[Go back to The Story of the Barber's Eldest Brother]
My second brother, who was called Backbarah the Toothless, going one day through the city, met in a distant street an old woman, who came up to him, and said, "I want one word with you, pray stop a moment." He did so, and asked what she would have. "If you have time to come with me," said she, "I will bring you into a stately palace, where you shall see a lady as fair as the day. She will receive you with much pleasure, and treat you with excellent wine. I need say no more." "But is what you say true?" demanded my brother. "I am no lying hussy," replied the old woman. "I say nothing to you but what is true. But hark, I have something to ask of you. You must be prudent, say but little, and be extremely polite." Backbarah agreed to all this. The old woman went on, and he followed her. They came to the gate of a great palace, where there was a number of officers and domestics. Some of them would have stopped my brother, but no sooner did the old woman speak to them than they let him pass. Then turning to my brother, she said to him, "You must remember that the young lady I bring you to loves good-nature and modesty, and cannot endure to be contradicted; if you please her in these respects, you may be sure to obtain of her what you please." Backbarah thanked her for this advice, and promised to follow it.
She brought him into a superb court, answerable to the magnificence of the palace. There was a gallery round it, and a garden in the middle. The old woman made him sit down on a handsome sofa, and bade him stay a moment, till she went to acquaint the young lady with his arrival.
My brother, who had never been in such a stately palace before, gazed on the fine things that he saw; and judging of his good fortune by the magnificence of the palace, he was scarcely able to contain himself for joy. In a short time he heard a great noise, occasioned by a troop of merry slaves, who came towards him with loud fits of laughter; and in the middle of them he perceived a young lady of extraordinary beauty, who was easily known to be their mistress by the respect they paid her. Backbarah, who expected private conversation with the lady, was extremely surprised when he saw so much company with her. In the mean time, the slaves, as they drew near, put on a grave countenance; and when the young lady came up to the sofa, my brother rose and made her a low obeisance. She took the upper seat, prayed him to sit down, and said to him with a smiling countenance, "I am much pleased to see you, and wish you all the happiness you can desire." "Madam," replied Backbarah, "I cannot desire a greater happiness than to be in your company." "You seem to be of a pleasant humour," said she, "and to be disposed to pass the time agreeably."
She commanded a collation to be brought; and immediately a table was covered with several baskets of fruit and sweetmeats. The lady sat down at the table with the slaves and my brother; and he being placed just opposite to her, when he opened his mouth to eat, she perceived he had no teeth; and taking notice of this to her slaves, she and they laughed heartily. Backbarah, from time to time, lifted up his head to look at her, and perceiving her laugh, concluded it was from the pleasure she derived from his company, and flattered himself that she would speedily send away her slaves, and remain with him alone. She guessed his thoughts, and amusing herself to flatter him in this mistake, addressed him in the most pleasant language, and presented him the best of every thing with her own hand. The entertainment being finished, they rose from the table; ten slaves took musical instruments, and began to play and sing, and others to dance. My brother, to please them, danced likewise, and the lady danced with them. After they had danced some time, they sat down to take breath, and the young lady calling for a glass of wine, looked upon my brother with a smiling countenance, to signify that she was going to drink his health. He rose and stood while she drank. When she had done instead of giving back the glass, she ordered it to be filled, and presented it to my brother, that he might pledge her.
My brother took the glass from the young lady's hand, which he kissed at the same time and stood and drank to her, in return for the favour she had done him. The lady then made him sit down by her, and began to caress him. She put her hand behind his head, and gave him some tips from time to time with her fingers: ravished with these favours, he thought himself the happiest man in the world, and felt disposed to kiss the charming lady, but durst not take that liberty before so many slaves, who had their eyes upon him, and laughed at their lady's wanton tricks. The young lady continued to tip him with her fingers, but at last gave him such a sound box on the ear, that he grew angry; the colour came into his face, and he rose up to remove to a greater distance from such a rude playfellow. Then the old woman, who brought him thither, gave him a look, to let him know that he was in the wrong, and that he had forgotten her advice, to be very complaisant. He owned his fault, and to make amends, went near the young lady again, pretending that he did not remove out of any ill-humour. She drew him by the arm, made him sit down by her, and gave him a thousand malicious squeezes. Her slaves took their part in the diversion; one gave poor Backbarah several fillips on the nose with all her might; another pulled him by the ears, as if she would have pulled them off; and others boxed him in a manner that might have made it appear they were not in jest. My brother bore all this with admirable patience, affecting a gay air, and looking at the old woman, said to her with a forced smile, "You told me, indeed, that I should find the lady perfectly kind, pleasant, and charming; I am mightily obliged to you!" "All this is nothing," replied the old woman; "let her go on, you will see other things by and by." Then the young lady said to him, "Brother, you are a brave man; I am glad to find you are so good-humoured and complaisant to bear with my little caprices, and that your humour is so conformable to mine." "Madam," replied Backbarah, who was charmed with this address, "l am no more at my own disposal, I am wholly yours, you may do with me as you please." "How you oblige me," returned the lady, "by such submission! I am well pleased with you, and would have you be so with me: bring him perfume, and rose-water." Upon this, two slaves went out and returned speedily, one with a silver casket, filled with the best of aloes wood, with which she perfumed him; and the other with rose-water, which she sprinkled on his face and hands. My brother was quite enraptured with this handsome treatment. After this ceremony, the young lady commanded the slaves, who had already played on their instruments and sung, to renew their concerts. They obeyed, and while they were thus employed, the lady called another slave, and ordered her to take my brother with her, and do what she knew, and bring him back to her again. Backbarah, who heard this order, got up quickly, and going to the old woman, who also rose to accompany him and the slave, prayed her to inform him what they were to do with him. "My mistress is only curious," replied the old woman softly; "she has a mind to see how you look in a woman's dress, and this slave, who is desired to take you with her, has orders to paint your eyebrows, to cut off your whiskers, and to dress you like a woman." "You may paint my eyebrows as much as you please," said my brother, "I consent to that, because I can wash it off again; but to shave me, you know I must not permit. How can I appear abroad again without moustaches?" "Beware of refusing what is asked of you," returned the old woman, you will spoil your fortune, which is now in as favourable a train as heart can wish. The lady loves you, and has a mind to make you happy; and will you, for a nasty whisker, renounce the most delicious favours that man can obtain?" Backbarah listened to the old woman, and without saying a word went to a chamber with the slave, where they painted his eyebrows with red, cut off his whiskers, and were going to do the like with his beard.. My brother's patience then began to fail: "Oh!" said he, "I will never part with my beard." The slave told him, that it was to no purpose to have parted with his whiskers, if he would not also part with his beard, which could never comport with "woman's dress; and she wondered that a man, who was upon the point of being loved by the finest lady in Bagdad, should be concerned about his beard. The old woman threatened him with the loss of the young lady's favour; so that at last he allowed them to do what they would. When he was dressed in female attire, they brought him before the young lady, who laughed so heartily when she saw him, that she fell backward on the sofa. The slaves laughed and clapped their hands, so that my brother was quite out of countenance. The young lady got up, and still laughing, said to him, "After so much complaisance, I should be very much to blame not to love you with all my heart: but there is one thing more you must do for me, and that is, to dance as we do." He obeyed, and the young lady and her slaves danced with him, laughing as if they had been mad. After they had danced some time, they all fell upon the poor wretch, and did so box and kick him, that he fell down like one out of his senses. The old woman helped him up again: and that he might not have time to think of his ill-treatment, bade him take courage, and whispered in his ear, that all his sufferings were at an end, and that he was just about to receive his reward.
The old woman continued her discourse to Backbarah thus: "You have only one thing more to do, and that is but a small one. You must know that my mistress has a custom, when she has drunk a little, as you see she has done to-day, to let no one that she loves come near her, except they be stripped to their shirt; and when they have done so, she takes a little advantage of them and begins running before them through the gallery, and from chamber to chamber, till they catch her. This is one more of her humours: what advantage soever she takes of you, considering your nimbleness, you will soon overtake her; strip yourself then to your shirt, undress yourself without ceremony."
My silly brother had done too much to hesitate at anything now. He undressed himself; and in the mean time the young lady was stripped to her shift and drawers, that she might run the more nimbly. When they were ready, the young lady took the advantage of twenty paces, and then began to run with surprising swiftness: my brother followed as fast as he could, the slaves in the mean time laughing heartily and clapping their hands. The young lady, instead of losing ground, gained upon my brother: she made him run two or three times round the gallery, and then entering a long dark passage, made her escape. Backbarah, who still followed, having lost sight of her in the passage, was obliged to slacken his pace, because of the darkness of the place: at last perceiving a light, he ran towards it, and went out at a door, which was immediately shut after him. You may imagine how he was surprised to find himself in a street inhabited by curriers, and they were no less surprised to see him in his shirt, his eyes painted red, and without beard or moustaches: they began to clap their hands and shout at him, and some of them ran after him and lashed his back with leather straps. They then took him and set him upon an ass which they met by chance, and carried him through the town exposed to the laughter of the people.
To complete his misfortune, as he went by the judge's house, he would needs know the cause of the tumult. The curriers told him, that they saw him come in that condition from the gate of the apartments of the grand vizier's women, which opened into their street; upon which the judge ordered unfortunate Backbarah to have a hundred blows with a cane on the soles of his feet, and sent him out of the town with orders never to return.
"Thus, commander of the faithful," said I to the caliph, "I have given an account of the adventure of my second brother, who did not know that our greatest ladies divert themselves sometimes by putting such tricks upon young people, who are so foolish as to be caught in the snare."
The barber, without breaking off, told the story of his third brother in the following manner.
[Go to The Story of the Barber's Third 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