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♪1øø1~The Barber's Third Brother♪


The Barber's Third Brother

"COMMANDER of the Faithful," the barber said to the caliph, "my third brother, who was called Bakbac, was quite blind; and his condition was so wretched that he was reduced to beg.

"He happened one day to knock at the door of a house when the master was sitting alone. 'Who is there?' he called out. My brother made no answer, but knocked a second time. Again the master of the house inquired who was at the door, but Bakbac did not answer. He then came down, opened the door, and asked my brother what he wanted. 'Bestow something upon me, for the love of God,' answered Bakbac. 'You seem to me to be blind,' said the master of the house. 'Alas! it is true,' replied my brother. 'Hold out your hand,' cried the other. My brother, who made sure of receiving something, immediately put his hand out; but the master of the house only took hold of it to assist him in going upstairs to his apartment. Bakbac imagined that the master of the house would give him some food; for he often received provisions at other houses. When they had reached the upper chamber, the master of the house let go my brother's hand, and sat down in his place; he then again asked him what he wanted. 'I have already told you,' replied Bakbac, 'that I beg you to give me something for the love of God.' 'My good blind man,' answered the master, 'all I can do for you is to wish that Allah may restore your sight to you.' 'You might have told me that at the door,' said my brother, 'and spared me the labour of coming upstairs.' 'The staircase is before you,' the master of the house answered, 'and if you wish it, you may go down alone.' My brother then began to descend; but missing his footing about half-way down, he fell to the bottom of the stairs, and bruised his head and strained his back cruelly. He got up with difficulty, and went away muttering curses at the master of the house, who did nothing but laugh at his fall.

"As he turned away from the house, two of his companions, who were also blind, happened to pass by, and knew his voice. They stopped to ask him what success he had met with. He told them what had just befallen him. 'I conjure you, continued he, 'to accompany me home, that I may in your presence take some of the money which we have in store, to buy something for my supper.' The two blind men agreed to his proposal, and he conducted them home.

"It is necessary here to observe, that the master of the house in which my brother had been so ill-treated was a thief, and a man of cunning and malicious disposition. He had overheard, from his window, what Bakbac had said to his comrades: he therefore came downstairs and followed them; and passed with them unobserved into an old woman's house, where my brother lodged. As soon as they were seated, Bakbac said to the other two: 'We must shut the door brothers, and take care that there is no stranger among us.' At these words the robber was very much embarrassed; but perceiving a rope that hung from a beam in the middle of the room, he took hold of it, and swung in the air, while the blind men shut the door, and felt all round the room with their sticks. When this was concluded, and they were again seated, he let go the rope, and sat down by the side of my brother, in perfect silence. The latter, thinking there was no one in the room but his blind companions, thus addressed them: 'O my comrades, as you have made me the keeper of all the money we three have collected for a long time past, I wish to prove to you that I am not unworthy of the trust. The last time we reckoned, you remember, we had ten thousand drachms, and we put them into ten bags: I will now show you that I have not touched one of them.' Having said this, he groped about among some old rags and clothes, and drew out the ten bags, and giving them to his companions, he continued: 'Here are all the bags, and you may count the money if you like.' They answered that they were perfectly satisfied with his honesty. He then opened one of the bags, and took out ten drachms, and the other two blind men did the same.

"My brother replaced the bags in the spot from which he had taken them. One of the blind men then said there was no occasion to spend anything for supper that night, as he had received from the charity of some good people sufficient provisions for all three; and he took out of his wallet some bread, cheese, and fruit, which he placed upon a table. They then began to eat; and the robber, who sat on the right hand of my brother, chose the best pieces, and ate of their provisions with them. But in spite of all the care he took to avoid making the least noise, Bakbac heard him chew, and instantly exclaimed: 'We are betrayed! there is a stranger among us!' As he said this he stretched out his hand, and seized the robber by the arm. He then fell upon him, calling out, 'Thief' and giving him many blows with his fist. The other blind men joined in the cry, and beat the robber, who defended himself as well as he could. As he was both strong and active, and had the advantage of seeing, he laid about him furiously, and called out 'Thieves! robbers!' louder than his enemies.

"The neighbours assembled at the noise, broke open the door, and with much difficulty separated the combatants.

Having at last put an end to the fray, they inquired the cause of their disagreement. 'O my masters,' cried my brother, who had not yet let the robber go, ‘this man, whom I have got hold of, is a thief; he came in here with us for the purpose of robbing us of the little money we possess.' Directly he saw the people enter, the robber had shut his eyes, and pretended to be blind. He now exclaimed, 'He is a liar, my masters. I swear by the name of Allah, that I am one of their companions and associates, and that they refuse to give me the share of our money which belongs to me. They all three have joined against me, and I demand justice.' The neighbours, who did not wish to interfere with the disputes of these blind men, carried them all four before the judge of the police.

"When they were come before this magistrate, the robber, who still pretended to be blind, began to speak. 'Since you, my lord, have been appointed to administer justice in behalf of the caliph,' he said, 'whose power may Allah prosper, I will declare to you that we are all equally guilty. But as we have pledged ourselves by an oath not to reveal anything except we receive the bastinado, you must order us to be beaten if you wish to be informed of our crime; and you may begin with me.' My brother now wished to speak, but the officers compelled him to hold his tongue. They then began to bastinado the robber.

"He had the resolution to bear twenty or thirty strokes; and then, pretending to be overcome with pain, he opened first one eye, and then the other; calling out at the same time for mercy, and begging the judge to order a remission of his punishment. When he saw the robber with both his eyes open, the judge was very much astonished. ' Scoundrel!' he cried, ' what does this mean?' 'O my lord,' replied the robber, 'I will discover a most important secret, if you will have the goodness to pardon me. Then I will reveal the whole mystery to you.'

"The judge ordered his people to stop beating the robber, and promised to pardon him. 'Trusting to your promise,' replied the robber, 'I now declare to you, my lord, that my companions and I can see perfectly well. We all four feign blindness, in order that we may enter houses without molestation, and even penetrate into the apartments of the women, whose charity we sometimes take advantage of. I moreover confess to you, that we have collected among us at least ten thousand drachms by this cunning trick. This morning I demanded of my companions two thousand five hundred drachms, which came to my share; but because I declared I would break off all connexion with them, they refused to give me my money. When I continued to insist on having it they all fell upon me, and ill-treated me in a shameful manner. I wait here for you to do me justice, my lord, and expect that you will make them deliver up the two thousand five hundred drachms which are my due. If you wish that my comrades should acknowledge the truth of what I advance, order them to receive three times as many blows as you have given me, and you will see them open their eyes as I did.'

"My brother and the other two blind men began to exclaim loudly against this infamous imposture; but the judge would not hear a word. 'Rascals!' he cried,' 'is it thus that you counterfeit blindness, and go about deceiving people?' 'He is an impostor,' exclaimed my brother: 'what he says is false!'

"But all my brother's protestations were useless. He and his companions each received two hundred strokes of the bastinado. The judge every moment expected them to open their eyes, and attributed to their great obstinacy the non-performance of what it was impossible for them to do. During the whole of this time the robber kept saying to the blind men: 'My good friends, open your eyes, and do not wait till you almost die under the punishment.' Then he added, addressing himself to the judge, 'I see very well, my lord, that they will be obstinate to the end, and that they will never open their eyes. Would it not be better to pardon them now, and send some one with me to take the ten thousand dractims they have concealed?'

"The judge did not intend to neglect securing the money. He therefore commanded one of his people to accompany the robber, and they brought the ten bags back with them. He then ordered two thousand five hundred drachms to be counted out and given to the robber, and kept the remainder for himself. With respect to my brother and his companion, he commanded them to quit the city, and thought he had dealt very leniently with them.

"This is the conclusion of the melancholy adventure of my third brother.

"The caliph laughed as much at this story as he had done at those he had before heard, and I began the history of my fourth brother.

Please continue to The Barber's Fourth Brother

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