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♪1øø1~The Barber's Fifth Brother♪


The Barber's Fifth Brother

"MY eldest brother was called Bacbouc the Humpback, and was a tailor by trade. As soon as he had passed through his apprenticeship, he hired a shop, which happened to be opposite a mill; and as he had not at first a great deal of business, he found some difficulty in getting a livelihood. The miller, on the contrary, was very wealthy, and had also a very beautiful wife. As my brother was one morning working in his shop, he perceived the window of the mill open, and the miller's wife looking into the street. She seemed to him so very handsome that he was quite enchanted with her; but she paid not the least attention to him, but shut the window, and did not make her appearance any more that day.

"In the meantime the poor tailor continued looking towards the mill all the time he was at work. When the evening came, and he was forced to shut up his shop, he had hardly resolution to depart, because he still hoped he should see again the miller's wife. The next morning he rose very early, and ran to his shop, so impatient was he to behold the mistress of his heart. But he was not more fortunate than the day before; for the miller's wife looked out of the window only for one instant. That moment, however, was quite sufficient to render him like a man bewitched. On the third day he had indeed more reason to be satisfied, for the miller's wife actually caught him gazing feverently at her; and she readily divined his secret thoughts.

"On making this discovery, instead of being angry, she resolved to amuse herself with my brother. She looked at him with a smiling air, and he returned her glances in so comical a manner that she was obliged to shut the window as quick as possible, for fear her bursts of laughter should make him find out she was turning him into ridicule. Bacbouc was so innocent that he flattered himself that she had looked upon him with favour.

"The miller's wife then resolved to play off a jest at my brother's expense. She happened to have in her possession a piece of handsome stuff, which she had for a long time intended to make up into a garment. She wrapped it up, therefore, in a beautiful handkerchief embroidered with silk, and sent it to the tailor by a young female slave. This slave came to my brother's shop, and said: 'My mistress desires you to make a robe out of this piece of stuff that I have brought according to the pattern she sends with it.' My brother did not for a moment doubt that the miller's wife was in love with him. He thought that she had given him this employment only to show that she understood the state of his heart; and he felt sure of the progress he had made in her affections. Impressed with this good opinion of himself, he desired the slave to tell her mistress that he would put aside all other work for hers, and that the dress should be ready by the next morning. He really worked with so much diligence that the dress was finished the same day.

"The next morning the young slave came to see how the dress was progressing. Bacbouc immediately gave it her, neatly folded up, and said: 'I am sincerely desirous of obliging your mistress, and I wish by my diligence to persuade her to employ no one else but myself.' The slave then took a few steps, as if she meant to go; but suddenly turning back, she said in a low voice to my brother: 'I had nearly forgotten part of my errand: my mistress charged me to ask you how you had passed the night; for she, poor lady, is so much in love with you, that she has not slept a moment.' 'Tell her,' answered my poor simpleton of a brother, 'that my passion for her is so violent, I have not closed my eyes for these four nights.'

"The slave had not left my brother above a quarter of an hour before he saw her return with a piece of satin. 'My mistress,' said she, 'is quite satisfied with her dress, which fits her perfectly; but as it is very handsome, she is desirous of having a new under-garment also to wear with it; and she entreats you to make her one, as soon as possible, out of this piece of satin.' 'It is sufficient,' answered Bacbouc; 'it shall be done before I leave my shop to-day; and you have only to come and fetch it in the evening.' The miller's wife showed herself very often to my brother at the window, and used all her fascinations in order to encourage him to work. The clothes were soon made, and the slave came to take them away; but she brought the tailor no money for what he had laid out in the trimmings for both the garments he had made, or to pay him for his own work. Moreover, this unfortunate lover, who unconsciously made sport for his tormentors, had eaten nothing the whole of that day, and was obliged to borrow money to purchase a supper.

"The day following, as soon as my brother had entered his shop, the young slave came to him, and told him the miller wished to speak to him. 'My mistress,' added she, 'has shown him your work, and has said so much in your favour, that he also wants you to work for him. She has acted thus because she wishes to make use of every chance that may assist her in making your acquaintance.' My brother was easily persuaded to believe this, and went with the slave to the mill. The miller received him kindly, and showed him a piece of cloth. 'I require some shirts,' said he, 'and wish you to make me twenty out of this piece of cloth: if any of the material is left, you can return it to me.'

"My brother had five or six days of hard work before he finished the twenty shirts for the miller; who immediately after gave him another piece of cloth to make him twenty pairs of trousers. When they were finished, Bacbouc carried them to the miller, who asked him what he demanded for his trouble. My brother upon this said that he should be satisfied with twenty drachms of silver. The miller immediately called the young slave, and ordered her to bring the scales, that he might weigh the money. The slave, who knew what was expected of her, looked at my brother angrily to make him understand that he would spoil everything if he received the money. He understood her very well; and therefore refused to take any part of the sum, although he was so much in want of money that he had been obliged to borrow to purchase the thread with which he had made the shirts and trousers. On leaving the miller he came directly to me, and entreated me to lend him a trifle to buy some food, telling me that his customers did not pay him. I gave him some money which I had in my purse; and upon this he lived some days. It is true he ate nothing but broth, and had not even enough of that.

"My brother one day went to the miller's. This man was busy about his mill; and thinking my brother might have come to ask for his money, he offered it to him: but the young slave, who was present, again prevented his accepting his due, and made him tell the miller, in answer, that he did not come for payment, but only to inquire after his health. The miller thanked him for his kindness, and gave him a cloak to make. Bacbouc brought it home the next day, and the miller took out his purse. But the young slave came in at that moment, and looked at my brother, who then said to the miller: 'There is no hurry, neighbour; we will settle the business another time.' Thus the poor dupe returned to his shop, burdened by three great evils: he was in love, he was hungry, and he was penniless.

"The miller's wife was both avaricious and wicked. She was not satisfied with preventing my brother from receiving his pay, but she excited her husband to revenge himself for the profession of love which the tailor had made; and to accomplish this they took the following means. The miller invited Bacbouc one evening to supper; and after having treated him with but indifferent fare, he thus addressed him: 'It is too late, brother, for you to return home; you will do better, therefore, to sleep here.' Thereupon he showed him a place where there was a bed; and leaving his guest there, he returned, and went with his wife to the room where they usually slept. In the middle of the night the miller came back to my brother, and called out to him: 'Are you asleep, neighbour? My mule is taken suddenly ill, and I have a great deal of corn to grind; you will therefore do me a very great favour if you will turn the mill for my mule.' To prove his readiness to oblige his host, my brother undertook the strange duty required of him, asking him only to be informed how he should set about it. The miller then harnessed him by the middle of his body, like a mule, to make him turn the mill; and immediately giving him a good cut upon his loins with the whip, cried out: 'Get on, neighbour.' 'Why do you strike me?' inquired my brother. 'It is only to encourage you,' replied the miller, 'for without the whip my mule would not stir a step.' Bacbouc was astonished at this treatment, but he dared not complain. When he had gone five or six rounds, he wished to rest himself; but the miller immediately gave him a dozen sharp cuts with the whip, calling out: 'Courage, neighbour! don't stop; you must go on without taking breath, or you will spoil my flour!'

"The miller thus obliged my brother to turn the mill during the rest of the night; and as soon as daylight appeared, he went away without unfastening him, and returned to his wife's chamber. Bacbouc remained for sometime harnessed in the mill. At last the young slave came, and untied him. 'Alas! how my good mistress and myself have pitied you,' cried the cunning slave. 'We are not at all to blame for what you have suffered; we have had no share in the wicked trick which her husband has played you.' The unfortunate Bacbouc answered not a word, for he was thoroughly exhausted. He got back to his own house, and firmly resolved to think no more of the miller's wife.

"The recital of this history," continued the barber, "made the caliph laugh. 'Go,' said he to me, 'return home; you shall receive something, by my order, to console you for the loss of the festivities in which you expected to share.' 'Commander of the Faithful,' replied I, 'I entreat your majesty not to think of giving me anything till I have related the histories of my other brothers.' I continued in the following words :-

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