[Go back to The Story of the Barber's Third Brother]
Alcouz was the name of the fourth brother who lost one of his eyes, upon an occasion that I shall have the honour to relate to your majesty. He was a butcher by profession, and had a particular way of teaching rams to fight, by which he gained the acquaintance and friendship of the chief lords of the country, who loved that sport, and for that end kept rams at their houses. He had besides a very good trade, and had his shop always full of the best meat, because he spared no cost for the prime of every sort. One day when he was in his shop, an old man with a long white beard came and bought six pounds of meat of him, gave him money for it, and went his way. My brother thought the money so pure and well coined, that he put it apart by itself: the same old man came every day for five months together, bought a like quantity of meat, and paid for it in the same kind of money, which my brother continued to lay apart.
At the end of five months, Alcouz having a mind to buy a lot of sheep, and to pay for them in this money, opened his chest; but instead of finding his money, was extremely surprised to see nothing in the place where he had laid it, but a parcel of leaves clipped round. He beat his head, and cried out aloud, which presently brought the neighbours about him, who were as much surprised as he, when he told them the story. "O!" cried my brother, weeping, "that this treacherous old fellow would come now with his hypocritical looks!" He had scarcely spoken, when he saw him at a distance; he ran to him, and laid hands on him; "Moosulmauns," cried he, as loud as he could, "help! hear what a cheat this wicked fellow has put upon me," and at the same time told a great crowd of people, who came about him, what he had formerly told his neighbours. When he had done, the old man said to him very gravely and calmly, "You had better let me go, and by that means make amends for the affront you have put upon me before so many people, for fear I should put a greater affront upon you, which I should be sorry to do." "How," said my brother, "what have you to say against me? I am an honest man in my business, and fear not you, nor any body." "You would have me speak out then," resumed the old man in the same tone; and turning to the crowd, said to them, "Know, good people, that this fellow, instead of selling mutton as he ought to do, sells human flesh." "You are a cheat," said my brother. "No, no," continued the old man; "good people, this very minute while I am speaking to him, there is a man with his throat cut hung up in the shop like a sheep; do any of you go thither, and see if what I say be not true."
Just before my brother had opened his chest he had killed a sheep, dressed it, and exposed it in the shop, according to custom: he protested that what the old man said was false; but notwithstanding all his protestations, the credulous mob, prejudiced against a man accused of such a heinous crime, would go to see whether the charge were true. They obliged my brother to quit the old man, laid hold of him, and ran like madmen into his shop, where they saw, to all appearance, a man hung up with his throat cut, as the old man had told them; for he was a magician, and deceived the eyes of all people, as he did my brother, when he made him take leaves instead of money. At this sight, one of those who held Alcouz gave him a violent blow with his fist, and said to him, "Thou wicked villain, dost thou make us eat man's flesh instead of mutton?" And at the same time the old man gave him another blow, which beat out one of his eyes. Every body that could get near him struck him; and not content with that, they carried him before a judge, with the pretended carcase of the man, to be evidence against him." "Sir," said the old magician to the judge, "we have brought you a man, who is so barbarous as to murder people, and to sell their flesh instead of mutton. The public expects that you will punish him in an exemplary manner." The judge heard my brother with patience, but would believe nothing of the story of the money changed into leaves, called my brother a cheat, told him he would believe his own eyes, and ordered him to receive five hundred blows. He afterwards made him tell him where his money was, took it all from him, and banished him for ever, after having made him ride three days through the city upon a camel, exposed to the insults of the people.
I was not at Bagdad when this tragical adventure befell my fourth brother. He retired into a remote place, where he lay concealed till he was cured of the blows with which his back was terribly mangled. When he was able to walk, he went by night to a certain town where nobody knew him; and there he took a lodging, from whence he seldom moved; but being weary of this confined life, he went to walk in one of the suburbs, where suddenly he heard a noise of horsemen coming behind him. He was then by chance near the gate of a house, and fearing, after what had befallen him, that these horsemen were pursuing him, he opened the gate in order to hide himself, and after he had shut it, entered a court, where immediately two servants came and collared him, saying, "Heaven be praised, that you have come of your own accord to surrender yourself; you have alarmed us so much these three last nights, that we could not sleep; nor would you have spared our lives, if we had not prevented your design." You may well imagine my brother was much surprised. "Good people," said he, "I know not what you mean; you certainly take me for somebody else." "No, no," replied they, "we know that you and your comrades are robbers: you were not contented to rob our master of all that he had, and to reduce him to beggary, but you conspired to take his life. Let us see if you have not a knife about you, which you had in your hand when you pursued us last night." Having said thus, they searched him, and found he had a knife. "Ho! ho!" cried they, laying hold of him, "and dare you say that you are not a robber?" "Why," said my brother, "cannot a man carry a knife about him without being a robber? If you will hearken to my story, instead of having so bad an opinion of me, you will be touched with compassion at my misfortunes." But far from attending to him, they fell upon him, trod upon him, took away his clothes, and tore his shirt. Then seeing the scars on his back, "O dog," said they, redoubling their blows, "would you have us believe you are an honest man, when your back shews us the contrary?" "Alas!" said my brother, "my crimes must be very great, since, after having been abused already so unjustly, I am thus treated a second time without being more culpable!"
The two servants, no way moved with his complaint, carried him before the judge, who asked him how he durst presume to go into their house, and pursue them with a drawn knife? "Sir," replied the unfortunate Alcouz, "I am the most innocent man in the world, and am undone if you will not be pleased to hear me patiently: no one deserves more compassion." "Sir," exclaimed one of the domestics, "will you listen to a robber, who enters people's houses to plunder and murder them? If you will not believe us, only look upon his back;" and while he said so he uncovered my brother's back, and shewed it to the judge, who, without any other information, commanded his officers immediately to give him a hundred lashes over the shoulders, and made him afterwards be carried through the town on a camel, with one crying before him, "Thus are men punished who enter people's houses by force." After having treated him thus, they banished him the town, and forbade him ever to return. Some people, who met him after the second misfortune, brought me word where he was; I went, brought him to Bagdad privately, and gave him all the assistance I could. The caliph did not laugh so much at this story as at the other. He was pleased to pity the unfortunate Alcouz, and ordered something to be given me. But without giving his servants time to obey his orders, I continued my discourse, and said to him: "My sovereign lord and master, you see that I do not talk much; and since your majesty has been pleased to do me the favour to listen to me so far, I beg you would likewise hear the adventures of my two other brothers; I hope they will be as diverting as those of the former. You may make a complete history of them, that will not be unworthy of your library: I shall do myself the honour then to acquaint you, that the fifth brother was called Alnaschar."
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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