The Caliph Haroun Al-Raschid, was accustomed to visit the city of Bagdad in disguise, that be might see, himself, into the condition of the people, and hear their reports of his court and government. On one occasion, he and his grand vizier Giafar disguised themselves as foreign merchants, and went their way through the different parts of the city. As they entered on a bridge which connected together the two parts of the city of Bagdad, divided by the river Euphrates, they met an old blind man, who asked alms. The caliph put a piece of gold into his hand, on which the blind man caught hold of his hand, and stopped him, saying: "Sir, pray forgive me; I desire you would either give me a box on the ear, or take your alms back again, for I cannot receive it but on that condition, without breaking a solemn oath which I have sworn to God; and if you knew the reason, you would agree with me that the punishment is very slight."
The caliph, unwilling to be detained any longer, yielded to the importunity of the blind man, and gave him a very slight blow: whereupon he immediately let him go, thanked and blessed him.
When they came into the town, they found in a square a great crowd of spectators, looking at a young man who was mounted on a mare, which he drove and urged full speed round the place, spurring and whipping the poor creature so barbarously that she was all over sweat and blood.
The caliph, amazed at the inhumanity of the rider, stopped to ask the people if they knew why he used the mare so ill, but could learn nothing, except that for some time past he had every day, at the same hour, treated her in the same manner.
The caliph, on his way to his palace, observed in a street, which he had not passed through for a long time, an edifice newly built, which seemed to him to be the palace of some one of the great lords of the court. He asked the grand vizier if he knew to whom it belonged; who answered he did not, but would inquire; and thereupon asked a neighbor, who told him that the house belonged to one Cogia Hassan, surnamed Alhabbal, on account of his original trade of rope-making, which he had seen him work at himself, when poor; that without knowing how fortune had favored him, he supposed he must have acquired great wealth, as he defrayed honorably and splendidly the expenses he had been at in building.
The grand vizier rejoined the caliph, and gave him a full account of what he had heard. "I must see this fortunate rope-maker," said the caliph, "and also this blind beggar, and the young man who treated the mare so cruelly; therefore go and tell them to come to my palace." Accordingly the vizier obeyed.
The next day, after afternoon prayers, the grand vizier introduced the three persons we have been speaking of, and presented them to the caliph. They all three prostrated themselves before the throne, and when they rose up, the caliph asked the blind man his name, who answered, it was Baba Abdalla.
"Baba Abdalla," replied the caliph, "I ordered you to come hither, to know from yourself why you made the indiscreet oath you told me of. Tell me freely, for I will know the truth."
Baba Abdalla cast himself a second time at the foot of the caliph's throne, with his face to the ground, and when he rose up, said: "Commander of the Faithful, I most humbly ask your pardon for my presumption in requiring you to box my ear. As to the extravagance of my action, I own that it must seem strange to mankind; but m the eye of God it is a slight penance for an enormous crime of which I have been guilty, and for which, if all the people in the world were each to give me a box on the ear, it would not be a sufficient atonement."
Commander of the Faithful, continued Baba Abdalla, I was born at Bagdad. My father and mother died while I was yet a youth, and I inherited from them an ample estate. Although so young, I neglected no opportunity to increase it by my industry. I soon became rich enough to purchase fourscore camels, which I let out to merchants, who hired them at a considerable profit to me, to carry their merchandise from one country to another.
As I was returning one day with my unloaded camels from Bussorah, whither I had carried some bales that were to be embarked for the Indies, I met a dervis, who was walking to Bussorah. I asked him whence he came, and where he was going: he put the same questions to me; and when we had satisfied each other's curiosity, we produced our provisions and ate together.
During our repast, the dervis told me of a spot not far from where we sat, in which such immense riches were collected that if all my fourscore camels were loaded with the gold and jewels that might be taken from it, they would not be missed.
I was overjoyed at this intelligence. "You say," continued the dervis, "that you have fourscore camels: I am ready to conduct you to the place where the treasure lies, and we will load them with as much jewels and gold as they can carry, on condition that when they are so loaded, you will let me have one half, and you be contented with the other; after which we will separate, and take our camels where we may think fit. You see there is nothing but what is strictly equitable in this division; for if you give me forty camels, you will procure by my means where withal to purchase thousands."
I assented, though with some reluctance, to his proposal. I at once collected all my camels, and set out with the dervis. After we had traveled some time, we came to a pass, which was so narrow that two camels could not go abreast. The two mountains which bounded this valley were so high and steep that there was no fear of our being seen by anybody.
When we came into the valley between these two mountains, the dervis bade me stop the camels. He proceeded to gather some sticks, and to light a fire: he then cast some incense into it, pronouncing certain words which I did not understand, when presently a thick cloud arose. This soon dispersed, when the rock forming the side of the valley opened, and exposed to view a magnificent palace in the hollow of the mountain.
So eager was I for the treasures which displayed themselves to my view, that, like an eagle seizing her prey, I fell upon the first heap of golden corn that was near me. My sacks were all large, and I would have filled them all, but I was obliged to proportion my burden to the strength of my camels The dervis paid more attention to the jewels than the gold, and I soon followed his example, so that we took away much more jewels than gold. When we had filled our sacks, and loaded our camels, the dervis used the same incantations to shut the treasury as he had done to open it, when the doors closed, and the rock seemed as solid and entire as it was before. I observed, however, that the dervis, before he went away, took a small vessel out of the cave and put it into his breast, first showing me that it contained only a glutinous sort of ointment.
We now divided our camels. I put myself at the head of the forty which I had reserved for myself, and the dervis placed himself at the head of those which I had given him. We came out of the valley by the way we had entered, and traveled together till we came to the great road, where we were to part,—the dervis to go to Bussorah, and I to Bagdad. To thank him for so great a kindness, I made use of the most expressive terms, testifying my gratitude for the preference he had given me before all other men in letting me have a share of such riches. We embraced each other with great joy, and, taking our leave, pursued our different routes.
I had not gone far, following my camels, which paced quietly on in the track I had put them into, before the demon of ingratitude and envy took possession of my heart, and I deplored the loss of my other forty, but much more the riches wherewith they were loaded. "The dervis," said I to myself, "has no occasion for all this wealth, since he is master of the treasure, and may have as much as he pleases;" so I determined immediately to take the camels with their loading from him.
To execute this design, I first stopped my own camels, then ran after the dervis, and called to him as loud as I could, and made a sign to him to stop, which he accordingly did.
When I came up to him, I said: "Brother, I had no sooner parted from you, but a thought came into my head, which neither of us had reflected on before. You are a recluse dervis, used to live in tranquillity, disengaged from all the cares of the world, and intent only upon serving God. You know not, perhaps, what trouble you have taken upon yourself to take care of so many camels. If you would take my advice, you would keep but thirty; you will find them sufficiently troublesome to manage. Take my word; I have had experience."
"I believe you are right," replied the dervis; "choose which ten you please, and take them, and go on in God's keeping."
I set ten apart, and after I had driven them off; I put them in the road to follow my others. I could not have imagined that the dervis would be so easily persuaded to part with his camels, which increased my covetousness, and made me think that it would be no hard matter to get ten more; wherefore, instead of thanking him, I said to him again: "Brother, I cannot part from you without desiring you to consider once more how difficult a thing it is to govern thirty loaded camels, especially for you, who are hot used to such work; you will find it much better to return me as many more back as you have done already.
The dervis gave me, without any hesitation, the other ten camels; so that he had but twenty left, and I was master of sixty, and might boast of greater riches than any sovereign prince. Any one would have thought I should now have been content; but the more we have, the more we want; and I became, from my success, more greedy and desirous of the other twenty camels.
I redoubled my solicitations and importunities to make the dervis grant me ten of the twenty, which he did with a good grace: and as to the other ten he had left, I embraced him, kissed his feet, caressed and entreated him, so that he gave me these also. "Make a good use of them, brother," said the dervis; "and remember that God can take away riches as well as give them, if we do not assist the poor, whom He suffers to be in want on purpose that the rich may dothem good."
I was not yet content, though I had my forty camels again, and knew they were loaded with an inestimable treasure. A thought came into my head, that the little box of ointment which the dervis showed me contained some treasure of inestimable value, and I determined to obtain it. I had just embraced him and bade him adieu, when I again returned, and said: "That little box of ointment seems such a trifle, it is not worth your carrying away. I entreat you to make me a present of it. What occasion has a dervis, who has renounced the vanities of the world, for perfumes, or scented unguents?"
The dervis pulled it out of his bosom, and presenting it to me, said: "Here, take it, brother, and be content; if I could do more for you, you needed but to have asked me—I should have been ready to satisfy you."
When I had the box in my hand, I opened it, and looking at the unguent, said: "Since you are so good, I am sure you will not refuse to tell me the use of this ointment."
"The use is very surprising and wonderful," replied the dervis. "If you apply a little of it upon the lid of the left eye, you will see all the treasures contained in the bosom of the earth; but if you apply it to the right eyelid, it will make you blind."
"Take the box," said I to the dervis, "and apply some to my left eyelid; you understand how to do it better than I." The dervis had no sooner done so, than I saw immense treasures, and such prodigious riches, that it is impossible for me to give an account of them; but as I was obliged to keep my right eye shut with my hand, I desired the dervis to apply some of the pomatum to that eye.
"I am ready to do it," said the dervis; "but you must remember what I told you, that if you put any of it upon your right eye, you would immediately be blind; such is the virtue of the ointment."
Far from being persuaded of the truth of what the dervis said, I imagined, on the contrary, that there was some new mystery, which he meant to hide from me. "Brother," replied I, smiling, "I see plainly you wish to mislead me; it is not natural that this ointment should have two such contrary effects."
"The matter is as I tell you," replied the dervis. "You ought to believe me, for I cannot disguise the truth."
The dervis made all the resistance possible; but seeing that I would take no refusal, he took a little of the ointment, and applied it to my right. eyelid. But, alas! I ceased at once to distinguish anything with either eye, and became blind, as you see me now.
"Ah, dervis!" I exclaimed, in agony, "what you forewarned me of has proved but too true. I am now sensible what a misfortune I have brought upon myself by my fatal curiosity and insatiable desire of riches; but you, dear brother," cried I, addressing myself to the dervis, "who are so charitable and good, among the many wonderful secrets you are acquainted with, have you not one to restore to me my sight again?"
"Miserable man!" answered the dervis, "you might have avoided this misfortune, but you have your deserts. The blindness of your mind was the cause of the loss of your eyes. I have no power to restore to you your sight. Pray to God, therefore; it is He alone that can restore it to you. He gave you riches, of which you were unworthy; and on that account He takes them from you again, and will by my hands give them to a man not so ungrateful as yourself."
The dervis said no more, but left me to myself, overwhelmed with confusion and grief. He then collected my camels, and drove them away to Bussorah.
I cried out loudly as he was departing, and entreated him not to leave me in that miserable condition, but to conduct me at least to the first caravanserai; but he was deaf to my prayers and entreaties. Thus deprived of sight, and of all I had in the world, I should have died with affliction and hunger, if the next day a caravan returning from Bussorah had not received me charitably and brought me back to Bagdad.
After this manner was I reduced, without remedy, from a condition of great wealth to a state of poverty. I had no other way to subsist but by asking charity, which I have done till now. But to expiate my offense .against God, I enjoined on myself, by way of penance, a box on the ear from every charitable person who shall commiserate my condition and give me alms.
This, Commander of the Faithful, is the motive which caused me to make so strange a request to you. I ask your pardon once more as your slave, and submit to receive the chastisement I deserve.
"Baba Abdalla," the caliph said, "your sin has been great; but, God be praised, your self inflicted penance proves your sorrow. But that you may forego your daily asking of alms, I give you henceforth four silver dirhems a day, which my grand vizier shall give you daily with the penance you have imposed on yourself."
At these words, Baba Abdalla prostrated himself before the caliph's throne, returned him thanks, and wished him all happiness and prosperity.
The caliph next addressed himself to the young man who used his mare so ill, and demanded of him the reason of his cruel conduct.
Commander of the Faithful, he replied, my name is Sidi Nouman, and I inherited a fair estate from my parents. Having the means to support a wife, I married when quite young a woman named Amine. The first time I saw my wife without her veil was according to our custom, after our marriage, and I was rejoiced to find that I had not been deceived in the account which I had heard of her beauty. I was, on the contrary, very much pleased with her. The day after our marriage we had a dinner of several dishes, but of none would she partake, save of a little rice, which she ate grain by grain, conveying them to her mouth with a silver bodkin. The same thing happened again at supper. The next day, and every time we ate together, she behaved after the same fashion. I saw clearly that no woman could live on the little she ate, and that there must be some mystery about her. One night, when my wife thought me fast asleep, she got up very quietly, and dressed herself, and left the chamber without the least noise. The instant she closed the door I dressed in the utmost haste, and followed her. Favored by the light of the moon, I caught sight of her, and traced her to a burial-ground near our house, where I perceived that she was joined by a female ghoul, and supposed that she would join her in her dreadful orgies. I immediately returned to my house without having attracted her observation, and lay down again. After a short interval she came back as noiselessly as she had gone out. On the next day, as she still persisted at dinner to eat her rice grain by grain, it Amine," said I, "I have often complained to you of your eating your rice grain by grain. Tell me, are not the dishes served at my table as delicate as the dreadful repast of a ghoul?" I had scarcely said these words, when Amine, who thoroughly understood what I meant, fell into a fearful fit of passion, and taking a glass of water, threw it in my face, and said, "Foolish man! take the form of a dog."
I had not, previously to this, known that Amine was a sorceress. But no sooner was her incantation said than I lost the human form, and found myself a dog. I was so surprised that I did not bark, nor bite, nor run away. I did not know what to do. She then took up a stick and beat me, and half opened the door, with the intention, I believe, of crushing me against the door-post as I ran out. I fortunately escaped without further injury than the loss of a part of my tail. The pain I felt made me cry and howl, as I ran along the street. This occasioned other dogs to run after and worry me. To avoid their pursuit, I ran into the shop of a man who dressed and sold sheeps' heads, tongues, and feet; and there I got shelter. I soon saw a great many dogs of the neighborhood, drawn thither by the smell of the meat, collected round the shop of my host, waiting till he threw them something; these I joined, and so got something to eat. The next day I found shelter with a baker, who treated me kindly. Here I stayed some months. One day, as a woman was buying some bread, she gave some bad money to my master. He asked her to change it for another piece. The woman refused, and maintained it was good money. The baker asserted the contrary, and said, "The piece of money is so bad, that I am sure my dog would distinguish it. Come here," said he, calling me, and throwing down the pieces of money. "See if there is a bad piece of money among these." I looked over all the pieces, and putting my foot upon the bad one, I separated it. from the rest, looking in my master's face, as if to show it him.
The baker was extremely surprised, and when the woman was gone told his neighbors what had happened. They quickly came to test my talent, and I never failed to pick out from the silver or gold pieces those which were bad, and to separate them with my foot. The report of me procured my master so much custom, he could scarcely get through it. One day a woman came to buy bread, and to test my knowledge put down six pieces of good and six pieces of bad money, and told me to separate them; I did so with my foot. On her leaving the shop she made me a sign to follow her, which I understood and obeyed.
I followed her at a distance, and reached her as she stopped at her house. I entered with her, and she presented me to her daughter. "Daughter," she said, "I have brought you the baker's famous dog, who so well knows how to distinguish false money from good. On the first report that was spread about him, you know I told you my idea of his being a man, changed into a dog by some wicked enchantment. What say you, am I deceived, in my conjecture?" "You are not deceived mother," replied the daughter, "as I shall soon convince you."
The young lady rose from her seat, took a vessel full of water, into which she dipped her hand, and throwing some of the water on me, she said: "If you were born a dog, remain a dog; but if you were born a man, resume the figure of a man, by virtue of this water." At that moment the enchantment was broken; I lost the form of a dog, and saw myself once more a man. I immediately expressed my deep gratitude to this fair lady, and told her by what means I lost my human shape. "Sidi Nouman," said the young woman, "I try to do all the good I can with the knowledge of magic which I possess; I will yet further help you. Return to your home: and when you see Amine, your wife, in the first moment of her astonishment at the sight of you, throw over her some of this water, which I now give you, pronouncing these words,—'Receive the just reward of thy cruelty.' " I did exactly according to the direction given me; and on my saying the appointed words, my wife was turned into the mare on which I rode yesterday. I punish her very often in the way you saw, to make her sensible of the cruelty of which she was guilty. I have thus, according to your command, related my history.
"Your wife's conduct deserves punishment, but I would have you henceforth forego the chastisement which I have witnessed. The degradation to her present state is a sufficient retribution. I would even wish you to seek the disenchantment of Amine, if you could be sure that she would forego her cruelties, and cease to use magical arts."
The caliph then turned to Cogia Hassan, and demanded of him a narrative of his good fortune.
Commander of the Faithful, my name is Hassan, but from my trade I am commonly known by the name of Hassan Alhabbal. I owe the good fortune I now enjoy to two dear friends, whose names are Saad and Saadi. Saadi is very rich. He ever maintained the opinion that wealth was essential to happiness, as without it no one could be independent. He declared further his belief that poverty is in most cases owing to a want of sufficient money to commence with; and if a man once had enough to start with, and made a right use of it, he would, in time, infallibly grow rich. Saad disputed the truth of these sentiments. He maintained that a poor man may become rich by other means as well as money, and that some have become rich by mere chance, as others have done by the possession of sufficient money to commence with.
Saadi replied: "Well, we will not dispute any more, but test our different theories by an experiment. I will give a sufficient sun; of money to some honest but poor artisan, and see if he does not obtain with it wealth and ease. If I fail, then you shall try if you can succeed better by the means you may employ."
Some few days after this dispute, Saad and Saadi passed by my house as I was engaged in my trade of rope-making. They expressed their surprise that, with all my industry, I could not contrive to extend my trade and gradually to save money. I told them that, work as hard as I would, I could with difficulty keep my wife and five children (none of whom could render me the least help) with rice and pulse, and that I could not find money for the first outlay of hemp and materials. After some further conversation, Saadi pulled a purse out of his bosom, and putting it into my hands, said: "Here, take this purse; it contains two hundred pieces of gold: God bless you and give you grace to make the good use of them I desire; and, believe me, my friend Saad and I shall both have great pleasure if they contribute towards making you more prosperous than you now are."
Commander of the Faithful, continued Hassan, when I had got the purse my joy was so great that my speech failed me, and I could only thank my benefactor by laying hold of the hem of his garment and kissing it; but he drew it from me hastily, and he and his friend pursued their walk. As soon as they were gone, I returned to my work, and my first thought was, what I should do with my purse to keep it safe. I had in my poor house neither box nor cupboard to lock it up, nor any other place where I could be sure it would not be discovered if I concealed it.
In this perplexity, I laid aside ten pieces of gold for present necessaries, and wrapped the rest up in the folds of the linen which went about my cap. Out of my ten pieces I bought a good stock of hemp, and afterwards, as my family had eaten no meat a long time, I purchased some for supper.
As I was carrying the meat home, a famished vulture flew upon me, and would have taken it away, if I had not held it very fast; but the faster I held my meat, the more the bird struggled to get it, till unfortunately in my efforts my turban fell on the ground.
The vulture immediately let go his hold of the meat, but seizing my turban, flew away with it. I cried out so loud that I alarmed all the men, women, and children in the neighborhood, who joined their shouts and cries to make the vulture quit his hold; but our cries did not avail, he carried off my turban, and we soon lost sight of him.
I went home very melancholy at the loss of my money. I was obliged to buy a new turban, which diminished the small remainder of the ten pieces. The little that was left was not sufficient to give me any hope of improving my condition, but I most regretted the disappointment I should occasion my benefactor.
While the remainder of the ten pieces lasted, my little family and I lived better than usual; but I soon relapsed into the same poverty, and the same inability to extricate myself from wretchedness. However, I never murmured nor repined; "God," said I, "was pleased to give me riches when I least expected them; He has thought fit to take them from me again almost at the same time, because it so pleased Him, and they were at his disposal; yet I will praise his name for all the benefits I have received, as it was his good pleasure, and submit myself, as I have ever done hitherto, to his will."
These were my sentiments, while my wife, from whom I could not keep secret the loss I had sustained, was inconsolable. In my trouble I had told my neighbors that when I lost my turban I lost a hundred and ninety pieces of gold; but as they knew my poverty, and could not comprehend how I should have got so great a sum by my work, they only laughed at me.
About six months after this misfortune, the two friends, walking through that part of the town where I lived, called to inquire after me. "Well," said Saad, "we do not ask you how affairs go since we saw you last; without doubt they are in a better train."
"Gentlemen," replied I, "I deeply grieve to tell you that your good wishes, and my hopes, have not had the success you had reason to expect, and I had promised myself. You will scarcely believe the extraordinary adventure that has befallen me, when I tell you, on the word of an honest man, that a vulture flew away with my turban, in which for safety I had wrapped my money."
Saadi rejected my assertion, and said: "Hassan, you joke, and would deceive me. What have vultures to do with turbana; they only search for something to satisfy their hunger?" "Sir," I replied, "the thing is so publicly known in this part of the town, that there is nobody but can satisfy you of the truth of my assertions." Saad took my part, and told Saadi a great many as surprising stories of vultures, some of which he affirmed he knew to be true; who, after bidding me be more careful, at last pulled his purse out of his vestband, and counted out two hundred pieces of gold into my hand, which I put into my bosom for want of a purse. I told him that the obligation of this his second kindness was much greater than I deserved, after what had happened, and that I should be sure to make good use of his advine. I would have said a great deal more, but he did not give me time, for he went away, and continued his walk with his friend.
As soon as they were gone, I left off work, and went home, but finding neither my wife nor children within, I pulled out my money, put ten pieces on one side for present use, and wrapped up the rest in a clean linen cloth, tying it fast with a knot, and placing it for safety in an earthen vessel full of bran, which stood in a corner, which I imagined neither my wife nor children would look into. My wife came home soon after, and as I had but little hemp in the house, I told her I should go out to buy some, without saying anything to her about the second present from Saadi.
While I was absent, a sandman, who sells washing-balls, which women use in the baths, passed through our street. My wife, who had no money, asked him if he would exchange his washing-balls for some bran. The sandman consented to do so and the bargain was made.
Not long after, I came home with as much hemp as I could carry, and followed by five porters loaded also with hemp. After I had satisfied them for their trouble, I looked about me, and could not see the pot of bran. I asked my wife, in great trepidation, what was become of it; when she told me the bargain she had made with the sandman.
"Ah, unfortunate woman!" cried I, "you know not what you have done. You thought you only sold the bran, but with the bran you have given the sandman a hundred and ninety pieces of gold, which Saadi this day made me a second present of."
My wife was like one distracted when she knew what she had done. She cried, beat her breast, and tore her hair and clothes. "Unhappy woman that I am," cried she, "where shall I find this sandman? I know him not,—I never saw him before. Oh, husband," added she, "you were much to blame in not communicating the secret to me."
"Wife," said I, "moderate your grief; by your cries you will alarm the neighbors, and they will only laugh at, instead of pitying us. We had best bear our loss patiently, and submit ourselves to the will of God. It is true we live but poorly; but what have the rich which we have not? Do not we breathe the same air, enjoy the same light, and the same warmth of the sun? Therefore what conveniences have they more than we, that we should envy their happiness? They die as well as we. In short, while we live in the fear of God, as we should always do, the advantage they have over us is so very inconsiderable that we ought not to covet it."
My wife and I comforted ourselves with these reflections, and I pursued my trade with as much alacrity as before these two mortifying losses which followed one another so quickly. The only thing that troubled me sometimes was, how I should look Saadi in the face when he should come and ask me how I had improved his two hundred pieces of gold.
After some time, Saad and Saadi again called to inquire of my progress. Each still entertained their former differing opinons as to the result of Saadi's repeated liberality. I saw them at a distance, but made as if I had not seen them. I applied very earnestly to my work, and never lifted up my eyes till they were close to me, and had saluted me. I told them at once my last misfortune, and that I was as poor as when they first saw me. After that, I said: "Could I guess that a sandman would come by that very day, and my wife give him in exchange a pot of bran which had stood there for many years?" You may indeed allege that I ought to have told my wife of it; but I will never believe that such prudent persons, as I am persuaded you are, would have given me that advice; and if I had put my money anywhere else, what certainty could I have had that it would be more secure?"
"I see, sir," said I, addressing myself to Saadi, "that it has pleased God, whose ways are secret and impenetrable, that I should not be enriched by your liberality, but that I must—remain poor; however, the obligation is the same as if it had wrought the desired effect."
After these words I was silent; and Saadi replied: "I do not regret the four hundred pieces of gold I gave you to raise you in the world. I did it in duty to God, without expecting any recompense but the pleasure of doing good, and for the sake of an experiment I wished to make." Then turning about to his friend, "Saad," continued he, "you may now make your experiment, and let me see that there are ways, besides giving money, to make a poor man's fortune. Let Hassan be the man. I dare say, whatever you may give him he will not be richer than he was with four hundred pieces of gold." Saad had a piece of lead in his hand, which he showed Saadi. "You saw me," said he, "take up this piece of lead, which I found on the ground; I will give it Hassan, and you shall see what it comes to be worth."
Saadi burst out a laughing at Saad. "What is that bit of lead worth?" said he; "a farthing! What can Hassan do with that?" Saad presented it to me, and said: "Take it, Hassan; let Saadi laugh, you will tell us some news of the good luck it has brought you one time or another." I thought Saad was in jest, and had a mind to divert himself; however, I took the lead, and thanked him. The two friends pursued their walk, and I fell to work again.
At night, when I pulled off my clothes to go to bed, the piece of lead, which I had never thought of from the time he gave it me, tumbled out of my pocket. I took it up, and laid it on the place that was nearest me. The same night it happened that a fisherman, a neighbor, mending his nets, found a piece of lead wanting; and it being too late to buy any, as the shops were shut, and he must either fish that night, or his family go without bread the next day, he called to his wife and bade her inquire among the neighbors for a piece. She went from door to door on both sides of the street, but could not get any, and returned to tell her husband her ill success. He asked if she had been to several of their neighbors, naming them, and, among the rest, my house. "No, indeed," said the wife, "I have not been there; I know by experience they never have anything when one wants it." "No matter," said the fisherman, "you must go there; for though you have been there a hundred times before without getting anything, you may chance to obtain what we want now."
The fisherman's wife came and knocked at my door. I asked her what she wanted?" Hassan," said she, "my husband wants a bit of lead to load his nets with; and if you have a piece, desires you to give it him."
The piece of lead which Saad had given me was so fresh in my memory, that I could not forget it. I told my neighbor I had some; and if she would stay a moment my wife should give it to her. Accordingly my wife, who was wakened by the noise as well as myself, got up, and groping about where I directed her, found the lead, opened the door, and gave it to the fisherman's wife, who was so overjoyed that she promised my wife, that, in return for the kindness she did her and her husband, she would answer for him we should have the first cast of the nets.
The fisherman was so much rejoiced to see the lead, which he so little expected, that he much approved his wife's promise. He finished mending his nets, and went a-fishing two hours before day, according to custom. At the first throw he caught but one fish, about a yard long, and proportionable in thickness; but afterwards had a great many successful casts.
When the fisherman had done fishing, he went home, where his first care was to think of me. I was extremely surprised, when at my work, to see him come to me with a large fish in his hand. "Neighbor," said he, "my wife promised you last night, in return for your kindness, whatever fish I should catch at my first throw; and I approved her promise. It pleased God to send me no more than this one for you, which, such as it is, I desire you to accept. Had He sent me my net full, they should all have been yours."
"Neighbor," said I, "the bit of lead which I sent you was such a trifle, that it ought not to be valued at so high a rate; neighbors should assist each other in their little wants. I have done no more for you than I should have expected from you had I been in your situation; therefore I would refuse your present, if I were not persuaded you gave it me freely, and that I should offend you; and since you will have it so, I take it, and return you my hearty thanks."
After these civilities, I took the fish, and carried it home to my wife. My wife was much startled to see so large a fish. "What would you have me do with it?" said she. "Our gridiron is only fit to broil small fish; and we have not a pot big enough to boil it." "That is your business," answered I. "Dress it as you will, I shall like it either way." I then went to my work again.
In gutting the fish, my wife found a hard, clear substance which she took for a piece of glass. She gave it to the youngest of our children for a plaything, and his brothers and sisters handed it about from one to another, to admire its brightness and beauty.
At night when the lamp was lighted, and the children were still playing with the clear substance taken from the fish, they perceived that it gave a light when my wife, who was getting them their supper, stood between them and the lamp, upon which they snatched it from one another to try it; and the younger children fell a-crying, that the elder would not let them have it long enough in the dark.
I then called to the eldest, to know what was the matter, who told me it was about a piece of glass, which gave a light. Upon hearing this, I bade my wife put out the lamp, and we found that the piece of glass gave so great a light; that we might see to go to bed without the lamp. I placed the bit of glass upon the chimney to light us. "Look," said I, "this is a great advantage that Saad's piece of lead procures us; it will spare us the expense of oil."
When the children saw the lamp was put out, and the bit of glass supplied the place, they cried out so loud, and made so great a noise from astonishment, that it alarmed the neighborhood.
Now there was but a very slight partition-wall between my house and my next neighbor's, who was a very rich Jew and a jeweler; and the chamber that he and his wife lay in joined to ours. They were both in bed, and the noise my children made awakened them.
The next morning the jeweler's wife came to mine, to complain of being disturbed out of their first sleep. "Good neighbor Rachel" (which was the Jew's wife's name), said my wife, "I am very sorry for what happened, and hope you will excuse it, you know the children will laugh and cry for a trifle. See here; it was this piece of glass which I took out of the fish that caused all the noise."
"Indeed, Ayesha" (which was my wife's name), said the jeweler's wife, "I believe as you do it is a piece of glass; but as it is more beautiful than common glass, and I have just such another piece at home, I will buy it, if you will sell it."
The children, who heard them talking of selling their plaything, presently interrupted their conversation, crying and begging their mother not to part with it, who, to quiet them, promised she would not.
The Jewess being thus prevented from obtaining the supposed piece of glass by my children, went away; but first whispered to my wife, who followed her to the door, if she had a mind to sell it, not to show it to anybody without acquainting her. Rachel could not rest satisfied till she had made her husband acquainted with what she had seen in my house, and immediately went to his stall in the bezetzein to acquaint the Jew with her discovery. On her return home, she came again privately, and asked her if she would take twenty pieces of gold for the piece of glass she had shown her.
My wife, thinking the sum too considerable for a mere piece of glass as she had thought it, would not make any bargain; but told her she could not part with it till she had spoken to me. In the mean time I came from my work to dinner. As they were. talking at the door, my wife stopped me, and asked if I would sell the piece of glass she had found in the fish's belly for twenty pieces of gold which our neighbor offered her. I returned no answer; but called to mind the confidence with which Saad, in giving me the piece of lead, told me it would make my fortune. The Jewess, fancying that the low price she had offered was the reason I made no reply, said, "I will give you fifty, neighbor, if that will do."
As soon as I found that she rose so suddenly from twenty to fifty, I told her that I expected a great deal more. "Well, neighbor," said she, "I will give you a hundred, and that is so much I know not whether my husband will approve my offering it." At this new advance, I told her I would have a hundred thousand pieces of gold for it; that I saw plainly that the diamond, for such I now guessed it must be, was worth a great deal more; but to oblige her and her husband, as they were neighbors, I would limit myself to that price, which I was determined to have; and if they refused to give it, other jewelers should have it, who would give a great deal more.
The Jewess confirmed me in this resolution, by her eagerness to conclude a bargain, and by coming up at several biddings to fifty thousand pieces of gold, which I refused. "I can offer you no more," said she, "without my husband's consent. He will be at home at night, and I would beg the favor of you to let him see it;" which I promised.
At night the Jew himself came home. "Neighbor Hassan," said he, "I desire you would show me the diamond your wife showed to mine." I brought him in, and showed it to him. He looked at and admired it a long time. "Well, neighbor," said he, "my wife tells me she offered you fifty thousand pieces of gold; I will give you twenty thousand more."
"Neighbor," said I, "your wife can tell you that I value my diamond at a hundred thousand pieces, and I will take nothing less." He haggled a long time with me, in hopes that I would make some abatement; but finding that I was positive, and for fear that I should show it to other jewelers, he at last concluded the bargain on my own terms, and fetched two bags of a thousand pieces each, as an earnest. The next day he brought me the sum we had agreed for at the time appointed, and I delivered to him the diamond.
Having thus sold my diamond, and being rich infinitely beyond my hopes, I thanked God for his bounty; and would have gone and thrown myself at Saad's feet to express my gratitude, if I had known where he lived; as also at Saadi's, to whom I was first obliged, though his good intention had not the same success.
Afterwards I thought of the use I ought to make of so considerable a sum. My wife proposed immediately to buy rich clothes for herself and children; to purchase a house and furnish it handsomely. I told her we ought not to begin with such expenses; "for," said I, "money should only be spent so that it may produce a fund from which we may draw without its failing. This I intend, and shall begin to-morrow."
I spent all that day and the next in going to the people of my own trade, who worked as hard every day for their bread as I had done; and giving them money beforehand, engaged them to work for me in different sorts of rope-making, according to their skill and ability, with a promise not to make them wait for their money, but to pay them as soon as their work was done.
By this means I engrossed almost all the business of Bagdad and everybody was pleased with my exactness and punctual payment.
As so great a number of workmen produced a large quantity of work, I hired warehouses in several parts of the town to hold my goods, and appointed over each a clerk, to sell both wholesale and retail, and by this economy received considerable profit and income. Afterwards, to concentrate my business, I bought ground, and built the house you saw yesterday, which, though it makes so great an appearance, consists, for the most part, of warehouses for my business, with apartments for myself and family.
Some time after I had removed to this house, Saad and Saadi, who had scarcely thought of me from the last time they had been with me, called on me in my former habitation, and learnt, to their great surprise, that I was become a great manufacturer, and was no longer called plain Hassan, but Cogia Hassan Alhabbal.
They immediately set out to visit me in my new abode. I saw my two friends as they approached my gate. I rose from my seat, ran to them, and would have kissed the hem of their garments; but they would not suffer it, and embraced me. I assured them I had not forgotten that I was poor Hassan the rope-maker, nor the obligations I had to them; but were this not the case, I knew the respect due to them, and begged them to sit down in the place of honor, and I seated myself opposite to them.
Then Saadi, addressing himself to me, said; "Cogia Hassan, I cannot express my joy to see you. I am persuaded that those four hundred pieces I gave you have made this wonderful change in your fortune."
Saad did not at all agree with this speech of Saadi's. When he had done, he said to him: "Saadi, I am vexed that you still persist in not believing the statements Hassan has already made you. I believe those two accidents which befell him are true; but let him speak himself, and say to which of us he most owes his present good fortune."
After this discourse of the two friends, I said, addressing myself to them both, "Gentlemen, I will declare to you the whole truth with the same sincerity as before." I then told them every circumstance of the history which I have now related to you, Commander of the Faithful.
All my protestations had no effect on Saadi, "Cogia Hassan," replied he, "the adventure of the fish and of the diamond found in his stomach appears to me as incredible as the vulture's flying away with your turban, and the exchange made by your wife with the sandman. Be it as it may, I am equally convinced that you are no longer poor, but rich, as I intended you should be by my means; and I rejoice sincerely."
As it grew late, they arose to depart; when I stopped them, and said: "There is one favor I have to ask. I beg of you to stay with me tonight, and to-morrow I will carry you by water to a small country-house, which I have bought, and we will return in the evening."
"If Saad has no business that calls him elsewhere," said Saadi, "I consent." Saad told him that nothing should prevent him enjoying his company.
While supper was being prepared, I showed my benefactors my house and all my offices. I call them both benefactors, without distinction; because without Saadi, Saad would never have given me the piece of lead; and without Saad, Saadi would not have given me the four hundred pieces of gold. Then I brought them back again into the hall, where they asked me several questions about my concerns; and I gave them such answers as satisfied them.
During this conversation, my servants came to tell me that supper was served up. I led them into another hall, where they admired the manner in which it was lighted, the furniture, and the entertainment I had provided. I regaled them also with a concert of vocal and instrumental music during the repast, and afterwards with a company of dancers, and other entertainments, endeavoring as much as possible to show them my gratitude.
The next morning, as we had agreed to set out early to enjoy the fresh air, we repaired to the river-side by sunrise, and went on board a pleasure-boat, well carpeted, that waited for us; and in less than an hour and a half, with six good rowers and the stream, we arrived at my country-house.
Afterwards we walked in the gardens, where was a grove of orange and lemon-trees, loaded with fruit and flowers, which were planted at equal distances, and watered by channels cut from a neighboring stream. The pleasant shade, the fragrant smell which perfumed the air, the soft murmurings of the water, the harmonious notes of an infinite number of birds, were so delightful, that they frequently stopped to express how much they were obliged to me for bringing them to so exquisite a place, and to offer me their congratulations. I led them to the end of the grove, which was very long and broad, where I showed them a wood of large trees, which terminated my garden.
Two of my boys, whom I had sent into the country, with a tutor, for the air, had gone just then into the wood; and seeing a nest, which was built in the branches of a lofty tree, they bade a slave climb the tree for it. The slave, when he came to to it, was much surprised to find it composed of a turban. He took it, brought it down, and as he thought that I might like to see a nest that was so uncommon, he gave it to the eldest boy to bring to me.
The two friends and I were very much surprised at the novelty; but I much more, when I recognized the turban to be that which the vulture had flown away with. After I had examined it well, and turned it .about, I said to my guests: "Gentlemen, can you remember the turban I had on the day you did me the honor first to speak to me?" "I do not think," said Saad, "that either my friend or I gave any attention to it; but if the hundred and ninety pieces of gold are in it, we cannot doubt of it."
"Sir," replied I, "there is no doubt but it is the same turban; for, besides that I know it perfectly well, I feel by the weight it is too heavy to be any other, and you will perceive this if you give yourself the trouble to take it in your hand." Then after taking out the young birds, I put it into his hands, and he gave it to Saadi.
"Now, sir," added I, taking the turban again, "observe well before I unwrap it, that it is of no very fresh date in the tree; and the state in which you see it, and the nest so neatly made in it, are sufficient proofs that the vulture dropped or laid it in the tree upon the day it was seized."
While I was speaking, I pulled off the linen cloth which was wrapped about the cap of the turban, and took out the purse, which Saadi knew to be the same he had given me. I emptied it before them, and said, "There, gentlemen, there is the money; count it, and see if it be right; "which Saad did, and found it to be one hundred and ninety pieces of gold. Then Saadi, who could not deny so manifest a truth, addressing himself to me, said: "I agree, Gogia Hassan, that this money could not serve to enrich you, but the other hundred and ninety pieces, which you would make believe yon hid in a pot of bran, might." "Sir," answered I, "I have told you the truth in regard to both sums, and I shall hope yet to prove it to your satisfaction."
After this we returned, and entered the house, just as dinner was being served. After dinner I left my guests to take their siesta during the heat of the day, while I went to give orders to my gardener. Afterwards I returned to them again, and we talked of indifferent matters till it grew a little cooler; when we returned into the garden for fresh air, and stayed till sunset. We then mounted our horses, and after a ride of two hours reached Bagdad by moonlight.
It happened, by some negligence of my grooms, that we were then out of grain for the horses, and the storehouses were all shut up; when one of my slaves, seeking about the neighborhood, met with a pot of bran in a shop; bought the bran, and brought the pot along with him, promising to carry it back again the next day. The slave emptied the bran, and dividing it among the horses, felt a linen cloth tied up, and very heavy; he brought the cloth to me in the condition that he found it, and presented it to me. I at once knew what it was, and said to my two benefactors: "Gentlemen, it has pleased God that you should not part from me without being fully convinced of the truth of what I have assured you. There are the other hundred and ninety pieces of gold which you gave me," continued I, addressing myself to Saadi; "I know it well by the cloth, which I tied up with my own hands;" and then I told out the money before them. I ordered the pot to be brought to me, knew it to be the same; and sent to my wife to ask if she recognized it. She sent me word that it was the same pot she had exchanged full of bran for the scouring-earth.
Saadi readily submitted, renounced his incredulity, and said to Saad, "I yield to you, and acknowledge that money is not always the means of becoming rich."
When Saadi had spoken, I said to him: "I dare not propose to return you the three hundred and eighty pieces of gold which it hath pleased God should be found, to undeceive you as to the opinion ,of my honesty. I am persuaded that you did not give them to me with an intention that I should return them; and if you approve of my proposal, to-morrow I will give them to the poor, that God may bless us both."
The two friends lay at my house that night also; and next day, after embracing, me, returned home. I thanked them both, and regarded the permission they gave me to cultivate their friendship, and to visit them, as a great honor.
The caliph, at the conclusion of this story, said: "Cogia Hassan, I have not for a long time heard anything that has given me so much pleasure, as having been informed of the wonderful ways by which God gave thee thy riches. Thou oughtest to continue to return Him thanks, and to use well his blessings. That same diamond which made thy fortune is now in my treasury; and I am happy to learn how it came there; but because there may remain in Saadi some doubts on the singularity of this diamond, which I esteem the most precious and valuable jewel I possess, I would have you carry him and Saad to my treasurer, who will show it them."
After these words, the caliph signified to Cogia Hassan, Sidi Nouman, and Baba Abdalla, by a bow of his head, that he was satisfied with them; they all prostrated themselves at the throne, and retired.
In the reign of the Caliph Haronn Al-Raschid, there lived at Bagdad a very rich merchant. He had one only child, a son, whom he named Abou Hassan, and whom he educated with great strictness. When his son was thirty years old, he became his father's sole heir and the owner of immense wealth, amassed together by the paternal frugality and application.
Abou Hassan, whose views and inclinations were very different from those of his father, determined to make another use of his wealth. His father had never allowed him any money but what was lust necessary for subsistence, and as he had always envied his rich companions, who wanted for nothing, and who debarred themselves from none of those pleasures to which their wealth entitled them, he resolved to distinguish himself by extravagances proportionable to his fortune. To this end he divided his riches into two parts; with one half he bought houses in the city and farms in the country, with a resolution never to touch the income arising from them, which was very large, but to lay it all by as he received it. With the other half, which consisted of ready money, he designed to make himself amends for the time he had lost by the severe restraint in which his father had always kept him.
With this intent, Abou Hassan made the acquaintance of wealthy youths of his own age and rank, who thought of nothing but how to make their time pass agreeably. Every day he gave them splendid entertainments, at which the most delicate viands were served up, and the most exquisite wines flowed in profusion, while concerts of the best vocal and instrumental music by performers of both sexes heightened their pleasures. These entertainments, renewed every day, were so expensive to Abou Hassan, that he could not support the extravagance above one year. As soon as he discontinued his feasts, and pleaded poverty as the excuse, his friends forsook him; whenever they saw him they avoided him, and if by chance he met any of them, and tried to stop them, they always excused themselves on some pretense or other.
Abou Hassan was more affected by this behavior of his friends who had forsaken him so basely and ungratefully, after all the protestations they had made him of inviolable attachment, than by the loss of the money he had so foolishly squandered. He went melancholy and thoughtful into his mother's apartment, and sat down on the end of a sofa at a distance from her. "What is the matter with you, son?" said his mother, seeing him thus depressed. "Why are you so dejected? You could not certainly be more concerned, if you had lost all you had. You have still, however, a good estate. I do not, therefore, see why you should plunge yourself into this deep melancholy."
At these words Abou Hassan melted into tears; and in the midst of his sighs exclaimed: "Ah! mother, how insupportable poverty must be; it deprives us of joy, as the setting of the sun does of light. A poor man is looked upon, both by friends and relations, as a stranger. You know, mother, how I have treated my friends for this year past, and now they have left me when they suppose I can treat them no longer. Bismillah I praise be to God! I have yet my lands and farms, and I shall now know how to use what is left. But I am resolved to try how far my friends, who deserve not that I should call them so, will carry their ingratitude. I will go to them one after another, and when I have represented to them what I have done on their account, ask them to make up a sum of money "to relieve me, merely to try if I can find any sentiment of gratitude remaining in them." Abou Hassan went immediately to his friends, whom he found at home; represented to them the great need he was in, and begged of them to assist him. He promised to give bonds to pay them the money they might lend him; giving them to understand at the same time, that it was in a great measure on their account that he was so distressed. That he might the more powerfully excite their generosity, he forgot not to allure them with the hopes of being once again entertained in the same manner as before.
Not one of his companions was affected with the arguments which the afflicted Abou Hassan used to persuade them; and he had the mortification to find that many of them told him plainly they did not know him.
He returned home full of indignation; and going into his mother's apartment, said: "Ah! madam, I have found none of my late companions who deserve my friendship; I renounce them, and promise you I will never see them more." He resolved to be as good as his word, taking an oath never to give an inhabitant of Bagdad any entertainment while he lived. He further vowed that he would not put in his purse more money than was sufficient to ask a single person to sup with him, who, according to the oath he had taken, was not of Bagdad, but a stranger arrived in the city the same day, and who must take his leave of him the following morning.
Conformably to this plan, Abou Hasaan took care every morning to provide whatever was necessary for a repast for two persons, and towards the close of the evening went and sat at the end of Bagdad bridge; and as soon as he saw a stranger, accosted him civilly, invited him to sup and lodge with him that night; and after having informed him of the law he had imposed upon himself, conducted him to his house. The supper to which Abou Hassan invited his guests was not costly, but well dressed, with plenty of good wine, and generally lasted till the nighfc was pretty far advanced: instead of entertaining his guests with the affairs of state, his family, or business, as is too frequent, he conversed on general subjects. He was naturally of a gay and pleasant temper, and made the most melancholy persons merry. When he sent away his guest the next morning, he always said: "God preserve you from all sorrow wherever you go; when I invited you yesterday to come and sup with me, I informed you of the law I have imposed on myself; therefore do not take it ill if I tell you that we must; never see one another again, nor drink together, either at home or anywhere else, for reasons best known to myself; so God conduct you."
Abou Hassan was very exact in the observance of this oath, and never looked upon or spoke to the strangers he had once entertained. If he met them afterwards in the streets, the squares, or any public assemblies, he turned away to avoid them, that they might not speak to him, or he have any communication with them. He had acted for a long time in this manner, when, one afternoon, a little before sunset, as he sat upon the bridge according to custom, the Caliph Haroun Al-Raschid came by, but so disguised that it was impossible to know him; he was dressed like a merchant of Moussul, and was followed by a tall stout slave.
Abou Hassan, who was looking out for a guest, rose up as he. approached, and, after having saluted him with a graceful air, said to him, "Sir, I congratulate you on your happy arrival in Bagdad; I beg you to do me the honor to sup with me, and repose yourself at my house for this night, after the fatigue of your journey;" he then told him his custom of entertaining the first stranger he met with. The caliph found something so odd and singular in Abou Hassan's whim, that he was very desirous to know the cause; and told him that he could not better merit a civility, which he did not expect as a stranger, than by acceptin"' the obliging offer made him; that he had only to lead the way, and he was ready to follow him.
Abou Hassan treated the caliph as his equal, conducted him home, and led him into a room very neatly furnished, where he set him on a sofa, in the most honorable place. Supper was ready, and the cloth laid.
Abou Hassan sat down opposite his guest, and he and the caliph began to eat heartily of what they liked best, without speaking or drinking, according to the custom of the country. When they had done eating, the caliph's slave brought them water to wash their hands; and in the mean time Abou Hassan's mother cleared the table, and brought up a dessert of all the various sorts of fruits then in season,—as grapes, peaches, apples, pears, and various pastes of dried almonds, etc. As soon as it grew dark, wax-candles were lighted, and Abou Hassan, after requesting his mother to take care of the caliph's slave, set down bottles and glasses.
Abou Hassan filled a glass of wine, and holding it in his hand, said to the caliph, "Now, taste this wine, sir; I will warrant you find it good." "I am well persuaded of that," replied the caliph, laughing; "you know how to choose the best." "Oh!" replied Abou Hassan, "one need only look in your face to be assured that you have seen the world, and know what good living is. If," added he in Arabic verse, "my house could think and express its joy, how happy would it be to possess you, and bowing before you, would exclaim, 'How overjoyed am I to see myself honored with the company of so accomplished and polite a personage, and for meeting with a man of your merit!' "
The caliph and Abou Hassan remained together, drinking and talking of indifferent subjects, till the night was pretty far advanced, when the caliph said,—"I beg of you to let me understand how I may serve you, and you shall see I will not be ungrateful. Speak freely and open your mind, for though I am but a merchant, it may be in my power to oblige you myself, or by some friend."
To these otters Abou Hassan replied: "I can only thank you for your obliging offers, and the honor you have done me in partaking of my frugal fare. Yet I must tell you there is one thing gives me uneasiness. The imaun of the mosque situated in the district in which I live, is the greatest of hypocrites. He and four of his friends try to lord it over me and the whole neighborhood. I should like to be caliph but for one day, in the stead of our sovereign lord and master, Haroun Al-Raschid, Commander of the Faithful. I would punish the imaun and his four friends with a hundred strokes each on the soles of their feet, to teach them not to disturb and abuse their neighbors in future."
The caliph was extremely pleased with this thought of Abou Hassan's; and while Abou Hassan was talking, he took the bottle and two glasses, and filling his own first, saying, "Here is a cup of thanks to you," and then filling the other, put into it artfully a little opiate powder which he had about him, and giving it to Abou Hassan, said, "You have taken the pains to fill for me all night, and it is the least I can do to save you the trouble once; I beg you to take this glass; drink it off for my sake."
Abou Hassan took the glass, and to show his guest with how much pleasure he received the honor, drank it off at once. Scarcely had he set the glass upon the table, when the powder began to operate, and he fell into a sound sleep. The caliph commanded the slave who waited for him to take Abou Hassan and carry him directly to the palace, and to undress him and put him into his own state bed. This was immediately performed.
The caliph next sent for the grand vizier. "Giafar," said he, "I have sent for you to instruct you, and to prevent your being surprised to-morrow when you come to audience, at seeing this man seated on my throne in the royal robes; accost him with the same reverence and respect as you pay to myself; observe and punctually execute whatever he bids you do, the same as if I commanded you. He will exercise great liberality, and commission you with the distribution of it. Do all he commands, even if his liberality should extend so far as to empty all the coffers in my treasury; and remember to acquaint all my emirs, and officers within the palace, to pay him the same honor at audience as to myself, and to carry on the matter so well that he may not perceive the least thing that may interrupt the diversion which I design myself. Above all, fail not to awaken me before Abou Hassan, because I wish to be present when he awakes."
The vizier failed not to do as the caliph had commanded, and as soon as the caliph had dressed, he went into the room where Abou Hassan lay, and placed himself in a little raised closet, from whence he could see all that passed. All the officers and ladies who were to attend Abou Hassan's levee went in at the same time, and took their posts according to their rank, ready to acquit themselves of their respective duties, as if the caliph himself had been going to rise.
As it was just daybreak, and time to prepare for the morning prayer before sunrise, the officer who stood nearest to the head of the bed put a sponge steeped in vinegar to Abou Hassan's nose, who immediately awoke. When Abou Hassan opened his eyes, he saw by the dawning light a large room, magnificently furnished, with a finely painted ceiling, adorned with vases of gold and silver, and the floor covered with a rich silk tapestry, and many slaves richly clothed, all standing with great modesty and respect. After casting his eyes on the covering of the bed, he perceived it was cloth of gold richly embossed with pearl and diamonds; and near the bed lay, on a cushion, a habit of tissue embroidered with jewels, with a caliph's turban.
At the sight of this splendor, Abou Hassan was in the most inexpressible amazement. He looked upon all he saw as a dream; yet a dream he wished it not to be. "So," said he to himself, "Iam caliph! But," added he, recollecting himself," it is only a dream, the effect of the wish I entertained my guest with last night;" and then he turned himself about and shut his eyes to sleep. At the same time the vizier said, with a prostration to the ground,—" Commander of the Faithful, it is time for your majesty to rise to prayers; the morning begins to advance."
These words very much surprised Abou Hassan. He clapped his hands before his eyes, and lowering his head, said to himself: "What means all this? Where am I? and to whom does this palace belong? What can these viziers, emirs, officers, and musicians mean? How is it possible for me to distinguish whether I am in my right senses or in a dream?"
When he took his hands from his eyes, opened them, and lifted up his head, the sun shone full in at the chamber window; and at that instant Mesrour, the chief of the officers, came in, prostrated himself before Abou Hassan, and said: "Commander of the Faithful, your majesty will excuse me for representing to you, that you used not to rise so late, and that the time of prayer is over. It is time to ascend your throne and hold a council as usual; all the great officers of state wait your presence in the council-hall."
At this discourse, Abou Hassan was persuaded that he was neither asleep nor in a dream; but at the same time was not less embarrassed and confused under his uncertainty what steps to take; at last, looking earnestly at Mesrour, he said to him in a serious tone,—"Whom is it you speak to, and call the Commander of the Faithful? I do not know you, and you must mistake me for somebody else."
"My imperial lord and master," said he, "is not your majesty the Commander of the Faithful, Monarch of the world from east to west, and Vicar on earth to the Prophet sent of God? Mesrour your poor slave has not forgotten you, after so many years that he has had the honor and happiness to serve and pay his respects to your majesty."
Abou Hassan burst out a-laughing at these words, and fell backwards upon the bolster, which pleased the caliph so much that he would have laughed as loud himself, if he had not been afraid of putting a stop too soon to the pleasant scene he had promised himself.
Abou Hassan, when he had tired himself with laughing, sat up again, and suddenly calling the officer that stood nearest to him,—"Come hither," said he, holding out his hand; "bite the end of my finger, that I may feel whether I am asleep or awake."
The slave, who knew the caliph saw all that passed, and being anxious to please him, went with a grave countenance, and putting his finger between his teeth, bit it so hard that he put him to great pain. Snatching his hand quickly back again, he said, "I find I am awake; I feel, and hear, and see, and thus know that I am not asleep. But by what miracle am I become caliph in a night's time!"
Abou Hassan now beginning to rise, the chief of the officers offered him his hand, and helped him to get out of bed. No sooner were his feet set on the floor, than the chamber rang with the repeated salutations of those present, who cried out all together, "Commander of the Faithful, God give your majesty a good day." "O Heaven!" cried Abou Hassan, "what a strange thing this is! Last night I was Abou Hassan, and this morning I am the Commander of the true Believers! I cannot comprehend this sudden and surprising change." Presently some of the officers began to dress him; and when they had done, led him through all the attendants, who were ranged on both aides, quite to the council-chamber door, which was opened by one of the officers. Mesrour walked before him to the foot of the throne, where he stopped, and putting one hand under one arm, while another officer who followed did the same by the other, they helped him to ascend the throne. Abou Hassan sat down amidst the acclamations of the officers, who wished him all happiness and prosperity, and turning to the right and left, he saw the royal guards ranged in order.
The caliph in the mean time came out of the closet, and went into another, which looked into the hall, from whence he could see and hear all that passed in council, where his grand vizier presided in his place. "What pleased him highly was to see Abou Hassan fill his throne with almost as much gravity as himself.
As soon as Abou Hassan had seated himself, the grand vizier prostrated himself at the foot of the throne, and rising, said: "Commander of the Faithful, God shower down blessings on your majesty in this life, receive you into His paradise in the other world, and confound your enemies."
Abou Hassan, after all that had happened that morning, at these words of the grand vizier, never doubted but that he was caliph, as he wished to be; and without examining any farther, how or by what adventure, or sudden change of fortune, he had become so, immediately began to exercise his power, and looking very gravely at the vizier, asked him what he had to say. "Commander of the Faithful," replied the grand vizier, "the emirs, viziers, and other officers of your council wait without till your majesty gives them leave to pay their accustomed respects." Abou Hassan ordered the door to be opened, on which the viziers, emirs, and principal officers of the court, all dressed magnificently in their habits of ceremony, went in their order to the foot of the throne, paid their respects to Abou Hassan; and bowing their heads down to the carpet, saluted him with the title of Commander of the Faithful, according to the instructions of the grand vizier, and afterwards took their seats.
When this ceremony was over, there was a profound silence. The grand vizier standing before the throne, began to make his report of affairs. The caliph could not but admire how Abou Hassan acquitted himself in his exalted station, without the least hesitation and embarrassment, and decided well in all matters, as his own good sense suggested. But before the grand vizier had finished his report, Abou Hassan perceived the cadi, whom he knew by sight, sitting in his place "Stop," said he to the grand vizier, interrupting him; "I have an order of consequence to give to the cadi." The cadi perceiving that Abou Hassan looked at him, and hearing his name mentioned, arose from his seat, and went gravely to the foot of the throne, where he prostrated himself with his face to the ground. "Go immediately," said Abou Hassan, "to such a quarter, where you will find a mosque; seize the imaun and four old men, his friends, and give each of them a hundred bastinadoes. After that, mount them all five, clothed in rags, on camels, with their faces to the tails, and lead them through the whole city, with a crier before them, who shall proclaim -with a loud voice,—'This is the punishment of all those who interfere in other people's affairs.' Make them also leave that quarter, and never set foot on it more. And while your lieutenant is conducting them through the town, return and give me an account of the execution of my orders." The judge of the police laid his hand upon his head, to show his obedience, and prostrating himself a second time, retired to execute the mandate.
Abou Hassan then, addressing himself to the grand vizier, said: "Go to the high treasurer for a purse of a thousand pieces of gold, and carry it to the mother of one Abou Hassan; she lives in the same quarter to which I sent the judge of the police. Go, and return immediately."
The grand vizier, after laying his hand upon his head, and prostrating himself before the throne, went to the high treasurer, who gave him the money, which he ordered a slave to take, and to follow him to Abou Hassan's mother, to whom he gave it, saying only, "The caliph makes you this present." She received it with the greatest surprise imaginable.
During the grand vizier's absence, the judge of the police made the usual report of his office, which lasted till the vizier returned. As soon as he came into the council-chamber, and had assured Abou Hassan that he had executed his orders, he made a sign to the viziers, the emirs, and other officers, that the council was over, and that they might all retire; which they did, by making the same prostration at the foot of the throne as when they entered.
Abou Hassan descended from the caliph's throne, and was conducted with much ceremony into a magnificent hall. In this hall was a table covered with massy gold plates and dishes, which scented the apartment with the spices and amber wherewith the meat was seasoned; and seven young and most beautiful ladies, dressed in the richest habits, stood round his table, each with a fan in her hand, to fan Abou Hassan when at dinner.
If ever mortal was charmed, Abou Hassan was when he entered this stately hall. At every step he took he could not help stopping to contemplate at leisure all the wonders that regaled his eyes, and turned first to one side and then to the other; which gave the caliph, who viewed him with attention, very great pleasure. At last he sat down at the table, and presently all the ladies began to fan the new caliph. He looked first at one, then at another, and admired the grace with winch they acquitted themselves. He told them with a smile that he believed one of them was enough to give him all the air he wanted, and would have six of the ladies sit at table with him, three on his right hand and three on his left.
The six ladies obeyed; and Abou Hassan, taking notice that out of respect they did not eat, helped them himself, and invited them to eat in the most pressing and obliging terms. Afterwards he asked their names, which they told him were Alabaster Neck, Coral Lips, Moon Face, Sunshine, Eyes Delight, Heart's Delight, and she who fanned him was Sugar Cane. The many soft things he said upon their names showed him to be a man of sprightly wit, and it is not to be conceived how much it increased the esteem which the caliph (who saw everything) had already conceived for him.
When the ladies observed that Abou Hassan had done eating, one of them said to the slaves who waited, "The Commander of the Faithful will go into the hall where the dessert is laid; bring some water;" upon which they all rose from the table, and taking from the slaves, one a gold basin, another a ewer of the same metal, and a third a towel, knelt before Abou Hassan, and presented them to him to wash his hands. As soon as he had done, he got up and went, preceded by the chief officer, who never left him, into another hall, as large as the former, adorned with paintings by the best artists, and furnished with gold and silver vessels, carpets, and other rich furniture. There the sultan's musicians began a serenade as soon as Abou Hassan appeared. In this hall there were seven large lustres, a table in the middle covered with dried sweetmeats, the choicest and most exquisite fruits of the season, raised in pyramids, in seven gold basins; and seven other beautiful ladies standing round it, each with a fan in her hand.
These new objects raised still greater admiration in Abou Hassan, who, after he had made a full stop, and given the most sensible marks of surprise and astonishment, went directly to the table, where, sitting down, he gazed a considerable time at the seven ladies, with an embarrassment that plainly showed he knew not to which to give the preference. At last he ordered them all to lay aside their fans, and sit down, and eat with him, telling them that it was not so hot but he could spare them that trouble.
When the ladies were all placed about him, the first thing he did was to ask their names, which were different from the other seven, and expressed some perfection of mind or body which distinguished them from one another; upon which he took an opportunity, when he presented them with fruit, etc., to say something gallant. By these sallies Abou Hassan more and more amused the caliph, who was delighted with his words and actions, and pleased to think he had found in him a man who diverted him so agreeably.
By this time, the day beginning to close, Abou Hassan was conducted into a fourth hall, much more superb and magnificently furnished, and lighted with wax in seven gold lustres, which gave a splendid light. Abou Hassan found there what he had not observed in any of the other halls, a .beaufet, set out with seven large silver flagons, full of the choicest wines, and by them seven crystal glasses of the finest workmanship.
Hitherto, in the first three halls, Abou Hassan had drunk nothing but water, according to the custom observed at Bagdad, from the highest to the lowest, at the caliph's court, never to drink wine till the evening.
As soon as Abou Hassan entered the fourth hall, he went to the table, sat down, and was a long time in a kind of ecstasy at the sight which surrounded him, and which was much more beautiful than anything he had beheld in the other halls. He was desirous to continue his conversation with the ladies, his fair attendants, and he clapped his hands for the musicians to cease. A profound silence ensued. Taking by the hand the lady who stood on the right next to him, he made her sit down by him, and presenting her with a cake, asked her name. "Commander of the Faithful," said the lady, "I am called Cluster of Pearls." "No name," replied Abou Hassan, "could have more properly expressed your worth; and indeed your teeth exceed the finest pearls. Cluster of Pearls," added he, "since that is your name, oblige me with a glass of wine from your fair hand." The lady went to the beaufet, and brought him a glass of wine, which she presented to him with a pleasant air. Abou Hassan took the glass with a smile, and said, "Cluster of Pearls, I drink your health."
After Abou Hassan had drunk, he made another lady sit down by him, and presenting her with what she chose in the basins, asked her name, which she told him was Morning Star. "Your bright eyes," said he, "shine with greater lustre than that star whose name you bear. Do me the pleasure to bring me some wine." Which she did with the best grace in the world. Then turning to the third lady, whose name was Daylight, he ordered her to do the same, and so on to the seventh, to the extreme satisfaction of the caliph.
When they had all filled him a glass round, Cluster of Pearls, whom he had first addressed, went to the beaufet, poured out a glass of wine, and putting in a pinch of the same powder the caliph had used the night before, presented it to Abou Hassan. "Commander of the Faithful," said she, "I beg of your majesty to take this glass of wine, and before you drink it, do me the favor to hear a song I have composed to-day, and which, I flatter myself, will not displease you."
When the lady had concluded, Abou Hassan drank off his glass, and turned his head towards her, to give her those praises which he thought she merited, bat was prevented by the opiate: for, in a moment, dropping his head on the cushions, he slept as profoundly as the day before, when the caliph had given him the powder. One of the ladies stood ready to catch the glass, which fell out of his hand; and then the caliph, who enjoyed greater satisfaction in this scene than he had promised himself, and was all along a spectator of what had passed, came into the hall to them, overjoyed at the success of his plan. He ordered Abou Hassan to be dressed in his own clothes, and carried back to his house, and to be replaced in his usual bed.
Abou Hassan slept till very late the next morning. When the powder was worked off, he awoke, opened his eyes, and finding himself at home, was in the utmost surprise. "Cluster of Pearls, Morning Star, Coral Lips, Moon Face," cried he, calling the ladies of the palace by their names, as he remembered them, "where are you? Come hither."
Abou Hassan called so loud that his mother, who was in her own apartment, heard him, and running to him upon the noise he made, said, "What ails you, son? what has happened to you?" At these words Abou Hassan lifted up his head, and looking haughtily at his mother, said, "Good woman, who is it you call son?" "Why, you," answered his mother, very mildly; "are not you Abou Hassan, my son? It is strange that you have forgotten yourself so soon." "I your son!" ( replied Abou Hassan. "You know not what you say. I am not Abou Hassan, I tell you, but the Commander of the Faithful; and you shall never persuade me to the contrary!" "Pray, son," said the mother, "let us leave off this discourse. Let us talk of something else. I will tell you what happened yesterday in our quarter to the imaun of the mosque, and the four sheiks, our neighbors. The cadi came and seized them, and gave each of them I know not how many strokes with a bastinado, while a crier proclaimed that such was the punishment of all those who troubled themselves about other people's business. He afterwards led them through all the streets, and ordered them never to come into our quarter again."
Abou Hassan no sooner heard this relation, but he cried out, "Know then that it was by my order the imaun and the four sheiks were punished; and I tell you I am the Commander of the Faithful, and all thy arguments shall not convince me of the contrary."
The mother, who could not imagine why her son so positively maintained himself to be caliph, no longer doubted but that he had lost his senses, and in this thought said: "I pray God, son, to have mercy upon you, and to give you grace to talk more reasonably. What would the world say to hear you rave in this manner?"
These remonstrances only enraged Abou Hassan the more and he was so provoked that he lost all the respect due from a son to his mother. Getting up hastily, and laying hold of a cane, he ran to his mother in great fury, and said, "Tell me directly who I am." "I do not believe, son," replied she, looking at him tenderly and without fear, "that you are so abandoned by God as not to know your mother, who brought you into the world, and to mistake yourself. You are indeed my son Abou Hassan, and are much in the wrong to arrogate to yourself the title which belongs only to our sovereign lord the Caliph Haroun Al-Raschid, especially after the noble and generous present of a thousand pieces of gold that he sent us yesterday!"
At these words Abou Hassan grew quite mad. "Well," cried he, "will you be convinced when I tell you that I sent you those thousand pieces of gold, as I was Commander of the Faithful? Why then do you maintain with such obstinacy that I am your son? But you shall not go unpunished." After these words, in the height of his frenzy he beat her with his cane.
The poor mother, who could not understand her son, called out for help so loud that the neighbors ran in to her assistance. Abou Hassan continued to beat her, at every stroke asking her if he was the Commander of the Faithful; to which she always answered tenderly that he was her son.
On hearing her cries for help, the neighbors came in and remonstrated with Abou Hassan on his conduct, and claimed acquaintance with him. He said to them: "Begone! I neither know her nor you. I am not Abou Hassan; I am the Commander of the Faithful, and will make you feel it to your cost."
At this speech, the neighbors, no longer doubting that he was mad, seized him, bound him hand and foot,.and conducted him to the hospital for mad people, where he was lodged in a grated cell and beaten with fifty strokes of the bastinado on his shoulders. This punishment was repeated every day, and each time the executioner bade him remember that he was not the Commander of the Faithful.
Abou Hassan's mother went every day to visit her son, and could not forbear weeping at the hardships he endured. These practical proofs that he was not the caliph began to have their effect on Abou Hassan. Sometimes he would say to himself, "If I was caliph and Commander of the Faithful, why should the grand vizier, and all those emirs and governors of provinces, who prostrated themselves at my feet, forsake me? How came I at home dressed in my own robes? Certainly I ought to look upon all as a dream. But yet there are so many things about it that I cannot comprehend, that I will put my trust in God, who knows all things."
Abou Hassan was taken up with these thoughts and reflections when his mother came to see him. "Well, my son," said she, wiping her tears, "how do you do, and how do you find yourself?" "Indeed, mother," replied Abou Hassan, very rationally and calmly, "I acknowledge my error. I have been deceived by a dream; but by so extraordinary a one, and so like to truth, that while I am speaking I can hardly persuade myself but that what befell me was matter of fact. But whatever it was, I am convinced that I am not the caliph and Commander of the Faithful, but Abou Hassan your son." "My son!" cried she, transported with pleasure, "to hear you talk so reasonably gives me as much joy as if I had brought you into the world a second time; but I must tell you my opinion of that adventure. I fear the stranger whom you brought home the evening before your illness to sup with you threw you into the horrible illusion you have been in; therefore, my son, you ought to return God thanks for your deliverance, and beseech Him to keep you from falling again under the enchantments of magic." Upon this his mother went immediately to the keeper, who came, examined, and released him in her presence.
When Abou Hassan came home, he recovered his strength, and within a few days resumed the same plan he had before pursued, of regaling a stranger at night. On the first day on which Abou Hassan renewed his former custom, he had not been long arrived at the bridge, when he perceived the Mussulman merchant, followed by the same slave. Persuaded that all his misfortunes were owing to the merchant, he shuddered at the sight of him. "God preserve me!" said he to himself; "if I am not deceived there is again the magician who enchanted me!" He trembled with agitation, and resolved not to see him till he was past.
The caliph had taken care to inform himself of all that had happened to Abou Hassan, and was glad to learn that he had returned to his usual manner of living. He perceived Abou Hassan at the same time that he saw him, and when he came nigh him, he looked him in the face. "Ho, brother Abou Hassan," said he, "is it you?-I greet you! Give me leave to embrace you?" "Not I," replied Abou Hassan, tl I do not greet you; I will have neither your greeting nor your embraces. Go, I say, about your business."
The caliph was not to be diverted from his purpose by this rude behavior. He knew well the law Abou Hassan had imposed on himself, never to have commerce again with a stranger he had once entertained, but pretended to be ignorant of it.
"Ah! brother Abou Hassan," replied the caliph, embracing him, "I do not intend to part with you thus, since I have had the good fortune to meet with you a second time; you must exercise the same hospitality towards me again that you showed me a month ago, when I had the honor to drink with you."
Abou Hassan, notwithstanding his resolution never to admit the same stranger a second time, could not resist the caresses of the caliph, whom he still took for a merchant of Moussul. "I will consent," said he, ll on one condition, that you dispense with your good wishes, and that you promise to form none for me. All the mischief that has hitherto befallen me arose from those you expressed for me." "Well," replied the caliph, "since you will have it so, I promise you I will form none." "You give me pleasure by speaking so," said Abou Hassan; "I desire no more; I shall be more than satisfied provided you keep your word, and I shall forgive you all the rest."
As soon as Abou Hassan entered his house, he called for his mother and for candles, desired his guest to sit down upon a sofa, and then placed himself by him. A little time after, supper was brought up, and they both began to eat without ceremony. When they had done, Abou Hassan's mother cleared the table, set on a small dessert of fruit, wine, and glasses by her son, then withdrew, and appeared no more. Abou Hassan first filled out his own glass and then the caliph's; and after they had drunk some time, and talked of indifferent matters, "It is a great pity," said the caliph, "that so gallant a man as you, who owns himself not insensible of love, should lead so solitary a life." "I prefer the easy quiet life I live," replied Abou Hassan, "before the company of a wife, who might not please me. I should require beauty, accomplishments, the art of pleasing, and wit in conversation; but where is such a woman to be found except in the caliph's palace?" "Let me alone," said the disguised merchant in reply; "since you have the same good taste as every other honest man, I warrant you I will find you a wife that shall please you." Then taking Abou Hassan's glass, and putting a pinch of the same powder into it, he filled him up a bumper, and presenting it to him, said,kt Come, let us drink beforehand the fair lady's health, who is to make you happy. I am sure you will like her."
Abou Hassan took the glass laughing, and shaking his head, said, "Be it so, since you desire it; I cannot be guilty of so great a piece of incivility, nor disoblige a guest of so much merit in such a trifling matter. I will drink the health of the lady you promise me, though I am very well contented as I am, and do not rely on your keeping vour word." No sooner had Abou Hassan drank off his bumper than he fell into as deep a sleep as before; and the caliph ordered the same slave to take him and carry him to the palace.
When they arrived at the palace, the caliph ordered Abou Hassan to be dressed in the same robes in which he had acted as caliph, and to be laid on a sofa in the fourth hall, from whence he had been carried home fast asleep a month before. He then charged all the viziers, officers, ladies, and musicians who were in the hall when he drank the last glass of wine which had put him to sleep, to be there by daybreak, and to take care to act their parts well when he should awake. He then retired to rest, charging Mesrour to awake him first, that he might conceal himself in the closet as before.
Things being thus disposed, and the caliph's powder having had its effect, Abou Hassan began to awake. At that instant the hautboys, fifes, flutes, and other instruments commenced a very agreeable concert. Abou Hassan was in great surprise to hear the delightful harmony; but when he opened his eyes, and saw the ladies and officers about him, and the gorgeous chamber which he had visited in his first dream, his amazement increased.
When the concert ceased, and all the officers of the chamber waited, in profound and respectful silence, Abou Hassan bit his finger, and cried loud enough for the caliph to hear him: "Alas! I am fallen again into the same dream that happened to me a month ago, and must expect again the bastinado and grated cell at the mad-house. He was a wicked man that I entertained at my house last night, who has been the cause of this illusion, and the hardships I must again undergo. Great God! I commit myself into thy hands; preserve me from the temptation of Satan." On saying this he resolved to go to sleep again, and to regard all he saw as a dream. They did not give him time to do this, for one of the officers taking him by one arm, and a second by the other, they lifted him up, and carried him into the middle of the hall, where they seated him, and all taking hands, danced and skipped round him while the music played, and sounded loudly in his ears.
Abou Hassan, having commanded silence, fell into a great perplexity, and inquired whether he were indeed the caliph. On being informed that he had never been out of that hall since the time he fell asleep in it, he then uncovered his shoulders, and showed the ladies the livid weals of the blows he had received. "Look," said he, "and judge whether these strokes could come to me in a dream or when I was asleep. For my part, I can affirm that they were real blows; I feel the smart of them yet, and that is a sure testimony. Now, if I received these strokes in my sleep, in this hall, it is the most extraordinary thing in the world, and surpasses my comprehension."
In this uncertainty, Abou Hassan called to one of the officers that stood near him. "Come hither," said he, "and bite the tip of my ear, that I may know whether I am asleep or awake." The officer obeyed, and bit so hard that he made him cry out loudly with the pain; the music struck up at the same time, and the officers and ladies all began to sing, dance, and skip about Abou Hassan, and made such a noise that he was the more sonvinced that he was the subject of a pleasantry; and joining in the joke, he threw off his caliph's habit and his turban, jumped up in his shirt and drawers, danced with the rest, jumping and cutting capers, so that the caliph could not contain himself, but burst into violent laughter; and putting his head into the room, cried, "Abou Hassan, Abou Hassan, have you a mind to kill me with laughing?"
As soon as the caliph's voice was heard everybody was silent, and Abou Hassan, turning his head to see from whence the voice came, recognized the Moussul merchant, and knew him to be the caliph. He was not in the least daunted. On the contrary, he saw at once all that had happened to him, and entered into the caliph's humor. "Ha! ha!" said he, looking at him with good assurance, "you pretend to be a merchant of Moussul, and complain that I would kill you. You have made me beat my mother, and to lose my senses, and have been the occasion of all my misfortunes. I beg of you to tell me what you did to disturb my brain in this manner; I would know, that I may perfectly recover my senses."
"You will remember," said the caliph, "the evening that you invited me to supper, in our conversation you told me that the only thing you wished for was to be caliph for four-and-twenty hours. I saw in this desire of yours a fruitful source of diversion to me and to my court, and I determined to procure for you the fulfillment of your wish. By means of a strong opiate which I put, without your knowledge, in the last glass I presented to you, I had you conveyed to my palace. You know the rest. I am sorry that my pastime should have caused you so much suffering, but I will do all I can to make you amends. Thou art my brother; ask what thou wilt and thou shalt have it."
"Commander of the Faithful," replied Abou Hassan, "how great soever my tortures may have been, they are all blotted out of my remembrance, since my sovereign lord and master had a share in them. The only boon I would beg is that I may have access to your person, to enjoy the happiness of admiring, all my lifetime, your virtues."
Upon leaving, the caliph ordered a rich robe to be brought, and assigned him an office in the palace, and directed the treasurer to give him a purse of a thousand gold pieces, and to allow him, at all times access to his person.
Abou Hassan made a low prostration, and the caliph left him to go to his divan.
Abou Hassan returned home, and informed his mother of his good fortune, and that his story was not all a dream; for that he had actually been caliph, had acted as such, and received all the honors; and that this had been confirmed by the caliph himself.
Abou Hassan was, as we have seen, a man of a pleasant temper and ready wit, and the caliph often had him at court, and took him to visit his Queen Zobeide, to wliom he had related his story. Now Zobeide soon observed that every time he came with the caliph, he had his eyes always fixed upon one of her attendants, called Nouzhatoul-aouadat. "Commander of the Faithful," said she one day, "you do not observe that every time Abou Hassan attends you in your visits to me, he never keeps his eyes off Nouzhatoul-aouadat, and pays her great attention. If you approve of it, we will make a match between them."
"Madam," replied the caliph, "I have already promised Abou Hassan a wife; but it is better that he should choose for himself."
Abou Hassan threw himself at the caliph's and Zobeide's feet, and rising up, said: "I cannot receive a wife from better hands; but dare not hope that Nouzhatoul-aouadat will give her consent." At these words he looked at the princess's slave, who showed by her respectful silence, and the sudden blush that arose in her cheeks, that she was disposed to obey the caliph and her mistress.
The nuptials were celebrated in the palace, with great rejoicings, which lasted several days. Zobeide made her slave considerable presents, and the caliph did the same to Abou Hassan. The bride was conducted to the apartment the caliph had assigned Abou Hassan, who received her with the sound of all sorts of instruments, and musicians of both sexes, who made the air echo with their concert.
Abou Hassan and his spouse were charmed with each other. Indeed, Nouzhatoul-aouadat was just such a wife as he had described to the caliph. After their marriage, they gave costly entertainments, and each vied with the other in sparing no expense for the amusement of their friends, until, at the end of the first year of their marriage, they had expended all the presents given by the sultan and Zobeide, as well as the patrimony inherited by Abou Haasan.
Being in great straits, and willing neither to forego their manner of life nor to ask the sultan or Zobeide for further presents, they took secret counsel together, when Abou Hassan resolved both to put a pleasant trick on the caliph and on Zobeide, and to obtain from them the means of carrying on his usual mode of living. "I will tell you what I propose," said he to Nouzhatoul-aouadat. "I will feign myself to be dead, and you shall place me in the middle of my chamber, with my turban upon my face, my feet towards Mecca, as if ready to be carried out to burial. When you have done this, you must weep, tear your clothes and hair, and go all in tears, with your locks dishevelled, to Zobeide. The princess will of course inquire the cause of your grief; and when you have told her, she will pity you, give you money to defray the expense of my funeral, and a piece of good brocade, in the room of that you will have torn. As soon as you return with the money and the brocade, I will rise, lay you in my place, and go and act the same part with the caliph, who, I dare say, will be as generous to me as Zobeide will have been to you."
Nouzhatoul-aouadat highly approved the project, and having acted upon her husband's suggestion and placed him as he desired, she pulled off her head-dress, and with a dismal cry and lamentation, beating her face and breast with all the marks of the most lively grief, ran across the court to Zobeide's apartments.
The princess, amazed to see her slave in such extraordinary affliction, asked what had happened; but, instead of answering, she continued her sobs; and at last feigning to strive to check them, said, with words interrupted with sighs: "Alas! my most honored mistress, what greater misfortune could have befallen me. Abou Hassan! poor Abou Hassan! whom you honored with your esteem, and gave me for a husband, is no more!"
Zobeide was extremely concerned at this news, and after having expressed her sorrow, commanded her women to fetch a hundred pieces of gold and a rich cloth of gold, and to give theiv to Nouzhatoul-aouadat who threw herself again at the princess's feet, and thanked her with great self-satisfaction at finding she had succeeded so well.
As soon as Nouzhatoul-aouadat got out of the princess's presence, she dried up her tears, and returned with joy to Abou Hassan. Unable to contain herself at the success of her artifice, "Come, husband," said she, laughing, "now do you hasten and see if you can manage the caliph as well as I have done Zobeide."
"That is the temper of all women," replied Abou Hassan, "who, we may well say, have always the vanity to believe they can do things better than men, though at the same time what good they do is by their advice. It would be odd indeed, if I, who laid this plot myself, could not carry it on as well as you. But let us lose no time in idle discourse; lie down in my place, and witness if I do not come off with as much applause."
Abou Hassan wrapped up his wife as she had done him, and with his turban unrolled, like a man in the greatest affliction, ran to the caliph. He presented himself at the door, and the officer, knowing he had free access, opened it. He entered holding with one hand his handkerchief before his eyes, to hide the feigned tears, and struck his breast with the other, and uttered exclamations expressing extraordinary grief.
The caliph, always used to see Abou Hassan with a merry countenance, inquired with much concern the cause of his grief. "Commander of the Faithful," answered Abou Hassan, with repeated sighs and sobs, lt may you long reign! A greater calamity could not have befallen me than what I now lament. Alas! Nouzhatoul-aouadatl my wife, alas! alas!"
The caliph, who now understood that Abou Hassan came to tell him of the death of his wife, seemed much concerned, and said to him with an air which showed how much he regretted her loss, "God be merciful to her! She was a good slave, and we gave her to you with an intention to make you happy; she deserved a longer life." And having said this, he ordered his treasurer, who was present, to give Abou Hassan a purse of a hundred pieces of gold and a piece of brocade. Abou Hassan immediately cast himself at the caliph's feet, and thanked him for his present. As soon as he had got the purse and piece of brocade, he went home, well pleased with having found out so quick and easy a way of supplying the necessity which had given him so much uneasiness.
Nouzhatoul-aouadat, as soon as she heard the door open, sprang up, ran to her husband, and asked him if he had imposed on the caliph as cleverly as she had done on Zobeide. "You see!" said he, showing her the stuff, and shaking the purse.
The caliph was so impatient to condole with the princess on the death of her slave, that he rose up as soon as Abou Hassan was gone. "Follow me," said he to the vizier, "let us go and share with the princess the grief which the death of her slave Nouzhatoul-aouadat must have occasioned."
Accordingly they went to Zobeide's apartment, whom the caliph found sitting on a sofa, much afflicted, and still in tears. "Madam," said the caliph, "I wish to tell you how much I partake with you in your affliction in your loss of Nouzha-toul-aouadat, your faithful slave." "Commander of the Faithful," replied Zobeide, "I do not lament my slave's death, but that of Abou Hassan, her husband." "Madam," said the caliph, "I tell you that you are deceived; Nouzhatoul-aouadat is dead, and Abou Hassan is alive, and in perfect health."
Zobeide, much piqued at this answer of the caliph, replied, "Permit me to repeat, once more, that it is Abou Hassan who is dead, and that my slave Nouzhatoul-aouadat, his widow, is living. It is not an hour since she went from hence, having told me her affliction. All my women, who wept with me, can bear me witness that I made her a present of a hundred pieces of gold and a piece of brocade; the grief which you found me in was on account of the death of her husband; and just at the instant you entered, I was going to send you a compliment of condolence."
At these words of Zobeide, the caliph cried out in a fit of laughter, "This, madam, is a strange piece of obstinacy; but," continued he, seriously "you may depend upon Nouzhatoul-aouadat's being dead." "I tell you no, sir," replied Zobeide; "it is Abou Hassan that is dead, and you shall never make me believe otherwise."
Upon this the caliph's anger rose in his countenance, and he ordered the vizier to go at once and ascertain the truth and bring him word. No sooner was the vizier gone, than the caliph addressing himself to Zobeide, said, "You will see in a moment -which of us is right." "For my part," replied Zobeide, "I know very well that I am in the right, and you will find it to be Abou Hassan." "And for myself," returned the caliph, "I am so sure that it is Nouzhatoul-aouadat, that I will stake my garden of pleasures against your palace of paintings, though the one is worth much more than the other." "I accept the wager," said Zobeide, "and will abide by it." The caliph declared the same intention; and both awaited the vizier's return.
While the caliph and Zobeide were disputing so earnestly, and with so much warmth, Abou Hassan, who foresaw their difference, was very attentive to whatever might happen. As soon as iie perceived the vizier through a window, at which he sat talking with his wife, and observed that he was coming directly to their apartment, he guessed his commission, and bade his wife make haste to act the part they had agreed on, without loss of time. They were so pressed that Abou Hassan had much ado to wrap up his wife, and lay the piece of brocade which the caliph had given him upon her, before the vizier reached the the house.
Having ascertained the truth, the vizier hastened back to the caliph and Zobeide.
"Commander of the Faithful," said the vizier, naving entered the apartment and made his salutation, "it is Nouzhatoul-aouadat who is dead, for the loss of whom Abou Hassan is as much afflicted as when he appeared before your majesty." The caliph, not giving him time to pursue his story, interrupted him, and addressing himself to Zobeide, "Well, madam," said he, "have you yet anything to say against so certain a truth? Will you still believe that Nouzhatoul-aouadat is alive, and that Abou Hassan is dead? And will you not own that you have lost your wager?"
"How, sir?" replied Zobeide; "I am not blind or mad! With these eyes I saw Nouzhatoul-aouadat in the greatest affliction. I spoke to her myself, and she told me that her husband was dead. My women also heard her cries and saw her affliction. Let me, I pray you, send my nurse, in whom I can place confidence, to Abou Hassan's, to know whether or not I am in error." The caliph consented, and the nurse set out on her inquiry.
In the mean time Abou Hassan, who watched at the window, perceived the nurse at a distance, and guessing that she was sent by Zobeide, called his wife, and told her that the princess's nurse was coming to know the truth. "Therefore," said he, "make haste, and do to me as we have agreed on." Accordingly, Nouzhatoul-aouadafc covered him with the brocade Zobeide had given her, and put his turban upon his face. The nurse, eager to acquit herself oE her commission, hobbled as fast as age would allow her, and entering the room, perceived Nouzhatoul-aouadat in tears, her hair disheveled, and seated at the head of her husband, beating her breast with all the expressions of violent grief.
As soon as the nurse was gone, Nouzhatoul-aouadat wiped her eyes, and released Abou Hassan. They both went and sat down on a sofa against the window, expecting what would be the end of this stratagem, and to be ready to act according as circumstances might require.
The nurse, in the mean time, made all the haste she could to Zobeide, and gave the caliph and the princess a true account of what she saw, affirming that it was Abou Hassan who was dead. This perplexed the caliph more and more; and he said: "It seems to me a strange series of marvels, and that no one can be believed more than another. Therefore, I propose we go ourselves to examine the truth, for I see no other way to clear these doubts." So saying, the caliph arose, and the princess and her train followed.
Abou Hassan, who saw them coming, apprised his wife of it. "What shall we do?" cried she "we are ruined." "Not at all; don't be afraid," returned Abou Hassan. "Let us do as we have agreed; and all, you shall see, will turn out well. At the rate they are coming, we shall be ready before they reach the door."
In fact, Abou Hassan and his wife covered themselves as well as they could, and having placed themselves, one beside the other, in the middle of the chamber, each under the piece of brocade, they waited quietly for the arrival of the caliph and Zobeide. On entering the chamber, followed by all their people, they were much surprise and perplexed at the dismal spectacle which presented itself to their view. Zobeide at last broke silence. "Alas!" said she to the caliph, "it is too true my dear slave is dead, as indeed it will appear, for grief at having lost her husband." "Allow rather, madam," replied the caliph, "that Nouzhatoul-aouadat died first, and that the poor Abou Hassan fell under the affliction of seeing his wife, your dear slave, die." "No," replied Zobeide, with a spirit excited by the contradiction of the caliph, "Abou Hassan died first, because my nurse saw his wife alive, and lamenting her husband's death."
At last the caliph, reflecting upon all that had passed, and vexed at not being able to come at the truth, tried to devise some expedient which should determine the wager in his own favor and against Zobeide. "I will give," cried he, "a thousand pieces to the person who shall ascertain which of the two died first."
The caliph had scarcely spoken these words, when he heard a voice, under the brocade which covered Abou Hassan, say, "Commander of the Faithful, I died first; give me the thousand pieces of gold." And at the same time he saw Abou Hassan free himself from the brocade which covered him, and throw himself at his feet. His wife uncovered herself in the same manner, and ran to throw herself at the feet of Zobeide. Zobeide set up a loud cry of fright and alarm. At last recovering herself, she was overjoyed at seeing her dear slave again, almost at the moment she felt inconsolable at having seen her dead.
"So then, Abou Hassan," said the caliph, laughing, "how came it into your head thus to surprise both Zobeide and me in a way we could not possibly be upon our guard against?"
"Commander of the Faithful," replied Abou Hassan, "I will tell you the whole truth. I and the wife you gave me have been too profuse in our entertainments to our friends, and we have expended all the treasures which your royal bounty supplied us with. This morning we found our chest quite empty; and knowing your highnesses' partiality to a pleasant joke, we invented this artifice to supply our need, which we humbly entreat you will have the goodness to forgive."
The caliph and Zobeide were very well satisfied with the sincerity of Abou Hassan, and were disposed to forgive him the deception practiced on them. "Follow me, both of you," said the caliph; "I will give you the thousand pieces of gold that I promised you, for the joy I feel that you are neither of you dead."
"Commander of the Faithful," resumed Zobeide, "content yourself, I beseech you, with causing the thousand pieces of gold to be given to Abou Hassan; you owe them only to him. As to his wife, that is my business." At the same time she gave a thousand pieces of gold to Nouzhatoul-aouadat, in proof of the joy she felt that she was still alive.
Thus did Abou Hassan and Nouzhatoul-aouad at obtain the favor of the Caliph Haroun Al-Raschid and of Zobeide, and gained from their bounty enough to supply all their wants.