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The Children's Book by  Horace E. Scudder
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THE STORY OF THE BARMECIDE FEAST

[307] ONE day as Schacabac passed by a magnificent house, whose high gate showed 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?" Schacabac, who very well knew the liberality and generosity of the Barmecides, addressed himself to one of the gate-keepers (for he had more than one), and prayed him to give him an alms. "Go in," said he, "nobody hinders you, and address yourself to the master of the house; he will send you back satisfied."

Schacabac, who expected no such civility, thanked the porter, and entered the palace. 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 him, in a very civil manner, that he was welcome, and asked him what he wanted. "My lord," answered Schacabac, "I am a poor man who stands in need of help. 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 Schacabac saw neither water nor basin, the Barmecide fell to rubbing his hands as if one had poured water upon them, and bade him 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 anything 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 eat; and said to Schacabac: "Come, friend, eat as freely as if you were at home; 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?" "Oh, my lord," replied Schacabac, who saw neither bread nor meat, "I have never eaten anything so white and so fine." "Eat your fill," 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 Schacabac 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 Schacabac, "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. He then called for several others, of which Schacabac, 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. "I knew you would like it," said the Barmecide. "There' is nothing in the world finer," replied Schacabac; "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?" [308] "Oh, 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! Honor this ragout," said the Barmecide, "by eating heartily of it. Ho, boy, bring us another ragout." "No, my lord, if it please you," replied Schacabac, "for indeed I can eat no more.

"Come, take it away, then," said the Barmecide, "and bring the fruit." He stayed a moment, as it were to give time for his servants to carry it away; after which he addressed Schacabac, "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 him 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 Schacabac something, he still bade him 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 some wine now, after we have eaten so well." "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 act contrary to the respect that is due to you; therefore I pray you 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 Scbacabac, presented him the glass, saying, "Drink my health, and let us know if you think this wine good." He made as if he took the glass, and looked to see if the color was good, and put it to his nose, to try the flavor. 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 Schacabac, and did this so often that Schacabac, feigning to be intoxicated with the wine, and acting the part of 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 Schacabac, making aa if he had come to himself again, said: l' 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 angry, began to laugh with all his might. "I have been long," said he, "seeking a man of your character. 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 humor, 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 Schacabac was treated with all those dishes in reality which he ate of before in fancy. As last they cleared the table and brought in the [309] 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 bounty; for he treated him as his friend, and ordered him a robe of honor from his wardrobe.


The Sultan of the Indies could not but admire the prodigious and inexhaustible memory of the sultaness, his wife, who had entertained him for a thousand and one nights with such a variety of interesting stories.

His temper was softened and his prejudices removed. He was not only convinced of the merit and great wisdom of the Sultaness Scheherazade, but he remembered with what courage she had offered to be his wife, without fearing the death to which she knew she exposed herself, and which so many sultanesses had suffered within her knowledge. These considerations, and the many other good qualities he knew her to possess, induced him at last to forgive her. "I confess lovely Scheherazade," said he, "that you have appeased my anger. I freely renounce the law I had imposed on myself, and I will have you to be regarded as the deliverer of the many damsels I had resolved to sacrifice to my unjust resentment."

The sultaness cast herself at his feet, and embraced them tenderly, with all the marks of the most lively and perfect gratitude.

The grand vizier was the first who learned this agreeable intelligence from the sultan's own mouth. It was instantly carried to the city, towns, and provinces; and gained the sultan, and the lovely Scheherazade his consort, universal applause, and the blessings of all the people of the extensive empire of the Indies.


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