As my brother went out of the house, two blind men, his companions, were going by, knew him by his voice, and asked him what was the matter? He told them what had happened; and afterwards said, "I have eaten nothing to-day; I conjure you to go along with me to my house, that I may take some of the money that we three have in common to buy me something for supper." The two blind men agreed, and they went home with him.
You must know that the master of the house where my brother was so ill used was a robber, and of a cunning and malicious disposition. He overheard from his window what Backbac had said to his companions, and came down and followed them to my brother's house. The blind men being seated, Backbac said to them, "Brothers, we must shut the door, and take care there be no stranger with us." At this the robber was much perplexed, but perceiving a rope hanging down from a beam, he caught hold of it, and hung by it, while the blind men shut the door, and felt about the room with their sticks. When they had done, and had sat down again in their places, the robber left his rope, and seated himself softly by my brother, who thinking himself alone with his blind comrades, said to them, "Brothers, since you have trusted me with the money, which we have been a long time gathering, I will show you that I am not unworthy of the confidence you repose in me. The last time we reckoned, you know we had ten thousand dirhems, and that we put them into ten bags; I will shew you that I have not touched one of them:" having so said, he put his hand among some old clothes, and taking out the bags one after another, gave them to his comrades, saying, "There they are; you may judge by their weight that they are whole, or you may tell them if you please." His comrades answered there was no need, they did not mistrust him; so he opened one of the bags, and took out ten dirhems, and each of the other blind men did the like.
My brother put the bags into their place again: after which, one of the blind men said to him, "There is no need to lay out anything for supper, for I have collected as much victuals from good people as will serve us all." At the same time he took out of his bag bread and cheese, and some fruit, and putting all upon the table, they began to eat, The robber, who sat at my brother's right hand, picked out the best, and eat with them; but whatever care he took to make no noise, Backbac heard his chaps going, and cried out immediately, "We are undone, there is a stranger among us:" having so said, he stretched out his hand, and caught hold of the robber by the arm, cried out "Thieves!" fell upon him, and struck him. The other blind men fell upon him in like manner; the robber defended himself as well as he could, and being young and vigorous, besides having the advantage of his eyes, gave furious blows, sometimes to one, sometimes to another, and cried out "Thieves!" louder than they did. The neighbours came running at the noise, broke open the door, and had much ado to separate the combatants; but having at last succeeded, they asked the cause of their quarrel. My brother, who still had hold of the robber, cried out, "Gentlemen, this man I have hold of is a thief, and stole in with us on purpose to rob us of the little money we have." The thief, who shut his eyes as soon as the neighbours came, feigned himself blind, and exclaimed, "Gentlemen, he is a liar. I swear to you by heaven, and by the life of the caliph, that I am their companion, and they refuse to give me my just share. They have all three fallen upon me, and I demand justice." The neighbours would not interfere in their quarrel, but carried them all before the judge.
When they came before the magistrate, the robber, without staying to be examined, cried out, still feigning himself blind, "Sir, since you are deputed to administer justice by the caliph, whom God prosper, I declare to you that we are equally criminal, my three comrades and I; but we have all engaged, upon oath, to confess nothing except we be bastinadoed; so that if you would know our crime, you need only order us to be bastinadoed, and begin with me." My brother would have spoken, but was not allowed to do so: and the robber was put under the bastinado.
The robber being under the bastinado, had the courage to bear twenty or thirty blows; when, pretended to be overcome with pain, he first opened one eve, and then the other, and crying out for mercy, begged the judge would put a stop to the blows. The judge perceiving that he looked upon him with his eyes open, was much surprised, and said to him, "Rogue, what is the meaning of this miracle?" "Sir," replied the robber, "I will discover to you an important secret, if you will pardon me, and give me, as a pledge that you will keep your word, the seal-ring which you have on your finger." The judge consented, gave him his ring, and promised him pardon. "Under this promise," continued the robber, "I must confess to you sir, that I and my three comrades do all of us see very well. We feigned ourselves to be blind, that we might freely enter people's houses, and women's apartments, where we abuse their weakness. I must farther confess to you, that by this trick we have gained together ten thousand dirhems. This day I demanded of my partners two thousand five hundred that belonged to my share, but they refused because I told them I would leave them; and they were afraid I should accuse them. Upon my pressing still to have my share, they fell upon me; for which I appeal to those people who brought us before you. I expect from your justice, sir, that you will make them deliver me the two thousand five hundred dirhems which is my due; and if you have a mind that my comrades should confess the truth, you must order them three times as many blows as I have had, and you will find they will open their eyes as well as I have done."
My brother and the other two blind men would have cleared themselves of this horrid charge, but the judge would not hear them: "Villains," said he, "do you feign yourselves blind then, and, under that pretext of moving their compassion, cheat people, and commit such crimes?" "He is an impostor," cried my brother, "and we take God to witness that none of us can see."
All that my brother could say was in vain, his comrades and he received each of them two hundred blows. The judge expected them to open their eyes, and ascribed to their obstinacy what really they could not do. All the while the robber said to the blind men, "Poor fools that you are, open your eyes, and do not suffer yourselves to be beaten to death." Then addressing himself to the judge, said, "I perceive, sir, that they will be maliciously obstinate to the last, and will never open their eyes. They wish certainly to avoid the shame of reading their own condemnation in the face of every one that looks upon them; it were better, if you think fit, to pardon them, and to send some person along with me for the ten thousand dirhems they have hidden."
The judge consented to give the robber two thousand five hundred dirhems, and kept the rest himself; and as for my brother and his two companions, he thought he shewed them pity by sentencing them only to be banished. As soon as I heard what had befallen my brother, I went to him; he told me his misfortune, and I brought him back secretly to the town. I could easily have justified him to the judge, and have had the robber punished as he deserved, but durst not make the attempt, for fear of bringing myself into danger of assassination. Thus I finished the sad adventure of my honest blind brother. The caliph laughed at it, as much as at those he had heard before, and ordered again that something should be given me; but without staying for it, I began the story of my fourth brother.
The Story of the Barber's Fourth Brother.
Alcouz was the name of the fourth brother who lost one of his eyes, upon an occasion that I shall have the honour to relate to your majesty. He was a butcher by profession, and had a particular way of teaching rams to fight, by which he gained the acquaintance and friendship of the chief lords of the country, who loved that sport, and for that end kept rams at their houses. He had besides a very good trade, and had his shop always full of the best meat, because he spared no cost for the prime of every sort. One day when he was in his shop, an old man with a long white beard came and bought six pounds of meat of him, gave him money for it, and went his way. My brother thought the money so pure and well coined, that he put it apart by itself: the same old man came every day for five months together, bought a like quantity of meat, and paid for it in the same kind of money, which my brother continued to lay apart.
At the end of five months, Alcouz having a mind to buy a lot of sheep, and to pay for them in this money, opened his chest; but instead of finding his money, was extremely surprised to see nothing in the place where he had laid it, but a parcel of leaves clipped round. He beat his head, and cried out aloud, which presently brought the neighbours about him, who were as much surprised as he, when he told them the story. "O!" cried my brother, weeping, "that this treacherous old fellow would come now with his hypocritical looks!" He had scarcely spoken, when he saw him at a distance; he ran to him, and laid hands on him; "Moosulmauns," cried he, as loud as he could, "help! hear what a cheat this wicked fellow has put upon me," and at the same time told a great crowd of people, who came about him, what he had formerly told his neighbours. When he had done, the old man said to him very gravely and calmly, "You had better let me go, and by that means make amends for the affront you have put upon me before so many people, for fear I should put a greater affront upon you, which I should be sorry to do." "How," said my brother, "what have you to say against me? I am an honest man in my business, and fear not you, nor any body." "You would have me speak out then," resumed the old man in the same tone; and turning to the crowd, said to them, "Know, good people, that this fellow, instead of selling mutton as he ought to do, sells human flesh." "You are a cheat," said my brother. "No, no," continued the old man; "good people, this very minute while I am speaking to him, there is a man with his throat cut hung up in the shop like a sheep; do any of you go thither, and see if what I say be not true."
Just before my brother had opened his chest he had killed a sheep, dressed it, and exposed it in the shop, according to custom: he protested that what the old man said was false; but notwithstanding all his protestations, the credulous mob, prejudiced against a man accused of such a heinous crime, would go to see whether the charge were true. They obliged my brother to quit the old man, laid hold of him, and ran like madmen into his shop, where they saw, to all appearance, a man hung up with his throat cut, as the old man had told them; for he was a magician, and deceived the eyes of all people, as he did my brother, when he made him take leaves instead of money. At this sight, one of those who held Alcouz gave him a violent blow with his fist, and said to him, "Thou wicked villain, dost thou make us eat man's flesh instead of mutton?" And at the same time the old man gave him another blow, which beat out one of his eyes. Every body that could get near him struck him; and not content with that, they carried him before a judge, with the pretended carcase of the man, to be evidence against him." "Sir," said the old magician to the judge, "we have brought you a man, who is so barbarous as to murder people, and to sell their flesh instead of mutton. The public expects that you will punish him in an exemplary manner." The judge heard my brother with patience, but would believe nothing of the story of the money changed into leaves, called my brother a cheat, told him he would believe his own eyes, and ordered him to receive five hundred blows. He afterwards made him tell him where his money was, took it all from him, and banished him for ever, after having made him ride three days through the city upon a camel, exposed to the insults of the people.
I was not at Bagdad when this tragical adventure befell my fourth brother. He retired into a remote place, where he lay concealed till he was cured of the blows with which his back was terribly mangled. When he was able to walk, he went by night to a certain town where nobody knew him; and there he took a lodging, from whence he seldom moved; but being weary of this confined life, he went to walk in one of the suburbs, where suddenly he heard a noise of horsemen coming behind him. He was then by chance near the gate of a house, and fearing, after what had befallen him, that these horsemen were pursuing him, he opened the gate in order to hide himself, and after he had shut it, entered a court, where immediately two servants came and collared him, saying, "Heaven be praised, that you have come of your own accord to surrender yourself; you have alarmed us so much these three last nights, that we could not sleep; nor would you have spared our lives, if we had not prevented your design." You may well imagine my brother was much surprised. "Good people," said he, "I know not what you mean; you certainly take me for somebody else." "No, no," replied they, "we know that you and your comrades are robbers: you were not contented to rob our master of all that he had, and to reduce him to beggary, but you conspired to take his life. Let us see if you have not a knife about you, which you had in your hand when you pursued us last night." Having said thus, they searched him, and found he had a knife. "Ho! ho!" cried they, laying hold of him, "and dare you say that you are not a robber?" "Why," said my brother, "cannot a man carry a knife about him without being a robber? If you will hearken to my story, instead of having so bad an opinion of me, you will be touched with compassion at my misfortunes." But far from attending to him, they fell upon him, trod upon him, took away his clothes, and tore his shirt. Then seeing the scars on his back, "O dog," said they, redoubling their blows, "would you have us believe you are an honest man, when your back shews us the contrary?" "Alas!" said my brother, "my crimes must be very great, since, after having been abused already so unjustly, I am thus treated a second time without being more culpable!"
The two servants, no way moved with his complaint, carried him before the judge, who asked him how he durst presume to go into their house, and pursue them with a drawn knife? "Sir," replied the unfortunate Alcouz, "I am the most innocent man in the world, and am undone if you will not be pleased to hear me patiently: no one deserves more compassion." "Sir," exclaimed one of the domestics, "will you listen to a robber, who enters people's houses to plunder and murder them? If you will not believe us, only look upon his back;" and while he said so he uncovered my brother's back, and shewed it to the judge, who, without any other information, commanded his officers immediately to give him a hundred lashes over the shoulders, and made him afterwards be carried through the town on a camel, with one crying before him, "Thus are men punished who enter people's houses by force." After having treated him thus, they banished him the town, and forbad him ever to return. Some people, who met him after the second misfortune, brought me word where he was; I went, brought him to Bagdad privately, and gave him all the assistance I could. The caliph did not laugh so much at this story as at the other. He was pleased to pity the unfortunate Alcouz, and ordered something to be given me. But without giving his servants time to obey his orders, I continued my discourse, and said to him: "My sovereign lord and master, you see that I do not talk much; and since your majesty has been pleased to do me the favour to listen to me so far, I beg you would likewise hear the adventures of my two other brothers; I hope they will be as diverting as those of the former. You may make a complete history of them, that will not be unworthy of your library: I shall do myself the honour then to acquaint you, that the fifth brother was called Alnaschar."
The Story of the Barber's Fifth Brother.
Alnaschar, as long as our father lived, was very lazy; instead of working he used to beg in the evening, and live upon what he got. Our father died at a very old age, and left among us seven hundred dirhems: we divided equally, so that each of us had a hundred for his share. Alnaschar, who had never before possessed so much money, was much perplexed to know what he should do with it. He consulted a long time with himself, and at last resolved to lay it out in glass-ware which he bought of a wholesale dealer. He put all in an open basket, and sat with it before him, and his back against a wall, in a place where he might sell it. In this posture, with his eyes fixed on his basket, he began to meditate; during which he spoke as follows: "This basket cost me a hundred dirhems, which is all I have in the world. I shall make two hundred of them by retailing my glass, and of these two hundred, which I will again lay out in glass-ware, I shall make four hundred; and going on thus, I shall at last make four thousand dirhems; of four thousand I shall easily make eight thousand, and when I come to ten thousand, I will leave off selling glass and turn jeweller; I will trade in diamonds, pearls, and all sorts of precious stones: then when I am as rich as I can wish, I will buy a fine mansion, a great estate, slaves, eunuchs, and horses. I will keep a good house, and make a great figure in the world; I will send for all the musicians and dancers of both sexes in town. Nor will I stop here, for, I will, by the favour of Heaven, go on till I get one hundred thousand dirhems, and when I have amassed so much, I will send to demand the grand vizier's daughter in marriage; and represent to that minister, that I have heard much of the wonderful beauty, understanding, wit, and all the other qualities of his daughter; in a word, that I will give him a thousand pieces of gold the first night after we are married; and if the vizier be so uncivil as to refuse his daughter, which cannot be supposed, I will go and carry her off before his face, and take her to my house whether he will or no. As soon as I have married the grand vizier's daughter, I will buy her ten young black eunuchs, the handsomest that can be had; I will clothe my self like a prince, and mounted upon a fine horse, with a saddle of fine gold, with housings of cloth of gold, finely embroidered with diamonds and pearls, I will ride through the city, attended by slaves before and behind. I will go to the vizier's palace in view of all the people great and small, who will show me the most profound respect. When I alight at the foot of the vizier's staircase, I will ascend through my own people, ranged in files on the right and left; and the grand vizier, receiving me as his son-in-law, shall give me the right hand and set me above him, to do me the more honour. If this comes to pass, as I hope it will, two of my people shall each of them have a purse with a thousand pieces of gold, which they shall carry with them. I will take one, and presenting it to the grand vizier, tell him, There is the thousand pieces of gold that I promised the first night of marriage:' and I will offer him the other and say to him, There is as much more, to shew you that I am a man of my word, and even better than my promise.' After such an action as this, all the world will talk of my generosity. I will return to my own house in the same pomp. My wife will send some officer to compliment me, on account of my visit to the vizier, her father: I will honour the officer with a fine robe, and send him back with a rich present. If she send me a present, I will not accept it, but dismiss the bearer. I will not suffer her to go out of her apartment on any account whatever, without giving me notice: and when I have a mind to come to her apartment, it shall be in such a manner as to make her respect me. In short, no house shall be better ordered than mine. I will be always richly clad. When I retire with my wife in the evening, I will sit on the upper seat, I will affect a grave air, without turning my head to one side or the other. I will speak little; and whilst my wife, beautiful as the full moon, stands before me in all her charms, I will make as if I did not see her. Her women about her will say to me, Our dear lord and master, here is your spouse, your humble servant, before you, ready to receive your caresses, but much mortified that you do not vouchsafe to look upon her; she is wearied with standing so long, bid her, at least, sit down.' I will make no answer, which will increase their surprise and grief. They will prostrate themselves at my feet; and after they have for a considerable time entreated me to relent, I will at last lift up my head, give her a careless look, and resume my former posture: they will suppose that my wife is not handsomely enough dressed, and will carry her to her closet to change her apparel. At the same time I will get up and put on a more magnificent suit; they will return and address me as before, but I will not so much as look upon my wife, till they have prayed and entreated as long as they did at first. Thus I will begin on the first day of marriage, to teach her what she is to expect during the rest of her life.
"After the ceremonies of the marriage, I will take from one of my servants, who shall be about me, a purse of five hundred pieces of gold, which I will give to the tire-women, that they may leave me alone with my spouse: when they are gone, my wife shall go to bed first; then I will lie down by her with my back towards her, and will not say one wore to her all night. The next morning she will certainly complain of my contempt and of my pride, to her mother the grand vizier's wife, which will rejoice my heart. Her mother will come to wait upon me, respectfully kiss my hands, and say to me, Sir' (for she will not dare to call me son-in-law, for fear of provoking me by such a familiar style), I entreat you not to disdain to look on my daughter, and refuse to come near her. I assure you that her chief delight is to please you, and that she loves you with all her soul.' But in spite of all my mother-in-law can say, I will not answer her one word, but keep an obstinate gravity. Then she will throw herself at my feet, kiss them repeatedly, and say to me, Sir, is it possible that you can suspect my daughter's virtue? You are the first man who ever saw her face: do not mortify her so much; do her the favour to look upon her, to speak to her, and confirm her in her good intentions to satisfy you in every thing.' But nothing of this shall prevail with me. Upon which my mother-in-law will take a glass of wine, and putting it in the hand of her daughter my wife, will say, Go, present him this glass of wine yourself; perhaps he will not be so cruel as to refuse it from so fair a hand.' My wife will come with the glass and stand trembling before me; and when she finds that I do not look towards her, but that I continue to disdain her, she will say to me with tears in her eyes, My heart, my dear soul, my amiable lord, I conjure you, by the favours which heaven heaps upon you, to receive this glass of wine from the hand of your most humble servant:' but I will not look upon her still, nor answer her. My charming spouse,' will she say, redoubling her tears, and putting the glass to my mouth, "I will never cease till I prevail with you to drink;' then, wearied with her entreaties, I will dart a terrible look at her, shake my hand in her face, and spurn her from me with my foot."
My brother was so full of these chimerical visions, that he acted with his foot as if she had been really before him, and unfortunately gave such a push to his basket and glasses, that they were thrown down, and broken into a thousand pieces,
On this fatal accident, he came to himself, and perceiving that he had brought misfortune upon himself by his insupportable pride, beat his face, tore his clothes, and cried so loud, that the neighbours came about him; and the people, who were going to their noon prayers, stopped to know what was the matter. Being on a Friday, more people went to prayers than usual; some of them took pity on Alnaschar, and others only laughed at his extravagance. In the mean time, his vanity being dispersed with his property, he bitterly bewailed his loss; and a lady of rank passing by upon a mule richly caparisoned, my brother's situation moved her compassion. She asked who he was, and what he cried for? They told her, that he was a poor man, who had laid out the little money he possessed in the purchase of a basket of glassware, that the basket had fallen, and all his glasses were broken. The lady immediately turned to an eunuch who attended her, and said to him, "Give the poor man what you have about you." The eunuch obeyed, and put into my brother's hands a purse with five hundred pieces of gold. Alnaschar was ready to die with joy when he received it. He gave a thousand blessings to the lady, and shutting up his shop, where he had no more occasion to sit, went to his house.
While he was pondering over his good luck, he heard somebody knock at his door. Before he opened, he asked who it was, and knowing by the voice that it was a woman, he let her in. "My son," said she, "I have a favour to beg of you: the hour of prayer is come, let me perform my ablutions in your house, that I may be fit to say my prayers." My brother looking at her, and seeing that she was well advanced in years, though he knew her not, granted her request, and sat down again still full of his new adventure. He put his gold in a long strait purse, proper to carry at his girdle. The old woman in the mean time said her prayers, and when she had done, came to my brother and bowed twice to the ground, so low, that she touched it with her forehead: then rising up, she wished him all happiness.
The old woman then bowed again, and thanked him for his civility. Being meanly clad, and very humble, he thought she asked alms; upon which he offered her two pieces of gold. The old woman stepped back in a sort of surprise, as if my brother had affronted her. "Good God!" said she, "what is the meaning of this? Is it possible, sir, that you took me for one of those impudent beggars who push into people's houses to ask alms? Take back your money: thank heaven, I need it not. I belong to a young lady of this city, who is a perfect beauty, and very rich; she lets me want for nothing."
My brother was not cunning enough to perceive the craft of the old woman, who only refused the two pieces of gold, that she might catch more. He asked her, if she could not procure him the honour of seeing that lady. "With all my heart," she replied; "she will be very glad to marry you, and to put you in possession of her fortune, by making you master of her person. Take up your money, and follow me." My brother, transported with his good luck in finding so great a sum of money, and almost at the same time a beautiful and rich wife, shut his eyes to all other considerations; so that he took his five hundred pieces of gold, and followed the old woman. She walked on, and he followed at a distance, to the gate of a great house, where she knocked. He came up just as a young Greek slave opened the gate. The old woman made him enter first, crossed a well-paved court, and introduced him into a hall, the furniture of which confirmed him in the good opinion he had conceived of the mistress of the house. While the old woman went to acquaint the lady, he sat down, and the weather being hot, put off his turban, and laid it by him. He speedily saw the young lady enter: her beauty and rich apparel perfectly surprised him; he arose as soon as he saw her. The lady, with a smiling countenance, prayed him to sit down again, and placed herself by him. She told him, she was very glad to see him; and after having spoken some engaging words, said, "We do not sit here at our ease. Come, give me your hand." At these words she presented him hers, and conducted him into an inner chamber, where she conversed with him for some time: she then left him, saying that she would be with him in a moment. He waited for her; but instead of the lady came in a great black slave with a cimeter in his hand, and looking upon my brother with a terrible aspect, said to him fiercely, "What have you to do here?" Alnaschar was so frightened, that he had no power to answer. The black stripped him, carried off his gold, and gave him several flesh wounds with his cimeter. My unhappy brother fell to the ground, where he lay without motion, though he had still the use of his senses. The black thinking him to be dead, asked for salt: the Greek slave brought him a basin full: they rubbed my brother's wounds with it, but he had so much command of himself, notwithstanding the intolerable pain it put him to, that he lay still without giving any sign of life. The black and the Greek slave having retired, the old woman, who had enticed my brother into the snare, came and dragged him by the feet to a trapdoor, which she opened, and threw him into a place under ground, among the bodies of several other people who had been murdered. He perceived this as soon as he came to himself, for the violence of the fall had taken away his senses. The salt rubbed into his wounds preserved his life, and he recovered strength by degrees, so as to be able to walk. After two days he opened the trap-door in the night, and finding in the court a place proper to hide himself in, continued there till break of day, when he saw the cursed old woman open the street gate, and go out to seek another victim. He stayed in the place some time after she was gone, that she might not see him, and then came to me for shelter, when he told me of his adventures.
In a month's time he was perfectly cured of his wounds by medicines that I gave him, and resolved to avenge himself of the old woman, who had put such a barbarous cheat upon him. To this end he took a bag, large enough to contain five hundred pieces of gold, and filled it with pieces of glass.
My brother fastened the bag of glass about him, disguised himself like an old woman, and took a cimeter under his gown. One morning he met the old woman walking through the town to seek her prey; he went up to her, and counterfeiting a woman's voice, said, "Cannot you lend me a pair of scales? I am newly come from Persia, have brought five hundred pieces of gold with me, and would know if they are weight." "Good woman," answered the old hag, "you could not have applied to a fitter person: follow me, I will conduct you to my son, who changes money, and will weigh them himself to save you the trouble. Let us make haste, for fear he should go to his shop." My brother followed her to the house where she carried him at first, and the Greek slave opened the door.
The old woman took my brother to the hall where she desired him to wait till she called her son. The pretended son came, and proved to be the villainous black slave. "Come, old woman," said he to my brother, "rise and follow me:" having spoken thus, he went before to conduct him to the place where he designed to murder him. Alnaschar got up, followed him, and drawing his cimeter, gave him such a dexterous blow behind on the neck, that he cut off his head, which he took in one hand, and dragging the corpse with the other, threw them both into the place under ground before-mentioned. The Greek slave, who was accustomed to the trade, came presently with a basin of salt; but when she saw Alnaschar with his cimeter in his hand, and without his veil, she laid down the basin, and fled. But my brother overtaking her, cut off her head also. The wicked old woman came running at the noise, and my brother seizing her, said to her, "Treacherous wretch, do not you know me?" "Alas, Sir!" answered she trembling, "who are you? I do not remember that I ever saw you." "I am," replied he, "the person to whose house you came the other day to wash and say your prayers. Hypocritical hag, do not you remember?" Then she fell on her knees to beg his pardon, but he cut her in four pieces.
There remained only the lady, who knew nothing of what had passed: he sought her out, and found her in a chamber, where she was ready to sink when she saw him: she begged her life, which he generously granted. "Madam," said he, "how could you live with such wicked people, as I have so justly revenged myself upon?" "I was," she answered, "wife to an honest merchant; and the old woman, whose wickedness I did not then know, used sometimes to come to see me; Madam,' said she to me one day, we have a wedding at our house, which you will be pleased to see, if you will give us the honour of your company:' I was persuaded by her, put on my best apparel, and took with me a hundred pieces of gold. I followed her; she brought me to this house, where the black has since kept me by force, and I have been three years here to my great sorrow." "By the trade which that cursed black followed," replied my brother, "he must have gathered together a vast deal of riches." "There is so much," said she "that you will be made for ever, if you can carry them off: follow me, and you shall see them." Alnaschar followed her to a chamber, where she shewed him several coffers full of gold, which he beheld with admiration. "Go," said she, "and fetch people to carry it all off." My brother went out, got ten men together, and brought them with him, but was much surprised to find the gate open, the lady and the coffers gone, for she being more diligent than he, had conveyed them all off and disappeared. However, being resolved not to return empty-handed, he carried off all the furniture of the house, which was a great deal more than enough to make up the five hundred pieces of gold he had been robbed of; but when he went out of the house, he forgot to shut the gate. The neighbours, who saw my brother and the porters come and go, went and acquainted the magistrate, for they looked upon my brother's conduct as suspicious. Alnaschar slept well enough all night, but the next morning, when he came out of his house, twenty of the magistrate's men seized him. "Come along with us," said they, "our master would speak with you." My brother prayed them to have patience for a moment, and offered them a sum of money to let him escape; but instead of listening to him, they bound him, and forced him to go with them. They met in the street an old acquaintance of my brother's, who stopped them awhile, asked them why they had seized my brother, offered them a considerable sum to let him escape, and tell the magistrate they could not find him, but in vain.
When the officers brought him before the magistrate, he asked him where he had the goods which he had carried home the preceding evening? "Sir," replied Alnaschar, "I am ready to tell you all the truth; but allow me first to have recourse to your clemency, and to beg your promise, that I shall not be punished." "I give it you," said the magistrate. My brother then told him the whole story without disguise, from the period the old woman came into his house to say her prayers, to the time the lady made her escape, after he had killed the black, the Greek slave, and the old woman: and as for what he had carried to his house, he prayed the judge to leave him part of it, for the five hundred pieces of gold of which he had been robbed.
The judge, without promising any thing, sent his officers to bring off the whole, and having put the goods into his own warehouse, commanded my brother to quit the town immediately, and never to return, for he was afraid, if he had stayed in the city, he would have found some way to represent this injustice to the caliph. In the mean time, Alnaschar obeyed without murmuring, and left that town to go to another. By the way, he met with highwaymen, who stripped him naked; and when the ill news was brought to me, I carried him a suit, and brought him secretly into the town, where I took the like care of him as I did of his other brothers.
The Story of the Barber's Sixth Brother.
I have now only to relate the story of my sixth brother, called Schacabac, with the hare lips. At first he was industrious enough to improve the hundred dirhems of silver which fell to his share, and went on very well; but a reverse of fortune brought him to beg his bread, which he did with a great deal of dexterity. He studied chiefly to get into great men's houses by means of their servants and officers, that he might have access to their masters, and obtain their charity. One day as he passed by a magnificent house, whose high gate shewed a very spacious court, where there was a multitude of servants, he went to one of them, and asked him to whom that house belonged? "Good man," replied the servant, "whence do you come that you ask me such a question? Does not all that you behold point out to you that it is the palace of a Barmecide?" "My brother, who very well knew the liberality and generosity of the Barmecides, addressed himself to one of his porters (for he had more than one), and prayed him to give him alms. "Go in," said he, "nobody hinders you, and address yourself to the master of the house; he will send you back satisfied."
My brother, who expected no such civility, thanked the porters, and with their permission entered the palace, which was so large, that it took him a considerable time to reach the Barmecide's. apartment; at last he came to an arcade square building of an excellent architecture, and entered by parterres of flowers intersected by walks of several colours, extremely pleasant to the eye: the lower apartments round this square were most of them open, and were shut only with great curtains to keep out the sun, which were opened again when the heat was over to let in the fresh air.
Such an agreeable place would have struck my brother with admiration, even if his mind had been more at ease than it was. He went on till he came into a hall richly furnished and adorned with painting of gold and azure foliage, where he saw a venerable man with a long white beard, sitting at the upper end on a sofa, whence he concluded him to be the master of the house; and in fact it was the Barmecide himself, who said to my brother in a very civil manner, that he was welcome; and asked him what he wanted? "My lord," answered my brother, in a begging tone, "I am a poor man who stands in need of the help of such rich and generous persons as yourself." He could not have addressed himself to a fitter person than this lord, who had a thousand good qualities.
The Barmecide seemed to be astonished at my brother's answer, and putting both his hands to his stomach, as if he would rend his clothes for grief, "Is it possible," cried he, "that I am at Bagdad, and that such a man as you is so poor as you say? this is what must never be." My brother, fancying that he was going to give him some singular mark of his bounty, blessed him a thousand times, and wished him all happiness. "It shall not be said," replied the Barmecide, "that I will abandon you, nor will I have you leave me." "Sir," replied my brother, "I swear to you I have not eaten one bit to-day." "Is it true," demanded the Barmecide, "that you are fasting till now? Alas, poor man! he is ready to die for hunger. Ho, boy," cried he, with a loud voice, "bring a basin and water presently, that we may wash our hands." Though no boy appeared, and my brother saw neither water nor basin, the Barmecide fell to rubbing his hands as if one had poured water upon them, and bade my brother come and wash with him. Schacabac judged by this, that the Barmecide lord loved to be merry, and he himself understanding raillery, and knowing that the poor must be complaisant to the rich, if they would have any thing from them, came forward and did as he was required.
"Come on," said the Barmecide, "bring us something to eat, and do not let us wait." When he had spoken, though nothing appeared, he began to cut as if something had been brought him upon a plate, and putting his hand to his mouth began to chew, and said to my brother, "Come, friend, eat as freely as if you were at home; come, eat; you said you were like to die of hunger, but you eat as if you had no appetite." "Pardon me, my lord," said Schacabac, who perfectly imitated what he did, "you see I lose no time, and that I play my part well enough." "How like you this bread," said the Barmecide; "do not you find it very good?" "O! my lord," replied my brother, who saw neither bread nor meat, "I have never eaten anything so white and so fine." "Eat your belly-full," said the Barmecide; "I assure you the woman who bakes me this good bread cost me five hundred pieces of gold to purchase her."
The Barmecide, after having boasted so much of his bread, which my brother ate only in idea, cried, "Boy, bring us another dish:" and though no boy appeared, "Come, my good friend," continued he, "taste this new dish; and tell me if ever you ate better mutton and barley-broth than this." "It is admirably good," replied my brother, "and therefore you see I eat heartily." "You oblige me highly," resumed the Barmecide; "I conjure you then, by the satisfaction I have to see you eat so heartily, that you eat all up, since you like it so well." A little while after he called for a goose and sweet sauce, made up of vinegar, honey, dry raisins, grey peas, and dry figs, which were brought just in the same manner as the others had. "The goose is very fat," said the Barmecide, "eat only a leg and a wing; we must save our stomachs, for we have abundance of other dishes to come." He actually called for several others, of which my brother, who was ready to die of hunger, pretended to eat; but what he boasted of more than all the rest was a lamb fed with pistachio nuts, which he ordered to be brought up in the same manner. "Here is a dish," said the Barmecide "that you will see at nobody's table but my own; I would have you eat your belly-full of it." Having spoken thus, he stretched out his hand as if he had had a piece of lamb in it, and putting it to my brother's mouth, "There," said he, "swallow that, and you will judge whether I had not reason to boast of this dish." My brother thrust out his head, opened his mouth, and made as if he took the piece of lamb, and eat it with extreme pleasure. "I knew you would like it," said the Barmecide. "There is nothing in the world finer," replied my brother; "your table is most delicious." "Come, bring the ragout; I fancy you will like that as well as you did the lamb: Well, how do you relish it?" "O! it is wonderful," replied Schacabac; "for here we taste all at once, amber, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, pepper, and the most odoriferous herbs, and all these delicacies are so well mixed, that one does not prevent our tasting the other." "How pleasant! Honour this ragout," said the Barmecide, "by eating heartily of it. Ho, boy, bring us another ragout." "No, my lord, if it please you," replied my brother, "for indeed I can eat no more."
"Come, take away then," said the Barmecide, "and bring the fruit." He stayed a moment as it were to give time for his servants to carry away; after which, he addressed my brother, "Taste these almonds, they are good and fresh gathered." Both of them made as if they had peeled the almonds, and eaten them; after this, the Barmecide invited my brother to eat something else. "Look," said he, "there are all sorts of fruits, cakes, dry sweetmeats, and conserves, take what you like;" then stretching out his hand, as if he had reached my brother something, "Look," he continued, "there is a lozenge, very good for digestion." Schacabac made as if he ate it, and said, "My lord, there is no want of musk here." "These lozenges," replied the Barmecide, "are made at my own house, where nothing is wanting to make every article good." He still bade my brother eat, and said to him, "Methinks you do not eat as if you had been so hungry as you complained you were when you came in." "My lord," replied Schacabac, whose jaws ached with moving and having nothing to eat, "I assure you I am so full that I cannot eat one bit more."
"Well, then, friend," resumed the Barmecide, "we must drink now, after we have eaten so well." "You may drink wine, my lord," replied my brother, "but I will drink none if you please, because I am forbidden." "You are too scrupulous," rejoined the Barmecide; "do as I do." "I will drink then out of complaisance," said Schacabac, "for I see you will have nothing wanting to make your treat complete; but since I am not accustomed to drink wine, I am afraid I shall commit some error in point of good breeding, and contrary to the respect that is due to you; therefore I pray you, once more, to excuse me from drinking any wine; I will be content with water." "No, no," said the Barmecide, "you shall drink wine," and at the same time he commanded some to be brought, in the same manner as the meat and fruit had been served before. He made as if he poured out wine, and drank first himself, and then pouring out for my brother, presented him the glass, saying, "Drink my health, and let us know if you think this wine good." My brother made as if he took the glass, and looked as if the colour was good, and put it to his nose to try the flavour: he then made a low salute to the Barmecide, to signify that he took the liberty to drink his health, and lastly he appeared to drink with all the signs of a man that drinks with pleasure: "My lord," said he, "this is very excellent wine, but I think it is not strong enough." "If you would have stronger," answered the Barmecide, "you need only speak, for I have several sorts in my cellar. Try how you like this." Upon which he made as if he poured out another glass for himself, and one for my brother; and did this so often, that Schacabac, feigning to be intoxicated with the wine, and acting a drunken man, lifted up his hand, and gave the Barmecide such a box on the ear as made him fall down. He was going to give him another blow, but the Barmecide holding up his hand to ward it off, cried, "Are you mad?" Then my brother, making as if he had come to himself again, said, "My lord, you have been so good as to admit your slave into your house, and give him a treat; you should have been satisfied with making me eat, and not have obliged me to drink wine; for I told you beforehand, that it might occasion me to fail in my respect for you. I am very sorry for it, and beg you a thousand pardons."
Scarcely had he finished these words, when the Barmecide, instead of being in a passion, fell a laughing with all his might. "I have been long," said he, "seeking a man of your character."
The Barmecide caressed Schacabac mightily, and told him, "I not only forgive the blow you have given me, but I desire henceforward we should be friends, and that you take my house for your home: you have had the complaisance to accommodate yourself to my humour, and the patience to keep the jest up to the last; we will now eat in good earnest." When he had finished these words, he clapped his hands, and commanded his servants, who then appeared, to cover the table; which was speedily done, and my brother was treated with all those dishes in reality, which he ate of before in fancy. At last they cleared the table, and brought in the wine, and at the same time a number of handsome slaves, richly appareled, came and sung some agreeable airs to their musical instruments. In a word, Schacabac had all the reason in the world to be satisfied with the Barmecide's civility and bounty; for he treated him as his familiar friend, and ordered him a suit from his wardrobe.
The Barmecide found my brother to be a man of so much wit and understanding, that in a few days after he entrusted him with the care of his household and all his affairs. My brother acquitted himself very well in that employment for twenty years; at the end of which the generous Barmecide died, and leaving no heirs, all his property was confiscated to the use of the prince; and my brother lost all he had acquired. Being reduced to his first condition, he joined a caravan of pilgrims going to Mecca, designing to accomplish that pilgrimage by their charity; but unfortunately the caravan was attacked and plundered by a number of Bedouins, superior to that of the pilgrims. My brother was then taken as a slave by one of the Bedouins, who put him under the bastinado for several days, to oblige him to ransom himself. Schacabac protested that it was all in vain. "I am your slave," said he, "you may dispose of me as you please; but I declare to you that I am extremely poor, and not able to redeem myself." In a word, my brother discovered to him all his misfortunes, and endeavoured to soften him with tears; but the Bedouin was not to be moved, and being vexed to find himself disappointed of a considerable sum of which he reckoned himself sure, he took his knife and slit my brother's lips. to avenge himself by this inhumanity for the loss that he thought he had sustained.
The Bedouin had a handsome wife, and frequently when he went on his excursions left my brother alone with her. At such times she used all her endeavours to comfort my brother under the rigour of his slavery. She gave him tokens enough that she loved him, but he durst not return her passion, for fear he should repent; and therefore avoided being alone with her, as much as she sought the opportunity to be alone with him. She was so much in the habit of caressing and playing with the miserable Schacabac, whenever she saw him, that one day she happened to act in the same manner, in the presence of her husband. My brother, without taking notice that he observed them (so his sins would have it), played likewise with her. The Bedouin, immediately supposing that they lived together in a criminal manner, fell upon my brother in a rage, and after he had mutilated him in a barbarous manner, carried him on a camel to the top of a desert mountain, where he left him. The mountain was on the road to Bagdad, so that the passengers who saw him there informed me where he was. I went thither speedily, and found unfortunate Schacabac in a deplorable condition: I gave him what help he stood in need of, and brought him back to the city.
This is what I told the caliph; that prince applauded me with new fits of laughter. "Now," said he, "I cannot doubt but they justly give you the surname of Silent. No one can say the contrary for certain reasons, however, I command you to depart this town immediately, and let me hear no more of you." I yielded to necessity, and travelled for several years in distant countries. Understanding at last that the caliph was dead, I returned to Bagdad, where I found not one of my brothers alive. It was on my return to this city that I did the lame young man the important service which you have heard. You are, however, witnesses of his ingratitude, and of the injurious manner in which he treated me; instead of testifying his obligation, he rather chose to fly from me and leave his own country. When I understood that he was not at Bagdad, though no one could tell me whither he was gone, I determined to seek him. I travelled from province to province a long time; and when I least expected, met him this day, but I little thought to find him so incensed against me.
When the barber had concluded his story, we found that the young man was not to blame for calling him a great chatterer. However, he wished him to stay with us, and partake of the entertainment which the master of the house had prepared. We sat down to table, and were merry together till afternoon prayers; when all the company parted, and I went to my shop, till it was time to return home. It was during this interval that humpback came half drunk before my shop, where he sung and played on his tabor. I thought that, by carrying him home with me, I should divert my wife, therefore I took him in: my wife gave us a dish of fish, and I presented humpback with some, which he ate, without taking notice of a bone. He fell down dead before us, and after having in vain essayed to help him, in the trouble and fear occasioned by such an unlucky accident, we carried the corpse out, and dexterously lodged him with the Jewish doctor. The Jewish doctor put him into the chamber of the purveyor, and the purveyor carried him out into the street, where it was believed the merchant had killed him. "This sir," added the tailor, "is what I had to say to satisfy your majesty, who must pronounce whether we be worthy of mercy or wrath, life or death."
The sultan of Casgar shewed a satisfaction in his countenance, which restored the tailor and his comrades to life. "I cannot but acknowledge," said he, "that I am more struck with the history of the young cripple, with that of the barber, and with the adventures of his brothers, than with the story of my jester: but before I send you all away, and we proceed to bury humpback, I should like to see the barber who is the occasion of my pardoning you; since he is in my capital, it is easy to satisfy my curiosity." At the same time he sent an officer with the tailor to find him.
The officer and the tailor went immediately and brought the barber, whom they presented to the sultan: the barber was a venerable man about ninety years of age; his eye-brows and beard were white as snow, his ears hanging down, and his nose very long. The sultan could not forbear laughing when he saw him. "Silent man," said he to him, "I understand that you know wonderful stories, will you tell me some of them?"
"Sir," answered the barber, "let us forbear the stories, if you please, at present. I most humbly beg your majesty to permit me to ask what that Christian, that Jew, that Moosulmaun and that dead humpback, who ties on the ground, do here before your majesty?" The sultan smiled at the barber's freedom, and replied, "Why do you ask?" "Sir," replied the barber, "it concerns me to ask, that your majesty may know I am not so great a talker as some represent me, but a man justly called Silent."
The sultan commanded them to tell him the story of the humpback, which he seemed earnestly to wish for. When the barber heard it, he shook his head, as if he would say, there was something under this which he did not understand. "Truly," cried he, "this is a surprising story; but I wish to examine humpback a little nearer." He approached him, sat down on the ground, took his head between his knees, and after he had looked upon him steadfastly, fell into so great a fit of laughter, and had so little command of himself, that he fell backwards on the ground, without considering that he was before the sultan of Casgar. As soon as he came to himself, "It is said," cried he, "and not without reason, that no man dies without a cause. If ever any history deserved to be written in letters of gold, it is that of this humpback."
At this all the people looked on the barber as a buffoon, or an old dotard. "Silent man," said the sultan, "why do you laugh?" "Sir," answered the barber, "I swear by your majesty's benevolence, that humpback is not dead: he is yet alive, and I shall be content to pass for a madman if I do not convince you this minute." So saying, he took a box wherein he had several medicines that he carried about him to use as occasion might require; and drew out a little phial of balsam, with which he rubbed humpback's neck a long time; then he took out of his case a neat iron instrument, which he put betwixt his teeth, and after he had opened his mouth, he thrust down his throat a pair of small pincers, with which he took out a bit of fish and bone, which he shewed to all the people. Immediately humpback sneezed, stretched forth his arms and feet, opened his eyes, and shewed several other signs of life.
The sultan of Casgar, and all who were witnesses of this operation, were less surprised to see humpback revive, after he had passed a whole night, and great part of a day, without giving any sign of life, than at the merit and capacity of the barber, who performed this; and notwithstanding all his faults, began to look upon him as a great physician. The sultan, transported with joy and admiration, ordered the story of humpback to be written down, with that of the barber, that the memory of them might, as it deserved, be preserved for ever. Nor did he stop here; but, that the tailor, Jewish doctor, purveyor, and Christian merchant might remember the adventure, which the accident of humpback had occasioned to them, with pleasure, he did not send them away till he had given each of them a very rich robe, with which he caused them to be clothed in his presence. As for the barber, he honoured him with a great pension, and kept him near his person.
The History of Aboulhassen Ali Ebn Becar, and Schemselnihar, Favourite of Caliph Maroon Al Rusheed.
In the reign of the caliph Haroon al Rusheed, there lived at Bagdad a druggist, named Alboussan Ebn Thaher, a very rich handsome man. He had more wit and politeness than people of his profession generally possess: his integrity, sincerity, and good humour made him beloved and sought after by all sorts of people. The caliph, who knew his merit, had entire confidence in him. He held him in such high esteem, that he entrusted him to provide his favourite ladies with all the things they stood in need of. He chose for them their clothes, furniture, and jewels, with admirable taste.
His good qualities, and the favour of the caliph, occasioned the sons of emirs, and other officers of the first rank, to be always about him: his house was the rendezvous of all the nobility of the court Among the young lords that went daily to visit him, was one whom he took more notice of than the rest, and with whom he contrasted a particular friendship, called Aboulhassen Ali Ebn Becar, originally of an ancient royal family of Persia. This family had continued at Bagdad ever since the conquest of that kingdom. Nature seemed to have taken pleasure in endowing this young prince with the rarest qualities of body and mind: his face was so very beautiful, his shape so fine, his air so easy, and his physiognomy so engaging, that it was impossible to see him without immediately loving him. When he spoke, he expressed himself in terms proper and well chosen, with a new and agreeable turn, and his voice charmed all that heard him: he had besides so much wit and judgment, that he thought and spoke of all subjects with admirable exactness. He was so reserved and modest, that he advanced nothing till after he had taken all possible care to avoid giving any ground of suspicion that he preferred his own opinion to that of others.
Being such a person as I have represented him, we need not wonder that Ebn Thaher distinguished him from all the other young noblemen of the court, most of whom had the vices which composed the opposites to his virtues. One day, when the prince was with Ebn Thaher, there came a lady mounted on a piebald mule, in the midst of ten female slaves who accompanied her on foot, all very handsome, as far as could be judged by their air, and through their veils which covered their faces. The lady had a girdle of a rose colour, four inches broad, embroidered with pearls and diamonds of an extraordinary bigness; and for beauty it was easy to perceive that she surpassed all her women, as far as the full moon does that of two days old. She came to buy something, and as she wanted to speak to Ebn Thaher, entered his shop, which was very neat and spacious; and he received her with all the marks of the most profound respect, entreating her to sit down, and directing her to the most honourable place.
In the mean time, the prince of Persia, unwilling to lose such an opportunity of strewing his good breeding and gallantry, adjusted the cushion of cloth of gold, for the lady to lean on; after which he hastily retired, that she might sit down; and having saluted her, by kissing the carpet under her feet, rose and stood before her at the lower end of the sofa. It being her custom to be free with Ebn Thaher, she lifted up her veil, and discovered to the prince of Persia such an extraordinary beauty as struck him to the heart. On the other hand, the lady could not refrain from looking upon the prince, the sight of whom had made the same impressions upon her. "My lord," said she to him, with an obliging air, "pray sit down." The prince of Persia obeyed, and sat on the edge of the sofa. He had his eyes constantly fixed upon her, and swallowed large draughts of the sweet poison of love. She quickly perceived what passed in his heart, and this discovery served to inflame her the more towards him. She arose, went to Ebn Thaher, and after she had whispered to him the cause of her coming, asked the name and country of the prince. "Madam," answered Ebn Thaher, "this young nobleman's name is Aboulhassen Ali Ebn Becar, and he is a prince of the blood royal of Persia."
The lady was transported at hearing that the person she already loved so passionately was of so high a rank. "Do you really mean," said she, "that he is descended from the kings of Persia?" "Yes, madam," replied Ebn Thaher, "the last kings of Persia were his ancestors, and since the conquest of that kingdom, the princes of his family have always made themselves very acceptable at the court of our caliphs." "You will oblige me much," added she, "by making me acquainted with this young nobleman: when I send this woman," pointing to one of her slaves, "to give you notice to come and see me, pray bring him with you; I shall be glad to afford him the opportunity of seeing the magnificence of my house, that he may have it in his power to say, that avarice does not reign at Bagdad among persons of quality. You know what I mean."
Ebn Thaher was a man of too much penetration not to perceive the lady's mind by these words: "My princess, my queen," replied he, "God preserve me from giving you any occasion of anger: I shall always make it a law to obey your commands." At this answer, the lady bowed to Ebn Thaher, and took her leave; and after she had given a favorable look to the prince of Persia, she remounted her mule, and departed.
The prince of Persia was so deeply in love with the lady, that he looked after her as far as he could; and long after she was out of sight directed his eyes that way. Ebn Thaher told him, that he remarked several persons observing him, and began to laugh to see him in this posture. "Alas!" said the prince, "the world and you would pity me, if you knew that the beautiful lady, who is just gone from you, has carried with her the best part of me, and that the remaining part seeks for an opportunity to go after her. Tell me, I conjure you," added he, "what cruel lady is this, who forces people to love her, without giving them time to reflect?" "My lord," answered Ebn Thaher, "this is the celebrated Schemselnihar, the principal favourite of the caliph, our master." "She is justly so called," added the prince, "since she is more beautiful than the sun at noonday." "True," replied Ebn Thaher; "therefore the commander of the faithful loves, or rather adores her. He gave me express orders to furnish her with all that she asked for, and to anticipate her wishes as far as lies in my power."
He spoke thus to hinder him from engaging in a passion which could not but prove unfortunate to him; but this served only to inflame it the more. "I feared, charming Schemselnihar," cried he, "I should not be allowed so much as to think of you; I perceive, however, that without hopes of being loved in return, I cannot forbear loving you; I will love you then, and bless my lot that I am the slave of an object fairer than the meridian sun."
While the prince of Persia thus consecrated his heart to the fair Schemselnihar, this lady, as she went home, contrived how she might see, and have free converse with him. She no sooner entered her palace, than she sent to Ebn Thaher the woman she had pointed out to him, and in whom she placed all her confidence, to tell him to come and see her without delay, and bring the prince of Persia with him. The slave came to Ebn Thaher's shop, while he was speaking to the prince, and endeavouring to dissuade him, by very strong arguments, from loving the caliph's favourite. When she saw them together, "Gentlemen," said she, "my honourable mistress Schemselnihar the chief favourite of the commander of the faithful, entreats you to come to her palace, where she waits for you." Ebn Thaher, to testify his obedience, rose up immediately, without answering the slave, and followed her, not without some reluctance. The prince also followed he, without reflecting on the danger there might be in such a visit. The presence of Ebn Thaher, who had liberty to go to the favourite when he pleased, made the prince very easy: they followed the slave, who went a little before them, and entered after her into the caliph's palace, and joined her at the gate of Schemselnihar's pavilion, which was ready open. She introduced them into a great hall, where she prayed them to be seated.
The prince of Persia thought himself in one of those delicious palaces that are promised to us in the other world: he had never seen any thing that came near the magnificence of the place. The carpets, cushions, and other appendages of the sofa, the furniture, ornaments, and architecture, were surprisingly rich and beautiful. A little time after Ebn Thaher and he had seated themselves, a very handsome black slave brought in a table covered with several delicacies, the admirable smell of which evinced how deliciously they were seasoned. While they were eating, the slave who brought them in waited upon them; she took particular care to invite them to eat of what she knew to be the greatest dainties. The other slaves brought them excellent wine after they had eaten. When they had done, there was presented to each of them a gold basin full of water to wash their hands; after which, they brought them a golden pot full of the wood of aloes, with which they perfumed their beards and clothes. Odoriferous water was not forgotten, but served in a golden vessel enriched with diamonds and rubies, and it was thrown upon their beards and faces according to custom; they then resumed their places, but had scarcely sat down, when the slave entreated them to arise and follow her. She opened a door, and conducted them into a large saloon of wonderful structure. It was a dome of the most agreeable form, supported by a hundred pillars of marble, white as alabaster. The bases and chapiters of the pillars were adorned with four-footed beasts, and birds of various sorts, gilded. The carpet of this noble saloon consisted of one piece of cloth of gold, embroidered with bunches of roses in red and white silk; and the dome painted in the same manner, after the Arabian fashion, presented to the mind one of the most charming objects. In every space between the columns was a little sofa adorned in the same manner, and great vessels of china, crystal, jasper, jet, porphyry, agate, and other precious materials, garnished with gold and jewels; in these spaces were also so many large windows, with balconies projecting breast high, fitted up as the sofas, and looking out into the most delicious garden; the walks were of little pebbles of different colours, of the same pattern as the carpet of the saloon; so that, looking upon the carpet within and without it seemed as if the dome and the garden with all its ornaments had been upon the same carpet. The prospect was, at the end of the walks, terminated by two canals of clear water, of the same circular figure as the dome, one of which being higher than the other, emptied its water into the lowermost, in form of a sheet; and curious pots of gilt brass, with flowers and shrubs, were set upon the banks of the canals at equal distances. Those walks lay betwixt great plots of ground planted with straight and bushy trees, where a thousand birds formed a melodious concert, and diverted the eye by flying about, and playing together, or fighting in the air.
The prince of Persia and Ebn Thaher were a long time engaged in viewing the magnificence of the place, and expressed their surprise at every thing thing saw, especially the prince, who had never beheld any thing like it. Ebn Thaher, though he had been several times in that delicious place, could not but observe many new beauties, In a word they never grew weary in admiring so many singularities, and were thus agreeably employed, when they perceived a company of ladies richly appareled sitting without, at some distance from the dome, each of them upon a seat of Indian plane wood inlaid with silver filigree in compartments, with instruments of music in their hands, waiting for orders to play. They both went forward, and had a full view of the ladies, and on the right they saw a great court with a stair up from the garden, encompassed with beautiful apartments. The slave had left them, and being alone, they conversed together; "For you, who are a wise man," said the prince of Persia, "I doubt not but you look with a great deal of satisfaction upon all these marks of grandeur and power; for my part, I do not think there is any thing in the world more surprising. But when I consider that this is the glorious habitation of the lovely Schemselnihar, and that the greatest monarch of the earth keeps her here, I confess to you that I look upon myself to be the most unfortunate of all mankind, and that no destiny can be more cruel than mine, to love an object possessed by my rival, and that too in a place where he is so potent, that I cannot think myself sure of my life one moment."
Ebn Thaher, hearing the prince of Persia speak, replied, "Sir, I wish you could give me as good assurance of the happy success of your passion, as I can give you of the safety of your life. Though this stately palace belongs to the caliph, who built it on purpose for Schemselnihar, and called it the palace of eternal pleasures, and though it makes part of his own palace, yet you must know that this lady lives here at absolute liberty. She is not beset by eunuchs to be spies upon her; this is her private house, absolutely at her disposal. She goes into the city when she pleases, and returns again, without asking leave of any body: and the caliph never comes to see her, but he sends Mesrour, the chief of his eunuchs, to give her notice, that she may be prepared to receive him. Therefore you may be easy, and give full attention to the concert of music, which, I perceive, Schemselnihar is preparing for you."
Just as Ebn Thaher had spoken these words, the prince of Persia, and he, saw the favourite's trusty slave giving orders to the ladies to begin to sing, and play with the instruments: they all began immediately to play together as a prelude, and after they had played some time, one of them began to sing alone, and accompanied herself at the same time admirably upon her lute, being informed beforehand upon what subject she was to sing. The words were so agreeable to the prince of Persia's sentiments, that he could not forbear applauding her at the end of the couplet. "Is it possible," cried he, "that you have the gift of knowing people's hearts, and that the knowledge of what is passing in my mind has occasioned you to give us a taste of your charming voice by those words? I should not express myself otherwise, were I to choose." The lady made no reply, but went on and sung several other stanzas, with which the prince was so affected, that he repeated some of them with tears in his eyes; which discovered plainly enough that he applied them to himself. When she had finished, she and her companions rose up and sung a chorus, signifying by their words, that the full moon was going to rise in all her splendour, and that they should speedily see her approach the sun. Intimating, that Schemselnihar was coming, and that the prince of Persia would soon have the pleasure of beholding her.
In fact, as they looked towards the court, they saw Schemselnihar's confidant coming towards them, followed by ten black women, who, with much difficulty, carried a throne of massive silver curiously wrought, which they set down before them at a certain distance; the black slaves then retired behind the trees, to the entrance of a walk. After this came twenty handsome ladies richly appareled alike; they advanced in two rows, each singing and playing upon instruments which she held in her hands, and placed themselves on each side of the throne.
All these things kept the prince of Persia and Ebn Thaher in so much the greater expectation, as they were curious to know how they would end. At length they saw advancing from the gate through which the ten black women had proceeded ten other ladies equally handsome, and well dressed, who halted a few moments, expecting the favourite, who came out last, and placed herself in the midst of them.
Schemselnihar was easily distinguished from the rest, by her fine shape and majestic air, as well as by a sort of mantle, of a very fine stuff of gold and sky-blue, fastened to her shoulders, over her other apparel, which was the most handsome, most magnificent, and best contrived that could be imagined.
The pearls, rubies, and diamonds, which adorned her, were well disposed; not many in number, but chosen with taste, and of inestimable value. She came forward, with a majesty resembling the sun in its course amidst the clouds, which receive his splendour without hiding his lustre, and sat upon the silver throne that had been brought for her.
As soon as the prince of Persia saw Schemselnihar, his eyes were rivetted on her. "We cease inquiring," said he to Ebn Thaher, "after what we seek, when once it is in view; and no doubt remains, when once the truth is made apparent. Do you see this charming beauty? She is the cause of all my sufferings, which I bless, and will never forbear to bless, however severe and lasting. At the sight of this objets, I am not my own master; my soul is disturbed, and rebels, and seems disposed to leave me. Go then, my soul, I allow thee; but let it be for the welfare and preservation of this weak body. It is you, cruel Ebn Thaher, who are the cause of this disorder, in bringing me hither. You thought to do me a great pleasure; but I perceive I am only come to complete my ruin. Pardon me," he continued, interrupting himself; "I am mistaken. I would come, and can blame no one but myself;" and at these words he burst into tears. "I am glad," said Ebn Thaher, "that you do me justice. When I told you at first, that Schemselnihar was the caliph's chief favourite, I did it on purpose to prevent that fatal passion which you please yourself with entertaining. All that you see here ought to disengage you, and you are to think of nothing but of acknowledging the honour which Schemselnihar has done you, by ordering me to bring you with me; recall then your wandering reason, and prepare to appear before her, as good breeding requires. See, she advances: were we to begin again, I would take other measures, but since the thing is done, I pray God we may not have cause to repent. All that I have now to say to you is, that love is a traitor, who may involve you in difficulties from which you will never be able to extricate yourself."
Ebn Thaher had no time to say more, because Schemselnihar approached, and sitting down upon her throne, saluted them both by bowing her head; but she fixed her eyes on the prince of Persia, and they spoke to one another in a silent language intermixed with sighs; by which in a few moments they spoke more than they could have done by words in a much longer time. The more Schemselnihar, looked upon the prince, the more she found in his looks to confirm her opinion that he was in love with her; and being thus persuaded of his passion, thought herself the happiest woman in the world. At last she turned her eyes from him, to command the women, who began to sing first, to come near; they rose, and as they advanced, the black women, who came out of the walk into which they had retired, brought their seats, and placed them near the window, in the front of the dome where Ebn Thaher and the prince of Persia stood, and their seats were so disposed, that, with the favourite's throne and the women on each side of her, they formed a semicircle before them.
The women, who were sitting before she came resumed their places, with the permission of Schemselnihar, who ordered them by a sign; that charming favourite chose one of those women to sing, who, after she had spent some moments in tuning her lute, sung a song, the meaning whereof was, that when two lovers entirely loved one another with affection boundless, their hearts, though in two bodies, were united; and, when any thing opposed their desires, could say with tears in their eyes, "If we love because we find one another amiable, ought we to be blamed? Let destiny bear the blame."
Schemselnihar evinced so plainly by her eyes and gestures that those words were applicable to herself and the prince of Persia, that he could not contain himself. He arose, and advancing to a balustrade, which he leaned upon, beckoned to one of the companions of the woman who had just done singing, to approach. When she had got near enough, he said to her, "Do me the favour to accompany me with your lute, in a song which you shall hear me sing." He then sung with an air so tender and passionate, as perfectly expressed the violence of his love. As soon as he had done, Schemselnihar, following his example, said to one of the women, "Attend to me likewise, and accompany my song." At the same time she sung in such a manner, as more deeply to penetrate the heart of the prince of Persia, who answered her by a new air, more passionate than the former.
The two lovers having declared their mutual affection by their songs, Schemselnihar yielded to the force of hers. She arose from her throne in transport, and advanced towards the door of the hall. The prince, who perceived her design, rose up immediately, and went to meet her. They met at the door, where they took one another by the hand, and embraced with so much passion, that they fainted, and would have fallen, if the woman who followed Schemselnihar had not hindered them. They supported them to a sofa, where they were brought to themselves, by throwing odoriferous water on their faces, and applying pungent odours to their nostrils.
When they had recovered, the first thing Schemselnihar did was to look about: and not seeing Ebn Thaher, she asked, with eagerness, where he was? He had withdrawn out of respect whilst her women were engaged in recovering her, and dreaded, not without reason, that some disagreeable consequence might follow what he had seen; but as soon as he heard Schemselnihar inquire for him, he came forward.
Schemselnihar was much pleased to see Ebn Thaher, and expressed her joy in the most obliging terms: "Ebn Thaher, I know not how to make you proper returns for the great obligations you have put upon me; without you, I should never have seen the prince of Persia, nor have loved the most amiable person in the world. Assure yourself I shall not die ungrateful, and that my gratitude, if possible, shall be equal to the obligation." Ebn Thaher answered this compliment by a low obeisance, and wished the favourite the accomplishment of all her desires.
Schemselnihar, turning towards the prince of Persia, who sat by her, and looking upon him with some confusion after what had passed, said to him, "I am well assured you love me, and how great soever your love may be to me, you need not doubt but mine is as great towards you: but let us not flatter ourselves; for, notwithstanding this conformity of our sentiments, I see nothing for you and me but trouble, impatience, and tormenting grief. There is no other remedy for our evils but to love one another constantly, to refer ourselves to the disposal of Heaven, and to wait its determination of our destiny." "Madam," replied the prince of Persia, "you will do me the greatest injustice, if you doubt for a moment the continuance of my love. It is so interwoven with my soul, that I can justly say it makes the best part of it, and will continue so after death. Pains, torments, obstacles, nothing shall prevent my loving you." Speaking these words he shed tears in abundance, and Schemselnihar was not able to restrain hers.
Ebn Thaher took this opportunity to speak to the favourite. "Madam, allow me to represent to you, that, instead of melting into tears, you ought to rejoice that you are now together. I understand not this grief. What will it be when you are obliged to part? But why do I talk of that? We have been a long while here, and you know, madam, it is time for us to be going." "Ah! how cruel are you!" replied Schemselnihar, "You, who know the cause of my tears, have you no pity for my unfortunate condition? Oh! sad fatality! What have I done to subject myself to the severe law of not being able to join with the only person I love?"
Persuaded as she was that Ebn Thaher spoke to her only out of friendship, she did not take amiss what he said, but made a proper use of his intimation She made a sign to the slave her confidant, who immediately went out, and in a little time brought a collation of fruits upon a small silver table, which she set down betwixt her mistress and the prince of Persia. Schemselnihar took some of the best, and presented it to the prince, praying him to eat it for her sake; he took it, and put to his mouth that part which she had touched; and then he presented some to her, which she took, and ate in the same manner. She did not forget to invite Ebn Thaher to eat with them; but he thinking himself not safe in that place, and wishing himself at home, ate only out of complaisance. After the collation was taken away, they brought a silver basin, with water in a vessel of gold, and washed together; they afterwards returned to their places, and three of the ten black women brought each a cup of rock crystal full of exquisite wine, upon a golden salver; which they placed before Schemselnihar, the prince of Persia, and Ebn Thaher. That they might be the more private, Schemselnihar kept with her only ten black women, with ten others who began to sing, and play upon instruments; and after she had sent away all the rest, she took up one of the cups, and holding it in her hand sung some tender words, which one of her women accompanied with her lute. When she had done, she drank, and afterwards took up one of the other cups and presented it to the prince, praying him to drink for love of her, as she had drunk for love of him. He received the cup with a transport of love and joy; but before he drank, he sung also a song, which another woman accompanied with an instrument: and as he sang the tears fell from his eyes in such abundance, that he could not forbear expressing in his song, that he knew not whether he was going to drink the wine she had presented to him, or his own tears. Schemselnihar at last presented the third cup to Ebn Thaher, who thanked her for her kindness, and for the honour she did him.
After this she took a lute from one of her women, and sung to it in such a passionate manner, that she seemed to be transported out of herself: and the prince of Persia stood with his eyes fixed upon her, as if he had been enchanted. At this instant, her trusty slave came in great alarm, and addressing herself to her mistress, said, "Madam Mesrour and two other officers, with several eunuchs that attend them, are at the gate, and want to speak with you from the caliph." When the prince of Persia and Ebn Thaher heard these words, they changed colour, and began to tremble as if they had been undone: but Schemselnihar who perceived their agitation, revived their courage by a sigh.
After Schemselnihar had quieted the fears of the prince of Persia and Ebn Thaher, she ordered the slave, her confidant, to go and speak to Mesrour, and the two other officers, till she had put herself in a condition to receive them, and could send her to introduce them. Immediately she ordered all the windows of' the saloon to be shut, and the painted cloth on the side of the garden to be let down: and after having assured the prince and Ebn Thaher that they might continue there without any fear, she went out at the gate leading to the garden, and closed it upon them: but whatever assurance she had given them of their safety, they were full of apprehension all the while they remained there.
As soon as Schemselnihar had reached the garden with the women that had followed her, she ordered all the seats, which served the women who played on the instruments, to be placed near the window, where the prince of Persia and Ebn Thaher heard them; and having got things in order, she sat down upon her silver throne: she then sent notice to the slave her confidant to bring in the chief of the eunuchs, and his two subaltern officers.
They appeared, followed by twenty black eunuchs all handsomely clothed, with cimeters by their sides, and gold belts of four inches broad. As soon as they perceived the favourite Schemselnihar at a distance, they made her a profound reverence, which she returned them from her throne. When they approached, she arose and went to meet Mesrour, who advanced first; she asked what news he brought? He answered, "Madam, the commander of the faithful has sent me to signify that he cannot live longer without seeing you; he designs to do himself that pleasure this night, and I am come to give you notice, that you may be ready to receive him. He hopes, madam, that you will receive him with as much pleasure as he feels impatience to see you."