology, rhetoric and logic, arithmetic, astronomy and geometry, as well as in the knowledge of the Law and the Traditions of the Prophet and in exegesis. Moreover, I have read many books and digested them and have had experience of affairs and understand them thoroughly. In short, I have examined into all things and studied all arts and crafts and sciences and mastered them; and thy father loved me because of my lack of officiousness, for which reason my service is obligatory on thee. I am no meddler, as thou pretendest, and on this account I am known as the Silent, the Grave One. Wherefore it behoves thee to give thanks to God and not cross me for I am a true counsellor to thee and take an affectionate interest in thee. I would I were in thy service a whole year, that thou mightst do me justice: and I would ask no hire of thee for this.' When I heard this, I said, 'Thou wilt certainly be the death of me this day!' 'O my lord,' replied he, 'I am he whom the folk call the Silent, by reason of my few words, to distinguish me from my six brothers, the eldest of whom was called Becbac, (88) the second Heddar, (89) the third Fekic, (90) the fourth El Kouz el Aswani, (91) the fifth El Feshar, (92) the sixth Shecashic (93) and the seventh (myself) Samit (94).' Whilst he thus overwhelmed me with his talk, I thought my gall-bladder would burst so I said to the servant, 'Give him a quarter-dinar and let him go, for God's sake! I won't have my head shaved to-day.' 'What words are these, O my lord?' said he. 'By Allah, I will take no hire of thee till I have served thee; and needs must I serve thee, for indeed it is incumbent on me to do so and fulfil thy need; and I care not if I take no money of thee. If thou knowest not my worth, I know thine; and I owe thy father (may God the Most High have mercy on him!) many a kindness, for he was a generous man. By Allah, he sent for me one day as it were this blessed day, and I went in to him and found a company of his friends with him. He would have had me let him blood; but I pulled out my astrolabe and taking an altitude for him, found the aspect inauspicious and the hour unfavourable for the letting of blood. I told him of this and he conformed to my advice and put off the operation to a more convenient season. So I recited the following verses in his honour:I came one day unto my lord, that I might let him blood, But found that for his body's health the season was not good;
Thy father was charmed and cried out to the servant, saying, "Give him a hundred and three dinars and a dress of honour." The servant did as he bade, and I waited till a favourable moment, when I let him blood; and he did not cross me, but thanked me, and all present also praised me. When the cupping was over, I could not help saying to him, "By Allah, O my lord, what made thee say to the servant, 'Give him a hundred and three dinars'?" Quoth he, "One dinar was for the astrological observation, another for thine entertaining converse, the third for the bloodletting and the remaining hundred and the dress for thy verses in my honour."' 'May God show no mercy to my father,' exclaimed I, 'for knowing the like of thee?' He laughed and said, 'There is no god but God and Mohammed is His Apostle! Glory be to Him who changes but is not changed! I took thee for a man of sense; but I see thou dotest for illness. God says, in His precious Book, that Paradise is prepared for "those who restrain their wrath and forgive men", and in any case thou art excused. But I am ignorant of the cause of thy haste, and thou must know that thy father and grandfather did nothing without consulting me, for indeed it is said that he with whom one takes counsel should be trustworthy and that he who takes counsel shall not be disappointed. It is said also that he who hath not an elder (to advise him) will never be an elder himself; and indeed the poet says:Ere thou decide to venture thyself in aught, Consult an experienced man and cross him not.
And indeed thou wilt find none better versed in affairs than I, and I am here standing on my feet to serve thee. I am not vexed with thee: why shouldst thou be vexed with me? But I will bear with thee for the sake of the favours I owe thy father.' 'By Allah,' exclaimed I, 'O thou whose tongue is as long as a jackass's tail, thou persistest in pestering me with talk and pelting me with words, when all I want of thee is to shave my head and take thyself off!' Then he lathered my head, saying, 'I know that thou art vexed with me, but I bear thee no malice; for thy wit is weak and thou art a boy: it was but yesterday I took thee on my shoulders and carried thee to the school' 'O my brother,'. cried I, 'for God's sake, do what I want and go thy way!' And I rent my clothes. When he saw me do this, he took the razor and fell to sharpening it and stinted not, till I was well-nigh distraught. Then he came up to me and shaved a part of my head, then held his hand and said, 'O my lord, hurry is of the Devil and deliberation of the Merciful One. Methinks thou knowest not my station; verily my hand falls on the heads of kings and amirs and viziers and sages and learned men: and it was of me the poet said:All the trades are like necklets of jewels and gold And this barber indeed's the chief pearl of the strings.
'Leave what concerns thee not,' said I: 'indeed thou hast straitened my breast and troubled my mind.' Quoth he, Meseems thou art in haste. 'Yes, yes, yes!' answered I, and he, 'Thou wouldst do well to proceed with deliberation, for haste is of the Devil and bequeaths repentance and disappointment. Verily he upon whom be blessing and peace (95) hath said, "The best affair is that which is undertaken with deliberation." By Allah, thy case troubles me, and I would have thee let me know what it is thou art in such haste to do, for I fear me it is other than good.' Then said he, 'It wants three hours yet of the time of prayer. However, I do not wish to be in doubt as to this, but am minded to know the time for certain; for speech, when it is conjectural, is but faulty, especially in the like of me, whose merit is plain and known of all men; and it does not befit me to talk at random, as do the common sort of astrologers.' So saying, he threw down the razor and taking up the astrolabe, went out under the sun and stood a long while, after which he returned and said to me, 'It wants three hours of the time of prayer, neither more nor less.' 'By Allah,' answered I, 'hold thy tongue, for thou breakest my heart in pieces!' So he took his razor and after sharpening it as before, shaved another part of my head. Then he said, 'I am concerned about thy haste; and indeed thou wouldst do well to tell me the cause of it, for thou knowest that thy father and grandfather did nothing without my counsel.' When I saw that there was no getting rid of him, I said to myself, 'The time of prayer draws near and I wish to go to her before the folk come out from the mosque. If I am delayed much longer, I know not how I shall come at her.' Then I said to him, 'Be quick and leave this prating and officiousness, for I have to go to an entertainment at the house of one of my friends.' When he heard me speak of an entertainment, he said, 'This thy day is a blessed one for me! Verily, yesterday I invited a party of my intimate friends and I have forgotten to provide aught for them to eat. I bethought me of it but now, on hearing thee speak of an entertainment. Alack, how I shall be disgraced in their eyes!' 'Be in no concern for that,' answered I. 'Have I not told thee that I am bidden abroad to-day? All the meat and drink in the house shall be thine, so thou despatch my affair and make haste to shave my head.' 'God requite thee with good!' rejoined he. 'Tell me what thou hast for my guests, that I may know.' Quoth I, 'I have five dishes of meat and ten fricasseed fowls and a roasted lamb.' 'Bring them out to me,' said he, 'that I may see them.' So I had all this brought, and when he saw it, he said, 'There lacks the wine.' 'I have a flagon or two in the house,' answered I; and he said, 'Have it brought out.' So I sent for it, and he exclaimed, 'God bless thee for a generous soul! But there are still the perfumes and the essences.' So I brought him a box, containing fifty dinars' worth of aloes-wood and ambergris and musk and other perfumes. By this, the time began to run short and my heart was straitened; so I said to him, 'Take it all and finish shaving my head, by the life of Mohammed, whom God bless and preserve!' 'By Allah,' said he, 'I will not take it till I see all that is in it.' So I made the servant open the box, and the barber threw down the astrolabe and sitting down on the ground, turned over the contents, till I was well-nigh distracted. Then he took the razor and coming up to me, shaved some little of my head and recited the following verse:The boy after his father's guise grows up and follows suit As surely as the tree springs up from out its parent root.
Then said he, 'O my son, I know not whether to thank thee or thy father; for my entertainment to-day is all due to thy kindness and liberality, and none of my company is worthy of it; though I have none but men of consideration, such as Zentout the bath-keeper and Selya the corn-chandler and Silet the bean-seller and Akresheh the grocer and Hemid the scavenger and Said the camel-driver and Suweyd the porter and Abou Mukarish the bathman (96) and Cassim the watchman and Kerim the groom. There is not among them all one curmudgeon or make-bate or meddler or spoil-sport; each has his own dance that he dances and his own couplets that he repeats, and the best of them is that they are like thy servant, knowing not abundance of talk nor meddlesomeness. The bath-keeper sings enchantingly to the tambourine and dances and says, "I am going, O my mother, to fill my jar!" As for the corn-chandler, he brings more skill to it than any of them; he dances and says, "O mourner, my mistress, thou dost not fall short!" and draws the very heart out of one for laughing at him. Whilst the scavenger sings, so that the birds stop to listen to him, and dances and says, "News with my wife is not kept in a chest!" And indeed he is a witty, accomplished rogue, and of his excellence I use to say the following:My life redeem the scavenger! I love him passing dear, For, in his goodly gait, he's like the zephyr-shaken bough.
And indeed each is perfection in all that can charm the wit with mirth and jollity. But hearing is not like seeing; and indeed if thou wilt join us and put off going to thy friends, it will be better both for us and for thee: for the traces of sickness are yet upon thee and belike thou art going amongst talkative folk, who will prate of what does not concern them, or there may be amongst them some impertinent busybody who will split thy head, and thou still weak from illness.' 'This shall be for another day,' answered I and laughed in spite of my anger. 'Finish what thou hast to do for me and go in peace and enjoy thyself with thy friends, for they will be awaiting thy coming.' 'O my lord,' replied he, 'I only seek to bring thee in company with these pleasant folk, amongst whom there is neither meddlesomeness nor excess of talk; for never, since I came to years of discretion, could I endure to consort with those who ask of what concerns them not, nor with any except those who are, like myself, men of few words. Verily, if thou wert once to see them and company with them, thou wouldst forsake all thy friends.' 'God fulfil thy gladness with them!' rejoined I. 'Needs must I foregather with them one of these days.' And he said, 'I would it were to be to-day, for I had made up my mind that thou shouldst make one of us: but if thou must indeed go to thy friends to-day, I will take the good things, with which thy bounty hath provided me for them, to my guests, and leave them to eat and drink, without waiting for me, whilst I return to thee in haste and accompany thee whither thou goest; for there is no ceremony between me and my friends to hinder me from leaving them.' 'There is no power and no virtue but in God the Most High, the Supreme!' cried I. 'Go thou to thy friends and make merry with them and let me go to mine and be with them this day, for they expect me.' 'I will not let thee go alone,' replied he: and I said, 'None can enter where I am going but myself.' Then said he, 'I believe thou hast an assignation with some woman to-day; else thou wouldst take me with thee, for it is the like of me that furnishes a merry-making; or if thou go to any one with whom thou wouldst be private, I am the fittest of all men for thy purpose, for I would help thee to what thou desirest and look that none saw thee. I fear lest thou go in to some strange woman and lose thy life; for in this city one cannot do aught of the kind, especially on a day like this and under so keen and masterful a chief of the police as ours of Baghdad.' 'Out on thee, O wretched old man!' cried I. 'Avaunt! what words are these thou givest me?' 'O dolt!' rejoined he, 'thou sayest to me what is not true and hidest thy mind from me; but I know that this is so and am certain of it, and I only seek to help thee this day.' I was fearful lest my people or the neighbours should hear the barber's talk, so kept silence, whilst he finished shaving my head; by which time the hour of prayer was come and it was wellnigh time for the exhortation. (98) When he had done, I said to him, 'Take the meat and drink and carry them to thy friends. I will await thy return.' For I thought it best to dissemble with the accursed fellow and feign compliance with his wishes, so haply he might go away and leave me. Quoth he, 'Thou art deceiving me and wilt go alone and cast thyself into some peril, from which there will be no escape for thee. For God's sake, do not go till I return, that I may accompany thee and see what comes of thine affair.' 'It is well,' answered I: 'do not be long absent.' Then he took all that I had given him and went out; but, instead of going home with it, the cursed fellow delivered it to a porter, to carry to his house, and hid himself in a by-street. As for me, I rose at once, for the Muezzins had already chanted the Salutation, (99) and, dressing myself in haste, went out and hurried to the house where I had seen the young lady. I found the old woman standing at the door, awaiting me, and went up with her to the young lady's apartment. Hardly had I done so, when the master of the house returned from the mosque and entering the saloon, shut the door. I looked out from the window and saw this barber (God's malison on him!) sitting over against the door, and said, 'How did this devil find me out?' At this moment, as God had decreed it for my undoing, it befell that a slave-girl belonging to the master of the house committed some offence, for which he beat her. She cried out, and a male slave came in to deliver her, whereupon the Cadi beat him also, and he too cried out. The cursed barber concluded that it was I he was beating and fell to tearing his clothes and strewing dust on his head, shrieking and calling for help. So the folk came round him, and he said to them, 'My master is being murdered in the Cadi's house!' Then he ran, shrieking, to my house, with the folk after him, and told my people and servants: and before I knew what was forward, up they came, with torn clothes and dishevelled hair, calling out, 'Alas, our master!' and the barber at their head, in a fine pickle, tearing his clothes and shouting. They made for the house in which I was, headed by the barber, crying out, 'Woe is us for our murdered master!' And the Cadi, hearing the uproar at his door, said to one of his servants, 'Go and see what is the matter.' The man went out and came back, saying, 'O my lord, there are more than ten thousand men and women at the door, crying out, "Woe is us for our murdered master!" and pointing to our house.' When the Cadi heard this, he was troubled and vexed; so he went to the door and opening it, saw a great concourse of people; whereat he was amazed and said, 'O folk, what is the matter?' 'O accursed one, O dog, O hog,' replied my servants, 'thou hast killed our master!' Quoth he, 'And what has your master done to me that I should kill him? Behold, this my house is open to you!' 'Thou didst beat him but now with rods,' answered the barber; 'for I heard his cries.' 'What has he done that I should beat him?' repeated the Cadi; 'and what brings him into my house?' 'Be not a vile, perverse old man!' replied the barber; 'I know the whole story. The long and the short of it is that thy daughter is in love with him and he with her; and when thou knewest that he had entered the house, thou badest thy servants beat him, and they did so. By Allah, none shall judge between us and thee but the Khalif! So bring us out our master, that his people may take him, before I go and fetch him forth of thy house and thou be put to shame.' When the Cadi heard this, he was dumb for amazement and confusion before the people, but presently said to the barber, 'If thou speak truth, come in and fetch him out.' Whereupon the barber pushed forward and entered the house. When I saw this, I looked about for a means of escape, but saw no hiding-place save a great chest that stood in the room. So I got into the chest and pulled the lid down on me and held my breath. Hardly had I done this, when the barber came straight to the place where I was and catching up the chest, set it on his head and made off with it in haste. At this, my reason forsook me and I was assured that he would not let me be; so I took courage and opening the chest, threw myself to the ground. My leg was broken in the fall, and the door of the house being opened, I saw without a great crowd of people. Now I had much gold in my sleeve, which I had provided against the like of this occasion; so I fell to scattering it among the people, to divert their attention from me; and whilst they were busy scrambling for it, I set off running through the by-streets of Baghdad, and this cursed barber, whom nothing could divert from me, after me. Wherever I went, he followed, crying out, 'They would have bereft me of my master and slain him who has been a benefactor to me and my family and friends! But praised be God who aided me against them and delivered my lord from their hands! Where wilt thou go now? Thou persistedst in following thine own evil devices, till thou broughtest thyself to this pass, and if God had not vouchsafed me to thee, thou hadst never won free from this strait, for they would have plunged thee into irremediable ruin. How long dost thou expect I shall live to save thee? By Allah, thou hast well-nigh undone me by thy folly and thy perverseness in wishing to go by thyself! But I will not reproach thee with ignorance, for thou art little of wit and hasty.' 'Does not what thou hast brought upon me suffice thee,' replied I, 'but thou must pursue me with the like of this talk through the public streets?' And I well-nigh gave up the ghost for excess of rage against him. Then I took refuge in the shop of a weaver in the midst of the market and sought protection of the owner, who drove the barber away. I sat down in the back shop and said to myself, 'If I return home, I shall never be able to get rid of this accursed barber, for he will be with me night and day, and I cannot endure the sight of him.' So I sent out at once for witnesses and made a will, dividing the greater part of my money among my people, and appointed a guardian over them, to whom I committed the charge of great and small directing him to sell my house and estates. Then I set out at once on my travels, that I might be free of this ruffian, and came to settle in your town, where I have lived for some time. When you invited me and I came hither the first thing I saw was this accursed pimp seated in the place of honour. How, then, can I be at my ease and how can it be pleasant to me to consort with you, in company with this fellow, who brought all this upon me and was the cause of the breaking of my leg and of my exile from my country and family?" And he refused to sit down and went away. When we heard the young man's story (continued the tailor), we were beyond measure amazed and diverted and said to the barber, "Is it true that this young man says of thee?" "By Allah," replied he, "I dealt thus with him of my courtesy and good sense and humanity. But for me, he had perished and none but I was the cause of his escape. Well for him that it was in his leg that he suffered and not in his life! Were I a man of many words or a busybody, I had not done him this kindness; but now I will tell you something that happened to me, that ye may know that I am indeed sparing of speech and no impertinent meddler, as were my six brothers; and it is this:
The Barber's Story.
I was living at Baghdad, in the time of the Khalif Mustensir Billah, (100) who loved the poor and needy and companied with the learned and the pious. One day, it befell that he was wroth with a band of highway robbers, ten in number, who infested the neighbourhood, and ordered the chief of the Baghdad police to bring them before him on the day of the Festival. So the prefect sallied out and capturing the robbers, embarked with them in a boat. I caught sight of them, as they were embarking, and said to myself, 'These people are surely bound on some party of pleasure; methinks they mean to spend the day in eating and drinking, and none shall be their messmate but I.' So, of the greatness of my courtesy and the gravity of my understanding, I embarked in the boat and mingled with them. They rowed across to the opposite bank, where they landed, and there came up soldiers and police officers with chains, which they put round the necks of the robbers. They chained me with the rest, and, O company, is it not a proof of my courtesy and spareness of speech that I kept silence and did not choose to speak? Then they took us away in chains and next morning they carried us all before the Commander of the Faithful, who bade strike off the heads of the ten robbers. So the herdsman came forward and made us kneel before him on the carpet of blood; (101) then drawing his sword, struck off one head after another, till none was left but myself. The Khalif looked at me and said to the headsman, 'What ails thee thou thou struck off but nine heads?' 'God forbid,' replied he, 'that I should behead only nine, when thou didst order me to behead ten!' Quoth the Khalif, 'Meseems, thou hast beheaded but nine and he who is before thee is the tenth.' 'By thy munificence,' replied the headsman, 'I have beheaded ten!' So they counted the dead men, and behold, they were ten. Then said the Khalif to me, 'What made thee keep silence at such a time and how camest thou in company with these men of blood? Thou art a man of great age, but assuredly thy wit is but little.' When I heard the Khalif's words, I replied, 'Know, O Commander of the Faithful, that I am the Silent Elder, and am thus called to distinguish me from my six brothers. I am a man of great learning, whilst, as for the gravity of my understanding, the excellence of my apprehension and the spareness of my speech, there is no end to them; and by craft I am a barber. I went out early yesterday morning and saw these ten men making for a boat, and thinking they were bound on a party of pleasure, joined myself to them and embarked with them. After awhile, there came up the officers, who put chains round their necks and round mine amongst the rest, but in the excess of my courtesy, I kept silence and did not speak, nor was this other than generosity on my part. Then they brought us before thee and thou didst order the ten robbers' heads to be stricken off; yet did I not make myself known to thee, purely of my great generosity and courtesy, which led me to share with them in their death. But all my life have I dealt thus nobly with the folk, and they still requite me after the foulest fashion.' When the Khalif heard what I said and knew that I was a man of exceeding generosity and few words and no meddler (as this young man would have it, whom I rescued from horrors and who has so scurvily repaid me), he laughed so immoderately that he fell backward. Then said he to me, 'O silent man, are thy six brothers like thee distinguished for wisdom and knowledge and spareness of speech?' 'Never were they like me,' answered I; 'thou dost me injustice, O Commander of the Faithful, and it becomes thee not to even my brothers with me: for, of the abundance of their speech and their lack of conduct and courtesy, each one of them has gotten some bodily defect. One is blind of an eye, another paralysed, a third blind, a fourth cropped of the ears and nose, a fifth crop-lipped and a sixth hunchbacked and a cripple. Thou must not think, O Commander of the Faithful, that I am a man of many words; but I must needs explain to thee that I am a man of greater worth and of fewer words than they. By each one of my brothers hangs a tale of how he came by his defect, (102) and these I will relate to thee. Know then, O Commander of the Faithful that
Story of the Barber's First Brother.
My first brother, the hunchback, was a tailor in Baghdad, and plied his craft in a shop, which he hired of a very rich man, who dwelt over against him and had a mill in the lower part of the house. One day, as my brother the hunchback was sitting in his shop, sewing, he chanced to raise his head and saw, at the bay-window of his landlord's house, a lady like the rising full moon, engaged in looking at the passers-by. His heart was taken with love of her and he passed the day gazing at her and neglecting his business, till the evening. Next day, he opened his shop and sat down to sew: but as often as he made a stitch, he looked at the bay-window and saw her as before; and his passion and infatuation for her redoubled. On the third day, as he was sitting in his usual place, gazing on her, she caught sight of him, and perceiving that he had fallen a captive to her love, smiled in his face, and he smiled back at her. Then she withdrew and sent her slave-girl to him with a parcel of red flowered silk. The girl accosted him and said to him, "My lady salutes thee and would have thee cut out for her, with a skilful hand. a shift of this stuff and sew it handsomely." "I hear and obey," answered he; and cut out the shift and made an end of sewing it the same day. Next morning early, the girl came back and said to him, "My mistress salutes thee and would fain know how thou hast passed the night; for she has not tasted sleep by reason of her heart being taken up with thee." Then she laid before him a piece of yellow satin and said to him, "My mistress bids thee cut her two pairs of trousers of this stuff and sew them this day." "I hear and obey," answered he; "salute her for me with abundant salutation and say to her, 'Thy slave is obedient to thy commands so order him as thou wilt.'" Then he applied himself to cut out the trousers and used all diligence in sewing them. Presently the lady appeared at the window and saluted him by signs, now casting down her eyes and now smiling in his face, so that he made sure of getting his will of her. She did not let him budge till he had finished the two pairs of trousers, when she withdrew and sent the slave-girl, to whom he delivered them, and she took them and went away. When it was night, he threw himself on his bed and tossed from side to side, till morning, when he rose and sat down in his shop. By-and-by, the slave-girl came to him and said, "My master calls for thee." When he heard this, he was afraid; but the girl, seeing his alarm, to him, "Fear not: nought but good shall befall thee. My lady would have thee make acquaintance with my master." So my brother rejoiced greatly and went out with her. When he came into his landlord's presence he kissed the earth before him, and the latter returned his salute; then gave him a great piece of linen, saying, "Make this into shirts for me." "I hear and obey," replied my brother, and fell to work at once and cut out twenty shirts by nightfall, without stopping to taste food. Then said the husband "What is thy hire for this?" "Twenty dirhems," answered my brother. So the man cried out to the slave-girl to give him twenty dirhems; but the lady signed to my brother not to take them, and he said, "By Allah, I will take nothing from thee!" And took his work and went away, though he was sorely in want of money. Then he applied himself to do their work, eating and drinking but little for three days, in his great diligence. At the end of this time, the slave-girl came to him and said, "What hast thou done?" Quoth he, "They are finished;" and carried the shirts to his landlord, who would have paid him his hire; but he said, "I will take nothing," for fear of the lady, and returning to his shop, passed the night without sleep for hunger. Now the lady had told her husband how the case stood, and they had agreed to take advantage of his infatuation to make him sew for them for nothing and laugh at him. Next morning, as he sat in his shop, the servant came to him and said, "My master would speak with thee." So he accompanied her to the husband, who said to him, 'I wish thee to make me five cassocks." So he cut them out and took the stuff and went away. Then he sewed them and carried them to the man, who praised his work and offered him a purse of money. He put out his hand to take it, but the lady signed to him from behind her husband not to do so, and he replied, "O my lord, there is no hurry: by-and-by." Then he went out, more abject than an ass, for verily five things at once were sore upon him, love and beggary and hunger and nakedness and toil; nevertheless, he heartened himself with the hope of gaining the lady's favours. When he had made an end of all their work, they put a cheat upon him and married him to their slave-girl. but when he thought to go in to her, they said to him, "Lie this night in the mill; and to-morrow all will be well." My brother concluded that there was some good reason for this and passed the night alone in the mill. Now the husband had set on the miller to make my brother turn the mill; so in the middle of the night, the miller came in and began to say, "This ox is lazy and stands still and will not turn, and there is much wheat to be ground. So I will yoke him and make him finish grinding it this night, for the folk are impatient for their flour." Then he filled the hoppers with grain and going up to my brother, with a rope in his hand, bound him to the yoke and said to him, "Come, turn the mill! Thou thinkest of nothing but eating and voiding." Then he took a whip and laid on to my brother, who began to weep and cry out; but none came to his aid, and he was forced to grind the wheat till near daylight, when the husband came in and seeing him yoked to the shaft and the miller flogging him, went away. At daybreak the miller went away and left him still yoked and well nigh dead; and soon after in came the slave-girl, who unbound him and said to him, "I am grieved for what has befallen thee, and both I and my lady are full of concern for thee." But he had no tongue wherewith to answer her, for excess of beating and toil. Then he returned to his lodging, and presently the notary who had drawn up the marriage contract came to him and saluted him, saying, "God give thee long life! May thy marriage be blessed! Thou hast doubtless passed the night clipping and kissing and dalliance from dusk to dawn." "May God curse thee for a liar, thousandfold cuckold that thou art!" replied my brother. "By Allah, I did nothing but turn the mill in the place of the ox all night!" Quoth the notary, "Tell me thy story." So my brother told him what had happened, and he said, "Thy star agrees not with hers: but if thou wilt, I can alter the contract for thee." And my brother answered, "See if thou have another device." Then the notary left him and he sat down in his shop, till some one should bring him work by which he might earn his day's bread. Presently the slave-girl came to him and said, "My mistress would speak with thee." "Go, my good girl," replied he; "I will have no more to do with thy mistress." So the girl returned to her mistress and told her what my brother had said, and presently she put her head out of the window, weeping and saying, "O my beloved, why wilt thou have no more to do with me?" But he made her no answer. Then she swore to him that all that had befallen him in the mill was without her sanction and that she was guiltless of the whole affair. When he saw her beauty and grace and heard the sweetness of her speech, he forgot what had befallen him and accepted her excuse and rejoiced in her sight. So he saluted her and talked with her and sat at his sewing awhile, after which the servant came to him and said, "My mistress salutes thee and would have thee to know that her husband purposes to lie this night abroad with some intimate friends of his; so when he is gone, do thou come to us and pass the night with her in all delight till the morning." Now the man had said to his wile, "How shall we do to turn him away from thee?" Quoth she, "Let me play him another trick and make him a byword in the city." But my brother knew nothing of the malice of women. As soon as it was night, the servant came to him and carried him to the house; and when the lady saw him, she said to him, "By Allah, O my lord, I have been longing for thee!" "By Allah," replied he, "make haste and give me a kiss first of all." Hardly had he spoken, when the master of the house came in from an inner room and seized him, saying, "By Allah, I will not let thee go, till I deliver thee to the chief of the police." My brother humbled himself to him; but he would not listen to him and carried him to the prefect, who gave him a hundred lashes with a whip and mounting him on a camel, paraded him about the city, whilst the folk proclaimed aloud, "This is the punishment of those who violate people's harems!" Moreover, he fell off the camel and broke his leg and so became lame. Then the prefect banished him from the city and he went forth, not knowing whither to turn; but I heard of his mishap and going out after him, brought him back and took him to live with me.'
The Khalif laughed at my story and said, 'Thou hast done well, O Silent One, O man of few words!' and bade me take a present and go away. But I said, 'I will take nothing except I tell thee what befell my other brothers: and do not think me a man of many words. Know, 0 Commander of the Faithful, that
Story of the Barber's Second Brother.
My second brother's name was Becbac and he was the paralytic. One day, as he was going about his business, an old woman accosted him and said to him, "Harkye, stop a little, that I may tell thee of somewhat, which, if it please thee, thou shalt do for me." My brother stopped and she went on, "I will put thee in the way of a certain thing, so thy words be not many." "Say on," replied my brother; and she, "What sayest thou to a handsome house and a pleasant garden, with running waters and fruits and wine and a fair-faced one to hold in thine arms from dark till dawn?" "And is all this in the world?" asked my brother. "Yes," answered she; "and it shall be thine, so thou be reasonable and leave impertinent curiosity and many words and do as I bid thee." "I will well, O my lady," rejoined my brother; "but what made thee choose me of all men for this affair and what is it pleases thee in me?" Quoth she, "Did I not bid thee be sparing of speech? Hold thy peace and follow me. Thou must know that the young lady, to whom I shall carry thee, loves to have her own way and hates to be crossed, so if thou fall in with her humour, thou shalt come to thy desire of her." And my brother said, "I will not thwart her in aught." Then she went on and he followed her, eager to enjoy what she had promised him, till she brought him to a fine large house, richly furnished and full of servants, and carried him to an upper story. When the people of the house saw him, they said to him, "What dost thou here?" But the old woman bade them, "Let him be and trouble him not; for he is a workman and we have occasion for him." Then she brought him into a fine great gallery, with a fair garden in its midst, and made him sit down upon a handsome couch. He had not sat long, before he heard a great noise and in came a troop of damsels, with a lady in their midst, as she were the moon on the night of its full. When he saw her, he rose and made an obeisance to her; whereupon she bade him welcome and ordered him to be seated. So he sat down and she said to him. "God advance thee! Is all well with thee?" "O my lady," replied my brother, "all is well." Then she called for food, and they brought her a table richly served. So she sat down to eat, making a show of affection to my brother and jesting with him, though all the while she could not keep from laughing: but as often as he looked at her, she signed towards the waiting-maids, as if she laughed at them. My ass of a brother understood nothing, but concluded, in the blindness of his doting, that the lady was in love with him and would admit him to his desire. When they had finished eating, they set on wine, and there came in ten damsels like moons, with strung lutes in their hands, and fell a singing right melodiously; whereupon delight got hold upon him and he took the cup from the lady's hands and drank it off. Then she drank a cup of wine, and he rose and bowed to her, saying, "Health to thee!" She filled him another cup and he drank it off, and she gave him a cuff on the nape of his neck; whereupon he rose and went out in a rage; but the old woman followed him and winked to him to return. So he came back and the lady bade him sit, and he sat down without speaking. Then she dealt him a second cuff, and nothing would serve her but she must make all her maids cuff him also. Quoth he to the old woman, "Never saw I aught finer than this!" And she kept saying, "Enough, enough, I conjure thee, O my lady!" The women cuffed him till he was well-nigh senseless, and he rose and went out again in a rage; but the old woman followed him and said, "Wait a little, and thou shalt come to what thou wishest." "How much longer must I wait?" asked he. "Indeed I am faint with cuffing." "As soon as she is warm with wine," answered she, "thou shalt have thy desire." So he returned to his place and sat down, whereupon all the damsels rose and the lady bade them fumigate him and sprinkle rose-water on his face. Then said she to him, "God advance thee! Thou hast entered my house and submitted to my conditions; for whoso thwarts me, I turn him away, but he who is patient has his desire." "O my lady," replied he, "I am thy slave and in the hollow of thy hand." "Know then," continued she, "that God has made me passionately fond of frolic, and whoso falls in with my humour comes by what he wishes." Then she ordered the damsels to sing with loud voices, and they sang, till the whole company was in ecstasy: after which she said to one of the maids, "Take thy lord and do what is wanting to him and bring him back to me forthright." So the damsel took my brother, who knew not what she would do with him; but the old woman came up to him and said, "Be patient; there remains but little to do." At this his face cleared and he said, "Tell me what she would have the maid do with me." "Nothing but good," replied she, as I am thy ransom. She only wishes to dye thine eyebrows and pluck out thy moustaches." Quoth he, "As for the dyeing of my eyebrows, that will come off with washing, but the plucking out of my moustaches will be irksome." "Beware of crossing her," said the old woman; "for her heart is set on thee." So my brother suffered them to dye his eyebrows and pluck out his moustaches, after which the damsel returned to her mistress and told her. Quoth she, "There is one thing more to be done; thou must shave his chin, that he may be beardless." So the maid went back and told my brother what her mistress bade her do, whereupon cried my fool of a brother, "How can I do what will dishonour me among the folk?" But the old woman said, "She only wishes to do thus with thee, that thou mayst be as a beardless youth and that no hair may be left on thy face to prick her; for she is passionately in love with thee. Be patient and thou shalt attain thy desire." So he submitted to have his beard shaved off and his face rouged, after which they carried him back to the lady. When she saw him with his eyebrows dyed, his whiskers and moustaches plucked out, his beard shaved off and his face rouged, she was affrighted at him, then laughed till she fell backward and said, "O my lord, thou hast won my heart with thy good nature!" Then she conjured him, by her life, to rise and dance; so he began to dance, and there was not a cushion in the place but she threw it at him, whilst the damsels pelted him with oranges and limes and citrons, till he fell down senseless. When he came to himself, the old woman said to him, "Now thou hast attained thy desire. There is no more beating for thee and there remains but one thing more. It is her wont, when she is heated with wine, to let no one have to do with her till she put off her clothes and remain stark naked. Then she will bid thee strip, in like manner, and run before thee from place to place, as if she fled from thee, and thou after her, till thy yard be in good point, when she will stop and give herself up to thee. So now rise and put off thy clothes." So he rose, well-nigh beside himself, and stripped himself stark naked; whereupon the lady stripped also and saying to my brother, "Follow me, if thou desire aught," set off running in at one place and out at another and he after her, transported for desire, till his yard rose, as he were mad. Presently she entered a dark passage, and in following her, he trod upon a soft place, which gave way with him, and before he knew where he was, he found himself in the midst of the market of the fell-mongers, who were calling skins for sale and buying and selling. When they saw him in this plight, naked, with yard on end, shaven face, dyed eyebrows and rouged cheeks, they cried out and clapped their hands at him and flogged him with skins upon his naked body, till he swooned away; when they set him on an ass and carried him to the chief of the police, who said, "What is this?" Quoth they, "This fellow came out upon us from the Vizier's house, in this plight." So the prefect gave him a hundred lashes and banished him from Baghdad. However, I went out after him and brought him back privily into the city and made him an allowance for his living, though, but for my generous disposition, I had not put up with such a fellow.
Story of the Barber's Third Brother
The name of my third brother was Fekic and he was blind. One day, chance and destiny led him to a great house and he knocked at the door, desiring speech of the owner, that he might beg of him somewhat. Quoth the master of the house, "Who is at the door?" But my brother was silent and heard him repeat, in a loud voice, "Who is there?" Still he made no answer and presently heard the master come to the door and open it and say, "What dost thou want?" "Charity," replied my brother, "for the love of God the Most High!" "Art thou blind?" asked the man; and my brother said, "Yes." Quoth the other, "Give me thy hand." So my brother put out his hand, thinking that he would give him something; but he took it and drawing him into the house, carried him up, from stair to stair, till they reached the housetop, my brother thinking the while that he would surely give him food or money. Then said he to my brother, "What dost thou want, O blind man?" "Charity, for the love of God!" repeated my brother. "God succour thee!" (103) answered the master of the house. "O man," answered my brother, "why couldst thou not tell me this downstairs?" "O loser," answered he, "why didst thou not answer me, when I asked who was at the door?" Quoth my brother, "What wilt thou with me now?" And the other replied, "I have nothing to give thee." "Then take me down again," said my brother. But he answered, "The way lies before thee." So my brother rose and made his way down the stairs, till he came within twenty steps of the door, when his foot slipped and he rolled to the bottom and broke his head. Then he went out, knowing not whither to turn, and presently fell in with other two blind men, comrades of his, who enquired how he had fared that day. He told them what had passed and said to them, "O my brothers, I wish to take some of the money in my hands and provide my self with it." Now the master of the house had followed him and heard what they said, but neither my brother nor his fellows knew of this. So my brother went on to his lodging and sat down to await his comrades, and the owner of the house entered after him without his knowledge. When the other blind men arrived, my brother said to them, "Shut the door and search the house, lest any stranger have followed us." The intruder, hearing this, caught hold of a rope that hung from the ceiling and clung to it, whilst the blind men searched the whole place, but found nothing. So they came back and sitting down beside my brother, brought out their money, which they counted, and lo, it was twelve thousand dirhems. Each took what he wanted and the rest they buried in a corner of the room. Then they set on food and sat down to eat. Presently my brother heard a strange pair of jaws wagging at his side; so he said to his comrades, "There is a stranger amongst us;" and putting out his hand, caught hold of that of the intruder. Therewith they all fell on him and beat him, crying out, "O Muslims, a thief is come in to us, seeking to take our property!" So much people flocked to them, whereupon the owner of the house caught hold of the blind men and shutting his eyes, feigned to be blind like unto them, so that none doubted of it. Then he complained of them, even as they of him, crying out, "O Muslims, I appeal to God and the Sultan and the chief of the police! I have a grave matter to make known to the chief of the police." At this moment, up came the watch and seizing them all, dragged them before the chief of the police, who enquired what was the matter. Quoth the spy, "See here; thou shalt come at nought except by torture: so begin by beating me, and after me, beat this my captain." And he pointed to my brother. So they threw the man down and gave him four hundred strokes on the backside. The beating pained him, and he opened one eye; and as they redoubled their blows, he opened the other. When the chief of the police saw this, he said to him, "What is this, O accursed one?" "Give me the seal-ring of pardon!" replied he. "We are four who feign ourselves blind and impose upon people, that we may enter houses and gaze upon women and contrive for their corruption. In this way, we have gotten much money, even twelve thousand dirhems. So I said to my comrades, 'Give me my share, three thousand dirhems.' But they fell on me and beat me and took away my money, and I appeal to God and thee for protection; better thou have my share than they. So, an thou wouldst know the truth of my words, beat each of the others more than thou hast beaten me and he will surely open his eyes." The prefect bade begin with my brother: so they bound him to the whipping-post, (104) and the prefect said, "O rascals, do ye abjure the gracious gifts of God and pretend to be blind?" "Allah! Allah!" cried my brother, "by Allah, there is not one amongst us who can see!" Then they beat him, till he fainted and the prefect said, "Leave him till he revives and then beat him again." And he caused each of the others to be beaten with more than three hundred blows, whilst the sham blind man stood by, saying to them, "Open your eyes, or you will be beaten anew." Then he said to the prefect, "Send some one with me to fetch the money, for these fellows will not open their eyes, lest they be put to shame before the folk." So the prefect sent to fetch the money and gave the impostor three thousand dirhems to his pretended share. The rest he took for himself and banished the three blind men from the city. But, O Commander of the Faithful, I went out and overtaking my brother, questioned him of his case; whereupon he told me what I have told thee. So I carried him back privily into the city and appointed him in secret wherewithal to eat and drink.' The Khalif laughed at my story and said, 'Give him a present and let him go.' By Allah,' rejoined I, 'I will take nothing till I have made known to the Commander of the Faithful what happened to my other brothers, for I am a man of few words.' Then I went on as follows
Story of the Barber's Fourth Brother.
'My fourth brother, the one-eyed, was a butcher at Baghdad, who sold meat and reared rams; and the notables and men of wealth used to buy meat of him, so that he amassed much wealth and got him cattle and houses. He fared thus a long while' till one day, as he was sitting in his shop, there came up to him an old man with a long beard, who laid down some money and said, "Give me meat for this." So he gave him his money's worth of meat, and the old man went away. My brother looked at the money he had paid him, and seeing that it was brilliantly white, laid it aside by itself. The old man continued to pay him frequent visits for five months, and my brother threw the money he received from him into a chest by itself. At the end of this time, he thought to take out the money to buy sheep; so he opened the chest, but found in it nothing but white paper, cut round. When he saw this, he buffeted his face and cried out, till the folk came round him and he told them his story, at which they wondered. Then he rose, as of his wont, and slaughtering a ram, hung it up within the shop; after which he cut off some of the meat and hung it up outside, saying the while, "Would God that pestilent old man would come!" And surely before long up came the old man, with his money in his hand; whereupon my brother rose and caught hold of him, crying out, "Come to my help, O Muslims, and hear what befell me with this scoundrel!" When the old man heard this, he said to him, "An thou loose me not, I will expose thee before the folk!" "In what wilt thou expose me?" asked my brother, and the other replied, "In that thou sellest man's flesh for mutton." "Thou liest, O accursed one!" cried my brother: and the old man said, "He is the accursed one who has a man hanging up in his shop." "If it be as thou sayest," rejoined my brother, "I give thee leave to take my property and my life." Then said the old man, "Ho, people of the city! an ye would prove the truth of my words, enter this man's shop." So they rushed into the shop, when they saw the ram was become a dead man hanging up and seized on my brother, crying out, "O infidel! O villain!" And his best friends fell to beating him and saying, "Dost thou give us man's flesh to eat?" Moreover, the old man struck him on the eye and put it out. Then they carried the carcase to the chief of the police, to whom said the old man, "O Amir, this fellow slaughters men and sells their flesh for mutton, and we have brought him to thee; so arise and execute the justice of God, to whom belong might and majesty!" My brother would have defended himself, but the prefect refused to hear him and sentenced him to receive five hundred blows with a stick and to forfeit all his property. And indeed, but for his wealth, they had put him to death. Then he banished him from the city and my brother fared forth at a venture, till he came to a great city, where he thought well to set up as a cobbler. So he opened a shop and fell to working for his living. One day, as he went on an occasion, he heard the tramp of horse, and enquiring the cause, was told that the King was going out to hunt and stopped to look on his state. It chanced that the King's eye met his, whereupon he bowed his head, saying, "I take refuge with God from the evil of this day!" And drawing bridle, rode back to his palace, followed by his retinue. Then he gave an order to his guards, who seized my brother and beat him grievously, till he was well-nigh dead, without telling him the reason: after which he returned to his shop, in a sorry plight, and told one of the King's household, who laughed till he fell backward and said to him, "O my brother, know that the King cannot endure the sight of a one-eyed man; especially if he be blind of the left eye, in which case, he does not let him go without killing him." When my brother heard this, he resolved to fly that city, so went forth and repaired to another country, where he was known of none. Here he abode a long while, till one day, being heavy at heart for what had befallen him, he went out to divert himself. As he was walking along, he heard the tramp of horse behind him; whereupon he exclaimed, "The judgment of God is upon me!" and looked out for a hiding-place, but found none. At last he saw a closed door, and pushing against it, it yielded and he found himself in a long corridor, in which he took refuge. Hardly had he done so, when two men laid hold of him, exclaiming, "Praise be to God, who hath delivered thee into our hands, O enemy of Allah! These three nights thou hast bereft us of sleep and given us no peace and made us taste the agonies of death!" "O folk," said my brother, "what ails you?" And they answered, "Thou givest us the change and goest about to dishonour us and to murder the master of the house! Is it not enough that thou hast brought him to beggary, thou and thy comrades? But give us up the knife, wherewith thou threatenest us every night." Then they searched him and found in his girdle the knife he used to cut leather; and he said, "O folk, have the fear of God before your eyes and maltreat me not, for know that my story is a strange one." "What is thy story?" asked they. So he told them what had befallen him, hoping that they would let him go; however, they paid no heed to what he said, but beat him and tore off his clothes, and finding on his sides the marks of beating with rods, said, "O accursed one, these scars bear witness to thy guilt!" Then they carried him to the chief of the police, whilst he said to himself, "I am undone for my sins and none can save me but God the Most High!" The prefect said to him, "O villain, what made thee enter their house with murderous intent?" "O Amir," replied my brother, "I conjure thee by Allah, hear my words and hasten not to condemn me!" But the two men said to the prefect, "Wilt thou listen to a robber, who beggars the folk and has the scars of beating on his back?" When the Amir saw the scars on my brother's sides, he said to him, "They had not done this to thee, save for some great crime." And he sentenced him to receive a hundred lashes. So they flogged him and mounting him on a camel, paraded him about the city, crying out, "This is the reward and the least of the reward of those who break into people's houses!" Then they thrust him forth the city, and he wandered at random, till I heard what had befallen him and going in search of him, questioned him of his case. So he told me all that passed and I carried him back privily to Baghdad, where I made him an allowance for his living.
Story of the Barber's Fifth Brother.
My fifth brother, he of the cropt ears, O Commander of the Faithful, was a poor man, who used to ask alms by night and live by day on what he got thus. Now, our father, who was an old man, far advanced in years, fell sick and died, leaving us seven hundred dirhems. So we took each of us a hundred; but when my brother received his share, he was at a loss to know what to do with it, till he bethought him to buy glass of all sorts and sell it at a profit. So he bought a hundred dirhems' worth of glass and putting it in a great basket, sat down, to sell it, on a raised bench, at the foot of a wall, against which he leant his back. As he sat, with the basket before him: be fell to musing in himself and said, "I have laid out a hundred dirhems on this glass and I will sell it for two hundred, with which I will buy other glass and sell it for four hundred; nor will I cease to buy and sell thus, till I have gotten much wealth. With this I will buy all kinds of merchandise and jewels and perfumes and gain great profit on them, till, God willing, I will make my capital a hundred thousand dirhems. Then I will buy a handsome house, together with slaves and horses and trappings of gold, and eat and drink, nor will I leave a singing-man or woman in the city but I will have them to sing to me. As soon as I have amassed a hundred thousand dirhems, (105) I will send out marriage-brokers to demand for me in marriage the daughters of kings and viziers; and I will seek the hand of the Vizier's daughter, for I hear that she is perfect in beauty and of surpassing grace. I will give her a dowry of a thousand dinars, and if her father consent, well; if not, I will take her by force, in spite of him. When I return home, I will buy ten little eunuchs and clothes for myself such as are worn by kings and sultans and get me a saddle of gold, set thick with jewels of price. Then I will mount and parade the city, with slaves before and behind me, whilst the folk salute me and call down blessings upon me: after which I will repair to the Vizier, the girl's father, with slaves behind and before me, as well as on my either hand. When he sees me, he will rise and seating me in his own place, sit down below me, for that I am his son-in-law. Now I will have with me two eunuchs with purses, in each a thousand dinars, and I will deliver him the thousand dinars of the dowry and make him a present of other thousand, that he may have cause to know my nobility and generosity and greatness of mind and the littleness of the world in my eyes; and for ten words he proffers me, I will answer him two. Then I will return to my house, and if one come to me on the bride's part, I will make him a present of money and clothe him in a robe of honour; but if he bring me a present, I will return it to him and will not accept it, that they may know that I am great of soul. Then I will command them to bring her to me in state and will order my house fittingly in the meantime. When the time of the unveiling is come, I will don my richest clothes and sit down on a couch of brocaded silk, leaning on a cushion and turning neither to the right nor to the left, for the haughtiness of my mind and the gravity of my understanding. My wife shall stand before me like the full moon, in her robes and ornaments, and I, of my pride and my disdain, will not look at her, till all who are present shall say to me, 'O my lord, thy wife and thy handmaid stands before thee: deign to look upon her! for standing is irksome to her.' And they will kiss the earth before me many times, whereupon I will lift my eyes and give one glance at her, then bend down my head again. Then they will carry her to the bride-chamber, and meanwhile I will rise and change my clothes for a richer suit. When they bring in the bride for the second time, I will not look at her till they have implored me several times, when I will glance at her and bow down my head; nor will I leave to do thus, till they have made an end of displaying her, when I will order one of my eunuchs to fetch a purse of five hundred dinars and giving it to the tire-women, command them to lead me to the bride-chamber. When they leave me alone with the bride, I will not look at her or speak to her, but will lie by her with averted face, that she may say I am high of soul. Presently her mother will come to me and kiss my head and hands and say to me, 'O my lord, look on thy handmaid, for she longs for thy favour, and heal her spirit. But I will give her no answer; and when she sees this, she will come and kiss my feet repeatedly and say, 'O my lord, verily my daughter is a beautiful girl, who has never seen man; and if thou show her this aversion, her heart will break; so do thou incline to her and speak to her.' Then she will rise and fetch a cup of wine, and her daughter will take it and come to me; but I will leave her standing before me, whilst I recline upon a cushion of cloth of gold, and will not look at her for the haughtiness of my heart, so that she will think me to be a Sultan of exceeding dignity and will say to me, 'O my lord, for God's sake, do not refuse to take the cup from thy servant's hand, for indeed I am thy handmaid.' But I will not speak to her, and she will press me, saying, 'Needs must thou drink it,' and put it to my lips. Then I will shake my fist in her face and spurn her with my foot thus." So saying, he gave a kick with his foot and knocked over the basket of glass, which fell to the ground, and all that was in it was broken. "All this comes of my pride!" cried he, and fell to buffeting his face and tearing his clothes and weeping. The folk who were going to the Friday prayers saw him, and some of them looked at him and pitied him, whilst others paid no heed to him, and in this way my brother lost both capital and profit. Presently there came up a beautiful lady, on her way to the Friday prayers, riding on a mule with a saddle of gold and attended by a number of servants and filling the air with the scent of musk, as she passed along. When she saw the broken glass and my brother weeping, she was moved to pity for him; so she asked what ailed him and was told that he had a basket full of glass, by the sale of which he thought to make his living, but it was broken, and this was the cause of his distress. So she called one of her attendants and said to him, "Give this poor man what is with thee." And he gave my brother a purse in which he found five hundred dinars, whereupon he was like to die for excess of joy and called down blessings on her. Then he returned to his house, a rich man; and as he sat considering, some one knocked at the door. So he rose and opened and saw an old woman whom he knew not. "O my son," said she, "the time of prayer is at hand, and I have not yet made the ablution; so I beg thee to let me do so in thy house." "I hear and obey," replied he, and bade her come in. So she entered and he brought her an ewer, wherewith to wash, and sat down, beside himself for joy in the dinars When she had made an end of her ablutions, she came up to where he sat and prayed a two-bow prayer, after which she offered up a goodly prayer my brother, who thanked her and putting his hand to the bag of money, gave her two dinars, saying in himself, "This is an alms from me." "Glory to God!" exclaimed she. "Why dost thou look on one, who loves thee, as if she were a beggar? Put up thy money! I have no need of it; or if thou want it not, return it to her who gave it thee, when thy glass was broken." "O my mother," asked he, "how shall I do to come at her?" "O my son," replied she, "she hath an inclination for thee, but she is the wife of a wealthy man of the city; so take all thy money with thee and follow me, that I may guide thee to thy desire: and when thou art in company with her, spare neither fair words nor persuasion, and thou shalt enjoy her beauty and her wealth to thy heart's content." So my brother took all his money and rose and followed the old woman, hardly believing in his good fortune. She led him on till they came to the door of a great house, at which she knocked, and a Greek slave-girl came out and opened to them. Then the old woman took my brother and brought him into a great saloon, spread with magnificent carpets and hung with curtains, where he sat down, with his money before him and his turban on his knee. Presently in came a young lady richly dressed, never saw eyes handsomer than she; whereupon my brother rose to his feet, but she smiled upon him and welcoming him, signed to him to be seated. Then she bade shut the door and taking my brother by the hand, led him to a private chamber, furnished with various kinds of brocaded silk. Here he sat down and she seated herself by his side and toyed with him awhile; after which she rose and saying, "Do not stir till I come back," went away. After awhile, in came a great black slave, with a drawn sword in his hand, who said to him, "Woe to thee! who brought thee hither and what dost thou want?" My brother could make no answer, being tongue-tied for fear; so the black seized him and stripping him of his clothes, beat him with the flat of his sword till he swooned away. Then the pestilent black concluded that he was dead, and my brother heard him say, "Where is the salt-wench?" Whereupon in came a slave-girl, with a great dish of salt, and the black strewed salt upon my brother's wounds; but he did not stir, lest he should know that he was alive and finish him. Then the salt-girl went away and the black cried out, "Where is the cellaress?" With this in came the old woman, and taking my brother by the feet, dragged him to an underground vault, where she threw him down upon a heap of dead bodies. There he remained two whole days, but God made the salt the means of saving his life, for it stayed the flow of blood. Presently, he found himself strong enough to move; so he rose and opening the trap-door, crept out fearfully; and God protected him, so that he went on in the darkness and hid himself in the vestibule till the morning, when he saw the cursed old woman sally forth in quest of other prey. So he went out after her, without her knowledge, and made for his own house, where he dressed his wounds and tended himself till he was whole. Meanwhile he kept a watch upon the old woman and saw her accost one man after another and carry them to the house. However, he said nothing; but as soon as he regained health and strength, he took a piece of stuff and made it into a bag, which he filled with broken glass and tied to his middle. Then he disguised himself in the habit of a foreigner, that none might know him, and hid a sword under his clothes. Then he went out and presently falling in with the old woman, accosted her and said to her, with a foreign accent, "O dame, I am a stranger, but this day arrived here, and know no one. Hast thou a pair of scales wherein I may weigh nine hundred dinars? I will give thee somewhat of the money for thy pains." "I have a son, a moneychanger," replied she, "who has all kinds of scales; so come with me to him, before he goes out, and he will weigh thy gold for thee." And he said, "Lead the way." So she led him to the house and knocked at the door; and the young lady herself came out and opened it; whereupon the old woman smiled in her face, saying, "I bring thee fat meat to-day." Then the damsel took him by the hand and carrying him to the same chamber as before, sat with him awhile, then rose and went out, bidding him stir not till she came back. Ere long in came the villainous black, with his sword drawn, and said to my brother, "Rise, O accursed one!" So he rose and as the slave went on before him, he drew the sword from under his clothes and smiting him with it, made his head fly from his body; after which he dragged the corpse by the feet to the vault and cried out, "Where is the salt-wench?" Up came the girl with the dish of salt, and seeing my brother sword in hand, turned to fly; but he followed her and smote her and struck off her head. Then he called out, "Where is the cellaress?" And in came the old woman, to whom said he, "Dost thou know me, O pestilent old woman?" "No, my lord," replied she; and he said, "I am he of the five hundred dinars, to whose house thou camest to make the ablution and pray, and whom thou didst after lure hither." "Fear God and spare me!" exclaimed she. But he paid no heed to her and striking her with the sword, cut her in four. Then he went in search of the young lady; and when she saw him, her reason fled and she called out for mercy. So he spared her and said to her, "How camest thou to consort with this black?" Quoth she, "I was slave to a certain merchant and the old woman used to visit me, till I became familiar with her. One day she said to me, 'We have to-day a wedding at our house, the like of which was never beheld, and I wish thee to see it.' 'I hear and obey,' answered I, and rising, donned my handsomest clothes and jewellery and took with me a purse containing a hundred dinars. Then she brought me hither, and hardly had I entered the house, when the black seized on me, and I have remained in this case these three years, through the perfidy of the accursed old woman." Then said my brother, "Is there aught of his in the house?" "He had great store of wealth," replied she: "and if thou canst carry it away, do so, and may God prosper it to thee!" Then she opened to him several chests full of purses, at which he was confounded, and said to him, "Go now and leave me here and fetch men to carry off the money." So he went out and hired ten men, but, when he returned, he found the door open and the damsel gone, and nothing left but a little of the money and the household stuff. By this, he knew that she had cheated him; so he opened the closets and took what was in them, together with the rest of the money, leaving nothing in the house, and passed the night in all content. When he arose in the morning, he found at the door a score of troopers, who seized him, saying, "The chief of the police seeks for thee." My brother implored them to let him return to his house, but they would grant him no delay, though he offered them a large sum of money, and binding him fast with cords, carried him off. On the way, there met them a friend of my brother, who clung to his skirts and implored him to stop and help to deliver him from their hands. So he stopped and enquired what was the matter; to which they replied, "The chief of the police has ordered us to bring this man before him, and we are doing so." The man interceded with them and offered them five hundred dinars to let my brother go, saying, "Tell the magistrate that ye could not find him." But they refused and dragged him before the prefect, who said to him, "Whence hadst thou these stuffs and money?" Quoth my brother, "Grant me indemnity." So the magistrate gave him the handkerchief of pardon, and he told him all that had befallen him, from first to last, including the flight of the damsel, adding, "Take what thou wilt, so thou leave me enough to live on." But the prefect took the whole of the stuff and money for himself and fearing lest the affair should reach the Sultan's ears, said to my brother, "Depart from this city, or I will hang thee." "I hear and obey," replied my brother, and set out for another town. On the way thieves fell on him and stripped him and beat him and cut off his ears. But I heard of his misfortunes and went out after him, taking him clothes, and brought him back privily to the city, where I made him an allowance for meat and drink.
Story of the Barber's Sixth Brother
My sixth brother, he of the cropt lips, O Commander of the Faithful, was once rich, but after became poor. One day he went out to seek somewhat to keep life in him and came presently to a handsome house, with a wide and lofty portico and servants and others at the door, ordering and forbidding. My brother enquired of one of those standing there and he told him that the house belonged to one of the Barmecide family. So he accosted the door-keepers and begged an alms of them. "Enter," said they, "and thou shalt get what thou seekest of our master." Accordingly, he entered and passing through the vestibule, found himself in a mansion of the utmost beauty and elegance, paved with marble and hung with curtains and having in the midst a garden whose like he had never seen. He stood awhile perplexed, knowing not whither to direct his steps: then seeing the door of a sitting-chamber, he entered and saw at the upper end a man of comely presence and goodly beard. When the latter saw my brother, he rose and welcomed him and enquired how he did; to which he replied that he was in need of charity. Whereupon the other showed great concern and putting his hand to his clothes, rent them, exclaiming, "Art thou hungry in a city of which I am an inhabitant? I cannot endure this!" and promised him all manner of good. Then said he, "Thou must eat with me." "O my lord," replied my brother, "I can wait no longer; for I am sore an hungred." So, the Barmecide cried out, "Ho, boy! bring the ewer and the basin!" and said to my brother, "O my guest, come forward and wash thy hands." My brother rose to do so, but saw neither ewer nor basin. However, the host made as if he were washing his hands and cried out, "Bring the table." But my brother saw nothing. Then said the Barmecide, "Honour me by eating of this food and be not ashamed." And he made as if he ate, saying the while, "Thou eatest but little: do not stint thyself, for I know thou art famished." So my brother began to make as if he ate, whilst the other said to him, "Eat and note the excellence of this bread and its whiteness." My brother could see nothing and said to himself, "This man loves to jest with the folk." So he replied, "O my lord, never in my life have I seen whiter or more delicious bread." And the host said, "I gave five hundred dinars for the slave-girl who bakes it for me." Then he called out, "Ho, boy! bring the frumenty first and do not spare butter on it." And turning to my brother, "O my guest," said he, "sawst thou ever aught better than this frumenty? Eat, I conjure thee, and be not ashamed!" Then he cried out again, "Ho, boy! bring in the pasty with the fatted grouse in it." And he said to my brother, "Eat, O my guest, for thou art hungry and needest it." So my brother began to move his jaws and make as if he chewed; whilst the other ceased not to call for dish after dish and press my brother to eat, though not a thing appeared. Presently, he cried out, "Ho, boy I bring us the chickens stuffed with pistachio-kernels!" And said to my brother, "These chickens have been fattened on pistachio-nuts; eat, for thou hast never tasted the like of them." "O my lord," replied my brother, "they are indeed excellent." Then the host feigned to put his hand to my brother's mouth, as if to feed him, and ceased not to name various dishes and expatiate upon their excellence. Meanwhile my brother was starving, and hunger was so sore on him that his soul lusted for a cake of barley bread. Quoth the Barmecide, "Didst thou ever taste aught more delicious than the seasoning of these dishes?" "Never, O my lord," replied my brother. "Eat heartily and be not ashamed," repeated the host. "O my lord," said my brother, "I have had enough of meat." So the Barmecide cried out, "Take away and bring the sweetmeats." Then he said, "Eat of this almond conserve, for it is excellent, and of these fritters. My life on thee, take this one before the syrup runs out of it!" "May I never be bereaved of thee, O my lord!" replied my brother, and asked him of the abundance of musk in the fritters. "It is my custom," said the other, "to have three pennyweights of musk and half that quantity of ambergris put into each fritter." All this time my brother was wagging his jaws and moving his head and mouth, till the host said, "Enough of this! Bring us the dessert." Then said he to him, "Eat of these almonds and walnuts and raisins and of this and that," naming different kinds of dried fruits, "and be not ashamed." "O my lord," answered my brother, "indeed I am full: I can eat no more." "O my guest," repeated the other, "if thou have a mind to eat more, for God's sake do not remain hungry!" "O my lord," replied my brother, "how should one who has eaten of all these dishes be hungry?" Then he considered and said to himself "I will do that which shall make him repent of having acted thus." Presently the host called out, "Bring me the wine," and making as if it had come, feigned to give my brother to drink, saying, "Take this cup, and if it please thee, let me know." "O my lord," replied he, "it has a pleasant smell, but I am used to drink old wine twenty years of age." "Then knock at this door," (106) said his host; "for thou canst not drink of aught better." "O my lord, this is of thy bounty!" replied my brother and made as if he drank. "Health and pleasure to thee!" exclaimed the host, and feigned, in like wise, to fill a cup and drink it off and hand a second cup to my brother, who pretended to drink and made as if he were drunken. Then he took the Barmecide unawares and raising his arm, till the whiteness of his arm-pit appeared, dealt him such a buffet on the neck that the place rang to it. Then he gave him a second cuff and the host exclaimed, "What is this, O vile fellow?" "O my lord," replied my brother "thou hast graciously admitted thy slave into thine abode and fed him with thy victual and plied him with old wine, till he became drunk and dealt unmannerly by thee; but thou art too noble not to bear with his ignorance and pardon his offence." When the Barmecide heard my brother's words, he laughed heartily and exclaimed, "Long have I used to make mock of men and play the fool with those who are apt at jesting and horse-play; but never have I come across any, who had patience and wit to enter into all my humours, but thee; so I pardon thee, and now thou shalt be my boon companion, in very deed, and never leave me." Then he bade his servants lay the table in good earnest, and they set on all the dishes of which he had spoken, and he and my brother ate till they were satisfied, after which they removed to the drinking-chamber, where they found damsels like moons, who sang all manner of songs and played on all kinds of musical instruments. There they remained, drinking, till drunkenness overcame them, and the host used my brother as a familiar friend, so that he became as it were his brother, and bestowed on him a dress of honour and loved him with an exceeding love. Next morning, they fell again to feasting and carousing, and ceased not to lead this life for twenty years, at the end of which time the Barmecide died and the Sultan laid hands on all his property and squeezed my brother, till he stripped him of all he had. So he left the city and fled forth at random, but the Arabs fell on him midway and taking him prisoner, carried him to their camp, where the Bedouin, his captor, tortured him, saying, "Ransom thyself with money, or I will kill thee." My brother fell a-weeping and replied, "By Allah, I have nought! I am thy prisoner; do with me as thou wilt." Thereupon the Bedouin took out a knife and cut off my brother's lips, still urging his demand. Now this Bedouin had a handsome wife, who used to make advances to my brother, in her husband's absence, and offer him her favours, but he held off from her. One day, she began to tempt him as usual, and he toyed with her and took her on his knee, when lo, in came the Bedouin, and seeing this, cried out, "Woe to thee, thou villain! Wouldst thou debauch my wife?" Then he took out a knife and cut off my brother's yard, after which he set him on a camel and carried him to a mountain, where he threw him down and left him. Here he was found by some travellers, who recognized him and gave him meat and drink and acquainted me with his plight, whereupon I went forth to him and brought him back to Baghdad, where I provided him with enough to live on. This then, O Commander of the Faithful, is the history of my brothers, and I was unwilling to go away without relating it to thee, that I might disabuse thee of thine error in confounding me with them. And now thou knowest that I have six brothers and support them all.' When the Khalif heard my words, he laughed and said, 'Thou sayst sooth, O Silent One! Thou art neither a man of many words nor an impertinent meddler; but now go out from this city and settle in another.' And he banished me from the city; so I left Baghdad and travelled in foreign countries, till I heard of his death and the coming of another to the Khalifate. Then I returned to Baghdad, where I found my brothers dead and fell in with this young man, to whom I rendered the best of services, for without me he had been killed. Indeed he accuses me of what is foreign to my nature and what he relates of my impertinence is false; for verily I left Baghdad on his account and wandered in many countries, till I came to this city and happened on him with you; and was not this, O good people, of the generosity of my nature?"
When we heard the barber's story (continued the tailor) and saw the abundance of his speech and the way in which he had oppressed the young man, we laid hands on him and shut him up, after which we sat down in peace and ate and drank till the time of the call to afternoon-prayer, when I left the company and returned home. My wife was sulky and said to me, "Thou hast taken thy pleasure all day, whilst I have been moping at home. So now, except thou carry me abroad and amuse me for the rest of the day, it will be the cause of my separation from thee." So I took her out and we amused ourselves till nightfall, when we returned home and met the hunchback, brimming over with drunkenness and repeating the following verses:The glass is pellucid, and so is the wine: So bring them together and see them combine:
So I invited him to pass the evening with us and went out to buy fried fish, after which we sat down to eat. Presently my wife took a piece of bread and fish and crammed them into his mouth, and he choked and died. Then I took him up and made shift to throw him into the house of the Jewish physician. He in his turn let him down into the house of the controller, who threw him in the way of the Christian broker. This, then, is my story. Is it not more wonderful than that of the hunchback?'
When the King heard the tailor's story, he shook his head for delight and showed astonishment, saying, 'This that passed between the young man and the meddlesome barber is indeed more pleasant and more wonderful than the story of that knave of a hunchback.' Then he bade the tailor take one of the chamberlains and fetch the barber out of his duresse, saying, 'Bring him to me, that I may hear his talk, and it shall be the means of the release of all of you. Then we will bury the hunchback, for he is dead since yesterday, and set up a tomb over him.' So the chamberlain and the tailor went away and presently returned with the barber. The King looked at him and behold, he was a very old man, more than ninety years of age, of a swarthy complexion and white beard and eyebrows, flap-eared, long-nosed and simple and conceited of aspect. The King laughed at his appearance and said to him, 'O silent man, I desire thee to tell me somewhat of thy history.' 'O King of the age,' replied the barber, 'why are all these men and this dead hunchback before thee?' Said the King, 'Why dost thou ask?' 'I ask this,' rejoined the barber, 'that your Majesty may know that I am no impertinent meddler and that I am guiltless of that they lay to my charge of overmuch talk; for I am called the Silent, and indeed I am the man of my name, as says the poet:Thine eyes shall seldom see a man that doth a nickname bear, But, if thou search, thou'lt find the name his nature doth declare.
So the King said, 'Explain the hunchback's case to him and repeat to him the stories told by the physician, the controller, the broker and the tailor.' They did as he commanded, and the barber shook his head and exclaimed, 'By Allah, this is indeed a wonder of wonders!' Then said he, 'Uncover the hunchback's body, that I may see it.' They did so, and he sat down and taking the hunchback's head in his lap, looked at his face and laughed till he fell backward. Then said he, 'To every death there is a cause; but the story of this hunchback deserves to be recorded in letters of gold!" The bystanders were astounded at his words and the King wondered and said to him, 'O silent man, explain thy words to us.' 'O King of the age,' replied the barber, 'by thy munificence, there is yet life in this hunchback.' Then he pulled out from his girdle a barber's budget, whence he took a pot of ointment and anointed therewith the neck of the hunchback and its veins. Then he took out a pair of tweezers and thrusting them down the hunchback's throat, drew out the piece of fish and its bone, soaked in blood. Thereupon the hunchback sneezed and sat up, and passing his hand over his face, exclaimed, 'I testify that there is no god but God and that Mohammed is His Apostle!' At this all present wondered and the King laughed, till he fainted, and so did the others. Then said the King, 'By Allah, this is the most wonderful thing I ever saw! O Muslims, O soldiers all, did you ever in your lives see a man die and come to life again? For verily, had not God vouchsafed him this barber to be the cause of his preservation, he had been dead!' 'By Allah,' said they, 'this is a wonder of wonders!' Then the King caused the whole history to be recorded and laid up in the royal treasury; after which he bestowed splendid dresses of honour on the Jew, the broker and the controller and sent them away. Then he gave the tailor a costly dress of honour and appointed him his own tailor, with a suitable stipend, and made peace between him and the hunchback, on whom he also bestowed a rich and fair dress of honour and made him his boon-companion, appointing him due allowances. As for the barber, he made him a like present and appointed him state barber and one of his boon-companions, assigning him regular allowances and a fixed salary. And they all ceased not from the enjoyment of all the delights and comforts of life, till there overtook them the Destroyer of delights and the Sunderer of companies.