This section is from the book "Stories From The Thousand And One Nights", by Edward William Lane and Stanley Lanepoole. Also available from Amazon: Stories From Thousand And One Nights: The Arabian Nights' Entertainments.
I gave vent to my rage; and would have risen, even if he had wetted my head, when he said, I knew that displeasure with me had overcome thee; but I will not be angry with thee, for thy sense is weak, and thou art a youth: a short time ago I used to carry thee on my shoulder, and take thee to the school.-Upon this, I said to him, O my brother, I conjure thee by Allah, depart from me that I may perform my business, and go thou thy way. Then I rent my clothes; and when he saw me do this, he took the razor, and sharpened it, and continued to do so until my soul almost parted from my body; then advancing to my head, he shaved a small portion of it; after which he raised his hand, and said, O my lord, haste is from the Devil;-and he repeated this couplet:
Deliberate, and haste not to accomplish thy desire; and be merciful, so shalt thou meet with one merciful: For there is no hand but God's hand is above it; nor oppressor that shall not meet with an oppressor.
O my lord (he then continued), I do not imagine that thou knowest my condition in society; for my hand lighteth upon the heads of kings and emirs and wezirs and sages and learned men; and of such a one as myself hath the poet said*.
The trades altogether are like a necklace, and this barber is the chief pearl of the strings.
He excelleth all that are endowed with skill, and tinder his hands are the heads of Kings.
Leave, said I, that which doth not concern thee! Thou hast contracted my heart, and troubled my mind.-I fancy that thou art in haste, he rejoined. I replied, Yes! Yes! Yes!- Proceed slowly, said he; for verily haste is from the Devil, and it giveth occasion to repentance and disappointment; and he upon whom be blessing and peace hath said, The best of affairs is that which is commenced with deliberation:-and, by Allah, I am in doubt as to thine affair: I wish, therefore, that thou wouldst make known to me what thou art lasting to do; and may it be good; for I fear it is otherwise.
There now remained, to the appointed time, three hours; and he threw the razor from his hand in anger, and, taking the astrolabe, went again to observe the sun; then after he had waited a long time, he returned, saying, There remain, to the hour of prayer, three hours, neither more nor less.- For the sake of Allah, said I, be silent; for thou hast crumbled my liver!-and thereupon he took the razor, and sharpened it as he had done the first time, and shaved another portion of my head. Then stopping again, he said, I am in anxiety on account of thy hurry: if thou wouldst acquaint me with the cause of it, it would be better for thee; for thou knowest that thy father used to do nothing without consulting me.
I perceived now that I could not avoid his importunity, and said within myself, The time of prayer is almost come, and I desire to go before the people come out from the service: if I delay a little longer, I know not how to gain admission to her. I therefore said to him, Be quick, and cease from this chattering and impertinence; for I desire to repair to an entertainment with my friends. But when he heard the mention of the entertainment, he exclaimed, The day is a blessed day for me! I yesterday conjured a party of my intimate friends to come and feast with me, and forgot to prepare for them anything to eat; and now I have remembered it. Alas for the disgrace that I shall experience from them!-So I said to him, Be in no anxiety on this account, since thou hast been told that I am going to-day to an entertainment; for all the food and drink that is in my house shall be thine if thou use expedition in my affair, and quickly finish shaving my head.-Mav God recompense thee with every blessing! he replied: describe to me what thou hast for my guests, that I may know it. I have, said I, five dishes of meat, and ten fowls fricandoed, and a roasted lamb.-Cause them to be brought before me, he said, that I may see them. So I had them brought to him, and he exclaimed, Divinely art thou gifted! How generous is thy soul; But the incense and perfumes are wanting.-I brought him, therefore, a box containing neddu and aloes-wood and ambergris and musk, worth fifty pieces of gold.-The time had now become contracted, like my own heart; so I said to him, Receive this, and shave the whole of my head, by the existence of Mohammad, God bless and save him! But he replied, By Allah, I will not take it until I see all that it contains. I therefore ordered the boy, and he opened the box to him; whereupon the barber threw down the astrolabe from his hand, and seating himself upon the ground, turned over the perfumes and incense and aloes-wood in the box until my soul almost quitted my body.
He then advanced, and took the razor, and shaved another small portion of my head; after which he said, By Allah, O my son, I know not whether I should thank thee or thank thy father; for my entertainment to-day is entirely derived from thy bounty and kindness, and I have no one among my visitors deserving of it; for my guests are Zeytun the bath-keeper, and Sali' the wheat-seller, and 'Awkal the bean-seller, and 'Akresheh the grocer, and Homeyd the dustman, and 'Akarish the milk-seller, and each of these hath a peculiar dance which he performeth, and peculiar verses which he reciteth; and the best of their qualities is, that they are like thy servant, the memluk who is before thee; and I, thy slave, know neither loquacity nor imper tinence. As to the bath-keeper, he saith, If I go not to ttA perfume composed of ambergris, musk, and aloes-wood; or simplv ambergris the feast, it cometh to my house!-and as to the dustman, he is witty, and full of frolic: often doth he dance, and say, News, with my wife, is not kept in a chest!-and each of my friends hath jests that another hath not: but the description is not like the actual observation. If thou choose, therefore, to come to us, it will be more pleasant both to thee and to us: relinquish, then, thy visit to thy friends of whom thou hast told us that thou desirest to go i to them: for the traces of disease are yet upon thee, and probably thou art going to a people of many words, who will talk of that which concerneth them not; or probably there will be among them one impertinent person; and thy soul is already disquieted by disease.-I replied, If it be the will of God, that shall be on some other day:-but he said, It will be more proper that thou first join my party of friends, that thou mayest enjoy their conviviality, and delight thyself with their salt Act in accordance with the saying of the poet: