“I have sent for you, Huckaback, to inquire the meaning of the words you made use of last night: and to know what was the promise made to you in your seventh and last voyage; but I will thank you to begin at the first, as I wish to hear the history of all your voyages.”
“May it please you highness, as I live but to obey you, all that has occurred in my eventful life shall, if you command it, be submitted to your ear. It will, however, be necessary that I should revert to my early days to enable your highness more fully to comprehend the whole.”
“Aferin! well said,” replied the pacha; “I don’t care how long a story it is, provided that it is a good one:” and Selim, having obeyed a sign from his highness, intimating that he might sit down, commenced as follows.
I am a native of Marseilles, your highness, where I was brought up to the profession of my father; a profession (continued the wily renegade), which, I have no hesitation to assert, has produced more men of general information, and more men of talent, than any other—I mean that of a barber.
* * * * *
“Wallah Thaib; well said, by Allah!” observed Mustapha.
The pacha nodded his approbation, and the renegade proceeded with his story.
* * * * *
I was gifted by nature with a ready invention, and some trouble and expense were bestowed upon my education. To the profession of a barber, my father added that of bleeding and tooth-drawing. At ten years old I could cut hair pretty well. People did say, that those upon whom I had operated, looked as if their heads had been gnawed by the rats; but it was the remark of envy, and as my father observed, “there must be a beginning to every thing.”
At fifteen, I entered upon the rudiments of shaving; and after having nearly ruined my father’s credit, from the pounds of flesh which I removed with the hair of my customers (who were again consoled by his observing that “there must be a beginning to every thing"), I became quite expert. I was subsequently initiated into the higher branches of tooth-drawing and bleeding. In the former, at first I gave great dissatisfaction, either from breaking the decayed tooth short off, and leaving the stump in the socket, or from mistaking the one pointed out, and drawing a sound engine of mastication in its stead. In the latter, I made more serious mistakes, having more than once cut so deep as to open the artery, while I missed the vein; in consequence of which I was never afterwards employed, except by a husband to relieve a scolding wife, or by nephews who were anxious about the health of an everlasting uncle. But, as my father wisely observed, “there must be a beginning to everything;” and, as I could only practise upon living subjects, “individuals must suffer for the good of the community at large.” At the age of twenty I was an accomplished barber.