Adventures of Baron Munchausen - R. E. Raspe

A Story Told by the Baron's Nephew

At the next meeting of his boon companions the Baron came in with a young man, whom he introduced to the company as his nephew, Walter. This nephew, he said, was staying with him for a few days, and he particularly wished to present him to his friends as several of them had known the young man's Twin brother, Albert, at the university.

"Come, Albert," cried a young lawyer, "why do you allow your uncle to pass you off as your brother, Walter, whom I have never seen, where as you and I were at college together?"

"Because this youth really is Walter," answered the Baron for him, "although he is as like his twin brother as two peas."

The lawyer left his seat and approached the pair, but maintained stoutly on close inspection that the young man was his friend and former fellow-student, Albert, whom he knew intimately.

"No indeed, my dear fellow, on my word of honor as a soldier this is not your friend Albert, but his brother, Walter. However, since the intimate friend of the one brother still persists in declaring that Albert, whom he has never seen, is his former fellow-student, we will ask my nephew to relate how he and his twin brother have been constantly mistaken for one another all their lives."

"Yes, gentlemen," said Walter, "from our earliest youth we have been taken for one another, because we were so much alike that even our parents could not distinguish between us. We were always dressed in different colored clothes from babyhood, and as blue was the tint chosen for me, I was called 'Boy Blue,' and Albert, who has always been devoted to forestry, wore green frocks, and received the nickname of 'Boy Green.' As we grew older we dressed alike, and I will tell you one of the numerous jests we were enabled to play owing to our great similarity.

"Last autumn we went on a walking tour through the Harz district, and after a week's journey we spent the night at a little village called Wernig. The next morning when the barber we had ordered came into the house, I was still in my bedchamber, while Albert was waiting for him in the dressing-room. My brother sat down to be shaved, and, when the barber had made his face quite smooth, he came into the bedroom for a moment to, wash off the lather. I seized the opportunity to enter the room in my shirt-sleeves, and seat myself in my brother's empty chair with the remark, 'now, my good man, do shave me properly; I cannot go about all Sunday with a, beard half an inch long!'

[Illustration] from Baron Munchausen by R. E. Raspe


"The barber shook his head, and, coining nearer, said: 'Why, sir, I shaved you well just a moment ago, and—' but he got no further. Pale with fear and astonishment, he prepared the lather again and soaped my face vigorously. As he shaved me he murmured, 'I have never seen a beard grow so quickly in my life! it almost makes one believe in witchcraft. Whatever will my wife say when I tell her such a wonderful thing as this?'

"When he had finished I asked him the amount of his fee, but when I pressed double the amount into his hand, the honest fellow wished to return me half of it. Naturally, I refused to take it, for he had well earned his money. Still full of astonishment the barber took his departure, and as he went out I heard him say, 'That 's stranger than any story I've ever heard told!'"

The audience laughed heartily at the tale, but the Baron said with a contemptuous smile, as he stroked his smooth chin:

"I do not consider the hoax anything very wonderful Walter, since, after all, it only rests on the wonderful resemblance between you, and you were two people. I once threw a barber into much greater confusion unaided, and I will relate to you had it came about.

"One of my friends, who emigrated to America, discovered there a marvellous pomade for promoting the growth of the hair and beard, and some years ago he sent me a present of seven large boxes of the preparation. As I have never worn a beard, and therefore had no need of it I sent the boxes up into a lumber-room, and my clever John put them on the window-ledge, just where they would catch the strongest rays of the noonday sun. I did not trouble about the stuff for a long time, thinking it was sure to be some American fraud, but one day, happening to enter the room where it was kept, I found the floor covered almost knee-deep with a, frothy liquid. The heat of the sun had melted all the fat in the boxes, and it had run out. But the strength had been retained in what was left; and naturally had greatly increased and become concentrated. I immediately tested it by dipping my forefinger into a pot and smearing my upper lip. I felt a slight pricking sensation, but nothing more. The next morning I hardly recognized myself when I perceived the bushy dragoon's moustache, which had grown overnight! A few days later I greatly perplexed the barber at Bodenberg by a trick I played on him. This man used to shave me nearly every day, and one morning when he had just finished I went out into the next room and rubbed a little of the wonderful pomade on my face. After a minute I came back with a fresh beard already sprouting, and angrily showed the barber, who had already packed up all his things, the result of his work. In great astonishment he commenced shaving me over again—I repeated this trick seventeen times the same morning, till the barber was al- most too exhausted to move his arms, and his razors were quite blunt!

[Illustration] from Baron Munchausen by R. E. Raspe


"I am sorry I cannot show you how it was done, as I have not the smallest remnant of the magic pomade left. I used it all on a white pony which I bought in Holland and it produced such a fine crop of hair that he looked like a curly poodle, and created universal astonishment when he came running after me with his long hair streaming in the wind.

"Toby, my groom, was not best pleased with the rapid results of the pomade, for long locks grew from the palms of his hands, and on his right cheek, which he had accidentally touched while rubbing the pony. However, he profited considerably by exhibiting himself for money in various towns. Perhaps some of you may remember seeing him, although it is a good many years ago since the affair happened."