Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

wedding-feast, went into bis room, with a lantern in his hand. He was not a little surprised to discover a human figure standing in his chimney; but being a stout fellow, and apprehending him to be a thief, he took up a stick, and, " Ah,” said be, “I thought the rats and mice ate my butter and tallow; but it is you who come down the chimney to rob me! However, I think you will have no wish to come here again.” Upon this he attacked the hunchback, and struck him several times with his stick. The body fell down flat on the ground, and the purveyor redoubled his blows. But observing that the body did not move, he stood a little time to regard it; and then, fear succeeding his anger, “Wretched man that I am !” said he, “what have I done ? I have killed a man! alas, I have carried my revenge too far.' He stood pale and thunderstruck, and could not tell what resolution to take, when on a sudden he took up the body supposed to be dead, and carried it to the end of the street, where he placed it in an upright posture against a shop; he then returned without once looking behind him.

A few minutes before daybreak, a wealthy Christian merchant, coming home from a night's festivity, passed by the spot where the sultan's purveyor had put the dead body, which being jostled by him, tumbled upon the merchani's back. The merchant, thinking he was attacked by a robber, knocked it down, and after redoubling his blows, cried out “ Thieves !" The outcry alarmed the watch, who came up immediately, and finding a Christian beating a Mussulman, “What reason have you," said he,“ to abuse a Mussulmun in this manner ?” He would have robbed me," replied the merchant," and jumped upon my back in order to take me by the throat.” “If he did," said the watch, "you have revenged yourself sufficiently; come, get

[ocr errors]

a

[ocr errors]

I have no mercy

off him.” At the same time perceiving the little man to be dead, he said, “ Is it thus that a Christian dares to assassinate a Mussulman ?" So saying, he laid hold of the Christian, and carried him to the house of the cadi. In the meantime, the Christian merchant, reflecting upon his adventure, could not conceive how such slight blows of his fist could have killed the man.

The judge having heard the report of the watch, and viewed the body, which they had brought to his house, interrogated the Christian merchant, who could not deny the death, though he had not caused it. But the judge, considering that the little dwarf belonged to the sultan, for he was one of his buffoons, would not put the Christian to death till he knew the sultan's pleasure. For this end he went to the palace, and acquainted the sultan with what had happened; and received this answer: to show to a Christian who kills a Mussulman." Upon this the cadi ordered a stake to be prepared, and sent criers all over the city to proclaim that they were about to impale a Christian for killing a Mussulman.

At length the merchant was brought to the place of execution; and the executioner was about to fasten him to the stake, when the sultan's purveyor pushed through the crowd, calling to him to stop, for that the Christian had not committed the murder, but he himself had done it, and related how he had attacked him, under the impression that he was a thief.

“Let the Christian go,” said the cadi to the executioner, "and impale this man in his stead, since it appears by his own confession that he is guilty.” Thereupon the executioner released the merchant, and seized the purveyor; but just as he was going to impale him, he heard the voice of the Jewish doctor, earnestly entreating him to suspend the execution, and make room for him to approach,

a

as he was the real criminal, and stating how he had by his hasty imprudence caused his death. The chief justice being now persuaded that the Jewish doctor was the murderer, gave

orders to the executioner to seize him and release the purveyor. Accordingly the doctor was just going to be impaled, when the tailor appeared, crying, in his turn, to the executioner to bold his hand, and make room for him, that he might come and make his confession to the cadi, as, after all, he was the person really answerable for the death of the hunchback, and he could not bear that an innocent man should suffer for his crime. The cadi being now fairly perplexed to decide who was the real culprit amongst so many self-accusing criminals, determined to refer the matter to the sultan himself, and proceeded to the palace, accompanied by the tailor, the Jewish doctor, and the Christian merchant, while four of his men carried on a bier the body of the dwarf, supposed to be dead.

When they appeared in the sultan's presence, the cadi prostrated himself at his feet; and on rising, gave him a faithful relation of all he knew of the story of the dwarf, and of the three men who, one after the other, accused themselves of his involuntary murder. The story appeared so extraordinary to the sultan, that he ordered his own historian to write it down with all its circumstances.

*

*

*

of

An officer and the tailor went immediately and brought the barber, whom they presented to the sultan. The bar. ber was a venerable man, about ninety years age.

His eyebrows and beard were white as snow.

“ Silent man,” said the sultan to bim, “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

[ocr errors]

permit me to ask what that Christian, that Jew, that Mussulman, and that body of the hunchback that lies 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 of Casgar commanded them to tell him the story of the dwarf. When the barber heard it, “ Truly,” cried he,“ this is a surprising story; but I wish to examine the dwarf a little nearer.” He approached him, sat down on the ground, took his head between his knees, and after he had examined him steadfastly, broke into such an immoderate fit of laughter that he fell backwards on the ground, without considering that he was before the Sultan of Casgar. As soon as he came to himself, “Silent man," said the sultan, "why do you laugh?” “Sir,” answered the barber, “I swear by your majesty's benevolence that the dwarf is not dead; he is yet alive, and I will 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 hunchback'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 showed to all the people. Immediately hunchback sneezed, stretched forth his arms and feet, opened his eyes, and showed several other signs of life.

The Sultan of Casgar, and all who were witnesses of this operation, were less surprised to see hunchback 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 all this; and began to look upon him as a great physician. The sultan, transported with joy and admiration, ordered the story of hunchback 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 hunchback had occasioned to them, with pleasure, he did not send them away till he bad 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.

Arabian Nights.

The Jewish doctor approving the proposed expedient, his wife and he took the little dwarf up to the roof of the house, and placing ropes under his arm-pits, let him down the chimney into the purveyor's chamber so dexterously that he stood upright against the wall, as if he had been alive. They were scarcely got back into their own chamber, when the purveyor, who had returned late from a wedding-feast, went into his room, with a lantern in his hand.

WOMAN.
O WOMAN! in our hours of ease
Uncertain, coy, and hard to please ;
And variable as the shade
By the light quivering aspen made ;
When pain and anguish wring the brow,
A ministering angel thou !

SCOTT.

« PreviousContinue »