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A citizen of this city did me the honour two days ago to invite me to an entertainment, which he was to give to his friends yesterday morning. Accordingly I went early, and found there about twenty persons.
The master of the house was gone out upon some business, but in a short time returned, and brought with him a young man, a stranger, very well dressed, and handsome, but lame. When he entered, we all rose, and out of respect to the master of the house, invited the young man to sit down with us upon the estrade. He was going to comply; but suddenly perceiving a barber in our company, flew backwards, and made towards the door. The master of the house, surprised at his behaviour, stopped him. "Where are you going?" demanded he. "I bring you along with me to do me the honour of being my guest among the rest of my friends, and you are no sooner got into my house, than you are for running away." "Sir," replied the young man, "for God's sake do not stop me, let me go, I cannot without horror look upon that abominable barber, who, though he was born in a country where all the natives are white, resembles an Ethiopian; and his soul is yet blacker and more horrible than his face."
We were all surprised to hear the young man speak in this manner, and began to have a very bad opinion of the barber, without knowing what ground the young man had for what he said. Nay, we protested we would not suffer any one to remain in our company, who bore so horrid a character. The master of the house intreated the stranger to tell us what reason he had for hating the barber. "Gentlemen," resumed the young man, "you must know this cursed barber is the cause of my being lame, and having fallen into the most ridiculous and teasing situation you can imagine. For this reason I have sworn to avoid all the places where he is, and even not to stay in the cities where he resides. It was for this reason that I left Bagdad, where he then dwelt; and travelled so far to settle in this city, at the extremity of Tartary; a place where I flattered myself I should never see him. And now, after all, contrary to my expectation, I find him here. This obliges me, gentlemen, against my will, to deprive myself of the honour of being merry with you. This very day I shall take leave of your town, and go, if I can, to hide my head where he cannot come." This said, he would have left us, but the master of the house earnestly intreated him to stay, and tell us the cause of his aversion for the barber, who all this while looked down and said not a word. We joined with the master of the house in his request; and at last the young man, yielding to our importunities, sat down; and, after turning his back on the barber, that he might not see him, gave us the following narrative of his adventures. My father's quality might have entitled him to the highest posts in the city of Bagdad, but he always preferred a quiet life to the honours of a public station. I was his only child, and when he died I had finished my education, and was of age to dispose of the plentiful fortune he had left me; which I did not squander away foolishly, but applied to such uses as obtained for me everybody's respect. I had not yet been disturbed by any passion: I was so far from being sensible of love, that I bashfully avoided the conversation of women. One day, walking in the streets, I saw a large party of ladies before me; and that I might not meet them, I turned down a narrow lane, and sat down upon a bench by a door. I was placed opposite a window, where stood a pot of beautiful flowers, on which I had my eyes fixed, when the window opened, and a young lady appeared, whose beauty struck me. Immediately she fixed her eyes upon me; and in watering the flowerpot with a hand whiter than alabaster, looked upon me with a smile, that inspired me with as much love for her as I had formerly aversion for all women. After having watered her flowers, and darted upon me a glance full of charms that pierced my heart, she shut the window, and left me in inconceivable perplexity, from which I should not have recovered, if a noise in the street had not brought me to myself. I lifted up my head, and turning, saw the first cauzee of the city, mounted on a mule, and attended by five or six servants: he alighted at the door of the house, where the young lady had opened the window, and went in; from whence I concluded he was her father. I went home in an altered state of mind; agitated by a passion the more violent, as I had never felt its assaults before: I retired to bed in a violent fever, at which all the family were much concerned. My relations, who had a great affection for me, were so alarmed by the sudden disorder, that they importuned me to tell the cause; which I took care not to discover. My silence created an uneasiness that the physicians could not dispel, because they knew nothing of my distemper, and by their medicines rather inflamed than checked it. My relations began to despair of my life, when an old lady of our acquaintance, hearing I was ill, came to see me. She considered me with great attention, and after having examined me, penetrated, I know not how, into the real cause of my illness. She took my relations aside, and desired all my people would retire out of the room, and leave her with me alone.
When the room was clear, she sat down on the side of my bed. "My son," said she, "you have obstinately concealed the cause of your illness; but you have no occasion to reveal it to me. I have experience enough to penetrate into a secret; you will not deny when I tell you it is love that makes you sick. I can find a way to cure you, if you will but inform me who that happy lady is, that could move a heart so insensible as yours; for you have the character of a woman-hater, and I was not the last who perceived that such was your disposition; but what I foresaw has come to pass, and I am now glad of the opportunity to employ my talents in relieving your pain."
The old lady having thus spoken, paused, expecting my answer; but though what she had said had made a strong impression upon me, I durst not lay open to her the bottom of my heart; I only turned to her, and heaved a deep sigh, without replying a word. "Is it bashfulness," said she, "that keeps you silent? Or is it want of confidence in me? Do you doubt the effect of my promise? I could mention to you a number of young men of your acquaintance, who have been in the same condition with yourself, and have received relief from me."
The good lady told me so many more circumstances that I broke silence, declared to her my complaint, pointed out to her the place where I had seen the object which occasioned it, and unravelled all the circumstances of my adventure. "If you succeed," added I, "and procure me the happiness of seeing that charming beauty, and revealing to her the passion with which I burn for her, you may depend upon it I will be grateful." "My son," replied the old woman, "I know the lady you speak of; she is, as you rightly judged, the daughter of the first cauzee of this city: I am not surprised that you are in love with her. She is the handsomest and most lovely lady in Bagdad, but very proud, and of difficult access. You know how strict our judges are, in enjoining the punctual observance of the severe laws that confine women; and they are yet more strict in the observation of them in their own families; the cauzee you saw is more rigid in that point than any of the other magistrates. They are always preaching to their daughters what a heinous crime it is to shew themselves to men; and the girls themselves are so prepossessed with the notion, that they make no other use of their own eves but to conduct them along the street, when necessity obliges them to go abroad. I do not say absolutely that the first cauzee's daughter is of that humour; but that does not hinder my fearing to meet with as great obstacles on her side, as on her father's. Would to God you had loved any other, then I should not have had so many difficulties to surmount. However, I will employ all my wits to compass the matter; but it requires time. In the mean while take courage and trust to me."
The old woman took leave; and as I weighed within myself all the obstacles she had been talking of, the fear of her not succeeding in her undertaking inflamed my disorder. Next day she came again, and I read in her countenance that she had no favourable news to impart. She spoke thus: "My son, I was not mistaken, I have somewhat else to conquer besides the vigilance of a father. You love an insensible object, who takes pleasure in making every one miserable who suffers himself to be charmed by her; she will not deign them the least comfort: she heard me with pleasure, when I spoke of nothing but the torment she made you undergo; but I no sooner opened my mouth to engage her to allow you to see her, and converse with her, but casting at me a terrible look, ‘You are very presumptuous,' said she, ‘to make such a proposal to me; I charge you never to insult me again with such language.'
"Do not let this cast you down," continued she; "I am not easily disheartened, and am not without hope but I shall compass my end." To shorten my story, this good woman made several fruitless attacks in my behalf on the proud enemy of my rest. The vexation I suffered inflamed my distemper to that degree, that my physicians gave me over. I was considered as a dead man, when the old woman came to recall me to life.
That no one might hear what was said, she whispered in my ear; "Remember the present you owe for the good news I bring you." These words produced a marvellous effect; I raised myself up in the bed, and with transport replied, "You shall not go without a present; but what is the news you bring me?" "Dear sir," said she "you shall not die; I shall speedily have the pleasure to see you in perfect health, and very well satisfied with me. Yesterday I went to see the lady you love, and found her in good humour. As soon as I entered, I put on a sad countenance heaved many deep sighs, and began to squeeze out some tears. ‘My good mother,' demanded she ‘what is the matter with you, why are you so cast down?' ‘Alas, my dear and honourable lady,' I replied, ‘I have just been with the young gentleman of whom I spoke to you the other day, who is dying on your account.' ‘I am at a loss to know,' said she, ‘how you make me to be the cause of his death. How can I have contributed to it?' ‘How?' replied I; ‘did not you tell me the other day, that he sat down before your window when you opened it to water your flower-pot? He then saw that prodigy of beauty, those charms that your mirror daily represents to you. From that moment he languished, and his disorder has so increased, that he is reduced to the deplorable condition I have mentioned.'
"‘You well remember,' added I, ‘how harshly you treated me at our last interview; when I was speaking to you of his illness, and proposing a way to save him from the threatened consequences of his complaint. After I left you I went directly to his house, and he no sooner learnt from my countenance that I had brought no favourable answer than his distemper increased. From that time, madam, he has been at the point of death; and I doubt whether your compassion would not now come too late to save his life.' The fear of your death alarmed her, and I saw her face change colour. ‘Is your account true?' she asked. ‘Has he actually no other disorder than what is occasioned by his love of me?' ‘Ah, madam!' I replied, ‘it is too true; would it were false!' ‘Do you believe,' said she, ‘that the hopes of seeing me would at all contribute to rescue him from his danger?' I answered, ‘Perhaps it may, and if you will permit me, I will try the remedy.'? ‘Well,' resumed she, sighing, ‘give him hopes of seeing me; but he must pretend to no other favours, unless he aspire to marry me, and obtains my father's consent.' ‘Madam,' replied I. ‘your goodness overcomes me; I will instantly seek the young gentleman, and tell him he is to have the pleasure of an interview with you.' ‘The best opportunity I can think of,' said she, ‘for granting him that favour, will be next Friday at the hour of noon prayers. Let him observe when my father goes out, and then, if his health permits him to be abroad, come and place himself opposite the house. I shall then see him from my window, and will come down and open the door for him: we will converse together during prayer-time; but he must depart before my father returns.'
"It is now Tuesday," continued the old lady "you have the interval between this and Friday to recover your strength, and make the necessary dispositions for the interview." While the good old lady was speaking, I felt my illness decrease, or rather, by the time she had done, I found myself perfectly recovered. "Here, take this," said I, reaching out to her my purse, which was full, "it is to you alone that I owe my cure. I reckon this money better employed than all that I gave the physicians, who have only tormented me during my illness."
When the lady was gone, I found I had strength enough to get up: and my relations finding me so well, complimented me on the occasion, and went home.
On Friday morning the old woman came, just as I was dressing, and choosing out the richest clothes in my wardrobe, said, "I do not ask you how you are, what you are about is intimation enough of your health; but will not you bathe before you go?" "That will take up too much time," I replied; "I will content myself with sending for a barber, to shave my head." Immediately I ordered one of my slaves to call a barber that could do his business cleverly and expeditiously.
The slave brought me the wretch you see here, who came, and after saluting me, said, "Sir, you look as if you were not well." I told him I was just recovered from a fit of sickness. "May God," resumed he, "deliver you from all mischance; may his grace always go along with you." "I hope he will grant your wish, for which I am obliged to you." "Since you are recovering from a fit of sickness," he continued, "I pray God preserve your health; but now let me know what I am to do; I have brought my razors and my lancets, do you desire to be shaved or to be bled?" I replied, "I am just recovered from a fit of sickness, and you may readily judge I only want to be shaved: come, do not lose time in prattling; for I am in haste, and have an appointment precisely at noon."
The barber spent much time in opening his case, and preparing his razors Instead of putting water into the basin, he took a very handsome astrolabe out of his case, and went very gravely out of my room to the middle of the court to take the height of the sun: he returned with the same grave pace, and entering my room, said, "Sir, you will be pleased to know this day is Friday the 18th of the moon Suffir, in the year 653, from the retreat of our great prophet from Mecca to Medina, and in the year 7320 of the epocha of the great Iskender with two horns; and that the conjunction of Mars and Mercury signifies you cannot choose a better time than this very day and hour for being shaved. But, on the other hand, the same conjunction is a bad presage to you. I learn from it, that this day you run a great risk, not indeed of losing your life, but of an inconvenience which will attend you while you live. You are obliged to me for the advice I now give you, to avoid this accident; I shall be sorry if it befall you."
You may guess, gentlemen, how vexed I was at having fallen into the hands of such a prattling, impertinent fellow; what an unseasonable adventure was it for a lover preparing for an interview with his mistress! I was quite irritated. "I care not," said I, in anger, "for your advice and predictions; I did not call you to consult your astrology; you came hither to shave me; shave me, or begone." "I will call another barber, sir," replied he, with a coolness that put me out of all patience; "what reason have you to be angry with me? You do not know, that all of my profession are not like me; and that if you made it your business to search, you would not find such another. You only sent for a barber; but here, in my person, you have the best barber in Bagdad, an experienced physician, a profound chemist, an infallible astrologer, a finished grammarian, a complete orator, a subtle logician, a mathematician perfectly well versed in geometry, arithmetic, astronomy, and all the refinements of algebra; an historian fully master of the histories of all the kingdoms of the universe. Besides, I understand all parts of philosophy. I have all our sacred traditions by heart. I am a poet, I am an architect; and what is it I am not? There is nothing in nature hidden from me. Your deceased father, to whose memory I pay a tribute of tears every time I think of him, was fully convinced of my merit; he was fond of me, and spoke of me in all companies as the first man in the world. Out of gratitude and friendship for him, I am willing to attach myself to you, to take you under my protection, and guard you from all the evils that your stars may threaten."
When I heard all this jargon, I could not forbear laughing, notwithstanding my anger. "You impertinent prattler!" said I, "will you have done, and begin to shave me?"
"Sir," replied the barber, "you affront me in calling me a prattler; on the contrary, all the world gives me the honourable title of Silent. I had six brothers, whom you might justly have called prattlers. These indeed were impertinent chatterers, but for me, who am a younger brother, I am grave and concise in my discourse."
For God's sake, gentlemen, do but suppose you had been in my place. What could I say when I saw myself so cruelly delayed? "Give him three pieces of gold," said I to the slave who was my housekeeper, "and send him away, that he may disturb me no more; I will not be shaved this day." "Sir," said the barber, "pray what do you mean? I did not come to seek for you, you sent for me; and as that is the case I swear by the faith of a Moosulmaun, I will not stir out of these doors till I have shaved you. If you do not know my value, it is not my fault. Your deceased father did me more justice. Every time he sent for me to let him blood, he made me sit down by him, and was charmed with hearing what witty things I said. I kept him in a continual strain of admiration; I elevated him; and when I had finished my discourse, ‘My God,' he would exclaim, ‘you are an inexhaustible source of science, no man can reach the depth of your knowledge.' ‘My dear sir,' I would answer, ‘you do me more honour than deserve. If I say anything that is worth hearing, it is owing to the favourable audience you vouchsafe me; it is your liberality that inspires me with the sublime thoughts which have the happiness to please you.' One day, when he was charmed with an admirable discourse I had made him, he said, ‘Give him a hundred pieces of gold, and invest him with one of my richest robes.' I instantly received the present. I then drew his horoscope, and found it the happiest in the world. Nav. I carried my gratitude further; I let him blood with cupping-glasses."
This was not all; he spun out another harangue that was a full half hour long. Tired with hearing him, and fretted at the loss of time, which was almost spent before I was half ready, I did not know what to say. "It is impossible," I exclaimed, "there should be such another man in the world who takes pleasure, as you do, in making people mad."
I thought I might perhaps succeed better if I dealt mildly with my barber. "In the name of God," said I, "leave off talking, and shave me directly: business of the last importance calls me, as I have already told you." At these words he fell a laughing: "It would be fortunate," said he, "if our minds were always in the same state; if we were always wise and prudent. I am willing, however, to believe, that if you are angry with me, it is your disorder that has caused the change in your temper, for which reason you stand in need of some instructions, and you cannot do better than follow the example of your father and grandfather. They came and consulted me upon all occasions, and I can say, without vanity, that they always highly prized my advice. Pray observe, sir, men never succeed in their undertakings without the counsel of persons of understanding. A man cannot, says the proverb, be wise without receiving advice from the wise. I am entirely at service, and you have only to command me."
"What! cannot I prevail with you then," I demanded,, interrupting him, "to leave off these long speeches, that tend to nothing but to distract my head, and detain me from my business? Shave me, I say, or begone:" with that I started up in anger, stamping my foot against the ground.
When he saw I was in earnest, he said, "Sir, do not be angry, we are going to begin." He lathered my head, and began to shave me; but had not given four strokes with his razor before he stopped, and addressed me, "Sir, you are hasty, you should avoid these transports that only come from the devil. I am entitled to some consideration on account of my age, my knowledge, and my great virtues."
"Go on and shave me," said I, interrupting him again, "and talk no more." "That is to say," replied he, "you have some urgent business to go about; I will lay you a wager I guess right." "Why I told you two hours ago," I returned, "you ought to have shaved me before." "Moderate your passion," replied he; "perhaps you have not maturely weighed what you are going about; when things are done precipitately, they are generally repented of. I wish you would tell me what mighty business this is you are so earnest upon. I would tell you my opinion of it; besides, you have time enough, since your appointment is not till noon, and it wants three hours of that yet." "I do not mind that," said I; "persons of honour and of their word are rather before their time than after. But I forget that by reasoning with you, I give into the faults of you prattling barbers; have done, have done; shave me."
The more haste I was in, the less speed he made. He laid down the razor, and took up his astrolabe; then laid down his astrolabe, and took up his razor again.
The barber quitted his razor again, and took up his astrolabe a second time; and so left me half shaved, to go and see precisely what hour it was. Back he came, and exclaimed, "Sir, I knew I was not mistaken, it wants three hours of noon. I am sure of it, or else all the rules of astronomy are false." "Just heaven!" cried I, "my patience is exhausted, I can bear this no longer. You cursed barber, you barber of mischief, I can scarcely forbear falling upon you and strangling you." "Softly, sir," said he, very calmly, without being moved by my anger: "are you not afraid of a relapse? Be not in a passion, I am going to shave you this minute." In speaking these words, he clapped his astrolabe in his case, took up his razor, and passing it over the strap which was fixed to his belt, fell to shaving me again; but all the while he was thus employed, the dog could not forbear prattling. "If you would be pleased, sir," said he, "to tell me what the business is you are going about at noon, I could give you some advice that might be of use to you." To satisfy the fellow, I told him I was going to meet some friends at an entertainment at noon, to make merry with me on the recovery of ray health.
When the barber heard me talk of regaling; "God bless you this day, as well as all other days!" he cried: "you put me in mind that yesterday I invited four or five friends to come and eat with me as this day; indeed I had forgotten the engagement, and have made no preparation for them." "Do not let that trouble you," said I; "though I dine abroad, my larder is always well furnished. I make you a present of all that it contains; and besides, I will order you as much wine as you have occasion for; I have excellent wine in my cellar; only you must hasten to finish shaving me: and pray remember, as my father made you presents to encourage you to speak, I give you mine to induce you to be silent."
He was not satisfied with my promise, but exclaimed, "God reward you, sir, for your kindness: pray shew me these provisions now, that I may see if there will be enough to entertain my friends. I would have them satisfied with the good fare I make them." "I have," said I, "a lamb, six capons, a dozen chickens, and enough to make four courses." I ordered a slave to bring all before him, with four great pitchers of wine. "It is very well," returned the barber; "but we shall want fruit, and sauce for the meat." These I ordered likewise; but then he left off shaving, to look over every thing one after another; and this survey lasted almost half an hour. I raged and stormed like a madman; but it signified nothing, the wretch made no more haste. However, he took up his razor again, and shaved me for some minutes; then stopping suddenly, exclaimed, "I could not have believed, sir, that you would have been so liberal; I begin to perceive that your deceased father lives again in you. Most certainly, I do not deserve the favours with which you have loaded me; and I assure you I shall have them in perpetual remembrance; for, sir, to let you know, I have nothing but what I obtain from the generosity of such gentlemen as you: in which respect, I am like to Zantout, who rubs the people in the baths; to Sali, who cries boiled peas in the streets; to Salout, who sells beans; to Akerscha, who sells greens; to Aboumecarez, who sprinkles the streets to lay the dust; and to Cassem, the caliph's lifeguard man. Of all these persons, not one is apt so be melancholy; they are neither impertinent nor quarrelsome; they are more contented with their lot, than the caliph in the midst of his court; they are always gay, ready to sing and dance, and have each of them their peculiar song and dance, with which they divert the city of Bagdad; but what I esteem most in them is, that they are no great talkers, any more than your slave, that has bow the honour to speak to you. Here, sir, is the song and dance of Zantout, who rubs the people in the baths; mind me, pray, and see if I do not imitate it exactly."
The barber sung the song, and danced the dance of Zantout; and let me say what I could to oblige him to finish his buffooneries, he did not cease till he had imitated, in like manner, the songs and dances of the other persons he had named. "After that," addressing himself to me, "I am going," said he, "to invite all these honest men to my house; if you will take my advice you will join us, and disappoint your friends, who perhaps are great talkers. They will only teaze you to death with their impertinent discourse, and make you relapse into a disorder worse than that from which you are so lately recovered; whereas at my house you shall have nothing but pleasure."
Notwithstanding my anger, I could not forbear laughing at the fellow's impertinence. "I wish I had no business upon my hands," I replied, "I would accept your invitation, and go with all my heart to partake of your entertainment; but I beg to be excused, I am too much engaged; another day I shall be more at leisure, and then we will make up the same party. Come, finish shaving me, and make haste home; perhaps your friends are already arrived at your house." "Sir," replied he, "do not refuse me the favour I ask of you; were you but once in our company, it would afford you so much pleasure as abundantly to compensate you for forsaking your friends." "Let us talk no more of that," said I; "I cannot be your guest."
I found I gained no ground by mild terms. "Since you will not come to my house," replied the barber, "you must allow me to go along with you: I will carry these things to my house, where my friends may eat of them if they like, and I will return immediately; I would not be so uncivil as to leave you alone. You deserve this piece of complaisance at my hands." "Heavens!" cried I, "then I shall not get clear of this troublesome fellow to-day. In the name of the living God, leave off your unreasonable jargon; go to your friends, drink, eat, and be merry with them, and leave me at liberty to go to mine. I must go alone, I have no occasion for company; besides, I must needs tell you, the place to which I go is not one where you can be received." "You jest, sir," said he; "if your friends have invited you to a feast, what should prevent you from allowing me to go with you? You will please them, I am sure, by introducing to them a man who can talk wittily like me, and knows how to divert company. But say what you will, I am determined to accompany you."
These words, gentlemen, perplexed me much. "How," thought I, "shall I get rid of this cursed barber? If I persist in contradicting him, we shall never have done." Besides, I heard at this instant the first call to noon-prayers, and it was time for me to go. In fine, I resolved to say nothing, and to make as if I consented to his accompanying me. He then finished shaving me, and I said to him, "Take some of my servants to carry these provisions along with you, and return hither; I will stay for you, and shall not go without you."
At last he went, and I dressed myself as expeditiously as I could. I heard the last call to prayers, and hastened to set out: but the malicious barber, who guessed my intention, went with my servants only within sight of the house and stood there till he saw them enter it, after which he concealed himself at the corner of the street, with an intent to observe and follow me. In fine, when I arrived at the cauzee's door, I looked back and saw him at the head of the street which alarmed me to the last degree.
The cauzee's door was half open, and as I went in I saw an old woman waiting for me, who, after she had shut the door, conducted me to the chamber of the young lady who was the object of my love; but we had scarcely begun to converse, when we heard a noise in the streets. The young lady put her head to the window, and saw through the gate that it was her father already returning from prayers. At the same time I looked, and saw the barber sitting over-against the house, on the bench from which I had first seen the young lady.
I had then two things to fear, the arrival of the cauzee, and the presence of the barber. The young lady mitigated my apprehension on the first head, by assuring me the cauzee, came but seldom to her chamber, and as she had forseen that this misadventure might happen, she had contrived a way to convey me out safely: but the indiscretion of the accursed barber made me very uneasy; and you shall hear that my uneasiness was not without ground.
As soon as the cauzee was come in, he caned one of his slaves, who had deserved chastisement. This slave made a horrid noise, which was heard in the streets; the barber thought it was I who cried out, and was maltreated. Prepossessed with this thought, he roared out aloud, rent his clothes, threw dust upon his head, and called the neighbourhood to his assistance. The neighbours collected, and asked what assistance he wanted? "Alas!" cried he, "they are assassinating my master, my dear patron;" and without saying anything more, he ran all the way to my house, with the very same cry in his mouth. From thence he returned, followed by all my domestics armed with sticks. They knocked with inconceivable fury at the door, and the cauzee sent slave to see what was the matter; but the slave being frightened, returned to his master, crying, "Sir, above ten thousand men are going to break into your house by force."
Immediately the cauzee himself ran, opened the door, and asked what they wanted. His venerable presence could not inspire them with respect. They insolently said to him, "You cursed cauzee, what reason have you to assassinate our master? What has he done to you?" "Good people," replied the magistrate, "for what should I assassinate your master, whom I do not know and who has done me no harm? my house is open to you, come and search." "You bastinadoed him," said the barber; "I heard his cries not a minute ago." "What harm could your master do to me," replied the cauzee, "to oblige me to abuse him at that rate? Is he in my house? If he is, how came he in, or who could have introduced him?" "Ah! wretched cauzee, cried the barber, "you and your long beard shall never make me believe you; I know your daughter is in love with our master, and appointed him a meeting during the time of noon-prayer, you without doubt have had notice of it, returned home, and surprised him, and made your slaves bastinado him: but this your wicked action shall not pass with impunity; the caliph shall be acquainted with it, and he will give true and brief justice. Let him come out, deliver him to us immediately; or if you do not, we will go in and take him out to your shame." "There is no occasion for so many words," replied the cauzee, "nor to make so great a noise: if what you say is true, go and find him out, I give you free liberty." Thereupon the barber and my domestics rushed into the house like furies, and looked for me all about.
As I heard all that the barber said to the cauzee, I sought for a place to conceal myself, and could find nothing but a large empty trunk, in which I lay down, and shut it upon me. The barber, after he had searched everywhere, came into the chamber where I was, and opened the trunk. As soon as he saw me, he took it upon his head and carried it away. He descended a high staircase into a court, which he crossed hastily, and at length reached the street door. While he was carrying me, the trunk unfortunately flew open, and not being able to endure the shame of being exposed to the view and shouts of the mob who followed us, I leaped out into the street with so much haste, that I have been lame ever since. I was not sensible of the hurt at first, and therefore got up quickly to avoid the people, who laughed at me; nay, I threw handfuls of gold and silver among them, and whilst they were gathering it up, I made my escape by cross streets and alleys. But the cursed barber followed me close, crying, "Stay, sir; why do you run so fast? If you knew how much I am afflicted at the ill treatment you received from the cauzee, you, who are so generous, and to whom I and my friends are so much obliged! Did I not tell you truly, that you would expose your life by your obstinate refusal to let me go with you? See what has happened to you, by your own fault; and if I had not resolutely followed, to see whither you went, what would have become of you? Whither do you go, sir? Stay for me."
Thus the barber cried aloud in the street it was not enough for him to have occasioned so great a scandal in the quarter where the cauzee lived, but he would have it known through the whole town. I was in such a rage, that I had a great mind to stop and cut his throat; but considering this would have perplexed me farther, I chose another course. Perceiving that his calling after me exposed me to vast numbers of people, who crowded to the doors or windows, or stopped in the street to gaze at me, I entered an inn, the chamberlain of which knew me, and finding him at the gate, whither the noise had brought him, I prayed him, for the sake of heaven, to hinder that madman from coming in after me. He promised to do so, and was as good as his word, but not without a great deal of trouble; for the obstinate barber would enter in spite of him, and did not retire without calling him a thousand names. After the chamberlain had shut the gate, the barber continued telling all he met what great service he had done me. Thus I rid myself of that troublesome fellow. After this, the chamberlain prayed me to tell him my adventure, which I did, and then desired him to let me have an apartment until I was cured . "But sir," said he, "will it not be more convenient for you to go home?" "I will not return thither," replied I: "for the detestable barber will continue plaguing me there, and I shall die of vexation to be continually teazed by him. Besides, after what has befallen me to-day, I cannot think of staying any longer in this town; I must go whither my ill-fortune leads me." Accordingly, when I was. cured, I took all the money I thought necessary for my travels, and divided the rest of my property among my kindred.
Thus, gentlemen, I left Bagdad, and came hither. I had ground to hope that I should not meet this pernicious barber in a country so far from my own, and yet I find him amongst you. Be not surprised then at my haste to be gone: you may easily judge how unpleasant to me is the sight of a man who was the occasion of my lameness, and of my being reduced to the melancholy necessity of living so far from my kindred, friends, and country.
When he had spoken these words, the lame young man rose up and went out; the master of the house conducted him to the gate, and told him, he was sorry that he had given him, though innocently, so great a subject of mortification.
When the young man was gone, continued the tailor, we were all astonished at the story, and turning to the barber, told him he was very much to-blame, if what we had just heard was true. "Gentlemen," answered he, raising up his head, which till then he had held down, "my silence during the young man's discourse is sufficient to testify that he advanced nothing that was not true: but for all that he has said to you, I maintain that I ought to have done what I did; I leave you to be judges. Did not he throw himself into danger, and could he have come off so well without my assistance? He may think himself happy to have escaped with the lame leg Did not I expose myself to greater danger to get him out of a house where I thought he was ill-treated? Has he any reason to complain of and abuse me? This is what one gets by serving unthankful people. He accuses me of being a prattling fellow, which is a mere slander: of seven brothers, I speak least, and have most wit to my share; and to convince you of this, gentlemen, I need only relate my own story and theirs. Honour me, I beseech you, with your attention."
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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