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♪1øø1~The History of the Barber♪

1001 NIGHTS



The History of The Barber

"DURING the reign of the Caliph Mostanser Billah there were ten robbers who infested the roads in the neighbourhood of Bagdad, and for a long time made themselves famous by their great depredations and horrible cruelties. At last their crimes came to the ears of the caliph; and that prince summoned the chief of the police into his presence some days before the feast of Bairam, and commanded him under pain of death to bring all the ten robbers to his throne. The chief of the police made great exertions; and sent out so many of his men into the country, that the ten robbers were taken on the very day of the feast. I happened to be walking on the banks of the Tigris, when I saw ten very handsomely dressed men embark on board a boat. I might have known they were robbers if I had noticed the guard who accompanied them; but I observed only the men themselves; and thinking that they were a company going to enjoy themselves I embarked in the boat with them, in the hope that they would suffer me to accompany them. We rowed down the Tigris, and the guards made us land at the caliph's palace. By this time I perceived that I had formed a wrong opinion of my companions. When we quitted the boat, we were surrounded by a fresh party of the guards belonging to the chief of the police. We were bound and carried before the caliph. I suffered myself to be pinioned like the rest without saying a word; for what would it have profited me had I remonstrated or made any resistance? I should only have been ill-treated by the guards, who would have paid no attention to my expostulations.

"As soon as we had come before the caliph, he ordered the immediate execution of the ten rascals. 'Strike off the heads of these ten robbers,' said he. The executioner immediately ranged us in a line, within reach of his arm; and fortunately I stood last in the row. Then, beginning with the first, he struck off the heads of the ten robbers; but when he came to me he stopped. The caliph, observing that the executioner did not cut off my head, called out in anger: ‘Have I not ordered thee to cut off the heads of the ten robbers? Why then hast thou executed only nine?' 'Commander of the Faithful,' replied the executioner, 'Allah forbid that I should neglect your majesty's orders. Here are ten bodies on the ground, and ten heads which I have cut off;' and he counted the corpses at his feet. When the caliph himself saw that the executioner was right, he looked at me with astonishment; and finding that I had not the appearance of a robber, he said: 'Good old man, by what accident were you found among these wretches, who deserved a thousand deaths?' 'Commander of the Faithful,' I replied, 'I will tell you the entire truth. This morning I saw these ten persons get into a boat; considering they were people who were going to celebrate this day, the great festival of our religion, I embarked with them.'

"The caliph could not help laughing at my adventure; and (very different from the lame young man, who treated me as a babbler) he admired my discretion and power of keeping silence. 'Commander of the Faithful,' said I, 'let not your majesty be astonished that I have held my tongue in circumstances under which most persons would have been more anxious to speak. I make it my particular study to practise silence, and by the possession of this virtue I have acquired the glorious surname of The Silent. My friends call me thus, to distinguish me from six brothers of mine.' 'I heartily rejoice,' answered the caliph, 'that you have earned a title to which you show so excellent a claim. But inform me what sort of men your brothers were: did they at all resemble you?' 'Not in the least,' I answered, 'they were all of them chatterers; and in person not one of us resembled another. The first of my brothers was humpbacked; the second was toothless; the third had but one eye; the fourth was quite blind; the fifth had lost his ears; the sixth was hare-lipped. The various adventures which happened to them would enable your majesty to judge of their characters, if I might have the honour to relate their stories.' As I thought the caliph evidently wished to hear the history of my brothers, I went on without waiting for his answer.

Please continue to the Barber's First Brother


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