ABOUKIR THE DYER AND ABOUSIR THE BARBER.
There dwelt once, in the city of Alexandria, two men, one of whom was a dyer, by name Aboukir; and the other a barber called Abousir; and they were neighbours in the market, where their shops were side by side. The dyer was a swindler and a liar, an exceeding wicked man, as if indeed his temples were hewn out of the rock or fashioned of the threshold of a Jewish synagogue, nor was he ashamed of any knavery he wrought amongst the folk. It was his wont, when any brought him stuffs to dye, to require of him present payment, on pretence of buying dyestuffs withal. So the man would give him the hire in advance and go away, and he would spend it on meat and drink; after which he would sell the stuff itself and spend its price in eating and drinking and what not else, for he ate not but of the choicest and most delicate meats nor drank but of the best of that which doth away the wit.
When the owner of the stuff came to him, he would say to him, 'Come to me to-morrow before sunrise and thou shalt find thy stuff dyed.' So the man would go away, saying in himself, 'One day is near another,' and return next day at the appointed time, when the dyer would say to him, 'Come to-morrow; yesterday I was not at work, for I had with me guests and was occupied with their service till they went: but come to-morrow before sunrise and take thy stuff dyed.' So he would go away and return on the third day, when Aboukir would say to him, 'Indeed yesterday I was excusable, for my wife was brought to bed in the night and all day I was busy with one thing and another; but to-morrow, without fail, come and take thy stuff dyed.'
When the man came again at the appointed time, he would put him off with some other tale, it mattered little what, and would swear to him; nor would he cease to promise and swear to him, as often as he came, till the customer lost patience and said, 'How often wilt thou say to me, "To-morrow?" Give me my stuff: I will not have it dyed.' Whereupon the dyer would make answer, 'By Allah, O my brother, I am abashed at thee; but I will tell the truth and may God harm all who do folk hurt in their goods!' The other would say, 'Tell me what hath happened;' and Aboukir would answer, 'Indeed I dyed thy stuff on matchless wise and hung it on the rope [to dry;] but it was stolen and I know not who took it.' If the owner of the stuff were a good-natured man, he would say, 'God will recoup me;' and if he were ill-conditioned, he would pursue him with exposure and insult, but would get nothing of him, though he complained of him to the judge.
He ceased not to do thus till his report was noised abroad among the folk and they used to warn one another against him and he became a byword amongst them. So they all held aloof from him and none had to do with him save those who knew not his character; but, for all this, he failed not daily to suffer insult and disgrace from God's creatures. By reason of this his trade became slack and he used to go to the shop of his neighbour the barber and sit there, with his eyes on the door of the dyery. Whenever he espied any one who knew him not standing at the dyery-door, with a piece of stuff in his hand, he would go up to him and say, 'What seekest thou, O man?' And the man would answer, 'Take and dye me this thing.' So the dyer would say, 'What colour wilt thou have it?' For, with all his knavery, he could dye all manner of colours; but he never kept faith with any one; so poverty had gotten the better of him. Then he would take the stuff and say, 'Give me my hire in advance and come to-morrow and take the stuff.' So the stranger would give him the money and go his way; whereupon Aboukir would carry the stuff to the market and sell it and buy meat and vegetables and tobacco and fruit and what not else he needed with the price; but, whenever he saw any one who had given him stuff to dye standing at the door of his shop, he would not show himself to him.
On this wise he abode years and years, till it chanced one day that he received stuff to dye from a masterful man and sold it and spent the price. The owner came to him every day, but found him not in his shop; for, whenever he espied any one who had a claim against him, he would flee from him into the shop of the barber Abousir. At last, the angry man, finding that he was not to be seen and growing weary of coming, repaired to the Cadi and bringing one of the latter's serjeants to the shop, nailed up the door, in presence of a number of Muslims, and sealed it, for that he found therein nothing but some broken pans, to stand him instead of his stuff; after which the serjeant took the key, saying to the neighbours, 'Tell him to bring back this man's goods and take the key of his shop,' and went his way, he and the man.
Then said Abousir to Aboukir, 'What aileth thee? Whoever brings thee aught, thou losest it for him. What is gone of this angry man's stuff?' 'O my neighbour,' answered the dyer, 'it was stolen from me.' 'Wonderful!' exclaimed the barber. 'Whenever any one gives thee aught, a thief steals it from thee! Art thou then the resort of the whole college of thieves? But I doubt me thou liest: so tell me the truth.' 'O my neighbour,' replied Aboukir, 'none hath stolen aught from me.' 'What then dost thou with the people's goods?' asked Abousir. And the dyer said, 'Whenever any one giveth me aught to dye, I sell it and spend the price.' Quoth Abousir, 'is this permitted thee of God?' 'I only do this out of poverty,' answered Aboukir, 'because trade is dull with me and I am poor and have nothing.' And he went on to complain to him of the slackness of his trade and his lack of means.
Abousir in like manner lamented the slackness of his own trade, saying, 'I am a master of my craft and have not my equal in this city; but no one is shaved at my shop, because I am a poor man; and I loathe this craft, O my brother.' 'And I also,' answered Aboukir, 'loathe my own craft, by reason of its slackness; but, O my brother, what call is there for our abiding in this city? Let us depart from it and divert ourselves with foreign travel, carrying our crafts in our hands, the which are in demand in all countries; so shall we breathe the air and be rid of this grievous trouble.' And he ceased not to commend travel to Abousir, till the latter became wishful to set out, whereat Aboukir rejoiced and recited the following verses:Forsake thy native land, it thou advancement seek, and hie Abroad for five advantages in foreign travel lie.
Then they agreed to travel together and Aboukir said to Abousir, 'O my neighbour, we are become brethren and there is no difference between us, so it behoves us to recite the first chapter of the Koran [in token of agreement] that he of us who gets work shall of his profit feed him who is out of work, and whatever is left, we will lay in a chest; and when we come back to Alexandria we will divide it fairly and equally.' 'So be it,' answered Abousir, and they repeated the first chapter of the Koran on this understanding. Then Ahousir locked up his shop and gave the keys to the landlord, whilst Aboukir left his shop locked and sealed and let the key lie with the Cadi's serjeant; after which they took their gear and embarked on the morrow in a galleon upon the salt sea. They set sail the same day and fortune attended them, for, of Abousir's great good luck, of all that were in the ship (and there were therein an hundred and twenty men, besides the captain and the crew,) there was not a single barber. So, when they spread the sails, the barber said to the dyer, 'O my brother, this is the sea and we shall need meat and drink, and we have but little victual with us and it may be the voyage will be long upon us; wherefore methinks I will shoulder my gear and pass among the passengers, and belike some one will say to me, "Come hither, O barber, and shave me," and I will shave him for a cake of bread or a para or a draught of water: so shall we both profit by this.'
'There is no harm in that,' replied the dyer and laid down his head and slept, whilst the barber took his razor and shaving-tackle and throwing over his shoulder a rag, to serve as napkin (for that he was poor), passed among the passengers. Quoth one of them, 'Ho, master, come and shave me.' So he shaved him, and the man gave him a para. 'O my brother,' said Ahousir, 'I have no use for this para; hadst thou given me a cake of bread, it were more blessed to me in this sea, for I have a shipmate and we are short of victual.' So he gave him a cake of bread and a piece of cheese and filled him the basin with sweet water. The barber carried all this to Aboukir and bade him eat the bread and cheese and drink the water. So he ate and drank, whilst Abousir again took up his shaving-gear and went round about the deck among the passengers. One man he shaved for two cakes of bread and another for a piece of cheese, and he was in demand, because there was no other barber on board. So he bargained with every one who said to him, 'Ho, master, shave me!' for two cakes of bread and a para, and they gave him whatever he sought, so that, by sundown, he had gotten thirty cakes of bread and thirty paras, besides store of cheese and olives and botargoes.
Amongst the rest he shaved the captain, to whom he complained of his lack of victual for the voyage, and the captain said to him, 'Have no care for that, so long as ye sail with us; for thou art welcome to bring thy comrade every night and sup with me.' Then he returned to the dyer, whom he found still asleep; so he aroused him; and when Aboukir awoke, he found at his head bread and cheese and olives and botargoes galore and said, 'Whence gottest thou all this?' 'From the bounty of God the Most High,' replied Abousir. Then Aboukir would have eaten; but the barber said to him, 'Eat not of this, O my brother; but leave it to serve us another time; for know that I shaved the captain and complained to him of our lack of victual: whereupon quoth he, "Bring thy comrade and sup both of ye with me every night and welcome. And this night we sup with him for the first time.' But Aboukir replied, 'I am sea-sick and cannot rise from my place; so let me sup off these things and go thou alone to the captain.' 'So be it,' said Abousir and sat looking at the other, as he ate, and saw him hew off gobbets, as the quarryman hews stone from the mountain, and gulp them down with the gulp of an elephant that has not eaten for days, bolting one mouthful before he was rid of the previous one and glaring the while at that which was before him with the glower of a ghoul and blowing as the hungry bull blows over his beans and straw.
Presently up came a sailor and said to the barber, 'O master, the captain bids thee come to supper and bring thy comrade.' Quoth the barber to the dyer, 'Wilt thou come with us?' But he answered, 'I cannot walk.' So the barber went by himself and found the captain and his company sitting awaiting him, with a tray before them, wherein were a score or more of dishes. When the captain saw him, he said, 'Where is thy friend?' And Abousir answered, 'O my lord, he is sea-sick.' 'That will do him no harm,' answered the captain; 'his sickness will pass off; but do thou carry him his supper and come back, for we await thee.' Then he set apart a dish of kabobs and putting therein some of each dish, till there was enough for ten, gave it to Abousir, who took it and carried it to the dyer, whom he found grinding away with his dog-teeth at that which was before him, as he were a camel, and heaping mouthful on mouthful in his haste. Quoth Abousir, 'Did I not say to thee, "Eat not [of this]?" Indeed the captain is a man of exceeding kindness. See what he hath sent thee, for that I told him thou wast sick.' 'Give it here,' answered the dyer. So the barber gave it to him and he snatched it from him and fell upon it, like a ravening dog or a raging lion or a roc pouncing on a pigeon or one who is well-nigh dead for hunger and seeing victual, falls to eating thereof.
Then Abousir left him and going back to the captain, supped and enjoyed himself and drank coffee with him; after which he returned to Aboukir and found that he had eaten all that was in the platter and thrown it aside, empty. So he took the empty dish and gave it to one of the captain's servants, then went back to Aboukir and slept till the morning. On the morrow he continued to shave, and all he got by way of meat and drink he gave to Aboukir, who ate and drank and sat still, rising not save to do his natural occasions, and every night the barber brought him a full dish from the captain's table.
They fared thus twenty days, at the end of which time the galleon cast anchor in the harbour of a city; whereupon they took leave of the captain and landing, entered the town and took them a lodging in a khan. Abousir furnished the room and buying a cooking pot and a platter and spoons and what else they needed, fetched meat and cooked it; but Aboukir fell asleep the moment he entered the khan and awoke not till his companion aroused him and set the tray of food before him. When he awoke, he ate and saying to Abousir, 'Blame me not, for I am giddy,' fell asleep again. Thus he did forty days, whilst, every day, the barber took his tools and making the round of the city, wrought for that which fell to his lot, and returning, found the dyer asleep and aroused him. No sooner did he wake than he fell ravenously upon the food, eating as one who cannot have his fill nor be content; after which he went to sleep again.
On this wise he passed other forty days, and whenever the barber said to him, 'Sit up and shake off this torpor and go forth and take an airing in the city, for it is a bright and pleasant place and hath not its equal among the cities,' he would answer, saying, 'Blame me not, for I am [still] giddy.' Abousir cared not to vex him nor give him hard words; but, on the forty-first day, he himself fell sick and could not go abroad; so he pressed the porter of the khan into his service, and he did their occasions and brought them meat and drink four days, whilst Aboukir did nothing but eat and sleep. At the end of this time, the barber's sickness redoubled on him, till he lost his senses for stress thereof; and Aboukir, feeling the pangs of hunger, arose and sought in his comrade's clothes, where he found a thousand paras. So he took them and shutting the door of the chamber upon Abousir, went out, without telling any; and the doorkeeper of the inn was then at market and thus saw him not go out.
Aboukir betook himself to the bazaar and clad himself in rich apparel, at a cost of five hundred paras; then he proceeded to walk about and divert himself by viewing the place, which he found a city whose like was not among cities; but he noted that all its people were clad in clothes of white and blue, without other colour. Presently he came to a dyer's and seeing nought but blue in his shop, pulled out to him a kerchief and said, 'O master, take this kerchief and dye it and take thy hire.' Quoth the dyer, 'The cost of dying this will be twenty dirhems.' 'In our country,' said Aboukir, 'we dye it for two.' 'Then go and dye it in your own country,' answered the dyer. 'As for me, my price is twenty dirhems and I will not bate a tittle thereof.' 'What colour wilt thou dye it?' asked Aboukir; and the dyer said, 'I will dye it blue.' Quoth Aboukir, 'But I want it dyed red.' 'I know not how to dye red,' answered the dyer. 'Then dye it green,' rejoined Aboukir. But the dyer said, 'I know not how to dye green.' 'Yellow,' said Aboukir. 'Nor yet yellow,' answered the dyer; and Aboukir went on to name the different colours to him, one after another, till the dyer said, 'We are here in this city forty master-dyers, neither more nor less; and when one of us dies, we teach his son the craft. If he leave no son, we abide wanting one, and if he leave two sons, we teach one of them the craft, and if he die, we teach his brother. This our craft is straitly ordered and we know not how to dye aught but blue.'
Then said Aboukir, 'Know that I also am a dyer and know how to dye all colours; and I would have thee take me into thy service on hire, and I will teach thee my art, so thou mayst glory therein over all the company of dyers.' But the dyer answered, 'We never admit a stranger into our craft.' 'And what if I open a dyery for myself?' asked Aboukir. 'We will not suffer thee to do that,' replied the other; whereupon he left him and going to a second dyer, made him the like proposal; but he returned him the same answer as the first; and he ceased not to go from one to another, till he had made the round of the whole forty; but they would not accept of him either to master or journeyman. Then he repaired to the Syndic of the Dyers and told him what had passed, and he said, 'We admit no stranger into our craft.'
With this Aboukir became exceeding wroth and going up to the king of the city, made complaint to him, saying, 'O king of the age, I am a stranger and a dyer by trade;' and he told him what had passed between himself and the dyers of the town, adding, 'I can dye various kinds of red, such as rose-colour and carnation, (189) and various kinds of green, such as grass-green and pistachio-green and olive and parrot's wing, and various kinds of black, such as coal-black and blue-black, and various shades of yellow, such as orange and lemon-colour,' and went on to name to him the rest of the colours. Then said he, 'O king of the age, there is not a dyer in thy city who can avail to any one of these colours, for they know not how to dye aught but blue; yet will they not admit me amongst them, either as master or journeyman.' 'Thou sayst sooth for that matter,' answered the king; 'but I will open thee a dyery and give thee capital and have thou no care for them; for whoso offereth to do thee hindrance, I will hang him over the door of his shop.
Then he sent for builders and said to them, 'Go round about the city with this master, and whatsoever place pleases him, be it shop or khan or what not, turn out its occupier and build him a dyery after his wish. Whatsoever he bids you, that do ye and gainsay him not in aught.' And he clad him in a handsome suit and gave him two white slaves, to serve him, and a horse with housings of brocade and a thousand dinars, saying, 'Provide thyself with this, against the building be completed.' So Aboukir donned the dress and mounting the horse, became as he were an amir. Moreover the king assigned him a house and bade furnish it; so they furnished it for him and he took up his abode therein.
On the morrow he mounted and rode through the city, looking about him, whilst the architects went before him, till he saw a place that pleased him and said, 'This place is good;' whereupon they turned out the owner thereof and carried him to the king, who gave him, to the price of his holding, what more than contented him. Then the builders fell to work, whilst Aboukir said to them, 'Build thus and thus and do this and that,' till they built him a dyery that had not its like; whereupon he presented himself before the king and informed him that they had made an end of building the dyery and that there needed but the price of the dye-stuffs and gear to set it a-work. Quoth the king, 'Take these four thousand dinars to thy capital and let me see the outcome of thy dyery.' So he took the money and went to the market, where, finding dye-stuffs (190) plentiful and [well-nigh] valueless, he bought all that he needed of materials for dyeing; and the king sent him five hundred pieces of stuff, which he proceeded to dye of all colours and spread them before the door of his dyery.
When the folk passed by the shop, they saw this wonderful sight, whose like they had never in their lives seen; so they crowded about the door, staring and questioning the dyer and saying, 'O master, what are tne names of these colours?' Quoth he, 'This is red and that yellow and the other green,' and so on with the rest of the colours. And they fell to bringing him stuffs and saying to him, 'Dye this for us like this and that and take what thou seekest [to thy hire].' When he had made an end of dyeing the king's stuffs, he took them and went up with them to the divan; and when the king saw them he rejoiced in them and bestowed abundant largesse on the dyer. Moreover, all the troops brought him stuffs, saying, 'Dye for us thus and thus;' and he dyed for them to their wish, and they threw him gold and silver. On this wise his fame spread abroad and his shop was called the Sultan's dyery. Good came in to him at every door and he became the owner of slaves, male and female, and amassed store of wealth. None of the other dyers dared say a word to him, but they used to come to him, kissing his hands and excusing themselves to him for the affronts they had done him aforetime and offering themselves to him as journeymen; but he would none of them.
Meanwhile Abousir abode three days, prostrate and unconscious, in the chamber where Aboukir had left him, at the end of which time the doorkeeper of the khan, chancing to look at the chamber-door, observed that it was shut and bethought himself that he had seen and heard nothing of the two companions [for some time]. So he said to himself, 'Belike they have made oft; without paying the rent of the chamber, or perhaps they are dead, or what is to do with them?' And he waited till sunset, when he went up to the chamber-door and heard the barber groaning within. He saw the key in the lock; so he opened the door and entering, found Abousir lying, groaning, and said to him, 'No harm to thee: where is thy friend?' 'By Allah,' answered Abousir, 'I only came to my senses this day and called out; but none answered me. God on thee, O my brother, look for the purse under my head and take five paras from it and buy me something to eat, for I am sore anhungred.'
The porter put out his hand and taking the purse, found it empty and said to the barber, 'The purse is empty; there is nothing in it.' Whereupon Abousir knew that the dyer had taken that which was therein and fled and said to the porter, 'Hast thou not seen my friend?' 'I have not seen him these three days,' answered the porter, 'and indeed methought you had departed, thou and he.' 'Not no,' said Ahousir; 'but he coveted my money and seeing me sick, took it and fled.' Then he fell a-weeping and lamenting, but the porter said to him, 'No harm shall come to thee, and God will requite him his deed.' So saying, he went away and cooked him a mess of broth, whereof he ladled out a platterful and brought it to him; nor did he cease to tend him and maintain him with his own monies for two months' space, at the end of which time he sweated and God made him whole of his sickness. Then he stood up and said to the porter, 'So God the Most High enable me, I will surely requite thee thy kindness to me; but none requiteth save God of His bounty!' Praised be He for thy recovery!' answered the porter. 'I dealt not thus with thee but of desire for the favour of God the Bountiful.'
Then the barber went forth of the khan and walked about the markets of the town, till chance brought him to that wherein was Aboukir's dyery, and he saw the vari-coloured stuffs spread before the shop and the people crowding to look upon them. So he questioned one of the townsmen and said to him, 'What place is this and how comes it that I see the folk crowding together?' And the man answered, saying, 'This is the Sultan's dyery, which he set up for a foreigner, by name Aboukir; and whenever he dyes a [new] piece of stuff we all flock to him and divert ourselves by gazing upon his handiwork, for that we have no dyers in our land who know how to dye these colours; and indeed there befell him with the dyers who are in the city thus and thus.' And he went on to tell him all that had passed between Aboukir and the dyers and how he had complained of them to the sultan and he had taken him by the hand and built him that dyery and given him this and that; brief, he told him all that had passed.
At this the barber rejoiced and said to himself, 'Praised be God who hath prospered him, so that he is become a master of his craft! Indeed, the man is excusable, for of a surety he hath been diverted from thee by his work and hath forgotten thee; but thou didst him kindness and entreatedst him generously, what time he was out of work; so, when he seeth thee, he will rejoice in thee and entreat thee generously, even as thou entreatedst him.' So he made for the door of the dyery and saw Aboukir seated on a high divan in the doorway, clad in royal apparel and attended by four black and four white slaves all dressed in the richest of clothes. Moreover, he saw the workmen, ten black slaves, standing at work; for, when Aboukir bought them, he taught them the craft of dyeing, and he himself sat amongst his cushions, as he were a grand vizier or a most mighty king, putting his hand to nought, but only saying to the men, 'Do this and do that.'
The barber went up to him and stood before him, doubting not but that, when he saw him, he would rejoice in him and salute him and entreat him with honour and make much of him; but, when eye met eye, the dyer said to him, 'O rascal, how many a time have I bidden thee stand not at the door of this workshop? Hast thou a mind to disgrace me with the folk, knave that thou art?' [And he cried out, saying], 'Seize him!' So the slave. ran at him and laid hold of him; and the dyer said, 'Throw him down.' So they threw him down and Aboukfr rose and taking a stick, dealt him a hundred blows on the back; after which they turned him over and he dealt him other hundred on his belly. Then he said to him, 'Hark ye, scurril knave that thou art! If ever again I see thee standing at the door of this dyery, I will forthwith send thee to the king, and he will commit thee to the master of police, that he may strike off thy head. Begone, may God not bless thee!'
So Abousir [arose and] departed from him, broken-hearted by reason of the beating and humiliation that had betided him; whilst the bystanders said to Aboukir, 'What hath this man done?' Quoth he, 'He is a thief, who steals the people's goods: he hath robbed me of stuffs, how many a time! and I still said in myself, "God forgive him! He is a poor man," and cared not to deal harshly with him; so I used to give the folk the worth of their goods and forbid him gently; but he would not be forbidden; and if he come again, I will send him to the king, who will put him to death and rid the folk of his mischief.' And the bystanders fell to reviling the barber in his absence.
Meanwhile, the latter returned to the khan, where he sat pondering that which Aboukir had done with him, till the pain of the beating subsided, when he went out and walked about the markets of the city. Presently, he bethought him to go to the bath; so he said to one of the townsfolk, 'O my brother, which is the way to the bath?" 'And what manner of thing is the bath?' asked the other. Quoth Abousir, 'It is a place where people wash themselves and do away their defilements, and it is of the best of the good things of the world.' 'Get thee to the sea,' replied the townsman; but the barber replied, 'I want the bath.' Quoth the other, 'We know not what manner of thing is the bath, for we all resort to the sea; even the king, when he would wash, betaketh himself to the sea.'
When Abousir was certified that there was no bath in the city and that the people knew not the bath nor the fashion thereof he betook himself to the king's divan and kissing the earth before him, called down blessings on him and said, 'I am a stranger and a bath-keeper by trade, and I entered thy city and thought to go to the bath; but found not one therein. How cometh a city of this comely fashion to lack a bath, seeing that the bath is of the goodliest of the delights of this world?' Quoth the king, 'What manner of thing is the bath?' So Abousir proceeded to set forth to him the attributes of the bath, saying, 'Thy city will not be complete till there be a bath in it.' 'Welcome to thee!' said the king and clad him in a dress that had not its like and gave him a horse and two black and two white slaves and four slave-girls. Moreover he appointed him a furnished house and honoured him yet more abundantly than he had honoured the dyer.
Then he sent builders with him and bade them build him a bath in what place soever should please him. So he took them and went with them through the midst of the city, till he saw a place that pleased him. He pointed it out to the builders and they set to work, under his direction, and wrought till they built him a bath that had not its like. Then he made them paint it, and they painted it on rare wise, so that it was a delight to the beholders; after which Abousir went up to the king and told him that they had made an end of building and decorating the bath, adding, 'There lacks nought but the furniture.' The king gave him ten thousand dinars, with which he furnished the bath and ranged the napkins on the cords; and all who passed by the door stared at it and their mind was confounded at its decorations. So the people crowded to this thing, whose like they had never in their lives seen, and stood staring at it and saying, 'What is this thing?' To which Abousir replied, 'This is a bath;' and they marvelled thereat.
Then he heated water and set the bath a-work; and he made a fountain in the [central] basin, which ravished the wit of all who saw it of the people of the city. Moreover he sought of the king ten white slaves not yet come to manhood, and he gave him ten boys like moons: whereupon Abousir proceeded to shampoo them, saying, 'Do thus and thus with the customers,' [till they were perfect in the bathman's craft]. Then he burnt perfumes and sent out a crier to cry aloud in the city, saying, 'O creatures of God, get ye to the bath, for it is called the Sultan's Bath!' So the people came to the bath and Abousir bade the slave-boys wash their bodies. The folk went down into the bath and coming forth, seated themselves on the estrade, whilst the boys shampooed them, even as Abousir had taught them; and they ceased not to enter the bath and do their occasion thereof and go out, without paying, for the space of three days.
Then the barber invited the king, who took horse with his grandees and rode to the bath, where he put oft his clothes and entered; whereupon Abousir came in to him and rubbed his body with the bath-gloves, peeling the dirt from his skin [in rolls] like lamp-wicks and showing them to the king, who rejoiced therein, till his body shone for very smoothness and purity; after which Abousir mingled rose-water with the water of the tank and the king went down therein. When he came forth, his body was refreshed and he felt a lightness and liveliness such as he had never in his life known. Then the barber made him sit on the estrade and the boys proceeded to shampoo him, whilst the censers smoked with the finest aloes-wood.
Then said the king, 'O master, is this the bath?' And Abousir answered, 'Yes.' 'As my head liveth,' quoth the king, 'my city is not become a city indeed but by this bath! But what pay takest thou for each person?' 'That which thou biddest me will I take,' replied Abousir; and the king said, 'Take a thousand dinars for every one who washeth in thy bath.' But Abousir said, 'Pardon, O king of the age! All men are not alike, but there are amongst them rich and poor, and if I take of each a thousand dinars, the bath will stand empty, for the poor man cannot avail to this price.' 'How then wilt thou do for the price?' asked the king. 'I will leave it to the generosity [of the customers],' answered the barber. 'Each who can afford aught shall pay that which his soul grudgeth not to give, and we will take from every man, after the measure of his condition. So will the folk come to us and he who is rich shall give according to his station and he who is poor shall give what he can afford. On this wise the bath will still be at work and prosper; but a thousand dinars is a king's gift, and not every man can avail thereto.'
The grandees of the kingdom confirmed Abousir's words, saying, 'This is the truth, O king of the age! Thinkest thou that all folk are like unto thee, O glorious king?' 'You say sooth,' answered the king; 'but this man is a stranger and poor and it behoveth us to deal generously with him, for that he hath made in our city this bath, whose like we have never in our lives seen and without which our city were not adorned nor had gotten importance; wherefore, if we guerdon him with increase of pay, it will not be much.' But the grand ees said, 'If thou wilt guerdon him, let it be of thine own monies, and be the king's bounty extended to the poor by means of the low price of the bath, so the folk may bless thee; but, as for the thousand dinars, we are the grandees of thine empire, yet do our souls grudge to pay it; and how then should the poor afford it?' Quoth the king, 'O my grandees, for this time let each of you give him a hundred dinars and a white slave and a black and a slave-girl.' 'It is well,' answered they; 'but after to-day each who enters shall give him only what he can afford, without grudging.' 'So be it,' said the king; and they gave him each as he had said.
Now the number of the nobles who were washed with the king that day was four hundred souls; so that the sum of that which they gave him was forty thousand dinars, besides four hundred black and four hundred white slaves and a like number of slave-girls. Moreover, the king gave him ten thousand dinars, besides ten white slaves and ten black and a like number of slave-girls; whereupon Abousir kissed the earth before him and said, 'O august king, lord of just judgment, what place will suffice me for all these slaves and women?' Quoth the king, 'O lackwit, I bade not my nobles deal thus with thee but that we might gather together unto thee great plenty of wealth; for maybe thou wilt bethink thee of thy country and family and yearn unto them and be minded to return to thy native place; so shalt thou take from our country store of wealth, to maintain thyself withal, what while thou livest in thine own land.' 'O king of the age,' replied Abousir, (may God advance thee!) these many slaves and women are a king's behoof; and hadst thou ordered me ready money, it were more profitable to me than this army; for they must eat and drink and be clothed, and whatever betideth me of wealth, it will not suffice to their support.'
The king laughed and said, 'By Allah, thou sayst sooth! They are indeed a mighty host, and thou mayst not avail unto their maintenance; but wilt thou sell them to me for a hundred dinars each?' Quoth Abousir, 'I sell them to thee at that price.' So the king sent to his treasurer for the money and he brought it and gave Abousir the whole of the price, in full; after which the king restored the slaves to their former owners, saying, 'Let each of you who knoweth his slaves take them; for they are a gift from me to you.' So they obeyed his commandment and took each his own; whilst the barber said to the king, 'God ease thee, O king of the age, even as thou hast eased me of these ghouls, whom none may fill save God!' The king laughed, and gave him reason; then, taking the grandees of his realm, returned to his palace; but Abousir passed the night in counting his money and laying it up in bags and sealing them; and he had with him twenty black slaves and a like number of white and four slave-girls to serve him.
On the morrow, as soon as it was day, he opened the bath and sent out a crier to make proclamation, saying, 'Whoso entereth the bath and washeth shall give that which he can afford and which his generosity deemeth fit.' Then he seated himself by the chest and customers flocked in upon him, each putting down that which was easy to him, nor was eventide come before the chest was full of the good gifts of God the Most High. Presently the queen desired to go to the bath, and when this came to Abousir's knowledge, he divided the day, on her account, into two parts, appointing the time between day-break and noon to the men and that between noon and sundown to the women. When the queen came, he stationed a female slave behind the pay-chest; for he had taught four slave-girls the service of the bath, so that they were become expert bathwomen. So, when the queen entered, this pleased her and her breast dilated and she laid down a thousand dinars.
On this wise his report was noised abroad in the city, and all who entered the bath he entreated with honour, were they rich or poor, and good came in upon him at every door. Moreover he made acquaintance with the king's officers and got him friends and companions. The king himself used to come to him one day in every week, and the other days of the week were for rich and poor alike; and he was wont to deal courteously with the folk and use them with the utmost of consideration. It chanced that the king's sea-captain came in to him one day in the bath; so Abousir put off his clothes and going in with him, proceeded to shampoo him and entreated him with the utmost courtesy. When he came forth, he made him sherbet and coffee; and when he would have given him somewhat, he swore that he would accept nothing from him. So the captain abode under obligation to him, by reason of his exceeding kindness and courtesy to him, and knew not how to requite him his generous dealing with him.
Meanwhile Aboukir, bearing all the people talking rapturously of the bath and saying, 'Verily, this bath is the Paradise of this world! God willing, O such an one, thou shalt go with us to-morrow to this delectable bath,' said to himself, 'Needs must I go like [the rest of the] folk and see this bath that hath taken their wits.' So he donned his richest clothes and mounting a mule, rode to the bath, attended by four white slaves and four black, walking before and behind him. When he alighted at the door, he smelt the fragrance of burning aloes-wood and saw people going in and out and the benches full of great and small. So he entered the vestibule and saw Abousir, who rose to him and rejoiced in him: but the dyer said to him, 'Is this the fashion of men of honour? I have opened me a dyery and am become master-dyer of the city and acquainted with the king and have risen to fortune and lordship; yet camest thou not to me nor askedst of me nor saidst, "Where is my comrade?" For my part, I sought thee in vain and sent my slaves and Servants to make search for thee in all the inns and other places; but they knew not whither thou hadst gone, nor could any give me news of thee.' Quoth Abousir, 'Did I not come to thee and didst thou not make me out a thief and beat me and disgrace me before the folk?'
At this Aboukir made a show of concern and said, 'What manner of talk is this? Was it thou whom I beat?' 'Yes,' answered Abousir, 'it was I.' Whereupon Aboukir swore to him a thousand oaths that he knew him not and said, 'There was a fellow like unto thee, who used to come every day and steal the people's stuff, and I took thee for him.' And he went on to feign repentance, beating hand upon hand and saying, 'There is no power and no virtue save in God the Most High, the Supreme! Indeed, I have sinned against thee; but would that thou hadst made thyself known to me and said, "I am such an one!" Indeed the fault is with thee, for that thou madest not thyself known unto me, more by token that I was distraught for much business.' 'God pardon thee, o my comrade!' replied Abousir. 'This was fore-ordained, and reparation is with God. Enter and put off thy clothes and bathe at thine ease.' 'I conjure thee by Allah, O my brother,' said the dyer, 'forgive me!' And Abousir said, 'God acquit thee of blame and forgive thee! Indeed this thing was decreed to me from all eternity.'
Then said Aboukir, 'Whence gottest thou this lordship?' 'He who prospered thee prospered me,' answered Abousir. 'For I went up to the king and set forth to him the fashion of the bath, and he bade me build one.' And the dyer said, 'Even as thou art an acquaintance of the king, so also am I; and God willing, I will make him love and barr tender thee more than ever, for my sake; for he knows not that thou art my comrade; but I will tell him of this and commend thee to him.' 'There needs no commendation,' answered Abousir; 'for He who inclinetb [men's hearts unto love] is [ever]-present; and indeed the king and all his court love me [already] and have given me this and that.' And he told him the whole story and said to him, 'Put off thy clothes behind the chest and enter the bath, and I will go in with thee and shampoo thee.' So he put off his clothes and Abousir, entering the bath with him, soaped him and shampooed him and busied himself with his service till he came forth, when he brought him the morning meal and sherbets, whilst all the folk marvelled at the honour he did him.
Then Aboukir would have given him somewhat; but he swore that he would take nothing from him and said to him, 'Shame upon thee! Thou art my comrade, and there is no difference between us.' 'By Allah, O my comrade,' said Aboukir, 'this is a fine bath of thine, but there lacks one thing to thy fashion therein.' 'And what is that?' asked Abousir. 'It is the depilatory, to wit, the paste compounded of orpiment and quicklime,' answered the dyer, 'that removes the hair with ease. Do thou prepare it and next time the king comes, present it to him, teaching him how he shall cause the hair fall off by means thereof, and he will love thee with an exceeding love and honour thee.' Quoth Abousir, 'Thou sayst sooth, and if it be the will of God the Most High, I will do this.'
Then Aboukir mounted his mule and riding to the palace, went in to the king and said to him, 'O king of the age, I have a warning to give thee.' 'And what is thy warning?' asked the king. Quoth Aboukir, 'I hear that thou hast built a bath.' 'Yes; answered the king; 'there came to me a stranger and I founded the bath for him, even as I founded the dyery for thee; and indeed it is a magnificent bath and an ornament to my city.' And he went on to set forth to him the virtues of the bath. 'Hast thou entered therein?' asked the dyer. And the king answered, 'Yes.' 'Praised be God,' exclaimed Aboukir, 'who hath preserved thee from the mischief of yonder villain and enemy of the faith, to wit, the bath-keeper!' 'And what of him?' asked the king. 'Know, O king of the age,' replied Aboukir, 'that, if thou enter the bath again, after this day, thou wilt surely perish.' 'How so?' inquired the king; and the dyer answered, 'This bath-keeper is thine enemy and the enemy of the faith, and he induced thee not to set up this bath but because he designed to poison thee therein. He hath made for thee somewhat which, when thou enterest the bath, he will present to thee, saying, "This is an unguent, which if one apply to his privy parts, it will remove the hair with ease."
Now it is no unguent, but a deadly drug and a violent poison; for the Sultan of the Christians hath promised this filthy fellow to release to him his wife and children, if he will kill thee; for they are captives in the hands of the Sultan in question. I myself was captive with him in their land, but I opened a dyery and dyed for them various colours, so that they inclined the king's heart unto me and he bade me ask a boon of him. I sought of him freedom and he set me free, whereupon I made my way hither, and seeing yonder man in the bath, asked him how he had effected his escape and that of his wife and children. Quoth he, "We ceased not to be in captivity, I and my wife and children, till one day the King of the Christians held a court, at which I was present, amongst a number of other people. Presently, I heard them discourse of the kings and name them, one after another, till they came to the name of the king of this city, whereupon the King of the Christians cried out, 'Alas!' and said, 'None irketh me (191) in the world, but the king of such a city! (192) Whosoever will contrive me his slaughter, I will give him all he asks.' So I went up to him and said, 'If I contrive thee his slaughter, wilt thou set me free, me and my wife and children?' 'Yes,' answered the king, 'and I will give thee [to boot] whatsoever thou shalt desire.
So we agreed upon this and he sent rue in a galleon to this city, where I presented myself to the king and he built me this bath. So now I have nought to do but to slay him and return to the King of the Christians, that I may redeem my wife and children and ask a boon of him." Quoth I, "And how wilt thou go about to kill him?" "By the simplest of all devices," answered he; "for I have compounded him somewhat wherein is poison, so, when he comes to the bath, I shall say to him, 'Take this unguent and anoint thy privy parts therewith, for it will cause the hair to drop off.' So he will take it and anoint himself therewith, and the poison will work in him a day and a night, till it reaches his heart and destroys him; and meanwhile I shall have made off and none will know that it was I slew him." When I heard this,' added Aboukir, 'I feared for thee, being beholden to thee for thy goodness, wherefore I have told thee thereof.'
When the king heard the dyer's story, he was exceeding wroth and said to him, 'Keep this secret.' Then he betook himself to the bath, that he might dispel doubt with assurance; and when he entered, Abousir put off his clothes and betaking himself [as of wont] to the service of the king, proceeded to shampoo him; after which he said to him, 'O king of the age, I have made an unguent for removing the hair from the privy parts.' 'Bring it to me,' said the king. So the barber brought it to him and the king, finding it nauseous of smell, was assured that it was poison; wherefore he was incensed and called out to his guards, saying, 'Seize him!' So they seized him and the king donned his clothes and returned to his palace, boiling with rage, whilst none knew the cause of his anger; for, of the excess of his wrath, he had acquainted no one therewith and none dared ask him. Then he repaired to the audience-chamber and causing Abousir to be brought before him, with his hands bound behind his back, sent for his sea-captain and said to him, 'Take this villain and tie him in a sack with two quintals of quicklime. Then lay him in a boat and row out with him in front of my palace, where thou wilt see me sitting at the lattice. Do thou say to me, "Shall I cast him in?" and if I answer, "Cast," throw him into the sea, so the lime may be slaked on him, to the intent that he shall die drowned and burnt.'
'I hear and obey,' answered the captain and taking Abousir, carried him to an island, that lay over against the king's palace, where he said to him, 'Harkye, I once visited thy bath and thou entreatedst me with honour and accomplishedst all my wants and I had great pleasure of thee: moreover, thou sworest that thou wouldst take no pay of me, and I love thee with a great love. So tell me how the case stands between thee and the king and what abomination thou hast done with him that he is wroth with thee and hath commanded me that thou shouldst die this horrid death.' 'By Allah, O my brother,' answered Abousir, 'I have done nothing, nor do I know of any crime I have committed against him that merits this!' 'Verily,' rejoined the captain, 'thou wast in high favour with the king, such as none ever enjoyed before thee, and all who are prosperous are envied. Belike some one envied thee thy good fortune and missaid of thee to the king, by reason whereof he is become thus enraged against thee: but be of good cheer; no harm shall befall thee: for, even as thou entreatedst me generously, without knowledge of me, so now I will deliver thee. But, if I release thee, thou must abide with me in this island till some galleon set sail from the city to thy native land, when I will send thee thither therein.'
Abousir kissed his hand and thanked him for this; after which the captain fetched the lime and laid it in a sack, together with a great stone, the bigness of a man, saying, 'I put my trust in God.' Then he gave the barber a net, saying, 'Cast this net into the sea, so haply thou mayst take somewhat of fish. For I am bounden to furnish the king's kitchen with fish every day; but to-day I have been distracted from fishing by this calamity that hath befallen thee, and I fear lest the cook's servants come to me in quest of fish and find none. So, if thou take aught, they will find it and thou wilt veil my face, (193) whilst I go and play off my device in front of the palace and feign to cast thee into the sea.' 'Go,' answered Abousir; 'and God be thy helper. I will fish the while.'
So the captain laid the sack in the boat and rowed till he came under the palace, where he saw the king seated at the lattice and said to him, 'O king of the age, shall I Cast him in?' 'Cast,' answered the king and signed to him with his hand, whereupon something flashed and fell into the sea. Now this that had fallen into the sea was the king's seal-ring, which was enchanted on such wise that, when the king was wroth with any one and was minded to slay him, he had but to sign to him with his right hand, whereon was the ring, and there issued lightning therefrom, which smote the offender, and thereupon his head fell from his shoulders. It was this ring that gave him authority over the troops, nor did he overcome the mighty save by means thereof; so, when it dropped from his finger, he concealed the matter and kept silence, for that he dared not say, 'My ring is fallen into the sea,' for fear of the troops, lest they should rise against him and slay him.
Meanwhile, Abousir cast the net into the sea and drew it up full of fish. Then he cast it again and it came up full of fish; nor did he cease to cast it and pull it up full, till there was a great heap of fish before him. So he said to himself, 'By Allah, I have not eaten fish this long while!' And chose himself a large fat fish, saying, 'When the captain comes back, I will bid him fry it for me, so I may make the morning meal of it.' Then he cut its throat with a knife he had with him; but the knife stuck in its gills and there he saw the king's seal-ring; for the fish had swallowed it and destiny had driven it to the island, where it had fallen into the net. So he took the ring and put it on his little finger, not knowing its properties. Presently, up came two of the cook's underlings in quest of fish and seeing Abousir, said to him, 'O man, whither is the captain gone?' 'I know not,' answered he and signed to them with his right hand; when, behold, their heads dropped from their shoulders.
At this Abousir was amazed and said, 'I wonder who slew them!' And their case was grievous to him and he was still musing upon it, when the captain returned and seeing the two men lying dead and the ring on Abousir's finger, said to him, 'O my brother, move not thy hand whereon is the ring; else thou wilt slay me.' Abousir wondered at this speech and the captain coming up to him, said, 'Who slew these two men?' 'By Allah, O my brother,' answered the barber, 'I know not!' 'Thou sayst sooth,' rejoined the captain; 'but tell me whence hadst thou that ring?' Quoth Abousir, 'I found it in this fish's gills.' ' True,' said the captain, 'for I saw it fall flashing from the king's palace and disappear in the sea, what time he signed toward [the sack in which he deemed] thee [to be], saying, "Cast him in." So I cast the sack into the water, and it was then that the ring slipped from his finger and fell into the sea, where the fish swallowed it, and God drove it to thee, so that thou tookest it, for this ring was thy lot; but knowest thou its property?' 'I knew not that it had any properties,' answered Abousir, and the captain said, 'Know, then, that the king's troops obey him not save for fear of this ring, for it is enchanted, and when he was wroth with any one and had a mind to put him to death, he would sign at him therewith and his head would drop from his shoulders; for there issued a lightning from the ring and its ray smote the object of his wrath, who died forthright.'
At this, Abousir rejoiced with an exceeding joy and said to the captain, 'Carry me back to the city.' 'That will I,' answered he, 'now that I no longer fear for thee from the king; for, wert thou to sign at him with thy hand, purposing to kill him, his head would fall down before thee; and if thou be minded to slay him and all his troops, thou mayst do so without hindrance.' So saying, he embarked with him in the boat and rowed him back to the city, where Abousir landed and going up to the palace, entered the council-chamber, where he found the king seated in the midst of his officers, sore concerned by reason of the ring and daring not tell any of its loss.
When he saw Abousir, he said to him, 'Did we not cast thee into the sea? How hast thou made shift to come forth therefrom?' 'O king of the age,' answered Abousir, 'whenas thou badst throw me into the sea, thy captain carried me to an island and questioned me of the cause of thy wrath against me, saying, "What hast thou done with the king, that he should decree thy death?" "By Allah," answered I, "I know not that I have offended against him in aught!" Quoth he, "Thou wast in high favour with the king, and most like some one envied thee and slandered thee to him, so that he is become incensed against thee. But, when I visited thee in thy bath, thou entreatedst me hospitably, and I will requite thee thy hospitality by setting thee free and sending thee back to thine own country." Then he laid a great stone in the sack and cast it into the sea in my stead; but, when thou signedst to him to throw me in, thy seal-ring dropped from thy finger into the sea, and a fish swallowed it.
Now I was on the island, fishing, and this fish came up [in the net] with others; whereupon I took it, thinking to broil it; but, when I opened its maw, I found the ring therein; so I took it and put it on my finger. Presently, up came two of the servants of the kitchen, in quest of fish, and I signed to them with my hand, knowing not the property of the ring, and their heads fell off. Then the captain came back and seeing the ring on my finger, acquainted me with its enchantment; and behold, I have brought it back to thee, for that thou dealtest bounteously by me and entreatedst me with the utmost generosity, nor is that which thou hast done me of kindness lost upon me. Here is thy ring; take it; and if I have done with thee aught deserving of death, tell me my crime and slay me and thou shalt be quit of my blood.' So saying, he pulled the ring from his finger and gave it to the king, who put it on and his life returned to him.
Then he rose to his feet and embracing Abousir, said to him, 'O man, thou art indeed of the flower of the noble! Bear me not malice, but forgive me the wrong I have done thee. Had any but thou come by this ring, he had never restored it to me.' 'O king of the age,' answered Abousir, 'if thou wouldst have me forgive thee, tell me what was my offence that drew down thine anger upon me, so that thou commandedst to put me to death.' 'By Allah,' rejoined the king, 'it is clear to me that thou art altogether guiltless of offence, since thou hast done this good deed; only the dyer denounced thee to me;' and he told him all that Aboukir had said. 'By Allah, O king of the age,' replied Abousir, 'I know not the King of the Christians and have never journeyed to their country, nor did it ever enter my thought to kill thee; but this dyer was my comrade and neighbour in the city of Alexandria, and life was straitened upon us there; wherefore we departed thence, to seek our fortunes, by reason of the straitness of our livelihood there, after we had recited the first chapter of the Koran together [in token of our agreement] that he who got work should feed him who lacked thereof; and there befell me with him such and such things.'
Then he went on to relate to the king all that had befallen him with the dyer; how he had robbed him and left him alone and sick in the khan and how the porter had fed him of his own monies till God recovered him of his sickness, when he went forth and walked about the city with his shaving gear, as of his wont, till he espied a dyery, about which the folk were crowding; so he looked at the door and seeing Aboukir seated on a bench there, went in to salute him, whereupon he accused him of being a thief and beat him grievously; brief, he told him his whole story, from first to last, and added, 'O king of the age, it was he who counselled me to make the depilatory and present it to thee, saying, "The bath is perfect in all things but that it lacketh this;" and know, O king, that this unguent is harmless and we use it in our country, where it is one of the requisites of the bath; but I had forgotten it: so, when he visited the bath, I entreated him with honour and he reminded me thereof. But do thou send after the porter of such a khan and the workmen of the dyery and question them all of that which I have told thee.'
So the king sent for them and questioned them and they acquainted him with the truth of the matter. Then he sent to fetch the dyer, bidding bring him barefoot and bareheaded, with his hands bound behind him. Now he was sitting in his house, rejoicing in Abousir's [supposed] death, when, before he could be ware, the king's guards rushed in upon him and cuffed him on the nape of the neck; after which they bound him and carried him into the royal presence, where he saw Abousir seated by the king's side and the porter and workmen of the dyery standing before him. Quoth the porter to him, 'Is not this thy comrade whom thou robbedst of his money and leftest with me sick in the khan?' And the workmen said to him, 'Is not this he whom thou badest us seize and beat?'
Therewith Aboukir's baseness was made manifest to the king and he was certified that he merited a punishment yet sorer than that which Munker and Neckir (194) deal [to the wicked after death]. So he upbraided him and said to his guards, 'Take him and parade him about the city and the markets; then lay him in a sack and cast him into the sea.' Whereupon quoth Abousir, 'O king of the age, accept my intercession for him; for I pardon him all he hath done with me.' 'If thou pardon him his offences against thee,' answered the king, 'I cannot pardon him his offences against me.' And he cried out, saying, 'Take him.' So they took him and paraded him about the city, after which they laid him in a sack with quicklime and cast him into the sea, and he died, drowned and burnt.
Then said the king to the barber, 'O Abousir, ask of me what thou wilt and it shall be given thee.' And he answered, saying, 'I ask of thee to send me back to my own country, for I care no longer to abide here.' Then the king offered to make him his vizier; but he consented not; so he gave him great store of gifts, over and above that which he had bestowed on him aforetime; and amongst the rest a galleon laden with goods; and the crew of this galleon were slaves; so he gave him these also. Then he took leave of the king and set sail; nor did he cast anchor till he reached Alexandria and made fast to the shore there. Then they landed and one of his servants, seeing a sack on the beach, said to Abousir, 'O my lord, there is a great heavy sack on the sea-shore, with the mouth tied up and I know not what therein.' So Abousir came up and opening the sack, found therein the dead body of Aboukir, which the sea had borne thither. He took it forth and burying it near Alexandria, built over the grave a place of visitation and endowed it for pious uses, writing over the door the following verses:A man is by his actions known among his fellows aye: The actions of the freeborn man his generous birth betray.
After this Abousir abode awhile, till God took him to Himself and they buried him hard by the tomb of his comrade Aboukir; wherefore the place was called Aboukir and Abousir; but it is now known as Aboukir [only]. This, then, is that which hath reached us of their history, and glory be to Him who endureth for ever and by whose will the days and nights succeed each other!