The Barmecide Feast by James Baldwin
There was once a rich old man who was called the Bar-me-cide. He lived
in a beautiful palace in the midst of flowery gardens. He had
every-thing that heart could wish.
In the same land there was a poor man whose name was Schac-a-bac. His
clothing was rags, and his food was the scraps which other people had
thrown away. But he had a light heart, and was as happy as a king.
Once when Schac-a-bac had not had anything to eat for a long time, he
thought that he would go and ask the Bar-me-cide to help him.
The servant at the door said, "Come in and talk with our master. He
will not send you away hungry."
Schacabac went in, and passed through many beautiful rooms, looking
for the Barmecide. At last he came to a grand hall where there were
soft carpets on the floor, and fine pictures on the walls, and
pleasant couches to lie down upon.
At the upper end of the room he saw a noble man with a long white
beard. It was the Barmecide; and poor Schacabac bowed low before him,
as was the custom in that country.
The Barmecide spoke very kindly, and asked what was wanted.
Schacabac told him about all his troubles, and said that it was now
two days since he had tasted bread.
"Is it possible?" said the Barmecide. "You must be almost dead with
hunger; and here I have plenty and to spare!"
Then he turned and called, "Ho, boy! Bring in the water to wash our
hands, and then order the cook to hurry the supper."
Schacabac had not expected to be treated so kindly. He began to thank
the rich man.
"Say not a word," said the Barmecide, "but let us get ready for the
Then the rich man began to rub his hands as though some one was
pouring water on them. "Come and wash with me," he said.
Schacabac saw no boy, nor basin, nor water. But he thought that he
ought to do as he was bidden; and so, like the Barmecide, he made a
pretense of washing.
"Come now," said the Barmecide, "let us have supper."
He sat down, as if to a table, and pre-tend-ed to be carving a roast.
Then he said, "Help yourself, my good friend. You said you were
hungry: so, now, don't be afraid of the food."
Schacabac thought that he un-der-stood the joke, and he made pretense
of taking food, and passing it to his mouth. Then he began to chew,
and said, "You see, sir, I lose no time."
"Boy," said the old man, "bring on the roast goose.—Now, my good
friend, try this choice piece from the breast. And here are sweet
sauce, honey, raisins, green peas, and dry figs. Help yourself, and
remember that other good things are coming."
Schacabac was almost dead with hunger, but he was too polite not to do
as he was bidden.
"Come," said the Barmecide, "have another piece of the roast lamb. Did
you ever eat anything so de-li-cious?"
"Never in my life," said Schacabac. "Your table is full of good
"Then eat heartily," said the Barmecide. "You cannot please me
After this came the des-sert. The Barmecide spoke of sweet-meats and
fruits; and Schacabac made believe that he was eating them.
"Now is there anything else that you would like?" asked the host.
"Ah, no!" said poor Schacabac. "I have indeed had great plenty."
"Let us drink, then," said the Barmecide. "Boy, bring on the wine!"
"Excuse me, my lord," said Schacabac, "I will drink no wine, for it is
The Barmecide seized him by the hand. "I have long wished to find a
man like you," he said. "But come, now we will sup in earnest."
He clapped his hands. Servants came, and he ordered supper. Soon they
sat down to a table loaded with the very dishes of which they had
pre-tend-ed to eat.
Poor Schacabac had never had so good a meal in all his life. When they
had fin-ished, and the table had been cleared away, the Barmecide
"I have found you to be a man of good un-der-stand-ing. Your wits are
quick, and you are ready always to make the best of everything. Come
and live with me, and manage my house."
And so Schacabac lived with the Barmecide many years, and never again
knew what it was to be hungry.