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♪1øø1~The Barber's Sixth Brother♪


The Barber's Sixth Brother

"THE history of my sixth brother is the only one that now remains to be told. He was called Schacabac, the Hare-lipped. He was at first sufficiently industrious to employ the hundred drachms of silver which came to his share in a very advantageous manner; but at length he was reduced, by reverse of fortune, to the necessity of begging his bread. His chief aim was to procure admission into the houses of the great, by bribing the officers and domestics; and when he had once managed to get admitted to them, he failed not to excite their compassion.

"He one day passed by a very magnificent building, through the door of which he could see a vast number of servants. He went up to one of them, and inquired of them to whom the house belonged. 'My good man,' answered the servant, 'where can you come from, that you ask such a question? Any one you met would tell you it belonged to a Barmecide. 'My brother, who well knew the liberal and generous disposition of the Barmecides, addressed himself to the porters, and requested them to bestow some charity upon him. ' Come in,' answered they, ' no one prevents you, and speak to our master-he will send you back well satisfied.'

" My brother did not expect so much kindness; and after returning many thanks to the porters, he entered the palace, which was so large that he spent some time in seeking out the apartment belonging to the Barmecide. He at length came to a large square building very handsome to behold, into which he entered by a vestibule that led to a fine garden.

"My brother advanced still farther, and entered a hall, where he perceived a venerable old man, whose beard was long and white, sitting on a sofa in the most distinguished place. It was the Barmecide himself, who told him in an obliging manner that he was welcome, and asked him what he wished.

'My lord,' answered my brother, 'I am a poor man, who stands very much in need of the assistance of such powerful and generous persons as yourself.' He could not have done better than address himself to the person to whom he spoke, for this man possessed a thousand amiable qualities.

"The Barmecide was much astonished at my brother's answer; and exclaimed: 'Is it possible that in Bagdad such a man as you should be so much distressed as you say you are? I cannot suffer this to be.' At this exclamation my brother, thinking the Barmecide was going to give him a singular proof of his liberality, wished him every blessing. 'It shall never be said,' replied the Barmecide, 'that I leave you unsuccoured. I intend that you shall not leave me.' 'O my master,' cried my brother, 'I swear to you that I have not even eaten anything this day.' 'Alas! j poor man,' cried the Barmecide, 'you will die of hunger! Here, boy,' added he, raising his voice, 'bring us instantly a basin of water, that we may wash our hands.'

"Although no boy appeared, and my brother could see neither basin nor water, the Barmecide began to rub his hands, as if some one held the water for him, and said to my brother, 'Come hither, and wash with me.' Schacabac supposed that the Barmecide loved his jest; and as he knew the submission the rich expected from the poor, he imitated all the movements of his host.

"'Come,' said the Barmecide, 'now bring us something to eat, and do not keep us waiting.' When he had said this, although nothing had been brought to eat, he pretended to help himself from a dish, and to carry food to his mouth and chew it, while he called out to my brother, 'Eat, I entreat you, my guest. Eat, I beg of you: you seem, for a hungry man, to have but a poor appetite.' 'Pardon me, my lord,' replied Schacabac, who was imitating the motions of his host very accurately, 'you see I lose no time.' ‘What think you of this bread?' said the Barmecide; 'don't you find it excellent?' 'In truth, my lord,' answered my brother, who in fact saw neither bread nor meat, 'I never tasted anything more white or delicate.' 'Eat your fill then,' rejoined the Barmecide. Presently he said, 'Boy, bring us another dish. Come, my friend,' he continued, to my brother, though no boy appeared, 'taste this, and tell me if you have ever eaten boiled mutton and barley better dressed than this.' 'Oh, it is admirable,' answered my brother, 'and you see that I help myself very plentifully.' 'I am rejoiced to see you,' said the Barmecide. He presently called for a goose with sweet sauce, and dressed with vinegar, honey, dried raisins, grey peas, and dried figs. This was brought in the same imaginary manner as the mutton. But the dish the Barmecide praised most highly of all was a lamb stuffed with pistachio nuts, and which was served in the same manner as the other dishes. 'Now this,' said he, 'is a dish you never met with anywhere but at my table, and I wish you to eat heartily of it.' As he said this he pretended to take a piece in his hand, and put it to my brother's mouth. My brother opened his mouth, and pretended to take the piece of lamb, and to chew and swallow it with the greatest pleasure. 'I was quite sure,' said the Barmecide, 'you would think it excellent.' 'Nothing can be more delicious,' replied Schacabac. 'Indeed, I have never seen a table so well furnished as yours.' 'Now bring me the ragout,' said the Barmecide; ‘and I think you will like it as much as the lamb.-What do you think of it?' 'It is wonderful,' answered my brother: 'in this ragout we have at once the flavour of amber, cloves, nutmegs, ginger, pepper, and sweet herbs; and yet they are all so well balanced that the presence of one does not destroy the flavour of the rest. How delicious it is!' 'Do justice to it then,' cried the Barmecide, 'and I pray you eat heartily. Ho! boy,' cried he, raising his voice, ' bring us a fresh ragout.' 'Not so, my master,' said Schacabac, ‘for in truth I cannot indeed eat any more.'

"'Then let the dessert be served,' said the Barmecide: 'Bring in the fruit.' He then waited a few moments, to give the servants time to change the dishes; then resuming his speech, he said, 'Taste these almonds: they are just gathered, and very good.' They then both pretended to peel the almonds, and eat them. The Barmecide after this invited my brother to partake of many other things. 'You see here,' he said, 'all sorts of fruits, cakes, dried comfits, and preserves; take what you like.' Then stretching out his hand, as if he was going to give my brother something, he said, 'Take this lozenge: it is excellent to assist digestion.' Schacabac pretended to take the lozenge and eat it. He still continued to persuade my brother to eat, and said, 'For a man who was almost starving when he came here, you have really eaten hardly anything.' 'O my master,' replied Schacabac, whose jaws were weary of moving with nothing to chew, 'I assure you I am so full that I cannot eat a morsel more.'

"'Then,' cried the Barmecide, 'after a man has eaten so heartily, he should drink a little. You have no objection to good wine?' 'My master,' replied my brother, 'I pray you to forgive me-I never drink wine, because it is forbidden me.' 'You are too scrupulous,' said the Barmecide; 'come, come, do as I do.' And he ordered some wine to be brought. But the wine, like the dinner and dessert, was imaginary. The Barmecide then pretended to pour some out, and drank the first glass. Then he poured out another glass for my brother, and presenting it to him, he cried, 'Come, drink my health, and tell me if you think the wine good.'

"My brother pretended to take the glass. He held it up, and looked to see if the wine were of a good bright colour; he put it to his nose to test its perfume; then, making a most profound reverence to the Barmecide, he drank it off; pretending that the draught gave him the most exquisite pleasure. 'My master,' he said, 'I find this wine excellent; but it does not seem to me quite strong enough.' 'You have only to command,' replied the other, 'if you wish for a stronger kind. We will see if this will suit you better.' He then pretended to pour out wine of another kind for himself and for my brother. He repeated this action so frequently that Schacabac pretended that the wine had got into his head, and feigned intoxication. He raised his hand, and gave the Barmecide such a violent blow that he knocked him down. He was going to strike him a second time, but the Barmecide called out, 'Are you mad?' My brother then pretended to recollect himself, and said, 'O my master, you had the goodness to receive your slave into your house, and to make a great feast for him: you should have been satisfied with making him eat; but you compelled him to drink wine. I am very sorry, and humbly ask your pardon.'

"When Schacabac had finished this speech, the Barmecide, instead of putting himself in a great passion and being very angry, burst into a violent fit of laughter. 'For a long time,' said he, 'I have sought a person of your disposition. I not only pardon the blow you have given me, but from this moment I look upon you as one of my friends, and desire that you make my house your home. You have had the good sense to accommodate yourself to my humour, and the patience to carry on the jest to the end; but we will now eat in reality.' So saying he clapped his hands, and this time several slaves appeared, whom he ordered to set out the table and serve the dinner. His commands were quickly obeyed, and my brother was now in reality regaled with all the dishes he had before partaken of in imagination. As soon as the table was cleared, wine was brought; and a number of beautiful and richly attired female slaves appeared, and began to sing some pleasant airs to the sound of instruments. Schacabac had in the end every reason to be satisfied with the kindness and hospitality of the Barmecide, who took a great fancy to him.

"The Barmecide found my brother possessed of so much knowledge of various sorts, that in the course of a few days he entrusted to him the care of all his house and affairs; and my brother acquitted himself of his charge, during a period of twenty years, to the complete satisfaction of his employer. At the end of that time the Barmecide paid the common debt of nature; and as he did not leave any heirs, all his fortune fell to the state; my brother was even deprived of all his savings. Finding himself thus reduced to his former state of beggary, he joined a caravan of pilgrims going to Mecca. During the journey the caravan was attacked and plundered by a party of Bedouin Arabs, who were more numerous than the pilgrims.

"My brother thus became the slave of a Bedouin, who for many days in succession gave him the bastinado in order to induce him to get himself ransomed. ...
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