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Payne: The Story of the Barber's Sixth Brother

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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," 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?"

[Resume The Tailor's Story]


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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