The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night, Volume 1

The End of the Tailor’s Tale

translated by

Richard F. Burton


THEN quoth the Tailor to the King of China:—When we heard the Barber’s tale and saw the excess of his loquacity and the way in which he had wronged this young man, we laid hands on him and shut him up, after which we sat down in peace, and ate and drank and enjoyed the good things of the marriage feast till the time of the call to mid afternoon prayer, when I left the party and returned home. My wife received me with sour looks and said, “Thou goest a pleasuring among thy friends and thou leavest me to sit sorrowing here alone. So now, unless thou take me abroad and let me have some amusement for the rest of the day, I will cut the rope1 and it will be the cause of my separation from thee.” So I took her out and we amused ourselves till supper time, when we returned home and fell in with this Hunchback who was brimful of drink and trolling out these rhymes:

“Clear’s the wine, the cup’s fine;
            ⚪ Like to like they combine:
It is wine and not cup!
            ⚪ ’Tis a cup and not wine!”

So I invited him to sup with us and went out to buy fried fish; after which we sat down to eat; and presently my wife took a piece of bread and a fid of fish and stuffed them into his mouth and he choked; and, though I slapped him long and hard between the shoulders, he died. Then I carried him off and contrived to throw him into the house of this leach, the Jew; and the leach contrived to throw him into the house of the Reeve; and the Reeve contrived to throw him on the way of the Nazarene broker. This, then, is my adventure which befell me but yesterday. Is not it more wondrous than the story of the Hunchback? When the King of China heard the Tailor’s tale he shook his head for pleasure; and, showing great surprise, said, “This that passed between the young man and the busy-body of a Barber is indeed more pleasant and wonderful than the story of my lying knave of a Hunchback.” Then he bade one of his Chamberlains go with the Tailor and bring the Barber out of jail, saying, “I wish to hear the talk of this Silent Man and it shall be the cause of your deliverance one and all: then we will bury the Hunchback, for that he is dead since yesterday, and set up a tomb over him.”——And Shahrázád perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her per misted say.

 

When it was the Thirty-fourth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the King of China bade, “Bring me the Barber who shall be the cause of your deliverance; then we will bury this Hunchback, for that he is dead since yesterday and set up a tomb over him.” So the Chamberlain and the Tailor went to the jail and, releasing the Barber, presently returned with him to the King. The Sultan of China looked at him and considered him carefully and lo and behold! he was an ancient man, past his ninetieth year; swart of face, white of beard, and hoar of eyebrows; lop eared and proboscis-nosed,2 with a vacant, silly and conceited expression of countenance. The King laughed at this figure o’ fun and said to him, “O Silent Man, I desire thee to tell me somewhat of thy history.” Quoth the Barber, “O King of the age, allow me first to ask thee what is the tale of this Nazarene and this Jew and this Moslem and this Hunchback (the corpse) I see among you? And prithee what may be the object of this assemblage?” Quoth the King of China, “And why dost thou ask?” “I ask,” he replied, “in order that the King’s majesty may know that I am no forward fellow or busy body or impertinent meddler; and that I am innocent of their calumnious charges of overmuch talk; for I am he whose name is the Silent Man, and indeed peculiarly happy is my sobriquet, as saith the poet:

When a nickname or little name men design,
            ⚪ Know that nature with name shall full oft combine.”

Then said the King, “Explain to the Barber the case of this Hunchback and what befell him at supper time; also repeat to him the stories told by the Nazarene, the Jew, the Reeve, and the Tailor; and of no avail to me is a twice told tale.” They did his bidding, and the Barber shook his head and said, “By Allah, this is a marvel of marvels! Now uncover me the corpse of yonder Hunchback. They undid the winding sheet and he sat down and, taking the Hunchback’s head in his lap, looked at his face and laughed and guffaw’d3 till he fell upon his back and said, “There is wonder in every death,4 but the death of this Hunchback is worthy to be written and recorded in letters of liquid gold!” The bystanders were astounded at his words and the King marvelled and said to him, “What ails thee, O Silent Man? Explain to us thy words!” “O King of the age,” said the Barber, “I swear by thy beneficence that there is still life in this Gobbo Golightly!” Thereupon he pulled out of his waist belt a barber’s budget, whence he took a pot of ointment and anointed therewith the neck of the Hunchback and its arteries. Then he took a pair of iron tweezers and, inserting them into the Hunchback’s throat, drew out the fid of fish with its bone; and, when it came to sight, behold, it was soaked in blood. Thereupon the Hunchback sneezed a hearty sneeze and jumped up as if nothing had happened and passing his hand over his face said, “I testify that there is no god, but the God, and I testify that Mohammed is the Apostle of God.” At this sight all present wondered; the King of China laughed till he fainted and in like manner did the others. Then said the Sultan, “By Allah, of a truth this is the most marvellous thing I ever saw! O Moslems, O soldiers all, did you ever in the lives of you see a man die and be quickened again? Verily had not Allah vouchsafed to him this Barber, he had been a dead man!” Quoth they, “By Allah, ’tis a marvel of marvels.” Then the King of China bade record this tale, so they recorded it and placed it in the royal muniment-rooms; after which he bestowed costly robes of honour upon the Jew, the Nazarene and the Reeve, and bade them depart in all esteem. Then he gave the Tailor a sumptuous dress and appointed him his own tailor, with suitable pay and allowances; and made peace between him and the Hunchback, to whom also he presented a splendid and expensive suit with a suitable stipend. He did as generously with the Barber, giving him a gift and a dress of honour; moreover he settled on him a handsome solde and created him Barber surgeon5 of state and made him one of his cup companions. So they ceased not to live the most pleasurable life and the most delectable, till there came to them the Destroyer of all delights and the Sunderer of all societies, the Depopulator of palaces and the Garnerer for graves. Yet, O most auspicious King! (continued Shahrázád) this tale is by no means more wonderful than that of the two Wazirs and Anís al-Jalís. Quoth her sister Dunyázád, “And what may that be?”, whereupon she began to relate the following tale of

 

End of Vol. 1.

 


1.    i.e. I will break bounds.    [back]

2.    The Arabs have a saying corresponding with the dictum of the Salernitan school:—

Noscitur a labiis quantum sit virginis antrum:
Noscitur a naso quanta sit haste viro;
(A maiden’s mouth shows what’s the make of her chose;
And man’s mentule one knows by the length of his nose.)

Whereto I would add:—

And the eyebrows disclose how the lower wig grows.

The observations are purely empirical but, as far as my experience extends, correct.    [back]

3.    Arab. “Kahkahah,” a very low proceeding.    [back]

4.    Or “for every death there is a cause;” but the older Arabs had a saying corresponding with “Deus non fecit mortem.”    [back]

5.    The King’s barber is usually a man of rank for the best of reasons, that he holds his Sovereign’s life between his fingers. One of these noble Figaros in India married an English lady who was, they say, unpleasantly surprised to find out what were her husband’s official duties.    [back]


The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night, Volume 1 - Contents


Back    |    Words Home    |    Richard Burton Home    |    Site Info.    |    Feedback