214 THE ARABIAN NIGHTS
and playing on his drum. I took him home, to amuse my wife, and she invited him to supper. While eating some fish, a bone got into his throat, and in spite of all we could do, he died shortly. It was all so sudden that we lost our heads, and in order to divert suspicion from ourselves, we carried the body to the house of a Jewish physician. He placed it in the chamber of the purveyor, and the purveyor propped it up in the street, where it was thought to have been killed by the merchant.
' This, Sire, is the story which I was obliged to tell to satisfy your highness. It is now for you to say if we deserve mercy or punishment; life or death ?'
The Sultan of Kashgar listened with an air of pleasure which filled the tailor and his friends with hope. ' I must confess,' he exclaimed, ' that I am much more interested in the stories of the barber and his brothers, and of the !ame man, than in that of my own jester. But before I allow you all four to return to your own homes, and have the corpse of the hunchback properly buried, I should like to see this barber who has earned your pardon. And as he is in this town, let an usher go with you at once in search of him.'
The usher and the tailor soon returned, bringing with them an old man who must have been at least ninety years of age. ' O Silent One,' said the Sultan, l1 am told that you know many strange stories. Will you tell some of them to me ? '
' Never mind my stories for the present,' replied the barber, ' but will your Highness graciously be pleased to explain why this Jew, this Christian, and this Mussulman, as well as this dead body, are all here ?'
'What business is that of yours?' asked the Sultan with a smile ; but seeing that the barber had some reasons for his question, he commanded that the tale of the hunchback should be told him.
'It is certainly most surprising,' cried he, when he had heard it all, i but I should like to examine the body.'