210 THE ARABIAN NIGHTS
who received hm with such kindness that my brother was emboldened to make his petition.
' My lord,' he said, ' you behold in me a poor man who only lives by the help of persons as rich and as generous as you.'
Before he could proceed further, he was stopped by the astonishment shown by the Barmecide. 'Is it possible,' he cried, ' that while I am in Bagdad, a man like you should be starving? That is a state of things that must at once be put an end to! Never shall it be said that I have abandoned you, and I am sure that you, on your part, will never abandon me.'
' My lord,' answered my brother, ' I swear that I have not broken my fast this whole day.'
' What, you are dying of hunger?'exclaimed the Barmecide. ' Here, slave; bring water, that we may wash our hands before meat!' No slave appeared, but my brother remarked that the Barmecide did not fail to rub his hands as if the water had been poured over them.
Then he said to my brother, ' Why don't you wash your hands too?' and Schacabac, supposing that it was a joke on the part of the Barmecide (though he could see none himself), drew near, and imitated his motion.
When the Barmecide had done rubbing his hands, he raised his voice, and cried, ' Set food before us at once, we are very hungry.' No food was brought, but the Barmecide pretended to help himself from a dish, and carry a morsel to his mouth, saying as he did so, ' Eat, my friend, eat, I entreat. Help yourself as freely as if you were at home ! For a starving man, you seem to have a very small appetite.'
' Excuse me, my lord,' replied Schacabac, imitating his gestures as before, 'I really am not losing time, and I do full justice to the repast'
' How do you like this bread?' asked the Barmecide. ' I find it particularly good myself.'