[Go back to The Barber's Tale of his Fourth Brother]
My fifth brother, Al-Nashshar, the Babbler, the same who was cropped of both ears, O Commander of the Faithful, was an asker wont to beg of folk by night and live on their alms by day. Now when our father, who was an old man well stricken in years sickened and died, he left us seven hundred dirhams whereof each son took his hundred; but, as my fifth brother received his portion, he was perplexed and knew not what to do with it. While in this uncertainty he bethought him to lay it out on glass ware of all sorts and turn an honest penny on its price. So he bought an hundred dirhams worth of verroterie and, putting it into a big tray, sat down to sell it on a bench at the foot of a wall against which he leant back. As he sat with the tray before him he fell to musing and said to himself, "Know, O my good Self, that the head of my wealth, my principal invested in this glass ware, is an hundred dirhams. I will assuredly sell it for two hundred with which I will forthright buy other glass and make by it four hundred; nor will I cease to sell and buy on this wise, till I have gotten four thousand and soon find myself the master of much money. With these coins I will buy merchandise and jewels and ottars and gain great profit on them; till, Allah willing, I will make my capital an hundred thousand dirhams. Then I will purchase a fine house with white slaves and eunuchs and horses; and I will eat and drink and disport myself; nor will I leave a singing man or a singing woman in the city, but I will summon them to my palace and make them perform before me." All this he counted over in his mind, while the tray of glass ware,: worth an hundred dirhams, stood on the bench before him, and, after looking at it, he continued, "And when, Inshallah! my capital shall have become one hundred thousand dinars, I will send out marriage brokeresses to require for me in wedlock the daughters of Kings and Wazirs; and I will demand to wife the eldest daughter of the Prime Minister; for it hath reached me that she is perfect in beauty and prime in loveliness and rare in accomplishments. I will give a marriage settlement of one thousand dinars; and, if her father consent, well: but if not I will take her by force from under his very nose. When she is safely homed in my house, I will buy ten little eunuchs and for myself a robe of the robes of Kings and Sultans; and get me a saddle of gold and a bridle set thick with gems of price. Then I will mount with the Mamelukes preceding me and surrounding me, and I will make the round of the city whilst the folk salute me and bless me; after which I will repair to the Wazir (he that is father of the girl) with armed white slaves before and behind me and on my right and on my left. When he sees me, the Wazir stands up, and seating me in his own place sits down much below me; for that I am to be his son in law. Now I have with me two eunuchs carrying purses, each containing a thousand dinars; and of these I deliver to him the thousand, his daughter's marriage settlement, and make him a free gift of the other thousand, that he may have reason to know my generosity and liberality and my greatness of spirit and the littleness of the world in my eyes. And for ten words he addresses to me I answer him two. Then back I go to my house, and if one come to me on the bride's part, I make him a present of money and throw on him a dress of honour; but if he bring me a gift, I give it back to him and refuse to accept it, that they may learn what a proud spirit is mine which never condescends to derogate. Thus I establish my rank and status. When this is done I appoint her wedding night and adorn my house showily! gloriously! And as the time for parading the bride is come, I don my finest attire and sit down on a mattress of gold brocade, propping up my elbow with a pillow, and turning neither to the right nor to the left; but looking only straight in front for the haughtiness of my mind and the gravity of my understanding. And there before me stands my wife in her raiment and ornaments, lovely as the full moon; and I, in my loftiness and dread lordliness, will not glance at her till those present say to me, 'O our lord and our master, thy wife, thy handmaid, standeth before thee; vouchsafe her one look, for standing wearieth her.' Then they kiss the ground before me many times; whereupon I raise my eyes and cast at her one single glance and turn my face earthwards again. Then they bear her off to the bride chamber, and I arise and change my clothes for a far finer suit; and, when they bring in the bride a second time, I deign not to throw her a look till they have begged me many times; after which I glance at her out of the corner of one eye, and then bend down my head. I continue acting after this fashion till the parading and displaying are completed"--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her per misted say.
When It was the Thirty-third Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Barber's fifth brother proceeded: - "Then I bend down my head and continue acting after this fashion till her parading and displaying are completed. Thereupon I order one of my eunuchs to bring me a bag of five hundred dinars which I give as largesse to the tire women present and bid them one and all lead me to the bride chamber. When they leave me alone with her I neither look at her nor speak to her, but lie by her side with my face to the wall showing my contempt, that each and every may again remark how high and haughty I am. Presently her mother comes in to me, and kissing my head and hand, says to me, 'O my lord, look upon thine handmaid who longs for thy favour; so heal her broken spirit!' I give her no answer; and when she sees this she rises and busses my feet many times and says, 'O my lord, in very sooth my daughter is a beautiful maid, who hath never known man; and if thou show her this backwardness and aversion, her heart will break; so do thou incline to her and speak to her and soothe her mind and spirit.' Then she rises and fetches a cup of wine; and says to her daughter, 'Take it and hand it to thy lord.' But as e approaches me I leave her standing between my hands and sit, propping my elbow on a round cushion purfled with gold thread, leaning lazily back, and without looking at her in the majesty of my spirit, so that she may deem me indeed a Sultan and a mighty man. Then she says to me, 'O my lord, Allah upon thee, do not refuse to take the cup from the hand of thine hand maid, for verily I am thy bondswoman.' But I do not speak to her and she presses me, saying, 'There is no help but that thou drink it;' and she puts it to my lips. Then I shake my fist in her face and kick her with my foot thus." So he let out with his toe an knocked over the tray of glass ware which fell to the ground and, falling from the bench, all that was on it was broken to bits. 'O foulest of pimps, this comes from the pride of my spirit'" cried my brother; and then, O Commander of the Faithful, he buffeted his face and rent his garments and kept on weeping and beating himself. The folk who were flocking to their 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 bother lost both capital and profit. He remained weeping a long while, and at last up came a beautiful lady, the scent of musk exhaling from her, who was going to Friday prayers riding a mule with a gold saddle and followed by several eunuchs. When she saw the broken glass and my brother weeping, her kind heart was moved to pity for him, and she asked what ailed him and was told that he had a tray full of glass ware by the sale of which he hoped to gain his living, but it was broken, and (said they), "there befell him what thou seest." Thereupon she called up one of her eunuchs and said to him, Give what thou hast with thee to this poor fellow!". And he gave my brother a purse in which he found five hundred dinars; and when it touched his hand he was well nigh dying for excess of joy and he offered up blessings for her. Then he returned to his abode a substantial man; and, as he sat considering, some one rapped at the door. So he rose and opened and saw an old woman whom he had never seen. "O my son," said she, "know that prayer tide is near and I have not yet made my Wuzu-ablution; so kindly allow me the use of thy lodging for the purpose." My brother answered, "To hear is to comply;" and going in bade her follow him. So she entered and he brought her an ewer wherewith to wash, and sat down like to fly with joy because of the dinars which he had tied up in his belt for a purse. When the old woman had made an end of her ablution, she came up to where he sat, and prayed a two bow prayer; after which she blessed my brother with a godly benediction, and he while thanking her put his hand to the dinars and gave her two, saying to himself "These are my voluntaries." When she saw the gold she cried, "Praise be to Allah! why dost thou look on one who loveth thee as if she were a beggar? Take back 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 ware was broken. Moreover, if thou wish to be united with her, I can manage the matter, for she is my mistress." "O my mother," asked my brother, "by what manner of means can I get at her?"; and she answered, "O my son! she hath an inclination for thee, but she is the wife of a wealthy man; so take the whole of thy money with thee and follow me, that I may guide thee to thy desire: and when thou art in her company spare neither persuasion nor fair words, but bring them all to bear upon her; so shalt thou enjoy her beauty and wealth to thy heart's content." My brother took all his gold and rose and followed the old woman, hardly believing in his luck. She ceased not faring on, and my brother following her, till they came to a tall gate at which she knocked and a Roumi slave-girl came out and opened to them. Then the old woman led my brother into a great sitting room spread with wondrous fine carpets and hung with curtains, where he sat down with his gold before him, and his turband on his knee. He had scarcely taken seat before there came to him a young lady (never eye saw fairer) clad in garments of the most sumptuous; whereupon my brother rose to his feet, and she smiled in his face and welcomed him, signing to him to be seated. Then she bade shut the door and, when it was shut, she turned to my brother, and taking his hand conducted him to a private chamber furnished with various kinds of brocades and gold cloths. Here he sat down and she sat by his side and toyed with him awhile; after which she rose and saying, "Stir not from thy seat till I come back to thee;" disappeared. Meanwhile as he was on this wise, lo! there came in to him a black slave big of body and bulk and holding a drawn sword in hand, who said to him, "Woe to thee! Who brought thee hither and what dost thou want here?" My brother could not return him a reply, being tongue tied for terror; so the blackamoor seized him and stripped him of his clothes and bashed him with the flat of his sword blade till he fell to the ground, swooning from excess of belabouring. The ill omened nigger fancied that there was an end of him and my brother heard him cry, "Where is the salt wench?" Where upon in came a handmaid holding in hand a large tray of salt, and the slave kept rubbing it into my brother's wounds; but he did not stir fearing lest the slave might find out that he was not dead and kill him outright. Then the salt girl went away, and the slave cried Where is the souterrain guardianess?" Hereupon in came the old woman and dragged my brother by his feet to a souterrain and threw him down upon a heap of dead bodies. In this place he lay two full days, but Allah made the salt the means of preserving his life by staunching the blood and staying its flow Presently, feeling himself able to move, Al-Nashshar rose and opened the trap door in fear and trembling and crept out into the open; and Allah protected him, so that he went on in the darkness and hid himself in the vestibule till dawn, when he saw the accursed beldam sally forth in quest of other quarry. He followed in her wake without her knowing it, and made for his own lodging where he dressed his wounds and medicined himself till he was whole. Meanwhile he used to watch the old woman, tracking her at all times and seasons, and saw her accost one man after another and carry them to the house. However he uttered not a word; but, as soon as he waxed hale and hearty, he took a piece of stuff and made it into a bag which he filled with broken glass and bound about his middle. He also disguised himself as a Persian that none might know him, and hid a sword under his clothes of foreign cut. Then he went out and presently, falling in with the old woman, said to her, speaking Arabic with a Persian accent, "Venerable lady, I am a stranger arrived but this day here where I know no one. Hast thou a pair of scales wherein I may weigh eleven hundred dinars? I will give thee somewhat of them for thy pains." "I have a son, a money changer, who keepeth all kinds of scales," she answered, "so come with me to him before he goeth out and he will weigh thy gold." My brother answered "Lead the way!" She led him to the house and the young lady herself came out and opened it, whereupon the old woman smiled in her face and said, "I bring thee fat meat today." Then the damsel took my brother by the hand, and led him to the same chamber as before; where she sat with him awhile then rose and went forth saying, "Stir not from thy seat till I come back to thee." Presently in came the accursed slave with the drawn sword and cried to my brother, "Up and be damned to thee." So he rose, and as the slave walked on before him he drew the sword from under his clothes and smote him with it, making head fly from body. Then he dragged the corpse by the feet to the souterrain and called out, "Where is the salt wench?" Up came the girl carrying the tray of salt and, seeing my brother sword in hand, turned to fly; but he followed her and struck off her head. Then he called out, "Where is the souterrain guardianess? , and in came the old woman to whom he said, "Dost know me again, ill omened hag?" "No my lord," she replied, and he said, "I am the owner of the five hundred gold pieces, whose house thou enteredst to make the ablution and to pray, and whom thou didst snare hither and betray." "Fear Allah and spare me," cried she; but he regarded her not and struck her with the sword till he had cut her in four. Then he went to look for the young lady; and when she saw him her reason fled and she cried out piteously "Aman! Mercy!" So he spared her and asked, "What made thee consort with this blackamoor?", and she answered, "I was slave to a certain merchant, and the old woman used to visit me till I took a liking to her. One day she said to me, 'We have a marriage festival at our house the like of which was never seen and I wish thee to enjoy the sight.' 'To hear is to obey,' answered I, and rising arrayed myself in my finest raiment and ornaments, and took with me a purse containing an hundred gold pieces. 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 three whole years through the perfidy of the accursed beldam." Then my brother asked her, "Is there anything of his in the house?"; whereto she answered, "Great store of wealth, and if thou art able to carry it away, do so and Allah give thee good of it" My brother went with her and she opened to him sundry chests wherein were money bags, at which he was astounded; then she said to him, "Go now and leave me here, and fetch men to remove the money.", He went out and hired ten men, but when he returned he found the door wide open, the damsel gone and nothing left but some small matter of coin and the household stuffs. By this he knew that the girl had overreached him; so he opened the store rooms and seized what was in them, together with the rest of the money, leaving nothing in the house. He passed the night rejoicing, but when morning dawned he found at the door some twenty troopers who laid hands on him saying, "The Governor wants thee!" My brother implored them hard to let him return to his house; and even offered them a large sum of money; but they refused and, binding him fast with cords, carried him off. On the way they met a friend of my brother who clung to his skirt and implored his protection, begging him to stand by him and help to deliver him out of their hands. The man stopped, and asked them what was the matter, and they answered, "The Governor hath ordered us to bring this fellow before him and, look ye, we are doing so." My brother's friend urged them to release him, and offered them five hundred dinars to let him go, saying, "When ye return to the Governor tell him that you were unable to find him." But they would not listen to his words and took my brother, dragging him along on his face, and set him before the Governor who asked him, "Whence gottest thou these stuffs and monies?"; and he answered, "I pray for mercy!" So the Governor gave him the kerchief of mercy; and he told him all that had befallen him from first to last with the old woman and the flight of the damsel; ending with, "Whatso I have taken, take of it what thou wilt, so thou leave me sufficient to support life." But the Governor took the whole of the stuffs and all the money for himself; and, fearing lest the affair come to the Sultan's ears, he summoned my brother and said, "Depart from this city, else I will hang thee." "Hearing and obedience" quoth my brother and set out for another town. On the way thieves fell foul of him and stripped and beat him and docked his ears; but I heard tidings of his misfortunes and went out after him taking him clothes; and brought him secretly into the city where I assigned to him an allowance for meat and drink. And presently the Caliph gave ear to...
[Go to The Barber's Tale of his Sixth Brother]
Burton, Richard (1821-1890). The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night. London. 1885-1888. Gutenberg Vol. I. Gutenberg Vol. II. Gutenberg Vol. III. Gutenberg Vol. IV. Gutenberg Vol. V. Gutenberg Vol. V. Gutenberg Vol. VII. Gutenberg Vol. VIII. Gutenberg Vol. IX. Gutenberg Vol. X. Please consult the Gutenberg edition for footnotes; the footnotes have not been included in this web version.
1001 Nights Hypertext. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License. The texts presented here are in the public domain. Thanks to Gene Perry for his excellent help in preparing the texts for the web. Page last updated: January 1, 2005 10:46 PM