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Scott: The Story of the Barber's Sixth Brother

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I have now only to relate the story of my sixth brother, called Schacabac, with the hare lips. At first he was industrious enough to improve the hundred dirhems of silver which fell to his share, and went on very well; but a reverse of fortune brought him to beg his bread, which he did with a great deal of dexterity. He studied chiefly to get into great men's houses by means of their servants and officers, that he might have access to their masters, and obtain their charity. One day as he passed by a magnificent house, whose high gate shewed a very spacious court, where there was a multitude of servants, he went to one of them, and asked him to whom that house belonged? "Good man," replied the servant, "whence do you come that you ask me such a question? Does not all that you behold point out to you that it is the palace of a Barmecide?" "My brother, who very well knew the liberality and generosity of the Barmecides, addressed himself to one of his porters (for he had more than one), and prayed him to give him alms. "Go in," said he, "nobody hinders you, and address yourself to the master of the house; he will send you back satisfied."

My brother, who expected no such civility, thanked the porters, and with their permission entered the palace, which was so large, that it took him a considerable time to reach the Barmecide's. apartment; at last he came to an arcade square building of an excellent architecture, and entered by parterres of flowers intersected by walks of several colours, extremely pleasant to the eye: the lower apartments round this square were most of them open, and were shut only with great curtains to keep out the sun, which were opened again when the heat was over to let in the fresh air.

Such an agreeable place would have struck my brother with admiration, even if his mind had been more at ease than it was. He went on till he came into a hall richly furnished and adorned with painting of gold and azure foliage, where he saw a venerable man with a long white beard, sitting at the upper end on a sofa, whence he concluded him to be the master of the house; and in fact it was the Barmecide himself, who said to my brother in a very civil manner, that he was welcome; and asked him what he wanted? "My lord," answered my brother, in a begging tone, "I am a poor man who stands in need of the help of such rich and generous persons as yourself." He could not have addressed himself to a fitter person than this lord, who had a thousand good qualities.

The Barmecide seemed to be astonished at my brother's answer, and putting both his hands to his stomach, as if he would rend his clothes for grief, "Is it possible," cried he, "that I am at Bagdad, and that such a man as you is so poor as you say? this is what must never be." My brother, fancying that he was going to give him some singular mark of his bounty, blessed him a thousand times, and wished him all happiness. "It shall not be said," replied the Barmecide, "that I will abandon you, nor will I have you leave me." "Sir," replied my brother, "I swear to you I have not eaten one bit to-day." "Is it true," demanded the Barmecide, "that you are fasting till now? Alas, poor man! he is ready to die for hunger. Ho, boy," cried he, with a loud voice, "bring a basin and water presently, that we may wash our hands." Though no boy appeared, and my brother saw neither water nor basin, the Barmecide fell to rubbing his hands as if one had poured water upon them, and bade my brother come and wash with him. Schacabac judged by this, that the Barmecide lord loved to be merry, and he himself understanding raillery, and knowing that the poor must be complaisant to the rich, if they would have any thing from them, came forward and did as he was required.

"Come on," said the Barmecide, "bring us something to eat, and do not let us wait." When he had spoken, though nothing appeared, he began to cut as if something had been brought him upon a plate, and putting his hand to his mouth began to chew, and said to my brother, "Come, friend, eat as freely as if you were at home; come, eat; you said you were like to die of hunger, but you eat as if you had no appetite." "Pardon me, my lord," said Schacabac, who perfectly imitated what he did, "you see I lose no time, and that I play my part well enough." "How like you this bread," said the Barmecide; "do not you find it very good?" "O! my lord," replied my brother, who saw neither bread nor meat, "I have never eaten anything so white and so fine." "Eat your belly-full," said the Barmecide; "I assure you the woman who bakes me this good bread cost me five hundred pieces of gold to purchase her."

The Barmecide, after having boasted so much of his bread, which my brother ate only in idea, cried, "Boy, bring us another dish:" and though no boy appeared, "Come, my good friend," continued he, "taste this new dish; and tell me if ever you ate better mutton and barley-broth than this." "It is admirably good," replied my brother, "and therefore you see I eat heartily." "You oblige me highly," resumed the Barmecide; "I conjure you then, by the satisfaction I have to see you eat so heartily, that you eat all up, since you like it so well." A little while after he called for a goose and sweet sauce, made up of vinegar, honey, dry raisins, grey peas, and dry figs, which were brought just in the same manner as the others had. "The goose is very fat," said the Barmecide, "eat only a leg and a wing; we must save our stomachs, for we have abundance of other dishes to come." He actually called for several others, of which my brother, who was ready to die of hunger, pretended to eat; but what he boasted of more than all the rest was a lamb fed with pistachio nuts, which he ordered to be brought up in the same manner. "Here is a dish," said the Barmecide "that you will see at nobody's table but my own; I would have you eat your belly-full of it." Having spoken thus, he stretched out his hand as if he had had a piece of lamb in it, and putting it to my brother's mouth, "There," said he, "swallow that, and you will judge whether I had not reason to boast of this dish." My brother thrust out his head, opened his mouth, and made as if he took the piece of lamb, and eat it with extreme pleasure. "I knew you would like it," said the Barmecide. "There is nothing in the world finer," replied my brother; "your table is most delicious." "Come, bring the ragout; I fancy you will like that as well as you did the lamb: Well, how do you relish it?" "O! it is wonderful," replied Schacabac; "for here we taste all at once, amber, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, pepper, and the most odoriferous herbs, and all these delicacies are so well mixed, that one does not prevent our tasting the other." "How pleasant! Honour this ragout," said the Barmecide, "by eating heartily of it. Ho, boy, bring us another ragout." "No, my lord, if it please you," replied my brother, "for indeed I can eat no more."

"Come, take away then," said the Barmecide, "and bring the fruit." He stayed a moment as it were to give time for his servants to carry away; after which, he addressed my brother, "Taste these almonds, they are good and fresh gathered." Both of them made as if they had peeled the almonds, and eaten them; after this, the Barmecide invited my brother to eat something else. "Look," said he, "there are all sorts of fruits, cakes, dry sweetmeats, and conserves, take what you like;" then stretching out his hand, as if he had reached my brother something, "Look," he continued, "there is a lozenge, very good for digestion." Schacabac made as if he ate it, and said, "My lord, there is no want of musk here." "These lozenges," replied the Barmecide, "are made at my own house, where nothing is wanting to make every article good." He still bade my brother eat, and said to him, "Methinks you do not eat as if you had been so hungry as you complained you were when you came in." "My lord," replied Schacabac, whose jaws ached with moving and having nothing to eat, "I assure you I am so full that I cannot eat one bit more."

"Well, then, friend," resumed the Barmecide, "we must drink now, after we have eaten so well." "You may drink wine, my lord," replied my brother, "but I will drink none if you please, because I am forbidden." "You are too scrupulous," rejoined the Barmecide; "do as I do." "I will drink then out of complaisance," said Schacabac, "for I see you will have nothing wanting to make your treat complete; but since I am not accustomed to drink wine, I am afraid I shall commit some error in point of good breeding, and contrary to the respect that is due to you; therefore I pray you, once more, to excuse me from drinking any wine; I will be content with water." "No, no," said the Barmecide, "you shall drink wine," and at the same time he commanded some to be brought, in the same manner as the meat and fruit had been served before. He made as if he poured out wine, and drank first himself, and then pouring out for my brother, presented him the glass, saying, "Drink my health, and let us know if you think this wine good." My brother made as if he took the glass, and looked as if the colour was good, and put it to his nose to try the flavour: he then made a low salute to the Barmecide, to signify that he took the liberty to drink his health, and lastly he appeared to drink with all the signs of a man that drinks with pleasure: "My lord," said he, "this is very excellent wine, but I think it is not strong enough." "If you would have stronger," answered the Barmecide, "you need only speak, for I have several sorts in my cellar. Try how you like this." Upon which he made as if he poured out another glass for himself, and one for my brother; and did this so often, that Schacabac, feigning to be intoxicated with the wine, and acting a drunken man, lifted up his hand, and gave the Barmecide such a box on the ear as made him fall down. He was going to give him another blow, but the Barmecide holding up his hand to ward it off, cried, "Are you mad?" Then my brother, making as if he had come to himself again, said, "My lord, you have been so good as to admit your slave into your house, and give him a treat; you should have been satisfied with making me eat, and not have obliged me to drink wine; for I told you beforehand, that it might occasion me to fail in my respect for you. I am very sorry for it, and beg you a thousand pardons."

Scarcely had he finished these words, when the Barmecide, instead of being in a passion, fell a laughing with all his might. "I have been long," said he, "seeking a man of your character."

The Barmecide caressed Schacabac mightily, and told him, "I not only forgive the blow you have given me, but I desire henceforward we should be friends, and that you take my house for your home: you have had the complaisance to accommodate yourself to my humour, and the patience to keep the jest up to the last; we will now eat in good earnest." When he had finished these words, he clapped his hands, and commanded his servants, who then appeared, to cover the table; which was speedily done, and my brother was treated with all those dishes in reality, which he ate of before in fancy. At last they cleared the table, and brought in the wine, and at the same time a number of handsome slaves, richly appareled, came and sung some agreeable airs to their musical instruments. In a word, Schacabac had all the reason in the world to be satisfied with the Barmecide's civility and bounty; for he treated him as his familiar friend, and ordered him a suit from his wardrobe.

The Barmecide found my brother to be a man of so much wit and understanding, that in a few days after he entrusted him with the care of his household and all his affairs. My brother acquitted himself very well in that employment for twenty years; at the end of which the generous Barmecide died, and leaving no heirs, all his property was confiscated to the use of the prince; and my brother lost all he had acquired. Being reduced to his first condition, he joined a caravan of pilgrims going to Mecca, designing to accomplish that pilgrimage by their charity; but unfortunately the caravan was attacked and plundered by a number of Bedouins, superior to that of the pilgrims. My brother was then taken as a slave by one of the Bedouins, who put him under the bastinado for several days, to oblige him to ransom himself. Schacabac protested that it was all in vain. "I am your slave," said he, "you may dispose of me as you please; but I declare to you that I am extremely poor, and not able to redeem myself." In a word, my brother discovered to him all his misfortunes, and endeavoured to soften him with tears; but the Bedouin was not to be moved, and being vexed to find himself disappointed of a considerable sum of which he reckoned himself sure, he took his knife and slit my brother's lips. to avenge himself by this inhumanity for the loss that he thought he had sustained.

The Bedouin had a handsome wife, and frequently when he went on his excursions left my brother alone with her. At such times she used all her endeavours to comfort my brother under the rigour of his slavery. She gave him tokens enough that she loved him, but he durst not return her passion, for fear he should repent; and therefore avoided being alone with her, as much as she sought the opportunity to be alone with him. She was so much in the habit of caressing and playing with the miserable Schacabac, whenever she saw him, that one day she happened to act in the same manner, in the presence of her husband. My brother, without taking notice that he observed them (so his sins would have it), played likewise with her. The Bedouin, immediately supposing that they lived together in a criminal manner, fell upon my brother in a rage, and after he had mutilated him in a barbarous manner, carried him on a camel to the top of a desert mountain, where he left him. The mountain was on the road to Bagdad, so that the passengers who saw him there informed me where he was. I went thither speedily, and found unfortunate Schacabac in a deplorable condition: I gave him what help he stood in need of, and brought him back to the city.

This is what I told the caliph; that prince applauded me with new fits of laughter. "Now," said he, "I cannot doubt but they justly give you the surname of Silent. No one can say the contrary for certain reasons, however, I command you to depart this town immediately, and let me hear no more of you." I yielded to necessity, and travelled for several years in distant countries. Understanding at last that the caliph was dead, I returned to Bagdad, where I found not one of my brothers alive. It was on my return to this city that I did the lame young man the important service which you have heard. You are, however, witnesses of his ingratitude, and of the injurious manner in which he treated me; instead of testifying his obligation, he rather chose to fly from me and leave his own country. When I understood that he was not at Bagdad, though no one could tell me whither he was gone, I determined to seek him. I travelled from province to province a long time; and when I least expected, met him this day, but I little thought to find him so incensed against me.

[Resume The Little Hunchback]

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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