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Payne: The Story of the Barber's First Brother

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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, O Commander of the Faithful, that...

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Payne, John (1842-1916). The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night. London. 1901. Gutenberg Vol. I. Gutenberg Vol. II. Gutenberg Vol. III. Gutenberg Vol. IV. Please consult the Gutenberg edition for footnotes; the footnotes have not been included in this web version. Wollamshram Vol. V. Wollamshram Vol. VI. Wollamshram Vol. VII. Wollamshram Vol. VIII. Wollamshram Vol. IX. Please consult the Wollamshram 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


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