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♪1øø1~The Barber's Second Brother♪

1001 NIGHTS



The Barber's Second Brother

"MY second brother, Bakbarah, called the Toothless, was walking one day through the city, when he met an old woman. She accosted him in the following terms: 'I have a word to say to you, if you will stay a moment.' He immediately stopped, and asked her what she wished. 'If you have time to go with me,’ she replied, 'I will take you to a magnificent palace, where you shall see a lady more beautiful than the day. She will receive you with a great deal of pleasure; and will feast you royally and give you excellent wine. I do not think I need say more.' 'But is this true that you tell me?’ asked my brother. 'I am not given to lying,’ replied the old woman. 'But you must remember what I require you to do. You must be prudent, speak little, and comply with every request that is made.’ Bakbarah agreed to the conditions. They arrived at the gate of a large palace, where were a great number of officers and servants. Some of these men wished to stop my brother, but the old woman spoke to them, and they let him pass. She then turned to my brother and said: 'Remember that the young lady to whose house I have brought you likes to see mildness and modesty, and cannot bear to be contradicted. If you satisfy her in this there is no doubt but you will obtain from her whatever you wish.'

"She then led him into a very splendid apartment which formed part of a square building. There was a gallery all round it, and in the midst was a very beautiful garden. The old woman made him sit down on a gorgeously decorated sofa, and asked him to wait there, while she went to inform the young lady of his arrival.

"As my brother had never before been in so superb a place, he immediately began to examine all the beautiful things he beheld; judging of his good fortune by the magnificence around him, he could hardly contain his joy. He almost immediately heard a great noise, which came from a long array of slaves, who were in a state of much merriment, and who came towards him bursting at intervals into violent fits of laughter. In the midst of the slaves he perceived a young lady of most extraordinary beauty, whom he easily knew to be their mistress by the deference they paid her. Bakbarah, who expected to have had a private conversation with the lady, was very much surprised at the arrival of so large a company. The slaves put on a serious air as they approached him; and when the young lady was near the sofa, my brother, who had risen, made a most profound reverence. She took her seat, and then, motioning him to be seated also, said to him: 'I am delighted to see you, and wish that your every desire may be fulfilled.' 'Lady, 'replied Bakbarah, 'I cannot wish for a greater honour than that of appearing before you.'

"She immediately ordered the slaves to bring a collation, and they covered the table with baskets of various fruits and sweetmeats. The lady sat down at the table, with my brother and the slaves around her. As he happened to sit directly opposite to her, she observed, as soon as he opened his mouth to eat, that he had no teeth. She remarked this circumstance to her slaves, and they all laughed immoderately. Bakbarah, who from time to time raised his head to look at the lady, and saw that she was laughing, imagined that her mirth arose from the pleasure she felt at being in his company; and flattered himself she would soon order the slaves to retire, and that he should enjoy her conversation in private. The lady guessed his thoughts, and took a pleasure in continuing a delusion which seemed so agreeable to him. She said a thousand soft and tender things to him, and she presented him with some of the choicest dishes with her own hand.

"When the collation was finished, she rose from table. Ten slaves instantly took some musical instruments, and began to play and sing, while the rest danced. In order to make himself agreeable, my brother also began dancing, and the young lady herself joined in the amusement. After they had danced for some time, they all sat down to take breath. The lady called for a glass of wine, and then cast a smile at my brother, to intimate that she was going to drink his health. He instantly rose up, and stood while she drank. When she had emptied the glass, instead of returning it, she had it filled again, and presented it to my brother, that he might pledge her.

"Bakbarah took the glass, and, as he received it from the young lady, he kissed her hand. Then he drank to her. After this the young lady made him sit down by her side, and began to caress him. She put her arm round his neck, and patted him several times gently with her hand. Delighted with these favours, he thought himself the happiest man in the world. He felt tempted to return the caresses the charming lady lavished upon him, but he dared not take this liberty before the slaves, who had their eyes upon him, and who continued to laugh at this trifling. The young lady had at first tapped him gently; but at last she began to give him such forcible slaps that he grew angry. At this moment the old woman who had brought my brother there gave him a look which made him understand that he had forgotten the advice she had before given him. The young lady then took hold of him by the arm, and drew him towards her, continuing to bestow on him a thousand pretended caresses. Her slaves, whose only aim was to divert her, began to take a part in the sport. One of them gave poor Bakbarah a fillip on the nose with all her strength; another pulled his ears almost off, while the rest kept slapping him in a way that went beyond jesting.

"My brother bore all this ill-usage with the most exemplary patience. He even affected to be amused by it, and looked at the old woman with a forced smile. The young lady then said to my brother: 'You are a brave man, and I am delighted at finding in you so much kindness and forbearance for all my little whims. I see you possess a disposition comformable to mine.' 'O lady,' replied Bakbarah, who was delighted with this speech, 'I am no longer myself, but am entirely at your disposal; you have full power to do with me as you please.' 'You give me the greatest happiness,' said the lady, 'by showing so much submission to my will.' Then she called to the attendants to bring perfumes and rose-water. At these words two slaves went out, and instantly returned. One carried a silver vase, containing exquisite aloe-wood, with which she perfumed my brother; the other bore a flagon of rose-water, which she sprinkled over his face and hands.

"When this ceremony was finished, the young lady commanded the slaves who had before sung and played to recommence their concert. They obeyed; and while the music was going on the lady called another slave, and ordered her to take my brother with her. 'You know what you have to do,' she said, ' and when you have done it, bring him back to me.' Bakbarah immediately got up; and going towards the old woman, requested her to tell him what they wished him to do. ‘Our mistress,' replied she, in a whisper, 'is very eccentric. She wishes to see how you would look disguised as a female. This slave, therefore, has orders to take you with her, to paint your eyebrows, shave off your moustache, and dress you like a woman.' 'You may paint my eyebrows,' said my brother, 'but as to being shaved, that I will by no means allow. How can I appear in the streets without my moustache?' 'Beware,' answered the woman, 'how you refuse anything that is required of you. You will quite spoil your fortune, which is now prospering greatly. She loves you, and wishes to make you happy. Will you, for the sake of a paltry moustache, forego the greatest happiness any man can possibly enjoy?'

"Bakbarah at length yielded to the old woman's arguments; and without further opposition he suffered the slave to lead him to an apartment where they painted his eyebrows red. They shaved off his moustache, and were absolutely going to remove his beard. But the easiness of my brother's temper did not carry him quite so far as to make him suffer that 'Not a single stroke,' he exclaimed, 'shall you make at my beard.' The slave represented to him that it was in vain he had parted with his moustache if he would not also agree to lose his beard: that a hairy countenance did not at all coincide with the dress of a woman; and she declared herself astonished that a man who was about to gain the hand of the most beautiful woman in Bagdad should care for his beard, the old woman sided with the slave, and adduced fresh reasons, threatening my brother with her mistress' displeasure. She said so much that Bakbarah at last permitted them to do what they wished.

"As soon as they had dressed him like a woman, they brought him back to the young lady, who burst into a violent fit of laughter at his appearance. The young lady then rose, still laughing, and said: 'After the good nature you have shown to me, I should be wrong if I did not bestow my whole heart upon you; but you must do one thing more for love of me: it is only to dance before me in your present costume.' Bakbarah obeyed; and the young lady and the slaves danced with him, laughing all the while as if they were crazy. After they had danced for some time, they all surrounded the poor dupe, and gave him so many blows and kicks that he fell down almost fainting. The old woman came to his assistance, and without giving him time to express his indignation at such ill-treatment, whispered in his ear: 'Be comforted, for you have now reached the end of your sufferings, and are about to receive your reward. You have only one thing more to do,' added she, 'and that is a mere trifle. You must know that my mistress is accustomed, whenever she is in a merry mood, like to-day, not to suffer any of her favourites to come near her unless they have run a race with her. You must be stripped to your shirt, and then she will start a few paces before you, and run through the gallery, and from room to room, till you have caught her. Therefore undress yourself quickly and do not make any difficulty about it.'

"My brother had already carried his compliance too far to stop. The young lady now took off her robe in order to run with greater ease. When they were both ready to begin the race, the lady took a start of about twenty paces, and then began running with wonderful swiftness. My brother followed her as fast as he could. Instead of losing any of the advantage she had first taken, the young lady kept continually gaining upon my brother. She then turned off down a long dark passage, and escaped through a side door unperceived by my brother. Bakbarah, who kept constantly following her, had lost sight of her in this passage; moreover he was obliged to slacken his pace on account of the darkness. At last he perceived a light, towards which he made with all possible haste: he passed through a door, which was ...
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