Stories from the Thousand and One Nights. The Harvard Classics. 190914.
The Barbers Story of His Fourth Brother
MY fourth brother, O Prince of the Faithful, was the one-eyed (named El-Kuz Es-Aswani): he was a butcher in Baghdad, and both sold meat and reared lambs; and the great and the rich had recourse to him to purchase of him their meat, so that he amassed great wealth, and became possessor of cattle and houses. Thus he continued to prosper for a long time; and as he was in his shop, one day, there accosted him an old man with a long beard, who handed to him some money, saying, Give me some meat for it. So he took the money, and gave him the meat; and when the old man had gone away, my brother looked at the money which he had paid him, and, seeing that it was of a brilliant whiteness, put it aside by itself. This old man continued to repair to him during a period of five months, and my brother always threw his money into a chest by itself; after which period he desired to take it out for the purpose of buying some sheep; but on opening the chest, he found all the contents converted into white paper, clipped round; and he slapped his face, and cried out; whereupon a number of people collected around him, and he related to them his story, at which they were astonished.
He then went again, as usual, into his shop, and, having killed a ram and hung it up within the shop, he cut off some of the meat, and suspended it outside, saying within himself, Perhaps now this old man will come again, and if so, I will seize him:and very soon after, the old man approached with his money; upon which my brother arose, and, laying hold upon him, began to cry out, O Muslims, come to my aid, and hear what this scoundrel hath done unto me! But when the old man heard his words he said to him, Which will be more agreeable to theethat thou abstain from disgracing me, or that I disgrace thee, before the people?For what wilt thou disgrace me? said my brother. The old man answered, For thy selling human flesh for mutton.Thou liest, thou accursed! exclaimed my brother.None is accursed, rejoined the old man, but he who hath a man suspended in his shop. My brother said, If it be as thou hast asserted, my property and blood shall be lawful to thee:and immediately the old man exclaimed, O ye people here assembled! verily this butcher slaughtereth human beings, and selleth their flesh for mutton; and if ye desire to know the truth of my assertion, enter his shop! So the people rushed upon his shop, and beheld the ram converted into a man, hung up, and they laid hold upon my brother, crying out against him, Thou infidel! Thou scoundrel!and those who had been his dearest friends turned upon him and beat him; and the old man gave him a blow upon his eye, and knocked it out. The people then carried the carcass, and took with them my brother, to the chief magistrate of the police; and the old man said to him, O Emir, this man slaughtereth human beings, and selleth their flesh for mutton; and we have therefore brought him to thee; arise, then, and perform the requisition of God, whose might and glory be extolled! Upon this, the magistrate thrust back my brother from him, and, refusing to listen to what he would have said, ordered that five hundred blows of a staff should be inflicted upon him, and took all his property. Had it not been for the great amount of his wealth, he had put him to death. He then banished him from the city.
My brother, therefore, went forth in a state of distraction, not knowing what course to pursue; but he journeyed onwards until he arrived at a great city, where he thought fit to settle as a shoemaker: so he opened a shop, and sat there working for his subsistence. And one day he went forth on some business, and, hearing the neighing of horses, he inquired respecting the cause, and was told that the King was going forth to hunt; whereupon he went to amuse himself with the sight of the procession: but the King happening to look on one side, his eye met that of my brother, and immediately he hung down his head, and exclaimed, I seek refuge with God from the evil of this day! He then turned aside the bridle of his horse, and rode back, and all his troops returned with him; after which, he ordered his pages to run after my brother, and to beat him; and they did so; giving him so severe a beating that he almost died; and he knew not the cause. He returned to his abode in a miserable plight, and afterwards went and related his misfortune to one of the Kings attendants, who laughed at the recital until he fell backwards, and said to him, O my brother, the King cannot endure the sight of a one-eyed person, and especially when the defect is that of the left eye; for in this case, he faileth not to put the person to death.
When my brother heard these words, he determined to fly from that city; and forthwith departed from it, and repaired to another city, where there was no King. Here he remained a long time; and after this, as he was meditating upon his adventure in the former city, he went out one day to amuse himself, and heard again the neighing of horses behind him; upon which he exclaimed, The decree of God hath come to pass!and ran away, seeking for a place in which to conceal himself; but he found none, until, continuing his search, he saw a door set up as a barricade; so he pushed this, and it fell down; and, entering the doorway, he beheld a long passage, into which he advanced. Suddenly, however, two men laid hold upon him, and exclaimed, Praise be to God who hath enabled us to take thee, O thou enemy of God! For these three nights thou hast suffered us to enjoy neither quiet nor sleep, and we have found no repose: nay, thou hast given us a foretaste of death!O men, said my brother, what hath happened unto you! They answered, Thou keepest a watch upon us, and desirest to disgrace us, and to disgrace the master of the house! Is it not enough for thee that thou hast reduced him to poverty, thou and thy companions? Produce now the knife wherewith thou threatenest us every night.And so saying, they searched him, and found upon his waist the knife with which he cut the shoe-leather.O men, he exclaimed, fear God in your treatment of me, and know that my story is wonderful. They said, What then is thy story? So he related it to them, in the hope that they would liberate him: but they believed not what he said; and, instead of shewing him any regard, they beat him, and tore his clothes; whereupon, his body becoming exposed to their view, they discovered upon his sides the marks of beating with mikraahs, and exclaimed, O wretch! these scars bear testimony to thy guilt. They then conducted him before the Wali, while he said within himself, I am undone for my transgressions, and none can deliver me but God, whose name be exalted! And when he was brought before the Wali, the magistrate said to him, O thou scoundrel! nothing but a heinous crime hath occasioned thy having been beaten with mikraahs:and he caused a hundred lashes to be inflicted upon him; after which, they mounted him upon a camel, and proclaimed before him, This is the recompense of him who breaketh into mens houses!But I had already heard of his misfortunes, and gone forth, and found him; and I accompanied him about the city while they were making this proclamation, until they left him; when I took him, and brought him back secretly into Baghdad, and apportioned him a daily allowance of food and drink.