Stories from the Thousand and One Nights. The Harvard Classics. 190914.
The Barbers Story of His Third Brother
AS to my third brother (the blind man, Bakbak), who was also surnamed Kuffeh, fate and destiny impelled him one day to a large house, and he knocked at the door, hoping that its master would answer him, and that he might beg of him a trifle. The owner called out, Who is at the door?but my brother answered not; and then heard him call with a loud voice, Who is this? Still, however, he returned him no answer; and he heard the sounds of his footsteps approaching until he came to the door and opened it, when he said to him, What dost thou desire? My brother answered, Something for the sake of God, whose name be exalted!Art thou blind? said the man; and my brother answered, Yes.Then give me thy hand, rejoined the master of the house;so my brother stretched forth to him his hand, and the man took him into the house, and led him up from stair-case to stair-case until he had ascended to the highest platform of the roof: my brother thinking that he was going to give him some food or money: and when he had arrived at this highest terrace of his house, the owner said, What dost thou desire, O blind man?I desire something, he answered again, for the sake of God, whose name be exalted!May God, replied the man, open to thee some other way!What is this! exclaimed my brother: couldst thou not tell me so when I was below?Thou vilest of the vile! retorted the other: why didst thou not ask of me something for the sake of God when thou heardest my voice the first time, when thou wast knocking at the door?What then, said my brother, dost thou mean to do to me?The man of the house answered, I have nothing to give thee.Then take me down the stairs, said my brother. The man replied, The way is before thee. So my brother made his way to the stairs, and continued descending until there remained, between him and the door, twenty steps, when his foot slipped and he fell, and, rolling down, broke his head.
He went forth, not knowing whither to direct his steps, and presently there met him two blind men, his companions, who said to him, What hath happened to thee this day? My brother, therefore, related to them the even that had just befallen him; and then said to them, O my brothers, I desire to take a portion of the money now in our possession, to expend it upon myself.Now the owner of the house which he had just before entered had followed him to acquaint himself with his proceedings, and without my brothers knowledge he walked behind him until the latter entered his abode; when he went in after him, still unknown. My brother then sat waiting for his companions; and when they came in to him, he said to them, Shut the door, and search the room, lest any stranger have followed us. When the intruder, therefore, heard what he said, he arose, and clung to a rope that was attached to the ceiling; and the blind men went feeling about the whole of the chamber, and, finding no one, returned and seated themselves by my brother, and brought forth their money, and counted it; and lo, it was more than ten thousand pieces of silver. Having done this, they laid it in a corner of the room, and each of them took of the surplus of that sum as much as he wanted, and they buried the ten thousand pieces of silver in the earth; after which, they place before themselves some food, and sat eating; but my brother heard the sound of a stranger by his side, and said to his friends, Is there a stranger among us? Then stretching forth his hand, it grasped the hand of the intruder; whereupon he cried out to his companions, saying, Here is a stranger!and they fell upon him with blows until they were tired, when they shouted out, O Muslims! a thief hath come in upon us, and desireth to take out property!and immediately a number of persons collected around them.
Upon this, the stranger whom they accused of being a thief shut his eyes, feigning to be blind like themselves, so that no one who saw him doubted him to be so; and shouted, O Muslims! I demand protection of Allah and the Sultan! I demand protection of Allah and the Wali! I demand protection of Allah and the Emir! for I have important information to give to the Emir!and before they could collect their thoughts, the officers of the Wali surrounded them and took them all, including my brother, and conducted them before their master. The Wali said, What is your story?and the stranger replied, Hear my words, O Wali; the truth of our case will not become known to thee but by means of beating; and if thou wilt, begin by beating me before my companions. The Wali therefore said, Throw down this man, and flog him with whips:and accordingly they threw him down and flogged him; and when the stripes tortured him, he opened one of his eyes; and after they had continued the flogging a little longer, he opened his other eye; upon which the Wali exclaimed, What meaneth this conduct, O thou villain?Grant me indemnity, replied the man, and I will acquaint thee:and the Wali having granted his request, he said, We four pretend that we are blind, and, intruding among other people, enter their houses, and see their women, and employ stratagems to corrupt them, and to obtain money from them. We have acquired, by these means, vast gain, amounting to ten thousand pieces of silver; and I said to my companions, Give me my due, two thousand and five hundred; and they rose against me and beat me, and took my property. I beg protection, therefore, of Allah and of thee; and thou art more deserving of my share than they. If thou desire to know the truth of that which I have said, flog each of them more than thou hast flogged me, and he will open his eyes.
So the Wali immediately gave orders to flog them; and the first of them who suffered was my brother. They continued beating him until he almost died; when the Wali said to them, O ye scoundrels! do ye deny the gracious gift of God, feigning yourselves to be blind? My brother exclaimed, Allah! Allah! Allah! there is none among us who seeth!They then threw him down again, and ceased not to beat him until he became insensible, when the Wali said, Leave him until he shall have recovered, and then give him a third flogging:and in the meantime, he gave orders to flog his companions, to give each of them more than three hundred stripes; while the seeing man said to them, Open your eyes, or they will flog you again after this time. Then addressing himself to the Wali, he said, Send with me some person to bring thee the property; for these men will not open their eyes, fearing to be disgraced before the spectators. And the Wali sent with him a man, who brought him the money; and he took it, and gave to the informer, out of it, two thousand and five hundred pieces of silver, according to the share which he claimed, in spite of the others (retaining the rest), and banished from the city my brother and two other men; but I went forth, O Prince of the Faithful, and, having overtaken my brother, asked him respecting his sufferings; and he acquainted me with that which I have related unto thee. I then brought him back secretly into the city, and allotted him a supply of food and drink as long as he lived.
The Khalifeh laughed at my story, and said, Give him a present, and let him go:but I replied, I will receive nothing until I have declared to the Prince of the Faithful what happened to the rest of my brothers, and made it manifest to him that I am a man of few words:whereupon the Khalifeh said, Crack our ears, then, with thy ridiculous stories, and continue to us thy disclosure of vices and misdeeds. So I proceeded thus: