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The Laughable Stories of Bar-Hebraeus, by Bar-Hebraeus, tr. E.A.W. Budge, [1897], at

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The Nineteenth Chapter


DCLXVII. They say that the mind of a certain sage was so wonderfully acute that he acquired the knowledge of the four sciences of mathematics in one year, and that he understood them perfectly. And it came to pass that he forgot all this learning, and that his understanding was so disturbed that one day he took hold of his beard in his hand, wishing to shave off that which was superfluous: but he let go that which was below his hand and cut off that which was above it. Thus he remained beardless and he was obliged to sit in the house for a whole year until his beard grew long again.

DCLXVIII. It is found written in a certain Hebrew book that, at the time when the prophet Isaiah was sawn asunder with a saw, a certain traveller tarried the night with another man. And the traveller began to speak to the master of the house, saying, "Do not imagine that God will be unmindful of the murderers of the prophet, for He will reward them in this world; and the master of the house said to him, I was one of those who held the saw." And it came to pass that whilst they were conversing the flame of the lamp flickered and spluttered, and the master of the house straightway put his hand out to make it

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burn properly. And the flame caught hold of his fingers—now at that time they burned naphtha in their lamps—and as he at once put his mouth to spit on them, straightway the fire caught his beard and face, and although he went and threw himself into the cistern of water, the whole of him was consumed.

DCLXIX. A certain nobleman was sitting at table eating, and the smell of his cooked meat was wafted out into the market-place; and a poor man came and begged for a little of it. And the wife of the nobleman rose up to give him some, but he cried out to her and would not allow her to do so. And it came to pass, when the nobleman had eaten and had risen up from the table, that he rose up to go on the roof, and he fell down from the top of the ladder and died; and his wife inherited everything that he had. Then she returned to her father's house and began to give away the old clothes of her husband, among which was a very old pillow, and one day she saw a certain poor man and gave this to him. And the poor man went and emptied out the hay stuffing that he might wash the pillow-case, and he found inside it one thousand dînârs of gold. Then he took the money and obtained for himself goodly apparel, and he took his seat in the clothworkers’ bazaar; and he told the old women to look out for a wife for him to marry. And it came to pass that one of them went and found the lady who had given him the pillow, and the woman returned and said to him, "Behold, I have found a beautiful widow, but she is a young and a God-fearing woman, and she hath inherited great wealth from her first husband." And the man was pleased with her and sent to her the gifts of a bridegroom to a bride, and

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took her to wife. Now when she had gone to his house and had repeated to him the story of her life, and the account of the poor man who had begged for some food and of her husband's death, he in his turn told her the story of the pillow, whereupon they recognised each other. And they glorified God, Who had given to the poor man the house, and property, and wife of him that had deprived him of a little food.

DCLXX. Another of the Frankish merchants was about to go by sea to the country of China, when an old man came and entreated him to take with him in the ship a piece of lead [weighing] about ten lîṭrê, and to sell it in China, and buy with the price thereof something which he would find there and bring it back to him; and the merchant undertook to do so. And when he had arrived in China, a certain man came and asked him, "Hast thou no lead with thee?" and he replied, "I have a little;" and he sold the piece for one hundred and thirty dînârs, and he bought with the money some silk and came back. Now the man who bought the lead from him also came and was a fellow-passenger in the ship with him, and he began to question him about him that had given him the lead; so the merchant described to him the old man. Then the man said, "This old man is my uncle, by whom I have been cruelly treated, and through whom I came to this country. Now, therefore, will I reveal to thee the story of the lead, for I am no longer afraid. When I had bought the lead from thee I carried it to another city where lead is exceedingly precious, and certain buyers came to me and entreated me to break it up and to give a piece to each of them. And when I had broken it up in my house I found in the

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middle of it one thousand mathḳâls of gold, and behold, with them I purchased the things which I have with me; and I thank God that He hath not deprived me of what belonged to my uncle, even though he hated me and would not willingly have given me anything at all." Now when they arrived at their city they found that the old man was dead and that he had no other heir except his brother's son; so he took the silk which the merchant had with him and everything which he found in his uncle's house.

DCLXXI. It is said that a certain man was sitting in company with some other men, and that some one called to him from behind him; and when he turned round to see who it was, he died. And some days after his son was asked, "How did thy father die?" and as he was shewing them and saying, "He turned round and died, just like this," he also died as he uttered the words.

DCLXXII. A certain young man whilst sleeping one night saw in his dream that the angels carried him to Gehenna and delivered him over to the devils who cast him into Gehenna; and by reason of his terror when he rose in the morning all the hair of his head and of his beard was quite white like that of an old man eighty years old. And his acquaintances wondered at him.

DCLXXIII. It is said that a certain king wished to put one of his soldiers to death by poison, and having heard that he was about to have a vein opened he called the physician who usually bled him, and giving him gifts ordered him to poison the scalpel. And he went and did so, and he opened the vein of the soldier and he died; and the physician put the scalpel among his other scalpels and forgot it. And it came to pass

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that some days after this the physician himself needed to be bled, and he told his disciple to open a vein; and the disciple went and unconsciously took that same scalpel and opened his master's vein, and thus he died by the same means as those by which he had killed the soldier.

DCLXXIV. It is said that once on a time a certain blind man was on board a ship, together with seventy souls, and that the ship having been wrecked they were all drowned except the blind man who saved himself by means of a spar; yet when he came on shore he fell sick and died.

DCLXXV. Once on a time a certain wealthy man who had become absolutely poor, went to another rich man who was his friend, and when he had shewn him his condition his friend brought out a bag containing three hundred dînârs, and he swore an oath that besides these he had nothing else left. And when his friend had taken the bag and had gone to his house, another of his friends came to him and shewed him that he had not enough money for a day's expenses; and he had compassion upon him and brought forth the bag, saying, "I also have nothing, but one of my friends gave me this bag. Do thou, however, take it, and God will provide for me." And when the friend had taken the bag and gone to his house, before he opened it, there came unto him the man unto whom the bag had belonged originally, and asked him for some help, and the friend said within himself, "I apprehend that this bag hath not fallen to my lot;" so he took it out and gave it to the man. And when he saw it he recognized that it was his own bag and he asked the friend concerning the matter, and the friend told him

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that such and such an one had given it to him. And the original owner said, "And I gave it to him, but justice demandeth that we should divide it among the three [of us]." And they sent and called the other man and divided the money equally among them.

DCLXXVI. A certain sailor, that is to say a mariner, related the following:—"Once when I was in a certain city of Hagiopontos a merchant called me into his house, and said unto me, 'If thou canst carry me in thy ship to the country of Palestine secretly, I will give thee whatsoever thou askest; for the king of the country hath set his eye upon me, and he is expecting gifts from me, the which I am bringing from my store.' Then I being greedy said, '[It shall be according to] thy command;' so I took all the possessions of the man, which [in value] amounted to more than one hundred thousand dînârs of Egyptian gold, besides royal apparel. And I took the man also, and one night we embarked in the ship and put out to sea, and there fell upon us sea-robbers and they carried off all the merchant's property and also wished to kill him. Then I entreated them to let me put him ashore naked, and after a time I myself escaped from them. And I went to one of the cities of Palestine and I found that same man sitting by a roadside asking for alms; and I glorified God Who maketh rich and Who maketh poor."

DCLXX VII. Another man told the following story:—"One day I lost a horse, and I went out to the plain to find him; and being hungry and thirsty I went into a certain village where I saw in a certain house a young woman with a beautiful face; and I asked her for a little bread, and she said, 'Sit down that I may

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bring thee a little cooked food.' And when I had sat down her husband came and said to her, 'Did I marry thee to set out food for wayfarers?' And he said to me, 'Get up, man, and go about thy business,' and being ashamed I rose up and went to another village. And when I had gone therein I met a young man with a handsome face and I asked him for some bread, and he replied, 'Prithee let us go to the house that thou mayest eat a little cooked food.' So I went with him and we came to the door of his house, and there came forth a woman and said, 'Who is this man?' and the young man said, 'He is a traveller, and I have 'brought him to eat bread.' And the woman said, 'Have I taken thee for a husband that thou shouldst bring wayfarers in on me in this wise?' and she shut the door in his face and mine. Then I laughed out loud straightway, and I began to wonder at the man in the first village, and at the woman in this village. And the young man asked me why I laughed, and I told him what had happened to me in the former village; and having described to him the house and the woman and her husband, he said to me, 'This is much more worthy of wonder—that the woman is my sister, and this wife of mine is the sister of the man who is my sister's husband.'

Next: The Twentieth Chapter: Physiognomical Characteristics Described by the Sages