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♪1øø1~The Barber's Fourth Brother♪


The Barber's Fourth Brother

"THE name of my fourth brother was Alcouz. How he lost his eye I shall have the honour to relate to your majesty. He was a butcher by trade; and, as he had a particular talent in bringing up rams, and teaching them to fight, he had the friendship of some of the principal people, who were much amused with combats of this kind, and who even kept fighting rams at their own houses. He had moreover a very good business; and there was always in his shop the finest and freshest meat that was to be found.

"As he was one day in his shop, an old man came in to purchase six pounds of meat. He paid for his purchase, and went away. My brother observed that the money the old man paid was very beautiful, new, and well-coined. He resolved, therefore, to lay it by in a separate part of his closet. During five months the same old man came regularly every day for the same quantity of meat, and paid for it with the same sort of money, which my brother as regularly continued to lay by.

"At the end of the five months Alcouz, who wished to purchase a quantity of sheep, resolved to pay for them out of this particular money. He therefore went to his box, and opened it; but great was his astonishment when he discovered, instead of his money, only a parcel of leaves of a round shape. He immediately began to beat his breast, and made so great a noise that he brought all his neighbours about him. Their surprise was as great as his own when he informed them of what had happened. 'Would to Allah,' cried my brother, with tears in his eyes, 'that this treacherous old man came here now with his hypocritical face!' He had hardly spoken these words when he saw the old man at a distance coming towards him. My brother, having seized hold of him, vociferated with all his force, 'Mussulmen, assist me! Hear me tell the shameful trick that this infamous man has played me!' He then related to a large crowd of people, who had gathered round him, the story he had just told to his neighbours. When he had finished his tale, the old man quietly answered: 'You will do best to let me go, and thus make amends for the affront you have offered me before so many people. Unless you do this I may revenge myself in a more serious manner, which I should be sorry to do.' 'And what have you to say against me?' replied my brother. 'I am an honest man in my business, and I fear you not.' 'You wish that I should make it public?' returned the old man. 'Listen,' added he, addressing himself to the people, 'and hear me tell you that, instead of selling the flesh of sheep, as he ought to do, this man sells human flesh!' 'You are an impostor!' cried my brother. ' No, no!' answered the other: 'at this very moment there is a man with his throat cut hanging up on the outside of your shop like a sheep! Let these people go there, and we shall soon know whether I have spoken the truth.'

"That very morning, before my brother had opened the box in which the leaves were, he had killed a sheep, and had dressed and exposed it outside his shop as usual. He therefore declared that what the old man had said was false; but, in spite of all his protestations, the credulous mob wished to ascertain the fact on the spot. They therefore obliged my brother to let the old man go; and, seizing Alcouz himself, ran to his shop. There, indeed, they saw a man with his throat cut, hanging up exactly as the accused had stated; for this old man was a magician and had blinded the eyes of all the people, as he had formerly done those of my brother, when he made him take the leaves that were offered him for real money.

"At sight of this, one of the men who held Alcouz gave him a great blow with his fist, and at the same tune cried, 'You wretch! would you make us eat human flesh?' The old man also, who had followed them, immediately gave him another blow that knocked out one of his eyes. Every one who could get near my brother joined in beating him. They dragged him before the judge, carrying with them the corpse, which they had taken down as a proof of the criminal's guilt. 'O my lord,' said the old magician to the judge, 'you see before you a man who is so barbarous as to kill men, and sell their flesh for that of sheep. The people expect that you will punish him in an exemplary manner.' The judge listened with great patience to what my brother had to say; but the story of the money that had been changed into leaves appeared so utterly incredible, that he treated my brother as an impostor; and, choosing rather to believe his own eyes, he ordered that Alcouz should receive five hundred blows. After this he obliged him to reveal where his money was, confiscated the whole of it, and condemned him to perpetual banishment.

"At the time that this dreadful adventure happened to Alcouz, my fourth brother, I was absent from Bagdad. He retired to a very obscure part of the city, where he remained concealed till the wounds his punishment had produced were healed. It was on the back that he had been most cruelly beaten. As soon as he was able to walk he travelled, during the night and through unfrequented roads, to a city where no one knew him: there he took a lodging, from whence he hardly ever stirred. But tired at last of his exclusive life, he one day went to walk in the suburbs of the town. Suddenly he heard a great noise of horsemen coming along behind him. He happened just at this instant to be near the door of a large house; and as he was afraid of everybody, after what had happened to him, he fancied that these horsemen were in pursuit of him in order to arrest him. He therefore opened the door for the purpose of concealing himself. After shutting it again, he went into a large court; but directly he entered, two servants came up to him and seized him saying, 'Allah be praised that you have come of your own free will to deliver yourself into our hands. You have disturbed us so much for these last three nights, we have been unable to sleep; and you have spared our lives only because we have frustrated your wicked intention of taking them.'

"You may easily imagine that my brother was not a little surprised at this welcome, 'My good friends,' said he to the men, 'I know not what you would have with me; doubtless you mistake me for another person.' 'No, no,' replied they; 'we know well enough that you and your comrades are thieves. You were not satisfied with having robbed our master of all he possessed, and reducing him to beggary-you wished to take his life. Let us see if you have not the knife about you which you had in your hand when we pursued you last night.' Hereupon they began to search him, and found that he had a knife. 'So, so,' cried they, as they snatched it from him; 'and have you the assurance still to deny that you are a robber?' 'How!' answered my brother, 'cannot a man carry a knife in his pocket without being a thief? Listen to my story,' he added, 'and instead of having a bad opinion of me, you will pity me for my misfortunes.' But instead of listening to him, they immediately fell upon him, pulled off his clothes, and then, observing the scars upon his back, they redoubled their blows. 'You scoundrel! do you wish to make us believe you are an honest man, when your back is so covered with scars?' 'Alas!' cried my brother, 'my sins must be very great, since, after having been once most unjustly treated, I am served so a second time, without having committed the least fault.'

"The two servants paid no attention to my brother's complaints. They carried him before the judge. 'How dare you,' said the judge, 'break into people's houses, and pursue them with a knife in your hand?' 'O my lord,' answered poor Alcouz, 'I am one of the most innocent men in the world. I shall be undone if you will not do me the favour patiently to listen to me. No man is more worthy of compassion that I am.' 'O judge,' cried one of the servants, 'will you listen for a moment to a robber, who breaks into people's houses, pillages them, and murders the inhabitants? If you refuse to believe, look at his back, and that will prove the truth of our words.' When he had said this, they uncovered my brother's back, and showed it to the judge, who, without enquiring any further into the matter, ordered that he should at once receive a hundred strokes with a leathern strap on his shoulders. He then commanded him to be led through the city upon a camel, while a crier going before him called out, ' THUS SHALL MEN BE PUNISHED WHO FORCIBLY

"When this punishment was over, they set Alcouz down outside the town, and forbade him ever to enter it again.

"The Caliph Mostanser Billah did not laugh so much at this history as at the others, for he was kind enough to commiserate the unfortunate Alcouz. He then wished to give me something and send me away; but without giving his servants time to obey his orders, I said, 'You may now have observed, most sovereign lord and master, that I speak very little. Since your majesty has had the goodness to listen to me thus far, and as you express a wish to hear the adventures of my two other brothers, I hope and trust they will not afford you less amusement than the histories you have already heard.'

Please continue to The Barber's Fifth Brother

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