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Scott: The Little Hunchback (cont.)

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

When the barber had concluded his story, we found that the young man was not to blame for calling him a great chatterer. However, he wished him to stay with us, and partake of the entertainment which the master of the house had prepared. We sat down to table, and were merry together till afternoon prayers; when all the company parted, and I went to my shop, till it was time to return home. It was during this interval that humpback came half drunk before my shop, where he sung and played on his tabor. I thought that, by carrying him home with me, I should divert my wife, therefore I took him in: my wife gave us a dish of fish, and I presented humpback with some, which he ate, without taking notice of a bone. He fell down dead before us, and after having in vain essayed to help him, in the trouble and fear occasioned by such an unlucky accident, we carried the corpse out, and dexterously lodged him with the Jewish doctor. The Jewish doctor put him into the chamber of the purveyor, and the purveyor carried him out into the street, where it was believed the merchant had killed him. "This sir," added the tailor, "is what I had to say to satisfy your majesty, who must pronounce whether we be worthy of mercy or wrath, life or death."

The sultan of Casgar shewed a satisfaction in his countenance, which restored the tailor and his comrades to life. "I cannot but acknowledge," said he, "that I am more struck with the history of the young cripple, with that of the barber, and with the adventures of his brothers, than with the story of my jester: but before I send you all away, and we proceed to bury humpback, I should like to see the barber who is the occasion of my pardoning you; since he is in my capital, it is easy to satisfy my curiosity." At the same time he sent an officer with the tailor to find him.

The officer and the tailor went immediately and brought the barber, whom they presented to the sultan: the barber was a venerable man about ninety years of age; his eye-brows and beard were white as snow, his ears hanging down, and his nose very long. The sultan could not forbear laughing when he saw him. "Silent man," said he to him, "I understand that you know wonderful stories, will you tell me some of them?"

"Sir," answered the barber, "let us forbear the stories, if you please, at present. I most humbly beg your majesty to permit me to ask what that Christian, that Jew, that Moosulmaun and that dead humpback, who ties on the ground, do here before your majesty?" The sultan smiled at the barber's freedom, and replied, "Why do you ask?" "Sir," replied the barber, "it concerns me to ask, that your majesty may know I am not so great a talker as some represent me, but a man justly called Silent."

The sultan commanded them to tell him the story of the humpback, which he seemed earnestly to wish for. When the barber heard it, he shook his head, as if he would say, there was something under this which he did not understand. "Truly," cried he, "this is a surprising story; but I wish to examine humpback a little nearer." He approached him, sat down on the ground, took his head between his knees, and after he had looked upon him steadfastly, fell into so great a fit of laughter, and had so little command of himself, that he fell backwards on the ground, without considering that he was before the sultan of Casgar. As soon as he came to himself, "It is said," cried he, "and not without reason, that no man dies without a cause. If ever any history deserved to be written in letters of gold, it is that of this humpback."

At this all the people looked on the barber as a buffoon, or an old dotard. "Silent man," said the sultan, "why do you laugh?" "Sir," answered the barber, "I swear by your majesty's benevolence, that humpback is not dead: he is yet alive, and I shall be content to pass for a madman if I do not convince you this minute." So saying, he took a box wherein he had several medicines that he carried about him to use as occasion might require; and drew out a little phial of balsam, with which he rubbed humpback's neck a long time; then he took out of his case a neat iron instrument, which he put betwixt his teeth, and after he had opened his mouth, he thrust down his throat a pair of small pincers, with which he took out a bit of fish and bone, which he shewed to all the people. Immediately humpback sneezed, stretched forth his arms and feet, opened his eyes, and shewed several other signs of life.

The sultan of Casgar, and all who were witnesses of this operation, were less surprised to see humpback revive, after he had passed a whole night, and great part of a day, without giving any sign of life, than at the merit and capacity of the barber, who performed this; and notwithstanding all his faults, began to look upon him as a great physician. The sultan, transported with joy and admiration, ordered the story of humpback to be written down, with that of the barber, that the memory of them might, as it deserved, be preserved for ever. Nor did he stop here; but, that the tailor, Jewish doctor, purveyor, and Christian merchant might remember the adventure, which the accident of humpback had occasioned to them, with pleasure, he did not send them away till he had given each of them a very rich robe, with which he caused them to be clothed in his presence. As for the barber, he honoured him with a great pension, and kept him near his person.

[Go to Aboulhassen Ali Ebn Ecar, and Schemselnihar, Favourite of Caliph Haroon Al Rusheed]

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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