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Scott: The Story of the Barber's Fifth Brother

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Alnaschar, as long as our father lived, was very lazy; instead of working he used to beg in the evening, and live upon what he got. Our father died at a very old age, and left among us seven hundred dirhems: we divided equally, so that each of us had a hundred for his share. Alnaschar, who had never before possessed so much money, was much perplexed to know what he should do with it. He consulted a long time with himself, and at last resolved to lay it out in glass-ware which he bought of a wholesale dealer. He put all in an open basket, and sat with it before him, and his back against a wall, in a place where he might sell it. In this posture, with his eyes fixed on his basket, he began to meditate; during which he spoke as follows: "This basket cost me a hundred dirhems, which is all I have in the world. I shall make two hundred of them by retailing my glass, and of these two hundred, which I will again lay out in glass-ware, I shall make four hundred; and going on thus, I shall at last make four thousand dirhems; of four thousand I shall easily make eight thousand, and when I come to ten thousand, I will leave off selling glass and turn jeweller; I will trade in diamonds, pearls, and all sorts of precious stones: then when I am as rich as I can wish, I will buy a fine mansion, a great estate, slaves, eunuchs, and horses. I will keep a good house, and make a great figure in the world; I will send for all the musicians and dancers of both sexes in town. Nor will I stop here, for, I will, by the favour of Heaven, go on till I get one hundred thousand dirhems, and when I have amassed so much, I will send to demand the grand vizier's daughter in marriage; and represent to that minister, that I have heard much of the wonderful beauty, understanding, wit, and all the other qualities of his daughter; in a word, that I will give him a thousand pieces of gold the first night after we are married; and if the vizier be so uncivil as to refuse his daughter, which cannot be supposed, I will go and carry her off before his face, and take her to my house whether he will or no. As soon as I have married the grand vizier's daughter, I will buy her ten young black eunuchs, the handsomest that can be had; I will clothe my self like a prince, and mounted upon a fine horse, with a saddle of fine gold, with housings of cloth of gold, finely embroidered with diamonds and pearls, I will ride through the city, attended by slaves before and behind. I will go to the vizier's palace in view of all the people great and small, who will show me the most profound respect. When I alight at the foot of the vizier's staircase, I will ascend through my own people, ranged in files on the right and left; and the grand vizier, receiving me as his son-in-law, shall give me the right hand and set me above him, to do me the more honour. If this comes to pass, as I hope it will, two of my people shall each of them have a purse with a thousand pieces of gold, which they shall carry with them. I will take one, and presenting it to the grand vizier, tell him, ‘There is the thousand pieces of gold that I promised the first night of marriage:' and I will offer him the other and say to him, ‘There is as much more, to shew you that I am a man of my word, and even better than my promise.' After such an action as this, all the world will talk of my generosity. I will return to my own house in the same pomp. My wife will send some officer to compliment me, on account of my visit to the vizier, her father: I will honour the officer with a fine robe, and send him back with a rich present. If she send me a present, I will not accept it, but dismiss the bearer. I will not suffer her to go out of her apartment on any account whatever, without giving me notice: and when I have a mind to come to her apartment, it shall be in such a manner as to make her respect me. In short, no house shall be better ordered than mine. I will be always richly clad. When I retire with my wife in the evening, I will sit on the upper seat, I will affect a grave air, without turning my head to one side or the other. I will speak little; and whilst my wife, beautiful as the full moon, stands before me in all her charms, I will make as if I did not see her. Her women about her will say to me, ‘Our dear lord and master, here is your spouse, your humble servant, before you, ready to receive your caresses, but much mortified that you do not vouchsafe to look upon her; she is wearied with standing so long, bid her, at least, sit down.' I will make no answer, which will increase their surprise and grief. They will prostrate themselves at my feet; and after they have for a considerable time entreated me to relent, I will at last lift up my head, give her a careless look, and resume my former posture: they will suppose that my wife is not handsomely enough dressed, and will carry her to her closet to change her apparel. At the same time I will get up and put on a more magnificent suit; they will return and address me as before, but I will not so much as look upon my wife, till they have prayed and entreated as long as they did at first. Thus I will begin on the first day of marriage, to teach her what she is to expect during the rest of her life.

"After the ceremonies of the marriage, I will take from one of my servants, who shall be about me, a purse of five hundred pieces of gold, which I will give to the tire-women, that they may leave me alone with my spouse: when they are gone, my wife shall go to bed first; then I will lie down by her with my back towards her, and will not say one wore to her all night. The next morning she will certainly complain of my contempt and of my pride, to her mother the grand vizier's wife, which will rejoice my heart. Her mother will come to wait upon me, respectfully kiss my hands, and say to me, ‘Sir' (for she will not dare to call me son-in-law, for fear of provoking me by such a familiar style), ‘I entreat you not to disdain to look on my daughter, and refuse to come near her. I assure you that her chief delight is to please you, and that she loves you with all her soul.' But in spite of all my mother-in-law can say, I will not answer her one word, but keep an obstinate gravity. Then she will throw herself at my feet, kiss them repeatedly, and say to me, ‘Sir, is it possible that you can suspect my daughter's virtue? You are the first man who ever saw her face: do not mortify her so much; do her the favour to look upon her, to speak to her, and confirm her in her good intentions to satisfy you in every thing.' But nothing of this shall prevail with me. Upon which my mother-in-law will take a glass of wine, and putting it in the hand of her daughter my wife, will say, ‘Go, present him this glass of wine yourself; perhaps he will not be so cruel as to refuse it from so fair a hand.' My wife will come with the glass and stand trembling before me; and when she finds that I do not look towards her, but that I continue to disdain her, she will say to me with tears in her eyes, ‘My heart, my dear soul, my amiable lord, I conjure you, by the favours which heaven heaps upon you, to receive this glass of wine from the hand of your most humble servant:' but I will not look upon her still, nor answer her. ‘My charming spouse,' will she say, redoubling her tears, and putting the glass to my mouth, "I will never cease till I prevail with you to drink;' then, wearied with her entreaties, I will dart a terrible look at her, shake my hand in her face, and spurn her from me with my foot."

My brother was so full of these chimerical visions, that he acted with his foot as if she had been really before him, and unfortunately gave such a push to his basket and glasses, that they were thrown down, and broken into a thousand pieces,

On this fatal accident, he came to himself, and perceiving that he had brought misfortune upon himself by his insupportable pride, beat his face, tore his clothes, and cried so loud, that the neighbours came about him; and the people, who were going to their noon prayers, stopped to know what was the matter. Being on a Friday, more people went to prayers than usual; some of them took pity on Alnaschar, and others only laughed at his extravagance. In the mean time, his vanity being dispersed with his property, he bitterly bewailed his loss; and a lady of rank passing by upon a mule richly caparisoned, my brother's situation moved her compassion. She asked who he was, and what he cried for? They told her, that he was a poor man, who had laid out the little money he possessed in the purchase of a basket of glassware, that the basket had fallen, and all his glasses were broken. The lady immediately turned to an eunuch who attended her, and said to him, "Give the poor man what you have about you." The eunuch obeyed, and put into my brother's hands a purse with five hundred pieces of gold. Alnaschar was ready to die with joy when he received it. He gave a thousand blessings to the lady, and shutting up his shop, where he had no more occasion to sit, went to his house.

While he was pondering over his good luck, he heard somebody knock at his door. Before he opened, he asked who it was, and knowing by the voice that it was a woman, he let her in. "My son," said she, "I have a favour to beg of you: the hour of prayer is come, let me perform my ablutions in your house, that I may be fit to say my prayers." My brother looking at her, and seeing that she was well advanced in years, though he knew her not, granted her request, and sat down again still full of his new adventure. He put his gold in a long strait purse, proper to carry at his girdle. The old woman in the mean time said her prayers, and when she had done, came to my brother and bowed twice to the ground, so low, that she touched it with her forehead: then rising up, she wished him all happiness.

The old woman then bowed again, and thanked him for his civility. Being meanly clad, and very humble, he thought she asked alms; upon which he offered her two pieces of gold. The old woman stepped back in a sort of surprise, as if my brother had affronted her. "Good God!" said she, "what is the meaning of this? Is it possible, sir, that you took me for one of those impudent beggars who push into people's houses to ask alms? Take back your money: thank heaven, I need it not. I belong to a young lady of this city, who is a perfect beauty, and very rich; she lets me want for nothing."

My brother was not cunning enough to perceive the craft of the old woman, who only refused the two pieces of gold, that she might catch more. He asked her, if she could not procure him the honour of seeing that lady. "With all my heart," she replied; "she will be very glad to marry you, and to put you in possession of her fortune, by making you master of her person. Take up your money, and follow me." My brother, transported with his good luck in finding so great a sum of money, and almost at the same time a beautiful and rich wife, shut his eyes to all other considerations; so that he took his five hundred pieces of gold, and followed the old woman. She walked on, and he followed at a distance, to the gate of a great house, where she knocked. He came up just as a young Greek slave opened the gate. The old woman made him enter first, crossed a well-paved court, and introduced him into a hall, the furniture of which confirmed him in the good opinion he had conceived of the mistress of the house. While the old woman went to acquaint the lady, he sat down, and the weather being hot, put off his turban, and laid it by him. He speedily saw the young lady enter: her beauty and rich apparel perfectly surprised him; he arose as soon as he saw her. The lady, with a smiling countenance, prayed him to sit down again, and placed herself by him. She told him, she was very glad to see him; and after having spoken some engaging words, said, "We do not sit here at our ease. Come, give me your hand." At these words she presented him hers, and conducted him into an inner chamber, where she conversed with him for some time: she then left him, saying that she would be with him in a moment. He waited for her; but instead of the lady came in a great black slave with a cimeter in his hand, and looking upon my brother with a terrible aspect, said to him fiercely, "What have you to do here?" Alnaschar was so frightened, that he had no power to answer. The black stripped him, carried off his gold, and gave him several flesh wounds with his cimeter. My unhappy brother fell to the ground, where he lay without motion, though he had still the use of his senses. The black thinking him to be dead, asked for salt: the Greek slave brought him a basin full: they rubbed my brother's wounds with it, but he had so much command of himself, notwithstanding the intolerable pain it put him to, that he lay still without giving any sign of life. The black and the Greek slave having retired, the old woman, who had enticed my brother into the snare, came and dragged him by the feet to a trapdoor, which she opened, and threw him into a place under ground, among the bodies of several other people who had been murdered. He perceived this as soon as he came to himself, for the violence of the fall had taken away his senses. The salt rubbed into his wounds preserved his life, and he recovered strength by degrees, so as to be able to walk. After two days he opened the trap-door in the night, and finding in the court a place proper to hide himself in, continued there till break of day, when he saw the cursed old woman open the street gate, and go out to seek another victim. He stayed in the place some time after she was gone, that she might not see him, and then came to me for shelter, when he told me of his adventures.

In a month's time he was perfectly cured of his wounds by medicines that I gave him, and resolved to avenge himself of the old woman, who had put such a barbarous cheat upon him. To this end he took a bag, large enough to contain five hundred pieces of gold, and filled it with pieces of glass.

My brother fastened the bag of glass about him, disguised himself like an old woman, and took a cimeter under his gown. One morning he met the old woman walking through the town to seek her prey; he went up to her, and counterfeiting a woman's voice, said, "Cannot you lend me a pair of scales? I am newly come from Persia, have brought five hundred pieces of gold with me, and would know if they are weight." "Good woman," answered the old hag, "you could not have applied to a fitter person: follow me, I will conduct you to my son, who changes money, and will weigh them himself to save you the trouble. Let us make haste, for fear he should go to his shop." My brother followed her to the house where she carried him at first, and the Greek slave opened the door.

The old woman took my brother to the hall where she desired him to wait till she called her son. The pretended son came, and proved to be the villainous black slave. "Come, old woman," said he to my brother, "rise and follow me:" having spoken thus, he went before to conduct him to the place where he designed to murder him. Alnaschar got up, followed him, and drawing his cimeter, gave him such a dexterous blow behind on the neck, that he cut off his head, which he took in one hand, and dragging the corpse with the other, threw them both into the place under ground before-mentioned. The Greek slave, who was accustomed to the trade, came presently with a basin of salt; but when she saw Alnaschar with his cimeter in his hand, and without his veil, she laid down the basin, and fled. But my brother overtaking her, cut off her head also. The wicked old woman came running at the noise, and my brother seizing her, said to her, "Treacherous wretch, do not you know me?" "Alas, Sir!" answered she trembling, "who are you? I do not remember that I ever saw you." "I am," replied he, "the person to whose house you came the other day to wash and say your prayers. Hypocritical hag, do not you remember?" Then she fell on her knees to beg his pardon, but he cut her in four pieces.

There remained only the lady, who knew nothing of what had passed: he sought her out, and found her in a chamber, where she was ready to sink when she saw him: she begged her life, which he generously granted. "Madam," said he, "how could you live with such wicked people, as I have so justly revenged myself upon?" "I was," she answered, "wife to an honest merchant; and the old woman, whose wickedness I did not then know, used sometimes to come to see me; ‘Madam,' said she to me one day, ‘we have a wedding at our house, which you will be pleased to see, if you will give us the honour of your company:' I was persuaded by her, put on my best apparel, and took with me a hundred pieces of gold. I followed her; she brought me to this house, where the black has since kept me by force, and I have been three years here to my great sorrow." "By the trade which that cursed black followed," replied my brother, "he must have gathered together a vast deal of riches." "There is so much," said she "that you will be made for ever, if you can carry them off: follow me, and you shall see them." Alnaschar followed her to a chamber, where she shewed him several coffers full of gold, which he beheld with admiration. "Go," said she, "and fetch people to carry it all off." My brother went out, got ten men together, and brought them with him, but was much surprised to find the gate open, the lady and the coffers gone, for she being more diligent than he, had conveyed them all off and disappeared. However, being resolved not to return empty-handed, he carried off all the furniture of the house, which was a great deal more than enough to make up the five hundred pieces of gold he had been robbed of; but when he went out of the house, he forgot to shut the gate. The neighbours, who saw my brother and the porters come and go, went and acquainted the magistrate, for they looked upon my brother's conduct as suspicious. Alnaschar slept well enough all night, but the next morning, when he came out of his house, twenty of the magistrate's men seized him. "Come along with us," said they, "our master would speak with you." My brother prayed them to have patience for a moment, and offered them a sum of money to let him escape; but instead of listening to him, they bound him, and forced him to go with them. They met in the street an old acquaintance of my brother's, who stopped them awhile, asked them why they had seized my brother, offered them a considerable sum to let him escape, and tell the magistrate they could not find him, but in vain.

When the officers brought him before the magistrate, he asked him where he had the goods which he had carried home the preceding evening? "Sir," replied Alnaschar, "I am ready to tell you all the truth; but allow me first to have recourse to your clemency, and to beg your promise, that I shall not be punished." "I give it you," said the magistrate. My brother then told him the whole story without disguise, from the period the old woman came into his house to say her prayers, to the time the lady made her escape, after he had killed the black, the Greek slave, and the old woman: and as for what he had carried to his house, he prayed the judge to leave him part of it, for the five hundred pieces of gold of which he had been robbed.

The judge, without promising any thing, sent his officers to bring off the whole, and having put the goods into his own warehouse, commanded my brother to quit the town immediately, and never to return, for he was afraid, if he had stayed in the city, he would have found some way to represent this injustice to the caliph. In the mean time, Alnaschar obeyed without murmuring, and left that town to go to another. By the way, he met with highwaymen, who stripped him naked; and when the ill news was brought to me, I carried him a suit, and brought him secretly into the town, where I took the like care of him as I did of his other brothers.

[Go to The Story of the Barber's Sixth Brother]

Scott, Jonathan (1754-1829). The Arabian Nights Entertainments. London: Pickering and Chatto, 1890. 4 Volumes. Project Gutenberg.

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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